About a month earlier I had a friend suggest that we create a women’s cycling “gang” in our area. I was the exception of the group, the other ladies had all competed in one or more triathlons and were experienced cyclists. I alone was the runner turned novice cyclist on my much heavier hybrid with pedals. Still, I managed to keep up as we rode the hills of Helvetia. Every Wednesday we kept adding miles and seeking new routes and I found myself REALLY enjoying it! During a particularly tough 26 miler, talk started up that I should do a duathlon. I came up with MANY reasons why I couldn’t/shouldn’t and being good friends they shot each one down. Without much arm-twisting, I succumbed to their pressure, but still wasn’t sure how I’d make it happen or when. The consensus amongst my girlfriends was that the Wahine Duathlon was a perfect first timers race. A couple of them had participated and told me what a supportive and well-supported race AA Sports put on and that the course was “kind” being mainly flat. Once I did some research of my own and discovered that it was so much more than just a race great for both beginners and the experienced, but a fun family event with a kids race, a luau, and live Hawaiian music and hula dancing following the races, I was sold! The duathlon was a sprint that consisted of a flat 5k run along Marine Drive and through the park, followed by a scenic FLAT 12 mile ride along Marine Drive, and finishing with a 5k that follows the same route as the first 5k. Flat! Perfect I thought! Now I just needed a few things to make it happen…
One of the most beautiful things about friends who swim, run, and ride is that they’ll literally do whatever it takes to help you achieve your goals. My current situation is that I am unemployed and so buying a better bike and the necessary gear to go with it wasn’t an option. So many people GENEROUSLY stepped up to make this happen – one girlfriend lent me her road bike, one friend donated a pair of clip-in cycling shoes, and my parents gave me early birthday cash to buy a pair of REAL cycling shorts! (WOW! What a difference! After riding many miles without them, I can assure you that cycling shorts are a valid first gear purchase!) And as for the lessons of clipping in? That wonderful gift was given to me by my VERY patient boyfriend. (I am sorry dear for the tears and that one time I melted-down.) I am humbled by how generous everyone was and I cannot thank them enough.
So after getting the clip-in thing down “pretty” good and only two minor crashes, doing a practice brick, and assembling my Hawaiian-themed kit replete with coconut bra, I felt ready to rock!
And rock I did! At first. I love 5Ks and felt great out of the gate. It was just as flat and FAST a course as I had been told and the route was really nice! Then I got back and into transition and without much challenge managed to swap out my running shoes for my cycling ones and hit the road. I had thoroughly read the rules provided by the organizers (I was a bit stressed out by them.) and got underway for 12 miles in the saddle. The course was wonderful and well-marked! I loved riding along the Columbia River and at the turn around, albeit a bit hazy from the heat, could still manage to see the outline of Mt Hood. Breathtaking. All along the race course there was an incredible amount of support and aid. The entire time I felt safe and cared for. In my opinion this is VERY important when you are attempting something new.
Everything was going FANNNNNTASTIC until… mile 9. I had quite a lead and then I heard “POP!!!” just like a firecracker. I honestly believed someone had thrown one at my back bike tire. Rookie thought. 😉 It was actually my tube popping. A flat. My first. Thankfully I didn’t crash and slowed to get off and assess the situation. I had the tools to fix it, but NOT the experience. In earlier weeks I had a 101 level how-to fix a flat session with my boyfriend, but it was for the front tire not taking off the chain, and honestly I wasn’t really paying enough attention. I mean, come on… that doesn’t happen THAT often, right? Again, another rookie thought. So my first reaction to the flat? Not. Awesome. I sing-songed some bad words and just stood there trying to determine what I should do first. THANKFULLY a “road angel” appeared. His name was Cam and he was just out for a training ride along the course. He stopped and basically, with minimal help from me, put in a new tube. But as he did, he discovered I had a huge gash in my tire. “I don’t think this is going to hold, you’d better ride back fast.” he recommended.
I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant until AFTER I thanked him PROFUSELY and he rode off. Only 100 yards down the road, “POP!!!” Again. Ugh. It was then that I realized that my ride was over and I still had about 3 miles to go. QUIT? Nope. Not in my vocabulary. I was at this point passed by nearly EVERYONE and I had many kind racers who were passing ask me if I needed help. Race officials were also very attentive and concerned and offered to take me back or radio for help. I declined them all. At that moment I was STILL having fun and I thought it’s only 3 miles and I could get back pushing my bike. I took off my helmet and shoes, put on my biggest smile, and started running in my socks. (THANK YOU THORLO for making such a quality heavy sock!) About a half mile from the finish of the bike, my boyfriend ran out and found me jogging along still with a goofy grin on my face and wearing my coconut bra. I know I seriously looked crazy… but at that point I had moved beyond Wahine to warrior-mode and I was going to finish no matter what. I parked my bike back in transition, PUT ON MY RUNNING SHOES (AHHHH…) and went out for the second 5k! This time I focused on my fellow racers still out there offering what encouragement I could and attempting to gather a few laughs in my coconut bra. The entire time I thought “WOW! This duathlon thing really is FUN!”
Following the race I experienced the Wahine post-race party. I have done a lot of races in the ten years I’ve been running, but I’ve never thought that the post-race festivities were all that memorable. AA Sports did it right! The Hawaiian food (and COLD beer) was incredibly tasty, they had a lot of great giveaways, and the highlight was definitely the live Hawaiian music and hula dancers! They were wonderful and really got the crowds involved. We were having such a good time, we stuck around to do a bit of Tahitian dancing with them. Normally I leave right after I finish racing – but this was definitely worth sticking around for!
So now I’m hooked. I not only HAVE to do this fantastic race again, but I want to do another duathlon. Soon. And I’d like to do it the way it was intended. JUST to make sure I like it.
HUGE THANKS TO:
My bike “gang”: Cyndie Pelto, Amy Little, and Marcy Helm for your encouragement, support, gentle arm-twisting, and the hysterically-fun training rides. 😉 Hearing “You’re going to KILL IT!” screamed at me every week really helped my confidence.
Jen Bhalla for lending me the road bike. It’s amazing how a better, lighter bike can really make riding even more fun! Now I just need to sell a kidney to get one of my own. LOL!
Natalie Tanase for giving me a pair of gently-used cycling shoes. I was not exactly eager to learn how to use them, but now a month in, I can’t say I’d never go back.
AA Sports for putting on a stellar race and party! I honestly can’t say one thing negative about my experience. I was very impressed and can’t wait to come back! I HIGHLY recommend this particular race for beginners of duathlons and triathlons!
Thorlo Expedia Socks: I unconsciously made the right sock choice that morning! These babies AND my feet held up!
And… my boyfriend Patrick Fisher. Your endless patience teaching me how to ride in clips, working with me on my conditioning, very useful tips and tutorials on cycling and maintenance, and day-of-race support meant the world to me. I love that you were as excited as I was (maybe even a bit more) about doing my first duathlon and how proud you were of me not giving up. I can see now why you love your sport so much.