Triathlon, with all its equipment, offers a range of decisions. Road bike or tri bike? Ironman-branded race or not? Pool swim or lake swim? As I trained through the White Lake Half, I had to make a number of little decisions that cumulatively affected my day.
First, of course, was the decision to race at all. The race has grown so big that it’s now split across two weekends: same course in eastern North Carolina in early May. There was no choice between weekends for me, since my daughter was running a 5K on the first weekend. There was, though, a choice to be made between racing and leading a retreat; I chose the race, reasoning that it would be important practice as I build to Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
Too bad I couldn’t choose the weather. Where the first weekend of the race was overcast and moderate in temperature, the second weekend saw 90 degree temperatures under relentlessly sunny skies. Here’s a shot of the venue, which is quite pretty. This is about as shady as it gets at White Lake.
With the water temperature at 77, just below wetsuit legality, I had to decide whether to wear my suit or not. Since I’ll be using it in Coeur d’Alene, I wore it here, for practice. Had I targeted White Lake as my spring goal, though, I’d have gone without, in the hopes of keeping my core temperature down early.
Another decision: shoes on the bike in T1 and T2, or running in bike shoes. Again, I chose to simulate my goal race, so I put on shoes in T1 and clopped out with my bike. On the way back, I deliberated again: should I get my feet out, as I usually do, and run barefoot through transition? I decided against it, since I didn’t want sand or grass on my feet before I put on my socks. There’s enough discomfort coming in the run, I reasoned; I might as well have clean feet. Bad choice. I couldn’t get one of my shoes unclipped (it’d picked up some sand when I took a quick potty break by the side of the road!) and wound up ingloriously tipping to my side at the dismount line. Jon Van Ark, who took these great pictures of me, was a gentleman and didn’t snap any of me lying on the ground under my bike. It was very hot by then, and I was glad to have chosen to run with my Fuel Belt. I’d also debated between a hat and a visor. Since the aid stations were supposed to have wet towels, I chose a visor, thinking I’d drape the towels over my head. But there were no towels, just ice that could be scooped into a hat.
I cleaved to my decision to walk though each aid station, which helped keep me moving forward and feeling good between walk breaks. This was a good choice; I kept my form together and felt very strong between mile 3, when I finally got my legs under me, and mile 11, when I decided to pick up the pace and get it over with.
Here I am at the finish—note my skinned left knee, a T2 casualty.
Each of these decisions supported my larger goal for the race: to practice my IM pacing, nutrition, and mental plan. I want to go at a pace that lets me really enjoy what is happening. This is a hobby, and it should be fun. Choose to make it a positive part of your life, not a source of more stress.
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