As silly as this may sound, for me, triathlon is not a race. Although we all compete in races very frequently, the actual lifestyle of triathlon is not a racing lifestyle. Instead, there are milestones. Triathlon is a slow and steady process, even for the super speedy athletes. When I started my endurance regime, I had no idea what I was in for. I thought within a few weeks I would be up to par with all of the other athletes. Instead, I barely made it through a 1,500-meter swim, coasted 12 miles on a single-speed rental bike from my university, and jogged/crawled/limped/hobbled in Sketchers Shape-Ups. After finishing my first race, I felt a sense of accomplishment I had never felt before, and knew I would be addicted to the feeling of crossing a finish line. I liked the pain! From that point on, I knew I had to make a game plan.
With the proper equipment, solid team and great coach, I felt that I would do much better at my next race. Fortunately, I acquired some Brooks Glycerins (which I will forever run in from now on) and an entry-level Specialized, and did much better in my second race. With the experience I’ve had throughout my last five triathlons, I no longer consider myself a novice, and finally feel that I can push myself further.
Learning how to power through a hard workout is something I’ve learned how to do over the course of about a year. There are some days that simply need to be devoted to high-intensity workouts. However, while being able to endure a butt-kicking workout, being able to understand that off days are not a bad thing is equally important. It is so easy to feel guilty about taking a day off from training. Sometimes, I have to skip workouts simply because of how intense my course load is. But now, instead of feeling remorse, I just give my next workout my all.
With all of this in mind, now I am an athlete with goals. They are not unrealistic, but they do require me to work hard. Goals should not be easily attainable, or they wouldn’t be real goals! I am aiming to run faster, pedal harder and swim much more gracefully than ever. It has taken two-a-day workouts, recovery days and a good work ethic to get to where I currently am. While I am nowhere near where I want to be in the end, I am past a few milestones, and onto my next one.
The endurance athlete has to realize how important it is not to jump the gun. When I go a little too hard it shows the next day. This is why the prep work before Collegiate Nationals has been very long. This journey started in December, and has been increasingly more intense ever since. Without appropriate goals, I would not be able to mentally get to where I want to be.
Our whole team at NCSU has different goals. We have four athletes competing in the draft-legal race, and 10 racing the Olympic race. Some of our guys and gals are looking to finish at the top, and some of us just want to obtain the experience. Traveling across America to complete a triathlon is a fulfilled goal in itself. We are all thrilled to be racing in Tempe (although an East Coast location next year would be awesome for our wallets), and have worked so hard to get to where we all are. The improvement in every athlete is outstanding, and it will definitely show at Nationals.
My goal for this race is to make a new memory and finish with a smile on my face. With all of the work that has gone into this race, I think I’ve earned it!