This was a long weekend that was planned to celebrate life and it played out that way in grand fashion. In last week’s blog, Live Life Now, I shared how my thoughts on living life in the moment and not waiting for some time in the future to do so. Today I will share how a most joyous weekend unfolded with family and close friends.
To start, my brother, Brian, from Erie, PA flew to Tampa Wednesday morning. We enjoyed lunch at Cider Press Cafe, and then got to spend some of the afternoon with Celia Dubey to prepare for her TV experience on Great Day Live Friday morning. She discussed what to consider for new runners who are planning to run a race. She was fantastic as usual…such a natural! So much so they asked her if she would be interested in doing it more often.
We also spent some time game planning for the next Healthy Giraffe Event that she so graciously offered to host November 23. The theme will be Thanksgiving and if you enjoyed last week’s post, please come as I will share a bit more and for all of us to do some self reflecting. We will also cook together and have a blast…maybe playing another game?!?!? So much fun…please RSVP on Facebook if you are coming.
Wednesday evening closed as Brian met some of the team at track practice. Thursday morning we left for Boca Raton, our first stop, including my sister, Jamie, who drove with Brian and I had my truck loaded with race gear. In Boca Raton waiting for us was my daughter, Morgan, and niece, Grace (via Jamie). Grace and Morgan gave us all a great walking tour of the Florida Atlantic University campus in which Brian attended for his undergraduate degree. Three in the family now Owls…pretty darn cool.
Friday evening we attended Grace’s White Coat Ceremony that initiates students into the medical school in which she will be earning a degree in Nursing. It is quite the achievement to be selected into the program so she is off to a great start already.
We enjoyed dinner together after the ceremony and I then headed to my hotel in Miami. I now shifted focus to prepare for the USAT Duathlon Long Course National Championship held Sunday morning. Saturday began with a morning run at the race site and then some of our team watched three teammates – Jeanne, Randy and Keith race the Aquathon Sprint. From there we checked our bikes in for the race and began race site reconnaissance. Those competing in the Aquabike Long Course National Championship completed a trial swim in the lake. We then had lunch and drove the bike course. That was very helpful to understand where we could face challenging road conditions and tight turns.
Much of the team along with my family met at Whole Foods for dinner before retiring for the evening. I completed my final race preparation at the hotel and went down for the night. The 3:00 AM alarm went off and it was time…
I loaded the truck and got to the race site. I trekked into transition a few times to prepare the bike, area around it, and sighting to be able to find the bike in a mass of over 2,000 when coming in from the first run. We gathered for a team photo, I completed my pre-race run and it was go time. My race consisted of a 2 mile run, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile final run. I had my game plan ready while also knowing I would have to flex due to curveballs every race presents. In this race it was immediate…
The horn went off and we started out the two mile run around a lake. After about a quarter mile I tucked in behind the leader of my wave and felt fantastic. We were running fast, I had fresh legs and plenty of air flowing through my lungs. At about 3/4 of a mile things began to unravel. The leader, myself and the pack behind were all unsure we were on the right path as we were in a park that had a few too many confusing turns without clear markings. There is so much more to this story but to make a long story short we continued on. We completed a u-turn and headed back to transition. I then took the lead still feeling fantastic!
Then I heard a lot of yelling….everyone was turning around going the other direction. Confused and frustrated I did as well now trying to chase everyone down. Instead of going in leading the wave and running two miles, I ran 2.95 miles and not sure where I was in the group. It was one massive chaotic scene with a lot of frustration from our wave. When I entered transition to get my bike there was only one bike along with mine in the row of about 20. “Did I just lose 18 places?” is what I pondered.
I bolted out of transition with my bike and headed out. I worked really hard to get all the spots I thought I had given up when the group made the u-turn on the run so my heart rate had really spiked and I pushed it hard for the first 10 miles on the bike, harder than I should have but I gave myself that lattitude to try to catch some of the group. At mile 10 I had not caught anyone and I had to pull the effort back or risk blowing up on the final run. I kept in check through mile 50 feeling pretty decent and then fighting a really rough wind for half of the course I began to feel the fatigue. “Did I gas myself too much early on the ride and the end of the first run trying to make it up?” I thought to myself.
I came into transition and took off for the final 13.1 mile run through the Miami Zoo. It consisted of a two loop course coming back to the area near transition where spectators could see the racers. One mile into the run I knew I was in trouble. I could not get my heart rate down after several attempts to slow my pace. It just wasn’t happening. The combination of pushing it hard early, heat and wind was taking effect.
At that point I continued to focus on heart rate, fueling myself with salt, electrolytes and energy gels. I also focused on keeping as cool as I could by pouring water on my head and dropping ice down my kit at several aid stations along the route. I came through the first loop hearing cheers from my family and friends. I can’t tell you how helpful that was, especially knowing I was in trouble.
I continued through for the final loop. That was all in survival mode. During the final four miles I was cramping between my quad and groin where I had never prior. It got to a point where it stopped me in my tracks several times. I wobbled a couple times at aid stations. What got me through the final stretch was knowing my family was there, my team was there and all my teammates I do this crazy stuff with was with me and counting on me.
I got through the finish line and into the medical tent. There Morgan joined me and after taking care of me with fluids she shared how I placed 2nd in my age group. I thought I was in some delusionary state as I had no idea and with how bad I felt I didn’t think I was anywhere near the top. Teammate Bob came in to check on me and brought me back some food. Honestly all I wanted was electrolytes and to throw up. I was so nauseous and that remained for the day.
I got out of the tent and then got to celebrate the news with my family and team. I heard the news of the fantastic races by my teammates (Jeff, Rob, Bob, Francisco, and Jodi). Finally, Karoline finished 2nd place age group in Duathlon and Captain Dave won it all in his age group – a National Championship in the Aquabike! Everyone raced so hard and I’m honored to be a teammate of these incredible people and athletes.
I will do a full race reflection but soon after the race I was feeling a bit flustered about the challenges when Jeff sent a group text message commenting about how rough he felt coming in off the bike and questioning if he would have been able to run. He competed in the Aquabike and if you know Jeff he is an absolute monster multisport athlete. Now Jeff went all out leaving nothing on the bike where I did pull back on the bike effort knowing I had a final run but for him to say that made me realize how rough it really was out there.
As rough as it was I am enjoyed every minute of the experience including the dark places on the final run. You learn a lot about yourself in those moments and it makes you appreciate it even more when complete. I cannot wait to compete for Team USA at the World Championships in 2020! For the short term however I don’t want to think about anything right now other than reflect on such an amazing time with my family, teammates and friends during a glorious weekend in south Florida. And thank you to all the friends and teammates back home for all your support!
– Add Health to Your Life