In June 2011, a week before we left New Jersey for the deserts of Arizona, I completed my first REAL distance triathlon. Although considered a SPRINT distance (I had completed 2 short sprints before this), it was much closer to an OLYMPIC distance. The run? Five miles.
I spent a good portion of the previous months, running 2-3 miles on the treadmill a few days a week. I hated every minute of those runs and truth be told, my mental focus was on the 800 meter swim that lay ahead. I could walk during the run if I needed to ( *IF* I needed to) but I couldn't walk during the swim. I was a tennis player my entire life...not a swimmer, biker or runner. But soon enough, I would be all 3.
A few weeks before the race, my friend Andrea and I decided to run the 5 mile course for practice and to boost our comfort level. I had never run 5 miles in my life. What was THAT going to feel like?
Over the course of that hour long run, we walked (but not much) to catch our breaths. We talked and laughed and bonded (we had just become friends a few months before) and time managed to go by. At the very end of those 5 miles, she sprinted to the end. I didn't. In my mind, I had to save my running legs for the real race in a few weeks. Well that, and I was really tired. But wow, 5 miles. Well THAT was a notch in my fitness belt. I was going to run this thing. It was going to be a slow and steady race. But I was going to do it.
Race day arrived. About 30 minutes after I started, I exited the lake in my wetsuit, shaking from both elation and fatigue, having swam my first "race distance" 1/2 mile. I think I cried as I exited the lake, (I cried a lot that day), and as I began to see my friends, I shouted "I did it! I did the swim." Nothing else mattered. Even though I was probably the slowest one in the water, I did it. But it was now time to keep going. Because of course, the rest of that race mattered. The swim was my shining moment...the bike and the run were going to be the icing on the cake.
I completed my 17 mile bike ride in a little over an hour (not bad for a hybrid bike), took a few swigs of water and then started my slow, but steady jog towards the finish line. I was running! I was two miles into the RUN part of this silly race (whose idea was it do this anyway?) and I was still running, jogging, (whatever) but I was NOT walking.
And then, I took a wrong turn. I headed towards the finish line. Wait, WHAT? Was I done??!! Wow, that went by....quick? 25 yards away, I knew it was too good to be true. I started asking volunteers, spectators, racers, anybody I could find, which way to go...I had more to run, at least 3 miles to go. Which way? WHICH FREAKING WAY??? I was NOT giving up. I wanted my REAL time to count. I was finishing this damn race the right way. I wasn't ready to cross that line and give up.
After finding some very unhelpful volunteers and wasting probably no more than 10 minutes of my time, I got back on course. And I started running again. But was THIS the right way? I wasn't repeating the course was I? I was confused. And tired. So very tired.
Two plus hours into racing and this was how it was going to end. I tried to jog up a few hills, but I knew it was too late. I hit my wall and I was done. I walked the next three miles or so, as I headed for the finish line. Again. By the time I finally arrived, volunteers were cleaning up garbage and removing spectator cones. My husband Scott and my friend Andrea (who had also done the race) were there to greet me. That is, greet me and the 5 other people left to finish.
I started to cry. I am not really sure why, except that I was so very tired. And yet, so very proud. After all, I HAD swam a 1/2 mile. And oh yea, so very disappointed. And relieved. And....And....and that was the last time I ever "ran" 5 miles.
When I ran 5 miles on the treadmill.
And I only walked 3 minutes this time, not 3 miles.
And in one hour exactly, I completed 5 miles again. The right way. With new friends next to me. In a new place. And with a new goal in mind.
So now, I am back to my "base." What happens now? I have no idea. What will 6 or 8 or 10 miles feel like? Will I be able to do it? Will I walk?
Well I do know for sure that I will cry when I hit those 6, 8, 13.1 (?) miles. That, along with hearing "Chariots of Fire" playing in my head...Agh, I digress.
Five miles down.
Now its really time to start counting.