I'm a Rocketman: Reflections on a Near-Decade of Triathlon

This is what a happy finisher looks like.  Three of them, no less. 

Saying I had fun at Rocketman last weekend is a gross underestimate.  I had a freakin' BLAST!  There were a giant group of us pre- and post-race. Riding past the launchpads and Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center was super cool.  And - despite a windy bike course and being off my swim pace by 20 seconds, my bike pace by 1mph or so, and my run by over 1 minute per mile, I felt great on the swim, bike, and run - and despite sloppy transitions, I felt speedy. 

When I saw my final time, I was bummed about being off my paces when I felt so damn GOOD.

Until I realized that 4 out of the top 10 women were from my age group.

And I ended up 7th out of 35 of those women and 28th out of all 230+ women on the short course.

Being 7th in a bigger, fast field like that made me feel more accomplished than last year when I placed 5th or my top-3 Athena finishes. And this year I still weigh Athena weight with a very full belly and heavy clothes on.  It got me thinking that maybe I'll change my "A" race from a small field where I stand a good chance of placing for the 3rd or 4th time to a bigger race where I can enjoy new sights and some challenges. 

Because, in the end, it was rising to the challenges that made me happy.

  • High fun level: check
  • Decent performance on a pretty tough course: check
  • Decent finish time - or at the very least, good attitude about it: check

A respectable placing was just a bonus at this point.

Fast forward to today . . . . . .

This morning's brick made me think back and realize that I am aging up next year.  Which makes this the second time I've aged up. 

Which means I have now been tri-athl-ing for almost 10 years.

And THAT made me think about all the things I've learned (or not) since 2006 when I first started this crazy stuff.

So, without further adieu, some of my reflections on a near-decade of triathlon.

  1. I started this sport thinking that BETTER meant MORE.  I thought completing an Ironman would make me super accomplished.  Now I have zero problem telling people I like the short courses when I'm asked about what distances I do.  I get to do my favorite distance triathlon during one part of the year and still work towards my 50 states/Boston marathon goal. Win-win.
  2. I used to think I'd never finish a marathon.  Then it took me almost 7 hours to finish one.  Now I'm trying to do one in every state and/or qualify for Boston in 5 years.
  3. Although it's how I originally started in triathlon, I still have no desire to do Ironman.
  4. I used to obsess about split times, nutrition, gear, my race checklist.  No more.  I make a list, I check it, I pack it.  I review my results once or twice and move on. I'm not getting paid to do this. I do it for fun and fitness.
  5. You don't have to get faster every year to improve.  I used to finish in the bottomest bottom of the pack. I had years where I did a little better and years where I did a little worse.  I didn't get better every single race or every single year.  It took me 8 years to regularly finish in the front of the pack. And HERE IS THE CRAZY PART: I have WAY more fun now.  I don't have more fun because I'm faster - no, I have MORE FUN because I realize that I am so lucky to be able to have a hobby that keeps me fit and healthy and that I get stronger every year.  And I think obsessing about it less leads to better race performance, too.
  6. On that note.  There are a LOT of people who take this sport very seriously.  And that is ok for them, but not me.  I made a pact to NEVER take myself too seriously, even if I some day got fast enough to win things, or BQ.  I'm dancing barefoot through the crowds while setting up transition.  I'm telling dirty jokes with my friends while we get ready to swim. I don't need to frown all race long, refuse to giggle on race weekend, wear  special gear to check my bike, drink special things like Recoverade or GoFasterIte all week before a race, or eat solely Organicz FuFu JuJu Bars in order to eat healthy, recover well, and train right.  Again, if other people like to do that, that is completely ok, but I prefer the balance of an average healthy diet and a decent training plan so that I can still giggle on race weekend.  And that's something I refuse to stop.  (The giggling part).
  7. So I've learned not to compare myself too much to others.  Of course, this is hard in a sport where we get to see our rankings almost instantly upon finishing, but you never know what injuries, illnesses, and personal demons other people are fighting, and vice versa.  The person who beat you by 7 minutes? Maybe they are their own boss and make their own schedule so they can train whenever they want; maybe they have NO illnesses to speak of and; maybe their funds are less limited than yours; maybe someone paid their race entry fee or loaned them that $5,000 bike; etc.  It doesn't matter; you race your own race.  No matter what happens out there, it's YOU versus YOU.
  8. I've learned that the key to good times at a race is not training crazy high mileage, nor is the key to being injury-free training crazy LOW mileage. The key to both is being consistent. 
  9. Strong is the new skinny.  Yes, I've lost weight as my thyroid hormone has improved and I have consistently trained.  But I still look like ass in a spandex.  I'm still not the tiniest chick out there. I just feel happy about what my body is able to do.  In fact, sometimes I feel happier about what I'm able to do in SPITE of being larger than my fellow age groupers.
I'd like to add something to round this out to an even 10, but I think that's all I've got.  And, considering I'm not quite to 10 years of triathlon, we'll leave this at a list of not-quite-ten reflections.

On to the next adventure!!!!!

1 tidbits of wizdom:

Karen said...

Glad you had such a good race! I love fun races with courses that you normally wouldn't be able to ride on your own. Here is to another 10 years of triathlon!!!