A Triathlon Race Day Letter
I have a countdown app on my phone; and every time I open it up it tells me, down to the second, how long I have until the clock strikes exactly 7:30 AM on Saturday, July 30th. I have several triathlons under my belt, yet each time I open that app and the race information is displayed, I somehow still get butterflies. And I guarantee you, that the night before the race this year when I open it up; I’ll still get little butterflies. I try and avoid the app the night before any race; which doesn’t seem to help because then I’ll catch myself glancing at the clock and then calculating just how much time I have to get all the things done I need to before I have to leave the house at zero:dark:thirty to head to the race site in the morning. You would think I had learned my lesson and would avoid the dang app or clock…nope, hasn’t happened yet. Maybe next year…
I remember very vividly my first outdoor triathlon; it was in 2011 at the WIN for KC triathlon. I had completed a few indoor triathlons and was ready to tackle an actual race. (I’m not discounting an indoor triathlon, but until you’ve done an outdoor race, you won’t understand they are entirely two different kinds of beasts.) For the WIN event, I trained with some truly incredible women. We each had different reasons for why we were completing the race. Some were doing it as bucket-list items; another was completing the race as a 40th birthday present to herself. Regardless of our reasons, at no time did we ever look at it as competing with each other.
During our training we had been diligent on our workouts, we would meet up each week to do brick workouts and have group swims. We had a training plan and all of us had done a pretty good job at fitting in most of the workouts; but none of us were able to fit in all of the workouts listed on the training schedule. The week before the race I was so unbelievably nervous; I wondered if not getting in all my lake swims would make a difference. Or if by not logging all the miles for running that I was supposed to, if that would somehow make my body not able to finish the race. It sounds silly to me now, but this is where my head was. So the night before the race, I remember praying for God to honor my commitment to the training I had done, and I asked Him to fill in the gaps. Before bed, I loaded up my Tahoe with my bike on the back, along with all of my gear that I would need for race day inside my car. In true Jackie fashion, I went to double and triple check what I packed before I finally went to bed. Of course before falling asleep, I remember calculating just how much sleep I would get before I had to wake up and get ready…if I went to sleep right then. I can’t be the only one that does this kind of math equation before falling asleep, am I?
The morning of the race I woke up and glanced out the front window to see if my bike was still on the rack. A part of me kind of wished it had been stolen, which would give me an out on not having to actually do the race. I later found out my friend Jennifer had wished the same thing! (I strongly discourage leaving your bike on your car overnight. Looking back, this was a big risk to take and I have not done it again.) Once we arrived to the race site the morning seemed to fly by. Before I knew it, it was almost race time…and then it started to rain. Goody! Surely we won’t race in the rain, right? I had found my out! Better luck next year, right? Wrong. After a short delay for lightening the race began and we were off! (My one piece of advice, bring a Ziploc baggie or two to protect your phone from any water.)
As I sat eating my pancakes while reflecting on the race, I couldn’t help but smile thinking that every single step of my journey at my first real triathlon I heard encouragement. Every. Single. Step. From that first step into the water to begin my swim with volunteers yelling “You’ll do awesome!” To the volunteers along the bike course cheering us on and telling us “You can do this!” And then, those amazing volunteers at the water station on the run course; I will never forget them yelling, “You look strong, keep it up!” Strong. There was that word. There is no way they could have known, but strong was exactly why I was doing the race; I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong enough to finish an actual triathlon.
As we walked to the car, I remember my children giving me the biggest hugs as they each told me how proud they were of me. My medal around my neck confirmed what I already knew, I was strong; and finishing this triathlon was simply further proof.
As you prepare for the race on Saturday, I want to offer you some advice: Be prepared for the most positive race environment! There will be people smiling everywhere. Get used to it. And be ready to smile back! Don’t be afraid to initiate a friendly smile to a random stranger before the race starts, you’ll never know just how much impact a simple smile can have on a fellow athlete on race day. Offer encouragement on the course, do something as simple as a high-five on the run course as you’re running back in.
Last and most importantly, whether this is your first or fifteenth triathlon, remember to trust your training and to enjoy the journey of the race.
“So often we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to enjoy the journey.” – Dieter Uchtdorf
By Jackie Frost