Why Should We CHOOSE to Suffer?

Triathlon and endurance sports in general often require us to push our limits, or more realistically, challenge us to find our limits. I’m convinced, more and more, that most of us have no idea what our actual physical limits are.  That is one of the things I love most about triathlon. I love surprising myself.  However, that surprise doesn’t come easily, and typically requires just as much mental fortitude as it does physical fortitude.  I have learned more and more that I must be willing to suffer in my training.  What is suffering? The dictionary describes “to suffer” as to submit to or be forced to endure or to feel keenly or labor under.  What a perfect description of what it takes to be a successful triathlete: we must submit to and endure and labor under the rigors of hours upon hours of physically stressing our bodies in order to achieve our goals.  What is unique is that we CHOOSE to suffer, and that we must FORCE ourselves to endure. Regardless of how fast or slow we might be in comparison to the rest of the field, each person must finish the race on their own. Each person has their own motivations. Each person must CHOOSE to endure and suffer until the end.

On 18 Sept ’10  I raced the San Diego Tri Classic Olympic triathlon.  My swim was just average, or less than, for me.   But I was excited to hit the bike and ride hard on my new tri-bike.  But, just 4-miles into the bike I found myself in a situation I’d never encountered: I wiped out. Pavement was slick, I was in aero, attempted to not run over a GU packet dropped by someone in front of me, but hit that packet just right.  Next thing I knew my right side was sliding across the asphalt and I was donating skin to San Diego.  Once I stopped and could get up, I checked the bike and found it’s okay. Nothing seemed broken on me, and I then had to choose. I knew I was bleeding, I knew I had road rash, my right hip hurt but otherwise I was okay, just shaken.  The competitive part of me knew the race had just become a “just finish” one for me. I don’t like that. I had a perfectly good reason to DNF right then and there. But I was wearing my Team RWB Tri Top (old version—don’t worry, new ones to come!) and I knew I was going to finish.  I had some scratches and bruises. Big deal. The wounded vets that Team RWB supports have to deal with so much more.  As a Team RWB Triathlete, I decided quitting wasn’t an option for me.  I would finish.  And I did.  The bike finished okay, but I was sore, and come the run, I just kept moving. I hadn’t really looked at all my wounds and knew that my right side was pretty banged up. I got some funny comments on the run about it being “hard core” to finish. My response—“it’s only a flesh wound” and really, that’s all it was.   

Here, 3 weeks later, it’s almost all but healed up.  Our wounded vets deal with so much more than that.  Did I suffer for a couple of hours out there that day? Sure, I “suffered” a little bit, but I did it by choice. And I will continue to train and race at efforts that find me “suffering” and when I reach those suffering points, I’ll remember that it’s only momentary suffering that comes to a victorious result when I cross that finish line. I know my suffering will end.  I choose my suffer. Our wounded vets, while clearly volunteering to serve their country, and in so doing wrote a blank check to the USA, didn’t intentionally seek out being wounded. The results of their wounds don’t magically end at a finish line where beer and pizza awaits them.  So, remember that when you are out there in your training and racing.  When you reach your suffer points EMBRACE them because they will make you stronger, faster, and mentally tough.  You will represent yourself and Team RWB well. The suffer moments will make you a better Triathlete, and they are a way for you to embrace the Team RWB motto “It’s Our Turn.” Go on out and suffer Team RWB Tri—“It’s Our Turn!”  



Race Report - Houston Cypress Olympic 2010

Hello all,
My name is Aaron. My wife Tiffany and I are new members of Team RWB, and we are proud to be a part of it. Having served in the Army and completed a few deployments, I know what it is like to come back to a strange world called 'home,' and Tiffany knows what it is like to have to help her husband readjust to a life that should be so familiar even as she readjusts to having him back. As any who have deployed know, stepping off the plane does not mean you are home. That is the source of our commitment.
So apart from a brief introduction, the purpose of this post is to report on the race we just ran, our last for 2010. It was the Memorial Hermann Houston Triathlon in Cypress. The name is a bit confusing, but this is not the longer-running spring 1/2-Iron race in Galveston. This was a really fun race, but the course is not really conducive to personal bests! The swim is in a freshwater retention/drainage pond (sounds worse than it is) and is a two-lap course. The buoys are huge and easy to spot, so it was a good race for beginners (like us). It was strange swimming two laps for a shorter distance swim, but I think it was good training for longer races. Two notes for any other beginners: 1) It is not going to be easy to walk at first, so prepare yourself and 2) Really? A water stop halfway through the swim? Thirst and dry mouth are not issues at that point for me, how about a towel and oxygen? Ok, back to the point.
The swim is about 1/3 mile from the transition area, so everyone's T1 times are ridiculous! However, us slow swimmers who are good runners appreciate the chance to make up a few seconds here. They laid cushy carpet over the street to save our feet, and it wasn't bad at all. Since my wave was second and Tiffany was almost last, I was about to exit the swim when she started her race, which was about the only way I was going to beat her out of the water. Small victory #1.
We had the bittersweet experience of having a cold front pass over during the race, so there was a wicked headwind (18-20mph) for a lot of the bike, but it kept the sky overcast and temperature down for the run. The bike is a modified two lapper that is out and back. You turn around for the second lap well before you get back to transition, so you really have no idea how it is going race-wise, there are just people everywhere going all different speeds, particularly with that wind. Tiff saw me turn around on my second lap as she was on her first, but I missed her. She was not able to catch me (small victory #2). We both appreciated our new aerobars and drink bottles into that headwind, it really helped to get small.
T2 was uneventful, we had some of the best spots in the area because there was a water station near the rows, so we didn't have any congestion and we were very central and easy to find from all the entries and exits. There was a bit of a run from the mount/dismount line into the transition area for this size race, but that was forced by the layout in a parking lot. They did a great job of carpeting it to save our feet (and overall, this race was very well equipped and run).
The run was really nice because it winds through trails on a college campus and around a neighborhood lake and then actually loops through a football stadium (and up and down it's ramps to the upper level) after mile 4, pretty neat. It was not the boring, hot out and back on a street that many races are. The neighborhood part had all sorts of people out in their backyards cheering and there was a good crowd near the start and finish, that always helps. Again, maybe not the best for all out speed, but it was much more distracting and pleasant than most runs.
We certainly didn't threaten to win at just under 3 hours, but I managed to go a couple of minutes faster than my first Olympic distance race even with the long swim exit run and the headwind, so we're going the right way. Tiffany finished about 3 minutes slower than me, which is awesome for her first Olympic distance(but I still count it as small victory #3). She actually threatened for a top-10 finish in her age group, but just barely got beat in the sprint at the end. It is going to be an interesting competition between us, she is very talented and I hate to lose. We were both sore in our glutes, which we attribute to the fact that we haven't had aerobars for very long and we were pushing against that headwind in a lower position.
The race is well organized and has a small expo area at the finish line, so that might be a good one to set up a tent and have some supporters around to spread the word about Team RWB in future races. I think we'll be back for this one in the future.
As I said, our season is over for this year. We are taking a week or so 'off' and then preparing for two 1/2 marathons over the winter, St. Jude in Memphis and the Houston in February (?). Our plan is to race the 1/2 Iron in Galveston next spring and we are discussing whether one of us can make the Arizona Ironman with the rest of y'all. There is also talk of a new 1/2 Iron in Kerrville next summer. If you've never been, that is a beautiful area in the Texas Hill Country. Oh, and I'm off to register for the 10k in the Woodlands now, so hopefully we'll see some of you there!