It’s official, the 2009 triathlon season has started for me!
I found myself giving pinches as we rolled into Boise on Friday -really, am I going to race this weekend? It has been so long….
Many of you remember that my last triathlon was the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii last October – a privledged, humbling, and exciting experience that I hope to repeat sooner rather than later. But among these other things, Kona was a lesson in preparation, training, and the science of triathlon and I left Hawaii with a mission to make some changes for myself.
Hopping into a new life in the Pacific Northwest was certainly a new element in my training – long, cold, rainy winter meant many hours spent on the bike trainer, and in winter running clothes. Taking on culinary school meant making a shift from a training centric day to a part-timer – a reality that brought my dedication to this sport into the forefront. Being that my time set aside for training (at least while I was in class 30 hours a week) meant that I could only aim for the 1/2 IM distance this season – a 1.4 mile swim, a 56 mile ride and a 13.1 mile run. Much less daunting than the distances that I have been used to in the past. Even so, there were so many frustrating times, and many hopeful times too….but the big test was going to take place here in Boise.
Race day arrived. Unlike any other race on the circuit, Boise had a 2pm start so we were able to have a full nights sleep, rather than rising at 4am to eat and prepare, and instead, enjoyed bowls of Good Luck Granola, had a stretch, checked in our bikes and gear and were ready to roll in time to watch the clouds roll in over Lucky Peak Reservoir. The swim waves went off without a hitch, but the tell tale chop in the first 500 meters of the swim let each competitor know that there would be more than mind and body to contend with today.
Out of the water in a reasonable 35 minutes, I was on my bike and cruising onto the course in a matter of minutes, buckling in for what would be the rainiest bike ride I have ever had. I don’t usually tempt traffic or tragedy on two wheels, opting instead to take my training inside when the sky opens up and lets big buckets drop. Not today – today those drops were going to fall, and fall, and fall, for almost each of the 56 miles. Still, I was surprised with my speed, the strength I felt in my legs, the steady position I was able to keep as I cruised past my competitors. In the last 8 miles, the rain began to fall in sheets, begging that I hold back on speed for safety’s sake. Glancing at my watch, I knew that I was a bit behind schedule and had a feeling that my top competitors were closing in. Into the final chute and into my running shoes for a quick 13.1 miles.
Putting on 5 finger socks on wet feet is not easy – I will take this into consideration the next time I pack a run transition bag. The girl that finished in my AG just before me passed me as I was poking my big toe into the last sock. I didn’t catch her again. The run was actually enjoyable – still raining, a two loop course along a greenbelt that allowed each competitor to see their fellow Ironmen and Ironwomen. This might sound a bit intimidating but it reminds you that you are not alone, that everyone is hurting, and there is a spirit of “you can do it” that floods the course. I found myself bonking out with about 2 miles to go, costing me a few good minutes and a steady run pace. Next time, more fuel will be needed to keep this little enging running.
I finished in 5:20 – about 20 minutes after my goal, and the winner of my age group. I finished 4th, behind only 3 other competitors in my age group. I was fast, and I felt good, but on the Boise course, I found a drive that has not been there previously. Dropping 20 minutes off of my time is much more encouraging than figuring out how to drop 1:30 over the course of a full-IM distance. It is a goal that I feel I can almost touch with my fingertips — winning my age group means being offered an invitation to the Ironman 70,3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida. An invitation this year means I would have been invited to both world championships in my short career of three years. I want this. I want this so bad!!!
The 2009 race season is off to a great start – I have already qualified for the Boston Marathon, and am racing faster than I have ever before. Constant improvement makes it easy to want to move forward. This Boise race was the first triathlon that Derek has completed with me and his participation shed new light on my perspective – as he crossed the finishline, he was just covered in a glow of accomplishment. He took his time on the course, raced to finish and enjoy the day, and he did just that. I find myself longing to reach the far corners of my athletic ability, on occasion recognizing that sometimes the powers of be stunt that ability to search. And this is when I think of the warm blanket of pride that we feel as we cross the finish line, no matter where we finish, no matter how long it takes us to get there. There is something so satisfying about using everything that you have to reach a goal and knowing at the end of the day that you gave it everything you had. There are so few avenues in life where we can explore that feeling. I am proud of him for finishing and am overjoyed that he learned this lesson – the lesson that, more than winning and competing, keeps me coming back to triathlon.
I can safely say that I gave it up in Boise, everything I had that day.
I can’t wait for the next race. Lake Stevens 70.3 is in August. Here I come!!