Every Monday morning, I have a phone call with my coach. We review the past week, he asks how I’m feeling and we plan the next week’s worth of training. Sometimes we’ll discuss big things — like an injury, illness, recovery or body composition issues — other times we’re off the phone in five minutes and off I go on another week of adventure.
This past week, I reminded him that I had registered for the intermediate distance at the Cazenovia Triathlon. “Right-oh,” he said. “How important is this tri for you?”
Translation: Did I want to perform well at the tri? Or did I just want to use it as a training day.
I’ve never done this tri before. As far as I know, none of my Buffalo peeps are doing this tri. It just seemed like a good slot in the calendar to get more race experience — particularly that pesky open water swim. Hence, I’ve had a fairly heavy training week and will be doing a four-hour bike ride the day before the race. Which actually plays perfectly: If I have a solid time I can bask in the glory of doing it alongside a tough week. If my time is forgettable, well, I had a tough week. It’s a win-win no matter what I do. (Actually it’s always a win-win no matter what I do. The part of my brain which likes to judge my performance, however, sometimes clouds that reality.)
Ah, regardless, race days are a strange mix of anxiety, fear, anticipation and fun.
What things do you love about race day?
1. Catered Training
OK, so I stole the line from one of the pros at Ironman Lake Placid, but it still applies. While I carry stuff on my person during the run and in my bento box on the bike, there is comfort and convenience in having aid stations on the course. Sometimes, it’s just about getting more water or sports drink. Other times, it’s about that extra gel or banana. But for one day, I don’t have to worry about planting water bottles or deciding what kind of hydration system to use. Ask and it shall be provided for you. Sometimes even with charts and graphs (see left). Some athletes “live off the land” in a race. I can’t do that. I need to eat what I know works or else risk possible gastrointestinal issues and no one enjoys having, or hearing about, those. That being said, I have tried new things on race day — such as flat cola at Musselman. I found it delicious. Who knew?
2. Training buddies
Because of my schedule, lately I’ve been doing the bulk of my training alone. And while I love my alone time and find there are few things a good run can’t cure when you’ve gone a bit nutty, sometimes all that alone time actually causes me to, well, go a bit nutty. On race day, I line up with a few hundred people to enjoy this thing we love to do. Some of them will annoy me. Some of them will annoy me even more. But most of them will be people with whom I share funny stories or swap encouraging words. And if it’s a really good day, I’ll come away with a new friend or two.
3. The set-up
When I first started triathlons, pre-race jitters dominated my race morning. Oh, they are still there. I still get nervous. I will be nervous on Sunday, especially since most of my swimming has been pool-bound as of late. But the nerves mean excitement to me now and my routine has given me comfort. I eat my pasta the night before. I wake up early for coffee and oatmeal and toast. I put on my trisuit. I dab Pixie Dust on my face. I set up my transition area. And then I go to the water. Oh, and I LOVE bodymarking. I have no idea why. But I do.
4. Post-race food
No matter how short the distance, a race day is a day to indulge. Longer races, tougher races provide for more indulgences (see the eating of Mighty Taco and ice cream, though not together, after my last 70.3 race) while shorter races offer an opportunity for something fun but not quite as caloric-intensive. I do, however, see something either chocolate-based or creamy or both in my future on Sunday. (Note: Many enjoy a good post race beer. I am not opposed to this practice at all. But this is a treat I’m saving for after Esprit Montreal.)
5. The finish line
No matter what the distance, what your goal or what your purpose is for a particular race, there is always something magical about the finish line. There are people cheering. There are cowbells. There is music. There is an inflatable arch you run under labeled, “Finish” serving as both a declaration of achievement and a sign from the heavens that you can finally stop moving. As a lucky girl, I usually have my parents at the finish line along some friends and Best Boyfriend Mark in tow. But even if you don’t know a soul, there will be cheers for you. Often, your name gets announced. How can you beat the feeling of that? And aside from the tangible positive feedback from both loved ones and strangers, there is that feeling of accomplishment no one can ever take from you. It’s significant and it’s something never to be taken for granted.