Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Courage waiting to be summoned

Someone once said that if you find yourself needing courage, that means that you must be in an extraordinary circumstance at that moment. (Thank you, http://www.quirkyredliner.blogspot.com/.)

No one needs courage while brushing his or her teeth, brewing coffee or taking the dogs for a walk. Though, of course, if you would see the size of my dogs, you might suppose that I would, indeed, need it.
No, courage isn't particularly an everyday-use item. It is only useful in the face of something formidable, be it dealing with another person, taking on a new challenge or finishing a triathlon for the first time, especially when you started with zero experience.
Even though Sunday's race was my first Olympic distance triathlon (.6-mile swim, 25-mile bike, 6-mile run), I'd been beating myself up for not being stronger and faster to make the swim and bike cut-offs for the half-iron distance race that same day.
Being so slow on the swim would cramp into the bike time, leaving me with needing almost another hour on the bike. Crunching the numbers meant that - at the end of the day - I just wasn't ready. If I were within striking distance, I would have pushed hard, using my body's adrenaline as an ally...but I wasn't.
Though there was no disputing these hard, rational numbers, the emotional part of me wondered if I just wasn't mustering enough courage. Did I still have the fire in the belly? I wouldn't need to wonder much longer.
The wind was fierce on this very overcast morning; the air temperature chilly enough to make you long for the water's warmth. Every fierce chop of the gray water was sending a visible message to those of us on the shoreline: You'd better bring your best.
A couple hundred yards into my swim, even after getting into my groove, I became frightened for my life. (Check out this fellow participant's post about it at www.tridiesel.blogspot.com/2009/09/race-report.html.)

The chop was destroying me with every encounter.
I caught the attention of a boat close by and flagged the folks on there. A nice guy, Rick, jumped into the water in his wetsuit, bringing a flotation device. I told him I was seriously considering calling it quits, but as those words parted my lips, I realized how badly I wanted to finish, how I knew I could finish, how I did not want this to be the story to come from my day.
I thanked Rick, put my head back in the water and just kept swimming. Though I had to swim stronger to fight the current, I ended up having a better than expected swim time given my long pause in the beginning.
Just because I was done with the swim did not mean that the wind was done with me. It continued to beat me down on the bike, creating headwinds that rivaled those on this course last year during Landicane Ike. When I would begin to slow down, I would mutter to myself, "Every second counts, Lora!" and continued to push harder.
Less than a half-mile on the run, my legs heavy from the bike, I thought, "Oh, my gosh! How in the world am I going to run six miles? That's so far away!" I just focused on taking it one step at a time, trusting that everything would fall into place. It did.
As I got to the finish line, I heard a girl's voice come up from behind me. "Hey, let's do this. Let's finish strong," she said. We started speeding up some together. She went on to tell me that she'd been chasing me for two miles.
As we got even closer to the finish line, I was giving it everything I had, but I puttered out and she beat me. That's okay, though, for two reasons: 1) she wasn't in my race and 2) if I had not have sprinted that hard, I would be one rank lower overall because I beat the person behind me by two seconds. (Every second counts!)
I came in 119/128 overall and 4/4 in my age group. I really thought I would come in dead last, so I'm very pleased with my results.
Though I had called my own courage into question, even in the face of indisputable facts, conquering that swim and finishing that race made me realize that courage is never as out of reach as we usually think.


Anonymous said...

Lora, you SO rock!! I just could not do that dang swim!! UGH!! You are a complete inspiration. Congratulations!!

ShirleyPerly said...

Way to summon courage!

One thing you cannot control is Mother Nature but you can control yourself. I was in a very similar situation during my first rough water swim (which happened to be an Ironman). I didn't make the swim cut-off that day but did finish the swim. Huge turning point for me and I know finishing this race is probably the same for you.


Anonymous said...

The swim sounds like it was a huge challenge. Way to fight through it and get it done. I think you did great.

ciro foster said...

Well done, Lora! Congrats! Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive! Have you finished an half-ironman, isn't it?

Renee said...

Great job! Love the post and glad you finished!!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Congrats on finishing. That race wasnt about looking good and fast. It was all about mental toughness. It will make us better triathletes in the future.

Colleen said...

Lora... I applaude you for your courage on Sunday. The race was difficult!!! And when you had thoughts of doubt, you pushed through - that's the sign of a true athlete! You should be very proud of yourself and hopefully I can finally meet you at a race next year! :)

Corky said...

Very cool
I had a swim like that in Panama City once .
You Rock !!!!!!!!! Half Ironman will come .

Stuart said...

Sounds like you left it all on the course, now that takes courage!

Nice job!

MGW said...

You GO Lora! Excellent job - I am so proud of you!


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