Driving home on Sunday after the Rex Wellness Sprint Tri in Garner, I found myself locked in a bizarre sort of mental argument:
“Should I just give up on doing triathlons?”
“Should I do MORE triathlons?”
The first question made tears prick behind my eyes, but replaying scenes of police officers and volunteers holding open intersections JUST FOR ME (and Julie) made me feel like it was time to ask: Is there a point at which I am just too handicapped to race? I hate accommodations having to be made for me…even though they are, every day, in almost everything.
I usually start the swim first, before the official race starts, which makes my slower trike and handcycle times inconsequential — I just finish somewhere in the pack. But due to a small mixup in communication, Julie and I swam after everyone else was out on the race course (or had finished entirely).
I often fantasize about becoming fast and confident enough to swim with the rest of the competition. Everyone lines up to swim the 10 lengths (250 yards) of the pool in a zigzag pattern, ducking under lane ropes until they come out the other side. But watching the scrum of splashing water, people running into each other and getting stuck behind slower swimmers, I realized that goal is a long way off, if ever achievable.
My swim was better than my last triathlon (read: swim freakout factor was lower), but I still haven’t been able to put all my swim training into the pool on race day. Incredibly frustrating because I’ve worked SO hard on my stroke. Heck, I can even kick now, which I definitely couldn’t do last year.
So despite the most gorgeous July weather imaginable (high 70s with no humidity!), I was annoyed with myself as Julie and I set out on the bike course. Since it was an out-and-back course, we waved at a few riders on their way back in, but the only people we saw in the last 5 miles were the police officers and volunteers who were there just for us.
The handcycle was as excruciating as always. I double-dog-dare anyone to try it — it is so much harder than running. My back ached, and looking at the video, it’s no wonder.
Regardless of how I felt about the race, the finish line was fun. My favorite announcer, Jen, welcomed us in. I found out that Heather came in 1st place Masters Athena. Dawn from FS Series awarded me an adorable, squishy T-rex as the “winner” of the PC (Physically Challenged) Open category where I was the only entrant. I grinned when Karen, a mom who lost her son to ALS, said she blamed me for getting her into triathlon. The FS Series team was gracious and kind and wonderful as always. My favorite people in the world, Julie, DP, my parents, and I went out to brunch afterwards — that, plus shower, plus nap, created its own blissful triathlon of recovery on Sunday afternoon.
But it wasn’t until I got back in the pool on Monday morning that I was able to settle the argument in my head. Under a perfect blue sky, I powered through a 250yd set — a revenge swim, if you will. As my muscles connected to form the familiar rhythm of my stroke, my mind forced my breathing to stay calm while pushing my body forward. I glimpsed the next level of growth that I can get to, if I’m willing to keep fighting and endure the humbling vulnerability that comes with racing for me sometimes.
I think it comes down to the narrative we decide to tell ourselves. I could just as easily tell myself that it’s time to quit as use the experience to propel myself forward. Which reminds me of something a wise lady said once 😉
PS: Only when writing this post did I realized that I actually PRed this distance. Our time of 1:53:32 beat last year’s PR at Ramblin’ Rose Chapel Hill of 2:00:19 — despite the fact that the bike course was a mile longer. So I guess it doesn’t make sense to give up now, huh??