Something I have always struggled with is embracing uncertainty. Even when I was a little kid I always wanted to know exactly what an experience was going to entail before it occurred. Of course, it’s important to plan and prepare, but to do this without also recognizing the natural uncertainty in each situation renders these foolish endeavors. It’s taken me nearly all of my life to realize that attempting to anticipate everything is not only impossible, but can also be counterproductive. When we fail to embrace the unknown, we diminish our ability to think on the fly, to be creative or to take a risk. By focusing too much on what our expectations for an experience were, rather than on the reality of it, we often miss out on all the fun or learning something new.
The past month in the CRP has been full of first-time experiences, from riding my bike for three hours to swimming around buoys. Although I felt college running had prepared me aerobically for triathlon training, there was no way of knowing how I was going to feel running after biking 60 miles, until I actually I did it. Embracing the feeling of “not knowing” instead of fearing it has brought such a sense of excitement to training. It has given me the freedom to push myself harder, because I am no longer limited by how something “should” feel. I know I will develop a sense of pacing overtime, but ultimately I will make sure that this never overrides the circumstances that call for on-the-spot decisions or risks.
Fast forward to my first race this past weekend, and I had to deal with something that I didn’t expect: missing a turn. Although I do consider myself a directionally challenged person, even to me, the Solana Beach Sprint Triathlon course seemed pretty self-explanatory. The race consisted of a 400m ocean swim, a two-lap, out-and-back 9-mile bike course, and a two-lap, out-and-back 5k run. Seems pretty simple, right? That is until 500 other triathletes show up and traffic cones are set up everywhere. Setting up my transition area and warming up at my first age-group triathlon, was unlike anything I have ever experienced.
Usually my nerves ran high at collegiate track meets, but at the start of my first triathlon I felt only excitement. After fighting some waves, I was able to get out ahead of my age group. After coming around the buoy, I sighted for the beach. I focused on executing a high stroke rate as I swam back to shore. I was about 1 minute in front of the group by the time I entered T1. Thankfully T1 went smoothly, despite my nervousness for it, and I started grinding on the bike. I was able to put another minute on the chasers over the 9 miles.
During the run, I was in the zone and feeling pretty good. Suddenly I reached the finish line 2.5k too early. I came to a jarring stop, realizing I had missed a turn for the second lap about 400m back. I panicked and quickly started yelling at myself in my head. How could you be so stupid? I never expected to miss the turn, but yet I had. In the moment I had two options: give up or run flat out and see if I could make up lost time. I went with the latter. During the time I spent going the wrong way, Ellie Abrahamson, also a former collegiate runner (and really awesome person) currently transitioning to triathlon, was able to get by me. Focusing on her up ahead motivated me to keep pushing. The last kilometer was pretty painful, but also extremely fun. I wasn’t focusing on the mistake, but on the pure rawness of the moment and the movement of my body!
It was awesome to see Ellie get the win that day and I was grateful to snag a 2nd and a new PR in the 5.5k. Most importantly however, I left the race having learned a lot. I learned that warming up on the course is a must for me. I also learned that just because a course seems simple, doesn’t mean it is simple when your heart rate is 190. Finally, I learned that when the unexpected does happen, because it will, reacting to it with excitement and not fear goes a long way in making the experience a positive one. I am very grateful to Coach Jarrod and USA Triathlon for making experiences like these a reality for me, as well as for all their support during this learning and growing process. I am excited to keep growing and although I don’t know what exactly God has in store for me over the next year, I am perfectly OK with that.