I first considered the Diamondman Triathlon when a classmate suggested she wanted to compete in the shorter version of the race. Since they also had a 1/ Ironman option I thought I would extend my triathlon season for another two months. I was up for the challenge. Needless to say, I never imagined that my season would lead me to this point. The point where I was training for 4-6hrs at a time on hard days. I had to convince myself that such a workout was normal. Sure, EVERYONE bikes for three hours then weightlifts! Training was physically exhausting and required that I get more sleep. Not an easy task for this insomniac. It was mentally exhausting to push myself for hours on end. But I knew it would be worth it. Nonetheless, I was saddened the week prior to my race. Would I ever be able to dedicate this much time towards training? Will I ever revisit this level of conditioning? I think this fear made me even consider extending my season and push myself towards the next level. The future is never promised, but there is a time for everything. A time to build and a time to step back. Whatever I have achieved has been given to me anyway (1 Cor 4:7). I was sure about hanging up my goggles and bike after this race.
1.2 mile swim:This is the first race i have EVER competed in while it was raining...This is also the first race where I wasn't praying for the swim portion to be canceled due to a random lightening strike. I had actually gotten to the point where I could consistently swim for oven an hour. I wanted to see how well I would fare during the race. However, I cam across one problem. An IN WATER START. An in water start requires competitors to tread water till the sounding horn. This newbie, however, was not prepared nor capable of such a feat. I considered it a waste of energy and it would leave too much time for me to contemplate the threat of drowning. My strategy was to swim slowly to the starting buoy and continue on from there.
Sadly this strategy wasn't as effective as I hoped. I swam slowly to the starting buoy and flipped on my back as I began to freak out in the middle of the lake. My plan was to take my time and go at my own pace, but whenever I picked my head up to spot the buoy I would freak out. 1. The buoys lining the swim course were very far away 2. Unlike the Nautica Triathlon I had to pick my head up more often because it was very easy to swim off-course 3. Imagine how scary it is to find that you are completely off-course and don't know where you are. I guess I was progressing too slowly for the lifeguards because one guy told me I should swim across the lake and wait around a "red buoy" until the next wave of swimmers entered the water. On my way there a lifeguard in a canoe intercepted my path only to inform me that there were tons of red buoys, "which one was I swimming towards?" This is NOT the kind of questioning you want in the middle of a lake. The life guard told me I should let him bring me back to shore for safety reasons. I was too slow and obviously struggling. I admitted defeat.
As I held on to the end of the lifeguard's canoe for dear life I wondered, "what am I doing here?" Seriously. How had I ended up in the middle of a random lake needing to be towed in. I floated on my back, looked up at the sky and pondered what I would do once I got to shore. What I be disqualified? Could I complete the race? Should I try to finish it? Or would I be considered an imposter? I don't know how far out I was, but it took about seven minutes to get to shore. Once I let go of the canoe people were cheering me on. Had they not seen me holding on to the canoe? Clearly I didn't consider myself to be a competitor. I was confused about what to do. As I wobbled and tried to get my footing another triathlete ran past me as she headed for the transition area where she would start the bike portion. I decided I would follow suit...(Somehow I spent 51minutes in the water and still didn't complete the entire swim)
56 mile bike ride: I had put in major work into the bike portion of my race. I was pretty confident about how I would perform. This would be my first time riding in the rain, but I was ready. I wasn't so sure an hour into the bike portion. Large amounts of people were passing me. I wasn't tired. I was putting forth a decent effort, but I think my road bike was heavier than average triathlon bike, which means I was going nowhere fast. My bike broke down 50+ miles into the race. I had to wait for the bike repair van to catch up to me and make the needed repairs. More than ten precious minutes passed. The local sheriff decided to wait with me. Why? Because I was the last competitor on the bike. Every one else had already passed me. I would have to make up ground during the run....
13.1 miles: A woman I met prior to the Marshall University 1/2 Marathon suggested I train during a rainstorm. To prepare myself to push myself despite wet shoes and socks.Boy, I wish I took her advice! You know what they say about hind-sight, though. After I racked my bike I put on rain soaked socks, slabbed on anti-blistering cream on my feet, and slipped my shoes on. Competitors were finishing there race as I was starting my run. 13.1 miles is a lot of miles to wrap your mind around. Can be a daunting task to even consider completing. I convinced myself that it was normal for me to be here in the rain running for 6+miles. Running 6 miles in one direction. That was all I would think about. The turn around point would come quickly. It took me 4 or 5 miles just to get into my rhythm and to finally adjust to having my feet strike the pavement. I wished those who were on their way to the finish line best wishes as they passed me in the opposite direction. I had a lot of time to think. As usual things are so clear to me as I am in running motion:
- This race was not about the glitz or glamour. Crowd support was scarce, which would leave a competitor to question: Who are you competing for? Who do you compete for when no one is watching? When other competitors are few and far between? You have to want this for yourself. This kind of race is not/cannot be about passing other competitors or about applause. It has to be about the Audience of One. Performing your best for you and God alone.
- The true heart of a competitor can be seen not when he crosses ahead of the pack, but when he brings in the back. The competitor who goes on even though the crowd has already left and the equipment has been packed up.
I was able to have a strong run. I was able to pass several people, which was great considering that I was the last person to start the run. But, the things I contemplated during the run told me it didn't matter. I was completing a mental race. It wasn't about everyone else.
When I finally finished I felt a tinge of emptiness. The food and beverages were packed up. There were no massage therapists waiting to ease my pain. There was no celebration or festival. I had to bend over, catch my breath, and keep it pressing. There was no space for a physical collapse. I was alone and 1hr away from home. Nonetheless, I was encouraged by my friends and family who had this to say:
"but you made it through. your my hero of the day". .."But now you feel you could do anything and that's the biggest reward". I wondered whether I should just stick with running. I was decent at it. This triathlon but on a humbling experience I wasn't prepared for...but I FINISHED!
I am excited about what the rest of my roadraces/ workouts will look like after this event;)
swim1.2 miles:51 minutes
bike 56 miles: 4hrs
run 13.1 miles: 2hrs