Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ironwoman Wednesday - Overcoming Mental Challenges

Ironwoman Wednesday is a weekly linkup on a variety of triathlon-related topics (that will be announced the week before). It is similar to Tri Talk Tuesday that a few other bloggers started, but the more people talking about triathlon the better!

Gabi at Lean Green Island Girl, Michelle at Ironwoman Strong and I are all training for Ironman Louisville. It is really exciting (and encouraging) to be sharing this journey with these two amazing women!

Today's topic is overcoming mental challenges!

When I was a swimmer growing up, my mom would always say two things to me: "swimming is 90% mental and 10% physical" and "the body achieves what the mind believes". 

Even though I have not always been the best at overcoming mental challenges, I truly believe that you can overcome and do anything if you just put your mind to it.

Over the short time that we have been triathletes, Mike and I have had to overcome a lot of mental challenges. Personally, for me, I can think of two times that were especially tough for me. During our first marathon, the Wineglass Marathon, seeing Mike DNF out on the course was mentally one of the toughest things that I have had to overcome. Even though I was hurting, and admittedly went out way too fast, my mind became weak as soon as I realized that he wasn't going to finish the race.

 Already crying, and not happy tears

It has actually taken me a long time to be alright with the fact that I finished and he didn't. In my mind, I didn't want to finish something that we set out to do together, but he told me to finish and I pushed through and did.

Another challenging moment was when Mike crashed his bike last year right before our first 70.3. While he was overcoming a physical (and mental) challenge, I had to overcome my fears and train (specifically bike) by myself. I didn't think I could ride by myself because I never had before. Mike told me that I could do it and even though it was slow, I completed a training ride by myself.

 After my first solo ride

As the years have gone on (really it hasn't been that long, but it feels longer), I have gotten stronger physically as well as mentally. Sure, I still have moments of weakness and doubt but I work hard to push those away.

A strong, focused mind is more important than a strong body (though that is important too). Your mind will give up before your body does. You need to train it to keep going and you need to believe in yourself.  If you think that you are going to fail before you even try to do something, you are already at a disadvantage.

One of the ways that I have overcome difficult and challenging situations is by telling myself that I CAN do it. During our 20 mile run this past weekend, I kept telling myself that I could do it (even though the previous weekend had not gone well) and I ran my fastest 20 mile training run ever.

During a marathon or long distance triathlon, I take the time to thank the people who have helped me throughout training. Thinking of those people, knowing that they are rooting for me while I am out on the course (whether it is going well or not) keeps me going.

 I can't talk about marathons and not have an MDI photo

Speaking of our 20 miler, in order to reduce my nerves about the daunting distance I break it up into chunks. A 20 miler is just four 5-milers, which to me seems a lot more manageable (even if I am just playing a trick on my mind).

And, something I still am working on, I have finally realized that it is going to hurt and be difficult at times. It is alright to hurt, it is alright for things to not go exactly as planned, but don't give up. Just. Keep. Moving.

 Musselman 70.3 finish, I hope our Ironman finish will be 1,000 times greater (and that was a pretty good one)

I may not be the fastest or best triathlete out there, but I believe that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.


  1. I believe that so much of running for me is mental and depend on where my mind is that day,

  2. Great post! I'll admit, reading about bike crashes really makes me skittish on the road but I think on Sunday's ride I started to overcome that a bit.

    1. It still makes me nervous, but also helps me realize that I do have to be mentally in it and aware of what is going on around me!

  3. So, you have absolutely transformed your body. You are leaner, stronger, and faster. You have become a freaking triathlete machine. However, as your friend...and having run a few races with you...I believe your largest improvement has been your mental game. As you stated you "You can overcome anything and do anything if you put your mind to it". A couple years ago I think you were telling yourself this but it was difficult for you to really let go and believe in it. Sometime this past year it all just clicked. You suddenly believed and KNEW you could do it. It's been incredible to watch you grow and mature as an athlete. You are definitely a role model to me. You are badass. Love you friend.

  4. Great post! Breaking races, training sessions, whatever, into "mini goals" works well for me too. It too daunting to think about the distance you have to swim ... and bike ... and run all at once. Small chunks makes it seem more manageable.

  5. Would be so hard to see Pablo struggling or having a DNF. I can't imagine! I remember freaking out when he crashed on his bike during a training ride a few years ago.
    I also had/have an issue riding alone! So much fear.

    Love this: A strong, focused mind is more important than a strong body

  6. Hi Jamie! Great post! I just found your blog today and I am excited to read about someone else training for their first IM. I am racing in IMLP in just over two weeks and can relate to alot of what you wrote about being mentally strong. I too believe that I am not the fastest or best out there, but I believe I can do it and it will be so awesome to cross the finish line! I look forward to reading more about your journey to IM Louisville.