This is my last blog about triathlon for a while.

2012 has been a tough season. It began with a 70.3 PB in Mallorca, continued with an enlightening race in the Alpe d’Huez, followed by cancelled races in Vichy and Provence and ended with Ironman Cozumel in November. I shall blog the reason behind the missing two races soon, but this “farewell” is a soft race report around Cozumel.

In the lead up to Ironman, thing weren’t going according to plan. The race in France took a lot out of me (I unpacked my bike in November!), and a few weeks break was needed. Then, as a total rookie, I went back into training for the Ironman, hard.

My first long ride was on my TT bike (despite not having been on it since May), I ran intervals, increased my training load and introduced a medium-long ride during the week. What a mistake.

During a long endurance run around Richmond Park, I felt a shooting pain down my thigh. I stopped, stretched to shake it off, then continued. The pain didn’t go away, it just built, it built to the point where merely lifting my leg off the ground hurt. So I stopped and hobbled for 40 minutes back home, luckily being rescued by a dear friend a neighbour.

Several weeks of physiotherapy eventually resolved the problem (root nerve in my lower back was referring pain down my leg), including getting my bike Retul fitted and 3×15 minutes of stretching everyday.

Matter somewhat resolved, I now had 5 weeks to go before the big day. With a 3 week taper, that didn’t leave me much time to peak train, let alone build up to it (my longest ride and run were 100km and 20km respectively until that point). So my coach and I sat down and devised a plan – I would go out to Mexico and participate. Participate without the expectations I had earlier in the year but gain experience and complete my third Ironman, my first in flat/windy conditions.

Without going on for too long, I did race, I had a decent swim, the start of a decent bike ride until my ankle gave in, which slowed me down (could not push a big gear into the wind) and made my run a living hell.

It was my slowest Ironman to date. Do I regret racing? Never. I proved the swim tactics I adopted at Ironman Lake Placid were not a fluke, I really enjoyed the bike ride (the part I dread the most) and despite the run being my strong suit (and almost finishing with a miserable 5 hour marathon), I still completed.

So, what’s the lesson here? I guess it is about expectations. You cannot predict what happens when racing, your goals can be set at the beginning of the season but things change. All I do know is that I am more mature than I was last year. My race in St Croix (which I never blogged about, it’s like my Voldemort), was a disaster. I had a complete melt-down post-race and shocked myself given how I reacted.

This season has been different. We all have bad races, and both Cozumel and the Alpe d’Huez proved that. What we do learn though is making the most out of the situation, we learn that every single expectation we have, every single piece of pressure we feel, has been put on by ourselves. We are triathletes out of choice, not necessity.

I am not sure what 2013 will bring. I will continue to race (don’t think I will ever give up on triathlon and endurance sports), but I will race with a different mindset. A mindset that understands that this race is about me and about my expectations. It’s about what I am looking to achieve from this sport, about what I am willing to put in, what I am willing to sacrifice, what I am willing to plan.

Because after all, it’s only triathlon.