Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding the Fun

This past month has been all about getting the fun back. A friend had told me that I’m too obsessed with my time, which gets me stressed and then I don’t have any fun. I’m competitive and I said my time was the only way I had to measure success. I had to admit, though, it had not been a fun year for me.

When I didn’t meet my goals at the Pigman I moped around all afternoon, instead of enjoying a great post-party with the MWX club. That was followed by the disappointment of the Hy-Vee Tri (weather shortened the race). When I didn’t run a good Fifth Season 8K I allowed it to ruin my whole Fourth of July.

Rosie, MWX prez and all-around wise person, asked me if looking at my watch during a race helped or hindered me. Okay, not running my goal time caused me stress. “Throw away the watch,” she said. Run a race without my Garmin?! She told me to just go out and have fun.

I headed to the Bix 7 in Davenport, leaving my watch at home. It was raining so I didn’t wear my iPod either. It was like I was naked out there! It rained the entire race, but I just focused on relaxing and enjoying the experience.

The weather didn’t keep the spectators away, who always come out to support the runners. I high-fived a group of little girls who were at a birthday party, I waved to the crowd and when I passed a time clock, I stopped myself from figuring out my pace in my head. By the end of the 7-mile race I was running strong and realizing how lucky I was to be able to do this. Did it really matter what my time was? (Okay, it still mattered a little bit!).

Later that day I found out a man had died on the course. He was 41-years old and had done the race before. It was a muggy day and I wondered if he had pushed himself too hard…if he was trying to beat a certain time. It put things in perspective for me.

It was then on to the Camp Courageous Triathlon. It would be the first time that I would race without a wetsuit. I was a little nervous, but I took it nice and easy so I wouldn’t panic in the water if I got tired. The swim was no problem and it was on to the bike.

The bike was a beautiful course through the “Grant Wood Country” of Jones County. I really wanted to bike hard. Up ahead I saw them…a pack of newbies. They were casually biking along, unaware I was gunning for them. One-by-one, I picked them off. I liked that there were a lot of first-timers in this race; it gave me someone to pass!

As I hopped off the bike, I knew there wasn’t much left in my legs. I could immediately feel the heat and I dumped water on my head as I left transition. All the people I passed on the bike were now passing me on the run. For inspiration, the night before I had watched the Hy-Vee Triathlon pro race. I felt like Sara McLarty. She was the first one out of the water at Hy-Vee, led the entire bike portion, then had a sucky run and got passed by everyone. (Not that I ever led anything, but it’s disappointing nonetheless).

Up ahead I saw her. She had a “45” on the back of her leg. Someone in my age group! I figured she was the only other one in my age group still out here and I just wanted to beat her. I knew with the time-trial start, passing someone didn’t mean anything, but it was all I had to hold on to.

I saw 45 pull about 75 yards ahead of me. The dream was slipping away. The heat was brutal and I could feel myself getting dehydrated. At the turnaround I just cared about finishing. Then I saw it…was it just a mirage? It was 45 and she was walking! Was she just taking a break, or had she given up? I drew closer, and inexplicably, I pulled up six feet behind her and started walking too. It was strategy. We were heading up the last little hill before the finish. I thought if I tried to pass her now and she gave chase, I wouldn’t be able to hold her off. I waited until the top of the hill and then I went for it.

I passed her. Was she coming after me? Did I have enough left in my legs? I didn’t want to turn around so I waited until a car went by in the opposite direction and then I acted like I was looking at the car. 45 was still back there and she was still walking. I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t going to race me.

I made it to the finish line and all I wanted was to lie down in the shade. I wasn’t feeling very well and it took some time to get my legs back. I wasn’t sure if it had been “fun” but I was able to relish the little things in a race, like passing one 45-year old woman.