When I finished my first triathlon four years ago I was 40 from the bottom. Four years ago I couldn't run for a mile straight without feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. When we moved to FL I remember being upset that I was unable to finish in the top half of finishers. Three years ago I thought a 10 mile bike ride was long.
When I think about last season in general I think two things. I could have done better, and I should have done better. When I think about next year I am shooting for performance gains, not a second flat season.
I just re-read my last few race reports, and my season notes. What I wrote and what I remembered was surprisingly different. I remembered having a lackluster season, and I remembered saying that in my race reports and season notes. The difference is pretty surprising. I was thinking that my memory and my blog lined up, and I was hunting for negative quotes, where I lamented performances.
Recently I got notice that I again qualified for USAT Olympic nationals. One of the ways you do that is to finish in the top 10% of finishers in your age group at a USAT sanctioned race. When I got that note, I realized something. I realized that my "lackluster" performance was still pretty freaking good.
On that day something happened. I realized that I had gotten to a place that I find annoying. I was feeling crummy about a 3rd place finish, or an 8th place finish. I was feeling crummy about doing things that 3 years ago I would have been super stoked for.
People talk about this all the time, but it's easy to fall into this trap. When I got into this sport, and started going to events and meeting people who are also in the sport I started to see what's out there. It seemed like no matter what there was someone who was way better, or even just slightly better than me.
In the world of endurance sports I talk to people I meet out and about and find out they are training for an Ironman or an ultra marathon or a 10 mile swim, it's hard not to compare myself to them.
The second invite to USAT nationals was a sort of wake up call. I am doing well, I am making progress, and just a few short years ago I was at the other end of the spectrum. I will probably continue to compare myself to the people around me, if only for motivation, for proof that I can still be faster.
But I will also try to be honest about what's around me. I know of some people who are doing some amazing things. This guy a set a year goal to "just be fit" after his first child was born and went on to win a running series while pushing the same kid in a stroller. My sister trained for and executed her first Ironman and has already signed up for another one. This guy decided this season to become a pro triathlete. This guy is my age and has been pro a long time and still rocks the race course. These people are all doing amazing things, and they are everywhere, but they represent an elite few.
And I'll be honest about what I'm doing. Finishing near the top at all the races I go to is pretty freaking cool. Living a healthy lifestyle and using that to have a positive impact on my friends and family, to be able to talk in real terms that non-elite athletes can related to is pretty amazing too.
In the words of Stuart Smalley: I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!