This is my first second. Since beginning my endurance athlete adventure, I’ve never participated in the same event twice — until Saturday’s San Diego Triathlon Classic. For the second year in a row, I am racing the Olympic distance triathlon (1500 Meter Swim, 40K Bike, 10K run). Check out how I did last year here.
With an identical course, my goal is clear — go faster than last year. Following the tips of training gurus on the internet, I confide to friends my sub-3 hour finishing goal. I have a goal and accountability.
At the sound of the start horn, I plunge my head into the 71 degree water and begin swimming. With each stroke, I remind myself to swim relaxed and easy. Through the first half of the swim, I’m encouraged. I am in contact with my wave with only a few different colored swim caps passing me.
In the second half of the swim, I fall behind and become subsumed a full rainbow of swim caps colors from the later start waves. As expected, most athletes from my wave have left me behind, but I’m not disappointed. I check my watch and I’m right on pace — I’m going for the sub-3!
Dropping into the aero position on my bike, I feel confident, if not arrogant. Passing the line of bike riders from the other start waves simply boosts my self-inflated ego.
Then I hit the big hill and remember the comradery of the sport. Because we all suffer in the face of steep grades, I shout encouragement to struggling riders, bike walking riders, and the woman who fell over because she was going too slow (don’t worry, several of us checked and she was okay).
Returning to the transition area, I feel good until I check my watch. The sub-3 dream is turning into just that, a dream. I will need a PR (personal record) in the run (10K) and my calves don’t seem to share the same dream (yes, it’s the “pre-cramp” feeling).
I begin the run asking the self-doubt and regret questions.
- Why am I slower this year?
- Did I push to hard on the hill?
- Maybe I should have done more brick training?
- Did I really need that potty break? (actually, yes I did!)
I wrestle with disappointment when two in my age group pass me in the first 3 miles of the run. I’m falling down the rankings. The dream is turning into a nightmare.
But at mile 4, I awake from my self-loathing stupor when I pass a 72-year-old sprint athlete. Next, I see a blind athlete with his running guide. Like me, everyone around them is in awe watching these athletes overcome incredible obstacles. I want to be racing when I’m 72!
With a half mile left, I accelerate to my maximum effort. My heart rate quickens and my breathing deepens. I’m no longer racing for a sub-3, but for the pleasure of competing. I’m even immune to 19-year-old who makes me look like I’m standing still as he speeds by me. I want to finish strong. I will finish strong. I do finish strong.
I don’t regret missing my goal by a few minutes. I do regret the constant comparison to a younger version of myself. Even though it’s the same course, I am a year older (and racing in a new age bracket) making this new race. And with every new race, I will rise to the challenge. After all, I’m still racing.
“Work hard at whatever you do, because there will be no action, no thought, no knowledge, no wisdom in the world of the dead”
(Ecc 9:10, Good News Translation)