I am not fast nor thin, but I love cycling and swimming and do not loathe running anymore.  I am a triathlete.
 
In January, I signed up for the Hickory Grove Aquabike.   I wanted a banana.

~Indeed!~

I had battled plantar fasciitis since September and honestly thought I would never run again.  Thanks to Dr. Leon Hansmeier, however, 6 weeks ago I finally started running again.  I signed up for a triathlon in July--I'd be ready by then.

In the meantime, I found out that water temps at Hickory Grove Lake hovered in the low 60s.  I found a 2mil shorty (wetsuit) locally, but the race director suggested he could find something more appropriate for me.  If not, I could switch to the Duathlon.  I left Lincoln not knowing which race I would end up doing.  I had not trained at all for the Duathlon.

When I showed up at Bike World in Ames, Iowa,  for packet pickup on Saturday, I met a gal named Naomi who had signed up for her first event ever--the Duathlon.  She’d heard that lots of beginners do this triathlon.  As a larger girl, she worried she’d be the very last person to cross the finish line.  I smiled, knowing exactly how she felt.  In my very first triathlon, I was in the last group and I literally could have been the VERY last person to cross the line.  I remember crying.  Assuring her, I touched her shoulder and said, “Naomi, if I see you toward the back, I will run with you and cross after you.  I promise.  Now just go out there and HAVE FUN!  I’m over being last.  I don’t mind.”

And in the depths of me, I knew it to be true.  I really didn’t care if I came in last.  It was about my finishing a race for which I had not trained.  It was about moving and having fun.

The next morning, I arrived at the venue early enough to get marked with a brand new sharpie (you know what this means, I cannot get the marks off my arm–my badge of pride).  And early enough that the boats just tied up the buoys for their placement in the lake.
Hickory_Swim 
And early enough to get a spot in transition (not a prime one, but one I could find).  Lots of Tri bikes, I thought to myself.  And very thin people.  And people with massive legs.  And as more people started to show up, I realized that I had never seen so many matching “Tri Team” singlets, TT bikes, Tri Bikes, and professional Aero helmets in my life.  I’m doomed.  Good lord.  These are not beginners!


I walked around, enjoyed watching the $5k-$10k bikes go by, people practicing their run from T-1 to the bike mount, hoping that my hands wouldn't be too cold to tie my shoes.  Perhaps I should’ve switched pedals so I didn’t have to change shoes?  Whatever.  I didn’t even train for this race.  I’m just going to have fun.

Fun.  Fun?  Dang, I’m just barely over plantar fasciitis and haven't run more than 2 miles but twice so far this year!


The race had a simultaneous beginning, first swim wave and Duathletes.  I looked around me.  Yup, what they say is true–runners do Duathlons.  Me and Naomi?  Not runners.  
But I am an awesome Penguin.

I predicted that I would be dead last.  I was dead last.  Not even close to anyone.  Not even Naomi.  What was I thinking?  Good heavens this is going to be a long morning, I thought with .2 mile to go.  I looked up and saw a 60+ woman struggling along at the beginning of the run.  Ah, I wasn’t last after all.  She must have been in the bathroom when the race started–or trying to find parking.  As I ran, I gave myself the pleasure of looking over at the swimmers–reminding myself of the alternative.  And smiled.  Running’s not so bad.  And it’s only .9 (actually .93), but a few very steep hills.  At least I was out there trying!

I made it back up the last hill and over to transition and switched to my cycling shoes.  I “hopped” on my bike and took off.  Before I could even start peddling, three people passed me.  Wow.  Their bums were as wide as one of my butt-cheeks.  I bet I see those again, I thought to myself.

The course was a five-mile loop that we did three times.  And sure enough, I saw the same skinny bums pass me again.  Pretty sure several folks passed me twice.  Pretty darned sure.  But I didn’t care.  I was a penguin and I was having fun.  

But for some reason, my brain kept trying to convince me that I would never finish–that I should bag the last running part.  That I had given it the old college try, but it just wasn’t my day.  It was all I could do to shut that voice. . . to make things worse, it took me about 6 miles to find my cycling legs.  That’s the longest it’s ever taken to find my cycling legs.  Then it occurred to me. . .

This is my first BRICK of the year!

 

I had to do this Duathlon--I just couldn't take another DNS.  I had too freaking many of them last year.

So here I was, racing with dudes flying past me going at least 20mph, probably faster.  While I did pass four people, I felt guilty about it.  I knew how they felt and hated adding to their pain!   So I encouraged them as I creeped by.  Only two people cheered me on as they passed me.  Women.  I miss all women’s races.  SO much more encouraging of each other.  Two gals even said, “You’re a tough one to catch!”.  That made me feel so good.  I’ll have to remember that one for next time.

I survived the 15.67 mile course, made it back to transition.  I changed shoes and headed out in a slow trot toward the 5k run course around the lake.  At .2 miles in my Garmin beeped.  I looked at it and it said, “Walk 1:00″.  Well, look at that!  I still had it set for the Jeff Galloway method!  So, I decided to follow the Garmin’s advice.  Why injure myself and lose yet another year to injuries?  If I feel good, I can run the last one or two miles.

About .5 miles in, I encountered Naomi.  She looked tired.  And very hot.  We both grabbed some water/gaterade at the hydration station at mile 1 and then played leapfrog for the next mile.  I got used to the sound of her footfalls coming up behind me, and would cheer her on when I did.

I had to make sure I did not get too far ahead of Naomi.  She told me she had a heart rate monitor and was trying to stay between 155 and 175.  I wanted to see how long I could run without walking and hollered to her, “I’ll be waiting for you!” Every so often I’d turn around and holler encouragement at her, but I could tell her fatigue had started to set in.  In my heart, the race became about giving her a positive first experience--it wasn't about me.  It took me a day to realize that.

I waited for her .6 miles out, at the next hydration station.  She seemed relieved to see me.  Then I got quite a bit ahead of her again.  At .1 miles out, the little crowd saw me and started cheering me on.  I stopped and turned around.  Naomi had dropped back quite a bit.  I stood and stretched as the very confused race volunteer kept urging me, “This way, ma’am!”  As she got closer, she told me that she had a cramp in her calf.  She stopped and stretched it a bit, then I encouraged her to walk a little, then we would run the last .1 mile together.  She did, and then we did.

I talked her in, sharing in her pain:  “I hurt too, we all hurt!  Hang in there!” and just as we got to the finish line, I stopped and let her cross before me.


We hugged and then headed to the snack area.  All the bananas, all the fruit, all the good stuff was gone. There were a few mini candy bars, three snickerdoodles in two huge empty boxes, and crappy little Dolly Madison donuts–you know the kind, powdered sugar and “chocolate” coated donuts.

A bit of advice to fast people:  if you finish at the beginning of the race, wait until EVERYONE is done before going back for seconds please?  I ran and cycled almost 20 miles and didn’t even get my friggin’ banana!!!  :-)

On the long drive home, I thought about the race.   It was a great day.



I made a difference in someone’s life.  I was a positive influence on those around me.  I crossed the same finish line and burned WAY more calories than them skinny dudes (over 1,800 kcals).  I took a chance on myself and never, ever gave up!  I overruled that stupid committee in my head saying that I’d never make it.   And most importantly, I HAD FUN and I FINISHED a race that I had not even trained for!!  All in all, I was a winner!


As a final side note, when I switched to the Duathlon, somehow I was dropped out of the Athena category  :-(   Otherwise,
I WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRST PLACE!!!  

(Shhhh:  there were no other Athenas in the Duathlon–that should also tell you something about who signs up for Duathlons!).