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Try Until You Can’t “Tri” Anymore

By Taylor Spivey | May 12, 2015, 2:04 p.m. (ET)

Every race provides a different lesson. Some lessons are apparent, the result of a physical mistake or hiccup in a race. Other lessons are a bit more obscure, the result of intangible circumstances. Whatever the lesson, each yields an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to adjust for the next race. My lesson at ITU Bridgetown was Try until you can’t “Tri” any more.
Most of my athletic lessons so far have been physical. They are little nuances that can be adjusted in preparation for the next race. Yet recently I found myself confronted with a more difficult lesson, to overcome those that are mental challenges. They have no quick fix. They require time and a conscious effort to work through them.
In my most recent race, ITU Bridgetown, I had to deal with these “mind set” challenges that were a result of uncontrollable circumstances. But this wasn’t the first time. For me, when race prep doesn’t go quite as planned, negative thoughts fill my head. However, through experience, I am learning to be ready for the unforeseen. My most recent test of mental stamina was here in Barbados. I had to be race ready despite being ill.
Leading up to the race I battled with a nasty stomach virus. I spent the day before my flight hugging the toilet with a high fever. Despite my inability to properly fuel, I tried to remain positive. I was really excited for this race. But of course, one day I would feel better, the next day worse. I truly hoped that a few more days of rest would do the trick. Despite how crummy I felt, I did my best to remain optimistic and boarded my flight.
At the Barbados airport I was greeted by my homestay, a chipper couple with fantastic accents, named Allison and Michael Pile. They grabbed my bags and whisked me away to their vintage farm estate. I was in awe when I learned that their house was built in 1653 (older than the USA). It was spectacular and decadent with centuries of Bajan history. Unable to do much because of my sickness, I was blessed with some rest time which allowed me to sit and listen. At their home I learned about the culture and how their family gives back to the community.
The family did all they could to nurse me back to good health. This boosted my spirits. I was blessed to be under the watchful eye of the Pile family who treated me like their own. They fed me with their farm grown produce, looked after me with extra caution, and even rushed me to a doctor when I felt ill again. I could not have been in better hands. Without their support, I know I would not have been able to even start the race.

With rest and support from the Pile family, I lined up at the start wearing my very first ITU number 1. The gun went off and I wondered if I could finish. My mind teetered between negative and positive thoughts. First focusing on how crummy I felt, talking myself down; I noticed myself saying “I can’t.” Then I would reflect on all the wonderful aspects of this race and try to snap out of my funk.

Once I got going, I realized how draining it was to focus on the bad. It took much more energy trudge through the race when I remembered how weak I felt. I lacked adequate nutrition and hydration and missed a lot of training. But when my mind reverted to the good, it was much easier to charge forward. I did my best to flip the switch to positive throughout the race. I remained committed to giving it my best effort. I did not want to let the Pile family, my coach, nor myself down.

As I swayed toward a positive mindset, I maintained a good position in the race. Managing a front pack swim and a solid bike, our leading group even dropped a few girls. However, coming into T2 my partially filled tank was now empty. And no amount of positive thinking could fill it back up. I managed put a smile on my face, and lead into and out of T2.

On the run I faded quickly. I didn’t have any energy left. Girls flew by me. And my stomach burned. At 1k into the run, the pain grew. It was so sharp I had to stop. Fortunately, some wonderful doctors walked me back to the medic area and assisted me. I watched my fellow USA teammates kick butt from a different perspective - from the sideline with a cup of medicine. It was exciting to watch and I was proud of my USA teammates results.

After the race I thought I had let a lot of people down, but that wasn’t the case at all. To my surprise, everyone supported me despite my DNF result. I fell in love with Barbados and the people there. ITU Bridgetown was my favorite race yet. Next year I plan to return for redemption.

I am quickly learning that this is simply part and parcel with racing. It goes with the territory. Mindset can often win or lose a race, but sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t “Tri” any more. My body could only go so far before it reached its limit. On that particular day, my limit was before the finish line.