My First Planned Duathlon (Simone’s Thoughts)

Sometimes in a race I finish and I wish I could have ended better, or I wish that I would have pushed myself harder at some point and I absolutely hate that feeling. That was how I felt when I finished my Minnesota triathlon season for the year. I tried to convince myself that I was okay with the way that I ended, but I knew that deep down I wanted to have a chance of redemption to build my confidence. This was when the idea of doing the fall duathlon came into my head. I knew that there were no more triathlons that I could do in Minnesota, but there was still the option of run bike run and it seemed like a good idea to compete in it. I had only raced in one duathlon before and it was not planned. Nationals had to last minute turn into a duathlon because water conditions were not safe and I was not prepared for the change at all. When I was signing up for this race I did feel prepared because I knew what to expect and because I had raced in a duathlon before. I was one of the last competitors to sign up, but even though it was a last minute decision I wanted to show what I could do and finish on a note that I would be happy with.

When my dad asked me on Thursday if I wanted to do another race over the weekend it took me about 15 seconds to say yes. I love competing and I love being able to break barriers whether they were mental or physical. My dad signed me up and I went on with my night thinking about how I would do at this race that I had never went to before. I did not know who would be there, what the course was like, or how I would do, but I did not let it bother me and I just kept going with my training and mental preparation. The night before the race I got fitted on my bike at 9:30 at night, so I bet you could tell how prepared we were for this competition. I packed my bag in record time because there was no need for anything involving the swim. Although I did not need a wet suit or goggles, I did need long pants, a warm headband, and a jacket because it was going to be 39 degrees when I was racing. I went to bed not really registering that I would have to wake up early the next morning, but I didn’t really care so I just let my thoughts wander and I shortly fell asleep after.

When I woke up I thought it was a school morning, but it was just a Saturday were I for some reason decided to wake up early and race in the cold. I put in very little time to getting ready and I left the house feeling cold and very exhausted. I slept the entire way there and when I woke up I figured out that it was only going to be 35 degrees when I was supposed to race. I had a hard time trying to figure out what layers to wear so that I was not too hot or too cold. I did not spend much time outside picking up my packet or setting up my transition area because my fingers where starting to lock up from the cold and my muscles were tightening up. When I was in the car warming up before my race it felt weird to not be putting on my wet suit and struggling to fit my swim cap on my head. I was very grateful not to be in the water on a day like that, but something still felt like it was missing.

Even though it was not a triathlon I was still grateful that I had the opportunity to race because I felt like I needed something to take my mind off of cross country and just be able to have my focus on something else. I reluctantly got out of the car to go to the starting line and I instantly felt the cold as I was walking. I knew that I would be able to warm up very quickly on the run, but waiting for the race to start was far from pleasant. I had absolutely no strategy going into this race because I had done one duathlon in the past, but I just wanted to do my best and enjoy my time racing. As they counted down I got into my zone, and when the starter said, “go” the pack of cold runners were off. When I started my run I was near the front of the pack, but it didn’t seem right to be so close to the first group of runners. I knew that I had been in cross country for a while but I did not think that it would have this much of a benefit for me. I continued my pace and because I had no strategy I told myself that I would see how long I could hold it for before I started to slow down. What surprised me the most was that I wasn’t slowing down. I felt so loose, energetic, and strong as I powered through the first half of the run.

I was running with a pack of guys that were helping me to push my pace, and as I was running I started to gain a confidence that I didn’t know that I was lacking. I was running faster than I thought that I should have, but I wanted to keep going and see what I could do. As I went past the first clock my time was a huge surprise, but I was even more surprised by how close to the front I was for men and women. I felt mentally prepared going onto the bike and I was going to try to keep my energy up for as long as I could. When I got onto the bike I was very warm from the run, but that did not last much longer. I turned a corner and was biking directly into the wind and I could feel my legs and arms starting to tighten up again. As I was trying to fight the wind I got to turn the corner and see a giant hill that I had to go up. With my legs feeling like bricks and my lungs burning, I was not able to go very fast up this mega hill. Going down it was a relief on my legs but when you go down a hill at 23 miles an hour with 35 degree winds, it does not feel all that great. My fingers were absolutely numb which did not make shifting easy, and I was starting to question if I still had toes on my feet because they were so cold. The bike course was either an uphill or a downhill, so my legs were exhausted and my speedometer was not reading times that I would have liked to see.

After what seemed like forever 14 miles on the bike was done and I knew that I had to catch a few people if I wanted to stay in the lead, but I did not know how far ahead they were. I dismounted my bike and could not feel my feet and as I tried to un-clip my helmet my fingers would not cooperate so it slowed me down more than I would have liked. As I passed by my parents I could tell that they knew that it was going to be a close race based off of how much ground I needed to make up. I could see who I needed to pass and that I could make up the ground I had lost in the bike, so I picked up my pace and ran at a pace that felt like a sprint. This was the moment that I was starting to get my joy again like I do during a triathlon. I love being able to try to catch my competitors on the run and I love being able to have a goal in mind that I really want to achieve. I was running with a feeling of confidence that I had on the first run and I wanted to keep that with me for my entire race. As I passed a talented competitor that was ahead of me I knew that I would have to pick up the pace if I wanted to stay in the lead. I had about a mile left to go and as I passed by a person that I look up to and they were cheering me on and said something so simple yet so motivational to me. All they said was, “You can do this” and that was all that I needed to finish my season the way I truly wanted to. I started to run faster than I ever though I could have and as I got to the final home stretch I felt a different feeling of joy because I knew that I had won but most importantly I knew that I raced the best that I possibly could have.

I crossed the finish line with tears of joy coming down my face, because I was so happy that I had pushed through another barrier and I had found a new gear to race in. It was not easy by any means, but it was a race that would lead me to a break through in my cross country season and I hadn’t even realized it yet. I quickly got on some warm clothes and went back into the car to try to warm up again. When it was time for awards I got to talk to really awesome people who love to race and I got to meet some new people that I hope to see again next season. As they called my name for first women overall I got to go up and grab my medal, but I felt like the true award that I received that day was finding confidence in myself that I can do well and that I can achieve my goals as long as my mind cooperates with me. I packed up my belongings and I got to go home that day with a feeling of accomplishment. I now could go into my off season knowing that I had finished my racing season the way I truly wanted to.