And by "We," I am referring to Myself and The Voices in My Head.
There were some other, outside-my-head participants as well, of course. For example, my friend Tabitha, who is carrying a halfway-done baby in her belly and still managed to run farther than I did. And some older people who ran farther than I did. Also the instructor of my training course, who managed to shatter all records for the indoor triathlon component distances. Plus another Shannon, who I know from various places, and who narrowly edged me out for the Top Swimmer spot, so that when they announced "Shannon" at the awards presentation, I got my hopes up until they said her last name.
But since none of those people exists inside of my head, I have no idea what their experiences were like, so I will mostly be sticking to the tale of my own triathlon experience for this post.
I mention The Voices in My Head and not the actual other people, because they were brought to my attention during the car ride over to the triathlon. See, the radio was playing the P!nk song "Perfect," which includes the following lyric:
"Change the voices in your head,
Make them like you instead."
Truth be told, I had never really listened to that lyric before, despite having heard that song a million times. Maybe I never paid attention because I had heard that song so many times, or maybe it's because I misheard the lyric to say something like, "Change the voices in your head/Make them lie to you in bed." I have never been very good with song lyrics.
But, having finally properly understood P!nk's lyrics, I realized that most of the time the voices in my head don't like me. They're always telling me that I'm too fat, too lazy, don't do enough, suck as a parent, etc.
What if, I thought, I did change the voices to like me instead?
And it was in that frame of mind that I entered the gym for the triathlon.
Now, the way this indoor triathlon differs from outdoor triathlons (beside the obvious differences) is that whereas in an outdoor triathlon you complete a set distance for each component, in the indoor triathlon you complete a set time. So, participants are ranked according to who traveled the farthest distance in the given time.
I had some goals for my various component distances, which were calculated for me by Crazy Triathlon Record-Smasher and Training Instructor Chris. Here's the TL;DR version of how I did in the actual event relative to my goals, broken down in this handy-dandy chart:
Obvious bottom lines: I met my goal exactly in the swim, exceeded my goal in the bike, and fell a tiny bit short of my goal in the run.
Breaking it down into a little more verbose detail, here's how it all went down:
During the swim I was keyed up. Adrenaline was pumping through my body, The Voices were all shouting nonsensical jibber-jabber, and I couldn't relax my body into that straight, graceful swimming form that I like to think I have. I wouldn't have been surprised to look down and see my body tied up in knots, Twister-style.
Also, the swim felt LONG. I have no problem swimming for 10 minutes straight under normal circumstances, but under competitive circumstances I struggle with pacing myself. Further complicating matters is the fact that the way they calculate the scores for this particular event kind of makes the swimming completely insignificant. (Your total score is just the sum of the distances you traveled in each of the three components. As you can imagine, even an awesome swim like 800 yards is completely insignificant when you factor in a bike distance like 10 miles.) However, I have this small goal of getting the award for the farthest swim, so I do like to try hard in the swim. (Also there's that whole "personal best" aspect of it all..)
So that was the swim. I wanted to go a tiny bit farther, but whatever. I felt sick as I got out of the pool to change for the bike portion, because it's tough to go from swimming as fast as you can to standing on dry land, without a cool down of any kind.
As for the bike, it was relatively uneventful. I learned from my training that it's best to put most of your energy into the bike, because the bike is where you're going to get the most bang for your buck in terms of racking up distance. And, as you can see from the chart, I racked up more distance on the bike than I thought I would.
But by the run, The Voices and I had run out of psychological steam. I truly think the psychological challenge of running is what makes it the hardest sport for me. Like, I'm doing okay, feeling all right by running standards, but as soon as I look down at the clock and see how much more time I have left to run, I get flustered and immediately exhausted, so that I have to start walking. I walked a lot more than I had planned to, but when the triathlon ended I still felt a strong sense of pride and accomplishment.
Another thing that was awesome was that Trainer Jill came to cheer me on. And then after the triathlon (and a shower, of course), Trainer Jill and I went to Starbucks. The sun was shining, I had just completed a triathlon, and I was buzzing with caffeine. It was kind of like a big ball of awesome.
Later, I went back to see the triathlon awards presentation. Last year I felt like an idiot at the awards, because I had made it a point to go back to the gym to see the awards, like I assumed I was going to win one. But of course I didn't win last year, despite the fact that there were 30 participants and like 40 awards given out.
This year, I reminded myself that there was another Shannon in my age group, and she used to be a fitness instructor at the gym, so when they said "Shannon," for an award, I should not get my hopes up.
Still, when they said, "And the award for Top Swimmer goes to ... Hmm, I don't think she's here ... Is Shannon here?" it sucked when I had to ask Shannon who? to clarify, and then it was other Shannon. Again I narrowly missed winning Top Swimmer and came in second, just like last year. But next year, It's on, Other Shannon.
So I kind of tuned out when they announced an award for a Shannon a few minutes later, until it hit me that the guy had actually said Shannon Ford, which is ME! Behold, 3rd Place for the Women 30-39 category:
(Also I should point out that there were more than 3 participants in this category. Nine, to be exact.)
That morning, The Voices in My Head liked me. When I got to the car, I cried tears of joy and looked at myself in the rearview mirror and said, "I like you." (Okay, I didn't actually say that out loud, or probably even think those exact words, because that would be a little bit too Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley. But I felt generally positive about myself that morning.)
I know it's not a big deal to win 3rd place in one age category at a small indoor triathlon at a suburban gym. It's not like I won at the Olympics or something. Except, to me, it kinda felt like I did. This is the first athletic award I've ever won that wasn't like Most Dedicated or Participation or You Got Good Grades And Also Happened to Participate in Sports.
A medal for me. Me, who is too fat and too slow and usually trips over her own feet, beating a few regular people who are extremely fit and generally look awesome in bathing suits.
The next time I went to the gym, I felt like I owned that gym. We can't wait to work out, The Voices said.
Now, after a full week of reality, The Voices are back to their usual shenanigans. Not only have they had some not-so-nice things to say about my workout performance this week, they also saw some pictures of me that they didn't like and wholeheartedly criticized. Nathan did some things that disgusted them. They are ruthless, those Voices.
But, I think they're a little bit quieter, a little bit kinder. That medal boosted their spirits a little bit. And all you can expect is that they'll improve gradually by baby steps.
And our next endeavor is another indoor triathlon at another gym in late April. They run and bike portions are a little bit longer, and the scoring is a little bit different. And so, until then, we will train. I will try to beat back The Voices, to gradually condition them to be nicer as I condition my body to be more fit. And when they get particularly unruly, there's a fake bronze medal in my kitchen with which I can give The Voices a nice strong whacking.