This morning while setting up my transition, I saw a guy in a motorized wheel chair with a breathing tube and a personal nurse by his side rolling by the bikes. I distinctly remember stopping what I was doing and staring at him; wondering what happened and thinking 'geez, it can all be taken away so quick.'
Then before they started the race, I found out about his story. I can't remember his name right now, but last year he raced at Lake Norman. They gave him the mic and he was able to read a prepared speech through his breathing tube. He noticed something was wrong with his hand around the race time last year, and finally got a diagnosis in December - he had ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and one short year later he was paralyzed and couldn't breathe on his own. I teared up as he told his story, and as he sat there telling us to enjoy ourselves during the race and embrace the hurt that racing brings. It really can all be taken away so quick.
As it turned out, there were not any other Open women that showed up for the race. There were a few Master's Open women, so at least some others were in my wave (along with the Open and Master's Males). I saw Nasrin off to my right after the start and then tried to settle in behind her for a draft but couldn't stick on her feet at the turn buoys - ahh she was swimming so fast! Or maybe I was swimming slow? I need to stop skipping master's in the morning! But I was breathing and pulling hard so I thought I was swimming okay, Nas was just swimming better. I saw her get out of the water and estimated she was 15 seconds ahead of me. As I ran out, someone told me I was the first female but I knew that people often mess this up - but then when I got to the transition area Nas wasn't there -- it was Wade! Oops, so I'm first women out of my wave.
A male open passed me right out of transition and during the bike 2 master's open men passed me. And that was it. For the entire race. Out of 700 people, I saw 3 people on the course. 3! They had shortened the bike because of construction and the cut through road they put us on was even more hilly than the usual course. I tried to push.
I came off the bike and onto the run. I tried to push. I didn't see anyone ahead or behind me, the only people I saw were the volunteers.
I crossed the line first and then did a cooldown with Marty (who raced really well today! a few track workouts and he knocked some serious time out of his run). We saw some ladies who were moving on the run in the 35-39 age group; they were about 3 seconds apart. The first lady asked how far ahead she was, they were both working. I caught up to her after she finished and asked if she had held the other lady off and she said, "I did! It was great, we were together on the bike going back and forth and then ran the entire run together."
Oh, you mean you got to race?! I felt a pang of jealousy - I do these races to race, not for a time trial and I know how much it hurts and also how FUN it is to duke it out with other competitors.
At the awards I found out these two had beaten me by 1 minute and I was super bummed. First, though, I got to feel like an idiot getting up on the podium by myself for the first place open woman.
I was pissed. I was pissed at myself for not being able to push harder by myself. I was mad that I wasn't faster. And I was irked that fast age group women don't race open.
I threw myself a pity party for 5 minutes in the car, silently fuming and sending my friend an upset text about the race.
Then I stopped and thought about that guy with ALS and I felt like an absolute JERK. What am I upset about?! About not winning? Am I that big of a baby? (uhhh, don't answer that). I got to go out there and do something I love, still finishing 3rd overall while my husband is out there doing great, too. That guy probably has weeks or months to live.
Hopefully he knows that his story and speech affected a lot of people, but particularly me - as I remember what a gift life itself is - and one that is never guaranteed. This is something that is way too easy to forget.
I'm sure when I see my splits I'll be mad all over again, but I promise to get over it quick ;)
We took the scenic route home and stopped in Pittsboro at the Soda Shop.
And I had a delicious chocolate malt.