Do you know that moment?
I can tell exactly when it happens to me. I know the exact instance when my day turns from racing, to surviving, to just wanting to finish.
My first Iron distance race was a bit of train wreck. I had purchased a new bike with an unknown set of problem wheels. So on a hot and muggy race day in Orlando, I spent much of the bike fixing flats.
Eight flats to be exact. My determination to race just kept stretching and stretching and stretching until by the seventh flat it snapped with an audible twang.
I remember sitting at the side of the rode begging the last few racers on the course for a spare tire so that I could fix yet another flat.
A young lady stopped and offered me one of her spare tires which I gladly accepted. She also offered me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was pretty amazing as she had a steel worker-sized lunch box strapped to the back fender of her bike with a full load of wonderful snacks.
You must remember that at this point in the race I was with a bit more casual bike crowd. The areobar, disk wheel, areo helmet folks were long gone.
I remember saying to her after she offered me the sandwich, “No thanks, I just want to get back on my bike.”
And then rethinking and adding “You know…I will have that sandwich after all. Thank you very much!”
We sat by the side of the road with her munching on cool ranch Doritos and me enjoying a very leisurely PB and J. You could almost hear the snap as I went from wanting to race to just wanting to finish.
It was as if, in the blink of an eye I began to see the fluffy clouds, the bright Florida sun, the austere blue sky, and the boiling black road tarmac.
Before this moment all these things were just props in my play, or variables to be accounted for and forgotten. But now they were real and I was really living in the moment.
Perhaps it is the huge amount of physical exertion of a triathlon that heightens the senses? It is as if every minute becomes an hour and every hour becomes a day, and now I was living and relishing every second.
The pain and the pleasure combine into an intoxicating mixture of life. I could have sat by the side of the road munching on that sandwich forever, but eventually I once again heard the siren call of the finish line. It was time to get back on the bike.
It is funny how focused I become when I race so that the world around me shrinks until it fades into the background. My vision narrows and I only focus on the finish line. But when that rubber band snaps and the world turns back into clear focus, and the sights, sounds, and smells of the day fill my brain with wonder as if I’m drunk on life, that’s the moment that I both dread and happily anticipate.
I’m not saying that this is good or bad. It is just different and stark contrast between racing and just wanting to finish is so vivid that when this happens in a race, I always know.
Sometimes…there comes a moment in racing when your determination to win snaps like an over stretched rubber band.
Do you know that moment?