I really hope that you all will forgive me for waiting an entire week to write about my first triathlon of the season last Sunday. My delay in updating is partially due to a busy week in school, but partially due to the fact that I wasn’t sure how I wanted to talk about said race. Before Sunday, I thought that I would be writing a post about how I cut minutes off of my time from last season and how I was feeling more prepared than ever for Nationals. But when the race did not go the way I had envisioned it, I was at a loss struggling to articulate how the day went in a way that was honest, but without the whole entry just being a list of complaints and excuses. I think that I’ve now had enough time to fully reflect on everything, and have pieced something together to the best of my ability. So without further ado, here you have it.
Last Sunday was my first triathlon of the 2012 season. Now, I know what you’re thinking: April 15th sounds awfully early to be doing a triathlon that involves swimming in a lake. To all of you wonderers I say: yes, it is awfully early. However, with Austin being just 6 weeks away, the dare2tri National team really wanted to get a practice race in. This was the only early season race that we could find that wouldn’t require us to travel to Florida or California (though both of these options sound a bit more appealing than Indiana). So low and behold, we got out our wetsuits, packed 5 athletes and 3 volunteers into a few cars, and made the three-hour road trip from Chicago to Ft. Wayne.
Going into the race, I was most nervous about the swim. With it being so early in the year, the water was not exactly conducive for swimming. Even though I have a wetsuit (albeit sleeveless), and even though the lake was the size of a postage stamp, and even though it was a very mild winter/spring, I was still convinced I was going to get hypothermia. Now every time I am paranoid about something, I will google it to see what the rest of the Internet world has to say about it (for some reason I always think this will help ease my fears, but in reality, it just makes me more terrified). So naturally, I googled “what temperature is too cold to wear a sleeveless wetsuit?” which led me to this triathlon forum where some poster said something to the effect of “be prepared to have a mini panic attack upon getting your face wet, but don’t worry, it will go away after a few minutes.” Awesome. Fortunately, the air hit about 80 degrees on race day, making the water temperature a tolerable 62 degrees. No panic attack ensued.
While the swim turned out fine, I ended up falling apart on the bike. The winds were brutal, and there were certain points on the course where I was riding up an incline into the headwinds. This was the first time in a race that I really had to dig deep within myself to find the strength to keep going, and it took everything I had to not throw my bike down and start crying. I’m happy to say that neither of those things happened, and I was able to finish the bike course in one piece. By the time I got off the bike, I was already well behind where I wanted to be. I unfortunately wasn’t able to make up much time on the run, and ended up crossing the finish line several minutes short of the goal time that I had set for myself. While I tried my hardest not to show it, I was pissed. For the first time since I started racing, I watched my final time go up instead of down. I know that as I get better, it will be harder and harder to PR every race, but I still don’t think I was ready to break my streak just yet.
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m being too hard on myself, but I also don’t want to lie and say that I am happy with how the race went. I know that I am capable of being faster than I was last Sunday, and I am frustrated that I wasn’t able to bring the game that I know I have. Though I was tempted to blame my less than satisfactory results on the 25 mph wind, the fact of the matter is that wind is not an excuse for not reaching a goal. I will be the first one to admit that there were times throughout the off-season that I went to the pool instead of the bike path because I thought it was too windy, or ran on the indoor track instead of my usual route because I thought it was too cold. By adopting a fair-weather style of training, I got pretty good at the easy stuff, but failed to prepare for the times when the conditions are anything less than ideal. But on race day, it doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degree heat, 30 degree temps, rain, wind, sleet, or hail: the race will still go on. Nobody cares how you did your training, and you’re going to have to finish the same course using any means possible. And it’s those races that make the difference between those who settle for good and those who push themselves to be great.
In spite of all of this, the truth is that it really was a good day. Diana and Brian showed that their winter training had paid off as they both crushed their personal records. Keri did her first tri since becoming an Ironman last year, and Melissa once again inspired me with her quickness and drive. We were also joined by an awesome team of volunteers—Luke, who didn’t let the flood in his basement stop him from joining us on the road trip with a box of coffee, a bag of bagels, and an eagerness to help; Eugene, who came along to assist us in the transition area, but whose prime role was to serve as comic relief; and Stacee, dare2tri’s head coach whose combination of toughness and compassion make me want to push harder and be better. Spending the entire day with so many people that I love made it hard to say that the day was anything other than wonderful.
I think that all things considered, I did the best that I could for my first tri of the year. I am really glad that I was able to get a race in before Nationals next month. It was a great way for me to determine what I’m doing well and to get a better idea of the things I need to work on. I also learned an important lesson in that not every race is going to go as planned, and that sometimes you may end up disappointed. The only thing you can do is use that disappointment to motivate you to train harder, and hope that the next one will be better.