For the past few years, I have been working on not comparing myself to others, mostly through fear of injuring myself while doing more than my body can handle or by trying to stay competitive with younger athletes that this body has no business being competitive with. My age group, 60-64 years, i am quickly learning, is fiercely competitive. It may be low in numbers but it is stacked with talented athletes who have been around for a long time and know what they are doing, with superfit retired triathletes who are returning to the sport, and people like me who are late for the game and trying to keep up.
On Saturday, I threw myself into a sprint triathlon – just for fun. I was feeling good after completing the half Ironman two weeks earlier and the urge to race was nagging. I tried to ignore it, but I eventually gave in.
I knew that racing on the heels of a half Ironman was not the best decision so I promised myself that I would be careful; I wouldn’t push. Ha! I also knew that this was the last sprint of the season and that likely meant that every competitive triathlete was bound to show. Sure enough, this is exactly what happened in the 60-64 division.
At each of the triathlons that I have participated in this summer, I have walked away with a second or third place age group award. And at every race, two of the same three women have been ahead of me. Sure enough all three of them were at Guelph Lake II and they placed first, second and third.
Solely judging by how I felt, this triathlon was the best of all that I have done in the past two summers. I felt great in the swim (my best yet), strong on the bike (a hilly course) and I had a “comfortably fast” run. But I finished fourth in my age group and was disappointed. Then I had to remind myself of my expectations going in – none – and that the three women ahead of me are amazing triathletes. I am only at the start of my triathlon journey. At this point, there is no way that I can keep up with them.
I need to keep in mind where I have come from and where I am headed. Five years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to run again; now I am, plus swimming and cycling, and I am doing okay in all three. At Saturday’s race, of 144 women, I finished 34th and I was in the top 60% of all competitors. With my 60th birthday peeking around the corner, I’ll take it.
At home on Saturday night, I found myself looking at the top three times in my age group, their paces and transitions, and compared them to my own. “What do I need to do to get closer to them, to keep up with them, to get faster?” I started thinking, planning, and I counted the months until my next tri. Nine, I have 9 months.
I used my recovery time from the Mont Tremblant 70.3 to reflect on my spot in the world of triathlon but my thoughts were fuzzy; I wasn’t sure where I was headed. After racing in Guelph, I realized that I am ready to start pushing myself. I want to improve; I want to get faster; I want to be competitive. Guelph Lake II, the triathlon that I did “just for fun,” gave me the vision that I needed and that is a huge win.
I have nine months.
Goals are set.
Plans are being made.
I’ve got this.