The Journey

The journey is more important than the destination.

Several years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would do the Fairlee Triathlon in Vermont. After training for three months, feeling like I was going to drown in the swim, feeling nauseus on the run, I crossed the finished line and was hooked.This led to my triathlon journey.

Please consider supporting my latest effort to raise money for Bretton Woods Adaptive through the Janus Charity Challenge at Ironman Lake Placid this July. Check out the Links I Like section of the blog or explore the BWA Fundraiser links.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A tale of two races (Part II)

I did everything I could to recover from my Saturday race. I used The Stick, stayed off my feet most of the day, took a nap and even took a hot bath with some fancy bath salts that my wife had. I don't know what I was expecting to feel like but my muscles still felt pretty beat up from the intense Saturday effort.

It was an early start to the day when I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My alarm went off at 4 a.m. but my eyes were already open as I lay in bed. After a traditional pre-race breakfast of Green Goodness and protein powder, my family and I were out the door and arrived in South Berwick right at 5 when transition was supposed to open.

Pre-race was pretty laid back. I had a sweet transition area spot at the end of a rack leaving plenty of room for my gear. I had enough time to catch up with the other GSTC'ers racing, Dave and Tom, along with a few other folks I knew from the local tri-scene.

The Swim
After a first place age group swim the previous day I was definitely confident at the swim start. Probably too confident. Instead of going out strong and steady I red-lined for the first 100 yards and found myself hyper-ventilating. After laying off the effort for about 15 seconds and regaining my composure I went back out and finished the swim strong. I ended up 7th out of the water in my age group but pretty sure I lost a couple of places with my early pacing mistake. Overall, I was still happy with a sub 28 minute 1.2 mile swim.

The Bike
The first few miles of the bike is when I started to realize it might be a painful day. Even my intentional effort to spin easily over the first few miles of flat roads, the residual muscle soreness was still very present from Saturday's effort. I tried to get into a steady rhythm and eventually got into a groove and did my best to not work the leg muscles too hard.

I did go through several bouts of doubt as to how I would respond on the run. I tried not to let too many negative thoughts build up about what the run when going to be like if I had sore muscles from going easy on the bike. I was thankful that I did some reading about David Goggins and his perspective on dealing with pain and suffering while racing.

I also kept repeating to myself one of my favorite perspectives on keeping a positive attitude: that nothing we do or feel has any inherent meaning, only the meaning we give it. I could either commiserate with myself about the running pain I was anticipating, or, figure out a way to embrace it and help to feed my drive to finish.

The Run
Thankfully, I managed not to commiserate. However, I did suffer. With every stride my muscles ached but I was able to maintain my nutrition and hydration so that the only thing I had to do was focus on blocking out the leg pain and keep putting one leg in front of the other.

One thing I did better in the race than any other that I can remember is get hyper-focused in the present moment. Typically in longer races, my mind is racing with everything from calculating my pace to watching my heart rate. I have a hard time finding that place I can usually get to in a training run, where a 2 hour run is done before I know it. This race was different. As much as I hurt, I never walked and there were several points where I didn't really remember any details about the previous mile or two.

I do remember virtually every step of the last two miles. I saw the mile 11 marker on the road, my energy level felt good and my hydration felt good, so I went as hard as I could the race of the race. It hurt so so much, but if you are a reader of this blog, then you know about my first and only DNF six weeks earlier, and finishing this race (the 2nd in 2 days) became what I perceived as an emotional must.

As I crossed the line I could feel the lump in my throat grow and eyes start to well up. My wife and son were waiting for me at the line and I couldn't hold it back any longer as I gave each of them a huge hug. I know they didn't care whether or not I DNF'd in Lake Placid, however, they had both sacrificed so much to let me train for my races this year that I was super motivated to finish this race and be able to hug them at the end. Something I wanted to do so badly in Lake Placid but never got the chance to.

A couple of good friends, Paul and Tony, were also there at the line. It was especially good to see them both because they were also in Lake Placid. I had spent the equivalent of several days training with Paul preparing for the event (and he had an incredible inaugural Ironman performance). I think he had a unique perspective on how disappointing Lake Placid was for me and how satisfying it was to finish the Pumpkin Challenge.

My triathlon journey has taught me some valuable lessons this year. I'm expecting next year's journey will be just as valuable!


Paul said...

Great stuff Dave! Glad we could be there to see you cross the line. Congrats again!

David Criswell said...

Thanks Paul, Looking forward to some more Ironman training, with maybe an ultra sprinkled in there......