For all my worrying about my knees, it was my ankle that most loudly objected to this endeavor. It started complaining about two weeks ago, just after I posted about the race. I could still bike and swim without aggravating it, but even walking caused pain and swelling for a time. This meant I could not train for the run, at all.
Have you figured out yet that I'm a type-A in disguise? (And are you laughing now because it's wholly undisguised and I just don't know it?). Either way, it won't surprise you that I do not like to go places unprepared. Showing up for this race, without knowing if my body could last the run, or if my ankle could even hold up for a walk, caused me a bit of consternation.
Still, I wanted to try, and I'm glad I did.
I thought the swim was good, but frustrating. I got into traffic that forced me to stop and stand up in the middle of the pool on two occasions. I may have said, "Are you kidding me?" when a lumbering man cut me off, but I hope I just imagined that because: how unsportsmanlike! I eventually got to the end and heaved myself out of the water feeling relieved. I'd been nervous about the crowded lanes, not sure I had the proper sensory equipment for swimming in a school.
Once on the bike, I relaxed. This part was easy for me, so I tried to coast through it and save my energy for the dreaded final leg.
When it at last arrived, I laced up my shoes thinking, "It'll be fine. I'll just walk fast!" Then I looked at the line of volunteers who directed the way in front of me. They stood cheering and pointing, ready for me to sprint out of the gate. Was I really going to walk past them in the very first moments?
I couldn't do it.
Instead, I tried to run in a way that suggested I did this all the time. I tried to give the impression that I would keep up this unreasonable pace for the duration, and not quit it the minute I rounded the corner.
Which I did.
The long and short of it? I ran three miles!! In all honestly, my "run" is so slow, I think I may have finished faster if I'd fast-walked the course in its entirety. I hadn't anticipated the spectators, however, and because I don't care what anyone thinks of me (really, not at all), I felt compelled to keep up the illusion of a run, regardless of how slow it might be.
So I have to ask, is it customary for runners to offer words of encouragement to one another as they pass on the trail? Is this some kind of runner-culture-thing that I've missed out on all these years? I'm thinking of the Jeep culture that surprised me after I bought one back in the coolio days of my twenties. Jeep drivers give each other a way casual salute when they pass each other on the road. Did you know that? It gave me a great sense of community as a driver, suggesting to me that any of these fellow Jeep owners would offer late night road assistance if I needed it, without the threat of abduction or ax murder.
If no such runner-culture exists, then I must have been looking particularly in need of encouragement, because I got A LOT of it. One person told me, "Looking good! Keep it up!" as I traversed the first downhill right out of the start. I thought, "For heaven's sake, I hope I'm looking good, I haven't gone 10 paces yet!"
The thing is, we really only say "looking good" to people who, well...don't. Right? It's a way of appreciating the fact that someone is trying to look good--and I did say it would be a try-athlon after all.
One possible explanation: tired or not, my face gets really red when I exercise. Even if I feel great, this redness suggests I verge on some kind of coronary emergency. We can blame my tendency to get overly flushed for one of the most tragic haircuts in the history of mankind when my mother, fearing I would collapse from heat stroke at the tender age of three, cut my toddler curls into a "pixie" cut that she thought would keep me more cool. Check it out:
me and my grandfather. I think I look cute and happy,
but apparently, I'm feeling overheated
a year or so later, hair butchered, but feeling much refreshed
(and what's up with that short dress!!)
Despite my probably purplish hue, the ankle held, and I honestly felt OK as long as I kept to my snail's pace. But the look of it must have really deteriorated because by the time I got to the final 100 yards (where I had begun to feel like a world champion because YES! I could see I was actually going to make it!!) someone clapped for me and said, "Just keep moving forward! That's all you have to do! Keep moving forward!"
Was there a doubt about whether I could keep moving forward?
Here's the thing. If it had been a swim/bike event, I would have pushed myself harder in both. I would have striven for speed! mastery! victory! Adding the run, however, turned all my focus to one simple goal: finish.
I think there's something to be said for going out and doing your best at something even when your best kind of sucks. It's humbling and gratifying to show your weaknesses, because in the moment when you think everyone will laugh, they just might stand up and applaud.
That's an experience worth having. In fact, when I crossed the finish line and everyone cheered, it made me want to cry just a teeny bit (I am prone to dramatic and unnecessary tears at sporting events).
And then it was done! Exhausted and happy, I resolved to do it again next year (but perhaps not write about it quite so much!). Then I went home where I collapsed and slept so hard on the couch that my race number, which had been written in permanent marker on my leg, imprinted itself on the used-to-be-cream upholstery.
Something to remember the day by, perhaps?
(and no, Steve hasn't noticed yet)