Friday, July 10, 2009

A Butterfly Landed On Me

There is a quote from a fortune cookie in my kitchen that says “Luck happens when hard work meets opportunity”. So true. In life and in triathlon. In 2006 I was lucky enough to get a Kona roll down slot at Ironman Canada because the girl that finished in front of me wanted to remodel her kitchen. Funny, one of the most memorable days of my life, racing in Kona, came down to another person’s decision about how to allocate her resources.

Attempting to get to Kona can become all consuming for a triathlete, either it be for the first time or the fifteenth time. When people hear that I do triathlons, inevitably the next question is “Have you done the one in Hawaii?”. Many new triathletes get started in the sport because they saw that crazy Hawaiian Ironman on TV one Sunday afternoon, and they want to get there, too. And with good reason, it is a magical experience like no other.

I have been within striking distance of a Kona slot many times, and was lucky enough to go once. But the thing about Kona, for me, once is not enough. After a particularly difficult race, and a roll down process that kept my heart rate higher than my racing cap, I spent some time thinking about what I want out of the sport. I was lucky enough to go to Kona a few years ago, and that is more than a lot of triathletes can say. And I am really thankful about that. If I never qualify again will that be OK? Will I still enjoy the sport? Why am I really racing? For a Kona slot or for the experience of the race itself? I decided that I love to train, I love to race, I love the opportunity to travel to places I might not otherwise. I enjoy pushing my body to see what it can do. I look forward to the all day bike rides and the three hour runs and swimming 4000 yards straight. I like putting it out there on race day and seeing how I stack up. Those aspects of racing have nothing to do with a Kona spot.

A few years ago we lived in St. Louis, and they have this place called the Butterfly House. It’s an 8000 square foot glass building with hundreds of different kinds of butterflies in it. I took my kids to this butterfly house, and they started running around trying to catch a butterfly. They got frustrated very quickly when they couldn’t catch one. I told them to be still, look around at the beauty of the butterflies flitting about, and maybe one would land on them. Sure enough, a butterfly landed on their arm, and it was much more rewarding than running around trying to force a butterfly in your hands.

I thought about the Butterfly House as I chose races this year. I picked races for the experience. I wasn’t going to run around trying to race where I might have the best chance of securing a slot. Rob and I went to St. Croix in May because we enjoy that race. I ended up finished in third place in my age group behind two women that took the top two podium spots in my age group last year in Kona. I wasn’t disappointed when no slot rolled my way. I had a great race and I was honored to be third behind those talented women, the “gold standard” of my age group.

I chose Ironman Austria because I wanted to see Europe and many people told me what a beautiful course it was. I’m sure my husband and coach shook their heads when I told them my plans, involving complicated travel issues by trains, planes, and busses, of seeing Spain and Venice before the race. Not the perfect pre- race taper week but I’m all about the experience. The day before the race I was abandoned at the train station (long story) but my friend and I found our way back to the hotel by train and on foot. My pre-race pasta meal was later than I wanted because the restaurants in Europe close at 2 PM and open whenever they feel like it in the evening. I ordered a pasta dish from a German menu with a waitress that spoke almost no English, which ended up being so spicy I could hardly eat it, and as I went to be that night with a burning mouth I wondered how that meal would sit the next day.

But, as I raced the next day, I just enjoyed the atmosphere and kept my thoughts still except for the thought “What an experience! I am such a lucky girl. This is so cool!”. The day couldn’t have gone better. I felt great the whole time. I had a perfectly executed race, a PR of almost 20 minutes, and a Kona slot. Unbelievable. The butterfly landed on me.

1 comment:

MarkyV said...

"race" reports like this are the_ best!!

Congrats girl... see ya in P-town!