Challenging Conditions Channel Courage

(I wrote this a few years ago and never posted it. Here it is)

Courae is not the absense of fear.

Triathletes are considered lunatics, not because it is outrageous to swim, bike then run, instead that these disciplines go on for endless miles, in uncontrollable conditions, and with fire-in-the-eyes determination.   The ‘Tri Bug” is basically a burst of courage to overcome a physical and mental obstacle that simultaneously humbles and builds you up.

IMLT swim start rain run

My boss came into work the day after IRONMAN Lake Tahoe’s inaugural race with a 140.6 PR, and bragging rights to the advantage of growing up in the icy mountains of Colorado.  She was prepared for the freezing air temperatures with the emergency gear, with the game plan to stay calm and the reward was to head out to KONA World Championships in Hawaii few weeks after for a work expo.  Mantra was “The sooner you finish, sooner you can thaw out in Hawaii.”   Uncomfortable and unexpected conditions are intimidating, but not impossible to overcome.

Seeing her overcome that sudden weather change challenge with courage made me relieved I didn’t have any unexpected conditions racing in San Diego.  Then… Doh!

Very few scenarios would cancel a triathlon event, regardless the distance.  Part of the racing experience is to be the best in THAT day, the same day everyone else is living through.

SuperFrog Femme Schlemps RelaySuperfrog Half Ironman (Female Relay) was supposed to be a celebration of my training girlfriends to practice our strengths: Ann Marie (ocean wave swim), Fernanda (windy bike), Bessy (all terrain run). The night before the race, our swimmer got into a serious bike crash while training that ended her season early.  Shocked and desperately seeking another swimmer, we found one who had been an ocean lifeguard – win, win!  Besides the anxious distraction of wanting to go see your friend in the hospital all day, the team needed me to be focused.

  • The big change in condition was to have an undetermined “start time” since it’s tricky to plan hydration and nutrition when you don’t know when your relay partner will arrive!
  • The next condition change was the intense Coronado heat and sun come out just in time to start my half marathon portion of beach/gravel/trail/soft sand/concrete.  This is a race of the true amphibian, the Super Frog. Huge respect to those who did the whole thing!

A few months later Roger and I raced Lifetime Tri Oceanside International distance. This race was the finale for Triple Crown Series, the Lifetime Tri Points Race, and the Pros Race – besides the inaugural event for the Age-Groupers (AG) too!

It’s a 2 Transition setup that can be done the morning of, by biking to T2 to leave your run gear, then biking to T1 to start the race.  The swim is held in the marina so there is no surf to worry about. The sunrise and conditions looked perfect for the Pros and Elite waves that started first.  Once the male swim waves started, a bit of fog started to come in.  My wave of W25-29 got into the water to tread 2 minutes waiting for the lifeguard horn, and suddenly the fog swept in completely. The fog was so thick over the entire waters that the lifeguards had to be trailing the swimmers to find their way.  So there we were, already 15 minutes treading water waiting for my wave’s International swim (1500m) to begin, the race director announces that the fog is not going away so all the women have to join in together so the lifeguards can provide enough support.

  • The fog was so thick I could not see someone beside me! I felt visually impaired with no guide.
  • There were people swimming towards you, which was way off the wide loop course.

After getting out of the water, my body was so cold and numb I couldn’t grab my water bottle from my bike cage during the bike. I couldn’t grip with my fingers.  Halfway through the run I start to feel my feet again.  The finish line was California sunny which made it all seem like a dream.

I’m thankful that I was put in those situations because I was started to get confident in myself, then realized with the weather changes that each start line is a completely different day.  I learned a bunch of things I needed to change, and looked forward to non-sunny weather to test out my new skills.  Preparing myself during training for cold, hot, unexpected mishaps help the athlete stay calm and adjust strategy and overcome.

CAF grant recipient JJ Miller running

Weather is an equalizer.  There are so many differences in the world, with age, with physical limitations and disorders,  responsibilities and even how our bodies respond to temperatures. Weather brings all people into the same level, everyone has to deal with it.  I meditate to appreciate some people that face physical and mental challenges live with discomfort, doubt and pain on a daily basis just to get out of bed, so if I can find a way to survive an uncomfortable experience in poor weather I show respect for them & their willpower.  Unlike athletic ability and training, weather can be prepared for in practical ways because it channels your courage, your fears and guts.   Take advantage of days of weather changes to learn how to dress, how and where to ride, and more importantly to be ready for whatever weather sneaks in on race day.

Congratulations on participants and finishers at 2018 Boston Marathon.

 

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