Last year at this time I was staring two things directly in the face in less than a week. My 44th birthday and my first triathlon.
I was excited about the one and extremely uncomfortable about the other. I’m not telling you which one was which.
The reality of the situation was that on July 31st they were both going to happen. One was going to happen to me, the other I would be an active participant – but nonetheless there was no going back when I woke up that morning.
Now, a year later I have the same feeling as I registered for my first half-ironman event 7 days before my 45th birthday.
I wasn’t too sure how things were going to go last July to be honest. Whether I was going to complete Jack’s Generic Triathlon and determine that the multi-sport event just wasn’t for me. That I was simply a runner trying to complete a triathlon and when it was over I would sneak back into my comfort zone and focus on traditional run only events.
There was a part of me however that thought that I might find out something about myself at Jack’s just as I did in the Philadelphia Marathon in 2006. That through the course of that race and making my way to the finish line I would uncover the athlete that was lurking beneath the surface. That I would start the day as one thing and go to bed that night something else entirely.
Back in November of 2006 I remember the crowd carrying me down the street towards City Hall over the opening mile of the marathon and not being able to feel my feet touch the ground. I was in for a long day as a first-time marathoner, but it was going to be an amazing day. One that changed me possibly forever. At the time I did not dream of becoming a Boston Qualifier or being an age group award winner at large competitive races like the Austin Livestrong Half Marathon. I just wanted to test myself and see how good I could be. Sorting out how that compared to other athletes would come much later. Qualifying for Boston and completing that race twice in the last three years has validated my pursuit of excellence in the marathon a bit. But the biggest goal for me is still out there, one that is completely my own and has no bearing on age group wins or qualifying for an elite event. I want to break 3 hours in Houston this January, and I want to do it for me. No other reason. Just me, a lofty goal, a tough training cycle and one morning of concentration and effort to make it all come together.
But the race staring me in the face before we turn the page and focus on Houston is the Kerrville Half Distance Triathlon. 1.2 Mile Swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1 mile run. 70.3 miles of racing.
Right now my goals for that day are very similar to my first marathon in 2006. Race with honor. Respect the event and the athletes around you. Swim every stroke, cycle every mile, run every step. Do not give in. Do not quit no matter how tough things get. Cover the course as fast as you can down to the very last second. Hit the finish line with absolutely nothing left. Leave it all on the course.
I do not have a “goal time” in mind as I think any time that you set something like that for the first time at a race distance you create either an unrealistic expectation on yourself or you sell yourself short. Truthfully I know about how long it will take me to swim 1.2 miles, ride 56 and run 13.1 if those events all took place on individual days. But to do them one after the other, for the first time, there really is no way to know what I am capable of. Is the right number 5:30:00 to shoot for? 5:20:00? 5:15:00? Nobody knows. So I am not going to even try to handicap it. I will still race as hard as I can, measure my effort at the end of the day as “acceptable” or “unacceptable” – meaning I have to work harder and smarter next time … but I am not going to put myself in a situation where missing a goal time by 2 minutes makes me feel like my race was a failure.
Just as Philly was back in 2006, I know this race is just the start of the journey. I am going to learn more about the triathlon in 5 hours on the 30th of September than I have in the last year. Those 5 hours may very well shape our next 5 years – placing us at the starting line of an event one day where we ask ourselves the same question we did at Boston in 2010.
“How in the hell did I ever get here?”
Will that be at the starting line of the 70.3 National Championships? Kona? Who the hell knows. The only thing I know for certain is in less than a week we will be another year older and two months later we are going to stand at the edge of a lake with our goggles on and our cap pulled down tight thinking one thing and one thing only.
“How in the hell did I ever get here?”