Over many months of slowly getting back to some moderate level of fitness, post-stress fracture, my mantra has been “trust the process”. It’s discouraging and it doesn’t feel good to fight your way back but if you put the time and the miles in, check the boxes, et cetera, at some point it will pay off and you will begin to see some results. To that end, I did the Glen Arbor Solstice 5k two weeks ago and the Tri Goddess Tri duathlon this past weekend, and although my training runs are the same plodding exercises in sweat, fatigue, and irritation as they’ve been for the past year, my event results are starting to get back in line. In fact, I took 50 seconds off my Solstice time from last year, so I approached my duathlon with a bit more confidence than I might have otherwise.
The Tri Goddess Tri is a cool event for several reasons. It’s all female, and feels like a safe environment to ‘tri’ different events (see what I did there?). There’s a sprint tri, a mini tri, and a duathlon and you don’t have to worry that some overly competitive dude bro is going to trample over you in transition reeking of Axe deodorant and testosterone. They move a lot of participants – 500 – around the different events in a pretty organized fashion, the organizers and volunteers are enthusiastic, and the venue is great. Portage Lake / Waterloo recreation area is a beautiful wooded park and on Tri Sunday it booms with music and activity. It’s the kind of event where you pass someone and the person you pass tells you what a great job you are doing and to keep it up. Also, the swag is nice – a nifty finisher medal and a cute t-shirt. (It’s nice to get a stylish race shirt for a change, as I’ve become accustomed to ill-fitting cotton ones that I end up hacking the sleeves & collar off for lawn mowing and pajama purposes.)
The downside, of course, is that there’s a lot of rah-rah and you have to deal with skinny immaculate Real Housewife-looking women calling you ‘Goddess’ all day. “GO GODDESS!” “GODDESSES TO THE STARTING LINE!” They could maybe ease back on THAT throttle a tiny bit.
I hadn’t really planned on the du, but I remembered a week or so ago that I’d actually registered last year, but deferred it. Frugality fought with competitive spirit and my innate cheapness won. Not wanting to waste my already-paid fee, I activated the registration and asked Jax if I could borrow his daughter’s bike. My bike is an ancient Specialized trail monster from the mid-’90’s Stump Jumper / Rock Hopper genre and although it’s fine for tooling around town occasionally, it is not roadworthy. Unfortunately, the bike I borrowed wasn’t a lot better. And I hadn’t been on a bike for months. Still, I thought, how bad could it be?
Jax brought Miss L to see me compete and although I couldn’t find them in the fringe of spectators at the start line, a few seconds into the first leg I heard Miss L yelling “MAMA!!!” and I got a quick glimpse of her on the sidelines. It put the heart into me. I’ve never really been the type to care one way or the other if people come out to watch me do an event. I tend to be of the opinion that my family can see me red-faced and sweaty after any of my other runs, so why should they get out of bed to see it? However, it was undeniably amazing to know that I had a cheering section. Coming into transition, knowing they were at the finish line, gave me such a surge of positive endorphins.
The first run – a mile and a half – was mostly trail, which I am unused to. Still, I finished solidly with a decent pace and was among the first handful into transition. My hubris caught up with me during the 11 mile ride. The borrowed bike was about what you would expect for being owned by a twelve year old. The tires were full, but that’s about it. I never figured out the gears, which went crashing through their paces and sent the chain clicking loudly. I was passed by no fewer than twenty women, all gliding along on very expensive road bikes, and by the time I came back to transition, my legs were dead. You might think this is an exaggeration but unless you’ve extensively trained for it, nothing can really prepare you for how strange it is to try to run after a long bike ride. I took the first few steps out of transition and had a bad moment where my right leg twitched and simply would not move the direction that I told it to. Although I was smiling when I passed Jax and Miss L, I was struggling on wobbly, unresponsive pins. “You’ve got a lot of people to pass,” Jax the Motivator yelled. He is one of those people who can display staggering honesty at undesirable times and then seem very surprised at the results, bless his heart.
Fortunately for him, I had bigger fish to fry, so I suppressed a snarling expletive and staggered on at a slightly brisker pace up the long gradual uphill out of the park, and I felt every step and every breath. Then a quick stretch on the road, with a blessed aid station where I stopped to chug some Gatorade – I was parched and hadn’t thought to leave a water bottle on my bike or in transition. I wasn’t sure I could get my legs working again and a sweaty 26-year old and I eyed each other warily (I knew everyone’s ages because the organizers insisted on writing them upon us in thick black marker.) Neither of us wanted to take the first step away from the Gatorade, but eventually I realized I was only going to beat her if I started running again. So I plunged back into the woods, onto the winding trails, up and downhill, and focused on the churning legs of the women in front of me. There’s a 52-year old! Whoop – I can pass a 39-year old! And me 43 and all.It’s petty and shallow but in the depths of human misery, odd things keep you going.
My legs regained some semblance of normal motion. I was passed myself by someone going like a bat out of hell, glistening with sweat on her muscled back, and for awhile was all alone on the trail with just the sound of the woods. Then I could hear the music and the announcer; I managed to pass one more goddess before the last lap to the finish where I reunited with my cheering section. Miss L promptly took possession of my race medal and plundered the snacks for the finishers.
I would do the du (haha) again, but not with a sub par bike. My runs were solid and I think I could have placed in my age group if my bike leg hadn’t been so dismal. But, I told Jax, I’m a runner, not a biker, so I’m not going to spend a lot of money on an expensive bike for one duathlon a year. Still, I’m glad I participated, and feel like I’m slowly starting to come back.