First I found out that Kim Kardashian really does have *gasp* cellulite.
Then Bea Arthur died.
Next were the rumors that both Jon and Kate of Jon and Kate Plus 8 are having affairs.
And then – even worse – Miss California lied. Or something like that.
After I dug myself out of that hole of celebrity despair and got over the drama and the agony, I mustered up the energy to leave my house. To pack my bike. Put myself into the van.
And…of course…get back to blogging (!)
Just in time, because it’s race time! Every year we pile the van high with wheels, helmets, race flats to make the pilgrimage to Memphis. For the past few years we’ve been joined by Lizzie and Eric, good athletes, better friends, all around two kids crazy about triathlon.
We make the perfect pair. Of pairs.
This year we pulled up to their house with Eric coughing out that he was sick.
Press the panic button it’s time to go into high alert Haz Mat mode. I asked Eric if he had a snorkel and would agree to being wrapped in plastic and strapped to the top of the van because there is no way in hell I’m getting sick on this trip! Unfortunately it was pouring rain. And being a skinny little bean Eric would have slid right off the roof. So we put him in the backseat. An hour into the trip he looked feverish with a bad case of bedhead and a hacking cough. He spent the rest of the weekend coughing. How do I know? Starky hit me every time Eric coughed.
Also on board with us was…Starky. That’s right, we van-napped one of the fastest triathletes on two wheels. For reference, he warms up at a wattage above my threshold. If you watched the Clearwater coverage, this was the pro guy that led the bike. According to him, that was his goal. And he spent the first 5K of the run celebrating his goal.
Then he realized he still had 10 miles to go.
The weekend was a trip – in so many ways. 48 hours, 1200 miles and a race somewhere in between. By late Sunday night we were already heading home. The race – and weekend – stirring in my head as we drove north on 57 somewhere just across the border into Illinois. Starky starts talking in a southern accent and insists we start listening to country (the worst part – he knows the words). Chris is nestled in the backseat. Eric announces there’s a Dairy Queen in another 40 miles. Lizzie is driving after being voted “most fresh” after her hypothermic DNF. Someone turns up Ice Cube and declares it a hit from their high school days.
I’m old enough to be that someone’s mom.
As soon as it started, the weekend to Memphis is complete. Let me briefly recap my race by saying: I am allergic to Memphis. Or that is how it is starting to feel. After last year’s implosion I told myself I simply had to cross the line to win today.
I’m a winner, oh yes.
Unfortunately I crossed that winning line in last place.
The race started a little differently for pros this year – at 10:30 am. How many races start with husband saying “Want me to go get Starbuck’s for you?”
The best part about starting late – other than sleeping in, coffee service, having a morning poo at a totally normal time – hell, having one at all – was being able to watch the age groupers and my athletes. I had 10 athletes racing at Memphis, managed to see all but one of them. Smiled with them, shouted at them and got a good feeling inside. Nothing is better than watching your athletes race – nothing!
While I wanted to stand around all day, cheer and watch athletes fly over the dismount line, it was time to warm up. Put on my speedsuit and got in for a swim. Choppy would be one way to describe the water. However, I told myself after you do St. Croix nothing is choppy. This is glass.
A quick warm up and then time to wait. I was freezing. The wind was whipping off the lake and the air was chilled. I have never been cold at Memphis! Leave it to Michellie Jones (shameless namedropping) to devise a plan. She “borrowed” a random towel and then by some divine and cosmic interaction of luck, planetary alignment and just being in the right place at the right time – she grabbed Chris and I to huddle with her.
REPEAT: Olympic silver medalist and Ironman world champion makes herself a Waterstraat sandwich.
Is there a reason to even go on with the race?
After that I pulled myself together and stopped shivering. Got in line for the start. New this year: Chris turned pro. He had the results and did everything he wanted to as an amateur. Time to toe the pro line. GO CHRIS!
The swim starts and I ease into it. No big crowd, no arms flailing. The water is choppy but I quickly get over it. Find the rhythm, roll, breathe…I think to myself it could be worse. It could be St. Croix.
It could even be worse than that. It could be Ironman.
The next turn I settle into a good pace and recognize the arms ahead of me. The color of the skin tone. I know those arms. I know that skin tone. I get closer. I know those feet. THAT IS HUSBAND! I pull alongside of him on the way into the finish. I realize at one point he is now behind me. I AM PULLING HUSBAND! We end up emerging from the water together.
However: he started 20 seconds behind me so who has the faster swim split?
A long run to the transition racks and I realize I am not the last bike. It’s the little things sometimes that make your day in a race. Cuddling with Michellie. Exiting the swim with Chris. Starting out not last on the bike. I see Chris going towards the mount line and grab my bike, it goes airborne and I shout at him I WILL BEAT YOU TO THE LINE!
The bike. Now, I live in Chicago. I know wind. I knew I had to just put my head down and ride. Into very gusty wind. From the northeast at 18 mph gusting to 25. In other words, ELF vs the wind today – ELF DID NOT WIN. I rode alone. Three others pulled away – farther, farther until there was no one left to stagger with. Just me and myself riding down the road. I had to be one of the last riders out there and I was making up time on no one. Regardless I kept telling myself to stay strong, be confident, focus on the task at hand. I focused enough to distract myself from the fact that I was really going nowhere very fast. Rightfully so, I was passed by a guy about 45 minutes into the ride and then noticed something big behind me. Following me. Lurking. Drafting you could say. Don’t they know about the stagger rule?
Problem was it was a vehicle.
Yes, folks, I had the “last racer on the course” vehicle right behind me.
Oh for the love of racing. For the love of my pride. For the love of “I train to do this?” A million feelings and insecurities float through your head. Key word: float. Mostly it was laughter – is this really happening? It is. So now what?
That was frustrating but at the same time a bit…hilarious? Do I really need a reminder that I’m the last one out here? Do they not think I have already gotten that point? It was hard not be become distracted by the pressure of knowing you’re the last one. This vehicle is waiting for you. Inside it they are probably saying “that poor girl”. I suppose it’s called “perspective” or “character building”.
I’m about full of character now thank you.
But at the same time, I’m here. I’m doing this. Someone has to bring up the rear and what an honor, it's me! I think. Hey, wait, I’m still in it. I’m racing and I’m actually thinking good thoughts. After all, I chose to do this. I paid to do this. I’m doing this.
Finally I arrived in transition. Time to run. I was excited to run. You see, last year I DNFed at Memphis in an implosion of self-pity, weakness and fatigue around mile 4 of the run. Funny thing is that my legs hurt today. Just like they did last year but….I was smarter than myself. Time trial start, I kept telling myself. It’s not over until it’s over. Don’t determine the outcome of your race until you cross that line.
I ran looking for someone. Anyone. Most of the other women started coming back towards me around mile 2.5 so there was at least a mile between me and them. Sure, the race was over at that point but I noticed one woman ahead of me at the turnaround. I kept plugging away to catch her but was making no ground.
Meanwhile, the race course is being cleaned up behind me. I reach every aid station to find it deconstructing with a few kids holding water cups for me. It was disheartening but at the same time the price of just staying in the game because I simply cannot give up out of fear, embarrassment or self-pity.
Besides, at least I was not being followed by a vehicle.
Then I saw a Sheriff’s car coming up from the other way.
I swear to god.
May I just add that I’ve always wanted a celebrity escort (and a theme song) but this is not what I had in mind.
I crossed the line smiling. I owe that to myself. My athletes. Anyone who has faith in me. Ironically – yet again – people came up to me afterward offering their condolences. Listen, people, I am not dead, I am just last – and just today. I’ll get over it.
(now, move away before the sheriff drives by just to be sure I finally made it across the line)
All joking aside, l I would be remiss to say that I am not disappointed in my race. I’ve got a great sense of humor and keep perspective about everything. But I still have emotions. So I visited the port o potty for some time with myself. It smelled bad, I was surrounded by toilet paper and may I just ask HOW you miss that bad? Anyways, I had a moment with myself. I kept it together for over 2 hours and resisted feeling anything but YOU CAN DO THIS, STAY STRONG. I owed it to myself to give myself permission to just…break down.
Know why? You don’t need to train to come in last. You can walk to come in last. You can ride a mountain bike and come in last. You don’t need an aero helmet, a coach or a speedsuit to come in last place. You don’t need anything, I suppose. Except …
Except __________(I have yet to fill in that blank but in time I know it will come to me….).
I don’t know. Two years ago I did this course 7 minutes faster. Today I ran one of the slowest 10Ks I have ever run. How do you go backwards while time moves forward? Am I still the same me? Is it worth even trying? I have not answered this yet. All I could answer today was yes I gave it my best. What more can I do? The course was basically disappearing behind me and…in my mind I was in the race. Still doing it. What else can you do? If you don’t keep pushing and believing in yourself, who will?
Moving on: Chris had an awesome pro debut race. He was not last – which is always a plus in your first pro race – and he was less than 1 minute from being in 9th place (he finished in 14th; that was a close race!). I am proud of him for taking it to the next level and know he will continue to grow as a new pro.
As for my athletes, they make me happy. I like them. Swimming with them, talking with them, seeing them smile. 3 of them set PRs on the course today!
Know what else makes me happy? Pancakes for dinner. Good friends to share the car ride home. BISCUITS! Dairy Queen for dessert. Laughing at Starky’s infectious energy and conversation. My iPhone. Hearing Eric try to pronounce the ingredients of NyQuil. Not having to drive one mile of the 1200 mile trip.
The little things. I suppose that is it. You need the little things to keep you going. The thrill of a race. Seeing your athletes race. Spending time with friends. Sunshine. Blue skies. A road trip. All of the little things that make it worth it. And make you want to do it again.
Here’s to the little things!