I’ve been mulling over how to write about my triathlon on Saturday. There’s the bare fact of it: the times, the placement. That’s not what I took away from the day, though, despite the fact that I noted those things. What I took from Saturday was a sense that life truly is an adventure if we notice it, and a deepened sense of the power of our minds.
The bare facts of the triathlon are certainly ones that I celebrate: I finished it! My first sprint distance triathlon. That’s 750m swimming, 20km on the bike, and 5 km running. I had set a benchmark of finishing it faster than my best time for running the half-marathon – it seemed like a reasonable goal given what I had been doing in training. I outstripped that goal by 14 minutes – finishing in an hour and forty-one minutes! That put me 122nd out of 190. Not bad for my first. Not bad at all. What really tickles my fancy is that fact that I placed 14th out of 31 women in my age category. That’s a very satisfying result.
Another bare fact of the triathlon: it was windy and cold. We stood there, shivering on the beach watching the Olympic distance competitors take longer than we expected. And we stood there that whole time looking at the lake. It didn’t look gentle. There were white caps on some of the waves. Beyond the little protected area of the beach, we discovered that the water was full of rolling waves. The kind of swells that I associate with oceans, not lakes. It was startling to have them sweeping across us, pushing us sideways while lifting us up and plunging us down. There was no way to train for those conditions, not that I expected to need to.
That swim changed the day for me. I knew as I looked at the lake that I wasn’t going to be having the best swim of my year. This was no longer an event that was mostly about my body and peak speed.
They say that athletics is 90% mental on race day. Each time I race, I discover a new nuance to this idea. Do I trust my training down to the deepest parts of me and feel like I can lay it all out there? How mentally prepared am I for the discomfort of pushing myself at race pace for that long? How much stronger than the pain am I feeling?
I brought a lot with me to the start line as I looked across the water, some of it from training but most of it from life. I brought a determination to always be stronger than my circumstances. I brought a knowledge that I can go those distances. I brought a mental script that calls unexpected events challenges and adventures rather than dramas and roadblocks. I brought a curiosity to see just how strange life can be. I brought a willingness to fail. I brought a well-developed ability to laugh at myself.
How like life is racing! There’s no difference between a race and a day, except perhaps that there are more people traveling the same path around you.
It’s inspired me to think: What am I bringing to the start line? And it’s inspired me to marvel at the complex layers and intertwinings of experience and story that each of us humans are inside. There’s so much you in you and so much me in me.