I was really looking forward to heading back down to Maryland to do the Eagleman. It’s the only away triathlon I’ve gone to that has descent food choices and I get to stay in Easton, which is nostalgic because it was the name of my freshman dorm at the University of Maryland.
Nostalgia aside, I was prepared for the race, but not overly so. I’d spent a lot of time in NYC since January going to school for coaching and the week of the race I was there for 3 days. I loved my 3 full days of school, having dinner with friends and I did manage a run in Central Park so I couched it all as “taper.” (And yes, now I’m a leadership and executive coach!) I headed home Thursday night and Friday morning my friend arrived on time but I’d thought she was coming an hour earlier. My packing consisted of throwing everything into a big bag, getting my bike on the car and heading out.
The drive to Maryland was easy and my friend and fellow racer Fran is a hoot so no matter what we were going to have fun. We arrived at our hotel, the lovely Days Inn, which is owned by a lovely Indian family and painted in its entirety a bright marigold yellow. After the wonderful English film of the same name that takes place in India, our hotel was now The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I proclaimed lucky. Marigolds do have spiritual significance in India, not only are they a sign of the sun, but they symbolize brightness and positivity.
We checked on Friday and had time to relax. Saturday we were free until bike check in, so we had time for a last short swim, bike, run and I was able to get in a coaching call. We went back to check in for our friend from Boston who’d arrived late and I sat outside relaxing and read about the IronEagleStrong contest about tweeting a photo that encapsulates that. With a good meal and a descent sleep I was feeling relaxed and ready to race.
Now, I’ve always had the fear that one of my contacts was going to pop out on the swim, but instead, I noticed when I was getting ready that I couldn’t see so well out of one eye. I’d lost that contact before I’d eaten breakfast! And since I’d thrown everything in that bag so unprepared I didn’t have a back-up. Well, I thought, I’d just have to go a little ‘soft’focus’ on the swim.
I had an hour and a half to wait before my wave and I was feeling totally chill. I went and did a little yoga and stretched and indeed got the photo that won the IronEagleStrong contest. Back into transition, a woman on my rack was freaking out because she couldn’t talk to a coach. I offered my coaching and after a few minutes of talk she said she felt calm, which made me feel great. I still had another hour, I tried to eat more and drink but it was hard.
Finally it was my wave, and the gun went off and immediately my mantra jumped into my head: I Love My Life! My friend Laura of Team Infinitri came up with this beauty and it’s very true. I had the most relaxing and beautiful I Love MY Life swim that ended up being faster than last year without any training which was great. If you don’t have a mantra, I’d recommend trying a few on or stealing this one. I have a collection of them based on what I need and always find them helpful to calm my breathing and sharpen my focus.
My bike was solid and uneventful, which was perfect, except I was hungry. Very hungry. I ate everything I brought and took some on course chomps. When I go off the bike, I felt crappy, crappier than I’d ever felt getting off the bike. I wasn’t sure I could run at all, let alone 13.1 miles. I’d never DNFed, never even considered it, but now here I was still in transition. I ate an entire banana and decided I’d walk for a bit while I was feeling woozy and see if I could get my legs back by aid station 1, then I’d make a decision.
The good news is that I wasn’t angry or disappointed, I was going to do what I could with what I felt and make a smart decision. I was okay if my body told me I needed to quit. I don’t mind suffering, but I wanted to be smart about it and not hurt myself. After aid station 1, I thought I might be coming around and started to run-walk. Give it to the next station I thought, then I’d be at 3 miles and could turn around, but before the next one I was running again.
At that point, I was back to myself, racing with a big smile and such gratitude that my body had come around. I started running with a woman running my pace but then I saw my friend Fran and stopped to walk with her a bit (she and my friend Janice had started in the 1st wave). She was feeling pretty good and told me to push forward, but I wanted to be with her a bit and soak up the energy together. I caught up with the woman who wanted to pace together and we chatted for a bit. I was gradually starting to feel stronger even though it was getting hotter. Not to far up the road, I saw the 84 year old woman, the oldest woman in the race, and spoke with her and up the road I realized she was one of my idols: Sister Madonna Buder. I don’t think I have to tell you how inspiring it was to not only see a woman of her age out there toughing it out, but for it to be the Iron-Nun herself was even better.
I met a lot of amazing people on the back side of that race, pushing hard with their own stories, their own struggles, their own joy. We shared ice, encouragement and mojo. Whatever energy I gave out to people, I got back ten-fold and I was finally running my pace. Nearing the finish, there was a group of women around my age running somewhat together and we bonded in our strength. At that point there was no race against, only that we all finish strong. “Come with me,” I said when one woman started to slow to a walk, “you can do it!” She picked up her gate again and we pushed forward. This encompasses all that I love about racing.
A mishap in packing, a lost contact, inadequate preparation, a faulty nutrition plan all landed me in one of my most spectacularly successful races. I beat the odds, I pushed through and hopefully I inspired someone along the way!