I have tried to write this post a bazillion times since Saturday. But I write and then I delete. I write and then I delete. And I’ve got nothin’! No creative way to tell you about the excruciating, exhilarating event THAT I FINISHED on Saturday. I’ve got no metaphors, no similes, no alliteration, no onomatopoeia.
All I’ve got is this:
I Am A Woman of Steel Triathlete.
Yep! That’s right. I am a triathlete. Tri … athlete. Tri … athlete. Holy crap that feels good to say! I am so. Proud. Of. Myself. I am, a TRIATHLETE.
Saturday began for Frit and I at 5 a.m. The night before we had packed the car, packed our bags, and packed our bikes. So all we had to do was throw on our suits and eat a good breakfast. It was thrilling (and frightening) to pull out of the driveway, before the dawn, knowing we were finally headed to the race we’d been training for for weeks.
On the way, we talked about what we were excited about and what we were worried about. But mostly we talked about how happy we were that we’d decided to do this (and how glad we’d be once it was over so we could have our lives back).
We arrived at the race site just after 7:00 a.m. and each of us set out to find our assigned transition spots, lay out our gear, tag our bikes, secure our timing chips to our ankles, and get a little jittery.
At 7:30 we were to be at the pool for rules and the national anthem. At 8:00 the starting alarm sounded and we were off. Well. Not really “off.” Line-up is based on self-seeding and since neither of us are professional, we were near the back–which was great in so many ways. Since we had to wait, it allowed time to calm down, relax a bit, and make some friends.
I entered the pool at 8:50 and finished the swim in just over 9 minutes. And then it was off to the bike! Miles 1 and 7 were mega hills and I struggled. I was so slow. And it was hard to keep feelings of discouragement away as people, who I knew were on their second lap, passed me. But I kept peddling. It was all I could do, and I just tried to remember that I didn’t care how fast I was–I was only in this to finish. After an hour and twenty-five minutes, the 12.4 mile bike ride was behind me. I was tired and my legs felt like burning, rubbery, lead noodles.
Frit was waiting for me at my second transition. She had just finished the race and I was so proud of her (SO proud) but I was bugged (REALLY bugged) with myself for being so slow. She tried to encourage and cheer me on, but I was in no mood. I started toward the route start (read “stomped” toward the route start) and saw she was following me, ready to run the run again, beside me. She has a habit of doing this as some of you know. But, like I said, I was in a mood–a bugged, mad at myself, let-me-throw-myself-a-pity-party-by-myself mood. So I told her to go away (even though I was really grateful she was there). Sometimes I’m a brat like that and luckily she knows me well enough–she stayed. (Frit, thanks for always staying. I love you with all my heart.)
Now, if any of you have ever done a triathlon you can attest to the fact that the transition from bike to run is brutal. BRUtal. And the entirety of the run’s first mile was uphill. I tried to make my legs go, but I could barely get my feet high enough to clear the pavement. They would not go. And so I walked. Slowly. I was so tired and annoyed with myself and mad at my legs. And even though I thought I had cried all my tears out on the bike, I broke down as we neared the top of the hill. I mean really broke down. A sobbing, snotting, can’t-catch-my-breath breakdown. I looked at Frit and with all honesty and certainty told her, “I don’t think I can finish this. I really don’t think I can do it.” (Even now, typing that makes me tear up at the memory of how I felt at that moment.) I really didn’t think I could take one more step. And she looked at me, and with all honesty and certainty said, “Yes. You can.”
At this point, I was pretty sure I was in last place. Which sucked. I mean, my only two goals going into this were to 1) finish and 2) not be last. But somewhere in the middle of mile 2 Frit turned around and noticed a couple women walking behind me. This helped me pick up the pace just a bit–I didn’t want them to gain on me. And in picking it up, I ended up passing the woman in front of me too.
By mile 3 my legs had un-noodled, lightened a bit and I was running! We were SO close to the finish line and I felt so good. So tired. But proud and grateful and overwhelmed. At the last turn I saw a familiar blonde waiting with her two boys. She saw me at the same moment and screamed my name, jumped and cheered, and I lost it. I hadn’t known she was coming and there couldn’t have been a better surprise. She and her boys fell into line beside us and the five of us ran toward the finish together. As I entered the “grandstand” area, they all fell back as I took those final steps alone. Time seemed to slow.
If I close my eyes, I can still hear, in the far corner of my mind, the announcer at the microphone, “Here she is! Number 143! Let’s cheer her in everyone! Way to go #143! You did it!” The colors and faces are a blur, but I can hear their cheering, their clapping, their yelling, their encouraging. And there it was, three final steps and I was done. #143. Two hours and 29 minutes.
On the other side of the finish line a fellow-racer (a complete stranger!) wrapped her arms around me as I sobbed with relief, accomplishment, weariness, joy and pride. “You did it. You. Are. Amazing. You did it.” she kept saying over and over. And then there was Frit. Smiling and laughing and proud. Ready to squish any air I had left in me, out. I highly recommend that everyone find a best friend.
The rest of the day I was reeling. Who am I kidding?! I’m still reeling! I am a triathlete! A finisher! A Woman of Steel.