A few days ago I read this quote by Paul Maurer, it made me wonder:
“Running isn’t a sport for pretty boys…It’s about the sweat in your hair and the blisters on your feet. It’s the frozen spit on your chin and the nausea in your gut. It’s about throbbing calves and cramps at midnight that are strong enough to wake the dead. It’s about getting out the door and running when the rest of the world is only dreaming about having the passion that you need to live each and every day with. It’s about being on a lonely road and running like a champion even when there’s not a single soul in sight to cheer you on. Running is all about having the desire to train and persevere until every fiber in your legs, mind, and heart is turned to steel. And when you’ve finally forged hard enough, you will have become the best runner you can be. And that’s all that you can ask for.”
Yes, this quote made me wonder where people find that kind of passion. But after my last race, I caught a glance of this determination, I felt it grow within me, it’s a wonderful feeling!
It all starts with a swim in 60 degrees water, my first swim of the season. I have been working on my freestyle through the winter and I am curious to see how I will behave in an open water.
I have several goals for this race:
1: Execute well, it will be my first tri with Stefan, my guide for the day
2: Finish close to Misha, a Russian triathlete who beat me at the New York City tri last July
3: Qualify for the National Championship, I have to finish under 1:29
In good conditions, it is difficult for me to swim in a straight line, but when the water is very cold, it has a strange effect on my internal ear and I am even more disoriented than normal. After 100 yards, I ask Stefan if we made a turn, he seems perplex. I guess that I’m just very confused! But we move on, I quickly get into a good rhythm. I can feel the sunrise, my stroke is efficient, I am at peace. I keep bumping into someone, it is Misha’s guide, I’m in good company! I get out of the water in first position, it never happened to me before. All those hours at the pool finally paid off!
Stefan guides me to our bike, but I’m cold and confused. I hold on to the tandem, but I push it and all our equipment falls. I need to sit down, we’ve lost about a minute. We leave transition in second position, but I am surprisingly confident.
Stefan is an absolute animal on the bike, we pass a lot of competitors from earlier waves, it is a huge moral boost. I love his style of riding, aggressive, bold, it is exhilarating. But on a quick downhill, we go a little too fast, we hit a few potholes and my saddle suddenly dropped under me. I didn’t want to stop, so I did the second half of the bike course feeling like an idiot! But quickly, we had to face another problem.
The Stamford Triathlon is a small race, there are many turns that are not properly signaled on the bike course. Twice Stefan took a wrong turn, we’ve lost some precious time. I can tell that it is really upsetting him, I don’t want him to lose his focus, I try to calm him down. I am touched by how much he cares for my race. He is a true friend.
Shortly before the end of the bike we catch Misha, we pass each other a few times, we are like kids, we have a lot of fun. I love my fellow triathletes.
Now it is time to run, it is my favorite part of the race, I feel good. I start at an easy pace, I know that I will finish strong, I joke around with Stefan. Since this is his first triathlon with Achilles, he didn’t have an official team jersey. Our coach gave him a top right before the race, but the only one left was a size woman’s small. No need to say that on my German guide it looks like a “sexy” belly shirt!
The course is tough, but I know that if I want to qualify for the national championship, I have to do an incredible run, so I push, I push really hard. I think of the quote by Paul Maurer, I am dusty, my nose is running, I am moaning, this really isn’t a “sport for pretty boys”.
Stefan warns me about a step up, but I’m too tired, I misjudge the distance, I twist my ankle, I squeak like a baby. Oh I really want to stop! Each step really hurts, but I can hear the crowd at the finish line, we are close, so close. All I can think about is this goal of 1:29, and the cruel clock, ticking. Stefan has done so much for me today, I don’t want to let him down. We finally pass the finish line, I collapse and all I can think about is: “What’s our time?”
Stefan seems disappointed, he simply says:
“Charles, I’m so sorry, we missed it by two minutes. We finished in 1:31”.
That might sound a little strange, but I am in bliss, laying on the grass totally out of breath, holding my painful ankle, knowing that I did the best race of my life. I promise myself that I’ll be back, and this time, I’ll be two minutes faster.