A Half-Ironman Ain’t Half of Anything
My family recently attended a picnic hosted by some of our oldest friends. In response to my parents RSVP, the host replied, “It’ll be good to have some competition back in the egg-toss this year!” I guess it’s not hard to see where I get my competitive streak from. Over the past six or seven months, I’ve been training for a race. A crazy-long race that when I broke it down for people, I actually got looked at like I recently escaped from a mental asylum. Those that didn’t take the time to ponder my sanity went straight to the next logical question… “So, are you going to win?” I’d start to laugh a little, and say, “No, I am not going to win, but I am going to finish it!”
It is really, really easy to compete against other people. Whether it is other athletes, your colleagues, or just that stranger on the El who is trying with all their might to beat you to that one open seat during rush hour, it is easy to compare yourself to someone else. Well, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we, as “triathloners,” do not like to take the easy option.
It’s harder – and more rewarding – to compete against yourself. And I’m not talking about getting a PR on the swim or hitting your goal MPH on the bike. I’m talking about competing against our competitiveness, against our innate drive to be fast and to win. And this competition is the story of my Racine 70.3 Ironman.
My race goals for my first half-Ironman were threefold. 1) Cross the finish line. 2) Have fun. 3) Run the whole run. Pretty straightforward, right? Wrong. All three of my goals depended on me balancing speed with endurance, nailing my nutrition and hydration to combat the climbing heat index, and keeping the classic Coach Joe “sunny and 80” positive mental attitude. Coach Joe and I had a long chat a few days before the race, and I was ready to rock and roll.
Funnily enough, my biggest bout of anxiety was on the Friday afternoon before the race when I was packing everything up for the weekend. Let’s just say that the sass-o-meter was set to “high.” However, on race morning, waiting at swim start, I was only excited. I had all of the tools that I needed to finish this race, and I was ready to go. The swim is my strongest event, and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick of the gorgeous day. When the buzzer went off, I let most of my wave get a head start and I got in my zone, or shark mode, as I like to call it. About 33 minutes later, I was out of the water and running to my bike with the theme song from Baywatch blasting in my head. It probably helped that I felt like I was running in slow motion.
Once Big Red and I were out of the gate, I settled down into my ride. Popped some salt pills, drank some IM Perform… You know, the usual. The best part of the ride – by far – was the middle-aged woman having a dance party in her front yard… By herself… To the rhythmic beats of DMX. That said, a lot of people passed me on the bike, and by a lot, I mean A. LOT. But I stayed the course, and before I knew it, I was done with the bike and on to the run.
Now a half-marathon is kind of long. And it feels even longer with wet shoes. And then there was an actual mountain on the course. Well, not really, but it was a great big hill. So I short-stepped and arm-pumped my way up that monster and it flattened out. And then I settled in to my run. Aid station after aid station, my goal was just to get to the next aid station. And part of me thinks that on the second loop, they sneakily make them further apart. Needless to say, I finally came to the end of the run, and I could hear the announcer-man. At this point, I just wanted to take off my wet shoes and socks, so I punched it up a gear and coasted down past my family and the world famous Experience Triathlon Cheer Crew. When I reached the end some 6+ hours later, I crossed that finish line like it was my job.
Now, over a week later, when I look back at my half-Ironman, I don’t just see Racine. I think of the months of training, weeks of PT, moments of self-doubt, pride at accomplishments, the smiles of my training buddies, the steady guidance of my coach, and the constant – and I mean CONSTANT – encouragement and support from my family and friends. I accomplished everything (and more) that I wanted to when I signed up for Racine 70.3 in January. So yes, if anyone asks, I won the Ironman. 🙂