Somehow during my taper phase as the physical stress was winding down, I was able to collect myself and address the life stressors that had flared up during my peak build phase for this ironman. Some stressors were tri related like that anxiety over the hilly course and getting sidetracked for a bit by a cloud of strange self doubt which you can read about here Kelly's Ridiculous Self Doubt Rant
, the surprising conclusion of a great tri coaching relationship (finding out the news in a strange way at an odd time) and others that were far more serious like my baby niece's kidney surgery (she's OK!) and facing my loved one being (yet again) lost into the grips of an ongoing cyclical battle with mental illness and all the crisis and grieving that coincides with that repeating heartbreak. There were other things as well and it was all compiling into an emotional pressure cooker. This was all part of my race journey that I want to look back on and recall. I was overcoming heavy obstacles and managing the unexpected hurdles life sent my way. I had to immerse my body and mind in the race as a way to cope rather than see the approach of the big important race day as another added stress. That is an art we are often forced to fine tune as long course triathletes regardless of what our individual specific struggles are. I need to reflect on this down the road and know that whatever I am facing, I do know how to navigate the storms. No matter how strong someone appears you never truly know what they are facing.
I had to eliminate (or at least reduce) the doubt, do the key work in training and "let go" of any imperfect training days (Both Coach Parker and Mark helped me with that one!) and gain some composure for the race. It was critical to come to terms with everything that was happening and implement a plan for the controllable aspects in order to face it all head on and see the success on race day that matched my capabilities. When I am in the thick of a long course race both physical and mental fatigue has a tendency to compile into a weight. At some point when the conditions and strain of reaching and pushing to the limits bears down, I reach a place out on the course where I cannot hide anything from myself. There is always at least one moment when I must dig very deep inside myself to push through the fatigue, the hurt and the worry in order to stay strong especially when things don't go as planned in the ironman. This is where the truth to myself is exposed and when I arrive in that "DISCOVERY" moment, I cannot afford to be surprised. I need an idea of what I will find and frame it in a way that is going to help me forge ahead. I knew when that moment happened, I didn't want to crack. I had put so much into training that I didn't want a shaky mindset to be my limiter. Despite the tremendous support from so many people and the love from those closest to me I was dancing on that fine emotional line as the anticipation for the race was building. Sometimes, it felt like my head was in a blender with this race drawing closer.
Regarding the self doubt and mountains....well that was easy. I polled the local tri community for some new super hilly routes and conquered a few (thanks everyone!) Going under 8:40 pace on Greg's nonstop hilly as heck run route by Pony Pasture for 20 miles was a confidence boost.
Chad let me stay in Wintergreen for a long solo 5 hour ride in the mountains with Nick serving as course support. I rode in the mountains with friends as well. Coach Michael built me more big gear interval work on the trainer AND told me I need to "race smart, but not too smart."
Regarding the coaching, well Coach Michael is only coaching youth next year and growing his business. It was tough dealing with this a few weeks before the race and I was kind of grieving the loss because there is a bond that is formed with a coach when both coach and athlete commit to the goals and build the success together through all kinds of hurdles. We went from the back of the pack in local tris to winning them, haha. He was a significant part of my journey and I was shocked even though based on the changes I had noticed, I knew this was inevitable. I know though, that it was probably time for a new coach even if he wasn't changing his focus as he's been my coach since the 2010 in group, then 2011 in personal coaching (except a few months in 2012) and new eyes on me with a different perspective will really help me grow as an athlete and take me far. I considered coaching myself as I do have a lot of knowledge but I really enjoy being coached as I really value that resource for many reasons and believe it can make athletes better if done right. I started researching coaches and considering what I will need for the next level, but then my friend Bethany reminded me to focus on the immediate race. When Michael told me to focus on the race and "come back to this" I got super aggravated and was stubborn like, "Oh, this guy can't just give me his notice and then tell me not to look for a suitable person to build from where we left off! I'm not waiting!" but when my friend reminded me, I realized making a big decision in the throes of ironman training was too much. I was approaching it fine, but decision making was not the right time. I have since let Coach Michael know that after this he is being "promoted" from coach to "Top Triathlon Advisor" a volunteer role that is very prestigious and requires mandatory post race high fives etc, haha. He's graciously accepted and I'm pleased with all the work we've put into this over the past few years and very grateful but also really looking forward to what the next chapter will bring, building off this foundation (which I'll talk about after Worlds).
Regarding the emotional lava coursing through me, well, our stressors can be our "jet fuel" as my friend Lindsay told me on my last mini run before the race. I had friends and family who know how important this race was to me and who were tremendous supporters reaching out in the right moments. I am forever grateful and you all know who you are...THANK YOU!
I planned to manage emotions by using the race to honor the ones I care about and to use the race day as a canvas for some amazing memories. I would think of all the good times when things got tough. I dedicated miles to certain individuals I would think about during the race to keep me strong, focused and accountable. I always have a "word" of the year and in 2014 it was "dauntless" however going into this race, my friend Dawn gave me a new word. "Stability". She said, "Kelly, you are stable." She had no idea what storms I was navigating but this meant the world and resonated. In my last swim, the local weatherman I often swim with at the gym saw me faltering with nerves which is really not the person I normally am. He gave me a pep talk which reminded me just how many people are a part of my journey. I received so much encouragement, words of wisdom and genuine caring support from so many people that it was darn near impossible not to go into this race motivated, excited and ready although I was also nervous because I care.
I also read my Coeur Sports brand ambassador application that I wrote in December. When both my friends Catherine and Lori reminded me to do this for "ME" I went and found that application because we were all asked to answer in an essay of what role the sport plays in our lives. I had talked about overcoming that bike crash and going to Couer D'Alene to watch my friends race. I talked about being a nervous beginner and working hard to make progress and about the excitement of connecting with others in this sport. I liked re-reading it because it was my genuine love for triathlon and the community I've found resonating back to me. At the time, I had only a hint but no true comprehension of the world of amazing women also reaching for big dreams and going through similar hurdles that was about to come with representing Coeur this year. I knew I had the heart and the courage to continue to push for the ironman.
My husband, parents and in laws travelled to the race to support me and were truly there for me. They even dressed alike in these "Team Hadiaris" "where's waldo" style shirts so I would see them during the race in the crowd. Up until the race start though, I was a mess...going from elated and excited to nervous and anxious. I haven't been like that since my newbie days. Spoiler...I finished the race..but wanted to share this awesome "team" shot of my family! : )
The first thing I did after arriving the night before was a pre swim with all the richmonders and my virtual training partner, Sarah where I was even nervous about the swim warm up and could barely stand to pose for pictures with some of my favorite people in the triathlon community. Thankfully, there was free coffee on a boat which made me happy!
I tried to relax like my friend Catherine S always does for xterra and when energy hit she had given me strict instructions not to "dance in the hotel room" and stay off my feet.
I did get all dressed up to go to packet pickup. I had been complaining In the shop about that last race where I wore a sundress to packet pickup & had asked some fellas in their "packet pickup costumes" the water temp and they said, "you can wear a wetsuit but might see some of the faster people go without because they want awards". I was insulted and thinking, "oh, does this dress make my butt look slow?" Ha. I was then dared by my bike shop crew to dress up and wear a KY derby style hat to packet pickup instead of the typical finisher gear from xyz race, compression socks and gps watch jewelry, haha. It was raining so I had to get creative here but I committed to the bit! : )
In transition, race morning everything was wet from rain and I forget my water bottles and had to go back. Then, my power meter was zero-ing out to 3,000 or 1,500. I knew this was trouble. Then, it stopped reading power all together when I spun the pedals with my hands in transition. Chad (famous from "the Chad diet") saw me in transition where I started....crying! Looking back, I'm seeing how ridiculous this was, but in that moment all the anxiety hit and I was like, "My power meter won't work and my coach ditched me. I don't think I can race!" He talked me off the ledge as I let this last pre-race wave of emotion roll through me. His wasn't working either and he was still racing....so I calmed down, collected myself and found Nick who took care of me as we walked down to transition.
I found my Coeur Teammate, Rinette and we put on our wetsuits. She's so kind and enthusiastic that seeing her gave me a sense of calm . I found my father and father in law and then kissed Nick for good luck and headed to the swim for a brief warm up and then the race start....