I've been giving a lot of thought over the past few days to the triathlete who drowned on Saturday in the Schuylkill River. It was Derek "Rudy" Valentino's first triathlon, he was 40 years, a father of two boys, and lived in the tri-state area, specifically, Delaware County. His drowning death hits a little too close to home for me, especially after the passing of my friend, Angel Oramas at the beginning of this month. I did not know Mr. Valentino, but since he was a new triathlete, and was a local, home-town man, close to me in age, I feel a athletic connection. The swim portion of the triathlon is the area where I get the most nervous. It's a huge body of water, murky, crowded and not something in which I'm used to swimming. As I've struggled with getting in my work outs this year, fitting in my training and mentoring my SheRox Tri ladies, hearing about a death in my sport was too unsettling.
I do have positive things to note though; I've gotten some good feedback from the SheRox Mentor program regarding my mentoring. I've been biking as much as I can, logging in 463 Miles since May 26th; 383 Miles in June alone. Of that mileage, 369 miles were my morning or afternoon workout bike rides. I rode 92 miles round trip to work from May 26th through June 29th. I can't even imagine what my mileage would be if I were riding as much as I did last year, or if I had been logging my miles since either the start of 2010 or my riding season. I've run outside more this season than I have over the past three years. I'm not swimming nearly enough, but I feel like I have real knowledge and a plan for the swim. It's funny, as soon as I heard about the drowning, I was thinking I didn't want to do the swim. Then I started to reassess my skills and what I need to do to improve over the next month. A comment a friend made via Facebook about the swim portion of the triathlon put things into perspective - she said to keep going and to conquer your fear of the river, which is the scariest part of the triathlon. There are so many people all trying to get to the same point at the same time. Thrashing, kicking and pushing through the river. My advice to get through the swim is to stay to the sides and the back of the wave. Keep the buoys and bridges in sight. Go slow and remember to go at your own pace - not the pace of the wave around you. If you panic, take a moment somehow to catch your breath or grab onto the lifeguard boats and safety kayaks. Check out the river before the triathlon, and study the distance; memorize it and then visualize the course as you do your swim training and workouts. I made it through the river before, when I couldn't swim all that well. I suspect I'll just have to find my rhythm pacing and go as slow as I need to go just to keep swimming. Advice I offer for almost any endeavor, biking, running, and especially swimming. Practice makes one better in any sport but so does a plan, visualization, and being mentally prepared. Today was the first day in over a year when I truly began to believe I can do this, that I will do this, and that I am a triathlete. There's real power in positive thinking.