In the cool early morning of September 15th, I was one of 167 racers that descended on Foster Falls, Virginia to participate in the grueling New River Trail Challenge triathlon.
I had never been in any race before and for some reason I thought at age 51 it was a good time. I was smart enough to form a team, The Virginia State Park Power Rangers, so I would only have to do one part of the race, the 12 miles of kayaking. Amazingly, through a great team effort, we placed second in the mixed team division.
Racing down the New River
I would like to share a few things I learned and experienced from participating in this race:
- Training is very important and good to build your stamina up, but when it still doesn't compare to real race conditions. The amount of energy expended in a little over 2 hours was incredible.
- I'm not sure it helped, but I drank pure beet juice out of a can with a straw, just because I was told it helps get more oxygen to all your organs during extreme workouts. Although horrible tasting, I guess I will have to do it again if I am in the race next year.
- Any type of marathon situation is as much mental as it is physical. At the 10 mile mark of the kayaking, I had to convince myself that I'm not tired and that my entire body wasn't in pain.
- There is nothing like seeing your end point of your segment of a race. When I rounded a corner and could see the take out for the kayaks, I had a burst of energy for that last mile that was stronger than my first mile of the race. That burst paid off, as the difference between 2nd and 3rd place was less than 2 minutes.
- I may have talked a little smack with the other Virginia State Park teams, but for me it was more about meeting a personal challenge. As hard as kayaking 12 miles was in race conditions with team members depending on you, it would have been even harder for me to take if I didn't finish.
- Exhausted at the end of my "challenge," I had the thought that racing should be left to the young. However, after downing a Gatorade and catching my breath for a few minutes, I started talking about next year's race. There is something special that fills you up when you accomplished something you never thought you would do in your life.
The colors of a race rainbow
What I found most interesting were the wonderful competitors that came out to be part of this special day:
There were folks as young as 18 and as old as 72, which made me look like the young one. There were competitors that had physical challenges. There were folks from all walks of life that came from seven different states and the District of Columbia. They came from as far away as Georgia and Pennsylvania to be part of this event with an incredible competitive spirit. It wasn't just about winning, but it seemed we were all on a journey together and it only worked if we all got to the finish line together. There were so many of us that had finished early and yet waited around to cheer each and every runner as they sprinted down the last 50 yards to the finish line. Three times I had to stop and empty water out of my kayak from rapids and each time another competitor asked if I was OK. I thought these expressions from my competitors were amazing and it is why I am so proud that I had a chance to meet the "Challenge!"
And that is why, I am pretty sure you will see me again on September 21, 2013 for another "Challenge!"
Learn more about New River Trail State Park here.