This week has been a bit rough around the edges. Lots of things floating around in my head at the moment. Let’s rewind…
Last Sunday, just a few short days ago, I was scheduled to complete an Olympic Triathlon. I haven’t done this distance for about 4 years, so, needless to say, I was looking forward to it. I wanted to see what I was capable of, to see how far my training had taken me.
I had to put all of my eggs into one basket. Since I work for a local triathlon company, I don’t get to race locally. And, I will be the first to admit the following:
- I don’t like to travel for a race. Any race. I like to be in my own backyard.
- The company I work for is the best at putting on races. Before I worked for them, they were the only races I did because they are so well run. That is why I am still working for them now – I believe in the high quality of races that we create and in our vision as a company.
- I don’t always want to try something new – but, mostly, that pertains to triathlon. After being involved with triathlon for 19 years, I know the venues that I like and feel most comfortable doing the routes that I know well.
So, I had one shot to get it right, and that was what last Sunday was all about. Unfortunately, it went horribly wrong.
Starting out, I had been a competitive swimmer since the age of 6. I had also been a runner, which started at about the same time as the swimming thing. I swam for 2-3 teams each year of my life from 6-18: USS, club, YMCA, and eventually masters swimming in my 20’s.
I ran with my dad as a child and into adulthood: 5k’s, 10k’s, and then eventually longer distances.
But…biking…well, nope. I biked like any other kid in the hood when I was growing up. When I started college, biking was my preferred mode of transportation. I did it out of convenience and necessity. It was after undergrad that I started triathlon. I pretty much biked to get from point A to point B in life and in racing.
As I got more miles under my belt, my confidence grew slowly, but I never really felt at ease when I was biking on a road bike. My husband convinced me to get clipless pedals….ugh. I was definitely NOT comfortable. This gave me anxiety. I continued to ride and race, but just never felt like a natural. Then, mechanical issues began to happen. Frequently.
At the start of one particular race, I dropped my chain. No matter; I got off, fixed it, and continued with the race. I was rattled, but was able to soldier on.
During another training ride, I had issues with my tire and almost got clipped by a car, and was again rattled. I tried to shrug it off, downplay it, but I wound up having issues again on a training ride just a couple of weeks later. Problems with the same tire, as well as getting chain-stuck. I caved and found myself switching my upcoming race to an aquathlon instead of a tri at the last minute. I just didn’t trust my bike.
I wound up buying a new road bike (16 years after my first one) to see if I could start anew and feel more comfortable. It worked, and for less than the pretty penny I paid the first time around.
My new bike and I had a much better relationship….until recently. A few weeks ago, a little over an hour into my training ride, I flatted out. I stopped, changed out the tube, checked for debris, and got back in the saddle. Only to flat again further into the ride. I patched the tube this time, and called it a day. I headed back to the car and punted on my long ride that day. I was again feeling discouraged. But, I refused to be defeated.
Sunday’s race rolled around, and I was ready. I tapered a little, got good rest, and felt prepared to have a good race. The swim was great and my time was right where I wanted it to be. I exited the water and ran up the hill to transition.
My transition was right on, and before I knew it, I was in the saddle and on the course. So far, so good. I looked down at my pace and was excited. I was right on target to get a PR. About 7 miles into the ride….it happened. It was subtle at first, I thought maybe it was the pavement change that made the tire feel different. So, I continued to ride.
Something was off. My speed was slower, but I was holding the same cadence. I glanced down at my back tire….low, not flat. Hmmmm…..should I pull over and put some air in? Was it a slow leak or an actual flat?
I rode a little bit longer, weighing my options. I decided to pull over. It was flat for sure. Quickly, I began to work. Wheel off….tube out, check for debris, new tube in, begin pumping…..what? No air was going in. I checked the pump, which was working just fine, and tried again. Nope. This went on for a while, without success.
After more than 15 minutes of messing around, I decided I didn’t have any fight left in me, and I called it a day. I cleaned up my area and I began the walk of shame.
Not long after, a crew member came by and offered me a ride. My race was over. Just like that.
On the way back, as we looked for other athletes in need of assistance, the dude driving the truck and I found a cyclist that had spent both of his cartridges and was now in need of a pump. Well, I just happened to have one with me, and it just happened to work for him. This made it all feel worthwhile.
Moments later, I was walking back into transition. I offered to take off my timing chip and a volunteer said I could still do the run if I wanted. I decided to wait for Dan to come in, and then I’d run with him, which I did.
I later turned in my chip and reported that I was a DNF. Still, I walked away with what wound up being a PR for an aquathlon.
Points I took away: at least I got to do my two favorite disciplines out of the three, I didn’t crash so I had no injuries, we finished before the REAL rain started, it was only my second DNF in the past 10+ years of racing, and Dan and I were both safely back in the car and headed home to the kiddos.
Things I couldn’t let go of: it was my only chance for this distance this year, and that damn bike did me in again, I was racing well and most likely would have PR’d, and this further damaged my relationship with biking.
I had some thinking to do; some soul searching, if you will. How long would I try to fit a square peg into a round hole? I had been trying to force myself to love biking for 19 years, and almost fooled myself into it. Don’t get me wrong….I don’t hate to bike. But, I honestly admit that it’s not my favorite.
Four days after the race, I had an epiphany of sorts. I have spent a long time defining myself a certain way. I was afraid to admit to my feelings about my biking, my anxiousness and anxiety, much the same as people often talk about the swim. I tend to joke around about biking with other triathletes that know me well.
But, in the car today on my way to pick up the kids after I swam, I said it out loud, “Change is the essence of growth.” As I grow older and curve balls are thrown my way, I can embrace the challenge, and I can CHANGE and GROW as a result.
My pep talk continued….Don’t be afraid when you can’t make a concrete decision that will be true forever. Life constantly changes, new challenges and tests will always come up, and you have to be fluid and move with them. Be able to embrace something different, something new. Know that going into a trial or life event, you will come out the other side much like a Phoenix. Let it happen.
So, I have changed my entry into my next event to a relay. I found a cyclist to be on the relay, and I will swim and run. I will still be there, I will still be competing, but I will savor what this body can do confidently. I will enjoy it, because that is the whole point of this life. To enjoy each experience for what it is worth, to learn from it, and then move and change because of it.
I have to say, I am relieved. I can take some time off from my anxiety, I don’t have to rush to fix the wheel on my bike, which was part of the issue (along with a faulty tube), and I can still be a part of multisport in the meantime. But, on my terms. For now. Because, my terms can always change.
There’s always next year….
Run happy. Run long.
Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.