“I made my mistakes
I’ve seen my heart cave in
I got my scars
I’ve been to hell and back again
Born for the blue skies
We’ll survive the rain
Born for the sunrise
We’ll survive the pain”
I’m fighting back tears as I round one of the final corners of the run segment. Today, the words to one of my favorite Switchfoot songs seem especially poignant. After making a costly mistake on the bike, I was frustrated, and almost angry with myself…but I wasn’t giving up.
It’s not hard to jump out of bed at 5 am on the day of my favorite race of the year…the Lewisburg Sprint Triathlon. In fact, I think I anticipate it more than Christmas. After months of training and attempting to lose more weight, I am ready to put my body to the ultimate test. Or am I?
A little over a week ago, I was wading out into the Atlantic with a $5 piece of foam, hoping to catch a wave back to shore. The anticipation of the tri was on my mind, but I was confident that I could do better than ever this year. If I could conquer my fear of waves, I could beat the endless sea of hilly roads outside Lewisburg. Maybe I could even run the 5K distance without the dreaded “Tri Leg” that seems to seize my quads every time I do a tri.
Or, maybe I’d come home from vacation with a cold.
When I awoke with a sore throat on Monday, I knew I was in trouble. I started taking zinc tablets with the hope that they’d banish the virus from my system within a day or two. How can I possibly have a cold on the eve of my big race? It just wasn’t fair.
Tuesday was awful. I took the day off work, and couldn’t really sleep because I couldn’t breathe.
Wednesday, I returned to work, armed with tissues and cough drops. By the end of the day, my voice was almost gone. My prospects for Saturday were not looking promising.
Wednesday night, I was finally able to sleep, and I felt quite a bit better by Thursday.
By Saturday, my energy had returned, my symptoms were almost cleared up, and I was prepared to race. My body wasn’t at 100%, but I had to give it my best tri (pun intended).
As I set up my transition area, I noticed several mountain bikes on the rack next to me. There were also in the field of competitors, a handful of women that looked heavier than I was when I did my first tri in 2015. I knew that those who had to carry extra bike weight or body weight were in for a challenge, but I was glad to see them. If I could do it, so could they.
But today, I was no longer the novice. I had done this race twice before, and now looked better-equipped with a road bike, tri suit, and lighter body. Granted, I still felt slightly intimidated looking at the pros with their tri bikes and Ironman stickers in their cars. “We all have to start somewhere,” I reminded myself.
Finally, the race started. I had to wait quite a while to get in the water, and once I did, I felt like my strength wasn’t where it should be. I told the girls behind me to go ahead and pass, because I just couldn’t hold my pace.
The bike got off to a less-than-perfect start. I had to chuck my gloves to the side of the course because I didn’t put them on before mounting my bike. Oh well…my hands would be fine.
Then, the bite valve on my CamelBak took an early leave of absence, spilling water down my legs into my socks and bike shoes. Wet feet. No water. Not cool.
All the while, I’m psyching myself up for “The Hill From Hell,” which I know is coming up toward the end of the course. Last year, I was unable to climb it with my Cannondale hybrid. Would this be the year I crushed the hill?
The hill never came.
I thought the guy told me to go straight, when I should have turned. There were two men at that intersection, and neither one yelled after me to turn around. I pedaled for quite a while before I realized I was lost. The road markings were nowhere to be found, and the intersections weren’t manned.
Trying to keep my composure, I called the race director’s number, and told her where I was. I then tried to backtrack, and got lost yet again when I followed another cyclist who, as it turned out, was not in the race. Flustered, I called the race director back and told her my new location. This time, she sent a volunteer for me to follow back to town.
Somehow, my wrong turns had avoided “The Hill From Hell” altogether.
I was very happy to return to the transition area, where I quickly changed shoes for the run. My time would be lousy, but I had to finish the race…even if I was last.
When I did my first tri, my goal was to finish. I thought of myself as the “dark horse” that wasn’t expected to complete all three events. Ever since, my goal has been to beat my previous time…to get better each year. When that doesn’t happen, it’s a pretty crushing feeling.
Those last couple blocks, I had to play that song again…
Hey, you can’t count us out
We’ve been running up against the crowd
Yeah, we are the dark horses
Hey, it’s not over now
We’ve been down but we’ve never been out
Yeah, we are the dark horses”
And as I sprinted toward the finish line, with my parents there cheering me on, I felt as if I had beaten the odds once again.
And I will continue to do so, as long as God gives me strength.