Strengths and Weaknesses and Triathlons

If you didn’t know, I completed a triathlon, yesterday. As I mentioned earlier, this was not a desire to want to add to more to my current exercise regimen. It was just an opportunity to try to do something I haven’t done before. A chance to get out of the comfort zone and I accomplished just that. I have done a lot of running races and I am humbled after each one of them. After completing this race, the humble pie was served up in big doses and I realized a few more of my weaknesses.

For the most part, everything went as planned. Except for the swim. I knew it would be tough because I did not prepare one swim stroke for this. But I thought I was in good enough shape to be able to power through 300 yards. Well, I completed it, but I wouldn’t say I “powered through.” It was more like a sputtering engine on its last leg.

My first bout with my good friend, Doubt, happened when I picked up my race packet. There were 350 participants and my race bid was 14. I just figured this was because I registered early. Nope. This was based on the estimated time I submitted for the swim. I have no clue what I submitted but it wasn’t number 14 worthy. But I decided to go with it. Again, I was a little too confident.

Race morning came with a 4:45am wake-up call. I had a decent night’s sleep, but was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be as healthy in the morning. My daughter came home from camp and brought with her a nice case of the stomach flu. Apparently, there was a breakout the night before we picked her up and half the camp was in the sick bay. I had a mental picture of this bug hitting me halfway through the swim. That was not a pretty picture. I made it through, though, hopped on my bike and rode the two miles to the starting line. (Oh, my daughter is feeling much better and my wife deserves a gold medal.)

The whole set up is pretty amazing. 350 triathletes of all ages all getting ready for the race. There were the pros. And there were the weekend warriors and the first-timers, like me. That’s when doubt crept in a little bit more. Seeing all of the bikes lining up, especially those in my rack, due to my over-inflated low race number, got in my head some more. My trusty 20-year-old Trek was no match for these Tour de France machines.

Back to the swim. We all lined up and I put on my swim cap. That was interesting. I also decided, last-minute, to use goggles, so I grabbed my 10-year-old daughter’s pair. I was in line as one of the first groups to go. Everyone was talking about how fast they swim, how long they have been swimming, and how many tri’s they’ve completed. Oh boy. But I decided to fake it. Didn’t say a word to anyone around me and played it cool. I even did a little Michael Phelps warm-up by swinging the arms. Anything to help me.

I got in the pool and waited for the starter to send me off. The others before me looked so fluid and effortless and I calmed a bit because I knew I could do it. The whistle blew and I took off. About halfway down the first lap, I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t know how to breathe and took in a little water. Yes, I felt like a 5-year-old. I got to the wall to head back. And then the arms started burning. I panicked a bit. 5 more laps?

I struggled the whole way. Several people passed me. I had to stop in the middle of the pool and push along the bottom. Thank the gods I could touch. I got out of the pool and the last thing I wanted to do was jump on that bike. But I realized I got out of the pool about a minute over what I thought I would do so that brought a little hope.

The bike portion wasn’t so bad. I got a chance to get my breath and calm the nerves. And I also realized how slow and how much more effort I needed with a mountain bike versus a road bike. I got passed by so many people and I didn’t even come close to passing anyone. I’m not used to that feeling because while I’m no speedster, I do a fair amount of passing in a running race. I started to question how I would feel on the run and if this was even a good idea to try. There was no turning back, though, and the sun was shining.

With the 10-mile-bike leg complete, I racked the bike, grabbed my headband, and took some Gu chews. I’ll admit, the first half mile was rough. The legs felt very heavy and the course temperature started to heat up. But then something clicked. My breath and pacing hit a groove and I was feeling great. I started to recognize a few of the others who passed me in the pool or on the bike as I passed them. It was a great feeling to finally be in my element. Running is my strong suit. I have been running and training hard this whole year and it was paying off. I crossed the finish line feeling great.

This whole experience was amazing. While I have no desire to do more triathlons, I did learn a lot about strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. And we always focus on the weaknesses. What are we doing to fix them? How can we improve? We don’t spend a lot of time focusing on our strengths and making them better. I spent two-thirds of this post focusing on the worst two legs of the race and very little on my strength in running.

I’m going to take a few days rest. I have some work travel so this comes at a good time. I’m then going back to focus on my running and prepare for my half marathon coming up on the first weekend of November. I learned a lot and even got a little cycling bug, but I won’t be buying any new equipment. I’ll put the swim cap away until next year’s triathlon. What. You thought I wouldn’t do this race again?

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