Pushing Past The Plateau

Meredith Kessler  > Blog >  Pushing Past The Plateau

When I take a bird’s eye view at the 2011 season, I am very grateful to have experienced everything I did this year. I hit some rough patches in my opening races which left a lot of health issues in question but it was very important to me to use those mishaps to fuel the rest of the season.

As professional athletes, it’s easy to get trapped in the dogma of ‘whoa is me’ and focus on what one could of done better. For me, it’s more about getting to the root of the problem, fixing it and trying again and again…. and again. It’s that relentless fire that athletes have that inspire me to be a better athlete myself. I feel as though one can’t possibly have this fire unless you experience some individual pitfalls which are precisely what keeps us coming back for another try.

I was recently asked by Clif Bar to give my ‘top 5 words of advice’ for an article involving how athletes ‘PUSH PASS THE PLATEAU.’ I have used the following to help keep me motivated and encouraged especially this season:

Believe. Believe that you have what it take to rise above the issues at hand and never give up.

Limitless. Answers are limitless. Find the answers you need in order to prevail.

Gumption. Every race isn’t going to be peaches and cream. I truly believe that it’s not about how you fall, but how you get back up — and that takes gumption.

Simplicity. Keep it simple while figuring out what works best for you.

Resilience. Remember that the body is resilient so you need to be too.

Ironman Arizona was a very rewarding way to end the season. Not only is it my favorite Ironman on the circuit, but it was spent with great friends and people very important to me in life.

It was really cool to share this race with so many amazing athletes. I raise my glass to Leanda Cave and Linsey Corbin for their 1-2 amazing (+ well under) sub 9 performances and for continuing to raise the bar. Congratulations! These gals are top knotch.

It really was a perfect day in Tempe. The weather, the crowd, the volunteers…the aura. It was awesome. The swim was surprisingly calm as I was very fortunate to get to swim in a 3-pack with Kelly Williamson and Leanda, both of whom I absolutely adore and LOVE to swim with in races if at all possible. It was smooth, simple, no drama etc…always a pleasure. I, of course, was hanging on for dear life like an annoying squirrel trying to get a nut thus I could not help pull some weight and wished I could have helped there (not that they needed it!). Kelly and Leanda kept rotating leaders which was really cool. It seemed like we had the whole lake to ourselves..no men around either.. which is a rarity! Very thankful. The three of us basically came out of the swim together and on to the bike we went.

A special congratulations to Amanda Stevens on her amazing swim (as well as a great race in general)..I’m pretty sure she had at LEAST 3 mins on us…she really is the best female swimmer, by far, in the sport. Awesome!

On to the 3-loop bike course….I felt comfy on my Orbea Ordu (thank you Fits by Paul!) and did my best to stay controlled and consistent each loop. I was thrilled with my Reynolds 66/81 wheelset choice for these conditions and my CycleOps powertap was essential for this course thus to not get too out of control on watt spikes since the wind seemed to change each loop.

People view this course as a ‘flat’ course. While I agree that it is WAY less ‘flat’ then say Ironman St. George or Ironman Canada, it still has sneaky false flats each loop that can really ‘get’ you if you don’t stay composed. I find this course is best to try to get stronger each loop so that you don’t run out of gas by the final lap. In addition, its easy to get stuck behind or ‘in’ a pack on this course since there are almost 3000 people on a 3-loop bike course. Since I’m constantly in fear of getting a penalty (as most of us are), I probably also annoyingly played cat and mouse at times in order to avoid it at all costs. I found myself breaking a lot too which obviously slowed the momentum but it’s sort of just what you have to do at times to stay kosher. Something to learn from and work on going forward.

The run….GOD LOVE THIS RUN. The 3 loop figure-8 course allows you to see your ‘peeps’ at least 16 times = AMAZING. I had the thrill of running side by side with Leanda for a couple miles in 2nd place. While I would have LOVED to maintain that for longer, I had to drop to a pace that was conducive to what I could handle in that moment and well, also so I didn’t blow like a champagne cork! I stayed in 2nd for awhile after that until Lins passed me around mile 13. While in a semi-low moment as she passed, I was still very happy to see my pal having such a great race! My special needs nutrition started to kick in around mile 15 and I felt much more vibrant the second half of the run…finishing in 3rd.

While I was 14 seconds shy (SHOOT!) of breaking 9 hours, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to share the podium behind Leanda and Linsey who, simply put, were the better athletes of the day. The popular question lately has been “did you know you were THAT close to breaking 9 hours?” Ah yes, indeed, and I was gunning for it for sure! I must of miscalculated that last .2 miles as that bit seemed to go one FOREVER and I unfortunately ran out of real estate or rather, there was too much real estate left!

While I’m sure I could drive myself batty thinking about where I could of made up that precious 14 seconds, I tend to not sweat the small stuff. Perspective I probably got even more when I collapsed in my first two Ironmans of the season. When all was said and done, Ironman Arizona was my 42nd Ironman…a 13 minute PR and most importantly (even if in the well of pain like everyone else during these things), I felt like myself and had fun doing it. I do not take a 9 hour performance or an ironman FINISH for that matter…for granted-EVER. I hope to have the opportunity again in the near future to tackle that sub-9 and most importantly, I am elated to have pushed passed the plateau and capped off my 10th race of the season with another podium finish.

I owe ample THANKS to so so many—(noted mostly on the pictures attached as well):

To my Sponsors: Saucony, Arctic Ease, Orbea, Orca, Clif Bar, Reynolds Wheels, Recovery Boots, TriBike Transport, TRX, CycleOps, Shimano, Velo SF & Pacific Bikes...words can’t fully describe my gratitude. Thank you for providing me with the best products and services out there and even more rewarding, thank you for believing in me through not only the highs, but the lows as well. As professionals, we truly cannot do this sport with out your relentless support. It speaks volumes.

To purplepatch & Matt Dixon: Thank you for having faith in me 4+ years ago and for being an integral part of Velo SF. The journey from an 11+ hour ironman athlete to an Ironman Champion/9hr PR has been one that I will cherish for a lifetime. I’m also very thankful to be a part of the purplepatch family and to coach under the purplepatch brand which supports the balanced lifestyle I have always enjoyed having.

FK, DEBS, DEE: Who just jumps on a plane last minute to come support their pals during an Ironman—you guys do! We are so lucky. THANK YOU.

To LNC, CC, Ma & Pa P: Ironman AZ was a blast. Thanks for all the hugs and surplus of jumping jacks whenever LNC and I are in the same races! You are like family out there, thank you for that luxury.

Sue Hutter: Your passion on life is one to be admired. Thank you for sharing that wealth of love (wine and chocolate too :)) with so many of us.

HPB&CAT: Even when you guys are the busiest, you make time for others which is only one of many positive qualities of your characters. Thank you so much. We can’t wait to celebrate you two next month and in the meantime, CRUSH it this weekend in Iman WA! We’ll be rooting for you both all day long.

To my family & friends: I love you all so much! Near or far..you guys are always with me every step of the way. I have said this before, and I’ll say it again…ALL of you fuel me to the finish! I treasure our time together always.

Lastly, to AK: From 14 years old to now 33…it only gets better and better in our lifetime together! Thank you for all you do for me to keep this dream alive. I love you!

Happy Holidays to all!