Doubt, Expectations and Triathlon

Tomorrow I’m racing Pacific Grove. I haven’t done this race since 2010. But, I love it. Love/hate it. Describing the race to people — you swim in giant kelp that wraps itself around your neck, the water is the coldest I’ve ever been in, it was so cold I broke my toe and didn’t notice, the whole race is tons and tons of loops, everyone’s on the bike course in those loops at the same time, it’s a mess, and probably raining — it sounds terrible. But, it’s also a lot of fun.

I set an age group course record there in 2008 (for which there is no report on the internets, because pre-2010 I had a .mac blog and it has since been disappeared, except really it’s still stored on the hard drive of my super old Mac laptop, but not really the same thing). I raced 6′ slower in 2009 for no real reason and cried and cried. And then another 3′ slower than that in 2010 when I did the draft-legal pro race. I don’t think I cried that time. Too tired.

So, what are my expectations for tomorrow?

Somewhere in between my 2008 and my 2010 time. More or less. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s really hard to tell when you’re going to go fast, medium fast or slow. They all feel very similar. See:

Actually the year I went the slowest, but don't I look fast-ish.
Actually the year I went the slowest, but don’t I look fast-ish.
This was the year I went a medium speed.
This was the year I went a medium speed.
And, this was the year I went the fastest.
And, this was the year I went the fastest. Would you have guessed that from the pictures? Probably not. Maybe. Who knows.

It turns out in the year-and-half since I’ve done a triathlon (ok, yes, Tri for Fun like three weeks ago in prep, but it is Tri for FUN), two years since I trained for triathlon and three years since I’ve done this race, I may have forgotten how to do triathlon. Because of a whole mess where Steve is taking the car Saturday, I’m staying at Ilyce’s tonight, we’re driving down Saturday morning, and I’m working at KQED this afternoon, I had to get all my stuff ready last night. It pretty much went like this:

What wheels should I use? I guess I have to change my brake pads for those wheels. Where are the brake pads? But, I don’t have a Power Tap hooked up to my TT bike (I took it off when I thought I was going to sell the bike), so riding a Power Tap wheels is sort of stupid, right? How do I own so many pair of shoes and no triathlon race shoes? Oh, right, because I threw out my K-Swiss ones last year when I decided they were trashed. I guess I could run in my Nike Lunaracers, but I need to change the laces to E-Z-laces so I can slip them on and I don’t have any E-Z-laces. Maybe I can go to the store tomorrow. I guess I need to go to the store to buy some goggles too. My goggles broke. What should I wear to race in anyway? My old race kit is pretty much see-through and dead. Do I need extra swim caps? I forgot a towel. How am I going to fit my clothes for tonight and tomorrow morning in the same small bag? Am I forgetting something?

Clearly, the doubts are growing.

Most of the time, I have a pretty good idea how a race is going to go — unless it’s a distance or an event I’ve never done or I’m winging it (and, also, sometimes crazy shit just happens). But, usually I know where I’m at and I know where the competition is at. I look at courses, past results. I pour over past results, because I want a good understanding of what to expect. Fast? Slow? Long bike? Etc. I know lots of people don’t do this. I know lots of people think it’s bad to put those kinds of expectations on yourself. Lots of people talk about how they just go by feel and only worry about themselves and don’t focus on other’s results. But, I just don’t understand that. How can you ignore the hundreds or thousands of other people? How can you not think about the race before the race? I couldn’t do it. Sure, sometimes, it doesn’t work so well for me. It didn’t work well in the pro fields, my expectations were always too low or off. And, you have to be prepared to adjust mid-race, have different goals, process goals and all that crap. But, sometimes, knowing exactly what I’m going to do works great for me: I WILL run xx time; I WILL beat xx number of people; I WILL put out xx power. I don’t really know how else to do it.

So, I looked at everything last night. And, I still don’t know. I don’t know what to expect tomorrow. I think I know. I’m pretty sure I could guess within 5′ what my time will be. But, I’m still not sure. I’m not sure I remember how to do this. And, the difference in those 5′ is a big difference, all the difference. I’m hoping the body remembers, that two months of triathlon training will have reminded it. I’m hoping the doubts and the expectations will even out . I know what I plan to swim and bike and run. Now, I just hope I can do it.

My goal is to win. It probably won’t happen. But, it could. That’s why we race.

The clock is not actually really my time, just fyi. But, yay! Break the tape!
The clock is not actually really my time, just fyi. But, yay! Break the tape!

2 thoughts on “Doubt, Expectations and Triathlon

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