If you told me six months ago that I’d complete a triathlon I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, when Kelly asked me during my January fitness assessment if I’d ever done one, I almost fell off the treadmill. I thought she was joking. But it was no joke, so I thought what do I have to lose? The training would help build my strength and endurance, and I didn’t have to take part in the actual event. So, I signed up … and then wondered what I’d done!
Before long, questions started to pop into my head, and then more questions and even some doubts: Would I be allowed to swim, even if I couldn’t do the “front crawl”? Did I need a “racing” bike? I certainly couldn’t run, would I be allowed to walk the 2km? Where would my bike be while I was swimming and what would happen to it during the run? Could I really do this? I certainly wasn’t fit enough right there and then; how could I possibly finish a 100 meter swim, 12 km bike ride and a 2 km run - all in the same day? But soon my questions were answered, and my doubts were eased.
BMI kept all the Try a Tri trainees updated with periodic emails, and they organized a Try a Tri Information Night. Previous participants told us about their experience at last year’s event and Ottawa Triathlon Club’s president Geordie McConnell explained how the event would unfold, and gave us tips and pointers. He encouraged us to enjoy the event and to be thankful at the end that we had the health and ability to participate. It was a very upbeat evening and I learned several things such as: many people had doubts at first; training would help prepare us; will mattered just as much as skill. It was a very exciting evening with enthusiasm to spare and lots of team spirit. I left feeling pumped.
Next came swimming lessons, and spinning class, and learning to run. I was lucky to be able to take part in all three. They all helped build skill and endurance – and knowledge. Swim strokes, kicking techniques, hill climbs, cycling cadence, breathing, running posture. Training was hard work, but even more, training was fun. There was lots of laughter, support and encouragement at each session. And it felt wonderful to witness fellow BMI’ers improve their speed, run a little further, and survive another hill climb on the spinning bikes. There is a certain kind of joy being able to applaud your fellow trainees as they break their own records, and reach their personal goals. I have to confess, it was sad to see the training sessions end and I’ll miss seeing my fellow trainees every week.
So, on May 19th, equipped with the proper training, the support of BMIs terrific team, and the encouragement of my friends & family and fellow triathlon trainees, I made my way to Carleton University. At the tender age of 57, I began the first real athletic event of my life: the Colonel By Classic - Early Bird Triathlon Try a Tri.
I think all my nervousness kicked in as we gathered on the pool deck. I’d trained. I’d even practiced a few times in that very pool so I’d know what to expect. But now I was nervous. The 100m swim took more out of me than I’d expected. Knowing what lay ahead, I decided to follow the advice Geordie gave us back at the info night. I eased into a less taxing breast stroke for the last quarter of my swim. Then it was out of the pool and down the stairs to put on my socks, shoes & sunscreen and make my way to the “transition zone” to get my bike.
T-shirt and helmet on, I walked my bike towards the mounting line where volunteers encouraged me and pointed the way towards Pretoria Bridge. The bike ride was beautiful; sunny skies with just a few clouds. Trees, flowers, the Rideau Canal and singing birds surrounded the 12km route. But about half way from Pretoria Bridge back to Hogs Back, doubts set in, and my legs started to feel tired. I had serious misgivings about being able to finish. After all, the swim had been tougher than I’d expected, and the run was still ahead of me, plus I was a novice. But I told myself to put that thought out of my mind and just peddle; one foot, then the other, just peddle. It worked! I was quickly back on track and heading into the last leg of the ride. Soon I could hear the crowd at the dismount line, and then I could see BMI trainer Cheryl and heard her encouragement; I’d completed the bicycle segment! Then it was on to the run.
Running with rubbery legs is tricky. I’d experienced rubbery legs the previous week, when BMI Try a Tri trainees did a “dry run” of the bike and run portions. But we hadn’t done the swim portion and that seemed to be making a difference now. Already fatigued, with nerves tingling and adrenaline pumping, my legs were really rubbery. There’s something though, about knowing you are in the last segment. Feeling so close to the end and remembering some good advice about how to cope with rubbery legs, I began to jog. I was tired, but I kept telling myself that I’d run 2km before in training so I could do it again.
It’s hard to describe the feeling as the Finish line comes into view. It was very emotional … all I could think was “I did it. I actually did it!” Nine months ago I made a decision to focus on me for a while, to improve my health and fitness, and I joined BMI. Five months later I decided to give the Try a Tri a shot. I’d attended the training sessions and I’d taken in all the advice of our coaches and mentors and now it was paying off. I was about to cross the Finish line. It was hard to fight back the tears when I saw my daughter’s face smiling up at me from the Finish line and she called out “you did good Mom”.
I did do good. I felt proud, and I felt thankful – for the health and ability to participate in a triathlon, for the hard work and commitment of the coaches and trainers; for the support and encouragement of my friends & family, of the BMI team, and of my fellow triathlon trainees. Taking on the Try a Tri was hard work, but every single minute of it was worthwhile.
There will be another Try a Tri next year. If anyone out there has even the slightest inkling of curiosity, wondering if you could possibly do it, go for it! I highly recommend it.
Joanne Kurtz, RD
The day of the marathon started at 5:30 am with a quick breakfast and goodbyes to my family as I got on the hotel shuttle heading to downtown Boston. I’ve never seen so many school buses as I saw lined up along Copley square, or so many people waiting to shove their way onto them! I finally boarded my bus around 7am and tried to relax while we made our way to the small town of Hopkinton. The 55 minute ride felt long, especially when I thought about the fact that I had to RUN back! The next two hours were a mix of lying in the shade, waiting in the porta-potties line-ups, eating and hydrating.
As I made my way to the start line of the Boston Marathon, I felt a little like I was in a herd of sheep. With 9000 people in the second wave with me, it took at least 20 minutes to walk to the start line.
After hours of waiting, it was finally go time! I started running and the first mile was mostly downhill. The first uphill came quickly and spectators were blaring the Rocky theme song, which was my favourite part of the whole race! I continued running and the crowds of runners never let up. The first 15km went by and I felt pretty good, but it all went downhill from there – or up many hills rather. I would love to say that the race flew by but I’d be lying. It crept by. I would swear it had been 20 minutes and my watch would remind me it had only been three. The many downhills were shredding my quads into little pieces, and the uphills kept coming. I kept asking mysef “is this heartbreak hill?.... Is this heartbreak hill?” At mile 20 I ran by a clock that also displayed the temperature and it read 87F. The heat was by far the greatest challenge: I was dumping water on my head at each water stop, but couldn’t manage to cool off for longer than 30 seconds. There was no wind and no shade, only blazing sun. People around me were stopping to walk, and some were stopping altogether. The spectators with their garden hoses, sprinklers and ice cubes were a godsend.
After the half way mark, my goal became ‘just don’t stop running’. This was by far the most challenging race I’ve ever done. Slowly, the mile markers went by and I saw ‘26’. I have never been so happy to see the finish line!
After drinking water, sports drink and collecting my belongings I met up with my husband and burst into tears. It was an emotional experience and I was just so happy that it was over!
Now, almost 10 days after the race, I look back on that day a little more fondly. The positive moments burn a little brighter in my memory. I am grateful for the opportunity to run a race with 27,000 other dedicated runners. I am especially grateful for my supportive family (parents, sister, parents-in-law, grandmother-in-law and husband) who all followed me to Boston to cheer me on in the heat and for all my coworkers and friends who supported me back home.
Even though my thoughts during the race were along the lines of “i’m never running again” and “DO NOT ever sign up for an Ironman,” now I am thinking “which race can I do next?!”
Canadian Army Run, 2011
Running can be a very solitary experience; even though you may be running with friends and encouraging each other on, it is usually all about you … the focus is on you even though there are people around you. Am I running too fast? Am I running too slow? Am I drinking enough? Am I fuelling enough? Am I wearing the right clothes? And ultimately what is my “chip time” when we finally cross the finish line? Whether you admit it or not, everyone hopes that on race day you will finish with a personal best time.
The Canadian Army Run this past Sunday was anything but solitary. Before I headed out for the run, I posted on my own FB page that I was heading out to participate in the Canadian Army Run, I was participating to honour and thank all of the men and women who have, and are currently serving our country. I am sure that each and every one of the BMI members and their family members that joined them in one of the various events all felt the same way on Sunday.
What a turn-out we had! With participants in each of the 5K and half-marathon we were well represented out on the course. Kelly inspired us all to do our best and it was wonderful having her there to share the excitement with us. The sun was shining, the temperature was ideal and with 16,000 runners, including many from the Canadian Military, it was the perfect day all around.
There was lots to see out on the race course, a firefighter in full gear (at least he had running shoes on), a couple of guys in rubber camouflage suits complete with gas masks! There was a lady with my favorite sign that said “Keep running the ice cream truck is just around the corner” ….. must have seen her 5 times along the ½ marathon route and I turned many corners and I never saw the ice cream truck! There were many members of the military, some in wheelchairs and on prosthetic legs, making all of us forget our individual aches and pains and focus on their bravery.
This day was truly special with fellow BMI members and family to encourage and motivate each other whether they were running 5K or a half-marathon, it seemed to be all about “us” and not about “me”. And to our dearest friend Randi who I saw three times along the route, thank you from us all, you can’t know how amazing it was to see you and know that we had our own personal cheerleader and photographer.
The race came to an end, leg cramps and all, but the most emotional part for sure was walking up and having the official “finisher’s dog tags” put over your head by a proud young man or woman from our Canadian Forces. With a lump in my throat, I simply shook their hand and said “Thank you for what you are doing”.
This was truly not a “solitary run” it was a “military run”! What a memorable day.