Most endurance athletes call it the wall, the point of no return, where the body refuses to pedal another turn, swim another stroke or run another step.
For Penticton professional triathlete Jen Annett, this part of the race is what she has come to call “the dark spot.”
Every bit as important as the physical aspect is each individual athlete’s mental conditioning, to get over the wall, or in Annett’s case, back into the light.
“It’s inevitable,” she said about that moment on race day. “For me, it usually comes around the 30 or 34-kilometre mark.
“That’s the point where I have issues, stomach cramps; it’s that part of the race where you’re sore, everything hurts and it’s that moment where you say ‘why do I do this to myself?’”
But during her racing, she has developed her own way of getting past that stage to chasing her dream of competing in the worlds as a professional.
“I’ve always been a people pleaser and by that time (of the race) I’m pretty much giving myself the gears. I owe it to everybody who supported me basically to work to the best of my ability, remind myself about the amount of hard work I put in to get there,” she said.
The 33-year-old will need every once of mental stamina she can muster a week from this Saturday when she stands on the Hawaiian shoreline at the start of the 40th Kailua-Kona Ironman World Championship.
This is the Penticton athlete’s first go at the world championship event as a pro. She competed in 2008 as an age group qualifier. She also earned the right to go the following two years in that division but was unable to attend.
“Not that it’s about everybody else,” Annett said about what she tells herself on the course. “I know people will be happy for me regardless of how I finish. In my head, I feel I owe it to those people who have supported me to get there. I want to be able to do my best.”
In what proved to be her qualifying points race for Hawaii in Lake Placid, N.Y. last July, her motivation for continuing past the dark moment was a little easier to come by.
“There, it was all about reminding myself that if I didn’t get it done I wasn’t going to Hawaii. I’d have to put in one more race, which is not what I wanted to do,” said Annett.
That reasoning proved to be just the ticket she needed, winding up in the second spot in the women’s event and fourth overall out of nearly 2,800 competitors.
The initial 2.4-mile swim portion of the race is not her strongest event and by the end of that, she often finds herself “a decent chunk of time” behind the leaders.
“I just remind myself that I don’t need to catch all of those girls in the first 30K. You have 180 kilometres to do the work, it’s a patience game at that point,” said Annett.
She also admits there are times when she is not having fun anymore, but then there is the moment on the course when all that changes.
“You forget all about that when you get to the finish line,” said Annett. “You forget all about the negative, the pain, seeing all those people cheering you on. You did your best and I try to be happy regardless.”
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