Photo: Jonathan Fox, Flickr Creative Commons
I've never been really good at anything that wasn't at least tenuously connected to my innate ability to rock at trivia. I have a big vocabulary and I know of lot of random stuff, but if you ask me to do something with my body instead of my brain and you will be thoroughly unimpressed. I've always been a mediocre athlete. Competent when taught, but mediocre.
That's why I was a little surprised this weekend when I discovered that I have the fastest predicted finish time in my category. I'm predicted to beat several guys by more than 30 minutes, but the closest to my predicted time is 15 minutes slower. When I saw this I thought I must have miscalculated, so I went back and ran the math. My fastest swim time this summer was about 7:30 for the quarter mile. That was assisted by the current along Fernandina Beach so I estimated 8 minutes as a fast, but reasonable finish for this weekend's quarter-mile swim. My first transition the last two races was right at two minutes, so I'll use that time (even though I'm planning on getting through transition more quickly this time). If I can manage 21 mph on the bike for 16 miles there's no reason I can't expect the same over this race's 13 miles, so there's another 37 minutes. Last time my second transition was also just a hair over 2 minutes so we'll use that as well (and I don't think I'll save much time on T2 tomorrow). Finally, my fastest run in a sprint tri this summer was 24:45. I think I can push a little harder this time and get an even 24 minutes.
Ok, let's do a little math. Getting out the calculator because I can't add...
73 minutes. Okay double-checking that I'm converting that to H:MM format correctly...
One hour, 13 minutes. That's only 3 minutes slower than what I put on my entry form when signing up (because I confused this race's 13-mile bike leg with another one in October that has a 10-mile bike leg). I'm still expecting to be 12 minutes faster than that one guy and more than 30 minutes faster than the others. There is that guy who didn't provide an estimated time, but we'll deal with him when we get there. What this means is that for the first time in my short history as a triathlete, I'll actually be going into a race with the goal of coming in first. Sure, it's just first in the Clydesdale category, but first place is first, especially when there are people who lose because of you.
Seriously, it's very important to me that someone lost because of me. I won first place in my age group at a 5k this past weekend. I was happy. I was 11th overall and pushed pretty hard through late-day humidity and heat to put up my best time since April. I was happy I came in first. Then I found out I was the only guy in my age-group. Assholes probably didn't run just to take away my joy in victory.
This does change how I go into tomorrow's race, though. In the past, I've always gone in with a plan to finish and, if I'd done that distance before, finish faster than before. It's always been a competition against myself, against my sloth, my desire to quit. This time, I'm actually going in looking to beat specific people. My goal with this race is to do what I know I can do in the water and on the bike and then push so hard on the run that 3 yards past the finish line I find myself unable to walk. That's a tad bit of an exaggeration, but I really do plan on seeing just how far I can push myself tomorrow without breaking. There's also more motivation this time. In the past, I've never had anything to lose. My pride was tied to finishing and not walking at all during the run section. This time, my daydreams have already given me that stupid first-place medal. I actually have something to lose by not competing well this time. And research shows that human really hate to lose stuff more than they even like getting stuff.
Oh, and one more thing. This triathlon is being held in a state park that is one of the official entrances of the Okefenokee Swamp. I'll be swimming in a lake in the Okefenokee. If you hear about a triathlete being attacked by an alligator, please leave your condolences in the comment section below.