with the men's winner, Matthew Togo, and Carillion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in the background
A while back, on a whim, I signed up for the Gallop 4 the Greenways Adventure Tri in Roanoke that was set to be a 4 mile run on the Greenway, a 2.7 mile paddle down the Roanoke River, and a 6.6 mile bike ride UP to the Mill Mountain Star and then back down again. Friend Ron offered a kayak, and with my VAST (i.e. can be counted on one hand) kayak experience, I was excited to try something different!!
With the paddle portion, it took the pressure off and I felt like I could really kick back and just enjoy the event and the celebration following all the Gallop 4 the Greenways events.
That wasn't meant to be.
Thanks to significant rainfall the day before, the river was deemed unsafe due to the fact that there wasn't sufficient room to pass under a particular bridge. We were disappointed, but that's how it goes with outdoor sports!
It was turned into a run-bike and my plan to slack off was foiled.
Well, the morning of the race I woke up with a very red and angry inflamed toe. About 10 days prior I'd noticed a small dark puncture on the inside of the toe and it had been itchy since. I figured it was a bug bite. The morning of the race I woke up and it had taken a turn for the worse - it was more swollen, and now also tingly, painful, and with a disturbing red line of inflammation. It was not happy stuffed into a shoe. It looked infected or something.
a very swollen toe-next-to-my-pinky toe - this was taken the day after the race
I went to Velocity Care to get it checked out where the doc went with "infected spider bite" and prescribed an antibiotic. She said to keep it elevated and not to run for a few days. Right. When pressed she just said racing might just delay healing and she conceded biking would probably be fine. (incidentally, 2 days later it's still no better and the new theory is just spider bite, maybe brown recluse, and perhaps not infected.)
I went to the coffee shop to wait for the pharmacy to open and ran into my friend and fellow athlete mom, Amy. Right after "hi" I showed her my toe and we discussed it. I had been uncertain, but left there having decided to race. I picked out the running shoes with the widest toe box, I iced my toe, and I hoped for the best.
It was the first year of the race, capped at 100, and small with 47 entrants. But there were some competitive racers there including Mathew Togo. Many of them were experienced with the famous "Mill Mountain" route but I'd never ridden it. Though I'm a decent climber, I'm not the most aggressive with descents. In a FB message thread I said something like I'd be going with "safety first" which was met with the response of "lies!" Haha!
We gathered for the 3:15 pm race start, and I said the same thing I say before a lot of races:
"I don't feel like working hard today."
Sherpa said "go all out."
Then the gun went off.
Matthew was aiming for something around 6:45 min/mile on the run (I know because I asked ;-) which wasn't very realistic for me for 4 miles. He led off the run and I found myself in second, not far behind him, and keeping up with him pretty comfortably. One side of my brain was saying "you'll pay for this later" and the other was saying "maybe this is your day!!" And as delusional race brains do, it also said "maybe that spider bite gave you super powers like Spider Man!!" I laughed at the thought.
I stayed with him pretty well through 3.5 miles then the elastic snapped with about 0.5 to go. With enough of a gap to third, I let off the gas a hair to save a bit for the bike. I did the 4 mile run in 27:28, which comes to 6:52/mile, but my Garmin had me at 6:38, 6:46, 7:00 and 7:14 (6:55 avg) -- not the even or negative split pacing Coach Jim would like to see but still a very good pace for me. I know without the pull of Matthew I would never have gotten that level of effort out of myself. And this is why we race!!
Matthew told me later his plan was to get out of transition fast and get out of sight of me. As a directionally challenged individual, I do not like when I can't see racers ahead of me. I pedaled HARD to try to find him and about half-way up, I did. I slowly closed the gap and passed just before the top.
When I found myself in the lead, I wanted the win and was committed to working hard for it. I was concerned he'd catch me heading down and I did not want that to happen.
Safety first on the downhill? Ha. I went as hard and as fast as I could. (I was careful about traffic though, and fortunately encountered very little.) I averaged 9.9 mph UP the mountain and 34 mph DOWN, hitting a max of 43 mph on the short 6.4 mile bike.
Roger on the lead motorcycle was ahead of me. (The "rabbit!") I'd hear him honking his horn through intersections and it felt very cool to have an escort!
At one point I got ahead of the motorcycle and slowed to yell out, "I don't know where I'm going!!" Not that he would hear me! Despite being an out-and-back with maybe four turns (with marshals), I was paranoid I'd go off course. Thankfully he pulled ahead again and I pedaled as hard as I could behind him to the finish and was so happy to be the first to cross the line as the overall winner! Matthew was just 0:22 behind. [Full results here]
It was reassuring to know I still had that competitive hunger inside! One fun thing about racing, there is just no predicting when things will come together.
There was something very special about finishing up in front of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where I'd had my artery patched up three years prior (thank you Dr. Davidson!!) Without that, I would not be able to enjoy the sport of triathlon.
No matter that it was a small local race, it was probably one of my most exciting and joyful finishes! My toe didn't bother me for one step of that race either, yay for adrenaline!
With Angela (3rd) - Kimberly (2nd) not in the photo due to snafu
photo by Karen Williams
Grad student and competitive canoer Ryan McClure (3rd), Jason Williams (2nd), Matthew Togo (1st)
photo by Karen Williams
It's always good to try new race formats and new distances and I would highly recommend this race to others next year!
To round out an excellent weekend, Coach Jim put a 65 mile bike ride on the schedule for Sunday, and my kids treated me to an amazing post-ride dinner they planned, shopped for, and prepared.
Today I am resting my still inflamed and unhappy toe and my sore but happy legs!
Up next: the Memorial Day weekend Mountains of Misery century ride with Kristen and team "Real Food for Fuel!"