I feel like I made my feelings pretty clear in my race recap post, but as I told a friend on Saturday night after the race, “I’m not even sure that I can count anymore at this point.” Okay, out of context that doesn’t make any sense, but the point was that after a long race you are exhausted, ecstatic, energized, amped, tired, zoned in, zoned out, happy, sad, up, down, sideways, backward and upside down, as well as any other direction or feeling that exists out there.
I slept very little on Saturday night because my body just couldn’t let go of the day, and on Sunday morning I woke up bright, early, tweaky and ready to go. So I made coffee (that had caffeine that this girl didn’t need), watched the sky get light and wrote my blog. For the record my body still hasn’t let go of Saturday, but a swim this morning helped shake me out and remind my muscles what the next step will be. My brain on the other hand is still wearing the Triathlete Tiara so while it’s fresh I’ll take this opportunity to more formally measure against my goals.
Easy one first. Goal #3: I want to swim in under 40 minutes. I want to bike at a 17 MPH average. I want to run in under 1:55. I want a sub 6 hour finish.
Done, and done. Even with my swim disaster I scraped in JUST under 40 minutes. I biked at a 19.7 MPH average, and ran a 1:50 even walking every last water stop.
Harder one second. Goal #1: Start each leg at a steady pace. I have a tendency to start out too fast so I want to not get caught up in the race and adjust to each leg before I push it.
I would say that I somewhat accomplished this goal. Clearly I started the swim too fast, or just let my body and mind get caught up in the chaos, but I collected myself and my guts and kept going, and for the remainder of the swim I built up to finish at a strong and fast pace. The bike was less of the same; after getting into it I realized my heart rate was not maintainable and my breathing was more similar to panting, so I dropped back and spent the next 2:15 building steadily, wherever and whenever I could. The run was the most successful in these terms, as I followed my 2 mile warm up plan, pushed the pace to a questionable level, then realized I could maintain and did till the end. I truly believe that following these patterns helped me stay strong for the last couple miles of the run, and I won’t soon forget how it felt to have enough gas left to sprint the last .5 mile with abandon. It was real good.
Hardest one last. Goal #2: I want to finish feeling like I really raced, not just completed the race in quick manner.
This one is harder, only because there aren’t true measurements for racing versus finishing versus finishing quickly. Usually my goal is to finish quickly (quickly being completely self-defined), and that I did. Needless to say, I finished too. To me racing this race was defined by a few different things:
- Making timely decisions to stick with, change, or adapt my pacing and plan to produce my best performance under the circumstances.
- Sizing up the competition and pushing myself to measure against it without unreasonably compromising performance.
- Give the run my all.
When I’ve raced marathons I’ve gone in with little to no strategy. My first one: I wanted to finish. My second one: I wanted to qualify for Boston and I knew what my average pace needed to be to get there. And at Boston I just wanted to finish with a somewhat functional left foot. Triathlon requires a lot more planning than that, but I haven’t engaged in it to such an extent until Saturday. Part of the nature of this goal is illustrated in Goal #3, but part of it is not.
After the swim incident I had to stop and figure out what to do. Could I do it? Could I finish? Did I remember the crawl stroke? Turns out I did, but in the moments of panic and doubt I put my focus toward the next buoy, the next swimmer, the next buoy, the next swimmer, and then I was flying. On the last stretch there was “heavy traffic” and I had to decide whether it was worth it to sprint ahead or conserve energy and stay behind. Being that I spent the first portion gracefully drowning I decided I had conserved enough, got ahead of the traffic backup and exited the water without fighting for space for footing. Good decision.
On the bike there are lots of split second decisions made, and maybe with experience I’ll get over it but I still feel like every last one of them plays into the race’s outcome. Do I pass now? Do I pass later? Do I eat now? Do I have enough time to grab my water bottle before I hit the hill? My biggest decision came from the leapfrogger battle; consciously deciding to take the backseat saved my race. When all was said and done I made a lot of active decisions on that leg that made (or could have broken) my race, and I’m confident that I raced it while saving my best for last.
And my favorite. The run. The first portion of the run I did not race, but once I found my legs I’d say I did. Part of that is active decision-making, and part of it is staying true to what you know your body can do and your mind can handle. And part of that is when you have a few miles left, are behind another runner, and every time you respectfully try to pass she sprints ahead a few yards. And you keep running at your comfortable pace, and let her. And you smile when her friends cheer her on to kick your ass, and you run up against hers until you can feel her breaking. And at that point part of it is taking off, leaving her in the dust, not looking back, and the sound of her feet pattering getting fainter and fainter until it quiets entirely. And then you cross the finish line. THAT, my friends, is racing.
Now, did I use up all my gas? Could I walk after the race? Could I carry a coherent conversation? Could I have sprinted 100 more meters? No, Yes, Yes, Yes. But to finish a race so well, and feel competitive emotionally and physically was worth what I didn’t leave out on the course that day. It leaves me really hungry for next season, and I’m banking on it inspiring me through to next year.