When my alarm clock sounded the morning of the race the usual nerves that kick in were absent and a general since of dread and anger filled the space. As I gathered my race gear my feelings did not fade. In fact they only intensified as I marched down the street towards the race shuttle pick up.
When I got to the shuttle pick up I cruised to the back of the line and stood there amongst the other competitors for what seemed like eternity. The sun was already baking the sidewalk, my shoulder was throbbing and my mood was plummeting. When the long line of busses finally showed up I scurried on to the closest one and picked the first available seat. I stared out the window wondering how fast I could get this over with but not in a competitive sense.
Although I didn’t want to admit it I knew the source of the anger. I didn’t need to wait until I crossed the finish line or to see my time flash across the finishing clock to know that I wasn’t going to get a PR or place where I would like to.
I am a cross road in my athletic career. With each passing year the reality of a PR becomes more and more difficult but not impossible. Having been competing in running since 14 there are certain distances where I am confident saying I will never PR in that event again but there are others where the possibility is still achievable, although not easy and certainly not a given. Today, however, I knew was not going to be the day for either so I couldn’t help but think – what is the point; why am I here?
After a few moments of “enjoying” sitting solo someone asked to share my seat. By the look on his face he clearly was more excited to race the 70.3 miles than I was. We exchanged a few words which made sharing a seat with a stranger more comfortable and then proceeded to sit in silence. I don’t remember what started the conversation again but I found myself in the middle of one. Through our exchange of words I learned that the 41 year old sitting next to me was a retired professional motorcycle rider. We talked about our strengths in triathlon mine being run and his being the bike. And then he said the magic words – without even knowing it. “I have friends who have a bad swim and get out of the water and give up; their day is ruined. I don’t understand this we are all just here for fun.”
It was exactly what I needed to hear and be reminded of. After all I was there by choice. If he, an ex-professional motorcycle rider, can come out here and race Boise for fun – to test his fitness then so can I. It was as if I suddenly realized that I could walk away from this race without a PR or top finish and still be proud and maybe even have fun.
He talked about how decided to race IM Whistler just a mere 5 weeks before the event. We talked about some of our bucket list items (which is for another post, another time) and as we neared Lucky Peak Reservoir he ended with “I will always race this is what I do.”
It is. 25 years racing and counting. If you don’t race you may not understand why and sometimes I can not put into words why but it is what I do. It hasn’t always been triathlons and probably will not always be triathlons either but there will always be a race.
I walked towards T1 to set up my gear with a fresh take on the day. The race eventually started – I exited the water in 3rd in my wave despite a shoulder injury, struggled a bit on the bike and dug deep on the run to finish 15 overall and 4th in my age group.
In the end I was almost right about everything. When I crossed the finish line my time was not a PR and I did not place as high as I would of liked but I was proud of myself. I finished strong and finished with a smile! And that is not something that happens every day!