Race with Grace - IM Tulsa 2022

Ari Baum |

Many people right long-winded race reports extolling the adversity they overcame in a race that ultimately led to a PR. I know because I write many of them 😊

I originally decided not to write one on IM Tulsa as it wasn’t a PR and I thought to myself who really wants to read another race report. It wasn’t until someone that I know outside of my running groups came over to me and said how I inspired him to be more active. We weren’t friends on Strava – so did it even count – LOL.

Whenever we toe the line for a race, we have a goal. For beginners it is to cross the finish line (automatic PR). After a while you want to keep breaking through your limits and success is measured in trophies and Personal Bests. To achieve that feet, we line up races that benefit our style – whether it is fast and flat or cooler temps. After 45 races, I wanted a different challenge.

IM Tulsa fit that bill. The race was in May which is usually the offseason where we focus on base building, form, and a lighter workload to give the body and family a much needed recovery after pushing hard in the fall. IM Tulsa also was going to be a new challenge as the swim was in a reservoir (no current) and a hilly bike ride. To add fuel to the fire, I didn't get many open water swims or many outdoor rides due to the weather in NYC. To add insult to injury, like many other amateur athletes. I was balancing work and family obligations as we had our son’s Bar Mitzvah the month before.

Some might ask (especially my wife) why add this level of stress when you have so many other things going on. My answer is that training and racing is a healthy outlet to de-stress and it is only when we push ourselves that we can really see who we are.


As we’ve come to expect on every race day. There are curve balls that get thrown your way, so why would this race be any different 😉

The swim was supposed to be a 2.4-mile loop in the reservoir, but due to high winds and chop. It became two 1.2-mile loops. Since it was two loops, it only made sense that two things happened.

  1. As I went to the start line to understand the course change. I was told to line up as the race was about to start. So, I ended up being the first in the water – not at all were I wanted to be or where I belong – LOL.
  2. Whoever measured the course needs to go back to school as a 2.4-mile swim was closer to 3 miles 😵‍💫

I took the curve balls in stride as I said to myself. Everyone will have to swim the same distance, so we are all in the same boat (or at least we wish we were in the boat – LOL).

The bike excited me and scared me at the same time. Brooklyn is not known for its hills and it’s a schlep to get to 9W to ride vertically. So over 5,500 feet of climbing was going to present a new challenge (especially on a Tri Bike), but I wanted a different challenge.

I leaned into it and the new bike course that was literally updated the day before the race as I repeated the mantra that we all will race what the day brings. One really cool part was the warning from race officials to watch out for cows on the road. They were HUGE and on the side of the roads. Fortunately, they didn’t cross my path, although others had to stop as in a contest of cow vs. carbon. Cows will always win.

The run was my sanctuary. My happy place. It is where I exact my revenge on anyone that had the chutzpa to pass me on the swim and bike – yes, I make mental notes and remember each and every one of you. I went fishing, catching, and passing all those blasphemous triathletes that passed me earlier 🏁😇😉

There is a saying. We don’t rise to the level of our aspirations on race day. We fall to the level of our training. I was ambitious on the run – pacing a 7:25 instead of a 7:30 and was in heaven until mile 20. I took the opportunity to push to find my ceiling vs staying in my comfort zone. I faded on the last 10k and that’s okay. Because you are more than your time on the finish clock, and I picked up many tools on that race day that will help me in the future.

It is through our perceived shortcomings that we develop the tools to be able to stand in the light and I am excited to see what happens in the future.