Friday, June 20, 2008

How much do you want to reveal?

When I train I have a very active mind. I lose myself in the run or ride and let my mind process the many thoughts I have stashed away. I try to push to the back things like work and think about my life and how it sometimes relates to triathlon.

Now I don't lose myself to much that I don't keep the purpose of my workout on track. Performing the workout in key to my training success.

Over the past two and a half years of this blog I have read other blogs and forum posts about how a person reveals themselves with triathlon. First is how a person handles the emotional roller coaster during a race and NOT revealing themself to the "race". Second is how a person may or may not reveal their true identify as a triathlete, especially an Ironman.

I have my own personal feelings about both topics but today I am writing about the first topic.

Revealing Yourself to the Race

With triathlon there are so many emotions that go into training and racing this sport. We may feel guilty that our training takes up so much time away from our lives. We may miss moments with family and friends that we will never get back. Parents with young children especially have it hard since the early years are the most magical in that young persons life.

As we train and race we also learn to deal with the psychological impact of training hard and pushing through barriers that we never thought to reach much less break through. All of this weighs heavily upon our shoulders, especially as the race distances increase resulting in longer training periods.

A triathlon often takes on a personae of it's own. We learn how to deal with adverse weather conditions, mechanical issues, competitors, fears and anxiety. Because the "race" has a personality we must be mindful of what we reveal to the "race" so that it does not know how we are feeling.

We want to enjoy the race but perhaps we shouldn't enjoy it too much. What if the "race" doesn't want us to be happy and suddenly increases the heat or causes a cramp in our side. We also don't want to show how poorly we are feeling. At the first sign of weakness the "race" may take advantage of the opportunity and inflict even more suffering upon our weakened bodies. And worst of all, revealing to the "race" that, "yeah I've got this in the bag, it's all downhill to the finish from here." Oh the "race" won't like that and the last mile(s) can soon turn into a walking and stumbling death march.

I am speaking to this "revealing" from experience at three different races.

The first Half IM I did was the Great Buckeye Challenge. Aimee and I were working with Coach Angela. This would be our first long course triathlon. This was entering new territory. But this was all about finishing. Time didn't matter. Just finish the race. And I did. Thinking back to the finish though I realize how I cheated myself of the accomplishment.

I was a bad ass long distance triathlete now. I was surrounded by friends who came down to watch Aimee and I race. Coach was there with her husband as well. I crossed the finish line as if I had been there before. I got some water and bent over on the ground to collect myself.

The emotions of what I had just accomplished were right at the top of my throat, but I didn't let them out. The event medics even came over to check on me because I knealed there on the ground trying to contain the emotions for such a long time they thought I was having problems.

I can't believe I robbed myself of that moment. Two years later, 2006, would be Ironman USA. I started this blog to capture my IM journey. IronWil was my inspiration for writing. I found the Kahuna/williamlobdell and Bolder/write2fight. We were all on similar IM journeys that would lift and inspire us in different ways. For IM USA I participated in the Janus Charity Challenge raising funds for Komen.

Talk about emotional baggage. Family, work, training....the trifecta. Raising money for charity.

I was reading books and forums about race strategy. Keeping yourself cool. It's a long day, don't waste your energy on emotion. Don't reveal yourself to the race....not until it's over and you are across that finish line. I was holding well at Lake Placid. That is until the second loop of the run. I passed the Inspiration Zone heading back to he finish. The announcer said my name and said I would finish. I almost lost it right there, but quickly brought myself back together because damn-it, I still had at least 6 miles to go. I wasn't across that finish line yet.

Get yourself're not done yet.....keep running. There will be time to celebrate later. And I soldiered on. Before I knew it I was on the Oval heading towards the finish line where I would hear Mike Riley say, "You are an Ironman."

Over the finish line into the waiting arms of two wonderful female catchers. I caught myself again not really knowing how to react. I had raised my arms up in triumph for the finishing photo, but now what. Somehow Andrew (son), Amanda (daughter) and Becky (sis-in-law) had snuck their way towards the finish line.

I went to them....hugged them all.........and cried. It was finally over and I had my release.

In 2007 I backed down the training and prepared for an early season Half IM at Racing for Recovery. This would be a flat and fast 70.3 miles. No hills. No IM preparation. All out, balls to the walls, leave it on the course racing. Training went perfect for this early June race. The Lake Erie water was even warm enough to go without a wetsuit.

I was severely focused on this race. Mentally ready to suffer and see how fast I could go for the distance. Having completed IM USA the year prior helped take any pressure off from being able to finish. This one was about being fast, not blowing up and crossing the finish line with a PR.

I was very much within myself during the entire race. I barely acknowledged Aimee or Coach Angela. Maybe a slight wave when I went by. Emotions were in check....all energy was being poured into the effort.

As I ran down the finishing chute I knew I had a good day. My watch validated that I had beat my previous Half IM times by 30 minutes. I was also 5 minutes faster than my prediction.

I didn't hold anything back this time either. I stood at the finish line and screamed out loud for everyone to hear. You would have thought I had just won it over-all and had money waiting for me. No.....I just had a different, joyous release for this race.

I don't know what type of finish's I will have this year. Spirit of Morgantown, a 70.3 distance race, is this weekend. I'm going all out for that one. Then Ironman Wisconsin in September. Laying it on the line there also.

No matter the outcome of these races I will learn something about myself and others. But the one thing that I have learned and want to pass on to others is to embrace, enjoy and celebrate the accomplishment of crossing that finish line, no matter what distance the race.

You will be doing yourself and those around you a disservice by not letting the world know how you feel. Because bottling it up will serve you no purpose, but letting it out may show someone else how much fun you have training and racing. You may even inspire someone to give it a "tri" themselves and experience the thrill of crossing the finish line.

Game On


Flatman said...

awesome insight. thanks.

triguyjt said...

great great insight eric!!!

its amazing..the sport is very transparent. or we become transparent..we open ourselves for all to see how we deal with adversity....

you will rock morgantown and look out wisconsin...!!!

TriSaraTops said...

What an awesome post!

You and Aimee will ROCK this weekend! Have fun--I'll be thinking about you both when I'm in Wisconsin!