After I registered that morning, I rode back to my car and did not hear the announcement about the change in the course and did not consider to look at the map (Karel has done this race at least 6+ times) so we were at least 15-20 minutes behind the front group which is Karel's pace....but not mine.
So, after feeling a little let down that Karel was not able to ride with all his buddies at the front, he had no choice but to pull me around the course for 100 miles. And not only me, but anyone else who was strong enough to hang on....which was very few.
We passed riders for over 2 hours and although I was having fun, Karel was a bit bored with his solo effort.
Whereas for me, I was being challenged.....tremendously. My heart was hurting, my legs were throbbing and I kept wondering how long I'd be able to keep up this pace. Especially when Sugarloaf mountain comes around mile 75 or so.
For over 2.5 hours, Karel was pulling me up and down every climb and all I could do was to hang on until I wanted to quit.
Around 3 hours, I was struggling. No amount of nutrition could help me ride faster - I was pushed beyond my limits. Karel told me that I needed to believe in myself but my main concern was how I would be able to hold on for 2 more hours?? Karel reminded me that I couldn't think like that. He encouraged me that I was doing great and around mile 67 or so, we would be stopping at a SAG stop to refill our bottles so only around 15-20 minutes to go. We were averaging around 20.5mph for the first 3 hours - a few slow moments for me to catch up to Karel on the climbs and obviously, a lot slower pace than if he was with the group in front...and considering he had to ride at least "slow" enough for me to suffer enough behind him without getting dropped in the first hour, that pace was fast enough for me.
So after a little pep talk from Karel, I needed to remind myself of how far I have come. Never did I think I could ride 100 miles at one time in my life..I grew up as a swimmer.
Then I thought about riding 112 miles for the first time....with Karel falling asleep behind me on his road bike as I was training for IMFL in 2006. :)
Then I thought about being able to run a marathon after riding 112 miles....now I have done that 7 times.
Then I thought about all the hilly courses I have completed - IMKY, IMWI, IM Lake Placid, Branson 70.3 with good cycling skills and love for riding my bike on those challenging courses.
And then I thought about Karel's "race" on Sugarloaf a few years ago. Five laps up Sugarloaf mountain with a sprint finish at the time. I remember this race as if it was yesterday and just watching him race on that day made my legs hurt. Karel placed 2nd at this race and every time I ride on hills in training, I think about Karel and his ability to suffer so amazingly well.
(Karel on the far right, 5th time up Sugarloaf, sprinting at the top for the final lap to place 2nd)
Motivation self-talk is an amazing thing. As a single-sport athlete, I have a lot of time to be one with my thoughts....and not always are they good thoughts. I know for Karel, when he raced bikes he would speak to himself a thousand times that he should quit for the pain was too much. It was like a checklist - ok, one more lap and then I will quite, ok one more.....the same is true for running. How many times have you told yourself, just one more mile...and then......one more mile.....
I feel challenged by cycling in a different way than in life. For in cycling, I know I can progress and it doesn't always mean training harder. Karel always knows what climbing cassette I need on my bike and with my complaints of my position on my road bike, that was solved with a shorter crank and a change in my reach to my handelbars - so no more right shoulder pain. I have much better skills and confidence on my bike and I really love being on my bike.
So even though I always review course maps in great detail (or drive the course) before triathlon races, I learned on Sunday that we also should have reviewed the course map ahead of time to avoid missing our friends. Lesson learned.
In life, sometimes we don't get second chances. And that sucks. Sometimes bad news is all the news we get. Sometimes there is no light at the end of the road, no rainbow to shine after the storm blows through.
Hopefully, you always have the chance to learn from your failures...or as I like to call, lessons.
One of the best things I have learned about life is that even though I am faced with challenges all the time, I have to be strong enough to move forward. Sometimes it takes a little believing in yourself...sometimes a laugh at a joke or a discussion with friends, family or a coach/expert.
But the key is to never give up. How can you learn from your mistakes, failures and lessons if you don't try again? Never let your failed moment be your last moment.
I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to give up in triathlons and especially with cycling and running. So frustrated that I wasn't "good" enough or that I could never keep up with Karel when we met. But the drive to get better somehow overpowered my fear of failure so a warm-up behind Karel turned into a group ride, which turned into three Kona slots, which turned into loving to climb mountains......
Now 7 years later, I can cover 100 miles with Karel...albeit, at a pace a bit slower than what Karel can do alone or with his cycling buddies, it was what I could handle uncomfortably and it is still a huge improvement.
For 5 hours and 10 minutes I kept reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to experience the joy of suffering with Karel.
There may be a day when I can not ride my bike for 100 miles but on 11/17/13, I was proud to be healthy and well enough to do what I love to do. Every year I want to become a better athlete and healthier human being. Every year I reflect and think about what I should have done better. It's easy to focus on what worked but it takes a lot of effort to focus on what didn't work and how to make yourself better.
The same applies in life.
If you do the same thing over and over, expect the same results.