As I biked through the Huron National Forest, I realized I was racing toward freedom. It was the number one thing keeping me going.
On Saturday, I competed in my third triathlon and final race for a while. During the swim and bike, I just wanted to get it over. These past few years and especially this year have been really tough for my running and training. I came to the Olympic distance triathlon under trained.
The water of Lake Huron was blessedly calm. The 15 mile-per-hour winds from the day before settled into a gentle 2 mile-per-hour wind, and Tawas Bay was almost as flat as it gets. The air temperature was not 50 degrees when we started, and the water was about 62. Heading to the event I wore four long-sleeve layers and wrapped myself in a heavy blanket because it was 38 degrees by the big lake. In early September. Not what I wanted for a triathlon.
But the water felt fine with my wetsuit, and the swim went OK. It felt harder than it should be, and I didn’t know it until after the race, but there was a current in the lake pulling us around. About halfway through the swim I got a lot better with my sighting, I was warmed up and things started improving.
My dad, Lexi the golden retriever, my dear friend Sarah and her mom came out to cheer, so it was awesome having people to see at the transitions. That definitely boosted my spirits. I wanted to have a good day not only for me, but because it’s more fun to cheer for someone when they are having a good day.
We came out of the lake and had to run across the road get to the transition area. I pulled on a long sleeve over my kit, and I’m so glad I did. It was chilly on the bike.
We road up Monument Road toward my beloved Au Sable River, which was mostly a gentle but long climb. It was taxing. I was really not happy on the first half of the bike, but I kept pushing and took advantage of the downhill second half. All I wanted was to be done and on my long break. Hence the racing toward freedom.
After a quick transition and hello to my cheer squad (a fist pump), I headed off on the run course and noticed my legs felt good, which was a surprise because they had hurt during the swim and bike.
For whatever reason, I had running legs. During the first mile I shook out the bike, and the next two I kept up a steady pace. At the turnaround, I saw another Olympic woman close behind me, and that set a fire in me. I picked up the pace, and then again about a half mile later.
With two miles to go, I was pushing. It was a great run. Not particularly fast, but definitely faster than either of my other triathlons this year. The cool weather really made a difference. Coming into the finish chute, I pushed it in hard and felt like a badass. This is what I used to feel like—strong.
For much of the past three years, I’ve been just trying to hang on.
It was a great, uplifting way to go on break. Not only did I have a good day (and finished faster than expected!), I got to enjoy the day with family and friends, got dog kisses at the finish, and I felt good. No headache, no stomach troubles. I ate right away, and then shortly after had pancakes and sausage. I’ll take the cold morning if it means feeling good!
The whole day was a relief. I competed much better than I thought I would and now I can take my break with nothing hanging over my head. I have absolutely no plans. I don’t know when I’ll run or race again.
Truth is, I think I’ll get back to running before too long. Freeing myself from expectations has gone a long way.
“I know I have the best of time and space — and that I was never measured, and never will be measured.” – Walt Whitman, A Song of Myself
We cheered on the 70.3 athletes, and I know that’s an event I want to do someday. I’ve also had a little Chicago Marathon envy. The love of running and competing is within me. I buried it with out-sized expectations and pressure. It’s hard to look back and realized I took three years away from myself, but I’ve learned about self-acceptance and the importance of running with joy and not ego.
That’s worth a lot.