Rating: Very Pleased
There were many possible titles for this post
- it's better to fear pain than to fear failure
- training is cheating
- you call THEM jellyfish?
- enjoy every minute
- expletive deleted hills (I need more gears)
- the great sock disaster of 2009
- you’ll have to work harder than that to beat me!
- It’s not meant to be fun
Worry about the training I haven’t done this summer kind of hummed underneath everything during the week before the Victorian Olympic distance tri championships. The trouble was, I knew I could finish anyway – it was just a matter of how slow would I be and much would it hurt. This time last year I didn’t know that. Is it better to fear pain than to fear failure? Conclusion: yes.
I enjoyed the pre-race carbo dinner more than I did last year – for a start, the guest speaker was hilarious! Everyone was teeny and lean and scary looking (yes, I have issues! You knew that!) but I hugged memories of my two previous Olympic distance races tightly and they warmed me a little bit against the cold fear and doubt. Later that night, though, I was just about hyperventilating with terror. On the way in the door I said to Mum that I couldn’t do it, it was too hard, I was too old, too slow, too fat, too lazy and triathlon was a stupid sport anyway. She, bless her, just offered me an alarm clock so I wouldn’t sleep in. The Spousal Unit asked me why I did it at all if it was so awful? Wasn’t it supposed to be fun? I didn’t have an answer for him then but I worked it out next day. More on that later.
You have to walk along the river to the swim start. On the way I got chatting to a lovely bloke about how as a spouse, parent, student, employee AND triathlete, we have to deal with racing when our other priorities have meant that we haven’t done ‘enough’. While we strolled along, this obviously highly intelligent bloke made a Very Good Point, viz: EPO and other performance enhancing drugs are cheating because they give some people an unfair advantage. Training enhances performance too. Therefore people who train a lot are actually cheating. Fair play is important to me so I felt much better at once.
We slid into the cool brown river hmmmmahhhhh so nice…..A few la-las were making a fuss about the small number of teeny tiny non-stinging jellyfish floating about. As my five faithful readers will recall, I am oblivious to anything less than shoals of the creatures the size of my thigh so I sniggered to myself and enjoyed the last few moments before It Was On. It’s always hard to concentrate on working hard in the swim when there’s plenty of room and the surroundings are beautiful but I did my best and put it away in 26.49. Noddie and Mum were having a lovely time yelling and cheering me on. I decided not to wear socks during the ride – but then I was just about to get Minerva off the rack and realised I hadn’t put my shoes on either! Major DOH! There’s a reasonably steep rise at the beginning of the ride which is a good ‘get your head into it’ start. After that, before theHill Of Doom, there’s a stretch of quite rough bitumen which is a bit disheartening to the easily disheartened, i.e. moi. Luckily I’ve learned that disheartened = agitated = A Bad Time in more than one sense. My five faithful readers knowthat I am quite adept at conjuring Cheer The Heck Up for Goodness’ sake strategies out of thin air – but my friends, my friends! Sunday’s was the best ever. Want to know my secret to a good race? Shal I tell you? All right then…...I decided to enjoy every minute.
It was that simple.
Enjoying every minute meant I never fell into the complaining/despair death-spiral. Enjoying every minute kept me from focussing on my quads and my glutes and, um, how can I put this? how much I’d have appreciated waterproof chamois butter ow ow ow and how everyone I’d beaten out of the water whizzed past me on the Hill of Doom as though we were in some weird time-slip sci-fi movie. If I may digress, though, this year the elites didn’t lap me until the 17km mark, a pleasing improvement on last year *beams*. Enjoying every minute also meant that I had about fifty seconds every minute left over to bitch and complain and moan. Perfect! Then I’d chortle at how hilarious I was, and keep riding.
It’s really hard to explain what it’s like in my head during an endurance event. It’s as though there are two LBTEPAs. The first is grit-her-teeth competitive, concentrating on technique and form and breathing and nutrition and Going Hard. The second is happily vague, oblivious to weather and hurt and shortness of breath, looking at the scenery and generally having a lovely time. In shorter races the former tends to dominate, but in longer events I am learning to almost retreat to that happy place and let Keen LBTEPA do her thing. Nuffy LBTEPA’s most important job during the ride is, of course, to Not Think About the Run. There’s a little pinch hill (aka short steep leg-burner mofo) right before you get back into town. Last year I slogged up it. This year I got up out of the saddle – yes, you read correctly! – and powered up it! On both loops! *pause for wild applause*
Another digression: after the race, my dad (a very good cyclist) looked at Minerva and did a double take. How did you get around there with only that many gears? You need more gears! Once I recovered from the (sort of) compliment, I passed this on to the Spousal Unit. I believe the Mothers’ Day present fairy is on the job.
Alas, it is now time to recount the great Sock Disater of 2009. I brought the Wrong Socks. They look very like my Good Racing Socks, which was how they were able to deceitfully pass themselves off as their brethren, but they are a bit too big. They don’t go on quickly, especially when you’re in a hurry and your hands are shaking a bit. If stuffed on in a hurry, the right one bunches up under your toes. Yes, my five faithful readers, you do well to gasp in horror. They bunch up. The day was warming up, my feet were already a bit damp, I had 10km to gut out and there would be a Krakatoa of a blister on the ball of my foot if this pedalian saboteur was not sorted out. I tried to wriggle it back into place as I ran but that didn’t work. There was nothing for it: after a couple of kms I had to stop althogether, untie my shoe and re-adjust my sock. Bugger! Ah well, preparation is part of triathlon. Live and learn, eh?
I met Pete B during this race last year. He’s 65 and a Spartan Legend and razzed me big time about coasting the downhills during the ride. We’ve chatted all summer at various tris and I knew he was racing. I was wondering where he had got to – could he have outswum me? I hadn’t seen him on the road – when, shortly after the sock fiasco had been resolved, he came into sight about 100m behind me. It Was On. Last year he was affected by the heat, but it was much milder today. I knew he’d catch me eventually but by crikey he was going to have to work for it. When he runs, Pete breathes with a distinctive hoo, hoo sound. We were by ourselves on the path along the backwater and I could hear it, getting closer and closer. Bring it on, old man, I grinned to myself, and I ran on. Through the flash housing estate we went. There was nothing but Hoo, hoo, and the slap slap slap slap of our feet on the footpath. I thanked all the marshalls and so did Pete. I was holding grimly to 7min kms, and km by km he was reeling me in. As we turned to run along the river I spoke to the marshall that guy behind me’s name is Pete – tell him he’ll have to work a bit harder to catch me!I never looked back. On and on I ran. It was like a dream. I didn’t want to blow up with 4km still to run and I didn’t want to leave anything in the tank, and I wasn’t quite sure how to manage it. It was beautiful by the river, which was good because I was starting to hurt. Form, balance, breathe….hoo, hoo....aha, here he comes, good on you Pete *grin*. In the distance I could see the swing bridge – and there were Mum and Noddie, screaming encouragement. I was so happy to see them! Pete put on a surge there and passed me just after we crossed it. Two and a half km to go… He took longer than I did at the drink station, and I caught him again. The run course goes past transition, which is rude, then up a very steep footpath, which is even ruder! I walked up it and so did Pete. Two km to go. We ran side by side along the street where my parents live. Mum and Noddie had left us the best surprise outside the house! Side by side we ran, around the corner and past the paddocks, around the next bend. One km to go... and the last hill, a short steep little mind-#$%*er of a thing. I started up it, then cracked. I had no 'vertical' left. I had to walk. A few steps later Pete said a rude word and did the same. Mum told me later she thought we were waiting for each other. We weren’t. It was still So On. It was great. I started to run again and so did he. I wanted to throw up. I wanted him to sprint away so I could cave. I wanted that finish line more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. We were laughing (as well as you can with no spare air) as we went around the last corner, side by side. A hundred metres to go, neither of us giving an inch, throwing it all at the line for 126th place. The announcer saw us coming and started yelling like mad; the skinnyfasts sitting on the ground waiting for the presentations cheered and clapped. Could I take Pete? Did I have anything left? Did he? With twenty-five metres to go, somehow, somewhere I found a little bit more… and I was done. 3.28.21. Eight minutes faster than last year, and eight seconds outside my Olympic distance PB. That’ll teach me to bring the right socks. Pete and I hugged ewwww sweaty said Noddie and laughed and thanked each other for a great run. He's a legend in every sense.After trudging up the hill again noooooo! and shouting my faithful Sherpas to fish and chips, I fell like a stone into a deep pool of sleep and it was all over. The whole thing is like a dream now, a dream that makes me smile and walk taller when I think about it.
When I spoke to the Spousal Unit on the phone that evening I had an answer to his question. It's not meant to be fun*. It's meant to be satisfying, in the way that things that take effort and focus and guts are satisfying. And I am satisfied. I took my fears and issues and my not-enough training and my imagination and dreams and heart and I threw them at that race. I did better than I thought I could, and I had a great day - including a lot of fun - with people I love and admire.
I have hung the sign Mum and Noddie made in my study.
More anon, philosophers!
Saturday, March 14, 2009