For my first five triathlons, I didn't wear a watch.
I figured the kind people of the scoring company would take care of telling me how long it took to swim, bike and run. And the Finger Lakes Triathlon this past Sunday was a Score-This! event so surely I had no need to worry about my time.
In fact, why worry about my time at all? I'm in this for fun. Then I realized that part of the fun is seeing how you do against yourself. Some people take that challenge of besting themselves (and then winning spots in the podium after the race) a bit too seriously. And it's so easy to fall into that trap of defining your success based on where you finish in relation to the field and how you do compared to your past times.
In a sprint triathlon it's difficult (if not impossible) to compare races. The distances were different in each of the six races I completed this summer, not to mention other variables, like the course (was the water choppy? was the bike or run course hilly?) and the weather (hot and humid or cool and windy?)
Still, despite all of that disclaimer, I would like to say that at the Finger Lakes Tri in Canandaigua I wore a watch set a personal record.
Yes, that was me, pulling back the sleeve of my wetsuit as I ran out of the water checking to see what my time was. I was hoping to finish the 750 meter swim in 30 minutes and I felt pretty good in the water, despite needing a 30 second rest on the front end of a kayak to catch my breath.
The time on my watch read: 21 minutes.
My smile was so big I heard spectators commenting on it.
Regular readers of my training blog, and those closest to me, have witness my struggle with the swim. I started from scratch in November and continued to have a series of ups and downs -- moments when I thought I would never be able to swim and times when I felt connected and gliding.
Sunday morning, I started my usual round of nervousness which translated into trepidation about the swim.
Then I picked up a book of quotes I have and found this one from Dr. Wayne Dyer (of PBS special fame):
"Don't let emotions immobilize you. View them as choices."
I thought about this for a moment. The energy I was feeling I thought of as nerves and worry and being scared. So instead, I tried to choose my emotion ... that energy instead was excitement. Excitement about getting to a triathlon -- the game part of all that training. Excitement to see my new friends and laugh with them. Excitement to see my mom and dad as I come triumphantly out of the water. Excitement to celebrate all that I've accomplished in less than a year.
Every time I thought I felt "nerves" I recast it as excitement.
And it seemed to work just fine.
My official swim time was 22:23 -- which included my run from the beach back to transition where the timing mats were.
I felt strong on the bike, as I usually do. Actually I was in such a state of joy about my swim that a few times on the bike I had to tell myself to stop daydreaming and start peddling harder! I finished the 13.6 miles in 47:17 -- a bit slower than I had hoped but still a steady 17.7 mile-per-hour average.
I never expect great things on the run since running is also new to me this year (but overshadowed by my introduction to swimming because, well, you can't drown while running) but I wanted to hold about a 10-minute mile pace. That's slower than my pace during a 5K race, but remember, I didn't swim and bike before the starting line at the Laughlin's 5K in downtown Buffalo a few weekends ago.
Looking at my watch at the mile markers, I could see I was doing a good job of holding close to 10 minute miles (this was the real reason why I decided to wear my watch in the first place -- to help me pace my run). I finished the 5K leg in 31:22 for a pace of 10:07.
Not too bad.
The final time (including slow transitions because it was cold and damp and, well, I just took my time a bit) for my final triathlon was 1hour, 44 minutes and 59 seconds. That beat my previous best time for a race of similar distance by about five minutes.
Cue the happy dance.
Mostly though, I was smiling the entire time I was out there, happy to be able to be swimming, biking and running and enjoying the day -- coolness and all.
Oh, if you must know, I placed 284 overall out of 457, 104 out of 223 women, and 24th out of 39 in my age group.
The next and final task of the summer -- my first half marathon on Sunday.