Thursday, June 20, 2013

On Being a Glutton for Punishment

I’ve been running for a little less than a year. I’ve participated in a few races, including some 5k’s, a freezing 5 miler, a slightly above freezing 10 miler, a 10k, a half marathon, etc. But I wanted to try something different, so I recently competed in the West Milton Triathlon. Well, maybe competed is a strong word. I should amend that and just say that I participated in it.  I also coerced my running partner, Steve, into it so we could team up. (Two person teams get canoes. Solo participants get kayaks. I’ve never been in a kayak and didn’t feel like taking my chances.) The race consisted of a 3.5 mile canoe trip down the Stillwater River, a 5 mile run on back country roads, then a 17 mile bike ride through more country roads. And it started at the buttcrack of dawn. Good times.

A day or so before the race, I got an email from the race director that contained valuable information, like the maps for the running and biking portions. I ignored those. I skimmed over the race directions about where to park and where to pick up timing chips, etc. Then I got to the line about no headphones/cellphones/ipods allowed. WHAT? I wasn’t allowed to listen to Will Smith get jiggy with it or Dolly Parton stumblin’ into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of ambition? I NEED a distraction when I run, something to keep my mind turned off so it won’t keep telling me to quit. Then I realized that I’d be with my running partner and he could keep me going. He’s a track coach and a positive person in general. Great for dragging my ass along when I’m feeling like I can’t possibly take another step. 

Anyway, race day dawned sunny and clear. We got to the starting point and managed to get into the canoe without tipping it. I should mention here that I am not good in canoes. I don’t like being in muddy bodies of water where I can’t see under the surface. I’m always afraid that I’m going to get eaten by a mutant catfish or some type of creepy crawly thing is going to latch on to me if I so much as dip a finger in the water.  The Stillwater River was moving at a good clip (go figure) and we stayed in the current for the most part, which helped to propel us along. We got to the docking area, where I managed to get out of the canoe without getting wet. Steve wasn’t as lucky.

We set out for the running portion. About a half-mile in, Steve realized he had forgotten his timing chip in the transition area. He told me to go ahead and he turned around to go track it down. So there I was, running alone. On a back country road. Without music. With only my thoughts to keep me company. Those 5 miles seemed to take forever. It was hot. I was thirsty. I was grumpy. I swore I was never doing this again and what in the gay hell was I thinking wasting a perfectly good Saturday morning by running around these damn dusty roads in Podunksville. I made up some new cuss words in my head. (It’s a pastime of mine when I run, especially on hills.) 

I finally made it to the main road that took me into the park where we had set up our bikes earlier. Spectators lined the road, yelling out encouraging words about “looking good, keep going,” etc. I wondered if they were on crack or blind, because I was sweating buckets and felt like I was moving in slow motion. I made it to my bike and waited around for Steve. I drank some water. Waited some more. When I saw Steve, he told me to go ahead and he’d catch up to me. So off I went, tired but excited that there was only 17 miles between myself and the finish line.  (I feel I should say that Steve’s total run time was less than mine, and the whole timing chip debacle was the only reason I beat him to the finish line for that portion.)

The first mile was all uphill. I put my bike in easy gear (yes, I know there’s technical terms like high gear and low gear but I don’t speak bicycle, so easy gear it is.) and made it up the hill. By the time I got to the 5 mile marker, I was flying. I wished I had my phone with me so I could’ve checked my biking app (I love Strava!), but those pesky rules…anyway, a little over an hour later I crossed the finish line. A few minutes later, Steve rolled in. We had finished! All in one piece! And we didn’t come in last!

Do I wish I could’ve done better? Yes. I finished in less than 3 hours, but next year the goal is to finish in 2.5. I did get a cool new medal - which is hanging with the half-marathon medal in my bathroom.

And I’ve already started training for a marathon in October. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.