Reflections on my first tri and wondering what the future holds. Here we go:
Crossing the Chicago Sprint Triathlon finish line was both exciting and a let down. Let me explain.
Exciting because I did it.
Let down because a LOT of people do sprint tris – even kids.
I wanted to shout my accomplishment from the rooftops, yet I know the physical act of completing a sprint tri isn’t shout-worthy. Granted overcoming my fear of swimming and learning how to swim a 1/2 mile is, but that’s too long to shout from the rooftops! 🙂
I have one friend, that whenever he sees me asks me how I’m doing swimming and when I give him an update he’s always very supportive. He makes a special point to ask, “do you stop and appreciate what you are doing?” And most often than not, the answer is no. And for that reason, I’m left in a weird spot emotionally. I am excited for what I’ve done, yet I can’t always appreciate the magnitude of it. Instead I focus on the fact that even kids can swim. So while I did something pretty cool – it’s not like it’s some great feat. Actually it’s something I should have been able to do decades ago. So unlike running marathons or even running 50 miles – those are feats that not a lot of people can do – it’s weird to get excited about doing something most people can do – swimming.
I know I’m overly critical and hard on myself and I need to appreciate how hard I worked – because I really did work hard. But I want to do more – bigger, badder and better. I want to challenge myself again – because apparently I need a good challenge to distract myself from this crazy thing called life. And that’s why I have already signed up for the 2018 Chicago Tri – and here’s the kicker – I signed up for the Olympic Distance. Woot! I figure if I can go from not being able to put my head under water and crying at the sight of the harbor, to swimming a 1/2 mile; the jump from swimming a 1/2 mile to 1 mile won’t be as hard. At least I hope not. So next year I will be doing a 1 mile swim, a 25 mile bike and a 10k. I think that should be a pretty good challenge for year two!
Here are other random thoughts on my training, my first tri and what lies ahead.
- I enjoyed the variety tri training provided. Now I know why Brian always liked it so much – keeps the boredom at bay (somewhat).
- I realized that I equate the difficulty of my training by how much I sweat. I would do 30 minutes in the pool and feel like I didn’t work out, so then I’d do another 30 minutes of cardio and sometimes strength training too. When I would bike, I too felt like I wasn’t getting a good workout in because I didn’t sweat. The built-in breeze provided by the wind during biking kept me relatively dry, even on hot summer days. But when I got off the bike and did a short 1-mile run, I would be a sweaty mess and I felt that 10 minute run was a better workout than 60 minutes on the bike. Ridiculous I know. But apparently in my mind, sweat = a good workout.
- I hate to admit it, and I NEVER thought I’d EVER say it – but I kind of miss swimming. Yikes!! Did I really just say that? I got back in the pool Tuesday night and it felt good and it felt more normal than not.
- I need to learn how to bi-lateral breathe and as I swam the other night and thought about trying to breathe the opposite of what I’ve been doing, it gave me major anxiety. I know I have to learn sooner, rather than later so it doesn’t get even more awkward and uncomfortable. But honestly, I don’t even know where to start. It seems so unnatural as if I were writing with my opposite hand and writing from right to left!
- I also have to work on my biking. It amazes me how hard it is to get up even baby hills. I just have to find a way to put these big ol’ thighs of mine to good use and get up those damn hills! Anyone have better tips or pointers than Brian’s advice… “I don’t know, just do it”. I’m looking for advice on what gear to be, how often to shift or do I need to not shift at all? Should I be in a higher gear and power through or lower gear and spin? Anything helpful would be appreciated.
- When swimming – especially during the tri itself – it’s almost impossible to take in your surroundings. You can’t focus on other athletes, you can’t soak in the scenery, the atmosphere and “buzz” of the event are non-existent in the water. It’s very dull and mundane. It’s hard to appreciate the experience of it all from the perspective of the swim. Jolene had asked me about the race and when I was talking about it, I was talking more about the bike than the swim – even though the swim was the bigger hurdle for me. But the reason I couldn’t talk much about the swim is because it’s such a confined part of the total experience. It’s hard to elaborate on things when all you do is see dark water, then you see the horizon, then dark water, then the horizon. Maybe the occasional seaweed or other swimmers, but that’s about the extent of the experience. And for someone like me that thrives on the full experience, – swimming is hard both mentally and physically.
- If you want some indication as to how bad my emotional state was race morning, both Brian and Jolene (I found out later) thought I might not get in the water. Brian’s literally seen me at my worst when it comes to events – he’s seen me hyperventilate and cry on the side of a road during a hot 6-hour run, he’s been with me when I hit the wall at mile 6 of a marathon and I wanted to fake faint to get out of running and he’s seen me before the Fall 50 when I was just numb at the thought of having to run 50 miles and I told him “I don’t want to do this”. Same with Jolene, she’s been at most of my marathons and saw me sweat it out before the start of the Fall 50. They know I’m too stubborn to quit – and yet they thought it was a possibility that I do just that. I had no idea I was that bad!
- And here’s the funny part about them thinking I may not make it into the water – it never occurred to me to NOT do it. Never. I didn’t want it to suck and I was scared. But I was going to do it. Even at the Fall 50, when I said I didn’t want to do it… I didn’t say that about the tri.
- I’m glad my first tri was Chicago – it’s the countries largest tri, so if I can manage the logistics of it out of the gate – the smaller, local ones I want to do next year should hopefully be a piece of cake.
- But because Chicago was my first and all that come after will always be compared to my first – I hope the local ones don’t disappoint. I mean there aren’t many in Wisconsin that can compete with the scenery of the Lake Michigan harbor, the Chicago Skyline and city landmarks.
- A co-worker asked me if I am in love with tris. I said no. It’s too early to be in love with them. I can’t say I love something that freaked me out to the point where I cried uncontrollably in front of friends, family and strangers. But will I come to love it? Maybe. But maybe not. I don’t think I have to love it to do it. I have to love the challenge – not necessarily the sport.
- And since we’re on the topic of challenges – I can’t tell you how many people have predicted I’ll do an Ironman and/or asked me when I’m signing up. I’d be lying if I said the challenge wasn’t intriguing. But I’d also be lying if I said I’m up for it. I’m not at least not now, and I’m smart enough to admit it. Probably not for a long, long time. Let’s not forget that up until 3 months ago, I couldn’t swim longer than 1 lap in the pool. As of now, I wouldn’t even make it out of the water before the Ironman cutoff – I’m too slow. And I’d be damned if I would go through training and not even make it onto the bike. And then there’s the bike… I could NEVER get up the hills of an Ironman course. NEVER. And it would also be pretty difficult to gut through a marathon after a 112 mile bike ride when I have no desire to run longer than 3 miles right now. I’d have to get my running mojo back before being able to tack on a marathon at the end of 2 other sports.
BUT as we all know – never say never. So who knows what the future holds. I’m not getting any younger and the body doesn’t bounce back from overuse and sports injuries as easily as it did years ago (wait, did I ever bounce back easily?). So deciding to go for it – may not be a choice in the future. But if my body holds up and if my mental game can rise to the challenge, who knows. You all know I thrive on challenges. I eventually cry, make myself sick, have an emotional breakdown and feel like jumping off a ledge from them too… but I thrive off of them before and after all the other bad stuff. So god willing, if I stay healthy, if my job and other lifestyle choices I’ve made stay status quo – who knows. I can’t say never. Because we all know that saying never will eventually come back to bite you in the ass. So while I’m not saying never, I’m not saying yes either. I’m saying…. I have a lot of work to do before next year’s Olympic tri and for now, that’s what I’ll be concentrating on.
Until next time,
Gotta run (or swim and bike)