As we arrived at the reservoir for my first duathlon I was very excited! It was a small event - only 156 women - so it was race morning bib pick up and check in. It went so smoothly, and since there wasn't a line I had plenty of time to set up my transition area. I loved how laid back the morning felt, and I enjoyed sitting with my family for a half hour before race time.
As the ladies assembled for the start, I found myself at the front. I thought I should probably move to the back because I knew I wasn't going to be the fastest, but things happened so quickly that I stayed put. And I actually enjoyed the view at the front. I did what I suspect most other runners were doing - sized up the competition. What a lesson in looks are deceiving! If you've ever run a race, you know what I mean. (More on this later.)
The officials counted us down from 10, and we were to start running at the sound of cowbells! Weird, I know! As we started running I felt strong and happy to be doing this race. Right away I saw Tim and Emma and Nate. I waved and gave high fives as I passed, so glad they had come to cheer me on. The first 2 mile run was wonderful. I spent the whole time praising God for a beautiful morning and an amazing opportunity to be in my first duathlon. It went by very quickly. Just before I reached the transition area, I heard the cheers of my wildest fans (my family).
As I entered the first transition, I checked my watch and was happy to see I was right on target with a 10 minute/mile. I quickly put on my helmet, gloves and camel back and went to take off on my bike. When I pushed my bike forward, the whole bike rack came with it. I pushed it off and kept going...only a 2 minute transition time.
The bike portion consisted of 2 loops of a 6 mile loop. Initially there was lots of downhill, but then the hills came with ever-increasing steepness. I found that I would be passed by road bikes on the downhill, but I would overtake them again on the hills. (Tim later explained this was due to the difference of gears in my mountain bike and a road bike.) I felt great cranking up the hills and was glad to have the smaller tires I had recently put on my bike. (I was also grateful that I had trained on my neighborhood hills for this race, the entire course was very hilly.)
For the most part I biked alone. There were occasional packs of riders, but I seemed to be at my own pace. I encouraged other riders as we would pass, and they encouraged me. It was a neat camaraderie. It was during this portion of the race that I thought about how deceiving looks can be. I had passed a lady who I had guessed would be much faster than I, but her friend (who was in her 60s) smoked me! I was reminded of this every time we passed on the trails. She was a good half loop ahead of me, wearing her grandma outfit and riding her cruiser bike (I'm not even sure it had gears). She had a smile on her face the whole time, and I was happy for her energy and ability to race.
Although the entire race was inside the park, there were cars on the main rode where we biked. Thoughts of riders being hit by a car kept entering my mind until I finally told myself to stop. I focused on enjoying the beautiful day once again. I also thought about how I would word my blog post about the race. Why I signed up for a 5K next weekend? And how I really didn't like the sound of being 37. I passed my cheering section four times on the bike portion of the race.
As I entered the transition area again, I was painfully aware that I had a rock in my shoe. I knew I needed to stop and get it out, but I hated the idea of taking up precious time to do so. I quickly discarded all my riding gear and sat down to remove the rock from my shoe. As I stood to run I became painfully aware of another thought: my legs felt like jell-o! They did not want to run. I felt as though I had no control over them, so I kept thinking one foot in front of the other.
As I passed my family once again, my legs began to fall into sync and I began my final 2 mile run. This time I wasn't so excited or feeling so fortunate to be doing a duathlon. I felt like I was barely moving. As I came to the top of the first hill, I was relieved to feel the cool air off the lake. A song came to mind and it became my mantra for the remainder of the race: You are my strength. It was a prayer for the Lord to carry me to the finish line.
I took some Gatoraid at the half-way point, hoping it would give me a quick energy boost. Half way there I told myself. That last mile was difficult. Other runners who had finished the race were walking up the path to encourage the rest of us. It was great to see their smiling faces and hear their encouragement. As I came to the last hill one of the spectators said, "You can hear the music." I, in fact, could. But I did not have the energy to kick it into a higher gear. I began to listen to my feet shuffle along the path and thought of how it sounded like my Grandma Bennie's feet when she would walk. At this point I even jokingly asked a lady who was cheering me on, "Am I moving?" I told her I couldn't tell as we both laughed! I rounded the corner and saw Tim and Emma and Nate standing just beyond the finish line. I kicked it into fast gear and finished with a strong stride.
I wasn't prepared for the emotions that surged through me as I finished my first duathlon. I was choked up and wanted to cry as I hugged Tim, but I also didn't want to do the ugly cry while I was sweating in public. I was handed my finishers medal, and I felt my legs shaking as we stood and hugged each other.
We stayed just long enough for me to get some food and a finisher's shirt, then we headed back to the hotel where I took a long-awaited shower (and the kids swam one last time). I felt so loved and encouraged by my family, and I thought about how much harder that race would have been without them there to cheer me on.
When we got home, I slept for 2 hours! I told Tim I didn't know if I would do that race again, but my mind was quickly changed when I went outside and watched Nate and Emma compete in a duathlon of their own making! I knew right then I would be doing it again...and one day with my daughter at my side. I can't wait!!!!