Cape Town Chemistry

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Part 1

Diving into the chilly Cape Town water during a pre-race session.  Photo Credit: Bobby McGee

Diving into the chilly Cape Town water during a pre-race session. Photo Credit: Bobby McGee

My chemistry teacher at Wildwood Catholic High School, Mr. Watson, introduced our class to balancing chemical equations during my junior year. I was a pretty good student, and most new concepts came easily to me. Balancing those damn equations was not one of them! Sitting at the black marble science tables, I felt like Forrest Gump looking at those molecules.

With a high school junior’s infinite wisdom, I proclaimed—more aptly, “complained”—the task was “impossible.” Carbons and Hydrogens fell from my equations like change from a broken pocket. There had to be a secret, or a concept, that I was missing.

I’ve never been very good at hiding my emotions, and from the frustrated look on my face that night my mom could tell I was just not getting something. While I had apparently inherited my father’s aptitude for the subject, my mom was chemistry whiz. She came to my aid and taught me the art of balancing equations well into the early morning. Over and over, I remember her saying, “No you just need to count everything up on each side. If it’s not equal, it’s not finished. This isn’t your bedroom, things don’t ‘just disappear’ in chemistry.”

Part 2

Eyeing up the course and down the competition Photo Credit: Gavin O'Sullivan

Eyeing up the course and down the competition
Photo Credit: Gavin O’Sullivan

A disappointing race has it’s own way of making you question things. When I was thinking of factors that contributed to my 38th place finish in last weekend’s Cape Town World Triathlon Series, my thoughts flashed back to balancing those chemistry problems. I felt like I was looking at an equation that I knew was wrong but didn’t know how to fix. The result was wholly disproportionate to what my training had indicated. Effort, focus, nutrition, recovery, travel, and equipment all factor into the equation for a good result. I had gotten something wrong.

I turned to my coach, my family, and my friends to find answers. Last Sunday 37 triathletes were “faster,” not “better.” I think triathlon is a little like chemistry in that the person who goes into a race is not fundamentally different from the person who crosses the finish line. Changed, maybe, but not wholly different. The race is only a vehicle to bring out what is there already. We can call this, “Maloy’s First Law of Racing.” Take that, Newton.

This blog reflects a rededication to focusing on my strengths. While I continue my quest for the catalysts that will facilitate my top performances, I’m also rededicating myself to this blog. I said I was refocusing on my strengths, didn’t I?

Beginning next week and continuing every Thursday for the foreseeable future, I’m going to post a story from my athletic past. It will be fun to reflect on the experiences that have shaped my current attitudes on training and competition. Hopefully you’ll find it fun to read, too.

I’ll leave Cape Town with the immortal words of Elton John (since they play him in the breakfast room every morning at The Stellenbosch Hotel):
And did you think this fool could never win
Well look at me, I’m coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know while I’m still standing you just fade away

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

Until next week!

PS. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to avid reader Sara Groden 🙂