Sometimes You Finish Last

Monday, August 1, 2011


Adjective: Having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.

Verb: Lower (someone) in dignity or importance.

Sometime last year, I signed up to do the Old College Tri, only to learn that I was pregnant and attempting to do a triathlon was not the smartest idea in the first trimester. Two weeks ago I took on the challenge of participating in my first official multisport event. I say official because as a mother, I participate in multiple sports every day. My husband and sister were talking and well, they decided to do the TWU Pioneer Sprint Tri. And just like that, I blurted open my mouth and said, “You know what, I’ll do it too!” They both stared at me like I was nuts. I looked at myself from the inside and thought I was crazy too. Two weeks is plenty of time for training! Truth be told, I went swimming once and only did one bike workout. I’m confident in my running, but I still haven’t gotten my 5K pace down to less than 45 minutes. A far cry from my 28 minute time, but I know these things take time.  After that swim practice, I felt infinitely more comfortable with my swimming abilities. However, that bike scared me. During my practice, it took me 12 minutes to mount the bike. Really, 12 minutes! 12 minutes of non-stop frustration, yelling, and sheer tenacity. I was really proud of my hand-me-down mountain bike, but I knew it didn’t really “fit” me. During that ride, I discovered that after four miles my hands would go numb, my lower back started to scream, and I was every bit as nervous riding it as I was when I was 5. Regardless, I was going to make it work.

The day before the event, I had a flood of anxiety. I didn’t hardly train! More important that that, what was I going to wear?!? At packet pick-up, I found an awesome top specific for triathlon racing. It was only $15!! Score! I also picked up a pair of biking gloves to help alleviate the pain from the handlebars. On our way home from packet pick-up, Don surprised me by telling me we were on our way to rent a bike for me. I really wanted to rent one, but I didn’t want to make it a big deal. I felt a huge sense of relief when we got to the bike mart. Our sales guy, Rich, was fantastic. Not only did he explain the reason how they sized the bike, but he helped to pick out a good hybrid for me, then he insisted he give me a free one-on-one lesson. He worked with me for about 15 minutes and taught me a quick two second trick to get on the bike. He also explained the gears, how they worked, and most of all, gave me the confidence to face my fears the next day! While Don was checking out and loading up on gear for his bike, I wandered over to the clearance rack and scored a pair of Zoot tri shorts for half off!!!

On race morning, I was suited up and looked the part indeed! Outfitted in my fancy top, shorts, gloves, racing belt, Bikilas, biking helmet, and borrowed swim cap. I might not be a triathlete, but I certainly looked like one. (maybe not with my post-pregnancy body, but I was feeling good!) When I was getting ready, it felt familiar, preparing my hair in braids. I was psyching myself up. I had been for a couple of days, but this was real. I was ready. Unfortunately, Tesla was doing a bit of cluster feeding the night before, so I didn’t have the best night’s rest. No matter, because both she and Mari would be there cheering me on, thanks to my mother-in-law. Don and Sam would be there cheering me on and promised to meet me to run the last part. Keep in mind, the goal of this race was just to finish. I knew I wasn’t going to win. I just wanted to finish the race.

Before the sun came up, I was there standing next to a pool that felt bath water. It was already 88 degrees outside. The race started at 6:45, but I didn’t get into the water until much later than that (I was 6th from the very end). I swam the 300 meters in 9.5 minutes. Not too shabby considering I had to “wait” on a few people to get out of the middle of the lane so I could cross past them. Also, I started slowly on purpose. By the time I finished swimming, my heart rate wasn’t out of control. I went up and loaded up with my gear and mounted my bike. Transition time was 2:44.4

Off I went, not nearly as wobbly as I felt. Smiling and cheering on everyone along the way. As I went, I passed people! I was zipping along and gained more and more confidence each push/pull cadence. A bit into the 4 mile, my hands were going numb. I pressed on and tried to focus on the beautiful scenery. And then I saw them! There, on the opposite side of the road, I saw my sister and my beloved! I hollered at them and was flooded with a boost. My hands still felt numb, but that’s ok. A small hill was approaching, but I knew I could conquer it. I waved at the “helper van” and smiled. I climbed up the hill, switching my gears, doing my best to remember what Rich had taught me. I heard it…then I felt it. My chain busted off. I dismounted the bike. I stared down at my bike and was in disbelief. I was half way up that hill and pushed my bike the rest of the way to the top. The whole time, staring down at the chain. I was going to call someone or even look up online to fix it, but I didn’t have my phone. The emergency van had already passed, and I knew it would be a while before I would see them again. Everyone I had passed was now passing me. I took a deep breath and deconstructed the way the chain worked as best as I could. I finally figured it out and managed to get it back on the the axle. My hands full of grease, I felt simultaneously elated and defeated. I mounted my bike and pressed on. I refused to look back. I just kept pressing forward. Just before the 8 mile turnaround, I’d caught up to a gal. By mile 10, we’d caught up and passed another gal. I was feeling confident, but parched. As much as I didn’t want to, I knew I was going to have to stop and drink water. I don’t know how to drink and ride. (something to learn) I pulled aside, drank water and mounted up. By this point, I’d lost the original gal, but the other was still within eyesight. And the hills kept coming. At mile 12, I was ready to cry. That tiny voice whispered to me, “You can’t finish. You were crazy to do this. You should just give up.” and then another voice roared from below, “BIANCA FIGHT NEVER DIES!” I fought tears, cussed at a cow that was braying at me (maybe it was actually cheering me on, but I swear it was taunting me), and said out loud, “Bianca fight never dies, but it’s ok to rest. I scaled back my pushing the effort on the bike, prayed a whole lot and promised myself another pit stop if I could make it to the water park. Sure enough, I did. So I pulled aside, gulped the remaining part of my water, when the emergency truck pulled up to me. I told him I was ok, just resting. He saw me stopping earlier and knew what I was doing. He smiled at me and gave me a genuine, “Go get it girl!” Such positivity!! I mounted my bike and finished that last monster hill. Halfway up, the truck guy tagged off with a police officer and they both tailed me until I made it back on the campus. I graciously thanked each volunteer and bantered about the ridiculousness of the massive hills. Seriously, it was stupid. Nearly 1 hour and 26 minutes later I was FINALLY finished with that part. It didn’t kill me, but I thought it might have. Transition time was again, 2:44.4. (What? ha ha…what are the odds?)

I started the run. I felt confident in this run. But my legs, they didn’t want to run. I did this sort of trot/walk where gravity pulled me down that small hill. And then I walked and walked and walked. I actually stopped at the first mile, did some dancing with the water crew, requested a photo with Officer Jones, whom I’d gotten to know over the course of the first two miles.

Then I started to jog. I felt great. My cardio trainer told me my pace was down to 11 minutes. But then I hit another giant hill and said, F-that. I walked and talked with Officer Jones. I enjoyed our conversation. He had to speed off on his bike to check on the other racer in front of me. I probably could’ve caught her in the run, but something told me to just stroll. I did encounter a downhill, so I ran. Until I got to the drink stop and inhaled two more cups of water and informed the crew that I was the very last person. It was very humbling, actually. At the final mile, I saw my sister, Don, and Mari waiting for me. I smiled and beamed. Of course they were waiting for me at the top of the hill. We walked until the hills ceased,and then we’d jog. The final hill awaited, and I refused to run it. I told my sister and she said once I got to the top, I could run. It was downhill. Sure enough, I did. I even sprinted! I found my legs and everyone yelled and cheered at me. My name was announced and the band played. More cheers and I had a giant smile across my face. She shouted words of encouragement to me. I just told her thanks and to get out of my way. We were on a sidewalk by now and there wasn’t much room. ha ha!

I finished strong and felt good. I was happy it was over. I embraced my very last place finish. I wasn’t too proud of it, but looking back on the adversity I faced, I was proud that I didn’t give up. It isn’t like me to give up. For that, I was grateful. I took a moment to give praise to God and to say thanks for my health. I dedicated my race to my sister, because this might have been her very last race. Her doctors have suggested she stop training with such vigor. But you know what, she finished 3rd in her division! Suck on that Rheumatoid Arthritis! You don’t know the fight that lives in us Valenciano girls. Tenacity runs deep in our blood!!

A day later and I’m not sore. Just a bit tight in my neck. And I’m seriously considering doing the Old College Tri in a month. Hey, that’s two weeks longer to train than I had with this one. Winking smile


Goosegirl said...

Bianca, I think it is wonderful that you entered and finished! You are my hero!

Jeev said...

Ballsy, girlfriend. Good show!! You must be so proud of yourself.

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