2016 was a year of challenge, surprise and accomplishment. Looking back, I can see the transformation that occurred from beginning to end. But if you asked me in April if I’d complete three sprint triathlons in one summer, I would’ve said, “You’re crazy, man.”
My first race, and what I thought would be my only race of 2016, was Trinona. I’d completed it once before in 2014. And located in my hometown of Winona, MN, I knew the course well. Nonetheless, I was still nervous. The swim leg had become a mental battle for me. I have this fear of being stuck out in the water, far from shore, and running out of steam. So, to begin getting over that fear, I bought a gym membership and began swimming twice a week for about a month or two before race day. And boy I’m glad I did. Trinona’s sprint swim is only .25 miles, or about 18 laps in the pool. My first few swims at the gym had me feeling tired after 6 laps. I knew this was going to be a battle. But little by little, it got better. Plus, I bought a wetsuit this year, which gave me some mental comfort knowing the buoyancy it would provide. Race day came, I got through the swim, made decent time on the bike (I ride a Trek mountain bike with road tires) and pounded-out the run with what little energy I had left. It felt pretty darn good to finish the race, slap some high-fives with friends and family, and sport a sweet finisher medal for an hour after the race (I beat my 2014 time by more than 4 minutes). I was exhausted, yet energized with a sense of accomplishment.
Within days, I felt a little empty. What do I do now? I had trained for months and now the race was done. I needed to do another race. The MPLS Tri was just a few weeks away, but with a .47 mile swim (standard for a sprint), I was doubting my ability to accomplish almost twice the distance that I’ve swam before. With an extra push from a friend who said he’d do his first triathlon if we could do it together, we registered for the race and I immediately got back into the pool. I eventually worked my way up to 32 laps without pause and felt I was ready as I could be for the race. On race day, I surprised myself, getting through the swim with relative ease in comparison to Trinona, which was only half the swim distance as this MPLS. The bike leg was beautiful, 15 miles of trail and road along the lakes and Mississippi River. Running through the finish line, I had that rush of adrenaline and accomplishment knowing I had achieved what I doubted I could. The feeling was made even more special as I crossed the finish line along side my friend and now fellow racer.
With another month-and-a-half left of the summer, I thought, what the heck – I could do one more race. I signed up for the Maple Grove Triathlon. This time I was more confident. I had two races under my belt. I knew I could do this. Now I just wanted to be faster than my other race times. It was no longer about finishing, it was about out-doing my own self – continuing to prove to myself that I could be better, that I could do great things. The swim was fairly stress free, only taking a few breaks to tread water and catch my breath along the way. The bike leg was met with a refreshing burst of rain. And the compliments I received from fellow riders along the way about my keeping pace with many others while using a mountain bike were rewarding, until they kept pedaling and pulled away. I ran through the finish line with a giant smile on my face.
At the beginning of the year, I was just trying to get through one race. By the end of the summer, I had tripled that goal. I proved to myself I could do things I thought I couldn’t. I embraced the epic, and found myself with a new hobby – a hobby that has me motivated for 2017.