Today’s post is a compilation of thoughts, reflections, and an overall recap from my recent duathlon. I largely write this to exercise my mind and the emotions that come from not only doing this type of event, but the months of training and ultimate finishing of it as well.
It is perhaps, hard to explain. It’s easier to understand if you’ve ever undertaken a similar event but really, for anyone who does this, or triathlons, we all have our “whys” for what we do.
It’s the thing that puts us out there not just for the race but the months leading up to it.
So, if you wish to continue, get comfy and go along on the ride with me. I promise to not bore you with stats and stuff like that 😉
Maybe you’ve never entertained the idea of something so crazy, or perhaps you’ve wondered if you could do it and are sitting on a fence pondering that idea. I’ll just say this… anyone… can do anything they determine they are going to do.
You might not be the fastest or most skilled but by damn, you can do it if you determine you’re going to.
How did an ordinary woman get to this point?
Seriously. It’s a thought that’s danced through my head on more than one occasion.
Somehow a middle aged, wife, mom, grandmother, jack of all trades, previously non-athletic person turned into an athlete. And not just one who plays with one sport, but a duathlete.
I’d have to say it’s largely come from chasing down one goal after another. Once I saw I could do something bigger than I thought I could do, I’d set the bar for another goal, yet larger one.
Although I hated being sidetracked a couple years ago with an Achilles injury, that’s what put me on the bike more. I could cycle and get those miles I craved I wasn’t getting from running. Turns out all that running made me super strong and pretty capable on the bike, not a bad thing.
I kept at the bike as I healed. I learned and practiced. I shamelessly talked to anyone who could tell me what I needed to know. I kept increasing my miles and riding hard terrain.
I wanted to do the duathlon the year I was still recovering from my running injury but when it got to the time I needed to be training, I just felt like my leg wasn’t ready for running.
Last year everything was in place for me to do it.
I invested myself heavily into training, practiced transitions, did brick sessions once or twice a week ( run/bike, or bike/run) to train my body to the demands of shifting from one activity to the next.
Race day I went out and did what I’d trained myself to do. Being my first multi sport event I felt like such an inexperienced baby but I got it done.
And done enough to place first in my age group. I secretly hoped I’d be good enough to place but hadn’t voiced it out loud.
Overall, it was a good experience and I set my sites on 2018 and doing it again.
Same game, new year, new adventures.
As I began training this year I at least understood more of what was involved and required of me to do this event. This duathlon is a championship race and it’s listed as the “toughest in the state.” They tell no lies about this.
I knew the physical demands as well as mental demands.
There were however, new life things I didn’t have going on last year in competition with me for training.
Namely, a 4 day a week job that took up leisure time. Yes, I could still get in training on most mornings, I just didn’t have as much time to extend those sessions.
Running. Straight up, running was harder this year. I think there are a variety of reasons, but it is what it is.
Because of that I didn’t push myself as much on it. Yes, I knew I could do it. Would it be ultimately what I wanted in time/pace etc? Maybe not but I’d just have to be good with it.
I kept to my cycling and training on the hardest roads I could find. Hills are definitely one place my strength really shines and since the duathlon course was loaded with some hard monster sized ones it made sense to keep my physical and mental training honed in this area.
The struggle is real.
As race day approached, mixed with my usual pre-race nerves was the overwhelming feeling of…
“What am I doing??”
I found myself wondering if something might come up and then I wouldn’t be able to do it. Like .. “what if I got sick?” haha something every athlete worries about before an event.
I questioned my training. I questioned my abilities. I questioned if I had what it took to do it ( which is kinda laughable considering I’d done it last year and I’d been training for it this year)
I remember pouring out all my angst to hubby to which he responded….
“You know you can do it. Just go and do it. When you cross the finish line it will be amazing. I don’t even know how you do what you do.”
Somehow those words settled me.
No matter what, doing it, and seeing myself across the finish line was all that mattered.
Quitting was never an option.
Needless to say like any athlete with an event coming up, I stalked the weather hoping it would be…well… decent. I’d trained in all kinds of weather but really, who doesn’t want race day to be prime?
Temperatures were promised in the mid-50s with a chance of rain… afternoon rain.
ok well, to me the promised temps were decent… I could still work up a sweat with that.
However, weather you know, has a mind of it’s own…..on the way to the race it started raining some.
Ok no worries. Except once I got there in the early morning dark it appeared the rain wasn’t interested in waiting till the afternoon. Intermittent showers were our friend through out the morning.
Not only that, the comfortable, warmish weather shifted with some arriving wind knocking it into the mid 40’s.
Now we had some rain, wind and much colder air.
All of the athletes were being warned to drop the PSI in their tires, to watch their speed and to be careful on corners.
I was grateful that the rain didn’t daunt me, that I had spent time in it training…. but still… I understood the roads were slick and I also understood that meant a newer level of caution.
Of course I’d dressed more for warmer weather but thankfully had my waterproof cycling jacket on ( which was a bit to warm for the first run leg) I tossed it when I transitioned to the bike…. which made for a colder than anticipated bike ride being wet and flying down the road at rapid speeds.
None of that mattered…. this is what we had for the race…. deal with it.
As I was running the parking lot warming up in the breaking dawn with rain coming down on me one of the police officers stopped me and said “are you sure you want to be out here doing this?” I laughed and told him there were probably a few of us who might think being home, comfy with a cup of coffee, would be preferable to being out at 630 on a cold, wet morning shaking out our legs and nerves pre race.
But then I added….” you have to understand that every single one of us out here might be a wee bit insane. It’s that insanity that has us here and will drive us to finish today ”
He gave me a big laugh and told me to please be careful out there as I went loping off.
And I still stand by that. Being a little crazy is what keeps you out there and is the undercurrent to getting the work done.
And nothing…nothing… feels better when that insanity brings you across the finish line.
The first leg of race, the 5K was just crappy and I knew it would be. It wasn’t my best time and it wasn’t anything that impressed me. I just focused on moving through it knowing I’d close ground once I got on the bike.
I moved through transition as quickly as I could. I think this year I had it about 1:15. Not only are you transitioning into new gear, preparing for another sport, I believe your mind has got to transition as well.
As I knew I would, once I took off on bike I started covering ground and picking off other cyclists. This became as game as I settled into the ride. I was trying to not think about how much colder it was as I sped down the road in shorts and a sleeveless cycling jersey.
As the miles disappeared I knew I was getting close before we would turn and head back.
The miles with the beastly hills were what I still had to tackle. Only today they were wet and dark looming like large, formidable sentries in front of us.
This however, was home turf and I felt comfortable in it.
As I got closer to the first huge hill that is my nemesis, the one I have a love hate relationship with, I could see it littered with cyclists… all pushing their bikes up.
My mental game had been pretty strong at that point, but seeing all those people pushing their bikes up, well that can really start to do a number on my mind.
I’ve never, ever since I started riding that beast had to push my bike up and I didn’t plan to start anytime soon.
I locked my mind down, looked directly at the road in front of my bike and plowed up that hill past them. I think at that point if anyone had gotten in front of me or challenged me on anything, I could’ve taken them on my mental game was just that strong. I got on top of the hill, and began to prepare for the second one which was just over the top of the one I’d just climbed. Again I had to dodge people pushing their bikes up.
I had a brief moment to let the bike do the work before we hit the final back hills. As I came around a curve that was so familiar to me, and prepared to fly up a hill, there were cyclists walking their bikes down saying the spotters had encouraged people to walk down.
Ha. Not likely.
I got to the top and prepared for the descent down the back of the hill… again coming back I had to pass people pushing up. Once again I locked my mind down… set my focus directly in front of me and shouldered into it.
The two spotters at the top were like… “wow, nice work ma’am” ha I hardly had time to acknowledge them before I was flying off the hill again, now on my way back to the start line.
A few miles from getting back to the transition area I was aware that I was oh so cold, my feet felt numb and then out of the blue stabbing cramps in my quad, up into my hip, wrapping into my hamstring.
I’ve never had that happen before. Thankfully I was able to stand up and keep riding and work it out without having to stop.
It was debatable for awhile.
Cold. Cramps. Wet. Battling mental demons along the way. So many battles that day.
The end was closer. I fought for this thing and I would finish it out.
And finish I did. The last run was a surprise in that it was longer than last year (ah) so where I thought we’d turn and head back…well… no.. we got to keep going for a bit longer.
When I finally got to the stretch and could see that finish line, the big red numbers with the race time, the announcer calling my number, saw my husband patiently waiting for me, knew my months of work was about to pay off, it was worth it.
It was worth the months of training, the early mornings, the tired legs, the days that left me exhausted, the doubts were crushed, and once again, there was that overwhelming immense satisfaction in stepping across that finish line.
It makes me weep every time.
My emotions run high as it all culminates …. the proverbial icing on the cake… my own personal victory.
And well, it was pretty cool to check my stats and see it showed me as first in my age group. 🙂
I’d never entertained that because I just thought my time wouldn’t be so impressive. Once they posted times for both genders, I could see that my finish time was what some of the 20-24 year old guys placed in … so there’s that 😛
So what’s next?
I don’t have any plans of slowing down or sitting on the sidelines watching life. I’d love to do at least two duathlons in 2018. I’d also like to ease back into distance running and maybe cut my teeth on a half marathon again. It’s technically now “off season” although I don’t see myself not training. I will add in an extra strength training day ’cause muscles are nice to have in a variety of ways. 😉 Not just that, it’s freaking cool to be strong and being strong is what helps me get through the tough part of these events.
I am such a baby in this world of multi sport events so I have plenty of room to grow, learn and improve. I guess that’s what keeps me coming back, knowing I can constantly challenge myself.
And finally, I’ve gotta say thank you to my amazing family, my husband and kids, my tribe who love me, encourage me, tell me I’m crazy, and are so proud and supportive of what I do. My husband who willingly gets up at crazy hours to go with me, who endures the weather, takes pics, and is the smiling face I’m looking for when I come in, who buys me food and coffee when I’m frozen and starving….. his support is crucial to what I do.
And of course my friends who love me, cheer me on and also love telling me I’m crazy… I appreciate all of your encouragement and support 🙂
Thank you for sharing in my recent adventures by reading this post! Your turn, tell me about your adventures…what you’ve done or what you may be planning to do. Do those dreams ever just scare you a little? How have you felt when you accomplished something you’ve never done?