Several months ago, I heard about the Eads Bridge Duathlon and thought it sounded pretty cool. After all, the Eads Bridge was the first structure to span the Mississippi river and the first bridge to be made of steel. It’s the bridge that started Carnegie down the road to becoming a steel mogul. You’re welcome, Carnegie. The bridge is still in use, so the only way to cross it is by car. However, the race organizers worked with the city to close the bridge so the running portions of the duathlon could go across the bridge. I thought it sounded pretty cool, and I’m not really a history nerd. Alex, on the other hand, gets all geeked out by history stuff so, I thought it might be something he was interesting in doing. I was right – he was all in. I completed the registration for us both and explained that it was something that we had to train for.
Fast forward a few months, and the training department was seriously lacking. I had attempted to get back on the bandwagon and had been on a handful of runs and bike rides. My endurance was nowhere near the level that it was last year – I’m really angry at myself for letting up after last season. I could have been SO much better by now. The two weeks before the race were insanely busy and I didn’t run at all. Essentially, I was going into this race cold turkey. I was nervous. Alex didn’t train at all. He was REALLY going cold turkey and was nervous (although he wouldn’t really admit it). Originally the goal was to just finish the race. In the days leading up to the race (as the nerves mounted), I amended that goal to be that we left the race in anything but an ambulance.
Race day came, and it was cold and windy. We loaded all of gear in the car, and left the kids with a sitter. The transition area was originally set for one area close to the bridge, but because of the heavy rains and flooding that we’ve had in the area, it had to be moved. The only lot they could find on short notice was farther away from the bridge, which meant that the run distances increased. It was supposed to be a 1.5 mile run, 10 mile bike, and 1.5 mile run. Instead, the run distances changed to 2 miles each. I don’t know why, but 2 miles seems so much farther than 1.5. I spent the entire ride to the race trying to bestow every nugget of knowledge that I had to Alex. I’m not sure he wanted them, but I did it anyway. I wanted him to feel comfortable in his first duathlon. And, even though I’ve never done a duathlon, I’ve done a few triathlons which are pretty close – just add water. I went over transitions and rules and mindsets and everything else I could think of. I also explained to him that it’s everyone’s goal to try to take a giant dump right before the race starts. I told him that there would be a huge line at the porta potties and they would all smell like horse shit. He felt ready.
We found the parking area and transition area. We aired up our tires and headed to racks in the transition area. I found my rack and placed my bike on. I helped a girl near me rack her bike and then went and helped Alex rack his bike. I went back to my transition area and put on my bike computer. I laid my helmet out and put on my gloves, ear cover, glasses, and race belt with my number. Alex came over and I pinned his number to his shirt. I figured out where the run in, bike out, bike in, and run out areas where and explained it to Alex. I asked him if his area was ready. He said it was, so we trekked off to the potties. The line didn’t disappoint.
We had plenty of time, so we waited. After all, we had to make Alex’s first race official by him dropping off some kids before the starting gun. It’s a tradition! Eventually we made our way to the front. The doors opened for me to go in and I noticed something streaked down the front of the seat. I’m not kidding – someone had crapped down the front of the porta potty. I was disgusted, but had no choice but to go in. Before shutting the door, I yelled to the line so they knew that I wasn’t the one that crapped on the john instead of in it. I decided that instead of trying to wipe up the offending poop (I had no way of washing my hands and only 1-ply toilet paper at my disposal), I was going to situate myself so that I could take care of business without getting someone else’s shit all over my bike pants. It’s not an easy feat. I was crouching while pulling my pants by the crotch away from the seat. Over my dead body was I going to smell shit the entire race. It wasn’t easy, but I got the job done. It’s a tradition – I couldn’t not do it.
Once Alex was finished, we started toward the starting line. The transition area was a mile from the starting line, so we had a bit of a walk. Both of us were a little lighter on our feet at this point, so it wasn’t a big deal.
We made it to the start line, which was on the border of Missouri and Illinois, right in the middle of the Mississippi. We took the opportunity to look around and grab some pictures of the scenery.
Eventually it was time to start the race. We positioned ourselves near the back. We weren’t kidding anyone. The race organizers welcomed everyone and made a few announcements. After a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings, the starting gun went off. It took about 30 seconds for the crowd to weed out so we could actually cross the start line. We started with a nice jog. I told Alex to let me know when he wanted to walk. The plan was for us to complete the first run together. The run started in the middle of the bridge and headed toward Illinois. At the Illinois turnaround, we headed back across the entire distance of the bridge to land on the Missouri side. We wound our way through The Landing and toward the transition area. The run/walk pace was good – we both felt great! Pretty soon, we made it to the transition area to grab our bikes.
We agreed that we wouldn’t stick with each other during the bike portion. Alex has a hybrid, and I was on my road bike. I told Alex to be careful and after quick ‘I love you’s we were both out on our bikes. The bike course was set up as a loop on one street. The street was completely closed, so you stayed to the right and went around twice before heading back to the transition area. Heading north on the street was great – downhill with the wind to your back. I was flying! At the turnaround, the change in wind direction was obvious. Going south was quite a bit of uphill with the wind in your face. It was brutal. All I could think about was that I had to do this twice. Because of how the course was set up, I saw Alex going in the opposite direction. I yelled like crazy, but didn’t wave. The road was insanely bumpy and I didn’t feel like spilling because I let go. What seemed like an eternity later, I made it to the next turnaround to repeat the loop. Again, I whizzed my way to the North turnaround (passing by Alex again and yelling even more). Made the turn, saw Alex again, and battled my way to the final turnaround. I made decent time on the bike and passed quite a few people. I pulled up to the transition area and got off my bike. As much as I was hoping it wouldn’t happen, my legs felt so weak. I could barely get them to move. I racked my bike and took off my helmet. I told my legs to move, and they just wouldn’t. It was like trying to move buckets of wet cement. I walked for a bit in hopes of getting my legs adjusted – whatever I could do to get over the weak feeling. I attempted to run again. It felt like I was exerting a ton of energy and getting nowhere. I went back to walking. Eventually some strength returned to my legs. I was making my way back to the bridge by walking the uphills and running the flat areas and downhills. The bridge seemed like it was countries away. People that had already finished were pouring back toward the transition area. I was doing everything I could to not make an ass out of myself. My side starting cramping. I kept going. I made it to the bridge. I kept going. I made it to the Missouri/Illinois border. I kept going. I made it to the Illinois turnaround. I kept going. I saw Alex coming in the opposite direction. We exchanged exhausted smiles and breathy words of encouragement. I think I said, ‘it’s almost time for beer’ to him as motivation to finish. I kept going. I saw the finish line. I kept going. I wanted to push harder and finish stronger, but there was nothing left. I jogged across the finish line. I was done!
I kept moving while I waited for Alex. I grabbed a bottle of water and did some stretching. A guy asked me to take his picture, so I did. A few minutes later, I spotted Alex coming toward the finish line. He was walking. I kept thinking he was going to start jogging to finish out the race. He kept walking. He neared the finish line. Walking. I heard the announcer say ‘here comes Alex Parsons, making a strong finish’. Alex kept walking. Apparently he attempted to run at one point and his leg started to cramp. He walked across the finish line. He was done!
He immediately grabbed a bottle of water and went to the tent where they were doing free stretches. After being stretched, we snapped a quick picture by the finish line and then started the long walk back to the transition area.
The walk seemed to take forever. In theory, walking a mile after finishing a duathlon doesn’t seem like a big deal. It was painstaking. On top of being tired, I managed to pull a muscle during the race. My legs were tight and painful. Alex’s legs were really tired. We slowly made our way back to the bikes. After grabbing our gear, we rode our bikes to the car. It was easier than walking. We loaded everything up and drove to Morgan Street Brewery. We were both starving, and our race packets had coupons for free beer at Morgan Street. It seemed logical. It was the best burger I’ve ever eaten…
By the time we got home, we were both crashing. Thankfully, it was time for the kids’ nap, so we all laid down. I slept like a rock until Luke woke up a few hours later. Both of us were pretty useless the rest of the day. I was supposed to go grocery shopping, but didn’t. Alex was going to start laundry, but didn’t. Luke came down with pink eye in the middle of everything, so I had his doctor call in eye drops. I picked those up after making dinner. We’ll pay for the lack of training for several days – but, we finished. And, more importantly, neither of us died in the process.
Lisa’s Official Times (2 mile run, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run):
- Run: 25:39 (rate of 12:50 per mile)
- Overall Rank: 280/287
- T1: 2:00
- Overall Rank: 150/287
- Bike: 40:37 (rate of 14.8 mph)
- Overall Rank: 197/287
- T2: 2:08
- Overall Rank: 184/287
- Run: 30:20 (rate of 15:10 per mile)
- Overall Rank: 284/287
- Overall time: 1:40:43
- Division Place: 15/16
- Overall Place: 268/287
Alex’s Official Times (2 mile run, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run):
- Run: 25:38 (rate of 12:50 per mile)
- Overall Rank: 278/287
- T1: 2:00
- Overall Rank: 149/287
- Bike: 49:40 (rate of 12.1 mph)
- Overall Rank: 264/287
- T2: 2:25
- Overall Rank: 215/287
- Run: 329:50 (rate of 14:55 per mile)
- Overall Rank: 283/287
- Overall time: 1:49:31
- Division Place: 21/21
- Overall Place: 280/287