Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Philadelphia Triathlon results

I participated in the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon in Fairmount Park, Sunday, along with 2,299 others. This Olympic distance event included a 1,500 meter swim in the Schuylkill River; a 40 kilometer bike ride, comprising two loops around Kelly and Martin Luther King Drives with some hills thrown in for fun; and a 10 kilometer run along MLK Drive. The morning was perfect: clear, low humidity, and not too hot.

First, the results. Once in the results system, select "2007 Philly OLYMPIC Individual Results (Updated 6/24/07)," and then key in my name or my bib number (1260). I came in:
  • 818 out of 1,544 individual finishers, comfortably in the middle of the pack
  • 145 out of 217 in my age group (Males 40 - 44 years old), solidly in the top half
  • 546th on the bike leg at 19.2 miles per hour, close to the top third
  • 966th on the run leg, in the bottom 38%
  • 1,224 on the swim leg: meaning 78% of the field was faster than me, including most of the 60 - 64 Men. To qualify that, however: most people wore wet suits, which are legal for non-pros at this water temperature (76 degrees at race time), and make you faster because they help you float and make you more streamlined. I opted not to wear my wetsuit because the water was great for swimming.

You may recall from my last post that I was shooting for finishing in two hours and 30 minutes, down from 2:49 last year. Last year, because of heavy rains the night before the race, the organizers cancelled the swim leg, replacing it with a 3K run. I had assumed my swim time this year would be faster than last year's 3K run because I really took it easy on the run last year, afraid that I'd wear out my legs before the bike and the second (10K) run. Wrong.

I finished in 2:56, seven minutes behind last year. Why? Take another look at that swim result: that tells the whole story. My bike time was almost exactly what it was last year, and my run was five minutes faster than last year. My transitions (switching from the swim to the bike, and from bike to run) were faster than last year, also.

Interesting thing about that wetsuit-or-not decision. With the suit, you have the added comfort of knowing that if you get a crippling gut cramp and suck in mouthful of water, your body's going to float so they can find it afterwards. With the wetsuit, if you get tired, you can just take a break and the suit will keep you floating, effortlessly, so you can rest. Without the suit, you really get a chance to test your confidence that you can in fact make the distance. I am happy to report that I made it.

Standing in the staging area before the swim, and then on the dock, ready to jump in the Schuylkill with the rest of my wave (organizers usually break up the field into waves, or groups, for timing logistics and safety), seeing 90% of the crowd in wetsuits, I questioned my no-wetsuit choice. Several times. Am I crazy or just stupid? Is 76 degrees too cold? What do all the smart people know that I missed?

Then came the call to get in the water - this was an in-water start, so we swam out to the start buoys to tread water until the starting horn sounded. The wetsuit-clad crowd jumped right in. As I got to the edge of the dock, I knew I could hesitate, test the water in case 76 really was too cold (I knew it wasn't), and then decide if I should really try to swim unaided. But nope, I jumped right in, just like I knew what I was doing - because I did. Confidence, tested in another way, even before the race began.

Many MCC students face similar, but more serious confidence tests as they train for and enter the world of work. Often lacking the education of many in the workplace, they wonder if they can cut it. What if I can't do this work...can't figure it out...don't know how to...? In triathlon, not finishing the swim means holding up your arm and a boat comes over to pick you up. Not being able to perform on the job means you're back on the street - no backup, no rescue boat.

In their neighborhoods, many MCC students see the majority of their family members and neighbors taking a different path. They're not looking for work, not training for better jobs. They're dressing for the street, not the office. The overwhelming example for many of our students is to stay home, or hustle, and stay out of the traditional world of work. Often, our students talk about family members and friends who try to convince them that training and jobs are for suckers. Talk about challenging your confidence and resolve.

So I take the example of our students, who come in to MCC despite the overwhelming messages that tell them not to. Despite all the "evidence" from all the "smart" people around them. And then, in a much less risky move, I jump right in the water and swim with confidence.

1 comment:

Rick Homan said...

Nice work, Kevin! I like the parallel between your wetsuit/no wetsuit decision and the decisions faced by MCC students -- be brave and decide based on what you know vs. do what everyone around you is doing.