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Dispatch: Project Penny (Challenge Penticton), Chapter Two

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Jul 25, 2013
  • Updated Jul 27, 2013 at 3:06 PM UTC


Name: Jené Shaw
Title: Senior Editor
Age: 29

Last Sunday I raced Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens. I signed up because I’ve heard it’s an “enchanting but deceptively difficult” course (TRUTH), and felt like I should get in that obligatory 6-weeks-out 70.3 in to make sure my fitness was on track.

Going into the event, I did a few things wrong. First, I signed up sort of on a whim a couple months ago, and didn’t know anyone else doing it. As the event was approaching, I thought—wait, why did you sign up to do a race by yourself? Outside of what I’ve heard about the course and the race organizers, there was a main reason I signed up for Challenge Penticton—it was because these two other schmucks I know (ahem Holly, Julia) peer pressured me into it. (Well, to be fair, by “peer pressured” I mean they said, “Let’s do this” and I said, “OK, I’ll go sign up.”)

Second, I went home for a family reunion in Michigan the week before (excuse me, I mean my A-race, the Shaw Family Olympics—yes, of course we took gold) and ate my weight in Grandma Shaw’s chocolate chip cookies and didn’t touch a bike for over a week. Solid tapering decisions.

And third, for whatever loony procrastinator’s logic I had, I didn’t book my hotel, rental car or flight until a week before. I do not advise this. Although it does force you to answer the question, “How bad do I really want to do this race?” Apparently bad enough to buy a $600 plane ticket. I don’t want to talk about that.

The day I was back in San Diego between Michigan and Seattle, things started to look up. A friend of a friend, who was also racing Sunday, offered to let me crash on his couch to save some cash, and just like that I had a baked-in Seattle tour guide and a race buddy. Picturing going to the expo and driving to the race in the morning solo seems terrible in comparison.

The night before the race, my friend-of-two-days got a call that one of his best friends died in a mountaineering accident on Mount Olympus. As soon as we learned what happened, my brain immediately shifted from raceracerace to complete apathy towards any goals or times or really even going to the event in general. My friend decided to still race, driven by knowing what his friend would want him to do, which struck me as incredibly brave and admirable. The thought of losing someone remotely close to me, let alone that close, made me feel so sick and weak that I couldn’t fathom tackling something physically challenging mere hours later. We went to bed at midnight, woke up at 4 a.m., and both lined up as planned.

As soon as the gun went off, I knew I wouldn’t have the extra edge physically or mentally that day, but I didn’t really care. I just pushed when I could and relied on the fitness I had to carry me to an 18-minute 70.3 PR, something I was obviously happy with but didn’t quite have the same typical euphoric feeling about. My friend (who still pulled off a super impressive race) exuded a whole new level of mental strength, and it really gave me a newfound admiration for those triathletes who have every reason not to head to the start line, but who still do it regardless of how high their emotions are running. I hope I can carry an ounce of that to my next tough race experience.

The next few weeks have some pretty scary-looking Saturdays and high-mileage weeks, but I’m armed and ready to get stronger for this thing.

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