At the race packet pickup last Saturday, the guy handing out the numbers gave me a weird smile. “I hate to tell you this,” he grinned. “But your number is 666.”
Okay, I laughed. The Mark of the Beast.
However, when I wore the race number, my eyes did not spew blood. Nor did I sprout devil knobs on my bald pate. Or, secretly have to hide a tail that grew out of my coccyx.
Instead, I ran a healthy, happy duathlon and finished fourth in my age group. It went so smooth and enjoyable that I was actually able to “be in the moment” at a number of points along the way.
Did it mean that I did not suffer? Well, one has to define that term. I ran 6:42 per mile for the first segment and 7:42 for the closing four miles. Nothing spectacular there. But I was feeling it to some degree. I ran 13:45 last year for the opening two miles last year and T 13:43 this year. Rather consistent there.
In 2015 I ran 30:27 for the closing 4.2 miles. This year, 31:33. That part of the course was changed for 2016. One never knows how the measured distances compare. I ran a minute slower perhaps? I rather doubt it. I was running much smoother this year than last, when rain had filled my shoes with water during the bike.
This year the bike segment was quicker by 20 seconds on the same course. There was a fierce northeast wind in our faces in the open country.
Transitions? I still need work. Last year I was 1:54 and 2:01. This year, 1:44 and 2:04. Too much dawdling still. The top guys in my general age bracket of 50-59 are all close to one minute in transitions.
I chuckled at the comment of a running associate Tom Spadafora. We passed each other during the race a couple times. He’s running faster these days but I caught him on the bike. Then he passed me again during the second run and said, “We’re getting too old for this stuff.” He’s kidding. No one loves running more than Tom. “All I wanted to do was get off that bike,” he later laughed.
Enjoying the race
For me, the kicker was the feeling of enjoyment this year. I had fun last year too, but perhaps it was the cool weather and the lack of a driving rainstorm during the bike that made things a little more fun this year. So there was no dramatic performance improvement year over year, but there was a qualitative feel to this year’s race that I really liked. I think there’s something to be said for competing comfortably or better at the same distance. Is it a sin to actually enjoy the sensations of what you’re doing?
The numbers to me are interesting, but all very relative. When the chip results were first listed, there were guys behind me in the standings that had faster overall times. The name Christopher Cudworth was also listed twice in the standings. That made me wonder if I had sold my soul to the devil without knowing it? Perhaps that number 666 had come back to haunt me after all. But it all settled out once the results hit the actual website. Such are the vagaries of data.
Hand in hand
What mattered most to me was the most wonderful circumstance of all. In the last half mile I spied my fiance Sue headed into the finish. I caught up with her about 200 yards out and suggested we hold hands going into the chute. Well, I’m the nutty romantic of the pair but she agreed and we got a few “awwwwwww”s as we ran across the finish line together, hand in hand.
I say that was super cool. The odds of our finishing exactly together were pretty slim considering she did the Triathlon and I did the Duathlon. She finished second in her age group after a good swim and a good bike.
It was a match made in heaven despite my devlish race number. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.