Hi friends, happy June! How was your #NationalRunningDay on Wednesday? Mine was awesome-sauce. I got to run with the world’s best running team, so OBVIOUSLY it was a kick-ass celebration. My favorite part of the day was that we all got to write WHY we run at the end of our team workout. It was great to see the reasons that motivate my teammates to run, and it was a good reminder for me as well.

I run because it brings me joy.

Running brings me joy. So does swimming and biking, playing outside, chilling with friends and family, fundraising for important causes, and snuggling up in bed after a day well spent. I’m immensely grateful to be able to do so many things that bring me joy on a daily basis. Which brings me to my recap of the Rock Hall International Triathlon.

Going into the race last weekend – a totally new distance for me – I had three levels of goals: 1) If everything went absolutely perfectly – perfect conditions, feeling amazing, etc – I was (and am still) confident that I could race an international distance in 2:35; 2) A realistic goal of 2:45 that could be achieved with a less than perfect performance; and if I totally fell apart, my goal was to race under 3 hours. As referenced in this post’s title, I fell apart. Even from the start of the race, I knew that goal #1 was out of the question. It was too hot, too windy, and too choppy for a perfect race, but I still felt that 2:45 could be within reach.

First up – the water. It was 79 degrees (no wetsuits if you’re familiar with USAT rules). That is straight up bathwater! It was also super choppy. Due to the wind, the bay had issued a “small craft advisory,” which means that the water on the bay was so choppy they don’t recommend small boats go out on the water. It wasn’t too bad in the harbor, but it was far from calm. Whatevs – I’m comfortable in the water no matter the conditions, so I jumped right in!

My wave went off and I got to the first turn buoy no problem and headed to the next one. It was difficult to sight with the chop, but between following the pack and catching a glimpse of the buoys when I could, I was staying on track fairly well. Then we turned at the second turn buoy. Suddenly, there was no buoy in site. WTF! I kept swimming by following the pack, but knew we weren’t headed in the right direction. I poked my head up near a kayak and asked where to go. Turns out, a WHOLE massive group had taken a much harder left than needed. I redirected, found the buoy, and kept going. Back on track after at least an extra 100 meters – ok. THEN, as I turned at the next buoy, swimmers started swimming TOWARDS me. Ummm….what? Turns out, some folks didn’t stop to redirect and were literally sent back to go around the buoy, putting them in complete opposition to the direction of the rest of the swimmers. Welp, didn’t realize this would be an obstacle race, but ok. Dodged the swimmers and continued around the next buoy to start the next loop of the bay. I turned the corner, only to see people WALKING. I’m sorry, whaaaaaat is going on here?

At this point, I’m totally confused. First there were no buoys, then swimmers were going the wrong way, and now people are walking? Was something wrong? Were they stopping the race? I swam with my head out for awhile to try to figure out wtf was happening. The race appeared to be going on, and it seemed like people were just walking because it was shallow and they could, so I kept swimming. Finally, I turned at the last turn buoy before the final stretch. The sun was directly in front of me, and I couldn’t see a thing straight ahead. Bugging that I’d end up swimming the wrong way again (and lose even more time by swimming extra legs), I kept poking my head out and taking off my goggles to squint and see if I was still headed straight. I wasn’t trusting ANYONE else to follow to the end. After a very confusing swim leg, I made it out of the water and ran across the pier to transition. I came out of the water at 30:57 (6/20 AG) – 5 minutes slower than my usual comfortable pace. Goal #2 was slipping away, but still wasn’t impossible. I’d just need a kickass bike leg.IMG_2052In stark contrast to the swim, the bike leg was amazingly well directed. There was a volunteer or cop at every turn and every intersection. I felt incredibly safe the entire course, and it was gorgeous. I spent most of the bike leg just having a blast (and watching folks on tri bikes with aero wheels speed by me- whatevs). We hit a gravely patch of road mid-race that was pretty irritating, but otherwise the road conditions were solid. However, the second half of the bike leg met me with a BEAST of a headwind. I kid you not, there was a moment where I came up on a little hill and I was SO happy because it blocked the wind for a minute. Womp womp. In spite of it, I had a decent bike leg, nothing to write home about, but at 1:24 (10/20 AG), not a total disaster either. I’ll take it.

Coming off the bike, I had two thoughts on my mind: 1) I want a beer RIGHT NOW and 2) It is really hot out right now. I’d run the run course a few weeks before in cooler weather and it was hot then. The whole course is on asphalt and has very little shade. Oh, and it’s two loops of the same thing. I knew it was going to be brutal. In addition, at this point, I needed to run 8 min miles to come in under 2:45. On a good day – a 10K under 50 mins is no problem, but on a hot day? Forget it. I haven’t run in the heat at ALL this year, so I knew it was just not going to happen.

My wonderful parents and Charlie were cheering me on as I came out of transition, and I decided I was just going to enjoy the run as much as possible.IMG_2053After the first mile, it became very clear to me that this run wasn’t going to be particularly enjoyable. The sun was brutal. I started bargaining with myself. Run the first loop straight through, and then you can walk through water stations for the second loop. I picked up two cups of water at every water station – one to stay hydrated and one to dump on my head. I threw my nutrition plan out the window – it was way too hot to take in a gel while running (It would’ve made me totally nauseous). After seeing my cheer squad at the end of the the first loop, I just shuffled on. Run to the next water station – drink, dump, walk, shuffle on, repeat. I wasn’t tired or sore, I was just HOT. (Note to self – start training in the heat and trouble shooting for it). I rolled into the finish with a 57 min 10k (7/20 AG) – my slowest to date, ever – for a finish time of 2:56:25 (8/20 AG, 61/194 OAW).

Nothing to write home about, but in spite of it all, I was having fun the ENTIRE race. Even when I had no effing clue where I was swimming, and when I felt I was going backwards on my bike due to the wind, and when I felt like I was going to physically melt into the pavement on the run. I kept thinking how cool it was that I get to do this, how beautiful the scenery was, how lucky I am to have a kickass support system, and singing songs to myself about the beer I was going to drink at the finish line. I enjoyed every minute. Which is really why I race in the first place. It brings me joy – even when all my best laid plans totally fall apart.

So from a competition standpoint, my race was a complete failure, but from the perspective of a day well spent doing something that brings me joy, it was a total victory. Here’s to enjoying life!


About the Author Aubrie Fennecken

Aubrie Fennecken is the Chief Alchemist at Opportunity Kitchen | work + wellness strategist | nonprofit fundraising expert | providing productivity and self-care support for mission-driven humans

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