On Sunday, May 5th, I competed in the MonticelloMan Olympic distance triathlon. It was the first tri of the season. I was nervous, I was excited, I was confident and simultaneously insecure. Not entirely sure how I managed the latter.
All smiles with my friends Mary and Jeff as we waited for the awards ceremony!
The morning before I left for Monticello I made it my job to freak out about pretty much every little thing I could think of. Okay, so that may be an exaggeration but I did find it difficult to calmly prepare for my departure without the calming and steady presence of my husband. Next time, I’ll be prepared to prepare. 🙂 Once I got on the road, all was well. I drove up following/being followed by my friend, Jeff, who also participated in the race. I went to the race course briefing, which was more of a confusing question/answer session than a briefing but, hey, I tried to be responsible. I then drove to the house of a grandma of my friend’s boyfriend… yeah… anyway, it was an awesome place to stay the night before a race. I really appreciate that my friend (also named Courtney) made sure that I had such a relaxing and comfortable place to stay. I had my regular dinner of white rice noodles with a basic pasta sauce. I went to bed early after re-reading the athlete race packet and a bit of fiction.
Race morning, I woke up extra early and headed to the race site to set up my transition extra early. 🙂 I found a good spot at the end of a rack, set everything once and walked the entrance to the transition a few times, counting the bike races (mine was the sixth on the left and I was at the far end in case you were dying to know). The air was chilly but when I walked down and stuck my toes in the water, the water temp of 60ish degrees seemed somewhat mild. Everything was ready to go and I had nothing to do but wait for for the start… and I HATE waiting for the start. haha. As a part of my pre-race ritual, I had a little convo with God. I requested, as per usual, that he please help me to exemplify a Christian athlete and that he help me to learn from the race whatever it is that he intended for me to learn. That not only helps calm my nerves but the prayer gives me a sense of confidence that the race won’t be wasted.
At 9:18 a.m. my hot pink-capped wave charged into the water. There was thwacking and kicking and flailing. Hands and feet everywhere. I was actually doing quite well fighting through the masses of neon swim caps until… suddenly, I was quite certain that I couldn’t breath and would soon sink and die. What was so very strange about this was that this is entirely out of character for me. I have never been fearful in open water, even when I chose to do training swims in conditions that were, at best, questionable in terms of safety. I’ve speculated about the reasons why this may have happened but, like most crap shoots in life, I’m sure that it happened so that I could learn from it.
I actually thought about quitting the race. I started hyperventilating and had to breast stroke so that I could keep my head out of the water to accommodate my frantic breathing. Thoughts in my head went something like this “Oh my GOD I cannot breath. I cannot do this. I have to quit. Where is the nearest kayak?! @#*&! That kayak is really far away. The buoy is closer. Maybe I can hang on to the buoy.” THEN, I said to myself “STOP.” I thought “What would you tell a patient to do in this situation?” So… I rolled onto my back and did a back stroke for a few seconds and focused on regulating my breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth… okay, I could breath. Then I rolled back over and I still wasn’t sure how I was going to get through this intimidating business.
The words from my pastor’s last sermon came back to me; he spoke about how the voice inside our head is often our worst enemy, which is totally congruent with cognitive therapy so I was totally like “Preach it, Pastor!” I knew that I had to replace those negative thoughts with something useful so… I prayed! The words just came to me instantly and they synchronized with my swim strokes… “God be with-me…” breath… “Make me strong.” Over and over, again. As soon as I began swimming with this mantra, which was shortly before I reached the first buoy, I had the best open water swim I have ever experienced. Lessons learned? 1) I need God, like… always, 2) I have the strength, will and ability to get myself out of craptastic situations and recover the rest of my race, 3) if I ask God to help me be more like the person he wants me to be, he’s going to help make that happen! There’s still a lot of work for me to do in that arena. I mean, when I was passing a guy going 25 mph downhill on the bike leg and had to slam on my brakes because a car pulled into the middle of the road and then stopped, the words coming out of my mouth weren’t exactly the lyrics to “Jesus loves me.” In retrospect, that may have been more helpful that the @#$*& that I was repeating under my breath. Thankfully, being a Christian means that I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be growing. 🙂
Other lessons learned – I don’t actually know how to race a short course on the bike. I raced on the bike but I raced at a half-ironman effort level… I definitely could have kept going. Man, I love the bike leg. Anywho, I need to learn how to go HARD. I think I could have moved myself up at least one spot in the overall female finishers line-up. I also need to learn to suffer a bit more during the run. I was not unhappy with my pace given that it was such a hilly run course but I think I could have done better and run a smidge harder. I always seem to end up with the next female in front of me waaaaaaay in front of me so I’m running scared and looking over my shoulder, I don’t really have anybody that I can reasonably chase down. I don’t “give up” exactly but I don’t think I’m giving my all.
On the podium, accepting my award for 2nd place in the women 30-34 age group. Of note, Kate Derner, another Dai Roberts Group athlete, took third in our age group.
I ended up finishing 5th overall female and 2nd in my age group. I think this was an excellent experience. My next Olympic distance race will be better executed and my relative comfort on the hilly course has boosted my confidence for Raleigh.
Bling sming! I won beer! Okay, I don’t actually drink much but my coach is a beer connoisseur so I’ll be handing this off to him as a “bonus.” 🙂
I would be punished by fate if I did not acknowledge that so many of my friends ran incredible races this weekend. Many of them were at the Monticelloman Tri (Congrats to Jeff on his 2nd in AG place, to Bill on his 3rd in AG place and to Erin for WINNING her age group!!!) but I’m also super proud of my dear friend Renee High who came out of finals week to PR at the Broadstreet 10 miler! Even those who didn’t PR or place are now more accomplished for having raced this weekend! So happy to know so many incredible people! Also, thanks, as always to CycleOps Power for their continued support!