I’m reluctant to share my “ah-ha!” moments in written format, mostly because I worry they are such obvious revelations I'll look like a moron. However, because I have taken it upon myself to make every mistake in the book, I feel I should also share the more positive learning curves as well.
Back in April I race Rage Triathlon in Las Vegas- my first “big race” of the season. I’ve race Rage before; It’s beautiful, it’s fun. But this year. Wow. It was the TOUGHEST race I’ve ever done, but it was also one of the best. Why?
As the wind relentlessly hammered my tent while my race-morning alarm buzzed away, I knew I was in for a day to test my grit. I have a lot of wind fear. Early exposure to the movie “Twister”, fleeing a tornado with a U-haul attached to a VW bug, and a few less-than-pleasant training rides have given me a healthy respect for wind and storms. But it was race day, so tough nuggies.
The current in Lake Mead was fierce- my tri-watch says I swam about a minute per 100y slower than my norm. On the bike, climbing into the headwind at a whopping 10mph felt like a superhuman feat. Descents wit crosswinds and massive gusts were death-defying. Aero be darned; a smart girl held on and planted into the drive chain! And the run! Like pushing through mud.
So, I repeat the question: why was this such a great race? Process goals. Since I returned from Ecuador to train and race in early 2015, leaving behind a life-long Peace Corps dream to chase a new athletic one, each and every event has been a test. Am I improving? Do I have what it takes to excel in this sport? Did I make the right choice? (And so on.)
Determining your sense of self-worth based on where you stand on a flimsy wooden podium is rough. I can attest to that. Time and time again the need to make 1st, 2nd or 3rd has led me to abandon strategy in efforts to pass or avoid being passed, and more often than not that approach has led me to implode later in the race.
But Rage was different. I decided that I would be awesome, and if other girls were awesomer, good for them. So how would I be awesome? I drew up a race plan to push myself on the swim, focus on engaging my lats, and to increase my effort over the bike and run to produce negative splits in my heart rate and effort (pace-based racing was out the window given the conditions). I also vowed to race smart.
I know that using the occasional tailwind descent to make up for time lost climbing into the wind ha the potential to be catastrophic. (I was right. Even with caution I nearly lost the bike from under me on a gust.) I punched it when the road was protected by geographic features and reigned it in for zones where I gusts could wreak their havoc.
So how did it pan out? Did I make that overall 1st, 2nd or 3rd I so covet? Not quite. I was awesome, but there were awesomer girls racing too. But I had a plan. I had a plan, I stuck to it, and I’m able to look back as say that there’s nothing I could have done to race better. And I am convinced that if I’m able to continue working on process goals rather focus on outcome, the process will eventually have me landing 1st.
But the greatest thing about this race, something that hasn’t happened since my very first season, was that I smiled- the whole, windblown time.