The first race of the season was a blast! What a boost of confidence and dose of fun in the middle of March. The Azalea Sprint triathlon is a short and sweet swimbikerun that our tri club focuses on each year. It's a 300-yard pool swim, a 9-mile bike and a 5K run. This year was extra special because Ace did it, too! It was his first triathlon and probably our fifth race together.
This was my seventh Azalea - including doing it twice in 2012! In the past few years, my goal has been to get in under one hour. The changes I made for this year: I found somebody to chase and I decided to play to win (instead of playing not to lose). That meant laying it on the line and pushing myself when I didn't think I could. And it worked!
THE CHASE: I had my eye on one other woman in my age-group. I knew that she was 25 athletes ahead of me (for the time-trial style swim start) and I memorized the colors on her tri kit. I knew that if I could match her time in the swim, catch her on the bike split and match her on the run, I'd have a chance to PR. I used her as a carrot even though I had NO IDEA who she was. But, I knew that seeing her would spur me to keep up my pace.
PLAYING TO WIN: I am usually very careful. I admit I hold back. I try not to make mistakes. Champions play to win. Champions don't hold back. Champions make something positive out of everything -- every step, every mile, every race - even every mistake. I've been reading THE CHAMPION'S MIND and chapter three is titled: BE IN IT TO WIN IT. I think I underlined or highlighted every line. The bottom line is that playing not-to-lose is rooted in fear.
Both tactics worked. My goal in the pool was to go for it. Earlier in the week, Honey Spice had said I swam like a ninja fish. That she could see me one minute and then the next minute I was gone. That's how I attacked the swim. I wanted to make sure that the swimmer behind me saw me for a few lengths and then I disappeared. My time: 4:56. Which included a 20 second run down the stairs and out the pool door. A personal best.
My goal for the bike was to go hard. I wanted to hold my threshold pace and power the whole time. I didn't care about cadence or gears - I just rode hard. My goal was to ride close to 20mph. This is a HUGE stretch for me. As I said, I usually hold back in the bike. I save up for the run. This time I let it go. I finished the bike without looking at my split. I dismounted and hit stop on THE EDGE (my garmin computer is named after my favorite U2 guitarist) without a thought. I cruised through T2 and was out on the run.
My goal for the run was to look at my watch. I know it sounds crazy, but for many of my races, I don't watch the watch (whom I haven't named!). I am afraid to look. If I'm going too slow, I'm afraid of being discouraged. If I'm going too fast, I might slow myself down. So for years I've avoided looking at my pace on the watch. I'm pretty sure champions know their pace. My goal was to look every four minutes and then 30 seconds later. I even set an alert. And when I looked, my pace needed to be an 8:00/mile pace or faster. No. Matter. What.
Plus, I was looking for my carrot. I spotted her near the turnaround of the out-and-back course. She was almost a half mile ahead of me. That meant she was four minutes ahead of me. If I held my pace I might not catch her, but I'd be close. I saw Ace on his way out to the turnaround and got a boost from realizing how well he was doing. The closer I got to the finish, the more excited I got. I crossed the line and immediately backtracked toward the run course. I figured Ace was on my heels and wanted to cheer him to the finish. Sure enough, he rounded the corner and I tried to yell and cheer for him like he always does for me.
The whole time I was cheering and chatting with other teammates, I was NOT looking at my watch for my total time. I knew it was there and I was kind of holding out for the surprise. Ace had had a good swim, a great bike and a 23-minute run. Finally, Ace asked: how'd you do? I finally looked: 58 MINUTES AND 29 SECONDS!!! Officially, I was in at 58:26. I nailed my objective: to go hard for all three sports and subsequently hit my goal to get in under an hour.
What's more? I caught the carrot. Essentially, I was 16 seconds down coming out of T1 (my swim was faster but my transition was slow). I gained ground on the bike as planned, was faster in T2 and held her on the run. She beat me on the run by only two seconds. Overall, I won by over 1m:20s. The result: first place in my age-group!!
I won a great ceramic coffee mug and I've been using it every other day. It's a great reminder of my mental fitness for a race I've been chasing for a long time.