When I picture a perfect day it looks a lot like this picture. Add a turtle, dolphin, a good book and the day is PERFECT!
For every race I have ever done, I dream of the “Perfect Day”. I literally write down what that would include. Generally speaking, a perfect race day would start with all my training being optimal, the weather perfect, I feel strong, happy, my paces are fast, my nutrition is spot on…..etc. etc. I’m practically a super star!
You might be surprised to know – I have yet to experience this elusive perfect race day. Try Charleston was not only lacking in perfection but it was a particularly difficult day for me.
My training leading up to Charleston had a couple of obstacles I had to navigate. I had an inflamed disc in my neck that limited some of my swim training. I had a weird knee injury that created a training bump to work around during the last several weeks leading up to Try Charleston, I started feeling a cold coming on right before the race. Any insecurity I have, found a way to reintroduce herself to me. But I felt mostly calm, I had a plan and I felt as prepared as I could be.
Race morning was freezing and windy….BUT…the rain from Friday had stopped early enough that the roads were dry. The lake was colder than expected because of the Friday rain – 66 degrees – but Gators are cold-blooded and the temps would make them sluggish, right? I have oddly cold resistant feet so when I first stepped into the lake I thought “this isn’t all that bad”. Then I decided to get my face in the water to prevent any shock when the swim started. It was shockingly cold! Glad I did that before the Gun went off.
I lost track of Nicole fairly early in the swim, started swimming too fast and had to mentally gather myself and swim MY race – the way I had planned. Got myself settled down and went to work – just kept swimming.
T1 was very difficult. I was shivering and had trouble with simple tasks; zippers, helmet clips, gloves with 5 fingers, but finally got all my bike gear on and headed out. It was chilly but I was on my way.
The bike is typically my strong event. I have made big improvements with fueling and had a plan for pacing. The wind and cold presented a challenge for maintaining steady power. I did my best to ride steady. My biggest mistake was wearing a pair of bike shorts that I knew were uncomfortable for me. Trust me when I say it only takes a little discomfort on your saddle to become a big discomfort during a 56 mile ride. OUCH! And to add insult to injury there is a stretch of road on this course that was horrific. Sorry Mom, but I cursed that stupid stretch of road, at one point quite loudly, as I barely missed a human/bike sized pot hole that just about ate me for lunch. The bright spots were seeing Nicole on the course and a short but encouraging conversation with a friend of Nicole’s. (Rita – who is now a friend of mine – I do love the triathlon community)
By the time I got to T2 I was very ready to be off my bike.
Oh the run….I was miserable very early on. This course is a 6.5 mile out and back that you complete twice for the half marathon. Within the first 3 miles I knew I was not going to hit the time goal I had for my half marathon, I was feeling physically bad and little Miss Insecurity was doing her best to convince me to give up. When I came in for the first loop at 6+ miles I saw Jeff and really just wanted to be done. He gave me a hug and I heard myself tearfully say, “I just want to quit”. I knew immediately that I would always regret a DNF (Did Not Finish) so I shuffled along and tried to figure out how to salvage this run.
I had a few miles that alternated between chest constriction from tears trying to burst their way out and chest constriction from my cold. Either way I was a mess. It’s a little funny in hind sight remembering the volunteers, many of them young adorable high school kids, trying to offer me a plethora of items at each aid station. One policeman actually asked me if I was okay. I told him “no” and kept shuffling along as he looked on just a bit helpless. Bless him.
The middle 5-6 miles of the run were managed literally aid station to aid station. It’s such an odd thing how races like this find any chink in your armor and then exploit that very weakness. I found myself suffering and listening to Miss Insecurity as she chided me, “how will you ever complete a full ironman if you’re struggling so much with half the distance”. I listened to her for too many miles before I found the courage to just put my energy into proving her wrong. I started focusing hard on getting to mile 10 and kept telling myself that if I could just get 10 miles finished I would only have a 5K left after that. This was surprisingly effective, not easy, but effective.
I made it to the finish line. A hard-earned 5 hours and 50 minutes after jumping into the cold water. Jeff had a chair ready for me, a bottle of water, a hug…and all I had for him were tears, stinky clothes and somewhat incoherent conversation. He was still proud of me and still thinks I’m awesome. He’s a keeper for sure!
Jeff and I always try to combine our hobbies, so it is common to spend a day or two after my races chasing the Perfect Bird photograph. First stop, Botany Bay SC.
This day was cold and windy. My legs were tired, my toes hurt, I had a chest cold, my body ached, and I was discouraged from not executing a “perfect race day”. I brought a chair and blanket and planned to hunker down looking for some solace from Mother Ocean while Jeff walked along the beach looking for his bird shot. So there I sat…wave after wave after wave…being lulled into my peaceful place. It didn’t take long to start feeling better.
One of the things this particular beach is known for is seashells. It is illegal to remove any artifacts (including seashells, driftwood, etc) from this beach so you can see it is covered with shells. It is traditional for visitors to hang shells on the trees, stack them in pyramids, etc. I noticed a big shell rolling in the surf and decided to retrieve it. I set it on a toppled tree trunk and then found another and another. Pretty soon I had a collection, none of the shells perfect but all of the shells beautiful.
Eventually, Jeff came back down the beach. I left Botany Bay without a single seashell but a much better outlook on Try Charleston Half Ironman. One more race finished…several more lessons learned…one more battle with Miss Insecurity….One more WIN!
Time to redefine Perfect!