After a rough start to the tri season, the past two weeks have reminded me of why I am so in love with the sport. With three races in 2 weekends, I have been in my glory. Nothing makes me happier than waking up at the ass crack of dawn, organizing my tri bag, racking my bike, and laying out my shoes on an early summer day. Although triathlon and I have been having a lovers’ quarrel over the past few weeks, I think we have finally reconciled our differences.
There is no doubt that I have struggled in the off season this year. Between a full time job, parenting responsibilities, and training there never seems to be enough hours in the day. My workouts are consistently cut short and with this my confidence is definitely not what it was once was. This season, for the first time, it occurred to me that maybe I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t post the times that I did last season. I would be slow and tired during every race. I felt that I had to meet some impossible expectation of consistent perfection, and had set pretty lofty goals for myself. So when it was time for my first sprint of the season two weeks ago, I was completely terrified.
The day began early (as they always do), and I set up my transition area perfectly. I did not miss a beat packing my new Yankz T2 bag. I mentally prepared myself with a desired time in mind, and, with butterflies in my stomach, I zipped up my wetsuit as I walked down to the water start. As the gun went off I jumped in the water and, as I began to swim, shear panic took over my body. I could not seem to get a rhythm or catch my breath. Knowing that the swim was only a quarter of a mile I sucked it up and continued. I made it out of the swim and into T1, got on my bike, and I was off. The bike felt good and fast. I was loving it. I began my run and had no idea how fast I was going. All I knew was that it felt like shit, but I was not about to let the chick in front of me whose calf read “32” beat me—she was in my age group after all. I crossed the finish line wheezing and pissed at myself. I had let the chick outrun me, passing me at mile 2.5. I was fuming. I felt like crap and thought I had done terrible—and then the results were posted. I felt like shit running because I was running at a 7:30 minute/mile pace. Then I noted my 3rd place finish and smiled; I was happy enough with that. But I also noted in my head how crappy I felt physically.
The next day was a 1.2 mile open water swim race. The water was cold and rough, but nonetheless I zipped up my wetsuit and got in the water. Again I had the feeling of sheer panic as I swam with the 300 other women in the race. Defending my solid organs and face I swam over and under as many people as I could just hoping to finish. I ran into my friend about half way through and had a quick chat with her, and reassured myself that I was going to make it through. Then about eight tenths of a mile from the finish line I got a wicked leg cramp. I brought my head above the water and ripped off my goggles desperately searching for my friend for some reassurance but she was gone. I fixed my cramp and figured I had no other choice but to finish or drown—I opted to finish. As the results were posted it was my fastest open water swim to date. Again, happy but feeling crappy.
Then this past weekend was IM Raleigh 70.3. Even after my successful races the weekend before I was still terrified of being tired and slow. The day before the race, my friends and I decided to do a short brick and ride some of the course. I was nervous, but they always seem to know what they are doing so I went with it. The bike was not an issue. I felt good. On the run however, that all too familiar feeling of heavy legs took over. I stopped, had a temper tantrum, and pulled away from my friends. I ran a bit alone and tried to get out of my head. I did for the most part.
Three o’clock race day morning came quickly, and before I knew it, we were at the start of the swim. I must say I was relieved that it was not a wetsuit legal race. I came prepared with a new sleeveless TYR wetsuit, but opted not to wear it. I honestly feel like it constricts me more than its worth. The horn went off for my wave at 8:16, and I felt great without the wetsuit. I definitely noticed the lack of buoyancy, but I did not feel like I was being choked to death and I felt like I had full range of motion in my arms. Coming out of the water on the bike I felt fantastic. It had not been my fastest swim, but it was still good. The bike went flawlessly with the exception of a yellow card for blocking—hey, you can’t just let everyone pass you, right? Just when my crotch had had enough of the bike, I was pulling into T2, and as the temperature approached 95⁰ I began to run. It was hot as balls. I slowed myself down to a pace I could tolerate for 13.1 miles and took it all in. I had more water, Gatorade, and Clif Shot Blocks than I thought one person could ever consume. It was hot. Ice down the shirt, down the pants, on my head hot. At mile 3 I wondered why the heck I keep signing up for these things; normal people do not do this. I saw my friends on the course, each of them giving me the confidence that I needed to complete the race.
As I crossed the finish line 2 hours and 3 minutes after starting my run, I remembered why I keep signing up for these things. I fucking love it. I love the struggle and the victory. I love beating my previous 70.3 time by 15 minutes. I love celebrating with food, drinks and good friends after the race. I love waking up with my quads on fire. I love triathlon.