All of sudden it’s real…

      The Triathlon was a staggered start by age groups, so a few groups had already been sent on their way and it was now my time to line up for the swim.  I made my way to the start line, which was in about chest-deep water.  I was now looking out across the lake at the course. I suddenly felt nervous, anxious and a little fear.  Thoughts started running through my head; “did I train enough, am I ready, will I make it, and I don’t want to die today”.  It took about 5 minutes to get our group ready at the start.  While we waited, the race official started telling some jokes to calm us down.  Honestly, I was laughing, which helped, but wow, as I looked at the people all around me, I thought, “this is no joke, it’s real”….”30 sec, 15 sec, 5 sec…Go!” And like salmon heading up stream, there was no stopping, because if you didn’t swim hard you were going to get swam over…
      The water course was laid out into 3 sections straight out from the beach then across the lake and then back into the beach and transition area.  The first 3rdof the half mile swim was like NASCAR in the water.   While people were somewhat careful not to pull you down, there was more bumping and grinding than, well ok, I’ll leave out that joke. But if you didn’t meet the people before the start, you got personal with them in the water.  It was really hard to get into a consistent pace.  At this point I was battling to stay with the pack, which was so different from my traffic-free, open water training.  However, the distraction also made the first segment fast, and when I got a clear chance to finally peek forward, we were already at the first turn.    
     Segment 2 & 3 and into the shore was much better.  The pack at this point seemed to spread out a little more and I was able to finally settle into a pace and focus on my rhythm.  By this time the fear and anxiety were gone.  There was the occasional bump from other swimmers but not enough to distract you.   If you have any fear of open water simply because of what lurks below, not to fear, there was enough people to keep you company. I didn’t even think about Jawsonce…just swim!  I’m not the best swimmer.  I lack good kicking & stroke coordination, which totally cost me time, but I also figured it saves my legs, so all arms it is.  Head down, stroke, stroke, turn to breath, repeat and finally, land hoe! (0.5 Mile Swim time 18.09)
     It was pretty awesome to see my family at the shore cheering me on as I exited the water off to the transition area.  Next up, cycling.  Cycling is probably my weakest part of the event.  I like to think that I trained pretty hard on my bike, but honestly I have a hard time separating cycling with touring.  A quick dry off and put on my socks, shoes, shirt, helmet, sun glasses and gloves.  Man that was a lot of stuff to put on, especially when you’re half wet…off I go.  12.4 miles is not a bad distance to cycle and I figured in my pre-race plan that it would take me around 55-60 minutes depending on the elevation changes.  Well, of course this was the hilliest course that I had ever ridden.
     One by one they passed, and I pedaled as hard as I could, but I was still getting passed. It was mind altering to say the least, but around the half-way marker I looked at my watch and I looked at it again, what?  I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought to myself, “is that real?”  I was ahead of my plan, so I wasn’t worried about getting passed, and at that point the adrenalin rush took over.  The passing by other racers slowed down and I even started passing a few cyclers of my own.  “Crank, crank” I had to shift smart, maximize my energy, and play it cool, knowing that my strong part was coming closer with every crank… run time!  I pulled into the transition area, but where’s my cheering section? My family was just sitting and talking to each other at a picnic table by my changing area.  Hello?!  Much to theirs and my surprise, I cycled out a PR for myself and was ahead of my race plan by 15 minutes! I’m no Lance Armstrong, I don’t dope…but 40:58 was just shocking to me.
      I originally predicted to finish the race in under 2 hours, more likely I figured it would be around 1:45:00, taking in to consideration the transitions, because I wasn’t sure how smooth they would go.  As I got out of my cycling gear and laced up my running shoes, my family gathered near the fence to cheer me on.  Their enthusiasm, cheers and encouragement really helped me to regain my concentration again and charge out of the transition area to what I knew would be my strongest part, the run!  Heading out of the transition area, I was already passing some people and it felt really good. I looked at my watch and did some quick math and figured out if I run hard, run fast, run smart that I could finish now in around 1:30:00.  Could?? Nope, I will!
       My plan for the run was simple just find a pace that I can keep up for the remainder of the race, choose a few targets to see if I can catch them, and look for few easy targets, so when I do pass them I can trick my mind and use those little milestones to keep on running.  Around the 3/4 mile mark, I start seeing some of the people that passed me on the cycling event.  Yeah I took numbers, especially the ones that I just didn’t get how they even passed me.  One by one, they fell behind me.  Nothing personal, I respect all athletes.  But inside it feels great to be passing, instead of being passed. But could I keep it up, was the burning question.  “Shut up.., quit thinking.., clear your mind and just run, really…focus and just run”, I told myself. 
       Mile 1, still going strong; Mile 2, fantastic time; and finally, Mile 3, I took another look at my watch and I was ahead of my newly planned running pace.  But just to be sure, it meant one thing; dig down deep, as deep as I could and sprint the remaining tenth of a mile to the finish.  And that’s just what I did… My family was waiting at the end this time.  My wife figured that I would probably turn it up so they got there ahead of the original plan.   As I crossed the finish line, I raised my hands in victory with a huge shout out.  “YES!”  I can’t even begin to explain to you the emotions that I felt at that moment.  I just didn’t finish a race, I accomplished a personal challenge.  I love the run…24:31 was my 5k runtime and my official event time was 1:28:38…with some time to spare.  Now, “where’s my medal, where’s the food table, and, what? No bacon cheese burgers?” LOL
      With the proper training, ambition, will, determination, sacrifice, guts, along with a little fear, you can.  And if you don’t think you can, take a hard long look in the mirror and ask yourself this, “did you really want it and are you really going to give it 110%?”…After many, many weeks of training, I know I did…peace!





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