“This is Susan. She’s joining us for the first time; she’s training for Nationals.”
“Welcome to our first Women’s Triathlon Summit.”
Yep, this past weekend was very much a social one for me. And yes, it involved interacting with other endurance athletes. On Saturday I joined my coach’s Saturday group workout for the very first time. And thanks to a good friend I attended a women’s only triathlon panel discussion on Sunday.
I was a bit anxious about Saturday’s group training session and admitted this to my coach. Aside from knowing we’ll swim, then bike and finally run, I told him I really didn’t know exactly what else to expect: What do I need to bring? Will I have time to change from my swimsuit into cycling clothes or should I wear a trisuit for the swim? Should I bring my fins? Is there anything else I should know?
What I didn’t tell him but, of course, fed my anxiety was having to meet new people and engage in conversation with them for a few hours. My strategy consisted of staying under the radar. I figure I’ll most likely swim in the slowest lane and ride at the back of the pack. As for the run, I’ll just push myself so I’m breathing really hard. Then I won’t be in a position to talk. Well, I did in fact swim in the slowest lane. Interestingly though I made an attempt to swim in the next lane over because the only other person in the slowest lane was a pregnant woman. (Great start, I know.) However, I felt as though I slowed down the other lane so I moved over to share the lane with the pregnant woman. (By the way, the fact that I qualified for Nationals while consistently finding myself swimming in the slowest lane bewilders me!) I ended up being so focused on my workout I barely saw her and her belly. And when I did I immediately looked away. It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t really horrible either.
We did have time to change in the locker room where I met another member of Pete’s team. As we changed into our cycling clothes we talked about riding and Honu 70.3‘s horrendous crosswinds. So far so good.
I grabbed my bike off the top of my car and rode it over to join the rest of the group. My coach introduced me since it was my first time. And he announced I have Nationals coming up. Gulp! So much for staying under the radar. For the two hours we rode folks talked about racing, training and technique. Woo hoo!
I quickly learned everyone doesn’t run off the bike during these sessions. (Officially Saturday’s workout plan does include a run though.) Unless I’m nursing knee issues or other injuries I make a point of running after biking. (It’s great brick training.) So I ended up running with only two other athletes. We talked about how each of us found Pete and his training group, Honu 70.3 and training for Kona (aka Ironman World Championship). One of the athletes who ran with me is training for it!
I managed to avoid the topic of children and made it through the other end of the trigger caused by swimming next to a pregnant woman; not too bad. And the icing on the cake was I enjoyed the conversations I had with everyone.
On Sunday for the Women’s Triathlon Summit, MLH and I were running late from a previous appointment so I rushed over to where the event was being held. The organizers had a pretty nice spread of food, and I was incredibly hungry. (I don’t think I ate enough after my long run earlier in the day.) Everybody else was chatting in their chairs. Nobody was eating. (The event was running late.) So while more polished, lady-like women would make their way gracefully over to the food, I dropped my purse on a chair and made a straight shot to the table where I filled a plate up with goodies. I know, it wasn’t just hunger; I saw this as a way to avoid people. But then I had to make my way back to my chair to eat. And eating I did but then a couple of women introduced themselves to me. Oh well. We proceeded to talk about our upcoming races. That’s it! Once again, I really enjoyed the conversations.
I will say that as one can and should expect — when planning to attend I somehow didn’t think completely through this unfortunately — some of the topics at a woman’s triathlon event will touch on juggling children/family with training. I didn’t experience very strong triggers when these topics came up. I felt a little bit of emptiness inside but it wasn’t an overwhelming feeling. Perhaps this is because I was in such awe of these women who have children, challenging jobs, partners (who either are endurance athletes and/or have challenging jobs as well) AND are top athletes in their divisions!
It’s kind of weird. I’m so glad I attended both events and most importantly enjoyed talking to the people I met each day. I still feel anxiety and automatically put up a wall because I never know when I’ll be asked about children or encounter a trigger. I don’t know if this will ever truly go away. However, during this past weekend, I was fortunate enough to talk to fellow triathletes about setting PRs, working with coaches, technique, swimming, bike fits, nutrition and race goals. I got to meet some amazingly accomplished athletes who’ve qualified for Kona, turned pro, completed 26 Ironmen and earned their way onto the podium several times over! I almost felt like another person at these events. I was more social at both of these events than I’ve been at any other event over the past two years. I actually hung around after the summit to chat with a couple of participants!
Aside from the handful of times children were brought up during the summit and dealing with the pregnant woman during the swim, at these events I felt like just another triathlete training for her next race. I don’t think it’s like I live a double life: One moment I’m a triathlete and when I’m away from the sport I’m a bereaved parent. I think it’s more like I have a couple of layers or dimensions inside. At both of these events, the triathlete who wants to improve, learn and share is dominant and the bereaved mother, while very much present still, takes sort of a backseat with my wall surrounding all of me. When I’ve had to attend purely social events, my wall is a lot thicker with the bereaved mother and triathlete switching positions. And I feel like most of the time when I train both layers are evenly present.