We Are What We Think: Part 3
The Big Scary Test
In my last post, Part 2, we were left working with word imagery while prepping to head to Kona for the big scary test at the Ironman World Championship.
Check list en route to Kona:
- Word cues and affirmations solidly in place? Check.
- Fit as I can be given minimal land running? Check.
- Stifling heat and unrelenting winds on the Kona Coast? Check.
- Huge unknown hanging over my head as to how this race will play out!? Check!
Even though I was completely unsure how my injured leg would play out on race day, as I was only able to run on land for several weeks prior to the race, I felt tougher than ever with my fresh, focused mindset. By the time I got to Hawaii, the words “patience,” “strength,” and “flow” had become instant cues for the frame of mind I wanted to conjure up at any given moment—tools for the mental toolbox I would carry through my race.
The week before the race, I spent time on certain sections of the run and bike courses, leaving patience, strength, and flow vibes and visual cues in the lava fields to connect with as I moved through on race day. The year before, I had struggled immensely in an area of the run called the Natural Energy Lab. The stillness, heat, and placement of this section of the course made it a formidable mental obstacle to the finish line. I spent some time a few days before the race in the lab area, sitting calmly, feeling the energy there and leaving mine. My motive was to meld with the lab area, to eliminate struggle and perpetuate flow with the natural environment. With white coral on the black lava, I drew the rune symbols for strength and flow at the turnaround and on the climb out of the lab. My place was set. I was ready to take on my race.
My swim and bike were solid. With reasonable wind conditions, I clocked 5:02 on the bike and it felt effortless (patience and strength). For an unknown reason, my watch had stopped working after the bike, so during the run I paced myself by intuition and the drive of my newfound tools—patience, strength, and flow.
I observed that my self-talk was either positive or rational throughout the entire event. If I felt a struggle or even the thought of a negative attitude creep in, I would say, “STOP,” and replace that thought with patience, strength, or flow. I checked in with my body constantly, asking, “Can I go faster given the distance remaining?” And answering, “Yes, you have more to give.” I would open up my stride, just a bit, for speed and then lock down on my pace. The more I stayed present to my process, the less I thought about the outcome of the race. If I were in the moment executing at my best, then the result at the finish line would be my best.
With no numbers to work with for the last few hours, I rounded the corner, just before the finish line on Ali’i Drive, with no idea what my overall time would be. My motive on the run had been to remain present, hydrate, eat, and use my mental tools to negotiate the tough spots.
A photographer caught me running from behind at the instant I saw my time on the clock and raised my fist in the air for triumph. What I saw was my personal best time on that particular course (9:29) and that I had wrapped up fourth place in the women’s division. Not bad coming off an injury.
These tangible rewards and the paycheck that came with them were a huge perk, but the real treasures of that race were my newfound ability to use my mental tools while remaining present to my race process the entire day. This showed me that, as an athlete, I had graduated to a new level of maturity, and the growth process was limitless. It also reinforced that all of us can take this type of mental training process into any life experiences we choose, whether it be a fitness activity, a job, or even our interactions with loved ones—to support our remaining fully effective in each.
I’ve repeated the nature of this experience on many occasions and in many various sports and environments, and there are also many days when I’ve never come close. And what I’ve noticed, most importantly, is that regardless of my performance outcome—and even on some of the toughest days I’ve encountered—if I fully engage my mind each moment, then I always achieve the highest level of satisfaction after my experience. Ultimately THAT is the richest essence of what we all seek in our own life experiences. Satisfaction as the ultimate reward. Getting this type of satisfaction takes dedication and a lot of work with our word imagery. But if we put that time in, it will be ever present and always available.
Keep molding and shaping your word imagery and bringing it into your fitness life. And in the meantime, write three affirmational phrases for yourself on 3×5 cards. Choose one phrase that you solidly and positively believe about yourself now. Choose one that you sometimes can believe about yourself. And choose one phrase that you aspire to solidly believe about yourself. Read them before you go to bed and first thing in the morning. Get creative, and spend some time with this. Let me know what you come up with!