Monday, November 25, 2013

Racing? Or pacing?

This post has, in some ways, been a long time in coming.  For too long I have sat idly on the sidelines, not commenting when I felt as thought it was necessary.  For too long I have held my tongue at the inane comments many throw out there that are oftentimes uninformed, mis-informed, or pure speculation.


What exactly is power?  Well, some view it as "the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events."  That is only related to what I am talking about in the sense that when one uses power[watts] correctly, one will definitely influence the behavior of others AND the course of events.  So, with proper power comes...POWER.

I have now been training with power in various forms for about 3 years.  Before you say it: no, that is not really a particularly long time.  To go from having no idea what anything like "TSS, IF, VI, NP/AP, PMC, MMP, ATL/CTL, TSB, etc" meant 3+ years ago to trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about is a little bit of a stretch.  But, I do think I know (generally) what I am talking about.

Almost everyone I know rides too hard in long races.  I can think of very few exceptions to this rule.  Actually, I can really only think of two exceptions, and one of them just so happens to have the same coach as I do.  If you are reading this and you train with power and you're not Scott Woodbury, nor are you coached by Brian Stover, then yes...I am talking about you.

That's a pretty wide net to cast, but I think it is cast accurately.  Many of the athletes I know are capable of far, FAR better run performances than they display in races.  But it is very, very hard to resist the urge of a fast bike split.  Very hard indeed.

But with proper pacing, comes proper racing.  I see a lot of 4:50 IM bike splits followed up by 8 minute pace runs.  Being able to ride 23 mph for 112 miles and truly having the ACTUAL FITNESS to ride that fast means you really should honestly be running faster than 8 minute pace.  7.5 mph is not really that fast if you are comparing it, relatively speaking, to 23 mph.

Ultimately, you should want to be the best TRIATHLETE.  It's certainly cool to have people look at your splits on paper and say things like "Wow look at that bike split!" And conveniently not notice the struggle of a run that followed.  When people look at my results I want them to see a well-rounded TRIATHLETE.  That is, one who displays proper pacing throughout the duration of the race.

I remember I was helping someone race Cozumel last year and this person had a certain watt range that wasn't all that high.  But it was consistent with what they were probably capable of (if anything, it was probably a bit high).  When the number was said, the reactions elicited such things like "Wow you could definitely ride harder than that!" Stuff like that.  Sure you CAN ride harder, but why would you want to? Riding 15 watts lower in an IM may cost you ~5 minutes on the bike (if that), but it could gain you 60 minutes on the run.  The swing from a good run to a bad run is a huge time difference.  Most people have bad runs.  But they somehow think they have good bikes.  There is a disconnect there that needs examining.

I admit, I am skeptical of my ability to hold these thoughts in the forefront of my head at Cozumel in 6 days.  I WANT that fast ride.  I need it, almost.  But you know what really matters more? How fast you run.  Triathlon is still all about running.  It's about being fit enough to swim fast without killing yourself.  It's about pacing yourself appropriately on the bike.  And then it's about running your guts out.

Will I ride "fast" in Cozumel? By some standards, sure.  But my hope is that if a casual bystander looks at my splits on Sunday they will see someone that they will perceive to be a "runner."  When really, if they read between the lines, they would see a good TRIATHLETE.

Because it's still three sports people.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A pre "season in review" Season in Review

I am going to write a short blurb on my season because, for all intents and purposes, it's basically over.  You may find yourself asking: "Gee James, I thought you still had an Ironman to start?"  Well you, you would be right.  But, the IM was a late, somewhat spontaneous addition to the schedule so my 2013 [as I saw it in the spring] is over.

Now, that's not to say that I'm mentally done.  Au contraire, mon frere.  (so worldly).  I am very, very excited to "race" Cozumel in less than 2 weeks.  It's just that, from a planning perspective, the year is done.  I don't know what I really expected out of this year.  I suppose I could peruse old blog posts (who doesn't love doing that, by the way) to figure out what I hoped for when the year started, but ain't nobody got time for that.

I don't really see the "season" in the same way I used to (just reference Jenny's humorous blog post on my page 2 weeks ago to see the veracity of that statement).  There aren't any/many "A" races around which a season is built.  I just kind of train all year.  I never have a good answer for: "What are you training for right now?" The answer is always the same: "I am training to train." Now, that being said, there are certainly races about whose results I care more.

I wanted to do several things in 2013:

1) Win the NCTS (check)
2) Improve across all disciplines (check)
3) Have fun (check)

So I didn't wanna suck at local races.  I wanted to get faster at the longer/bigger races.  While doing those two things I wanted to be more awesome at laughing at myself and with others than I have ever been before.  On all three counts I can say that was a solid win.

I think the most TELLING statistical improvement, however, came in the form of my long distance races.  Before this year, I have never gone sub 4:20 in a 70.3/half-iron before.  I've had the fitness, but the course or my own mistakes presented obstacles that prevented me from passing that "barrier."  In 2011 two halves I did had canceled swims and two halves were "bad' races.  In 2012 the two halves I did resulted in a 4:23 (tough course) and a DNF.  I have mixed and matched various splits that were good and bad but have never had an entire 70.3 where all splits were PRETTY good.  I am still in search of that "perfect" race where I don't feel the need to come up with any sort of explanation, just a simple "That was perfect execution."

This year, I have gone under 4:20 at every half I have done.  Three of those courses were "flat" and two were "hilly." Each race had notable things about it:

White Lake - 1:18:00 half-marathon, CRAZY swim, 2nd to an out of town rookie pro
NOLA - 26.5' swim, helmet problems, survived the run (still a 1:26 or so)
Rev3 Williamsburg - CRAZY swim, 2:14:00 bike on rolling course, survived hilly run (1:26.5)
Carolina Half - ok swim, ok bike, great run (controlled 1:23 on a very difficult course)
Rev3 FL - non wetsuit swim PR (ok swim), fast bike on low watts, controlled 1:21 w/ injury break

The common theme here is really the running.  Yes, I've gotten better at swimming and at biking, but the real improvement this year has manifested itself in my ability to still run fast even when I'm not running fast.  A 1:20 is the new "normal" to a certain extent, in the sense that it's the goal for every race.  I could have run that at Florida if I had wanted to.  That's not just me blowing smoke up my own ass (which is fun, by the way; has a nice tingle), it's a realistic assessment of my own abilities.

As I used to say in golf (for those that don't know, I was an OBSESSED teenage golfer and was on the path of collegiate golf before discovering cycling): as you get better, your "misses" get closer.  The same holds true in triathlon.  Even though I wouldn't say I had that one, "perfect" race, I still raced REALLY well, mostly.  Even the "meh" races were still pretty good.

In a more general standpoint, everything local I either won or came in 2nd.  With the exception of Lake Hickory, the only people who beat me are licensed pros.  So throughout the year, regionally, I did pretty well.

As a pro, I'd say I did ok. I beat some people this year.  I finished every race. It is clear, however, that pro racing at the half distance is still ALL about the swim.  It's obviously about the bike and run too, but you stand no chance at doing well (i.e. top 5) if you don't "make the pack" in the swim.  It's just the way the dynamics work.  Rev3 races also seem to be much more competitive at the pro level than most 70.3 races.  There are just SO MANY WTC 70.3 races that the pro field, as a consequence, gets diluted.  So, to a degree, it seems "easier" to place well at those races.  Rev3, on the other hand, has a more limited prize purse race list, so what races there are that DO have pro fields are very packed pro fields.  At the AG level, however, they sometimes seem less competitive.  Obviously, there are exceptions to the "rules" but I don't think I'm far off.  At the pro level, the half is becoming - essentially - an olympic distance race.  Basically going as hard as you can until you blow.  Make the swim pack, hang with the bike pack, and run the first 10k to see who's left and just hang on as long as you can.  There is no negative splitting of the run among the pros.  At least, that I've seen.  So my pacing strategy basically means I catch a couple on the bike and then, if I have a good run, catch some more. It's a lonely way to race.

I don't have totals yet for the year, because there's still some work left to do.  But my guess is that they are going to be similar to last year from an hourly standpoint.  I've swum much more, biked a bit less, and run about the same or a little more.  All in all, it's been a good year.

Now for Cozumel.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Revolution 3 Florida Half

SBR'd roughly 11 hours this week including the race. That's only important in the context that I ran 33ish miles total, as it means I still got in decent training other than the race in preparation for Cozumel.

The real excitement, however, (other than this sweet, sweet blog post) was in the form of a half distance race in sunny Venice, FL on Sunday.  This is a race I competed but didn't complete last year and I was hoping to redeem myself this time around.  With the spate of cold weather we've been having in Charlotte the three of us were really excited about the prospect of a sunny, warm weekend on the Gulf.

Ross, Jenny and myself all packed up our rented minivan and headed south on Friday morning.  The prospect of a long drive does not intimidate me, I actually love driving to races and/or vacation destinations (although those two have basically been one and the same thing for the past several years).  Road trippin' is a great American past-time that has been mostly abandoned by the modern traveler.  Jet-setting around the country is a far cry from what Murrkans were imagining back in the early days of the Interstate system. It could also be that I can't afford to fly all over the place...but that's neither here nor there.

Automatic doors, stow n' go seating; you name it this bad boy HAD it
The drive was relatively long (a hair over 10 hours) but mostly uneventful. We chatted about various triathlon things and about various other things.  Lots of great stories and memories were shared and quite possibly were created.  Jenny fell asleep, but that's pretty normal.  You can always tell if she's asleep in the car if she appears to be looking up at the ceiling and her mouth is very slightly open.  This method of sleeping would come back to haunt her (and us) on the return trip...

We made it to Florida in time to pick up our packets and race numbers before heading to get something to eat at Bonefish Grill.  We were planning on going to see Thor: the Dark World that evening but unfortunately the service at Bonefish left something to be desired so we missed out on that opportunity.  We did not falter, however, and took it in stride as we always do and we slept on it, pondering the Saturday possibilities in our dreams.

We woke up on Saturday and headed over to the race site to get our official stuff finished.  We ran a wee bit, biked a wee bit, and swam a wee bit.  We also took a wee few pictures of the absolutely gorgeous coastline.

Anybody who says the Gulf isn't pretty obviously doesn't really know the Gulf
The picture above actually shows most of the swim course as it starts on the other side (south side) of the pier and basically goes out, around and back to the finish from where the picture was taken.

We all attended our mandatory meetings, where the head ref really harped on the CPSC helmet sticker rule after last week's debacle in Panama City. The only amusing part of the meeting was when the head ref asked if anyone had read or heard about the incident and every person in the room turned to look at Andrew Starykowicz. My guess is that yes, he'd done some reading about the incident...

Making sure my helmet still fits and lamenting not being #1 this weekend
Once we were all done with that, we grabbed our behinds and got ourselves to the movie theater.  It was nice to get inside and sit down during a warmer part of the day and enjoy a good flick.  We then headed out to grab dinner with Jenny's mom before heading back to the hotel to get everything sorted for the morning.

Race morning came bright and early and we all loaded up the van (again) and headed over to the race site.  We were a bit later than planned but were only phased by this when we saw the line to get parking was very, very long and moving quite slowly (but steadily).  By the time we finally got parked it was 6:20 or so (pros started at 7:00 and 7:02) and we knew we were going to have to hustle.  We got all the gear out of the van and Jenny and I started pumping up our tires (Ross had already dropped off his bike the night before).  I was placing the pump head on my front valve when I heard the dreaded "pssssssssssss" sound and all the air vacated my tube.  Fantastic.  I quickly grabbed the stuff to install a new tube (luckily, Jenny had plumber's tape so I could re-install the valve extender on the new tube) and began that process.  Ross was helping Jenny pump up her rear tire and as he placed the pump head on hers the entire valve core pulled out and all the air came with it.  FANTASTIC.  We told Ross to go ahead and get over to transition as it was 6:30ish at this point.  Jenny started doing her tube change as I was finishing mine.  We were basically ready to head to transition at about 6:37 I believe (transition closes at 6:45) and we made it over but were, literally, the ONLY pros still getting stuff ready.  I made sure everything was laid out correctly (but hurriedly) and put on my swim skin (wetsuit legal for AG'ers, non wetsuit legal for pros) and headed over to make sure Jenny was ready.  We started walking to swim start at roughly 6:50.  Not ideal.  Nonetheless, we made it to our respective starts ok and I got in a brief, 20 stroke warm up in the water.

Contemplating strategy, photo credits to David Laskey
Swim - 29:36 (21st out of 25)

The swim course was a slightly odd design.  We basically went from the beach straight out to a buoy and turned left 45 degrees to head out to a further buoy, turned right and headed down a long stretch before making a sharp right turn and heading "inwards" then making a final left turn to head back towards the beach.

I figured lining up on the right would be smart [for me] as I didn't really want to get involved in the escapades of the left hand turn buoy.  The pack broke apart relatively quickly and it seemed like I was leading the trailing group (if you could call a group 3-4 people).  Once we got to the long straight stretch I was pretty much by myself. I meandered along thinking happy thoughts and roughly 2/3 of the way to the third buoy I was passed on the left by someone in a pink cap.  I did not expect to be caught by the ladies (2 minutes back) as soon as this (if at all) so I quickly assumed I was having a crap swim.  I could tell it wasn't Jenny so I wasn't quite as annoyed as I could have been (although I was hoping she'd have the fastest female swim time) and continued on my semi-merry ways.

Shortly thereafter, however, I was breathing to my left (as I am wont to do) and I noticed a very tell-tale image over my left shoulder.  There is no other way to describe it so a picture will have to suffice:

I knew immediately who that arm belonged to and I was both excited for her but dismayed for myself.  I may or may not have made an audible noise that turned into bubble as my face re-entered the water.  She took a breath to the left then came up beside me and took a breath to the right.  I can only imagine her feelings of satisfaction upon realizing who the lone male swimmer was she was coming up on rather expeditiously.

I'm used to getting left behind by girls though; some might call it a habit.  Once she passed then a trio of Kessler, Goss and Wassner passed me on the right.  I half-heartedly attempted to stay on the third's feet but did not and once the last turn buoy came and went I was back to being by my lonesome.  I exited the water knowing I had probably had a good, but not great swim.  Only upon looking at the results later did I know my time, which is actually a personal best in a non-wetsuit swim that seemed "slow" when looking at the times post-race.

I ran up the beach and across the timing mat, trying to look cool for all the paparazzi.

Exiting the swim all alone, photo credits David Laskey
T1 - 2:06

I had a fairly quick transition but could have been quicker; it was a fairly long run to my bike from the swim exit.

Professional transition area
Bike - 2:13:59 (up to 20th)

I had similar watt goals to those of Williamsburg and Carolina Half.  This course was extremely flat but relatively windy and lots of turnarounds.

So the course was fast, but not fast like last year (in my opinion, and minus the insane wind conditions of last year).  I headed out on the bike and my first goal was simply to catch Jenny.  That took a decent amount of time.  I was holding watts that were on the very low end of my range for the race.  I was moving along relatively quickly though so took solace in being the most aero guy out on the course.  When I caught up to Jenny I passed along side of her and let her know of my frustration with being out-pro'd so heavily. She laughed at me.

I continued on and for the next 30+ minutes tracked down the leading group of ladies.  I passed them and carried onwards.  It just needs to be said that some of these ladies (one in particular) seemed to have no clue of how to ride a bike in a straight line.  It was absurd. One of the best triathletes in the world and can't ride the bike in a straight line.  I may not be as good as you at triathlon-ing lady, but best believe that I can ride my bike straighter and more predictably.  Most of the women were also all over their bike.  I pride myself on being very efficient and wasting little to no energy with side to side movements.  I don't put out a whole lot of power so it's not as difficult but if you look at someone like Luke Mckenzie (who IS putting out massive amounts of power) he is rock steady throughout his pedal stroke.  Learn from the best, don't be like the rest.

Honestly, I hate writing about the bike portion of the race.  Nothing exciting happens.  Maybe if I rode in the pack like the lead group of, oh I dunno, 15 would've been more exciting.  But it wasn't.  I saw Matt Wisthoff at each turnaround and could tell I was making up a little bit of time on him so that was, literally, the most exciting thing I dealt with on the bike ride.  I stayed aero as much as I could, I kept taking in calories, and I tried to not agonize over the fact that my legs felt flat, weak, and completely unable to put out strong watts.  In my head I knew I had felt the exact same at Carolina Half but had managed a good run afterwards so I took solace in my attempt to rationalize feeling like crap.

We all do what we must. I passed a couple of guys and got passed by a guy so I moved up one overall spot from my swim position and entered T2 hoping I had some running legs.

Returning to transition
T2 - 1:15

I assembled my run self and remarked to some watching spectators that I was pretty much putting on a clinic for them (after fumbling with one of my shoes); they laughed and wished me well on my run.

Run - 1:21:50 (up to 17th)

Luckily I didn't forget anything like at Carolina Half so made my way out onto the run course feeling confident about that.  I slowed myself down gradually over the first mile but still clicked off a fast split of just under 6.  In my head I was hoping to average sub 6's for the run but knew that I wasn't going to kill myself to do it, knowing what was to come the next week in training.  I was basically going into the run knowing I wasn't going to make myself suffer unduly.

The first three miles basically ended up being a 6 minute average and out to mile 4 (which was the end of one "out" section of the loop we did twice) was slightly uphill and into a headwind and at that point I decided to back it down a notch.  I wanted to run comfortably and maintain pace in the rising temperatures.  So to the end of the first loop I scaled back the effort level and comfortably managed 6:10s.  I continued taking in gel and water at each aid station, knowing I couldn't let myself get dehydrated and delay recovery.

Through mile 9 my mile splits were:

5:57, 6:02, 6:06, 6:08, 6:10, 6:08, 6:11, 6:10, 6:10.

Pretty much a model of consistency and I felt like I was pretty comfortable at that effort level.  I figured it would slow a bit as the fatigue level and the heat level increased but wasn't too worried about it.  I had managed to pass a couple of guys on the run and was nearing the last turnaround point and saw Matt up ahead of me.  I managed to catch him just after the turnaround point (just after mile 10) and had put some distance between us when all of a sudden just after mile 11 I rolled my right ankle badly on the edge of the sidewalk.  Somehow, I had cut the tangent and stopped paying attention to my footfalls at the same time.  I have a bad history of rolling my ankles the past several years and this one came at a very inopportune time.

My right ankle rolled, I jumped up and exclaimed in disgust at myself and pain (it hurt pretty bad) and gingerly tried continuing my stride.  I limped/ran to the next aid station (which was soon as it was just after the mile 11 marker I believe) and walked through it, grabbing some water.  The volunteers, assuming I was suffering from cramps, offered me a banana.  Unfortunately that was going to do nothing to solve my ankle problems so I declined.

Matt had re-passed me along with some other people I had recently passed and had put some ground into me.  I started running again but was unable to have a strong push-off with my right foot the rest of the run.  Luckily, I still managed a decent pace with the last mile being the only exception.  I was drained from the race and the mental anxiety of injuring myself in such a stupid, frustrating (and painful) way basically impeded my finishing stamina.  I came around to the finish chute and saw the timer reading a hair under 4:09 and gave a nice little jog to finish in a hair under 4:09, which was a new personal best.

OA - 4:08:45 - 17th pro (18th OA) (not chicked!)

Overall, I would have to say that I was pleased with this race.  It is always tough when you are comparing yourselves against people who are, quite literally, among the best in the world.  I have gotten to be very good. I have worked very hard for three years while sacrificing much of a life outside of triathlon.  That is my choice and I welcomed the opportunity.  I would challenge almost anybody I know to a race and feel confident about my chances. But when you go and race against the best in the world you are bound to not win.  By no means did I expect to win, but to go 4:08 on a fairly tough, windy, non-wetsuit legal course (yes, it was flat...but flat is not always easy) and come in 17th pro is pretty staggering.  I remember just a couple of years ago where a 4:03 netted 6th place OA at Eagleman 70.3 against some of the better triathletes of the time.

This does not depress me, it merely reinforces the fact that people are REALLY FAST. It's like of racing a bunch of me's that are way better than me.  There are no weaknesses, unless it is in the swim.

But all in all, it was a fantastic weekend.  It was great to spend time with Ross and Jenny.  It was really amusing to travel ALL the way to Florida and come within a minute of Wisthoff.  Ross traveled all the way to Florida to finish within a couple of minutes of Sylvain.  Jenny went all that way to finally have someone to race against (#fastestgirlintheseveralstatessurroundingncproblems).

It was great lounging around post-race, taking pictures of great sunsets, and getting to eat a gigantic pizza for dinner.

Less than three weeks remain until IM Cozumel. Mentally, I am ready. Physically, I will be ready.

Dramatic shot of capturing the shot

Unfortunately I contained nothing in this pic to show scale. It was huge. It got #smashed

Thursday, November 7, 2013

James Haycraft, self-titled

As I enter the ingress of yet another race weekend, I feel the need to post up one more blog of verbose ramblings. I have two more races left to my “season.” As a pro, I no longer have “seasons” like most mere age groupers so maybe I should restate my position: I have two more competitive events until my winter break. It is a burden being so pro, alas. 

Looking back at my old blog posts, I am amazed at what I thought I knew about training. In 2009, a big training block looked like this:

S: 13,050
B: 208.6
R: 37

19.7 hours

Now compare that to just last week, for example:

S - 14,100 yards
B - 242.0 miles
R - 56.8 miles

Time - 23.65 hours

Not only am I getting in more training, I am also doing it more faster. Who thinks more is better than less? Me, that's who. It's not complicated. 

More training contributes to me being more pro but that is not where it ends: 

1) I sleep more.

2) I eat more.

Specifically, I eat more white stuff. I like white bread. I like chicken. I like cheese. I do not like veggies, just white potatoes, sometimes.

3) I am more aero.

I wasn't always so aero. I did a lot of SlowTwitch stalking to uncover the secrets of aero-ness. In fact I have dwindled down my drag co-efficient to a mere 0.01.

4) I win more races.

But you already knew this . . . 

5) I have more hair (just on my head b/c hair in other places is less pro and gross).

Why the beard? The ladies dig it. The Euro-mullet? The dudes dig it. 

6) I have more veins.

7) I wear less so the ladies want more.

8) I take more pictures of myself. 

Ok, ok I do not take as many selfies as I should but I am make sure Jenny is milling around to take pictures of me #GTWD.

9) I post more videos of myself.

Please feel free to see for yourself by subscribing to my You Tube Channel

10) I own more bikes

This year I purchased a mountain bike because it is more pro to mountain bike during the winter break than to stay inside riding the trainer. Lame. 

I could go on . . . but I am getting so jacked making this list. I. Am. So. Awesome. I even have a shirt that says so. 

brought to you by Jenny Leiser

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


S - 14,100 yards
B - 242.0 miles
R - 56.8 miles

Time - 23.65 hours

Racing is a funny thing.  For many it represents the validation of training, the "raison d'etre" for their weekly sufferings.  Personally, I wouldn't train if I did not race; I do not see the point.  Sure, I like being fit but there are other (less time consuming) ways to accomplish that goal.

Racing SHOULD be simple.  It is merely a swim, bike and run tied together in one single event.  That's it.  There's nothing "special" about racing.  No mystical things that help you all of a sudden go faster, harder, longer than you ever have before (although a good taper can definitely help!).  So why then does racing make you so nervous?

For Ironman, there are certain things that make a race MORE than just another race.  It is a simple fact of life.  The expense, the travel, the volume of participants, the location; it all adds up to make the race itself FEEL more important than it actually is (unless of course you've read this blog post and realize that Ironman IS ALL THERE IS).  I get that, I really do.  But REALLY, it's simply a long day of working not-that-hard.  Why then, is it SO NERVE-RACKING!

Before start at B2B Full '09 you bet your ASS I was nervous!
The shorter the race distance gets the less pressure I put on myself.  For a local sprint, it's actually an "easier" day than a normal training day on the weekends! Show up, set up your transition in about 5 minutes, and go to the swim start.  Pretty easy.  The nervousness sets in when I realize how hard I'm going to have to be working for the next hour or so.  International/Olympic distance races are just about the same, but doubled in length so I don't have to go quiiiiiiite as hard but generally the race is "worth" more (in one sense or another) so that is a factor in nervousness.

First ever triathlon (NOLA 70.3 '09) with 50 miles to go.  I was nervous but I had enough fluids for sure!
For a half, the nerves come because it is simply a longer race that is going to hurt more.  Four hours is a long time.  You have to fuel correctly, pace correctly, and hold on the longest.  While still going pretty fast and hard.  The half is a great test of mental and physical strength, where the shorter distances are more just go balls-to-the-wall and see who crosses first.  Not too much emotional strain in that...

Ironman is a whole different beast.  The full distance is just a long freakin' day. You're not going that hard, it's not a physical struggle, you're just trying to slow down less than the other guys and gals.  Because everybody slows down.  Eventually.  There is great expense involved, usually.  There are huge time commitments in both training and doing the actual race.  As a consequence, generally there is some freak-out before you toe the line.

IMKY '10 I am nervous and people are about to start peeing all over the place
I still get nervous before every race.  I'm pretty good about not showing it and appearing nonchalant or blase (at least, I think I am?) about the racing experience but the reality is there are small voices in my head and butterflies in my stomach before every single race.  I have gotten faster over the years but some things will never change.  I don't think I WANT then to change.  I like being a little bit nervous! I think it helps keep you grounded in what you are doing.  If you are not nervous then you are no longer truly invested in what you are doing.

Getting to wear your full finisher's medal around the next day is worth the nervousness, no doubt!
My thoughts anyway.

Next Sunday I'll be racing for the second to last time this year down in Venice at Rev3 Florida.  It's a race I DNF'd last year and it was a sad note on which to end a pretty good season.  This year I have zero expectations for this race other than to go moderately quick and recover quickly as two very important weeks of training for Cozumel ensue immediately once the legs come around post-race.

Lemme just scoot around your bike Richie Cunningham