14 May 2013

The Never-Ending Learning Process

Triathlon is like the sport equivalent of that terribly repetitive song from the kids show with the lamb - this is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend... I won't subject you to the entire refrain. And I don't mean this in a bad way, but triathlon is a constant learning process. It never ends. You would think that it doesn't take much to master swimbikerun and there should be an end to the learning process, a time in which you have mastered it all: staying upright, moving quickly, switching your bottles without wiping out, unclipping without falling over. Isn't there a point in which you've arrived?

No. There isn't.

This became obvious to me during my recent race at the Kinetic Half this past weekend. I achieved my best time to date, coming so close to the 5:00 barrier that breaking it someday actually seems like a feasible possibility.

But that will only happen if I continue to learn - how to push my limits on the bike, how to pace myself on the run to straddle that fine line of PR and BlowUpCity. As I wrote to Jen in a debriefing email post-race, during the run I noted that the faces of the 4 girls in front of me showed utter concentration and determination, expressions that I know for a fact I wasn't wearing. I was smiling and waving at friends on the race course, keeping my spirits high, but I didn't have a singular, laser-like focus like the other girls did, to CATCH THE PERSON IN FRONT OF ME. In fact, during much of the run, I was running through excuses in my head on why it was OK to just stay in 6th place and not worry about catching anyone in front of me. I know that I am generally competitive with others, but often when I feel like I am too far behind, or it would be too painful to try, I allow myself to simply be complacent with where I am - and this is not a recipe for growth, learning, or success. There are those who compete, and those who compete with the intent of running themselves into the ground in order to achieve their goals. A couple years back, in 2011, before one of my early season races when I was at the bottom of the learning curve when it came to competing and learning how to race, Jen wrote me an email full of quotes that scared the pants off of me - in a good way. The gist of it basically boiled down to "Destroy Yourself To Achieve Your Goal" and "Suffer." I had *no idea* how to do this; up until that point, I always wanted to finish a race with a smile on my face, wanting to do another. That was how I defined success. When things hurt, I slowed down. Over the years, my definition of the type of success I want to achieve has evolved. I'm learning to embrace the hurt, the suck, the burning quads. While I've improved, this past weekend showed me just how much more I have to learn, how much more I can grow, how much more potential there is to fulfill. And it is only May - and I am *SO EXCITED* about race season!


Katie said...

My coach has had me working on getting out of my comfort zone. Like you, I was cheering other people on during the half marathon portion of the race instead of focusing, so I guess it's a work in process. We'll get there :)

Caroline said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one! My friends have told me that they can tell when things get serious and focused for me because my smiles are replaced by grunts of acknowledgement. This doesn't happen as often as it probably should though.