Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Bit of Self Discovery

There have been two fairly major events for me in the triathlon scene in the last month.  First, was the Coeur d'Alene Ironman, where I was able to watch my cousin finish the most inspiring athletic event I've ever witnessed.  The second, was the Chelanman where I did my first Olympic triathlon. 

Experiencing the Ironman was one of the coolest things I've done in my life.  From the thrill of the group start where 2800 competitors hit the water at the same time, to the determination on the faces of the last swimmer out of the water before the course closed.  And of course the joy and accomplishment on the faces of the racers at the finish when they heard their names called followed by "you are an Ironman".  To be there was both inspiring and humbling. 

My own event - the Chelanman was a different sort of learning experience.  The day before the race I injured my back.  (I later learned via MRI that it was an L5-S1 herniation with nerve impingement)  I spent about 24 hours debating whether I'd be able to participate at all let alone finish.  The lowest moment was when I took my bike of the car to go set up my transition.  I hopped on to see how it felt to ride.  The pain was bad enough I almost put the bike back on the rack to go home without even picking up my race packet.  I decided I would start and abandon the race when the pain was too bad when ever that happened to be. 

On race day I was feeling okay thanks to some pharmaceutical intervention.  The swim went great.  The bike started out rough, but got more comfortable.  I never was fast and didn't have much power in my legs, but overall it was fine.  It was the run portion that was the most difficult.  I started out very slow and had to walk the first hill on the course.  After that I was able to maintain a slow pace that felt pretty normal.  It seems my stride didn't look very normal, however.  Somewhere around mile 4 of the out and back course I met a guy running with a prosthetic leg.  He looked at me trying to run and asked if I needed his leg. (In my opinion the best line of the day) 

In the end I finished, which was more than I expected.  And I think I learned something about myself.  I've always pictured myself as kind of soft mentally.  I've thought that I never had the reserve to push myself hard, to work through discomfort.  I was truly surprised that I wanted this bad enough to keep going.  It kind of felt good to know I've got a little toughness in me somewhere. 

Now if I can just rehab my back in time to get in one more race this year.