Finding My Why On The Road

It was the eve of Whistler’s Ironman Canada event but I wasn’t dealing with pre-race butterflies or preparation stress. Rather, I was more concerned with if we’d brought enough food for an evening picnic. Lingering with a few friends after dinner the topic switched to triathlon. “Think of all those people that put their heart and soul into training and have a mechanical or can’t finish their race."

"What a waste," a friend said.

Another countered that it can’t be about the race day outcome. Think about all the experiences along the way. He was so right on so many levels. To celebrate the process, here are a few things I’ll cherish from my first season training for both an off-road triathlon and Ironman 70.3 while traveling with the Crankworx World Tour.

1. Watching The World Wake Up and Fall Asleep During Training

Most people that train in open water quickly discover the incredible privilege of pausing to watch the early morning pastels light up the sky while swimming. It still gets me in Whistler's Alta lake, every time.

But on the road, a few more things tickled me. First, on stop one of the World Tour aka Crankworx Rotorua, one of the broadcast days ran long and a big training run was in my plan. Armed with a super bright bike light and a few podcasts I explored the trails of the Whakarewarewa Forest at night.

The air was warm and Rotorua's lights flickered in a reflection of a few dimly light stars. But it was all thriller, no filler once I hit the trails. Wallabies, bunnies, birds and possum-like critters rustled and scurried.

I nearly jumped out of my skin three or four times.

Mid-run I found myself in area lined with tall sprinklers. 250 meters into the rows of sprinklers I read a sign that said something along the lines of "warning refuse sprinklers". Horrified at the thought of getting in the line of fire of poop spray I lunged into a sprint and set a PR back the way I came. But I survived, with a few funny stories and ticked the workout complete at the end of the night. 

 The Innsbruck city streets leading to nearby mountain bike trails

The Innsbruck city streets leading to nearby mountain bike trails

On Stop two of the World Tour in Innsbruck, Austria I set out for a mountain bike ride at first light to make sure I was back in time for our team meeting. Rolling through the city streets, I encountered throngs of club-goers leaving bars. Couples kissing, bottles breaking and general debauchery was the vibe. It was hilarious. After checking out a good portion of the famed Arzler Alm Trail I retraced my route back to the hotel. Only about an hour's difference and joggers, commuters, and street sweepers replaced the partiers. Zero evidence of the previous night's party. It was as if they were never there. A hysterical and bizarre changing of the guard.  

 Views of Innsbruck from the trails

Views of Innsbruck from the trails

2. Becoming a Terrain Reading Ninja

Ok, I have to admit this one is still a work in progress. But while on tour, there's always a time crunch on triathlon training. There isn't much room for navigational errors out on the mountain bike or running trails. My dilemma, I love seeing new places and working out over a full loop or out and back track. At each stop, I spliced together the Strava segment explorer, Sunnto Heat Maps and TrailForks to do my best to make training more fun. To tick all the boxes and bag all the views. 

 Days before kicking off Crankworx Innsbruck we had a chance to trail run to this spectacular view in Leogang, Austria.

Days before kicking off Crankworx Innsbruck we had a chance to trail run to this spectacular view in Leogang, Austria.

On the third stop of the World Tour in Les Gets, France I found a mint trail in the bike park to do hill climb intervals. Taking into account elevation gain, type of terrain and length of trail I worked out that I could make it to the top as I clocked in my final set.

 Enjoying the views from the top of Les Gets Bike Park

Enjoying the views from the top of Les Gets Bike Park

The views from the summit are stunning. As a treat, I picked what looked like a gentle blue trail to motor my short travel cross-country mountain bike down. I quickly realized that this mellow intermediate flow trail featured a number of gap jumps and proceeded to comically smash into the upside of one of the landings. Stans from my tubeless tire sprayed like a cinco de mayo sparkler all over me and the trail. My arm and ego sustained a bit of a bruise, but I was injury free. I often wonder if half of the adventures I set out on would have been achieved if I didn't have a goal race and training in the works.    

3. Anxiety or Stress?

Elevated heart rate, hard work and discomfort. They're both characteristics of Anxiety and Stress. I've confused them so many times. What started out as a huge roadblock in my training became an innate connection with my body. I think back to the times I overheated on my trainer in the winter and gave up on my workout or felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest on an interval outside. There was something instinctual telling me to back off or else I might self destruct.

 Winter training on my snow covered balcony.  

Winter training on my snow covered balcony.  

When I unpacked the concept I realized I wasn't going to self combust. If I needed rest, it was going to have to come from more sleep, better fuelling and recovery. Not from quitting when things got tough. When I eased off and pushed through challenging workouts I felt indescribably stronger than ever before. There wasn't a moment but rather a collection of times in Rotorua, Innsbruck, Whistler and Les Gets that I recognized the anxiety and converted it into good stress. 

 The result of harnessing good stress on a Blackcomb Mountain Trail Run with Liz

The result of harnessing good stress on a Blackcomb Mountain Trail Run with Liz

4. Endorphins as Treats

Lastly, the time spent playing outside of structured training is now a sacred reward. Bike Park laps in Innsbruck, Yoga in Rotorua and hiking in Les Gets filled up my cup of stoke. Each activity, served as beautiful rechargers for my body and mind. These unstructured adventures kept me sharp and beaming with gratitude. 

I can't wait to build on these moments, feelings and learnings for 2019. What wonderful and wild way to see the world. Are you training while traveling? Leave a favourite story in the comments.