As all Victorian triathletes come to terms with missing out on competing at Ironman Cairns (this being my third time missing the start line there), it has been an incredibly challenging time to say the least.
After dedicating myself to this race for the past 18 months, this latest cancellation and past week have been incredibly tough. A week later, I’m now at a place where I can share my honest truth about how I dealt with (and am dealing with) this most recent disappointment.
Approaching Ironman Cairns 2020, I was building my training, and gearing up for a competitive performance until the race was rescheduled at 12 weeks out. While I was disappointed, I tried to focus on the positives - I’d have an extra 12 weeks to push my own boundaries with training and keep progressing forward. Unfortunately, by the time the rescheduled race took place, Melbourne was two weeks into its second lockdown (which went for 13 weeks in total) and I missed my opportunity to race. I’m not going to lie; that weekend I turned my phone off because I couldn’t handle seeing everyone else except Victoria race. It was so deflating. That said, I am someone with a no BS attitude, so I recalibrated and said to myself “well, I will just re-start again and give it my all for next year!”.
Going into Ironman Cairns 2021 I had a huge PB goal in mind. I wanted to knock at least an hour off my previous best Ironman time. I was ready. I was consistent with all my training and I had even worked with a nutritionist to perfect my nutrition planning during training and prime it for race day. I felt (and I still feel) strong. Everything was going smoothly.
On Tuesday 25 May, I packed my bags and sorted all my food and clothes for Cairns as I knew I wasn’t going to have much time on the weekend. I was aware of what was going on around me - COVID cases in Victoria were on the rise. On Wednesday 26 May, I started hearing rumours about another lockdown - and from past experience - these lockdown rumours are almost always on the money. That day, I went home after training some Clients in the morning and laid in my bed crying, the entire day. I knew in my heart that my race was over and there was no way I’d be making that flight up to Cairns.
Anyone who knows me personally knows I find it hard to deal with and talk about my emotions. When lockdown was announced and I knew my race was cancelled, I felt utterly gutted. More than anything, just so, completely sad. I gave myself permission to feel my feelings, and that I did. From Wednesday to Saturday I just let myself go through the motions. I didn’t train. I walked my dog daily for my two-hour outside limit and I just tried to remind myself of the positives. This was so hard for me at the time, but I gave myself exactly that. Time.
It’s now almost a week since lockdown was announced and my Ironman plans were put on the back-burner yet again. Thankfully, I am now feeling a renewed motivation to get back on the horse (or bike, in this instance!).
To harness a positive from this entire experience, here are my five top tips for fellow athletes who may find themselves in a similar position, whether this is due to lockdown, inability to travel, unexpected injury or other unforeseen circumstances.
- Feel your feelings. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and don’t try to hide how you are feeling. There have been times when I’ve felt better after five hours, but in this most recent case, it took me four days. Don’t fight it. Accept it and let yourself heal.
- Slow down. If you’ve been aiming for a race and it has consumed your life, your body, your energy (as is certainly quite common) and all of a sudden it is gone - don’t rush into any hasty decisions. Take some time to reconnect with what is next. Slowing things down will help your decision to move forward come from a better place within yourself.
- Talk to someone. I am tremendously lucky that I have both an amazing coach and fiancé who were there to listen to me … cry, and more importantly, just listen. I wasn’t after answers. It just felt so much better to talk it out with someone. There was nothing either person could have said to make me feel better, but having them to support me by just listening was incredibly helpful.
- Come up with a ‘Plan B’. The great thing about our healthy endurance race calendar is that there’s generally always another race around the corner. * It might not be your first choice but there is always something. After tackling steps 1 -3, put some thought into a ‘Plan B’ and redirect all your hard work, energy and race-ready fitness there. (*BUT don’t say this to someone who has just had a race cancelled on them - I did not want to hear this at the time!).
- Revisit your ‘why’. If your ‘why’ is strong enough; if your ‘why’ is bigger than one race, you’ll be okay. My reason for racing and where I want to go is SO much bigger than Ironman Cairns. It hurt - a lot, but like I said, I took the four days to refresh myself and then decided “let’s crack on - the party must continue!”.
If you are an athlete in a similar position or facing a similar prospect, my best advice is to give yourself time. You will be okay. Time will heal the pain and you will be so much stronger for it. If you know someone in this position, give them time and space. They will be okay.
So, what’s next? It’s time for me to work towards Surf Coast Century 100km trail run (September) and Ironman Western Australia (December) where I’ll be hoping to take 1:30 off my PB (I have more months to train for it now anyways ;)