How to Eat Humble Pie…

Have you ever wanted to know how to make humble pie?

Well, it’s super easy. Anyone can do it. Let me show you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Two cups of perfectionistic tendencies

Who are you and what have you done with Margy Margs?

2. Two tablespoons of impossible to achieve expectations

I’m just going there for the #experience. LOL Yeah right! LIAR.

3. Four cups of over confidence

Damn those cool results I was starting to see in training and lead-in races. 

4. Two tablespoons of under recovery

And to think, coming down with the viral plague, twice in a month, really surprised me.

5. A pinch of a change in time zones and some mega jetlag

It was like an uppercut to the back of the head – I kid you not. Totally slammed with fatigue.

And voila! You’re ready to make some humble pie.

That, in a nutshell (or a pie dish), is how my Ironman 70.3 World Championships crusade unfolded. I went in a little too big for my boots, expecting too much and the result – unstoppable tears the moment I crossed the finish line.

Tears because I thought I had completely bombed the race and I felt like a massive disappointment. My post-race text message to my coach reads: “I’m sorry for the flop! I feel really sad actually! After all that training and things go to (insert the cute little poo emoji here)!”

Tears because I didn’t have family there to be my cheer squad. Note: totally not their fault. I was deadest on needing to do this experience on my own (#independentwoman), to prove that I could. But in the end all I wanted was a hug… oh dear!

Tears because it felt like the last nine months of training and sacrifice were all for nothing… Dramatic much! Probably. But that’s how I felt, in that moment. I had a disappointing race that did not go to plan at all and I was finding it a little tricky dealing initially – amazing how much wine helps in these moments, along with chats with some very smart friends.

OK. Before I go on, I have a little confession to make.

While to everyone around me and to anyone that asked, I was going into worlds just for the experience: “Oh, I’m just going to have fun with it.” LIAR! It was my first world championships race and I knew that it was silly to go in with any sort of expectations – I knew that would really just be a path towards disappointment and feelings of failure. But deep down things were different.

I started seeing some huge improvements in training and racing, especially in my running; I was nailing training sessions, hitting targets… there was so much green in my TrainPeaks! Green, everywhere. So, I started imagining what it would be like to not only go in to have fun at this event – a race that really should have been all about the fun and experiencing everything a first world champs has to offer – but to go in to nail the race. To show the doubters (read: me!) that I can do this!

My perfectionistic tendencies, competitive side and huge, unrealistic, self-imposed expectations reared their ugly head, and I found it really hard to deal when things didn’t go to plan. I really should have just gone in for the experience, to have fun, soak it all up and just to enjoy it. After all, this was my first attempt at a race of this standard. I should have gone in with zero expectations. But that’s a little tricky when you’ve pumped yourself up all year.

First impressions

The 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championships was the very first time that I, Margy Margs had graduated from the sidelines – no longer just a spectator, I was at a world champs event to race. It was my turn to be a world champs level athlete. Get. Outta. Town! Pretty freaking incredible, right!

That was pretty exciting but I still had this overwhelming sense of, “What the hell am I doing here? What made me think this would be a good idea?” I mean come on, I’m not really an athlete or up to the standard of some of these women, right? I felt totally like an imposter. I mean – I hardly qualify for life at the best of times, so coming to a world champs event was a little frightening. It didn’t help that on first arriving in Port Elizabeth it was hurricane-level-windy and our bus driver said: “Yeah, there were 7-foot swells in the ocean yesterday.” WTF? I felt like I was going to vomit: “OMG! If I make it out of the swim alive I’ll probably get blow back to Australia!” What made me think that I could actually do this? But sometimes you just have to dream, believe and to trust the process. And so was the beginning of race week.

Race day – the start line

As I entered the start line area on the morning of the race, my heart was pounding so hard I thought it would literally leap out of my chest. I couldn’t sleep that night – nothing new, normal pre race nerves. I was experiencing so many different emotions all at once – it was like PMS on crack! I was excited but overwhelmed. I was thrilled to be there yet on the verge of tears, in disbelief that this was actually happening.

Most of the women in my age group looked like they knew exactly what they were doing – they looked fierce, strong and ready to race. Me on the other hand – I felt like the human standard – that person who shows you how good these athletes really are compared to the general population. Bless my constant battles with self-doubt.

After missing the cut-off for the swim warm-up (good start, Margs. Good start.) I decided that I needed to at least look the part, so did a bit of a dry land warm-up (mainly just failing my arms around trying not to hit anyone) before we were ushered into the start zone. Positioning myself towards the back of the age group (I didn’t want to get in the way – oh, dear!), this was it. The moment I had worked so hard for.

Coming through the starting arch was a special moment but one that I really can’t remember in detail because it was an emotional blur. I vaguely remember the crowd cheering, there was music, there was something announced over the loud speaker, and here was I, mainly terrified of not making the cut off, drowning, being eaten by a shark or a combination of all the above.

The swim

Ironically, the swim was my favourite part of the day. It’s no secret that I’m no swimmer. I love the ocean but I have a strong dislike for swim racing. I get super anxious and no matter how much swim training I do I never feel strong in the water, ever. But amazingly enough I felt good in the water at worlds. I actually felt kind of, well, strong. Amazing, I know! I felt like I could hold my own in the water – maybe the whole swim training thing does actually work! I even managed to sit on feet (for about a second at a time LOL) and I didn’t feel like I was being bulldozed by age groups that started after me; this may have had something to do with the fact that the men raced on a different day.

The bike

Wow! Tough! I completely underestimated how hard the bike course would be – it certainly felt a lot harder than the one practice ride we did leading into the race. The first ~40kms were mostly uphill into a headwind. Yikes! I don’t have a power meter (terrible, I know!) so I typically ride to feel or perceived effort or… I don’t really know, I just go as hard as I can/think I can go (*insert face palm*) for as long as possible.

After said training ride, I thought this ride would be similar to the bike course at Ironman 70.3 Cairns so I expected I would be able to ride a similar average pace to that. Ha! No! I looked at my Garmin about 10-15kms into the bike during the race and saw how slow I was going – rude! “OMG! What is happening?” I panicked. “Why am I so slow?” From there I tried to push harder than I should have and my Glute yelled, “See ya!” This resulted in some ITB and hamstring issues… basically the rest of the race was a painful crawl forward, towards the finish line.

About the only good thing about that ride were the stunning views. OMG, amazing! I really wished I could have taken my iPhone with me to take some #wymtm snaps for Insta. Only kidding… I wouldn’t have stopped; I was there to race. *Focus Margs*

The run  

I knew I was in trouble the moment I couldn’t lift my right leg over my bike on arrival into T2 – I couldn’t get off my bike. “Just smile,” said the race commentator. I may have retorted with a few expletives under my breath… something starting with ‘F’and ending with ‘off’. I was in so much hurt – physically, mentally, and emotionally… I was spent. I had wanted to nail the run but I soon realised that dream was over and I felt pretty crushed.

Coming out of T2 it was then a painful, hot – it’s amazing how much warmer 21 degrees Celsius feels when you’re racing – struggle forward towards the finish line. The disappointment of not being able to achieve my time goal had me mentally checked out. Game. Over. A DNF was never going to be an option (if I could help it) but my run was done.

The funny thing is, once I managed to calm the farm down a bit after the race, it dawned on me – my shuffle forward these days is a lot faster than my race pace nine months ago. Hello! Gotta be happy with that. I just wish I had realised that during the race and pushed through whatever struggle was going on.

Hungry for more

It’s been a few weeks now, since the race and, while I came down with exhaustion, dehydration and viral gastro on my return home (I even managed to land myself in Emergency for a few hours on the Friday night – love a good saline drip party!) I’ve had some time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly. And even though the race didn’t go to plan it wasn’t a complete disaster.

I’ve eaten my fair share of humble pie but I’ve learnt a lot through this experience. I’ve learnt the need for self-belief, that I definitely need a power meter and that I’ve actually come a really long way since Ironman 70.3 WA where I first qualified for worlds back in December last year.

My coach texted me back after the race: “Young lady! You NEVER say sorry for a race. Ever… Be proud of the strength you were able to find when it felt like it wasn’t there on the outside. It’s races like this that will actually drive your hunger more…” As they say, it’s from the disappointing races you learn the most. The disappointing races are the one’s that leave you wanting more.

So, there is definitely some unfinished business now, with this whole worlds experience. I’ll be back for more.

But until then, happy training, racing and everything in between!

~ Margy Margs


Margaret Mielczarek

Margaret Mielczarek is the deputy editor at Australian Triathlete Magazine and writes the web series 'Shenanigans of a Deputy 2.0'. She is a passionate age-group triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher - currently in training for Ironman number five!

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