I had to see it in writing to really believe it, but not only was I able to race on Saturday, I actually won my age group for the first time in an NCTS race. (The swim must have been short, and the bike was 25.6 miles, a little longer than typical international distance.)
My race number was 13, no shock to me after the balance ball incident. On race morning, when I tried to top off the tire on my snazzy borrowed race wheels, the valve dropped into the deep dish and the tube flatted. I couldn’t walk for the SI joint pain, but I could run. So, as a friend recommended, I simply didn’t walk. I ran to get the tire fixed. I ran to get money to pay for the fix. I ran to the bathroom. And I walked, hobbling, barefoot, over the 45-degree grass to the 70-degree water for the race start. Everything went numb, which was a good thing, except for the inability to pinch thumb and forefinger together on my helmet buckle at T2. For a moment, I thought I’d have to run with my helmet on—on purpose.
The run was work, a lot of work, first in not blowing up too early, then on not blowing up till the very end. When the blow-up came, right where I was ready for it, up a hill just after the five-mile mark, I drew on my super-secret weapon, the Chen Rezi mantra, and kept at it. I didn’t realize I had finished ahead until I heard the next age grouper’s name called while I limped to the bathroom with my warm, dry clothes in hand.
After reflecting, I think having no expectations was a big boost. I was honestly prepared to stop whenever my back asked me to. While Wes accused me of being disingenuous (“Oh my god, y’all, I’m gonna suck!”), I really didn’t expect to be fast, should I finish at all. I took it as it came, and the jewel was in the lotus. The training was accessible.
The other bonus was the cold, which caused cramping and other problems for my peers but happily inured me to the feeling in my back. Today, at last, I’m feeling some improvement there, and I’m Advil-free.
The cold persisted for Sunday’s ladies’ race, with rain to boot. But what a blast it was to see everyone enjoying themselves. One of my students wiped out on the bike but ran with a badly skinned knee; another was shouting in T2 about how much fun she was having (honestly). Everyone was smiling, and many asked when they could do it again. Got them hooked at the end of the season!