The night before the race I was anxious. I tried to tell myself to relax. I think I get myself all worked up because I have high expectations. It is a bit different from getting my mind prepared for a running event. I already know that I have no chance when I stand at the starting line of a running race. There are always hundreds of people who run faster than me. Just once (out of the 30 or so events I have completed), did I manage to place 2nd in my age group. I was very lucky that it was a small event and I just happened to be at my prime.
Triathlons are a different story. Yes, they are growing and becoming more popular, but they are still relatively small events in comparison to running events. With that said, you have a better chance. Not necessarily a great chance if you happen to be contending with some top athletes, but you still have a way better chance. The running joke is that you don’t win a marathon, you just finish it (if you are lucky enough to do that). When it comes to triathlons, I think most people (of course not all) are racing and competing against each other. Triathletes don’t necessarily agree with the running philosophy of competing with yourself. Okay, I suppose I can only speak for myself here. I was talking to a young lady right before the start of our swim. It was her first triathlon and she told me that she was just hoping to finish. True or not true? Who knows? I always say that I just want to finish because I don’t want to make myself look bad if I happen to come in last. I will have still met my goal even if I come in last.
So, when I told my facebook friends (you know, the ones who actually read my posts) that I just wanted to do my best and not hold high expectations…. well, I wasn’t being completely honest. In my mind, I was telling myself that I wanted to place in my age group. Whether it be first, second or third place it didn’t matter. I just wanted to be up there at the top. However, I didn’t want to say this out loud because I don’t want to portray an obnoxious ego or (on the opposite side of the spectrum) I didn’t want to disappoint myself or anyone else when I didn’t come out on top.
But, you know what? I had trained hard for this event. I had put in the effort. I deserved a fighting chance. So, on the morning of the event, I froze my rear off and got in that lake. I freaked out for a minute during the start of the swim, but then I yelled at myself (in my head… didn’t want any of the lifeguards to think I needed a rescue) and told myself that I had trained for this. I knew how to swim in that very same lake. Get with it girl! And I eventually snapped back to reality and pumped those arms that best way I knew how (which isn’t the best way, but it is my way and it seemed to work out okay for me). That was a long half mile in the water, but I finally reached shore and kept going. I pulled off that tight wetsuit and donned my warm gear even though my daughter was trying to tell me that it had warmed up outside since I had entered the water. I didn’t want to take any chances so that long sleeve cost me a few extra seconds. I just knew I couldn’t tolerate being a popsicle.
I got on my bike and pumped my legs as hard as I could. I pumped them up and down the rolling hills for over 12 miles until I was sure that they would fall off before I could manage to squeeze in a 5K run. I didn’t care that I was huffing and puffing because the air was so thin. I had a feeling that people thought I was crazy for breathing that way when I passed them with every ounce of energy I had.
I was surprised when I hopped off the bike and could still move my legs. They hadn’t failed me yet. My lungs were about to, but I ignored them and just let my legs tell me what pace I should run. I didn’t let one single person pass me during those 3.1 miles. Not one. I ran up that darn hill before the turnaround thankful that it was mostly downhill (but smart enough to warn myself that it wasn’t all downhill). Then, I was finally there… at the finish line. Right away I wanted to know my place. Did I make the cut? I wasn’t sure yet.
I waited and they finally started posting the results. There I was, third in my age group. Yes! I had accomplished my goal, but at what price? What disappointment lies ahead when I don’t make the cut? Maybe I have set the bar too high. Having my name called and being presented with an award (whether it be an exquisite plaque or an odd poster) fills me with pride, but maybe it was just luck on my side. Will I be so lucky next time? Everyone says that I should only focus on finishing… is that what I should do?