Yesterday I participated in a half-ironman distance triathlon.
What had happened was…my friend, Judy found out that I’d done a 40mile bike ride, on a mountain bike, off the cuff three years ago. She only found out because we were talking about the pain of sitting on a bike seat for hours and I said I could relate. The difference was that she was in training for the 56mile bike ride in the kuparisaari tri. When I was dragged into that gruesome ride, on the other hand, I had not sat on a bike for maybe 15yrs. The pain in my rear after those 40miles led me to vow sincerely never to touch a bike again!
One of the teams doing the kuparisaari tri had lost their biker and they’d been searching unsuccessfully to find one. If I could do 40miles with no training, maybe I could finish the 56miles with training. They’d even give me a bike. With two months to prepare, I said “yes.” And I’m glad for it. Because I discovered a joy I’d never experienced before in physical exercise. I looked forward to getting on the bike, learning how to balance on road bike tires, change gears, ride one-handed (someday hands-free), ride standing, and it was encouraging to feel myself getting stronger each time I got on the bike.
The problem was that I didn’t get on the bike as often as I needed to! First Campmeeting. Then CAMPUS l.e.a.d.s.: The Braxton wedding: The Schauer wedding: Apartment moving weekend: ASI and Ministerial. Just one open weekend the whole time and with the travel weariness, I must have only gotten 2week’s worth of training in. Voi kauhea!
The night before our race, David’s devotional focused on the parallels between the Christian race and the one we’d be doing the next morning. He mentioned how the race we were doing was only a revelation of the preparation we had put in beforehand. It’s like the day of judgment. The time for preparation is past and your secret life is laid bare.
As part of my training, I psychologically prepared myself for all the people who would be passing me by on the ride. I also knew I’d be the last in the pack. But I wasn’t prepared for The Nay-Sayers on my trail all the way from the halfway point till they picked me up to take me back to transition.
I had a water bottle in my back pocket and couldn’t use my left hand to help me get it, so just before the killer hill, I decided to stop and have a drink. As I was mounting my bike again, the car pulled up and, in brief, offered me a ride back if I needed it. I thanked them, told them I was just having a drink, and that I would be continuing.
That hill between Gay and Mohawk was ridiculous! I thought I was going to die. My quads have never burned so badly. That’s when I started talking to myself. “Come on!” “Arghhhh!” “You can do this.” Those were the most oft repeated phrases from that point on. I guess I felt the need for cheerleaders – which, by the way, Amy, David, Tennille and Kimmy were awesome cheerers! – but they only drove by once, and that before the killer hill. Oh, and I remember #52 who, rather than just passing me by with a “you’re doing great” comment like all the other riders, stopped to chat for a bit before leaving me with words of encouragement. That must have messed up his time quite a bit, but it made my day!
Halfway up that hill, I couldn’t stand the pain. So I stopped and walked a bit with my legs still straddling the bike because I was afraid that if I got off The Nay-Sayers would come and get me. Sure enough, they pulled up beside me, asked me if I was alright, then counselled me to just sit on the side of the road and they would come and pick me up whenever I was ready. Was I looking so bad they thought I should quit? I could just be blanking, but I don’t ever remember being discouraged so directly from attempting to accomplish a goal. Yea, “nay-sayers” said Zimbabwean girls couldn’t succeed academically because all they were good for was to be somebody’s wife. But no-one ever said that to my face! So I fought to beat the odds.
I made it past that hill but there they were, right behind me for the rest of the race. They would drive past me a few miles then stop and wait for me, say a few more words to bring me down as I rode past them, and then repeat…
Oddly enough, their nay-saying pushed me up a few hills pretty fast. I was afraid they were behind me, ready to see me fail so they could pick me up.
Alanna came by to check on me and said I had just one more hill then it would be downhill from there. I didn’t realize that the “one hill” was more like a series of small hills in succession. So I was pushing every hill, thinking “this is the last one” then there was another, and another. But with every hill I thought, or said out loud, “Come on, push through the burn past this last one!”
My goal for the race was to make it back before the cut-off time so that Robert could do the run. Myra had bought me a significant amount of time with her awesome swim time. I knew everyone back at transition was rooting for me, praying for me. My lower back was hurting so much I couldn’t even feel the pain in my left hand sprain anymore. I had quit thinking about the pain in my rear. But I knew I could go the distance and I was praying I’d be miraculously in time!
Enter The Nay-Sayers. “The race is just about over and you still have a long way to go, so we could just pick you up now,” they said. My heart sank. I’d failed to meet my goal! I’d failed my team! I had failed. All that pain for nothing.
I considered continuing just so I could say I finished the race but they had said I had a long way to go and I wanted Robert to run even if it wouldn’t count towards our race time. So, I stopped and they brought me back to transition. I felt so defeated!
Turns out…I had just 5miles to go with one or two hills between and the rest was “hold your brakes” downhill. Furthermore, the race had started late that morning, so when they stopped me, I actually had 15mins still on the clock. Could have made it back in time. So now I was mad at myself for listening to The Nay-Sayers! And that’s my one regret from the race.
I worked hard that whole race, so hard. I really pushed myself – my longest ride in training had been about 25miles. All that, only to buckle under the pressure of The Nay-Sayers so near the end! I no longer feel defeated for not finishing the race. No, no, that feeling has been replaced with disappointment in myself for listening to The Nay-Sayers!
So, a few commitments I’ve made:
1. Not to listen to the nagging Nay-Sayers in my life
2. Train, train, train, for next summer
3. Be a #52 for someone else
4. Oh, and maybe for my next race I should have a watch a odometer, so I can know the truth for myself 😉
It was a great weekend. This reflection was just on my race experience but so many really neat things transpired! Like, Israel and John finishing the whole thing; Team Revolution I coming in first place for the relay; Super fun fellowship and meeting new friends like Myra; And as always hanging with the Ramos boys – they’re so awesome!
Ps: voi kauhea was me, Rob and Myra’s unofficial team name – it’s Finnish for “that’s terrible.” Long story…