If you watch a large national sports tournament, oh let’s take the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball championships, often referred to as “March Madness”. You will see, teams there that haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of doing anything more but playing in the first round, then watching the rest of the tournament.
In 2018 the Long Island University Blackbirds were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round, what’s actually a kind of you’re the last two seeds and only one can proceed round. LIU comes from a small conference won a championship, got to the NCAAs. No problem, just to say I’m sure they were thrilled to be there, played as hard as they could, and just didn’t have the firepower of bigger schools with a higher level of programs.
I just recently had my own comparable experience in triathlon. USA Triathlon has Olympic distance (.9mile swim, 25 miles bike, 6.1 mile run) national championships and this year it was held in Cleveland, Oh. I managed to place in a group category in a race in Rock Hall, Md, Waterman Triathlon and thereby received an invitation to the National Championships. I placed last year in a race in Wheeling, WV “Faith in Action Triathlon” and that earned me a place in the championships in Omaha, Ne. that year, which I couldn’t go to.
I’m sure much like the LIU team to be on college basketballs biggest stage, I know I was thrilled to be on, one of at least, USA Triathlon’s, ok, we’ll say bigger stages. But it was the biggest one that I will probably ever be on, at least in terms of sports.
This was my principle race, my target race for the year, without any pretense that it would be anymore than get there, do the best you can, be happy with the results. But it was still stressful, especially the closer I got to the date. The “what are you doing?, what makes you think you can do this?, Don’t you know this is going to be a lot of trouble which nothing good will come of?” You know, those kinds of thoughts. Trying to be conscious of what I ate, how I worked out. Still over weight from last year by about 5 pounds, stressing out over how that is going to affect my race. We’ve moved from the hills of York, Pennsylvania. Is the terrain here in Maryland going to help or not be enough of a challenge to be in good condition? And of course the ever present, why? you’re not going to make it, you won’t finish, … On and on.
If the trip there was any indication, I should have listened to “thoughts” and stayed at my son’s house. We left the eastern shore of Maryland at 8am, with no doubt that there was plenty of time to get to Cleveland by 5pm, 9 hours, no problem. Yeah, well, there were a few problems. About 3 hours sitting in traffic, which I, frankly am shaking my head even as I write this. And it rained, so hard, that again, just had to slow down. So what should have taken less than 6 hours, well it resulted in taking 10 hours. So could not get all my stuff for the race the next day. Wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get it and be in the race the next day.
Saturday, my son and I get up at zero dark thirty and I was able. My son dropped me off at about 5:30 and I, somehow, found my way in the dark to the right place, got my bag, Timothy showed right back up to help me get organized the rest of the way and I found myself on the beach on Lake Erie with time to spare and much relieved. My wetsuit got left in the car, and no one was going back for it at this point, but as it turned out, that might have been a good thing. The water temp was at about 78, it was a mildly hot day. The more I think about it, it seems that being in the wetsuit would have left me over heated for the rest of the race and while my swim time was, to put it mildly, horrible, I’m not sure, based on some other issues, that it really would have made any difference.
The bike part was mostly through downtown Cleveland. This was my 60th race, which I completed just before I turned 60 years old, and I had never really done a race in a straight up urban environment. It was great and I’m glad I had the experience. I’m not sure a lot of the people in the downtown area we went through saw it that way, those who were trying to otherwise live their life, but I appreciated it.
I was ok, stronger than I thought I’d be on the run. Don’t misunderstand, doesn’t mean I was strong, just better than I thought.
Finally finished and I only put this on here as a matter of record, ‘cuz it sure weren’t anything to brag about
hey, I still maintained my “I haven’t finished last record”, and I did finish. Got the medal, got the t-shirt.
It is to say that despite all the tension, anxiety, it still happened. Believe me, it is all glory to God! Certainly not for the actual performance, because that was mine to louse up. But that I did get there, I did start on time, I did do the swim, the bikethe run and to the glory of God, did acceptably and had a great experience in a different environment, did my first race in a city setting, my first race on a Great Lake (Lake Erie) and certainly the first time I’ve done a “National championship” of anything. I’m going with I may have finished very near the bottom, but it was near the bottom of the best in the country. So I’m going with that and again, giving all glory to God and thanking Him for giving me such a tremendous experience. I do want to thank USA Triathlon too, they did a great job organizing this. They provided the atmosphere for a “championship event” that I was eligible to be a part of, albeit circumstantially. But I’ll take it.