The mud that is...we flung the mud...from our sneakers! Today I had a total adventure with my dear friend and running buddy, Julie. We had signed up in advance to compete in the local Spring Fling duathlon. I am a decent runner but definitely not a cyclist. But still, I really wanted to take on this event. So, with the help of my dear hubs, we outfitted my mountain bike with slick tires, a seat for girlie parts, and the all important tire repair kit.
The forecast said rain (read that: freezing dollops of water falling from the sky). It was just a drizzle when I loaded up the bike in the darkness of the morning so I thought we might have a good go at this. As I travelled into town, the rain really started pouring. When Julie and her hubs arrived I hopped in their car and we sat and ticked out our options...grabbing coffee won by unanimous vote. With coffee serving dual purpose as hand-warmer, we headed back to the starting area to check on things. It was still raining buckets but Julie and I decided we ought to at least get our swag bags. We had to sign a waiver to get our bags and we had a race number we had to write on the back of our hands. As Julie was writing my number on my hands, I sensed I would find myself on my bike as the morning progressed. We went back to the car and at Julie's encouraging enthusiasm it was agreed that we would at least do the first run which was four miles. We conceded that we could always turn back.
Having never done a duathlon I awkwardly dealt with getting my little transition spot organized. After we wheeled our bikes over, I hooked my seat over the bar so my bike would be easy to grab. I hung my backpack on my handlebars...and that was about it. I noticed other athletes had a whole system going as they set up their areas. Yep, these were the pros. If my mountain bike didn't give away the fact that I was a novice then I am sure my attempt at busying myself did.
We stood at the starting line with about 100 other individuals and I realized I was way out of my league. These folks were die-hards. They were not about to let freezing rain ruin their event. They stretched and did jumping jacks in the minimum of attire. I was dressed to take on the slopes and they were sporting skin-tight tank tops. Yet, when the horn went off, I was among them. Julie and I held a nice clip for the entire four miles despite the slipping and sliding in the mud of the off-road course. The soles of our shoes became so caked with mud I am sure we stood at least an inch taller. It was in those first miles that Julie said we would finish this together. I hoped she wouldn't mind coming in at the bottom of the heap. My only hope at an award would be for spirit. Julie did note that we were the most fashionable runners in our bright pink Just Us Girls biking jerseys. But today we were not just girls...we were TOUGH girls!
With the first four miles completed we ran back to our transition spots. I looked at my bike in a daze. I grabbed my backpack and swapped my hat for my helmet. I self-consciously stripped off my running pants and realized how ridiculous it was to wear snowboarding socks with my ultra tight running shorts. In an attempt at fashion I scrunched my socks down. Really, that helped. I chocked down a granola bar like a caveman and asked Julie if she would like one. She opted out as she had a lot more transitioning to do than me. Without clips on my pedals I would be riding in my running shoes...such a novice!
We walked our bikes to the start and I took off knowing Julie would easily catch me. Now here is a true friend...Julie had the ability to finish the ride in half the time it took, but she lagged back with me. She coached me along and maintained that we were in this together! I felt like a scab for holding her back but I so appreciated her encouragement. As we approached a healthy hill Julie said she was going to pump up it and would meet me at the top. As I grimaced my way up the hill I heard breathing louder than my own coming from behind. Soon I was side-by-side a chap who looked like we was about to collapse. He said, "You're looking real good! Great job!" I thought, "Good word! What must I look like if he is passing me?"
As I got to the top of the hill I saw Julie helping a Just Us Girls teammate fix a flat tire. As I approached she said to keep on pedaling so I did. Soon she caught up with me and, with her helping me along, we finished the bike portion of the ride. We hopped off our bikes and headed back to the transition area. I felt tingly all over. Every fiber of my being was emitting energy. It was the wildest feeling I think I have ever had.
My first transition was awkward...the second was just a mess. In my tingliness, I struggled to hook my bike back up on the bar; I fumbled around for my hat; I sort of walked around my little area for no reason. Then, we were off again. Two miles to go. Julie and I tried to converse which gave way to laughter because our faces were so cold our lips refused to pronounce words.
It was just a few moments into the run that I related to Julie that I felt like my legs were heavy, solid blocks of ice. She said this is common and that it would pass and soon it did. When we reached the muddiest portion of the trail I marveled in the fact that we were going to finish this race. Despite the rain and freezing cold, we were going to get it done. We slogged up the last hill and hit the last stretch with renewed vigor. Julie told me to run ahead and she let me finish before her in honor of it being my first duathlon.
We didn't break any records...though I have no doubt Julie would have scored a medal had she not patiently waited for me...but we did have a blast. Julie said it would be an "adventure" and she was so right.