|USAT Nationals - Milwaukee - The day before the race|
The Argument for Unrealistic Goals
“Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?”
Or what's a heaven for?”
I began my blog on July 28, 2009. I explained that the purpose of the blog was to chronicle my development as a writer and as a triathlete. I wisely didn’t come up with any specific goals for writing, but for my triathlon career I was clear:
“My goal is to finish in the top ten at the USAT National Age Group Championship for the 60-64 year old age group. I will turn 60 in 2011 so at least I’ll have youth going for me.”
It turned out that youth was not enough. I first competed in the Nationals in 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was hot and humid and we swam in a river against the current and the water temperature was 84 degrees. I became dehydrated and my legs cramped so bad I had to withdraw after the first mile of the race. So I finished last.
In 2011 I made it back to the Nationals, which was held in mountainous but cool Vermont. During that race my new front-mounted water bottle fell off and I wasted five minutes getting it reassembled. Managed to finish in 2 hours 59 minutes and 41 seconds. So at least I was under three hours and I finished 43rd out of 48, so I moved up from last to the top 90% (or for the glass half empty folks: bottom 10%).
I took a break from the Nationals in 2012 to try the Ironman at Coeur d’Alene. For that race, time didn’t matter as long as I finished before they all went home. When I crossed the finish line I heard the announcement: “Len Joy, age 61 in his first Ironman…Age 61! Len Joy you are an Ironman.” That was cool and for a few weeks after that I thought seriously about entering another Ironman, but I got over it.
The USAT Nationals moved to Milwaukee in 2012. I really wanted to race there and I entered five races trying to qualify. Finally, a month before the race I qualified at the Regional championship in Ann Arbor.
Race day in Milwaukee was perfect. Cool and sunny and the water was calm. I swam okay, but got a little off course when my goggles fogged up. I hit it hard on the bike course, averaging over 20 mph, but then I didn’t have much left for the run. And when my hamstring tweaked at the end of mile two I had to slow to a jog. I finished in 2 hours fifty minutes, but with that nine minute improvement I had climbed all the way to the 82nd percentile.
Yesterday I raced in my fourth USAT National event. It was in Milwaukee again, so I had the advantage of knowing the course. Knew what to expect. I had learned through these years of training that I wasn’t going to show up on race day and all of sudden be thirty minutes faster –which is what I would have to be in order to make the top ten in the age group.
I just wanted to have a solid race that reflected all the training I had done. Wanted to execute the plan I had worked out with my coach (Heather Collins). I wanted to finish strong.
And that’s what I did. I stayed on course in the swim, ran through the transitions, controlled my effort on the bike so that my legs would be fresh for the run. On the run, my hamstrings cramped up on mile one and two, but this year I knew how to work through that and while it hurt my time, I still managed a pace of 8:11. Not great, but not bad either. I crossed the finish line in 2 hours 42 minutes – which put me in the 62nd percentile.
I was 21 minutes behind the 10th place finisher – a huge amount and not something I’m going to be able to overcome next year – my last year in the 60-64 age group. But the 10th place finisher in the 65-69 age group had a time of ONLY 2 hours 28 minutes.
So I have a new goal:
Top 10 finisher in 2016 when I will be 65. I just need to pare fourteen minutes from my time.
I’m sure I can do that.