An excellent blog post written today by Richele, a triathlete from here in Vancouver. A bit lengthy, so rather than spend a lot of time introducing it, I’ll simply provide the link:
An excellent blog post written today by Richele, a triathlete from here in Vancouver. A bit lengthy, so rather than spend a lot of time introducing it, I’ll simply provide the link:
I posted this link last year, but somehow it lost the video reference. So here it is again.
We have Jens Voigt of Team Saxo-Bank showing The Internet around his hotel room. I’m not particularly a follower of Voigt, but he is almost certainly a stronger athlete than I. But he is still human, and shares the same kinds of concerns that us mere mortals do.
Early in the year, I had an interesting conversation with a man I didn’t know. He told me that he no longer raced triathlon, because he’s no longer as good as he used to be; that the fun of the sport had essentially been lost. I found out later, that this man was none other than Peter Reid, multiple Ironman World Champion. What struck me most was, although he is a world-class athlete, our conversation was humble and, for lack of a better word, normal.
But what of this, getting to a point in the sport where it is no longer interesting? This concern framed much of my season. I’ve gone through many interests and obsessions over the years. I was into rock climbing a few years after high school. I took up yoga for some time. My interest faded in both.
It has been a challenging year on many fronts, full of all kinds of issues and drama. And unfounded fears. I had initially planned on Kelowna being my season-ender. Kelowna was my A-race. An Olympic-distance course shared with the ITU elite, the likes of Paula Findlay and Simon Whitfield. But there was something missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until I expressed my concerns among a few friends, about losing interest in the sport. What if I’m not good enough? What if I reach my limits, and never see improvement? In a moment of genius, one of my friends suggested that the game ends, once it is no longer fun. I signed up for Cultus Lake, thinking, this is going to be fun. I even joked about racing with handlebar streamers, spokey dokes and a hockey card taped to my chainstay. I was going to have some serious fun!
I never had dreams about rock climbing or yoga. But about a week before Cultus, I had yet another triathlon-related dream. I’m sure it was full of metaphor. The message: The race is not over. The race is not over. It is so not over. So, of course, I looked up last year’s results online. I realized that it was well within my reach to push harder than ever before, and give more than ever before. And it was well within my reach to get a 3rd place medal in my age group. I can do this.
So I decided to take it seriously. Still have fun, still enjoy it. But let’s take it seriously.
The race is not over. This athlete isn’t tired. Not yet.
Swim: 15:20 (2:03/100m; 10th overall)
My swim is usually pretty consistent during wetsuit-legal races at 1:55/100m, so this split is a little slower than I thought it would be, but I’m by no means disappointed. At the start, I found myself weaving through a crush of swimmers, and my ankle-grabbing training with Kyndra and the rest of the Canwi gang came in handy here: I got kicked a few times. I got kicked square in the chin by a guy wearing a yellow swim cap. He elbowed me in the face later, too. Yes, it’s all about wrestling in rubber suits. I had my trepidations a year ago. Now, I almost enjoy the frenzied mass swim start. We’ll see if I say the same thing at IMC next summer. But for now, it’s a small race, with a couple hundred participants.
The first turn came up faster than I expected. Before I knew it, I was swimming in clear water, finding a pair of feet to draft off for a while, then pushing ahead to the next pair of feet. I don’t recall thinking about much of anything on the swim, but I tried to remember that I have legs, and that I can use them to help propel myself forward.
Coming around the second turn, I found myself neck-and-neck with another swimmer. He tried to pull away, and I pushed a bit more. There were also two swimmers behind us, drafting off our feet. I didn’t know it at the time, but Jeremy (who finished 3rd overall) was one of them. His remark: We were drafting behind two guys. One was kicking up a storm and the other wasn’t moving his feet at all.
I was tenth out of the water. And I don’t know any of these people were at this point, because as far as I can remember, I was the only one around. I see from the results that I was definitely not the only one around, but it seemed like it.
Transition 1: 1:47 (3rd overall T1 split)
Wetsuit off. Sunglasses. Helmet. Chin strap. Bike. Go. I lost my goggles somewhere in T1. They were decent goggles, but I’ll just have to get a new pair.
Bike: 34:29 (34.8km/h; 1st overall bike split)
I was the sixth athlete to get out onto the bike course My previous race in Kelowna had a much larger pack, so I passed a lot more people on the bike. I had no idea how many people were ahead of me. I passed three competitors fairly early on the bike course, and didn’t see anyone else for at least ten minutes. It was very strange, being completely alone on the bike course. I looked back, and there was nobody chasing me. There was nobody ahead of me.
I wasn’t as diligent about hydration as I should have been, mostly because I was running a single bottle aft, with nothing between my aerobars, and nothing in the frame. I think I took three or four sips, but really: it’s a sprint, and it wasn’t all that hot yet on the bike course. I think in the future I’d like to have something between my aerobars.
Not a lot else going through my mind at this point. I was comfortably spinning about 94rpm, keeping it nice and easy. Focussing on an even pedal stroke. 10k to the turnaround. It didn’t seem like 10k. I began watching the other side of the road to see how many cyclists had already made the 180°. I counted two. I was apparently in third place, behind Joel from Victoria, and Jimmy, the speedster in a Canadian team tri suit. I’m pretty sure I counted wrong. There’s no way I’m in third place overall right now. I made the turnaround, and then caught up to Mr. Team Canada. Passed him like he was standing still. Riding into T2, I hear Jordan’s voice over the speakers. ”We now have our second athlete coming into transition.” I’m still pretty sure he’s talking about someone who’s ahead of me.
Transition 2: 1:52 (2nd fastest T2 time overall)
I racked my bike on an empty rack, slipped on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and race belt, and go. There’s not really much else to do in transition.
Run: 25:59 (46th overall run split)
They say that runners win triathlons. Unfortunately, I’m not as strong a runner as I am a cyclist. I was first overall on the bike split, but 46th on the run. I’m seven minutes slower than the fastest runner (who, incidentally, finished almost exactly five minutes after me).
The phrase, if you feel like you’re about to puke, you’re going too slow was in my head. I kept repeating to myself anything I could, in effort to dig deeper and push harder.
As I approach the finish line, it’s time to turn on the afterburners and use up what little is left in my legs by this point. I don’t remember seeing the clock, or there was something wrong with the clock, so I had no idea about time. So I pushed, hard. Darryl-style sprint finish.
While I didn’t do terribly well compared to 45 other runners (and particularly the five who did well enough on the run to make up for the dust I left them in on the bike), I did achieve my best 5k split ever. I consider it a resounding success.
Overall finish: 1:19:25 (7th overall, 1st in age group)
Technically not a sprint PR, because my last sprint was 1:18 and change. The asterisk though, is that the 1:18 course was a little shorter on the bike.
What’s unique about this finish though, is that I placed seventh overall, and first in my age group. First. I thought I could barely make third, and here I am, placing first. Mind buzzing. I kept looking at the posted results, thinking, there must be something wrong. But it was right. I’m first. For the first time in my life, I’ve won something. It’s not ITU world championships, but I won something.
More importantly, I had a fun time doing it. It was a great race, and I made some cool friends. I’m sure I’ll see them again next year, somewhere. I’m sure I’ll be a better runner. I’m sure I’ll be a better swimmer. Now, more than ever, I believe in me. I had my doubts, before. I had my doubts that I wasn’t good enough. But now I know, that I am worth it. I believe that I am good enough to justify the time and expense required to reach the next level in my sport, to become an even better triathlete.
Gattaca is probably my favourite movie of all time. It’s all about finding strength in the face of what appears, on the outside, to be insurmountable odds.
You are the authority on what is not possible, aren’t you Irene? They’ve got you looking for any flaw, that after a while that’s all you see. For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that it is possible. It is possible.
Of course, the world of Gattaca is fiction. But there is a lot of truth in the metaphor. I think we are often brought down by those in our lives who, whether they mean to or not, bring us down.
For me, I’ve been working through this for a while. My family has always been focussed around team sports such as hockey, and more traditional sports such as golf or tennis.
I’ve never been into those. I don’t really know why. But I’ve always loved the idea of being athletic. I dabbled with the track team at high school, but got injured before I could really prove myself.
Maybe my family hasn’t been supportive, because I’ve had passions before that have ended in disinterest. I tried rock climbing, but 5.8 was about the biggest challenge I wanted. I was into yoga for a while, but that practice subsequently waxed and waned.
There has always been the bike, though. I always loved the bike. And I’ve got to get this through my head: I am good enough to justify the time and expense required to become a better triathlete, to bring my swim and run skills up to match my cycling talent.
There is a real possibility that I can, if I push harder than I’ve ever pushed before… There is a real possibility that I can make my way to the podium (for my age group) at my next race, this coming Sunday. I know I can make this attempt without your support, but I’d rather do this for love and not for spite.
We all come to the sport of triathlon for our own personal reasons. My friends I’ve talked to have all manner of excuses for plopping down thousands of dollars on equipment, race entry fees, trainers, coaches and nutrition. These reasons range from very personal to highly altruistic and selfless. I come to the sport to battle the personal demons of my past, and to become a better person.
I’ve discovered that I’m a decently strong cyclist. A friend e-mailed me yesterday, and said:
We already know you’re an excellent cyclist. Now’s a good time to focus on your running if you want to have a good chance at being fast during Ironman. Honestly, with your bike talent, if you follow [a particular running training plan], you’ll be much faster than all of us at IMC.
I’m not used to this. I’m not used to being singled out as better than anyone else at anything. It makes me feel somewhat overwhelmed. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of this kind of attention. I believe that the things I do are not any better than the things that anyone else does. I have a lot of trouble accepting that I am any more extraordinary than anyone else.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been through ordinary. I know that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is actually quite negligible. The difference between someone who has accomplished great feats and someone who hasn’t, is nothing more than the choice to do these things. I don’t think it could have been said any better, than how Jordan Rapp put it, in his speech to the 2011 Ironman Canada finishers the other night was poignant and summed up with:
But no one in this room has a burning desire to be, “typical.” That is not why you do an Ironman. You do an Ironman because you want to reach the stars. And you want to do it the hard way. Because that is what makes it special.
There is no easy way to reach the stars. For me, even as comfortable as I am on the bike, it’s by no means easy. An hour on the trainer sometimes feels like ten. I have no patience for people who get in my way.
Playing to my strengths means focussing on improving my cycling ability. I know that I can become a better cyclist, because I’ve been doing this for only a year. I know that the difference between myself and Jens Voigt is that he’s been doing it longer than me.
Becoming extraordinary means you must first accept that you are an amazing human being, and that you have the innate ability to do extraordinary things. Becoming extraordinary really takes nothing more than a choice to do something extraordinary. And you will inspire me.
Kelowna marks the last A-race of my first true season of triathlon. And I’m really quite pleased with how the first year turned out.
I’m an average swimmer, a strong cyclist, and a weak runner.
One year ago, I didn’t know how to swim. I could barely scramble 25m, with a level of skill barely suitable for swimming at the cottage. I worked hard through the winter, starting off with 30 minutes in the pool almost every day, until I learned how to do 100m. Then 200m. I consider myself a triathlete more than a swimmer, but swimming is certainly not my weak point.
For Apple, my estimated time for the swim was 30 minutes. I haven’t been setting stretch goals for the swim, just yet. All I wanted at Apple was to get through the swim, and post something close to 30 minutes. I got out of the water with two minutes to spare.
The swim itself went reasonably well. I probably went off course a little, but that will improve with more open water practice and sighting. All in due time. My swim speed will increase with practice and technique improvements, and perhaps learning how to have a productive kick!
Transition 1: 1:50
Is it possible to do this faster? Probably. I had a few things sitting in my helmet that I had planned to stuff into my back pockets, and that did take a few seconds. But I did take advantage of some cool tricks, like leaving my goggles and swim cap inside my wetsuit sleeve, having my shoes pre-clipped to the pedals, and racking over the back of the saddle.
Bike: 1:08:10 (35.2km/h)
This bike course was awesome. I felt strong and fast. I was only a few minutes off the #1 position on the bike course, and even so, placing within the top sixth of finishers on the bike course is nothing to sneer at. I worked on keeping loose, and finding that balance between effort and ease. I rode according to plan, pushing hard up Knox, then spinning free throughout the rest of the course.
Transition 2: 1:05
This clocking represents mostly the run through transition, from the bike entrance to the run exit. Once my bike was racked, helmet off, shoes on, I was back out on the course. The only way I think I could improve this time would be to be a faster runner. I’m by no means disappointed with this.
Run: 1:00:54 (6:06/km)
Yes, the run is my weakness. I’ve been battling IT-band issues for the last half of the season, and haven’t really been focussed on improving my run speed. Though I did maintain my roughly 6:00/km average, and that was my goal.
I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately. I believe it’s possible to live a life without creating unreasonable expectations of self and others.
I’ve come to see that expectation leads to disappointment. I’ve joked occasionally that this is why it’s good to live life as a pessimist: out of the two possible outcomes, a pessimist is either proven correct by the negative outcome, or pleasantly surprised in a positive outcome. Truthfully though, I tend to be an eternal optimist. I’m driven by seeing what’s possible rather than what is.
So, something’s going to happen in the future. We know that in most situations, we don’t have the direct ability to affect the outcome. Sure, we might want things to happen a certain way, but there are so many factors outside of our control (say, for the weather to improve, or for my local barista to make me a respectable mocha). I don’t doubt that you can think of a few examples from your own life where something happened that didn’t involve your input.
When I create expectation about things that I don’t control, and then attach the emotion of disappointment or satisfaction to them, that must be serving me in some way, right? Disappointment first: Now I get to complain about something that wasn’t done right. Someone messed up, and it wasn’t me. I’m right, and you’re wrong. Alternatively, let’s say things went well. Now I get to take credit for it, but really never had any claim on the outcome in the first place. But being right sure feels good, doesn’t it?
Really though, people don’t often do what I think they should. And inevitably, I can find something wrong with the weather. Maybe it’ll be too hot. Maybe it won’t be windy enough to fly a kite. And, that mocha, it’s a little too bitter today. These things are outside of our individual control. We created an expectation, and we were disappointed. And then usually, we turn that disappointment into “I’m not good enough” or “Why does the world hate me?”
My rejection of expectation doesn’t come from a rejection of the responsibility that comes with living in a set of communities or in a family. On the contrary: It is a wholehearted acceptance of responsibility. Real, personal responsibility. It’s taking back responsibility for the things in your life that you can affect real, positive change.
But what about things that are inside our control? For me in my training, I could conceivably expect to make a certain time at my next race. Easy. I’ll have no problem coming in under an hour on this or that. I can do that in my sleep, practically. And if that’s true, there’s really no point hitting the spin class tonight, so I’ll go see a movie and eat a tub of buttered popcorn instead.
The astute will see what happened there: I was able to completely absolve responsibility for my training, leaving it entirely up to fate, if you will.
On one hand, it might be reasonable to expect things of yourself. You’re in control of your own destiny. But on the other hand, we don’t really know what’s around that next corner. It might be something good, or it might be something bad. But we can definitely learn from it.
I take a lot more time than I need to in setting up my transition area. And I seem to underestimate how long it takes to get my wetsuit on, and get a short warm-up swim in.
I put myself right in the middle of the pack at the swim start. Just a sprint, so I figured it’d be a good place to learn how to be in a solid mass of swimmers. It wasn’t nearly as nerve-racking as I expected. What was nerve racking, however, was that in all the excitement after my warm-up swim, I forgot to bring my goggles back down off my forehead. Considering this was only my second open-water race (and the first time racing in the ocean), let’s chalk that up to a “beginner” thing. Moving on…
During the first third of the swim, I had a few spots where I felt a bit panicked. Partially from having to goggle-up mid-stroke. Actually, that misstep probably set me back a lot, as there was water in my goggles, and that shot my stress level right up. So I took a few short breaks to tread water.
I did remember to push “start” on my watch, though.
I had a gel in my back pocket, which I ate heading into T1. My initial plan was to take some plain water (in a bottle that I had sitting in T1) before heading out onto the bike course, as I was only carrying liquid nutrition on the bike, given the duration and temperature. I forgot to take that sip of plain water. Not sure if that worked against me in the long run.
The bike went about as well as I wanted it to. I was in my smallest gear (34:25) only for a few short climbs, and spent a lot of time much further down the cassette. I kind of wished I had an 11-tooth cog on the back for this course, as there are some really nice long downhill sections where I was maxed out in the big ring at 50:12. I’m kind of thinking I might like to try out an 11-23 cassette. I won’t deny drafting: I definitely did as much as I could: but only 20 seconds at a time! Passed a bunch of people on the bike, and a bunch of people passed me.
Reasonably quick transition off the bike. I ran a few steps past my place on the rack, got in a gel for the run, and a quick sip of that plain water I had left there. Forgot to pull the elastics on my racing flats, and I ended up running the entire 5k with slightly loose shoes. They kind of worked well enough without being super-tight. It was unplanned, but I kind of like the fact that I don’t have to worry about lacing up.
My eternal 28-minute 5k. It’s about par for the course, for me. I really should work on improving my run off the bike. More bricks and speedwork is on my radar.
Final clock was 1:26:43, which is a sprint PR for me. Yay!
All in, I was happy with how things went today, and I have a few things to learn from for next time. Namely:
Uggh, riding on the trainer is super boring. But with the iPad nestled on my aerobars, it’s a perfect opportunity to write a quick blog post about my training. I have 59 days until Oliver, and feel like it’s more of a challenge than I’m ready for. I got to the 1 hour mark on tonight’s ride and thought to give up, but then I remembered something: this feels amazing, to be spinning away, watching movies on the iPad, and sweating up a storm. Tomorrow I swim & run. And now, I only have a few minutes left on tonight’s ride, so it’s time to give it my all. Happy training!