Sunday, June 14, 2015

My First Duathlon

I usually drive on the highway but this time I decided to take the country roads. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was just coming up. I turned the radio on and it was playing a country song. Normally, I would change stations as I’m not a country music fan, but for some reason I didn’t this time. The empty road, the gorgeous morning, and that music were a great combo! I made a mental note to look up the artist when I got back home later that day. (Bring Down the House by Dean Brody!)

I was heading to my first duathlon race in Woodstock! In 2008 I was an overweight woman who wore size 16 clothing and had no activity whatsoever. I wasn’t always like that but somehow life had taken a turn for the worse and I needed to do something about it and I did. Here I was now, driving to a new destination to participate in a duathlon.

I want to look back at my life and smile saying “I did that.” I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t participate in races to make the podium, win prizes, or to beat other athletes’ times. I’m in it to challenge myself. I compare and evaluate my outcome to who I was and who I have become. I have goals and I have work ethic but I’m the only one I’m competing against. Sure, I look at my overall performance and ranking to see where I stand, but it’s to set new goals for myself and do better for me.

I was going in with the intention of doing my best and being satisfied afterwards with my accomplishment. I wasn’t going in with high expectations of winning, making good time, or any pressure like many other athletes go through. This was my first duathlon and I just wanted to have a great time and experience it.

Of course, you think driving from London to Woodstock is pretty straightforward but I ended up making two wrong turns at the roundabouts as I kept forgetting to count the appropriate lines! And no, I’m not directionally challenged. I have travelled extensively on highways but country roads can be challenging!

I still made it on time. I always give myself time for unforeseen mishaps and what not.

As I was devouring my banana, I heard my friend Darren talking to his partner Rob about the parking locations. We gave each other hugs and I joked about how I got lost two times already! I was really happy to see Darren there. I learned from our Twitter conversation that he was going to be in Woodstock and I made up my mind to do my first duathlon there and see him too. I got to know Darren before my first marathon through the Canadian Running Series.

"Darren and I met in London when he attended a conference in 2014"

MultiSportCanada had sent a detailed email out a few days before the race. I had read everything carefully. As this was my first race, I had sought a lot of information from my spin coach at Pulse Spin Studio and had lots of communication with Darren. Both of them had provided me with invaluable info. I grabbed the mountain bike that my spin coach had lent me with my gym bag that had my recovery drink, towel, change of clothes, etc and headed down to where the action was. I picked up my bib and headed back to the bike area and racked my bike. If I had not read the entire race info   I would have been really lost. Preparation and knowing what’s expected of you is an important part of the race. I noticed right away the athletes who had their bikes on the same rack as me were very intense. They meant business. They really did not want to chat either. I left to go pick up my race kit, chip timer, and to get my age and bib number written down on my body. I ran into Mike. He was there to support his friend Shea who was participating in her first triathlon. We chatted for a bit and I continued on to the lineup. I really liked my technical shirt. The volunteers were smiling and got things done efficiently.

I went back to the transition area to put my race kit stuff back in the bag when I noticed someone had racked their bike in between and now my bike seemed to be the one in the wrong position. I asked a couple of guys who were next to our rack if they saw who had just parked but they didn’t know. Instead they offered to help me to turn my bike around.

I went looking for Darren and saw him coming back from a short test ride. We took a picture and I told him that I had borrowed the bike and he suggested going for a short test drive. I’m glad I did as the very first hill is right when you’re heading out!

I headed back to the transition area and this time someone had arrived late and decided to rack their bike right next to me. My bike and towel were shoved to the side and the small space I had claimed which had my race gear set up neatly was messed up. I got really upset and turned around to see who had done it but everyone seemed to be busy doing their stuff and getting ready. Again the guy next to me said “here, just move here” and made room for my bike. That was nice of him to help me out. It was evident that the intense people now had their whole group together. I really did not care for their attitude as they didn’t represent or symbolize athleticism and sportsmanship. 

As I was waiting to use the bathroom one last time, I saw the beautiful and talented Ms. CherylMadliger. We hugged and embraced and she said to make sure to smile as you cross the finish line. We wished each other good luck and she was gone to achieve a new PB in her triathlon!

As we headed towards the start line, I saw Darren again and wished him good luck. As he is an elite athlete, he headed to the front row looking fierce and ready. It is people like Darren that influence and encourage a newbie like me to come and be part of this amazing athletic community. I joined in conversation with a few young women who had done Woodstock the previous year. I told them I’m confident about my run but not sure about the hills that everyone talks about.

The race began and it was a beautiful sunny day. I finished my 5K in 26:54. I was happy with that considering my ITB injury in March and the fact that this race was my 2nd race of the season. No pain, no discomfort, a bit speed and it was all good. 

I got to the transition area, took a gel and washed it down with some water. I noticed my shades were missing. I put my helmet on and saw another intense lady throwing somebody’s bike on the grass saying “If it’s in my way it goes down” I assumed another later comer must have invaded her space! I grabbed my bike and ran up the hill to the start line. I got on my bike and got nowhere! LOL! I sucked on the mountain bike. The gel had not worked yet and I made a mental note to take the gel at the last hydration station before entering the transition area next time! I got off my bike and massaged my left leg as I felt a tinge of discomfort. Both quads were heavy. I walked for a minute or two and got on my bike and felt much better. People passed me by saying “on your left”, “on your left”. Some gave words of encouragement and overall it was very nice group of athletes on bikes. I wanted to yell and tell everyone that I really don’t suck, that I’m really a good runner, and I’m really a strong woman. I really do bike super fast in spin class with high intensity, and I suck riding on this mountain bike as I don’t know how the gears work! I had taken it for two rides but really nothing like the rolling hills of the Woodstock countryside! I tried many combinations of gears but it was useless. So, I stopped the talks in my head. I told myself it’s a beautiful day and for the first time in your life you’re riding on the country road! Enjoy it. I told myself this was my first duathlon and I’m learning a lot.

"Before the race"

Most importantly, I need to go biking on the road and learn how to change gears! Riding on the flat roads short distances is way different than riding on the rolling hills with a mountain bike! At the studio, I had done 10K in 25 min with high intensity. But still that did not help me much here. At the 10K turn around I got of my bike and walked again for a minute had some electrolytes and got riding again. I thanked all the officers at major intersections and they smiled saying you’re welcome.

At this point I knew I was dead last but I kept pushing forward as I wanted to complete the race. Then I remembered when I volunteer at running races in the community, those who arrive towards the end. How important it is to give them louder cheers and encouragement that despite the struggles they faced they are making it through the finish line. I’ve never had that in a running race but this race humbled me and gave me a different perspective.

I got to the transition area and headed out for the 2nd run. As I got to the water station I had both Gatorade and water. I was so happy when the volunteer said that I turn around here! I said really? That’s great. Thank you. I got back to the water station and said you guys are AWESOME and one of them cheered back saying you are awesome too! I started running faster with those small steps of mine and passed a few people and came through the finish line. I had finished my 2.5K in 14:22. I was happy that it was done and felt great. 

First Duathlon Completed in 1:53:31

As I headed back to the transition area to get my recovery drink, I was told I could not go in now till they announce that you can. I made a mental note to keep my recovery drink in the car and not the in the bag in the transition area. I know chocolate milk is really good for you but I gag drinking it! LOL!

I found Darren and Mike and I told them how everybody passed me and how embarrassed I felt at one point. I told Darren I know I can do faster and better than 1 hour and 8 min! I learned that Darren had done really well being on the top 3 overall and first his age group! Read his race report here. He had rocked his race.
"Darren rocked his race!"

I headed back to the transition area and met a woman in my age group that usually gets first place and I believe this time she had come 2nd. She congratulated me saying to be proud for completing my first duo and she pointed to my bike saying that’s a tough bike, next time get a road bike and you’ll do really well. I appreciated her feedback.

I scanned the printed results to learn about my performance. This was my first duathlon and I needed to know how I had performed at least compared to the last ten people before me. It was obvious most of the racers had a shorter times on the cycling portion but not necessarily faster times for their runs. I had done really well in the running portion and needed to improve my biking portion.

"Top right with Rob and Darren, Bottom Right with a referee and a volunteer"

My friend Darrin was so supportive and encouraging from the beginning when he learned I was going to race at Woodstock. I’m blessed to have him as my friend and was lucky enough to share my first duathlon experience with someone who is genuinely interested in helping others and is a great ambassador for the sport. As I started driving back, enjoying the sunshine and loud music, my thoughts were about crossing the finish line for my 2nd race in 1:30 hour!

Next year, I’m trying my first triathlon. But I first need to learn to swim!

Thank you MultiSport Canada for making my first experience a great one! Thank you to all of your volunteers for their smiles, cheers and support. You are a great venue and I'm sure I will see you in the near future!

Special thank you to my ninja for being his mamabear's number of supporter!

Special Thank you to my editor who despite being very busy in life, she always manages to be there for me. My daughter.

Thank you coach Shayne Hodgson for all your support and help. 
I know now that I should ride with you on the road as well! 

~ Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines. ~
Brian Tracy


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