I cross the finish line; I stop my Garmin. I shuffle through the volunteers who remove the timing chip from my ankle, drape a medal around my neck, and hand me a water. I haven’t even made it through the short chute to collect hugs from my cowbell-ringing crew and I’m already in my head, analyzing the race. I look around, we’re all doing it.
It’s really more like exploratory surgery than analysis. Each leg gets dissected looking for every moment where time was lost or we could’ve pushed or where we wished we trained harder. As I meet up with other racers, I can hear them processing their races, too. We’re sorting through our missed steps and timing results. There are many expressions of disappointment for missing a time goal or being slow on a particular leg. All this processing feels more like mourning the race we wished we had, as opposed to celebrating the one we did have.
We’re so wired for improvement that we’re thinking “next race” when we haven’t finished the current one.
I remember a story that Sally Edwards shared about a Danskin Triathlon in the late 90’s. All of the swimmers were out of the water, but there was one bike left on the racks. The race volunteers were panicking as Sally went running over to the lone bike. She found the missing woman, sitting on the ground eating chocolate cake. She finished the swim and she was gonna eat some cake! She understood celebrating.
We had just finished a triathlon. There was a day in the past when we never could have done this and there will be a day in the future when it will be impossible again. We should all be celebrating this race! Even if we stumbled or stopped, we were with like-minded people pushing our bodies to all sorts of physical limits and supporting each other. Let’s celebrate that! Let’s celebrate what we did accomplish that day – whatever it was.
On Sunday, I decided to delay my analysis. I hadn’t hit my “perfect race” goal, but I didn’t want to focus on that and overshadow what I did accomplish. I told my coach there wasn’t going to be a race report for a couple of days. I didn’t want to scrutinize each leg trying to figure out why I fell short. Not on that day. I gave all that I had.I just wanted to savor my triathlife and not think so much.
I love to dissect data and analyze, at least as much as any runner or triathlete I know. (My husband will roll his eyes while he attests to this.) I’m usually squirreled into my brain for several hours processing my races. So this finish was unusual for me. I love progress and planning and training. I will eventually look at the splits for this race. I’m sure there will be an entry or two into a spreadsheet. And I have no doubt that I’ll come up with new areas of focus for future training and races, but not on “this race” day.
If I had a chocolate cake – I would have eaten it, just as smuggly as I like to imagine the woman sitting next to her bike.
Congratulations to all of us!