Sunday, May 23, 2010

MissFits Win!

Any triathlon in Harriman State Park is both beautiful and very, very hard. The lakes are pristine, and cold. The roads through the forest are sparsely traveled, and very hilly. So, while other triathlons fill up within minutes of open registration, you can always sign up for a Harriman triathlon day-of. The least popular of all the Harriman triathlons is The Harryman because it’s not only hard, but it’s early. Folks ramp up their training in the spring and do a June sprint triathlon or two. But, doing an Olympic or Half in early May is not on most people’s calendars. No PRs to be found here. Naturally, I signed up.

In early December, after Eve’s brain tumor was removed, she, Flori and I drank coffee at the Black Cow and planned our race calendars for the upcoming year. We didn’t know when Eve would be back in the pool or on the bike, so we figured we would start with running. We all committed to doing the More Half Marathon in April. Eve wanted to raise money for the Brain Tumor Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, so we started up a Team Missfit Facebook page (Eve is a trainer and triathlon coach, and that’s the name of her website) and began getting the word out and supporting other athletes. Several signed up with us for the race. We also trained together and did some shorter races leading up to the half.
On the day of the More, we faced a cold hard rain that did not let up all day. But, we persevered, crossing the finish line together.  Afterward, we drank bowls of hot coffee and basked in the glow of our finisher medals.
Even though I was committed to running and bike racing, I still wanted to do some triathlon. I tried to convince Flo to do the Harryman. She was skeptical, “So hard, so early?”

“Yeah! We can place!” I urged. Still, she was on the fence for a long time. She had not done a full triathlon in a couple of years due to a series of injuries, including a bike crash where she suffered a broken hip. Yet, she was determined to get back in action, and this seemed like a great way to build some energy. “If you can do the More, and you can do the Harryman, you can do the Toughman in the fall.” I think that’s what convinced her. She signed up.

Several times a week we would call each other on the way to school (she’s a teacher too) and talk about our training and plans for the race. We ran together at Rockefeller State Park. We did lots of riding. I didn’t do much swimming, but I did enough to be confident that I could swim 1.5km. We were ready.

The day was beautiful, overcast, warm but not too warm, windy but not too windy, the water cold, but not too cold. I got out of the water late, but got to pass dozens of people going up the hills on the bike. One fellow seemed a bit bent out of shape when I passed him and sped up to pass me. I let him get ahead a bit, then blew past him saying, “Oh no you don’t!”

He asked, “Building momentum for the downhill?”

I turned and shouted, “No, just trying to beat you!” That gave me a good laugh for a while and made me forget to suffer.

The run was a grueling out-and-back 10km. Every hill I went up was painful and I took no pleasure in the downhills, as I knew I would have to climb them on the way back. I was a couple of miles into it when I saw the first woman finisher and shouted, “You're number one girl, keep it up!” I did that for the second and third woman as well. They thanked me and I enjoyed seeing the looks on their faces change from pain to pleasure, knowing for sure they were going to win.

As I neared the finish line, I thought I heard steps behind me, so I sprinted hard. It felt good to know I still had that in me. As I crossed, I turned back and realized nobody was even close. I was somewhere in the middle, not as fast as the ones ahead, but faster than those behind. As it turned out, there were half a dozen women my age racing, and I was the fastest, so I got the prize. That felt good. But hugging Flori when she came in felt even better. She also placed first. Knowing we had gone on this journey together, with support from Eve and all our friends and family, knowing we had made them proud, made me feel really good.

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