Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's all about the afterglow

I don't do triathlons because I love doing them in the moment. I have to admit, I wake up nervous and wonder what possesses me to put myself through this. This morning, after a not-so-good night's sleep, I woke up feeling tense and jittery. I managed to choke down some breakfast (I did not feel like eating, but I would have seriously passed out halfway through if I didn't), got my stuff ready and headed out.

Once there, my nerves calmed down a lot. I had enough time to get checked in, have someone write a big "26" on my arm and calf with one of those huge, stinky permanent markers, and get my stuff set up. But before I knew it, they were calling for my wave to hit the pool.

I am not the greatest swimmer. I'm decent enough; I can swim pretty far without dying, but I'm so damn slow. The girl sharing my lane was ahead of me almost instantly and finished when I had several laps to go. I was last out of the pool. I'm not thrilled about that, but what can you do. At least I was in there, right?

The bike and run went better - although I was the last to finish. Whether that means I had the slowest times overall, I don't know. We started in waves, since you can only have so many people in the pool at once. I had the misfortune of being placed in the last wave, so by the time I started, some people were already finishing! I do think it's quite possible I had the slowest time though; this was a really small race, and most of them looked like pretty serious athletes. However, that part doesn't bother me as much as it might once have. I guess I'm doing a better job of embracing my slowness a little bit and just relishing the fact that I'm out there at all.

But as for enjoying the ride - what can I say, it's hard. It's hard to swim 10 laps under that kind of pressure. It's hard to bike 9-ish miles, up and down hills. It's hard to run at all after you've just biked, let alone two miles. Sure, it was a short triathlon, even for a sprint distance, but short doesn't mean easy.

I found myself wondering what on earth I was doing. Why do I do this to myself? The nerves, the breathlessness, the burn. Pumping my legs up the largest hill (for the second time, since the bike route was a 2-lap loop), I wondered what possessed me to be there. This hurt and I wanted it to be done, yet I still had to finish biking and then run. WTF!?! Who in their right mind does this to themselves?

During most of the run I chanted things to myself to keep my legs moving. "I can do this. I can finish. I am strong. I can do this," and various other things. Random songs popped into my head and the presence of even the phantom of music helped push me along; and made me wish I'd have brought along my ipod. The pounding of my feet continued even in the few moments when I really, really wanted to stop and walk. But I knew I wanted to have this one under my belt as a full run, and so despite the fact that my legs felt like they were made of lead, I kept running, kept sweating, kept burning.

And then there it was, the finish line. Not so much a line, really, but a sign made from yellow paper with big black letters printed on it - FINISH. I had to come part way into the parking lot to reach it and the obvious lack of bikes in the transition area reminded me I was probably last to come in. But, I was there. I slowed to a walk as a few staff and volunteers clapped and congratulated me.

Ah, yes - that's why I do these things. There was the feeling. A rush of euphoria, powerful and pure, as the endorphins released. I did it. I made it to the finish, not only in one piece, but on my feet and running. Whatever I might think about my post-baby body, whatever lingering frustrations I have about my lack of speed, there I was at the finish line of the race. I was suddenly so glad I had done it; so proud of myself and so happy that I'd put myself through all of it. That's where it's worth it - at the end. Not on the hill at mile 7 of the bike where you feel like your legs are going to explode; not at the half way mark of the run where you have the almost irrisistable urge to walk; but there, at the end when all is said and done and you can look back and be really proud that you did get out there and push yourself and make it through to the finish.

That's the part that rocks. Tonight, my legs ache something fierce and I'm beyond grateful that my kids go to bed early. But I'm still basking in the afterglow of my race day; relishing the fact that I went out there and pushed myself, did something hard and rough and painful; but worth it when all is said and done.

Next race: June 28th. And this one is longer - breathe, just breathe.


Mandy said...

So much to be proud about! You're doing things most people would never even attempt. Marathon is a name that would intimidate many (it does me!!) and you're doing tris!

The fact you don't let the athleticism of the others who may be more serious about it, who may have more time to train, get in the way of you doing it...that just rocks.

before I forget, my friend Brig wanted to do a tri and hated her swimming ability so she actually took some lessons in being able to swim more efficiently/quickly/confidently. It's a thought.


akhoosier said...

Way to go Claire! I'm proud of you and if you did come in last, WHO CARES!! You finished and finished strong - no walking for you girl!

I hope I do 1/2 as good as you at my race this weekend. I'll NEVER do tri though because I'm a TERRIBLE swimmer! :)

Again, way to go!


Anonymous said...


You are amazing to me. I couldn't do 1/4 of all that much less FINISH.

Congrats on finishing and getting out there in the first place.