Sprint Duathlon: 5k run / 20k bike / 2.5k run
I crossed the finish line, ready to cry. The clock read 2:04. 2 hours, 4 minutes. That’s not why I was emotional. I already knew I was last in my category. Before I started the race I had defined success as finishing, so the race was a success. I was crying because I had reached my goal. More to the point, I had reached my goal despite almost quitting twice in my race.
The first was at the 18km mark of the bike. I knew I was dead last on the bike. No one was behind me and anyone in front was well on their with the final run. The headwinds on this bike route are infamous and I was approaching the base of the last hill. My mouth was bone dry and I was having trouble breathing. I could start to feel the tears welling up inside me at the thought of DNF’ing with 2km’s to go. The thought of proving once again that I’m weak and can’t finish something when the going gets though was soul crushing. Being a the base of a hill that you can’t see over is great metaphor for life, don’t you think?
So, rather then drop out, I stopped. I dismounted my bike, walked about 10 steps, mounted my bike and pedalled the rest of the way up the hill feeling almost like I’d just started the race. Sometimes we need to stop and regroup, even if only for 30 seconds to recharge to continue towards out goal.
The second time I almost quit, was on the final 2.5km run. I was in agony. My back and abdominal muscles were incredibly painful and I was having an even harder time breathing. I had been having trouble breathing the whole race, which hadn’t happened during training. On the final 2.5km there was no smooth, rhythmic breathing, but rather groans mixed with sobs, I was in so much pain. It wasn’t that I was looking to quit, I had less than 2.5km to go and I had done the 5k in 37:24, a time I was quite happy with. I wasn’t sure if I would be physically able to finish. I dropped to a walk, then a jog. Repeat. Whenever I ran, I had to use my right arm to support my lower back to help alleviate some of the pain. Finally, with just over 150m to go I was able to run to the finish. The pain contorted my face and made me look, I am sure, like Quasimodo (and why not, I was almost as hunched as he was by that point). Right as I neared the end I spotted my beautiful wife; my beautiful pregnant wife. I managed a smile as she snapped a photo and then dropped back into agony. I managed to cross the finish line, glancing briefly at the time clock: 2:04:05. Similar to what I did a few years ago when I last finished this same race as a triathlon. I knew I was last, but I didn’t care, my place wasn’t part of the goal. My goal was to finish without penalty, without DQ, without aid. I did that, so I won in my mind.
After crossing the line a volunteer removed the timing chip from around my ankle, another handed me a cup of water which I gladly accepted because my fuel belt flasks were long empty. I waddled around, it took my wife a minute to find me. She came up to me with a big smile on face “you did it baby!”. We embraced and out came the tears, I started to sob. All the emotion I had been holding in from the pain and the times I nearly quit, poured out.
I was shaking and weak. My body was pretty depleted of fuel and the adrenaline was all that was sustaining me. I sat down in the camping chair we had brought for Pam and started to shake as Pam put my jacket around my shoulders and rubbed my back as I ate some almonds. Another athlete came by and asked if I needed medical attention. “No,” I replied, “I just need food”. Pam checked out the lineup for the BBQ but it was too long and we had no idea if we could eat the food anyway, given our gluten allergies.
We packed up the car and drove back into town where we indulged in ribs and coleslaw and ginger ale. We got back to our hotel and rested. This morning I feel pretty good. I have sunburnt shoulders and a slight headache from dehydration, but not as much muscle soreness as I thought I would. I’m still pretty tired though.
We’re packing up now, ready to go home and plan for a busy week. I’m still feeling the remnants of the intense emotions I went through yesterday and I’m still pondering what it means that I was able to push through and not quit. I’ll write more on that in another post.
For now though, I’m back. After many years of absence, I’m back on the MultiSport wagon. Does anyone really notice? No, but who cares. My family and friends do and I do. As a former coach of mine said, “Now, you get faster”.
But first, I’ll be doing my best to relax this weeks and recover.