Linae (TriFeist) left me such a great, though provoking comment tonight that I HAD to post some more on my Athena strategy thoughts. (Thank you!)
I just wanted to make it clear that I'm not ashamed of my Athena accomplishments. I'm not ashamed of anything I've accomplished. I'm just realistic and I know I won my first award because there were only 4 Athenas at the race. (And I want to BE one of those women who gets faster as I get to 50, because I hope to be doing this until I drop!)
She also brought up a really great point about improvement vs. competition. I don't think I was clear enough in my original post: the reason I want to race age group IS improvement, not competition. My competition is me, and always has been (on a very spiritual level, actually). That's why I prefer not to race Athena. I'd rather know that, even if there's no trophy waiting for me, I managed to have a more comfortable run, or a slightly faster swim, or a better bike than last time - even if that means I will win nothing and place nowhere. I know myself well enought to know that, if I stay in Athena, all I'll worry about is "oh, how many Athenas are here? I can place for SURE!" Then, I'll leave the race bummed about my time with another shiny trophy - OR - bummed because "I wasn't even good enough to beat 3 others!!!" I prefer not to put that pressure on myself. I want to blend into the crowd.
IM Able has a really great post about why she WANTS to race Athena, and part of that is about accepting herself as she really is. My decision not to race Athena is about accepting who I am, but in a different context. One, I will let myself get too competitive (even cocky) if I race Athena, because I'll continually be thinking about "how good my chances are." One thing I need to work on is toning down my internal over-acheiver. I need to learn to be ok with just finishing in the middle of the pack. My chances of learning that are much better in age group categories, where there are just SO many others that I will rarely place. And two, because this weight is NOT who I really am - it's a weight I've accumulated thanks to medicines, depression, and disordered eating. I really do need to get back to my usual weight, and largely for health reasons. I really need some drive to get me there. It will be nice, come April, if I can say, "I don't weigh enough to be an Athena," and know that all my training and hard work for the tri helped me (in large part) get there.
Even if it's only by 5 seconds. or 5 pounds.