A month or so ago I had a minor setback with my back. What started as infrequent aches through the winter became daily aches and then a constant pain in my lower back and left butt check. Same issue I had that blew up and caused me to lose feeling in my leg and ultimately have back surgery. Needless to say, this really rattled and scared me. I headed in to see my pain doc and he felt the best course of action was an injection to calm things down. I went in later that week to have the injection and took a few days off from training with an easy week to follow. This all happened the week before Bassman Triathlon, which was going to be my come back race. Based on how I responded to the injection, my coach and I decided that sitting Bassman out was the best decision. While I knew it was the right call, it left me feeling completed defeated and wondering if I’d ever get back out there.
Once I started feeling better from the injection, we decided that it was time for me to do a short race. Something to get me out there and clear out the cobwebs. No expectations, no goals…just go through the motions, race at my current fitness, and learn something along the way. I signed up for Independence which happened to be the first triathlon I ever did back in 2011.
This past Sunday I headed back to the race venue where it all started remembering how petrified I was that morning 6 years ago. I didn’t set any goals for myself this race but I was hoping to see improvement from the first time I did it. I totally didn’t take into account that I’ve spent very little time on the bike, that I haven’t been in open water since my last tri 2 full years ago or that I’ve been dealing with back issues. I just assumed I could do better and unknowingly put that pressure on myself.
It was in the low 50s and the water temperature was about 67 degrees. For such a short distance I didn’t really think the wet suit was necessary, but I wore it anyway. I warmed up prior to the race and felt great in the water. Aside from the lake grass, which was really thick and everywhere, I was excited to swim. This is where I felt I could show the most improvement from past years and was looking forward to doing just that. Feeling calm and ready after the warm up, I lined up right at the front of the swim.
The RD yelled “go” and off I went. Well, within about 50 yards, I started to freak. My breathing was off and I was forced to same side breathe which I never do. I think that triggered my panic button and next thing I knew I wanted to rip my wet suit off. I seriously considered going over to a paddle boat and telling them to unzip me. I’ve only panicked once in open water and it was at this race in 2011. Since then I’ve done a mass start IM ocean swim, lake swims, etc and have been fine so I was so pissed it was happening. It took about half way through the swim for me to calm down and even then, I never really found my groove.
I exited the swim pissed off and headed out on the bike. The bike went fine; I was hoping to be faster but having not been riding much and having not done hills in, um, forever, it was what it was. I definitely didn’t have much in me on the hills and instead of being kind and understanding to myself about this, I got down at myself for feeling weak. I had 2 females pass me and while I wanted to push to stay with them, I knew enough to not do it figuring I could try to catch them on the run. Part of me was thinking clearly.
Back in from the bike I had a frustrating T2 when I couldn’t get my shoes on to run. My feet were so cold and numb I couldn’t feel them into my shoes while trying to do 3 other things at the same time. I cursed a little to myself, took a deep breath and shoved them in the best I could. As soon as the run started, it hit me how negative I was being to myself. I actually said “this is such a disappointment.” When I heard myself say that, I couldn’t believe it. I am all about being positive when racing, mental toughness, etc and here I was beating myself up. Once I realized it, I switched my focus. I told myself to let it hurt, suffer through the 2 miles and to get those 2 females. I passed one around the .75mi mark, the other just past the mile turn around. From there, I picked off a few more and then the short run was over. What an hour that all was!
I finished 1st in AG, 12th female overall and left with a few lessons learned.
- Even though I believed I had no expectations going in, I did. I should have raced only caring about where I am at the present moment and not caring what I did 2 years ago or 6 years ago. I’m in a very different place right now and I just want to be back out there. I shouldn’t have been comparing the old me to the current me. We are two very different people.
- When I left the water, I should have left that part of the race right there and moved on to the next part. Instead, I carried that frustration with me the entire race and it absolutely impacted how things went.
- Being successful is managing the bad spots, dealing with them and moving on. I didn’t do that this race, I let them get the best of me.
- I need more open water swim time before my “A” race. Just because you did a race and didn’t panic clearly doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
- Racing is the best way to improve. You can train and train but when you are racing, you are forced to deal with obstacles as they come and keep going. You can’t shut down and head home hoping for a better workout tomorrow. You deal with the day and learn how to cope and keep going until you finish.
When I went through the race with my coach, the rational me knew I did what I could with the fitness I have now. It’s the irrational me that wanted to do better with really nothing to back that up except my competitive nature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the AG win, very happy. I was just humbled at how far I am from where I want to be. But I will get there and I’m ready to work for it. Comebacks aren’t easy, but they are so gratifying. I am so grateful to have successfully finished this race since a few weeks ago there were lots of tears wondering if I’d ever do triathlon again.
Biggest lesson learned, never give up and keep fighting for what you want.
Fueled by Hammer Espresso gel #howihammer