The Start Line.

2017 has been a good year so far. 

Chris is having arguably his best bike racing season ever. His competitors refer to him as "the Cobra", and assert that his autobiography should be titled "The Guinness Book of World Records". I'm not exaggerating - check this out: Mikes Bikes Race Report: Copperopolis

We also have a roommate now! Our friend Chris Mocko moved in on March 1st after quitting his tech job to pursue ultra running full-time. Since then, he has burst onto the trail scene and snagged a few key sponsors (Nike Trail, Kodiak Cakes). Our little house in Mill Valley is quite the high performance training center and....Ridley is still the best athlete in the house.

The Coble-Mocko Household has toed the start line many, many times this year. While we've been fortunate to have mostly favorable results, we've had some rough days....and Ironman Canada was one of those days for me. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't massively disappointed with my race, it has felt heartbreaking. I have never worked so hard in training to prepare for a race. I've never felt fitter than I did leading up to race day, and I have never been less excited to race.  

Yes, I just wrote that. It's taken over a week to come to grips with the fact that I truly wasn't looking forward to racing. Usually I feel like a simmering pot about ready to boil in the days leading up to a race. I can't focus at work. I can't sleep. I can barely speak words to other humans the morning of a race. But this time was different. I slept 12hrs two nights out from the race, and didn't have any issues falling asleep the night before. I didn't feel different except that I was slightly tapered. Nothing was getting me flustered or overly analytical about the race itself. While I was putting on my wetsuit race morning I told Chris I was still having a hard time wrapping my head around the distance I was about to attempt.... 

As we were standing in the chute ready to start the swim, I wasn't nervous at all. I wasn't giddy. All I could think was: "well, let's hope my fitness gets me a respectable result", and that is a bullshit way to start a race. In retrospect, I don't even recognize myself. Sadly, the day unraveled into my slowest Ironman ever. I had a decent swim considering my lack of time in the pool thanks to a pesky neck issue. I started off (too) strong on the bike, didn't nail nutrition, had hip issues and began to fade around mile 80. When I finally made it into T2, I sat in the change room tent for several minutes contemplating if I should start the run or just go straight to the bar. I was mentally cooked, but I said to myself...."well, I can't stop now." 

.....and here's the thing....I've been saying that for the last 7 months. I trained hard the first few months of 2017 and snagged two AG wins at Oceanside and St. George, and a decent result at Santa Rosa 70.3. In late May, I went straight back to training hard, and focusing on improving my run. Around mid-June, I wasn't excited about training, but I was perfectly executing every session. I was gaining confidence in my fitness, but deteriorating mentally. I didn't realize it at the time, but what carried me through the training was simply thinking: "well, I guess I can't stop now." It was a fear of losing momentum. But momentum can be dangerous - we know this with the stock market, and avalanches - and the same goes for Ironman training. It warps your judgement, distances you from confronting the fatigue, and pulls you towards unrealistic expectations.

Since I started working with my coach Mike, I told him I want to show up to races and be able to rely on my fitness, not just my ability to hang tough and be stubborn. Honestly, previous wins mostly came as a surprise because I went into the race feeling under prepared, and this was something I wanted to avoid. I wanted to feel proud of my result, like I truly earned it. Not just like I happened to have a good day. Turns out, I over did it. I didn't take easy days when I needed to, and I showed up at the start line flat, already defeated. 

So lessons learned?

1. "I can't stop now" is a double edged sword. It can get you through a rough day or race, but it can't be the only thing that keeps you training every single day. 

2. Focus on the start line. The next time I prepare for a race, I will think about that start line. I will prioritize capturing that giddiness, that feeling of going to battle....and I will be damn sure I show up ready to go hard, not just hope for the best. 

(I also need to re-vamp my nutrition strategy, figure out what's wrong with my hip, and swim more...?)

ALSO, big thanks to my IMCA squad: MOM, DAD, MARGARET....you guys are getting pretty good at cheering me on during the most boring spectating event imaginable, thank you so much for coming. ERIN KLEGSTAD - I'm so sorry you didn't have the day you wanted either, but thank you for sharing those last 6miles with me. YOU are what make this sport so incredible. I'm calling you my #bloodsweattears sister from now on, okay? OSCAR for showing up out of the blue and cheering on your triathlete friend (even though you're embarrassed that you have triathletes as friends); VINNY and GRANT for showing up and racing so well for the Olympic Club - someone had to! My coach, MIKE McCORMACK ("M2") - I have learned more about myself as an athlete working with you than ever before, thank you for pushing me and for believing in me, I know this race was disappointing for you as well. And finally, CHRISTOPHER.....not sure how you put up with me. I'm sorry I was more the iguana than the tiger last Sunday. You're my hero, I love you.