Sunday I participated in a Triathlon as part of a Relay. I selected to do the 25 mile bike portion of the Westchester Triathlon. For this relay, I was part of Team Donovan which supported Donovan, a young man that has been living with Freidreich Ataxia (FA) disease. FA disease is a rare, debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder. About one in 50,000 people in the United States have Friedreich’s Ataxia.
I was proud to be riding for such a great cause, and although I didn’t have the chance to meet Donovan I met his parents, who are warm and wonderful people. Hopefully in Donovan’s lifetime we will see a cure for this disorder.
The race was located in Rye, New York starting and finishing at the Rye Playland in Westchester County. The race atmosphere was insane, there were about 50 elite athletes, and over ten college triathlon teams; college triathlon teams? Am I that old, never heard of this before? When did this start? Amazing!! Right? What was really exciting was all of the college teams did their collegiate chant, at first I have to admit it was annoying because I was intimated but by the time we got to the water for the starts they were actually motivating and inspiring.
As I took a glance at the field of athletes I was in complete AWE. The bodies were chiseled works of art; the athletes were as young as 18, old as 74 and everything in between. It was really amazing to see all the athletes getting pumped and ready to go. Me, I was intimidated!
When we got to the water there were twelve start waves. It was neat to watch all the colored caps running into the water, by time my brother-in-law (the swimmer and runner of our team) got off it was thirty minutes after the first wave. As I started my way back to the transition area to get ready, I knew I had at least 30 minutes to get situated, pumped and ready to go. I really wasn’t worried about the bike at all. I was advised by my sister, a seasoned runner and triathlete that there were two tough climbs. Just two tough climbs, what’s to worry? In my mind I thought I could handle that. I knew I wanted to finish in at least 2 hours, hoping for 1:45. I didn’t train on the bike as much as I should have, but I was training for my half that is coming up this weekend, and really needed to run. So I thought I’d do okay. Well, I should have trained more because my two bike rides – eight and eleven miles did not prepare me for the killer hills throughout this entire course of 25 of the toughest frigging miles of my life.
Needless to say, when my brother-in-law came in from the swim, I was pumped and ready to go. As I was unracking my bike I caught the eye of a swimmer from another relay, he looked at my bike, looked at me, looked at his teammate with a “Holy shit she’s riding that bike on this course” look; he then exchanged some words with his teammate, pointed at me with his chin and said something that could of very well been “Is she seriously riding that bike on this course”. I didn’t catch what he said but it pissed me off. Let me be! But yes people, I did, I rode a tough course on an old hybrid bike, with pretty thick slicks, and about three gears. Not ideal but I had no idea that it would matter.
Nevertheless I was off. Within the first mile I was met with a pretty intense hill, which I miraculously got up. Miles two to four were even more of a challenge; some of the climbs were so tough they had inspirational motivating words on the side of the road. It was right before mile five when I saw a hill before me with such an incline that I knew I had to walk it or I’d never make it the rest of the 20 miles. I actually chugged up the hill faster on two feet than if I would have with my bike. The rest of the course kicked my ass to say the least, for me anyway. I tried to channel all the cool dudes, and expert riders from #bikeschool while I was riding, I cursed myself for not training more, I swore like a drunken sailor that just got to port eyeing his first floozy in ten months because this ride was that tough, and I was about to sell my children for any type of relief from this torture.
I had to dig deeper than ever before with this race, with four half marathons, over three dozen 5K’s and 10K’s, two Ragnar Relay’s, a Tri, raising two sons, losing over 50 pounds, navigating this life in general, this was the RACE that made me dig as deep as I ever had to go. I almost quit on myself. Yep, I almost asked a race official for the sag wagon. At one point I said, well if my tire blew it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Imagine that? But I didn’t. I couldn’t for Team Donavan, I couldn’t for myself. I started to think of my mom and her fight with heart disease and emphysema, I thought of my dad confined to a wheelchair – he’d love to ride a bike, I thought of my children, my husband that just got injured in a fire,(thankfully fine, but scary) I thought of myself that yep I’d have more bragging rights and carried on. I had to. I pushed as hard as I could on the flats, made myself let go and completely enjoy the freedom of the many steep downhills, white knucking, getting as low as I could, and just flying!
All in all, the course itself was beautiful, tree-lined roads, majestic homes, farms and aside from the hills those mean ugly mean mother effing hills I enjoyed it. And I’d do it again. With another bike. Oh and training. On hills. Lots of hills.
BTW – I completed the bike in 1:57, overall our team finished in 3:49 not bad for two people that didn’t train.