Last weekend, my friend Markus died from injuries sustained in a bike crash during the Bethel race. Markus was a big guy, with a big heart, and he loved to ride his bike real fast. Victor and I called him "Big Ring" because he prided himself on pulling everyone along on the flats in his big ring. His good friend Tim told me that Markus had a saying, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." That rings so true, as Markus and I had many conversations about how hard it is to bike race, yet we try and do it anyway.
I did the Bethel race last weekend and had great fun. (I left early before Markus' race, so I didn't know until later that day). This year I signed up for some triathlons and got a swim coach. I have been feeling stronger than ever. I think I may even do the Toughman Half again this year. I am not giving up bike racing, but I am adding in other things. I have already done several running races this year.
Victor discovered a love of running when we did a New Years Day 10km race up in Massachusetts. (His first race with no training- he did a 7:30 pace, coming in 12th). He wants to do a marathon by the end of the year. So, he signed us up for the Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon. With fewer than 50 miles in my legs, it was a stretch.
Two weeks ago we did a 10mi race. I did really well, but pulled my hamstring and have not run since, hoping it would heal in time. I felt good at the start today, but just over one mile in my hamstring pulled. I slowed way down, shifting my weight and trying to find a stride that didn't make it worse. My Runkeeper (iphone app that plays music and tracks my progress) started giving me feedback, "You are 3 seconds per mile off your target pace." As the miles ticked by, people flooded past. The pain was pretty bad, and threatened to get worse. Once it actually made me cry out, so I backed off even more. My heart sank as my Runkeeper told me, "You are 20 seconds...30...40 seconds off your target pace." I wondered if I should just quit.
However, I subscribe to the Markus Bohler approach to athletics. I found a way to keep the pain steady, but it required a huge amount of mental focus. Each time I looked around, trying to enjoy the bagpipers, drummers or funny signs along the way, my balance would shift and the pain would increase. Just after the halfway point, I decided to try again to pick up the pace. It worked. I started to pass people. My Runkeeper began counting backwards, "You are now 30 seconds....15 seconds...3 seconds off."
I wanted to run a sub 2 hour race. I might have done that if I was not injured. Still, it was a very hilly route and a 2:12 race is not bad- considering... I am alive, and well and I am not going to give up. Thank you Markus. I will carry your spirit in my heart; I can feel you pulling me along.