When Michael K. Farrell sprained his ankle and asked me to do the third leg of his upcoming half-Ironman distance triathlon, I immediately said yes. I hadn’t trained to race 13.1 miles, but all I needed to do was finish. “Make it a long training run,” he said. I was nervous about running well, but my anxiety melted away when we arrived in Tupper Lake, NY. The sleepy little Adirondack town is like Xanax for even the most worry-riddled racer. That’s not to say the competition wasn’t intense—the relay team lineup for the 2012 Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon on 30 June was fierce.
Windy conditions made for a choppy swim, and Michael K. Farrell swallowed a good amount of Tupper Lake. But he managed to regain his focus during the first transition. Waving away the bottle of Gatorade I held out, he jumped on his bike and was off. I saw him again two and half hours later for a brief 40 seconds, during which I ripped the Velcro strap with the timing chip off of his ankle, wrapped it around my own, and took off for the run.
Michael K. Farrell was second off the bike (he hammered the 56-mile out-and-back course!), which meant there was only one relay team ahead of us on the run. I didn’t think I’d be able to overtake that guy, but I was hoping to hold on to second place.
The first four miles were hot, lonely, and uphill. A woman on the sidelines shouted, “You’re the first girl!” as I rounded a corner, and I since I didn’t have the time or the energy to explain that I was a relay team so technically I wasn’t first, I simply shook my head. Michael K. Farrell jumped onto the course out of nowhere to lift my spirits. He reminded me to use the aid stations (“Dump all the water you can on yourself and take in some calories!”), and hobbled along by my side until the halfway point. (He said his ankle felt fine, but his gait was totally off.) By then I was feeling a lot better and I settled into a steady 9-minute pace. I was passed by a relay runner, pushing us into third place in my mind—still podium worthy, so I wasn’t all that upset.
I picked up speed in the last three miles, but still managed to get passed by a third relay runner just after the 12-mile marker. I was deflated. I felt like I had let Michael K. Farrell down (they don’t usually hand out hardware to fourth place finishers), yet I continued to push the pace.
I was psyched when I spotted Michael K. Farrell cheering on the sidelines up ahead–the end was near! He sprinted the last half mile with me and we crossed the finish line together. My watch stopped on 1:58:30*, and I had that satisfied, I-just-ran-a-half-marathon feeling.
And then we learned we won! Turns out the three relay teams that finished ahead of us were made up of all men. We were the first co-ed team to cross the line! Thrilled and slightly dumbfounded (who knew there’d be awards for every category!?), I high-fived Michael K. Farrell and we shuffled off in search of dry clothes and sunscreen (I have a thing about reapplying every couple of hours).
Participating was a lot of fun, and showing the world that Michael K. Farrell and I make an award-winning team was exhilarating, but I still don’t have plans to take up swimming or cycling (outside of a spin studio). I’m more than happy to leave those legs to Michael K. Farrell, the best teammate a girl could have!
*The official results clocked my run at 1:59:30. I guess my watch decided to snooze for a minute.
Have you ever completed a triathlon? Do you swim or bike on your cross-training days?