Always A Good Day to Tri Hard
I began the season with a terrific Memorial Day race in Traverse City, MI: The Bay Shore Marathon. As the name implies, it’s a spectacular run along the shade covered coast of Grand Traverse Bay. I’m now convinced there are other great marathons to run outside the Chicago Marathon. Conditions were ideal, low 50’s to start, it’s not crowded with about 3,000 runners, and it was very well supported. The cool weather and guidance from Coach Joe made it an enjoyable run. I hoped to maintain a steady pace of 9:30 throughout, targeting 4:10. I noticed my pacing slowing as I approached mile 23 despite my increased effort and while I tried to ignore him, my old friend “The Wall” invited me to stop and walk for a while. I kept running and told him to visit someone else. At mile 26, runners enter the Traverse City High School stadium amid applause of family and friends, completing the final 2/10 mile on the track. I was grateful to finish at 4:15, shaving 25 minutes off my previous time and notching my 14th consecutive PR over the prior 2 ½ years. Coach Joe’s training plan enabled me to steadily improve and even more amazing, to begin each race injury free.
What a great journey it’s been. Not long ago, I doubted if I could complete the ET Batavia Tri. Last September I crossed the finish at Ironman Wisconsin which was an incredible experience. I loved all 14 hours of it! While it’s impossible to top that this race season, I have two marathons, a half Iron and an Olympic to keep me motivated. The enthusiasm to race is still there.
Why Tri? What keeps us going?
I’ve been asked many times why we work at triathlon or any of the endurance sports. Why would anyone want to do something so expensive, so uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and time consuming as triathlon? While many folks are preoccupied with convenience and insulation from discomfort, we’re planning a four hour bike and run in combination (brick) in heat and humidity. (The alternate version I’ve heard: bike + run = ick). My neighbor said it sounded like tremendous fun and that it was right up there with electric shock therapy for entertainment.
It’s not about the entertainment value but often there’s more than one reason that makes it worthwhile. Some athletes do it to raise money. A most commendable example is fellow ET Athlete Mike Babicz’s inspirational journey to raise funds for families of fallen police comrades. Still others have something to prove or maybe they’re just good at it. We have quite a few in the Experience Triathlon group who are extremely talented triathletes. There are still other motivations such as to lose weight, get fit, relieve stress or justify that expensive bike or power meter you just bought. (Please e-mail if you have any creative justifications for a new tri bike!) For me, it’s the challenge of reaching for a goal that requires significant effort and time to accomplish. There’s something special about every race, a time when you’re “In the Arena.” Quoting President Theodore Roosevelt:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I train so I can race but I also race so I can train. Ultimately, the race is what makes it triathlon. Otherwise, it would be just exercise. I’m mindful that I’m lucky to be able to do this. Each workout may result in a tough day, a good day, an improvement and sometimes a story. You’ll always remember the long bike ride in the rain or that race day with frost on the windshield as you prepared for the swim. When you train, you learn your body can do things you never thought possible. You learn to push past pain and exhaustion. Triathlon isn’t easy and that’s the point: to challenge and bring you out of your comfort zone. It’s not about avoiding tough times but embracing them since they’ll make you stronger. How ironic that the way not to feel like a number is to pin a big one to your race belt and have it marked on your arms. Smile, be grateful and enjoy the feelings and experiences you’re fortunate to have in the process. It’s always a Good Day to Tri Hard!
Last week I completed race #2 of the year, my first Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, Olympic distance. After a delayed start, it was weird watching the first wave of swimmers disappear into fog which is when they decided to call another delay. After two hours of waiting, we were really ready to get in the water. The swim was uneventful and the close transition right off the beach was great. I was initially concerned about merging the sprint and Olympic bike courses but it was a no problem at all. The run was on a mixture of paved and crushed gravel trails that looped in two directions allowing multiple opportunities to greet fellow ET athletes. My goal was to enjoy the race and beat my previous time from the Chicago Triathlon, which I did. As if all that wasn’t enough, there was an unexpected surprise:
This is part of my strategy. The field of participants begins to narrow in my new age group as athletes get progressively fewer with time. (USAT considers your age in the year of your birthday, not the actual date). Yup, 60 does sound old but I figure if I keep this up I may Kona Qualify by the time I’m 80! Indeed, I’m celebrating my birthday by completing 70.3 miles along the coast of St Joseph, Michigan, with my brother Rob who is much older. That’s my idea of a good time.
It’s always a Good Day to Tri Hard!