Sunday, June 5, 2011

Finisher's Tri

Four months ago to the day, I published Beginner’s Tri, my intention to make a go at an Olympic triathlon. Today’s post is a follow-up to the former.

I won’t get into too many details of the event itself, as Emily surprised me with a fantastic photo-video capturing the experience of that morning. You can give it a look-listen here. Enjoy.

I want to share a half-dozen lessons learned in my preparing forand finishingthe CapTexTri.*

Lesson 1 – Don’t buy your bike, if you can get around it. If your race is local and there is no need to travel and pay for accommodations, your bike will probably be the biggest expense you incur. Did I pay for mine? Not exactly. A buddy called one morning early this year to let me know that he owed me. Yep, I introduced him to another buddy some time ago, and these two guys had since done a deal together. The bike ended up being an unexpected token of appreciation. Time to click into those pedals and ride!

Lesson 2 – Find a training regimen and take shortcuts. There are many parallels between a busy life and a triathlon. I won’t lie, I live a busy life. I’m not alone, many of us do. If you find yourself darting from one place to the next accomplishing this, that and the other and striking tasks from your to-do list, you more or less know the feeling of full-on triathlon training. It takes organization, focus and execution.

Ideally, you lay out a plan, and you work the plan day by day. Things happen, though, and the plan gets compromised. This happened to me. Well, what really happened is that I found a workout groove that worked for my schedule and felt good enough, so I shifted into cruise control. Good enough barely cuts it in the world of triathlons.

"No victor believes in chance." – Friedrich Nietzsche

I stated from the outset that I never intended to win the race, just finish it. In truth, I expected to do better than I did. Improvement can be made in leading up to my next Olympic, whenever that may be. For starters, I can sharpen my approach to preparation. Shortcuts are okay, if designed for efficiency. Mine were not and came from apathy. This shows in my time of 3:10.

Lesson 3 – Don’t underestimate the Texas heat; it will only make the race longer. I felt the presence of breathtaking heat (and warm wind with it) in Austin on Memorial Day.

Football coaches, when their teams are practicing for an away game in a stadium where a rambunctious crowd is expected to cheer, will play loud noises so players can get used to calling plays in those conditions. I could’ve employed a similar tactic, only for the opponent of temperature in this case, but I didn’t. In my training, I typically waited for the coolest time in the evening to hit it, and this, too, affected my time.

Lesson 4 – Just finish. This was the goal after all. Like so many things, easier said than done. During the race, I hit a wall in mile four of the run. Bam… It slowed me in a way I had never experienced, and I began to walk, in spite of the chocolate-flavored energy gel I downed. The race got longer, and I was served humble pie for the last two miles, running some but walking mostly. I stripped my drenched shirt, and felt somewhat better.

“Experience the journey,” I kept telling myself.

An equivalent in time to one showing of Dances with Wolves after the starter’s gun fired, I hobbled across the finish line in my own personal glory and with a newfound addiction.

Given the weather conditions, I wasn’t displeased with my time, but I can do better, and that strive is what will eventually draw me back into an Olympic to tweak where I can. I now know what I didn’t know before the race; that is, I can complete a triathlon of this length from end-to-end.

(Photo: Emily Covey)
Lesson 5 – Celebrate, after the race. This part comes naturally to most of us. Regardless of outcome, it’s impossible to change what we’ve done after the fact. We do what we do as well as we can, lay it out there, and then move onward. My kind of celebration: a tasty hamburger, a Pecan Porter made by local brewing company 512, and a vanilla milkshake, at a table with a built-in fan base of my wife, my mom, and my aunt/godmother.

(Photo: Emily Covey)
Lesson 6 – Take a rest, but not for too long. After the race and victory meal, I was subjected to a deep slumber. Ah, recovery is bliss – but it didn’t last long. We returned to Houston that evening. By Wednesday, I had signed up for another Sprint, scheduled for later this summer.

All levity aside, a final note from the Future Mayor: This “triathlonic adventure,” as one friend termed it, was a blast. I loved it from start to finish. The heat and wind were a bitch, but not an extreme one. To any goal-oriented type with triathlons on his mind, go for it! Check out; there are several to “tri.”

See you in the water and on the road!

*Disclaimer: There is no guarantee these lessons will lead to completion of triathlons of any distance.

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