This weekend I participated in the Mooloolaba Triathlon. As many of my long term readers and friends would know, this was the event where I was going to run 10km and finally close the door on my hamstring repair surgery rehabilitation. I was going to run triumphantly through the finish chute and there would be a plethora of celebrations afterwards, centred around how far I’d come and how much work I had done to complete my mission. I would be the rock star in my own concert! Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
From the start, it felt like nothing was going right from the start of the weekend. On the Friday I couldn’t find my journalism tutorial and got severely rained upon in the process. Then I must have struck every red light heading out of the city and up to the Sunshine Coast. My salmon stuck to the pan and burned as I cooked dinner that evening. The drink I ordered at the cafe was the wrong one – and I was made to feel like an inconvenience as I gently pointed it out. Mr Lucy took his boat up but had to be rescued due to a strong southerly wind. I went into transition and discovered a massive chunk of glass that had ripped my race tyre – and I had to scramble to purchase and replace another before the area closed. It rained all night. The rest of the family developed head colds. All of these little annoyances were first world issues, however by the time it came to head out to the start line on Sunday morning, I was wondering what else could possibly go wrong.
I assured myself that I wasn’t really superstitious and that if I could just make it through the run, hamstring intact, I would, indeed, be quite the happy camper. As I approached the marshalling area for the swim leg, I saw Mr Lucy waiting for me. Suddenly I started feeling really nervous and could feel myself making small talk – “I needed to loosen up my thoracic spine, I needed to pee, how would my hamstring cope with running through the sand and into the ocean, would I get dumped on my way out? ” I chatted to a lovely lady who I have “met” on the “Brisbane Chicks Who Tri” Facebook group and wished her well. Then the horn went off and away we went, me doing my best dolphin diving, trying to find some deeper water. To my amazement, the lady who was next to me disappeared off the radar and I sighted a smattering of a few yellow caps belonging to my competitors. There was quite a current pulling us out with the tide and once I rounded the first bouy, I started to find my stroke. I had a tussle with a lady wearing a blue suit – who wanted no part of me drafting her and kicked at me ferociously to shake me loose. That made me all the more determined to take advantage of the draft and before I knew it it was time to catch a wave into shore. I didn’t worry about whether the waves were dumping and used bodysurfing experience acquired early in life to my advantage. Mission accomplished!
Struggling against the sand, I managed to hobble-run into transition and found my trusty steed. The first five hundred metres or so were all uphill and rather than worry about grinding it out in my large chain ring, I slipped down to an easier gear and happily traversed the climb at a cadence that would be foreign to most triathletes. That achieved, it was time to get into time trial mode and concentrate on a good consistent effort. I was rather pleased to take advantage of the brisk tailwind that was popping up along the course, passing Ms Blue Suit and a few others in my age division that had come in a little earlier on the swim. The turnaround point arrived quickly and as a wall of wind buffeted my body, I knew the hard work was about to start. The wind had picked up and was headed in my direction. I adjusted my position on the bike a little, tucked my head in and tried to speak soothingly to myself as the pain of battling the wind started to kick in. My quad and adductor muscles were beginning to cramp and the thought of allowing Ms Blue Suit and my fellow competitors to pass me was a non negotiable in my mind.
“I know that my game will be over in the run, so am going to enjoy consolidating my position here,” I thought. “Pedal smooth, smooth smooth! Everyone else is in as much pain as you are – outlast them!”
The cramping in my adductors continued. I was now starting to look for landmarks suggesting that I was close to home. Finally the climb to the exit off the motorway appeared. I started to work the climb, knowing that I had some undulating hills approaching. I worked the descents and hit the climbs hard. I saw Mr Lucy cheering for me on the way in. Finally, transition. Unfortunately I forgot that I was in a triathlon, rather than unclipping as usual from my bike , I managed to unclip and take my foot out of my shoe at the same time – and somehow I had both feet out of my shoes suddenly! It all added up to a bit of a kerfuffle and about a minute lost off my time.
I racked my bike, gulped some Gatorade and laced up my shoes. I ran out of transition. Someone kindly pointed out I had forgotten my race bib. My leg was beginning to ache. It was all I could do not to suppress tears having to run back into transition – I had only planned on running 10km, not 10km and then some! Again I passed Mr Lucy as he yelled encouragement.
“I’m in so much pain,” I mouthed to him. Red hot tears were pricking my eyelids behind my sunglasses and as I approached the Alexandra Headlands climb, I could hear all of the triathlon clubs cheering for us athletes. I took a few more steps and with each step, the intensity of the gnawing pain in my quad started to build.
“What am I doing this to myself for?” I wondered. My leg was now giving me clear signals that it wasn’t enjoying what was happening to it one little bit. “What about my future goals, plans and aspirations?” I wondered.
I stopped. A kindly volunteer glanced at me and said, “keep going luv”. I turned to him and said, “my race is over today”. I hung my head. I had to turn back and walk to the finish line.
“Would I have to walk through the finish shute as a non finisher?” I debated internally.
Luckily the decision was short circuited by the good fortune of finding the first aid tent – I was able to phone Mr Lucy and relay what had transpired. We limped together to the Medical tent near the finish line and I was able to see a physio, get some initial treatment and have some ice expertly applied to the painful area with plastic wrap.
I sat with Mr Lucy at the Coffee Club afterwards, morosely staring at the bottom of his coffee cup where I began the mental gymnastics about what this DNF all meant. Flashes of “I’m not good enough! You’re such a wuss!” whirled around my head in an unrelenting rhythm. “You gave in!!” shrieked my ego. I put my head in my hands. I just wanted to clear these thoughts from my mind and I started to concentrate on finding the positives in the situation. In the middle of it all, Mr Lucy offered to buy me an ice-cream and as I hobbled towards the gelateria, it occurred to me that as I was still hobbling, that just perhaps, I had done the right thing by pulling the plug. I had overcome the immaturity of my ego. It was a relief to be finally allowing myself to think about something rational in this whole triathlon mess and as we collected my gear from transition and headed back to our accommodation I mentioned that I wanted to write about it to get it out of my system.
The writing angles were coming thick and fast. The continual theme that kept popping up was that despite your best efforts you don’t always reach your goals. I was trying to think of some way that I could rationalise the whole experience, show my readership what a mature and balanced person I was by “not letting it get to me” and move on.
“Is that how you really feel?” stated Mr Lucy in surprise when I shared my perspective with him. “You’re not telling your story”.
Thinking that he should be the one enrolled in journo studies, I had to agree with him. What was the real truth here?
I drew a breath.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the fairytale I wanted,” I exclaimed, with a wave of relief washing over me that I was finally being truthful.
The lessons I learned from this:
– I need to work on my leg and hamstring strength more as I obviously don’t have the endurance to “hold everything together” functionally. (am planning on doing dedicated strength and conditioning in the gym twice a week, look out gym, I am back)
– I need to rework my other athletic goals in the spirit of taking the pressure off myself to excel and to keep enjoying the journey.
– it’s OK to be truthful and it is OK that things don’t always work out as planned – missing a goal isn’t always due to a flawed character, but sometimes due to circumstances outside our control.
– I did a good swim leg and a good bike leg with solid times.
– I’ve really enjoyed the training and could not have given or done anymore in my preparation for the event.
– I’ve made some good friends in this triathlon caper
– I have been able to express my true feelings over my DNF
– I will continue to work on my strength and I will get better.
Finally a big thank you to Coach Liz for the training, steadfast encouragement and for helping me to set appropriate goals – pushing me when I need it, yet knowing when I’m doing too much and telling me nicely! Thanks to my physios, Paul, Lou, Ally and Tony for all the help with the hamstring rehab. Thanks to all my friends and Koiled teammates for all the encouragement given on the journey to recovery and finally thank you to Mr Lucy who was a wonderful advocate and supporter on the day.
The next triathlon goal is the Noosa triathlon in November this year – which gives me six months to keep working at things and most importantly, have another “tri”.
How do you bounce back from a disappointing performance?