The last two years I've done this race it was the sprint triathlon, and it offered the venue for my first ever triathlon. Since then I've explored the realms of swimming, cycling and running in various ways to try to find out how to be faster, stronger and all the other Six Million Dollar Man adjectives. I've progressed through the lanes at the masters swim club, the corrals at the running races, and the bikes have changed from a mountain bike through to a true triathlon bike (and I have the congested garage to show it).
This year I completed my first half-iron triathlon. The biggest lesson I learned was that this sport is only partially about strength and speed - there's a significant part that's all about mental toughness and the desire to continue. Then I learned that you have to couple that with proper nutrition, hydration and recovery. But you always get conflicting signals from mind and body...and guilt challenges almost every decision not to train. You need to listen very closely to what you're being told.
And then you realize that the biggest thing you really learned was something called trust. You don't know when it happened - all you know is that it did happen. You learn this because you have to. You have to trust yourself. You have to trust your training and your training plan. You have to trust that the taper really is helping you. You have to trust your family when they tell you again and again that it's okay to head out for another long training session. You have to trust yourself that you really can get up at 4.45am to get your swim in and still survive the day (just don't ask how today's swim went, 'cuz it didn't). And when you toe the line, you have to trust the other competitors and the race officials for safety and support.
For as much as I'm looking forward to having a more relaxed training schedule, I'm going to miss this accelerated learning. I'm feeling very tired mentally and physically (just like I did the week before my first half iron), and I'm looking forward to getting some rest with my family. I'm still unsure about a fall marathon, but the training will continue to maintain the base I've developed this year. I'll take the time to sit back and examine what I've experienced this year and learn from the good and the bad. Because before you know it, winter will be done and the next season will be in bloom.
That's when the next chapter begins. Hmph. Perhaps a new blog is in order...or at least a new design. :)
Stay tuned - more training and racing (and learning) is yet to come!