Today (Monday, May 24th) was the 21st annual North Shore Spring Sprint and my first race. Unfortunately I DNF'd (Did Not Finish) due to a number of factors including getting kicked in the face in the swim, being ill-prepared, and placing too much pressure on myself.
This has been an incredibly unique learning experience from a number of perspectives. I've learned about triathlons, race prep, stress & balance, and myself in general. I'll try to outline the lessons learned here as best as possible to record them for myself and help others avoid the same.
Lesson #1: Create a realistic plan and stick to it
I'd planned to enter the last race of last season, the Vancouver Tri on labour day but was unable to. I then planned to enter a few pre-season races this year but they sold out too quickly and I've been too busy at the office.
If you plan to be competitive, create a realistic training schedule and race schedule and stick to it.
Lesson #2: Race prep
The week leading up to the race I was in Edmonton for an insurance tradeshow. I was unable to continue my training/nutrition as planned, was overworked, and over-stressed. When I attend tradeshows its in addition to my regular duties at work, it's not a vacation and I don't have the option of transferring pending work to another. For example, the Sunday consisted of getting up at 5am, flying to Edmonton at 6am, checking into the hotel, setting up for the tradeshow, standing around at the booth until 8pm, doing a quick 5km on the treadmill, returning to the hotel to work, and finally getting to be at 2am-ish. Most days in Edmonton I was getting up at 5am or 6am and going to bed at 1am.
Lesson #3: Stress & balance
As mentioned, I was stressed the week leading up to the race. I've also been stressed during my training. I've now removed one of the 10 things from my plate and am working to get more organized/efficient in an effort to make the most of my training.
Lesson #4: Me
My first reaction after DNFing was to hide under a rock and beat the crap out of myself with excessive training. I did that by running 20km on the road from Vancouver to New West without water or breaks (2hrs). A good friend, Megg, managed to distract me and take my mind off the anger, frustration, guilt, and resentment I have towards myself when I fail. In all honesty I haven't thought much about the race until now. I certainly need to make some changes and make better use of my training but that's much more effective than punishing myself.
Lesson #5: Pool swims
I've now figured out the hard way that pool swims are horrible for triathlons. Pools are not designed for that many people and it's impossible to train for the chaos that ensues. Coming out of the pool with a good time is going to be luck more than anything.
Lesson #6: Transitions
I hung out in the transition for a while and quickly realized that, if I can come out of the swim in decent shape I should be in the upper 1/3 of racers. I saw so many mistakes and uncompetitive choices. I saw people changing their shorts, towelling off (you'll dry quick enough on the ride), and even one guy lost his bike.
Lesson #7: Training
I've done a lot of pool training. I've averaged 5-6 swims/week for the last 6 months. My swim has come leaps and bounds, with a special thanks to John O. With that in mind, I'll need significantly more training to be at the level I wish to achieve.
Lesson #8: I am doing something right
I've recently realized, in order to surmount the many challenges I've set for myself I have to be extremely anal retentive. I've created checklists for everything from daily work, training, travel, tradeshows, and races. My race checklist is so detailed it covers cutting toe nails, packing a race bag, the bike check, and transition area set up. Thanks to this checklist (although its not complete) I was able to quickly get organized and set up before the race and my stress level was reduced, although not enough. As an example, I have a bright pink mat to be placed under my stuff, this allows for easily changing shoes but also allows me to find my equipment much quicker and easier.
At the end of the day, I am incredibly disappointed in the result. Unfortunately there's no need now to race back-to-back almost every weekend this summer for the BCTri series since I DNF'd the first one. I will take a month off to get sorted, organized, and reduce my stress and then get back to racing and hope to be much more competitive.
As mentioned, it is disappointing not to finish but the lessons learned are well worth it. I can't thank everyone enough for their support. As mentioned, Megg has been an extremely positive impact and changed a lot of my thinking. My father and sister often ask how my training is going and seem to enjoy my incessant updates. My brother-in-law, Carl, quickly posted encouragement on Facebook when he heard about the DNF. My running group, Bob, Sean, Tom, Annie, Jessica, Graham, and everyone else have been so kind in assisting in my training and also listening to my incessant training updates. My co-workers, John, Rob, and Mark often read my the blog and happily provide encouragement. I'm sure when Rob and John get home from Everest they'll be a big part of my support group too. The saying is \"it takes a community\" and that is true of any success, friends and colleagues included. Thank you everyone.