To tell you the truth, I'm not a very thoughtful person. I don't mean thoughtful in the sense of "wow is she thoughtful to have brought over some chicken soup when I was sick." But I mean I *literally* don't think too much on any one thing. I don't dwell, I don't stew. I was that person in school that took a test in 20 minutes because once I answered a question, I moved right on and NEVER went back to have a 2nd look.
As an athlete, I can see both a benefit and a down side to this character trait. I could probably learn a lot more from my mistakes if I ever really gave them pause. But at the very least, I live a relatively un-tormented life in that I don't weigh myself down with OVER-thinking. Let it be known - I've never not been able to sleep because I was thinking on something too much! :)
Having said all that, I will say I've thought through this past season of being a rookie pro more than any other previous season. Not sure why other than the fact that it was a very unique year for me, not just as an athlete but as a PERSON. Below are some of my thoughts on the year.
1) Racing pro is certainly different than racing as an age grouper and comparing times from the two isn't really fair. There are benefits to racing as a pro and there are benefits to racing as an AGer. In my opinion, the biggest difference BY FAR is the swim. Even to swim the same times I did as an AGer, I need to totally remodel HOW I swim by having the ability to go WAY, WAY over threshold at the start to maintain any sort of contact before things calm down. Um...still a work in progress. :) I do have this theory though that if you are a superstar fishy swimmer, your transition to being a pro and your experience as a whole is very different than someone like myself who was an "okay" AG swimmer. And this is all because HOW the race plays out is totally dictated by where you come out of the water. The swim can't win it for you nor can it totally lose it for you but it truly sets the course of how the day unfolds.
2) Having said all that, I TRULY loved racing as a pro this year! I maintained a very high level of motivation through the entire year to both train and race, despite a very long season. And I attribute this soley to the fact that the challenge of being a pro totally captivated me.
3) There is more to being a pro than one might think and I had (and still have) a lot to learn about being a professional athlete. It's obviously not football or baseball or any other of the mainstream sports but it's still a business. I will ALWAYS do sport because I love it and because it's something that challenges me to be a better person. But competing as a professional adds a whole new dimension of being able to make (a little) money while doing what you love and that can change your strategies a little! ;) I raced a lot more this year (LOVE!) and traveled quite a bit more. I went to many more races by myself. These seem like small things but it was definitely an adjustment for me.
4) I was really quite pleased with my year. I'm ever an optimist (both a good and a bad thing) and so as I think over my races and training from 2012, I have a tendency to highlight only the positives. I am most happy about (1) staying healthy the entire year (2) being able to maintain a higher level of training AND racing and learning how to recover enough to make it through the season (3) setting PRs at Olympic, 70.3 and IM distances and (4) my consistency throughout the entire year. If there is one thing I can claim, it's consistency. I never really have those breakthrough type races but instead I (very) slowly chip away race after race until one day I look up and see that I'm faster than the previous year. :)
5) Although I am incredibly pleased with season #1, I do know that my one major fault this year (and truthfully in much of my athletic career to date) was a lack of faith and having major doubts about myself and my ability to race at this level. Friend and fellow rookie pro, Beth Walsh, said it perfectly in her own blog written just a few days ago:
"I'll be the first to admit it. At the start of this season, I did not believe in
my heart that I had what it takes to be competitive as a professional
triathlete. I knew I could be "ok" and get by and just prayed I didn't get beat
by too many amateurs. But knowing, and truly believing in yourself, may be half the battle. Maybe
that's the extra 1% I've been missing..." (Beth goes on to say that after 8 months of racing pro her mindset has changed and she now has belief in her ability to be a top IM athlete)
Ditto. At the start of the year I felt like I was just trying to prove that letting me race as a pro wasn't a mistake. I was simply trying not to embarrass myself. But if you are racing with that in mind, you are doing yourself a disservice. I see that now and can definitely say that I am a very different athlete than I was in March of this year. Physically different a little bit but mentally different by a ton. And like Beth said, that little bit of belief can go a long way.
This year taught me many, many things. But mostly it taught me where I stand and it's now much clearer as to what I need to do to bridge the gap to where I want to be. This year has taught me that I love the 70.3 distance and that I need to find 8-10 extra minutes at this distance to CONSISTENTLY be in the mix and on the podium. I do believe God has given me the ability to get those extra 8-10 minutes (even though fins and gills REALLY would help me out here... :). And although I know those 8-10 minutes won't come fast, nor will they come easy, I have never in my life been more excited by a challenge. Season #2 will be dedicated to taking that next step physically. Thankfully my heart and my head are already there.
One million thanks over and over to all those that made this first year as a rookie pro possible and so very special: a wonderful group of sponsors, an amazing coach, fellow competitors that pushed me beyond belief and in the process have become great friends, an amazing group of friends in and out of the sport that have provided much needed support, and a family that loves me unconditionally. Without any one piece, I would be lost!
So pro season #2....HERE WE GO! (but first, I still have some lazy time, sleeping in and eating bon bons to do... :)