This past Sunday, October 3, I completed my first half-iron man at the Half Full Tri in Ellicott City, MD. It was not a full 70.3, it was 70 even. The race organizers were emphasizing the number 70–the race was a benefit for the The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults–and the importance of the number represents the estimated number of adolescents (ages 15-40) diagnosed with cancer each year (70,000 in the U.S.).
The race organizers held a top-notch event bar-none. The transition area and bike racks were not the usual A-frame model, where everyone is trying to merge their bikes without causing any undue damage to their neighbors bikes–no, these racks were boxes on the ground that held your tire–but the kicker was each station was not just a race number for a marker but had our names on it–very cool.
The race went better than I anticipated, coming off a two-week sinus infection and trying to ramp my body back up for the race, I guess I hit the peak just right.
It was a chilly morning as we were preppin in transition, my bare feet on the cold wet morning grass were feeling the pain of the chill–which made the thought of finally getting in the water very welcoming. By the time they finally started my wave I had a made a few new friends and was ready to hit the water. The swim was not the typical group mayhem swim but rather a “time trial” start…We went in two at a time. The swim was nice and for not getting in as much swim practice as I could have (writ 5 swims in the two months leading up) I hit the times I wanted.
Transition 1 felt slow but I was trying to prep and make sure I had everything I thought I needed for the ride. 2 weeks before the race some local athletes pulled together a ride preview–this was a valuable experience knowing what the course looked like. The ride was fun and I never hit any of the bunch crunches I anticipated on the ride (except for the 2 cars I got stuck behind–both on hill climbs….)
Heading into T2 I was psyched to see Sara and the pups waiting to see me and cheering me on, that really gave me the boost I needed to hit the half marathon. I spent a decent time in transition again, hoping to have everything set I needed…10 minutes into the run I realized I left my race belt (with bib attached) in transition–but no going back at that point, besides I still had the ankle timer.
I was able to make some random conversations on the run with other athletes which was nice. The run was hillier than I anticipated so not having had a preview of the course I changed my race plan and decided to walk the sharper hills and water stops. There was a point around mile 7-8 when we circled back through the park that I was certain I had run off course, but thankfully I had not–I was just that alone..Around mile 11 I found my final push and was able to cruise (long uphills included) straight to the finish.
On entering the finish chute I was overcome with emotion, the crowd cheering–strangers giving me looks of admiration and heartfelt applause , the realization I made it–and the coolness of hearing my name called out–yes, that little chip is magic!
People asked how it went, I say well–probably better than I expected. I say it was humbling and rewarding–satisfying. There was a moment on the bike course when my shadow was cast in front of me and I zoned out for a little, watching the road, watching my shadow and it occurred to me that I wasn’t chasing shadow dreams anymore, I had/have become the person I want to be–I wanted change and became that change. I reclaimed me. There is a point when all the talk in the world means nothing and action/deeds shine forth but it’s not proving something to anyone else–only to yourself. There is a line from Jane’s Addiction’s Ocean Size I always liked–wish I was Ocean Size, no one moves you, man, no one tries–I want to be more like the Ocean, no talkin man all action.
On a long group ride earlier in the season (it was a Sunday morning) I heard an older rider say I don’t go to church–I am in my church. I understand that now in a way that is deeper than the surface assumption in thought. I am free when I’m out there, I’m purely in a moment. I compete against me–I compete against the voice in my head telling me how hard it is, how rough I feel, how I should just stop, that I should be working or doing something else. I compete against the voices I hear of other people telling me I can’t do it, am crazy for doing it, waste my time doing it. I ride, run and push til all that noise burns away and what is left is pure spirit. I appreciate things in a new way. I am humbled, I am grateful and I look forward to getting back out there again. I hope I’ll see you out there too.