Independence Day Classic 17.76k (get it?) Race Report
The race honoring Matt Bellina was part of our trip to DC for the Fourth of July long weekend.
We’ve come to really love these fundraisers — it gives us a chance to hang out with friends living in the area and we always meet new people living with ALS or loved ones touched by the disease. Thank you Elise, Shannon, Katie, Jo, Lo, Michelle, Anne, and Brea for making this event special and a HUGE thank you to Eric, Patrick, and the Hardywood crew for raising $3,000 for ALS research!!!
It was all pastoral and lovely, steeped in history, but I was fixated on all the ROCKS. Everywhere. The race director warned me that most of the race was on hard-packed gravel and I’d seen a caution that runners should be on the lookout for rocks. Yep, rocks all over. No PRs today. At least it was flat…
I hadn’t been given any special instructions on where to start so I seeded myself in Corral B for runners slower than 8:30. I hugged the right side of the gravel road to stay out of the way, but quickly discovered that the soft sand on the shoulder was far more problematic than the rocks. The trike wheels sank in and my quads started working hard. Too hard to keep up for 11 miles. Umm, can I do this? I felt the momentum of the race passing me and pretty soon I was back amongst the race walkers.
I pedaled up next to a small contingent of military servicemen carrying a large American flag and a small sound system playing marching cadences. I gave them a huge smile and a thumbs up, then wondered sadly for the millionth time why ALS isn’t more of a priority for military spending, considering veterans are twice as likely to be diagnosed as the general population.
“I honestly think nobody has looked at the costs. The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) estimates the total for all federal programs for ALS care is costing taxpayers $350-$450 million per year. You compare that to the $7.5 million spent on annual research and it really makes you wonder who is calling the shots and why they are still employed.”
I said a silent prayer that these servicemen with the flag will never know the ironic tragedy that is ALS, and pulled ahead. The course turned left onto the Virginia Capital Trail – a new (completed in 2015), 52-mile trail connecting Richmond and Jamestown. I’d never even heard of it but wow, it’s beautiful.
I spent the next few miles with the same group of runners, coasting past them on the downhills only for them to catch me on the uphills as I slowed to practically a standstill, dialing back to my granny gear and hoping I had enough strength to reach the top without asking them for a push. We kept saying to each other things like, “you got this!” “you’re awesome!” and “keep at it!” I love race angels – people who just come into your life for only a few critical minutes when you bond over encouragement you both desperately need, and then you part ways forever, never even knowing their names. But when you remember and talk about the race, they always reappear.
The paved part of the race was an out and back, but the pavement ran out for good in Mile 7. Along with the shade. While the morning started out cool and foggy, that had long since burned off and July was in full force. I got a quick kiss from DP around 7.5 when the course reached the point closest to the start/finish area before shooting out for a long loop along a gravel farm road for the remaining 3+ miles. He told me later that a bunch of people just dropped out there and started walking towards the burgers and hot dogs because it was just that hot.
A short time later, I had some trouble climbing a little hill. It wasn’t very steep, but I didn’t have any momentum on the gravel. The tires skidded and the back fishtailed as I fought my way up this dinky hill as sweaty runners chugged past. All in all, it seemed like a pretty fair race for running v. trike.
That’s what we’re counting on. Thank you for your service to our country, Matt – in the past and the present. I hope that the government willing to send you to war is honorable enough to allow you the option to try to save your own life.