Tango with a Stranger & Redefine Success – Lessons from the Syracuse Sidelines

June 21, 2015


So the rumor is that I was the second place overall woman at the Ironman Syracuse 70.3! Not sure who made that announcement, but it’s fairly amusing, considering that I only did the swim today. On purpose I might add. I told you I had something fun planned for IM Cuse. That was it! A swim-cheer brick!
Literally cheering minutes after I finished the swim!
To only race the swim was a cool experience.
(Does anyone say “cool” anymore? Probably just me)
Back to the swim… I wasn’t nervous in the least. I wasn’t fast either. As it turns out, when you only swim once a week, you lose speed quickly. But it was still fun to start with Kelly!
And the water at Jamesville Beach was as beautiful as you’d expect a reservoir to be. Refreshing instead of freezing, and relatively calm.
Since saving my energy wasn’t a concern, I just fought my way from buoy to buoy. Yes, fought. Because I caught up to the wave of dudes in green caps that started before me, I spent a good majority of the swim being pushed, and shoving them back. Girls are not as violent from what I’ve noticed. The green caps on the other hand… well, maybe they were just trying to drown me because they were insulted by being chicked! With the exception of one sassy swimmer, who was a little TOO friendly!
As is typical in a triathlon swim, you kind of swim over folks occasionally. No biggie… Unless it’s a guy who at that moment decides to flip OVER and start doing backstroke!
Um, sorry! Ok, uh, pardon me! 
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Unless you want to tango in the water with a perfect stranger, please use caution when doing back stroke in a triathlon!
Awkward encounter aside, I managed to finish the swim with little drama, save drifting off course on the way back to shore. Later my friends assured me that there was indeed a current that had the same effect on them. That’s a relief!
I wrapped up the swim and avoided more awkward moments, which was tricky. My plan was to run up from the beach, and straight to the picnic table where Alex (who was also doing a swim-cheer brick) and I had left our bags. I wouldn’t even run into transition!
I hadn’t accounted for the line of spectators I would have to face, who assumed I was quitting, and cheered for me to keep going.
It’s OK. Um, pardon me… No, I planned this… Really, I’m OK!
Not as awkward as a tango in the reservoir, but close. Finally I made it over to the picnic table, grabbed a towel, and joined the spectators (which now included Jeremiah and Lauren, Alex’s wife). We cheered on Joe, Kelly, Kate, Alex and Jason as they ran up from the water.
And that was how we spent the day. We cheered from the sidelines. We cheered from our shady spot under the Team Loco tent. Alex fielded a call from the race director, who in so many words asked if I had drowned. Why would he ask that?! Because I had left my bike in transition (just in case).
Where’s Sara Madden? Right here, cheering at the Team Loco tent with this crew of course! 
PSA NUMBER 2: Don’t leave your bike in transition if you don’t plan on riding, or it will cause much alarm!
Also, why did they call Alex?! Ah yes, because I had put “Casa de Bakers” as my place of lodging on the athlete form. The rest of my IM Cuse 70.3 experience consisted of cheering enthusiastically for the LOCOs, eating pizza that I got with my $200+ blue athlete bracelet (heck yeah I was going to eat the post-race food. I paid for it) and running for cover when the race officials instructed us to because of a potential violent storm on the horizon. It was more like a minor monsoon, but it made for some great stories when we ran into John G, Marty, Kate, Kerrianne and Pat at a rest stop later!
So now what you’ve all been waiting for… The real reason I didn’t do the IM Syracuse bike or run.
I signed up for Cuse seven months ago.  I trained for it for about three months. But then I raced the Quassy Olympic.  Racing only two weeks before the 70.3 may have compromised my day in Cuse, but I have no regrets, as Quassy was everything I hope a triathlon will be!
It was a day of racing with my head up and my heart open… and it was an eye opener too!
There was no denying that I have NOT put in enough time on the bike recently. It showed. But my run was in great shape. So I chose the Lake Placid Half Marathon over the IM Cuse 70.3 based on that data 🙂
Honestly, if I raced Cuse today, I would have been slow, and I know I would have struggled to have an open heart. I also would have pushed for a pace that was unrealistic, and possibly set myself up for an injury. With my TFL still flared up from last weekend, it wasn’t worth the risk. It even bothered me during the swim today, so I know I made the right decision!
And I had a blast cheering for everyone! THIS is what I needed. To cheer. To be reminded why I love this sport, and why triathlon has a special place in my heart… Because of the people you share the water and the road with on this swim, bike, run journey!
I’m still torn though. I know that DNF will forever be next to my name on the race results, because I dropped out. I was afraid of that DNF. Afraid my friends would think I was a quitter. Afraid that it would make me a failure!
Does that make me a failure? 
NO! I didn’t drop out because the day got too hard, or I thought my pace was too slow, or even because I crashed and broke my bike (We all know that won’t keep me from finishing a race)! Instead I dropped out intentionally because it was part of my plan. And dropping out was somehow freeing. I faced the DNF I have been so afraid of, and guess what? My friends still love me!
And the world didn’t end!
That DNF means nothing to me. As far as I’m concerned, I DID finish what I set out to do! I decided that the beach where I ended the swim would be my Finish line. And I’m learning that we really can redefine our Finish lines, and broaden our view of failure… and success! To quote Lisa Hamilton in Chapter 3 of the Conscious Runner
“Although Paula Radcliffe didn’t cross the finish line, in many ways she still succeeded. She did run 22 long miles carrying terrible discomfort… And I am suggesting you redefine failure and broaden your definition of success so it doesn’t come down to a single event on a given day. Or even a single workout or set of workouts… Not making it to the starting line doesn’t negate the runner you became along the way. So how do we broaden our definition of success?”
Hamilton suggests we look at what hurdles we had to overcome to get where we are. What change happened on the way to the starting line? Did I become a more compassionate person? Did I become more patient, kind, understanding, disciplined, hopeful, faithful, active? 
 
My Goals for this year are to be more content, connected, grateful, healthy and in God’s will. On my way to the start line, did I become that person? If I did, then I know I am learning to keep my head up and my heart open… And THAT is how I define success! 
In sport and in life, maybe it’s time to broaden our definition of success.
It is so much bigger than a Finish line or a PR, don’t you think?!

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