Here are some updates from the last couple of months– race reflections and general observations.
So, Brice and I took a trip to Ottawa, Canada in June. The people we met there made our trip one of our favorites yet (and we have taken quite a few in our 3 years as a married couple). We were picked up from the airport by Jamie (the best volunteer ever), stayed with the most kind and generous host family, and even got invited into our host’s in-laws home for snacks and coffees (and a post-race shower…fyew). Our new friend Jamie loaned Brice a bike a to use for our stay, so we were able to use cycling as our main mode of transportation for exploring the city. The roads and paths were very bike-friendly!
During our 4 days in Ottawa, I got to compete in two draft-legal triathlons. It is always a plus when I get multiple race experiences in one trip, because all this travelling and time off can be costly. The first race was a “super sprint” semifinal, which took about 20 minutes to complete–three sports and two transitions in 20 minutes! This meant that the intensity was about as high as it gets in triathlon. It was painful. I got off to a great start, finishing the swim just at the leader’s feet, hung on to the back of the front bike pack (dreadfully fast ladies in my heat), and then ran as fast as my legs would go to cross the line 7th and qualify for the A Final the following day. It was a great opportunity for me to be in the A Final so that I could test myself in a strong field
When we arrived at the race site for the final the following afternoon, it was warm and very humid. My pre-race anxiety began to get the better of me and I suddenly thought something that I sometimes think–even though I don’t want to think it–before races: “I don’t want to do this.” I had no motivation. But, I chose to do what I do often in training: kick in the autopilot and just “get on with it”. There are so many people on my team to whom I owe my best effort.
When the race starts, many of the jitters float away and I am left with the sound of my own breath, of water through my swim cap, and the sight of arms flailing, feet kicking, bodies splashing all around. The swim started out great, and I was near the front for a while. Shortly before the first turn buoy, I had a familiar feeling of doubt. Instead of being proactive and confidently swimming ahead, I started worrying about people catching me. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I quickly found myself near the back of the large pack, where I stayed for the remainder of the swim. Once you are toward the back, it is so much harder (it feels impossible) to overtake other swimmers and gain position again. It’s much easier to find a place at the front and stay there (as I had the day before). Exiting the water at the back of my swim pack, I struggled to catch the group ahead of me on the bike. I eventually joined a group with some riders behind me and stayed with them for the rest of the 20km. I was glad to be in a group, especially because it was blustery in some areas. I felt like I actually contributed to our group on the bike, which was a victory for me. On the run, I was able to find my pace and stick with it. I passed a few girls who seemed to have outdone themselves in the heat, and finished “in the mix”–another big victory.
After the race, Brice and I got to have Father’s Day dinner and gelato with our host family before heading home early the next morning. We made lots of good memories in Ottawa, and we hope to visit again sometime.
Next up was Des Moines, Iowa. The first and most important thing that happened was that we located a Trader Joe’s and R.E.I. very close to our hotel. Double Win! We ended up making several trips to the R.E.I. for some supplies and mechanical help with my bike :\
Once again, it was warm and humid out. The water was also warmer than it had been in Ottawa. One of my pet peeves is swimming in warm water. I am one of those people who ask the pool maintenance folks to please turn off the heaters! But, sometimes I have to suck it up. As the noon start time approached, I could feel the adrenaline building and calming myself down became my main objective. I got in the water for a “warm up” swim but found myself doing a lot of recovery stroke on my back because I needed to calm down and breathe. I trusted that my body would know what to do when the gun went off. I envisioned a happy dog running into the water and embraced the SwimRun rule of “dogging in”.
To my surprise, the heartbeat sound which is used in World Triathlon Series events was played prior to our start. Just in case I wasn’t anxious enough. At the sound of the gun, my body knew what to do. Thanks, body! I ran like an excited dog into the water and found myself at the front of the group going stroke to stroke with the eventual leader out of the water.
It was going great…until it wasn’t. Halfway through the swim, my fight or flight instinct ran out. I was now entering survival mode. I turned over onto my back a couple of times to catch my breath and as the majority of the field passed me I began to wonder whether I would be able to continue the race. I attempted to stand on the beach and wobbled my way up the sand, feeling like I had never stood on two feet before. I slowly regained composure as I made my way up the path to transition.
I was still a bit out-of-sorts in T-1, and threw my goggles on the ground. A referee had to tell me twice to put my goggles in the bin (you get a penalty for leaving equipment outside your bin). I noticed that there were still a few others behind me and decided to take it easy until they caught me on the bike and then try to stay with them. I mounted my bike and pretty soon the girls behind me caught up. Around that time, I noticed that there were an awful lot of barriers and people wandering through the middle of the course, so I yelled at them to move! Then, I realized that we were no longer actually on the course. Thankfully, we found our way back after losing a couple of minutes to our detour. It wasn’t until later that night that I realized it was me who made the wrong turn and unfortunately for the ladies behind me, they followed me–so sorry!
The rest of the bike was okay. I began to feel strong again and was thankful to still be moving forward. Off the bike I locked into a comfortably hard pace and made it to the finish line in one piece, happy to be done but disappointed in my haphazard swim execution which had an unfortunate impact on the rest of my day.
That evening, Brice and I went out celebrate his birthday. He chose a zombie-themed burger and shake joint where we had a good time consuming large amounts of saturated fats and empty carbs.
The next few days were spent extracting some lessons from my less-than-ideal performance. I made a new friend on our flight who happened to be a psychotherapist. He helped me sort out my feelings about the race and even gave me some insight based on his own observations. He suggested that I might have placed a little too much weight on my performance, and on the triathlon part of my life in general. He mentioned a sort of “importance range” where our passions should be. A little too far to either side of that range, and we get off balance. We lose sight of who we really are and what our ultimate focus is. For me, that is being a child of God and following after Him wholeheartedly. My new friend and I shared this goal, and we talked at length about life– about how our passions, relationships, stuff, talents, etc can be such blessings* to ourselves and to others, but those same good things can become idols which distract and harm us. This conversation has stuck with me, and I have been asking myself more frequently what is really the greatest desire of my heart. Is it to be great at doing something (i.e. Triathlon)? To be liked by people? To be perceived as “good” or “nice” or “pretty” or “fit” or “strong” or “religious” or “successful” or “____”? If the answer is yes to one or more of these–which it often is–I need to redirect my gaze and put the “idol” in its rightful place: important, but not too important.
*About that word: blessing, I have been thinking about what it really means. It gets thrown around a lot lately, which is fine. But, I think we tend to look at a blessing as something like winning, or getting presents, or accomplishing a goal, or having things go our way, or not getting hurt, sick, etc…When I hear the word “blessing” it is a reminder to me that God can make everything work for our good, no matter how bad it seems (Rom. 8:28). He can make a blessing out of a curse (Deut. 23:5). So, whether I win or lose, it can be considered a “blessing” depending on how I look at it.
In other news: Brice and I gambled for the first time during our layover in Vegas. There goes $5 and all my race winnings (oh, wait…).
Up next for me: IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Cruz & Austin!
Food for thought: There will always be a reason why you can’t. There will probably be lots of them: You aren’t genetically gifted or talented. You don’t have money for fancy equipment. You have asthma. You have an abnormality that limits you. You started later in life. You aren’t strong enough. You have poor flexibility. You keep getting injured. You are busy. You are tired. Your friends don’t think you can…Instead of focusing on why you can’t, Find the reason(s) why you can.