Where have we been lately? Well, I’ll tell you where I was yesterday morning. On a road in the middle of nowhere. On a bike I hadn’t ridden since the Fall. Riding past cows and sheep and horses, while being passed by trucks and cars and motorcycles. Noticing the roadkill and hoping I wouldn’t become the same.
How did I get here? Well, it all started last year when I bought a bike. I thought it would be great cross-training. And I was inspired at the Sydenham Lakeside Race Weekend to move to multi-sport by adding biking to my race resume. Duathlon was beckoning. Now, you may be wondering: why duathlon? Why not try a tri? This is simple. I do not swim in open water. I am not a fan of swimming with snakes – or seaweed that looks like snakes. Plus, the outfits are not as cute. I mean, bathing suits and wet suits? Swim caps and goggles? Totally functional but, let’s face it, not so flattering and not as much room for sparkle and embellishments.
So yes, I bought a bike last summer. And I loved it. But I am a fair weather biker and I had some other big goals in the works too (half-marathons 4, 5, 6 & 7 to name a few!) so my relationship with the bike remained a casual affair until it was parked for the winter. But with those other races done, and with the annual Sydenham race now only a month away, I had to decide if this was going to be a race I was getting on board with, or not.
My fellow princess on the run was encouraging me to seal the deal and register, but I was solidly and stubbornly on the fence. Why? Well, first of all, the hills. I hate them when running and I hate them when biking. But at least, when running, you can slow down or even walk if needed. You will not injure yourself on the hill. On the bike, that is a very real possibility. I had visions of rolling backwards down the hills of Sydenham’s challenging course and thought, you know, that may not be the best experience for me.
Secondly, my bike scares me a bit. I mean, when you run, you just need shoes (and yes, a whole host of other things like Garmins and water bottles and GU and sunglasses and iPods and maybe KT Tape – but really, just shoes). Although motivation can be scarce some days, running is just about lacing up and going. Biking is not so simple. You are dealing with a piece of equipment you need to understand. Which I don’t. I mean, I understand how to pedal and stay upright and change gears and brake. So, actually, I have come a long way from the night I first test rode the bike around the parking lot, not knowing how to do any of these things. But I don’t know what to do if I get a flat or drop a chain. I don’t have special biking shoes with those scary-sounding clip-ins that keep you attached to said bike. It took me an hour to figure out how to pump up my tires (and I would be proud of that if I had figured it out by myself). I am a baby biker and have a lot to learn.
The great thing about the Sydenham race is that it encourages runners, cyclists and swimmers of all levels. And, it has so many race events going on that no one stands out as being fast or slow – because no one knows what event you are in. There are triathlons of different lengths, duathlon and running events. Two years ago, Alana and I ran the 10K (it was her first) and last year we returned to do the Kids 2K run with our mini-me’s. This year: duathlon? I wasn’t sure.
So I set out to ride the course and see if the hills would have me slowing to a stop and tipping over, needing to walk my bike, or rolling backwards. Not sure which one would be worse. Pretty sure none of them would be much fun. I was especially worried about the hill off the start line. I was right to be concerned: it was tricky, especially with no momentum going into it. But, hey, I did it! And I didn’t fall, walk or roll backwards. Win.
I made the turn off that hill and saw another hill. A bigger hill. OK. Did that one. Then another one. Then some more. I quickly realized the hill I had been so worried about was not the biggest challenge of this course. The hills I was tackling as I rode could eat that first hill for breakfast. Oh boy.
I had many “WTF” thoughts as I rode: What the F am I doing on this bike? Why the F are there so many hills? Where the F is the turn-around? I was riding to Perth Road which, after a whole lotta hills and a butt that was starting to ache, became the “alleged” Perth Road in my mind. Did it even exist? I was starting to doubt it.
In between my WTF thoughts, though, I realized I was doing it. Hill after hill. Slowly in spots. Not necessarily gracefully. But getting it done and knocking off the kilometres one by one. And then I started to think, if I can do this on my first ride out, on an open (scary) road, maybe I could do this in a month on a closed course. It’s a harder course than I imagined, but would I want my first duathlon to be a gimme? When have I ever chosen races that were “easy”? My goal-setting seems to be based on things that seem, at one time, impossible. So should I? Could I? Would I? I needed a sign.
The alleged Perth Road was not a trick! I pulled over for a drink (because I am not coordinated enough to drink and ride at the same time), snapped a photo of this monumental moment, and quickly set back out for the return. My butt was screaming to be finished, but I was kind of in a groove. The hills back into Sydenham scared me from afar but, as with all of the others, I got them done. And the next thing I knew, I was on a downhill towards the finish line area.
I have only been to this little town before on race weekends, bustling with activity and energy. It was odd to see the empty field and track, where it normally boasts Start and Finish Lines, timing tents, race announcers, transition areas and cheering sections. I have so many great memories with Alana and our families, made over the past 2 years of running here. It has become a special race to us for reasons that are hard to explain – there are certainly no fireworks, costumes or tiaras to be found. But we love this event. Adding the bike to the mix is scary. It’s new. I have a lot to learn. The course is tough. And I haven’t done any “brick” workouts yet. So there are a lot of unknowns about how this could go. It might be smart to wait a year.
I felt a little jolt when I hit “register”. Excited. Nervous. Unsure. And that’s how I knew it was the right decision. For me, right now, it’s time for a new kind of goal. And time to step outside my comfort zone, with my tiara solidly in place.
Tell Us: Have you ever combined your love of running with another sport? Have you ever tried a triathlon or duathlon?