–By Elaine Sheikh, Team OAM NOW Multi-sport athlete
When I went to write this blog, I spoke out loud in exasperation: “What the heck am I supposed to say? I did a thing, it didn’t go the way I wanted, it was a huge disappointment?” So here I sit, in the car on the long drive home from Nebraska to Michigan, contemplating what actually happened this weekend.
Leading into the weekend I was tapered and feeling fast – probably the best that I had felt going into a race this year. My training has been solid and although I was nervous, I was ready to see it pay out for me in a big way against the most competitive field I had been in this season. I was doing everything the way you should – divide the drive there between two days, relax, eat enough food and high carb intake, and plenty of positive thinking. We pre-drove the entire course and rode part of it, ran part of it, and swam in the thick, murky green waters of Carter Lake. I tried my best to focus on the positives, controlling the controllables, and putting my faith in my training.
Saturday morning started at 4:40 am. snack, pack, drive to the race site. Park, practice mindfulness, setup transition, breakfast. Then settle down to wait for three hours before my wave started. My wave started at 10:30 am, which meant I was running at noon. I made it through the green murky swim and had a decent (although much tougher than I expected) bike split, but drinking warm infinit in my bottle (despite having frozen half of it the night before!) didn’t set me up for a great experience in the run. Even though I was confident I would nail the run, I ended up having my slowest run in a triathlon in a very long time. I was doubled over in pain crying on the run course, and all I could think was that this was the race I had trained for. This was the one that mattered. And I was blowing it as I ended up finishing the run 6-7 minutes slower than I was capable of. And despite the fact that I have worked very hard to improve my mental strength in the past few months, I was shattered. I cried almost the whole day. I would get myself under control, and then someone would ask about my race or I would look on social media and see something about the race and I would lose my composure again. I was beyond disappointed in myself, and my confidence was gone. And I had to race the next day.
Sunday morning started just a few minutes later than the day before. I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support that people had given me after my heartbreak and subsequent meltdown the day before. The best advice I got was from a fellow triathlete: “Pick 2 things you can improve on (concrete things like equipment choice or transition mechanics) and 2 things you are proud of from today. Keep those in your head for tomorrow.” That comment really helped to ground me and bring me back from my personal crisis point. The other thing that helped? The faith that other people had in me. Knowing that other people believed in me made it so that I didn’t have to try to convince myself to believe in myself. I just had to believe in the people I trust. In the end, my race on Sunday wasn’t stellar, but I managed to snap my head back into the game to put up competitive splits and have a respectable race.
Maybe national champion wasn’t in the cards for me this year. A) there is always next year and B) there is now a fire lit beneath me for worlds in five weeks. Onward and upward! Hopefully with a lot of work and a little luck, you’ll be reading a victory post soon!