I'm not a big country music guy, but since my wife is a somewhat closeted country music gal, I've been exposed to it over the past several years. I'll even admit that I kinda like Rascal Flats and that maybe if one of their songs was on the country music station I happened to flip through on the radio dial, I'd stop and take a listen. Just maybe I might turn the volume up a bit too. As long as I'm by myself.
My favorite country music song is by Toby Keith, "As Good Once as I Ever Was." If you don't know it, Keith sings about how he may have lost a step or two over the years, but that when it ultimately matters, his mind (if not his body) thinks he can muster just one more virtuoso tryst/bar fight, etc.. I think it's the ultimate Weekend Warrior song, and it aptly describes how this past weekend's Playa del Rey Triathlon went.
"I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was."
I haven't raced a sprint or Olympic-distance triathlon in more than a year. I haven't raced at all since Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June. I just started training again a few weeks ago, and as a result I've felt just a bit sluggish (and therefore not so confident). My coach, Gerardo, has proven to me otherwise in the pool though, where I've seemed to have gotten faster overall. Still I'm not at where I used to be in my training.
We put that to the test at the sprint triathlon Sunday morning. Steph rallied once again with a 4:30 a.m. wake up call, as did my sister and future brother-in-law Craig. Steph and I reminisced on the way to the event how jacked up I used to get before races -- pumping the rap music, firing myself up with the theme song from Rocky. The Thousand Yard Stare. Cheesy, I know. This time, we drove down the empty freeway in near-silence, just playfully joking around every few minutes.
I started to worry with around 20 minutes to go until race time that I was too relaxed. The event was a small one, there were only 237 finishers. Compared to the frenzy that is an Ironman, this was literally a tenth of the drama and energy. I brought some Astro Gaming headphones with me just for this purpose, got my groove on and strutted around the parking lot bobbing my head.
Ahhh, that's where my Race Persona was. Good to see you again, Mr. Intensity!
So, how did it go?
I finished fourth in my age group with a 1:12:20 for a 600 meter ocean swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1 mile run. My swim was fairly abysmal (2 minute T-pace w/ strong currents), my bike was decent (20.6 mph average) and the run turned out a little better than I expected (6:49 pace) with only a handful of training sessions.
I beat my own expectations by a couple minutes. So why was I bummed? Honestly, I thought for the first time in my brief-ish triathlon career, I might make the podium at a triathlon. I had daydreamed once again about hearing my name called in the awards ceremony for a week. My finish time this year would have put me squarely in third place last year. But several more elite athletes showed up to Playa this year. So much so that after I got out of the water, I never saw the top three finishers again until the awards ceremony. Third place in my 35-39 age group this year equaled 1:06 -- a six minute difference between me and the podium! Last year, 1:15:59 would have been good for bronze.
In the end, after a few days of reflection, I realize that perhaps I focused on the wrong things. Instead of dwelling on how maybe I've lost a step or whether I'll ever crack the podium, I'm now realizing that I was still in the top 16% of my age group with half the training as when I trained for Ironman. Not to mention that I'm a little heavier (for me!) and that this race was a great start to the 2012 season.
In short, maybe I'm not quite as good as I once was, but I'm gosh darned close. This rodeo's just gittin' started too.
And that's something to hoot and holler about, OK y'all?