This is a recap of Race #10 in my 2016 quest to do 12 races in honor of people with ALS who have been an inspiration to me. This race was in honor of Eddy Lefrançois, who has been living with ALS for 24+ years.
**Watch this awesome video recap that Julie’s mom did for our race. Thank you, Isla, for that and for the photos in this post!**
Back to where it all began. Never did I imagine I could do this race 2 years later. It’s like imagining I could live for 24+ years with ALS. But both have been proven.
Ramblin’ Rose Chapel Hill 2014 will forever stand out as the most extraordinary, transformative experience of my life. As I wrote then:
“People say I inspired them, but it is nothing compared to what reverberated through me from all sides. It was the very best of humanity. What is it like to have that force of compassion directed at you? It defies words. Jon Blais knew. And now I know too. All I can say is thank you. It is a memory and an emotion that my friends, family, and I will never, ever forget.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but the impact that race had on me was powerful enough to ignite the journey that became Team Drea, and now the Team Drea Foundation. It was the day when I stopped repeating the same, sad story about how I “used to be” a triathlete before ALS and realized that maybe there was a different ending – or at least a few more intervening chapters.
I was feeling pretty mellow when DP, Julie & I entered the UNC Wellness Center at 7:30am to swim before the race started. We chatted with my friend Tatiana, who has MS and was also swimming early. She had two “Julies” of her own with her – thank goodness for friends 🙂[Forever thanks to Ramblin’ Rose for being inclusive to triathletes with disabilities!]
My calm, controlled breathing was gone by lap 2. At ALS Clinic two weeks before, my FVC (aka the strength of my exhale) was down to 85%. Even though the nurses had said not to worry (“it is still in the normal range and these tests bounce around”), it has been a specific point of pride/relief for me to be in the 90s. The 85% had been messing with my head – and therefore my swim – ever since.
Not to mention, I felt like I was literally in a fishbowl with people peering through the windows, watching me swim back and forth.
Bah, screw you 85%, is mostly how I felt climbing out of the water. Frustrated, even while smiling, even while grateful.[Saving the timing till last. You’ll see why…]
Let’s Roll!, as Eddy would say.
As always, it was a relief to set out on my trike. I was confident about the hills and secretly wanted to beat my time from 2014. I’d purchased the trike a just couple of weeks before that race, and now I’d ridden hundreds of miles.
Turns out I’m a wee bit competitive.
In 2014, two “race angels” from the Luna Chix bike team appeared to ride with Julie & me since we were at the back of the pack, just ahead of the police vehicles. One was Jen, who has now become a good friend and Team Drea member. We had a new Luna Chix bike escort this time, but it felt like Jen was present anyway – literally, because Julie was riding her road bike, The Mushroom, aptly named for its color. We joked that we couldn’t get lost because The Mushroom knew the way.
The bike portion is always where the whole race catches up…and passes. I don’t mind because Ramblin’ Rose is such a supportive atmosphere that we cheer each other on, one breathy “good job!” and “you too!” after another.
Besides, I was looking for the other Team Drea racers – there were 12 of us this time! We heard Erin yelling behind us far before we saw her rocketing by on a downhill trying to catch her daughter, Sydney 🙂 Elizabeth passed us around Mile 7, but with about a half-mile left, we saw her up ahead, off the bike and messing with the chain.
“Oh no!” we said and tried to catch up. Before we did though, she took off running with the bike in her clip shoes to the finish. Even with all that, she was STILL less than ONE minute off an age group medal and a little more than TWO minutes off FIRST place!!!! Though she is little, she is fierce 🙂
I had been worrying that my own chain was off. Something was amiss, I was sure. I would get these hard gear changes – ka-chook! – at random times when I wasn’t shifting. And I could swear the trike felt more sluggish than usual on uphills…or maybe that was just me…so much for beating my time from 2014…
My anxiety ratcheted back up when I traded the trike for the handcycle. Even though I’d been working at it, the thing is still a beast. I double-dog-dare anyone to try it; I submit to you that it is MUCH harder than running. But since running wasn’t an option, away we went.
I’d practiced on the course twice before, figuring out how to negotiate the turns, when to shift, etc. That paid off. Grinding it out on the uphills, coasting and resting on the downhills, I got it done…with just a couple of pushes from Julie.
Jen from Endurance was announcing the finishers as they went through the chute. With a huge smile, Julie and I crossed. Again 🙂
Satisfied is how I felt. Rather than the overwhelming, floating elation of 2014, this time I felt solid, grounded. It had been a hard race for me and I fought through it. As Eddy says, “I can do anything. I just do it my own way.” Just like any other triathlete. I was proud of that.
I was even more proud of my team – Julie who is like an old pro at Ramblin’ Rose now, Elizabeth who has come so far in first season as a triathlete that she almost got to the podium, Jody, Melissa and Sara who were so excited about doing their first triathlons (!!), Erin and Robin powering through their own challenges, Kristy, Carol, and Jo Anna who put aside work and family obligations to train as a relay team from Coldwell Banker HPW and of course, Amy, the race director and my dear friend, who endured a cancer diagnosis and a year+ of chemo AND ran the Boston Marathon in the time since we met at this race 2 years ago. This race wasn’t about me, and that was more than okay.
I warn friends against using the clock or place/ranking as the measure of a race. Unless you’re a pro or chasing a podium spot, you’re mostly competing against yourself anyway. Did you execute your race plan? Did you stay calm? Did you do your best? Did you have fun pushing yourself? Were you grateful?
Have that conversation with yourself before looking up your times – otherwise they will just monkey with your head.
Check these comparisons out:
Overall – RR Chapel Hill 2016: 2:05:17 vs.
Overall – RR Raleigh 2016: 2:04:16 (25yd shorter swim & 1 mile shorter bike than RRCH)
Swim – RR Chapel Hill 2014 (swim + walk to T1 mat): 12:42 vs.
Swim – RR Chapel Hill 2016 (as timed by DP): 9:13
Bike/Trike – RR Chapel Hill 2016: 1:06:24 vs.
Bike/Trike – RR Chapel Hill 2014: 1:17:23 (we did it!!!!)
Run/Handcycle – RR Chapel Hill 2016: 33:55 vs.
Run/Handcycle – RR Raleigh 2016: 32:01 (a MUCH flatter course)
COULD IT BE THAT I’M ACTUALLY GETTING FASTER?!?!?!?!
We see you, 2017 🙂