Thursday, April 16, 2015

The 5 Stages of Accepting USAT's No-Headphones Rules

         Here we are, exactly ONE month away from Ironman Texas! The "real" has most definitely set in, especially since the bib numbers are out! Next week is "peak week" for training, which means I will be doing all of my longest workouts, including an 100 mile ride and an 18 mile run. So, if next week you see me sleeping standing up or find me extra cranky, just give me a snack and let me be, we're almost to the light at the end of the tunnel! (Bryce, I love you very much. Thank you for sleeping in the other room on early morning wake-ups for me so I don't murder you in your sleep for snoring.)
Follow me on race day!

       Since nerves are setting in for many athletes getting ready for the race, especially first timers, I decided to reflect on just how far I've come as a triathlete. I began this journey three years ago, and still remember all the "newbie" worries I had. One especially struck me yesterday on my 6 mile morning run that made me laugh (and then subsequently choke on a gnat, because they're everywhere on the trail now!)

     I used to be so worried about having to race without music! I thought about it yesterday because it's a question I see come up in forums all the time. "Why can't we race with headphones?" "Does USAT really enforce it?" "What about a small boom box?" Now, I'm not here to dog on training with music, because I totally do most of the time, but I have found that more and more, it's easier to run without music than it used to be, and cycling without music doesn't bother me at all. That has not always been the case for me, or I garuntee for most triathletes out there, so I have come up with:

The 5 Stages of Accepting USAT's No-Headphones Rules
(Just TRY to read this without relating!) 

 1. Denial: The first stage is easy to see. It's the forum questions above, such as "I know I have totally seen people running with headphones at such-and-such race, can't I just be subtle?" I get it- you think you'll be able to just put one headphone in, or that since you're a slower racer, you'll be less scrutinized by race officials. Don't do it! The rules are in place for a reason, and those reasons are safety. Training with music is one thing, but racing with it can cause big problems, especially for volunteers or safety officials trying to give you instructions that may keep you from being hit by a car.

2. Anger: I would also call this stage "Defensiveness." You pose the question online, and tons of more experienced athletes list the safety reasons above (and some get unnecessarily ugly about it, admittedly, which does not help your defensiveness!). You react with, "Whatever, that's totally stupid. Marathoners run with music all the time. I've run a million miles with music and it's no problem! I've totally never been so tired that I zone out to a good tune and swerve too close to traffic/don't hear a car coming/miss a turn/etc." Yes. Road races allow music, and many people run just fine. However, those road racers aren't also cycling up to 112 miles after having swum up to 2.4 miles. Your mind is a different animal on triathlon, and if they make the rule for the race, it's the rule for the whole race, running included. Don't EVEN try to argue with me to say riding a bike with music in a race is safe- it's not. End of story. You make me crash my very expensive bike because you don't hear me shout "On your left!" I will end the race in jail for assault of a dumb person. 
3. Bargaining: Ah, this stage is the most interesting. Full disclosure, I most definitely Googled, "clear/see-through wireless headphones" and did the math on how much of the race it'd be worth it to get through before getting a DQ and essentially wasting my race fee. You think, hey, maybe they won't notice me in the middle of the pack. Maybe if I'm super-sneaky I can listen to my music at a low volume and be fine. Maybe I'll just stick my player in my running belt and only pull it out if I need it. Maybe I'll just use my phone as a boom box- that will motivate others as well! Fair enough on the boom box part, but c'mon, now it's just a crutch! Is it worth losing up to $800 in race fees, much less all the time, work, and other funds you've put in to that race? Also, is it worth having an unfair advantage over your competitors who are following the rules.I get it, tunes are a great motivator, especially when you're exhausted, but the rule is there. To be an athlete in this sport is to follow those rules and obtain your victories, large or small, in a fair and equitable way. 

4. Depression: "Man, they're serious about this. How will I EVER do an Ironman without Taylor Swift telling me to shake it off?" Thankfully, this is a short phase, because really, that song is so viral it just bores itself in to your brain so you can call it up whenever you need it. Triathletes are tough, and we love a challenge. Get over it, sugar, and move on to:

5. Acceptance: Ah, we have arrived. You realize that your goals are bigger than your fears or your habits, so you get over it. This is a cross-roads where many people make different choices, but all are OK as long as, come race day, we are all following the rules and keeping ourselves and others as safe as possible. Can you still train with music? Sure, knock yourself out, some days you just need a good beat to get you going. You'll find though, as your experience grows in the sport, that you don't NEED it anymore. It's less of a necessity, a crutch, and more of a "nice to have." That's when you're ready to get. It. Done. Race days, especially at big races, are so energized you won't even notice. The crowds, the fellow athletes, and your own screaming heart and mind, will get you there. If you find yourself flagging remember to just Shake it off, shake it off, shake, shake, shake......(Dammit- see! ANY TIME YOU NEED IT!)   

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