On Sunday, June 3rd 2012, I competed at the Blackwater Duathlon National Championships in hopes of qualifying for the World Championships. Here’s what happened:
The night before: I lay atop a lace coverlet at an expensive B&B watching a bad Matthew McConaughey movie on the tiniest flat screen I’d ever seen. I roll to my side for one last look at Jackie (my bike). I close my eyes imagining life on an actual tri bike.
The morning of: It’s 4am. I have an hour until my alarm goes off. I stare at the ceiling wondering why I’m never this alert at this hour on any other day.
The first 10K: I start near the back of the pack. I need to respect my achilles and hamstring injury. My competitors speed away pushing me to the back of the back of the pack. I hear the bullhorn start the next group. Before I know it, I’m being passed by a swarm of old people. No kidding. The geezers scuttle by encouraging me to “hang in there”. I can’t help but laugh. I am in the back of the pack, being outrun and cheered on by senior citizens. I smile. I’m happy that I showed up, happy that my legs are moving, happy to see old people getting it in. [Pace: 8:17 min/mile. Pace before injury: 6:40 min/mile.]
The 70k bike: It’s not 2 miles into the ride when I’m blindsided by ferocious hamstring cramps. I slide my butt to the front of the seat. This relieves the pain but now there’s an insane amount of pressure on my lady parts. I ride in this position until I think about the kids I’d like to have one day. I scoot back. When the hamstring cramps resurface, I scoot forward. I move between these two positions for the next hour. Frustrated, I pull over to adjust my seat. The whiz of the passing riders is deafening. The only sound I hear is the beating of my throbbing crotch. [Pace: 18.3 mph. Anticipated pace: 20 mph]
The 2nd 10k: It is quiet. Most of my competitors have finished. For the first time in my career, I am fighting to finish. I am alone. No one is cheering for me. I’ve never been last, in the back of the pack. The silence is profound. Honestly, it stings. I feel shame. I also realize this is part of my journey. I’m supposed to experience life from this angle. This is necessary for my growth, on a different level. As I cross the finish line, I drop my head, embarrassed. Unexpectedly, I smile. I don’t know why but I do. [Pace: 17 seconds/mile faster than the 1st 10k.]
The results: I finish in 4:07, a far cry from the winner’s blazing 3:10. Still, my placement was high enough to qualify me for the World Championships. My goal is to get healthy and race at a sub 3:30. I plan to compete for Team USA in the best shape of my life.
The lesson: Every moment in life, every person you meet has something to teach you. It’s up to you to learn from it. I did not have a great performance but I learned a great lesson. Work with what you have. Try your hardest, no matter what. Don’t do it for accolades. Don’t do it for acceptance. Don’t do it for approval. Do your best because you owe it to yourself. As God as my witness, there is beauty in the struggle. If you acknowledge this, you will win – every time.