Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bigfoot Race Report (Theme: The Unimportance of Time)

For those of you who know me personally, you know that I'm motivated by goals. I like a "finishing line" to sprint to, and without one I'm often less motivated than I would like to admit. *sheepish grin* I'm the same, really, when it comes to races. I like to push myself and set a personal goal -- a benchmark -- a target -- that I can achieve with great effort, and with a little luck. But, life sometimes gets in the way of goals. When that happens, I try to keep a brave face, but I can be pretty ... sad. That's not to say that I don't thank myself for what I can do, or cheer myself on. I do. But when I've gotten soooo close to a goal that I can taste it, and then I see it slipping away... Well. That makes me pretty sad.

And so, I was pretty sad on Saturday morning after my back seized up. After SJV's and my brick workout my back was still sore, and it was becoming clear to me that my goal (a PR) would probably not be in the cards. I still laughed with SJV, and still enjoyed being out in the sun, but I felt betrayed by my own body, and depressed that I wouldn't be able to "give it my all" come Sunday morning.

In other words, I was having a bit of a pity party.

But SJV and I still had a day to tend to. We put the bikes in the hotel room, and -- without changing (we were running late) went to the breakfast at the hotel, and chose some thick bread to toast and some fruit. As we were waiting for the incredibly thorough toaster to finish with our bread, a couple (seemingly in their early 40's) walked up to us and asked whether we were in the triathlon on Sunday. Yes, we said -- and they laughed, and asked why on earth were we working out today!?! They were warm and funny, and really fun to talk to. And so, we spent the next 1/2 hour or so chatting with them, laughing and joking. They were actually 10-15 years older than we thought they were, and they had been doing triathlon for some years. But their perspective was simple and refreshing. They did it for fun, they explained, not to win, and not for a particular time. They took their time in transition, and enjoyed the race. They laughed about their race experiences, and took pride in their placement (while being self-depricating about their age and the fact that there were so few people in their age group).

I honestly couldn't help but smile. I needed some perspective on time, and here I had gotten it -- in the form of two really wonderful people, who were in the pinnacle of health and clearly in love, and who just did triathlon for The Fun Of It. Surely I could do the same.

So, SJV and I left them after breakfast, and went about our day. We ran into them again in the lobby -- this time she seemed nervous about the race (which was silly, she said, because she probably wouldn't win) and we chatted again for a bit. We ran errands, and ate lunch, and generally enjoyed the day.

We went to the packet pickup, where we picked up some amazing SWAG -- worth doing the race just for the gear alone. A transition bag, visor, and a transition towel were included. AMAZING, folks. You must do this race if you can. And then we took naps. Then it was time to go to the free pasta dinner, sponsored by the race and the hotel.

My back was still aching, and after the nap it felt a little worse (curses on that bed/torture device!). My neck ached, and I was sick and tired of feeling so tight, and injured, and sore. And so, by this time, and even though I had internalized the Lesson of Time from earlier, I was back to holding my own pity party.

Lo and behold! We walk into the pasta dinner, and there was the triathlon couple from earlier. Although they had finished eating, they stayed with us and we chatted and laughed, laughed and chatted. My back started to loosen from the giggles. And we started talking about times again. I said that my transitions were too slow, and that I should practice them. They nodded, but disagreed -- saying that they thought it was crazy how fast people would run in and run out. They couldn't imagine going that fast. In fact, they both seemed pretty comfortable with keeping their transition times right where they were. At right around eight minutes.

Eight minutes. (!!)

I'm trying to shave seconds off, and they were taking their time. Again, I couldn't help but smile. Here I was, again holding my own little pity party, thinking of times and goals, etc etc., in serious need of an attitude adjustment, and here were these two folks -- perfectly happy, and just enjoying the race.

I left with SJV, bouyed by the laughter, back feeling better than it had all day. We enjoyed the sunset from the back deck, and got to hold hands and snuggle and enjoy the evening. But (you guessed it) over the course of the next few hours, I got more and more sour. Pity, and anger, and frustration... My back was feeling a little bit better, so I would test it now and again to see if I could turn this way, or that way -- and every time I would get a ZING in response.

I slept fitfully. I awoke to a ZING in my back and shoulders, and I Faced Facts. It was going to be a Hard Day, if there would be any race at all.

SJV looked outside, and said something about wind, and it being a chilly morning. I'm not sure i said anything in response. I was busy in my head, I suppose. SJV and I got ready -- I loosened up my back the best I could, ate, and got some coffee. We coasted down the hill to the race site.

That's when I saw the white caps.

Lake Geneva -- a smallish lake with a reputation for being friendly -- was not so friendly on Sunday morning. Wind speeds between 15-20 miles per hour (gusts of 30-40) were churning the lake and turning it into a washing machine. *sigh*

SJV and I settled in transition. I got my wetsuit, tried to loosen up my back, and chatted with some folks that were watching other people try to warm-up in the chop. I just sighed. Again -- no way was I going to make any goal time today. In fact, I left my stopwatch in my transition bag.

SJV went on a quick run, and I put on my wetsuit and started to get ready for the swim. Before I knew it, SJV was back, and I needed to get into the water to start with my wave. I kissed SJV goodbye, and off I went. The water was warm, and as I walked in, I realized I was in the wrong lane, in a bad position, and that with each wave the water would lift me off the ground and then set me back down. It was eerie, but soothing, and I wasn't even expecting the horn to sound when it did. And then the most amazing thing happened. With each stretch and roll, my back eased. Suddenly I was moving faster in the water, while thinking "why am I going so fast -- this doesn't feel very hard -- I'm not really pushing it..." I was rolling from side to side, not really taking on a whole lot of water, but feeling the rotation of the waves. Suddenly I started thinking "you might be able to meet your goal... oh my god, you might just meet your goal..." ... and then WHAM! I hit a woman who had stood up (you could actually stand -- the water was only about thigh deep) and had started walking. And then I saw the sea of women that were walking ahead of me. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder.

Honestly, I almost laughed. Here I go from injury, to wind, to chop, and now I'm feeling better and making up time -- and my next obstacle is a bunch of ladies that decide to walk the swim after starting out in the front of the wave. *sheesh*

But it also reminded me that Time Didn't Matter (how many reminders did I really need here??), and that I should just have fun. So I did. I porposed around some ladies, and swam, and walked with some, and swam. I hopped out of the water and stripped off my wetsuit. Not a bad transition, really, and my back was now a non-issue. Finally.

On to the bike. Because I was pretty sure that I would not meet any of my personal goals, I started cheering everyone else on. When I passed a woman on the bike with an apparent flat, I'd shout encouragement; same with the folks that passed me like I was standing still. It became part of my race to be the Cheering Section. It was a lot of fun, and I encourage you to try it. :) I will not regale you with the numerous white-knuckle experiences I had, but will note that a gust of wind that comes at you from the side while you're going 22 mph is NOT fun. There were more hills than I anticipated, but I think they felt more difficult because of the conditions - we had an 18 mph headwind, which made the smallest of inclines feel much tougher. I was proud that I finished and didn't fly off my bike. I was also proud that I dismounted and did not fall over. ;)

The transition from bike to run was fine -- but my heart rate was a bit high, and I pulled over at one point in the run to get some food, to hydrate, and to let my heart rate come down. The run was beautiful -- a trail run through the woods. It was the one portion of the race that was unaffected by the wind. And it was right about here that I began to really put together all of the messages that I'd gotten over the weekend about how unimportant time actually is. What was important was the rest of the weekend, and my experience during the race itself. I was trying my hardest, and was having a good race. But the conditions (both natural and physical) were what they were, and I couldn't change that. What I could control, and what I had to learn to control, was my reaction to them. After I made that realization, I clocked my two fastest mile times, cheering everyone who passed me on, and telling them what a wonderful job they had done. I thanked the volunteers for helping, and admired the run course (really nice) and just generally had a great run.

And then, before I knew it, the run was almost over. I gave it a nice kick at the end (was smoked by a 14 year old there at the end, but clocked a 7:15 average pace for the .17 miles that I tried to catch her), and my race was over. SJV and I congratulated each other, and walked around in the sun, smiling and talking about our race.

It was a great Race -- great for stories, great for self-awareness, great for lessons.

And great for time. You guessed it, folks. My swim was a PR (14 minutes and change). The bike was a PR by speed (average of 20.4 mph) [CORRECTION -- NOT 20.4 -- results have changed, and I got 16.9 -- still very good for the day] and the run was nearly a PR because it was a long 5k, so my time's a bit off. In other words, with all my moaning and groaning, and with all of the difficulties and issues, I had a virtual PR (my time was 1:32, and my prior PR on a different, easier course was 1:30, but my speed on all events was significantly faster under harder conditions, so I'm gonna take it)!

And the best part? I didn't know that until the whole thing was over.

Enjoy yourself, have a wonderful day, and know that when you finish is unimportant - it's what you learn during the race that's the key.


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