by Mary Case
May 31st 2020. It is race day. Perfect conditions in Middleton Connecticut where the 70.3 Half Iron Man is scheduled. The sky is a clear blue; the temperature is 16 degrees in the early morning with no call for rain.
This day has been years in the making with hard physical and mental preparation, not to mention the hill repeats. This was the race to celebrate retirement from thirty-five years of teaching.
However, this race is not happening.
Covid- 19 a closed border, and I’m recovering from a broken wrist. This day is turning in a different direction.
This is a non-race race day.
What does someone do with a non-race race day?
Option number one: stay in bed. Duly considered. It is an unseasonable 9 degrees in London, Ontario.
Option two: drink tea and eat pancakes loaded with fresh maple syrup, topped with coconut whipped cream and fresh fruit followed by a Netflix binge. (Now we are talking. But as it turns out, this comes later.)
Option three: race!
What! Race? Is that even possible?
How does one define a race anyway?
Who decided it has to look a certain way?
What would be fun?
What else is possible here that I have not considered?
What is it I really love about race day?
What part of that can be duplicated, and how?
And so, as I stare longingly at my triathlon gear, the non race, race day plan is created.
No alarm set, no travel required. Not so bad really.
Race day breakfast is prepared. Steel cut oats with fresh fruit, maple syrup, sunflower seeds, dried cherries and almond milk. Delicious.
Support crew John Case has absconded for the day. It begins with him walking the dog and preparing a few more nutrition pieces for my day. I am warming up with some running drills and a short walk.
And the non-race race begins.
I chose to start with the bike.
Rule number one of the non-race race day: break the rules to create what works for you.
So, the order of events is changed.
I hop on my bike trainer. Still somewhat limited with gear changing due to the weakness in my wrist, it seems the next best option when not able to ride outside. I choose a 1:45 minute program found in Trainer Road, one I had completed already in early February. I set a challenging Functional Threshold number.
Knowing that this was a race and not “just” a training ride, there was no taking a break. No stopping on the last set when it got challenging. This was a race, and when the going got tough the mental game was ramped up. I found this ride a great challenge and pushed through the last ten minutes as if ascending one of the challenging hills of Connecticut in anticipation of the final downhill into the town. My heart rate was elevated, my legs were burning, and I felt great.
Phase two: run. Unfortunately, my wrist is not so happy with the jarring motion of running, and so we get a new phase two: walk.
No problem, no rules here. I call my friend Chris for some social distance phase two support and we head out on a favourite University Hill route at a brisk pace. I am grateful for the company.
One hour and fifty minutes later, a 10k walk is complete. It was a gorgeous day. Perfect temperature. I notice things that perhaps would go unnoticed when wrapped up in the focused intensity of running. The flowers, the river flowing, the birds singing. This non-race race thing is not all that bad.
Now, home for phase three. I am delighted that I have an outdoor swimming pool as all public pools have been closed since Covid-19. I change into my Canadian Triathlon Suit for full effect and head to the water.
The non-swim swim in the non-race race consists of short lengths, some water running and drills for 30 minutes. Not quite the open water swim that I love so much, but I was grateful for this option.
In the end, the non-race race was half the time and distance of the Half Ironman. There were no cheering crowds, finish lines, expos and aid stations. I did not receive a medal or a fancy hat. I still do not have that 70.3 bumper sticker to display on my car and… I am so grateful for this non-race race day.
Amidst these crazy times, this was a day just for me. It was simple, challenging and rewarding, and it reminded me, as cliché as it sounds, that sometimes it is not about the destination, but about the journey.
It is about resiliency, about choice, about flexibility and adaptation in this game called life.
Mary is a recently retired Elementary School Music Teacher, an Energetic Body Worker and a professional violinist. When not involved in any of the capacities mentioned above, she can often be spotted in water, on a bike, or running to prepare for her next triathlon.