If you are reading this blog right now I probably don't need to tell you the result of my race. If you follow me on social media you will already know. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, so far, and I was excited to share it with my friends and followers that have shown me so much support on this journey to Penticton ITU Worlds Duathlon.
I was quite open about this race because I felt like to put it out there made me more accountable. But I also hoped to inspire people that watched me on this journey to know that setbacks happen but they are simply that: setbacks. They don’t need to define us.
I was determined to get to the World’s startline. I wanted that startline so bad - for me, but also for my husband; because I knew my setback had indirectly become his setback. We had signed up for this together. We were in it together.
How did desire transpire into success? Well, I stopped running cold turkey for 3.5 months and I focused on what I could control - improving my bike fitness. At the slight chance I was going to be able to make it there, I knew I was going to be relying on my bike more than ever. And I knew running when I should not run was only going to make my chances of getting there slimmer. So, for the first time in my ENTIRE life (yes I’ll admit that) I was patient.
When I was finally back running I was still smart about it. If I was running and my pain came back, I walked home. It didn’t matter if that walk was 3km. I walked! If I woke up sore from my run the day before I took another day off. Or I opted for a bike workout instead. Mentally, this was SO hard somedays. Because, like you, I doubt myself. I question whether I’ve done the work. I feel like missing one workout is going to make me a failure. But it doesn’t. In fact, listening to what you know is best for yourself, whatever that might be, is the smartest thing you can do for yourself. And you know what else I did on those days off? I imagined throwing my hands up in the air through that ribbon. Because even though the thought of winning a world championship seemed SO absurd, imagining it made me want it. And wanting it made me push through those workouts I may have quit before. It made me appreciate my legs SO MUCH when I got them back and respect them when they would work for me.
Flash forward to the week leading up to Worlds. I was a nervous wreck! What had I gotten myself into? That calm cool Mel - I couldn’t find her anywhere. What if I had forgotten how to run? What if I flat? What if I let everyone down? What if..what if...what if?! Sound familiar?
I opened up to a few very level headed people that I knew would ground me. And I’m going to call them out because I think knowing when someone has an impact on others is a good thing. Sarah Penny - Yes, I know I just need to say her name and everyone will know what I’m talking about. Thank you! My sister Christine - thank you for believing in me always. My stepdaughter Kailyn - she thinks I can do anything and told me so the day before we dropped her off and drove to Penticton. And of course my husband Reinier (even if I don’t listen to you somedays I do hear you).
So, what happened on race day when I finally got to that start line? Well, that gun went off and confident Mel was back. Two Canadian girls ran off the front right out the gate. I knew the one name and that she is capable of a 36 min 10k. I wasn’t sure if she was going to flex that during a duathlon but I wasn’t worried if she did - just keep her in sight and be patient. At the 5k mark when I realized I’d probably PB’d my 5k, I was sitting tied for 3rd place with a lady from Great Britain. I was feeling great. Unfortunately, this feeling of bliss did not last much longer. By km 7.5 I cramped - both sides of my ribcage were in complete agony. I felt my pace slowing and was overtaken by a USA athlete. Great Britain pulls up beside me and encourages me to keep going. She told me to listen to the crowd. They were cheering for ME. It made me realize, I was not running for me. I was running for them. And I could suffer for them for another 2k. If I could just make it to my bike I could recover there. Amazingly, my pace picked up and I was able to hang with her for the remaining 2k of that portion of the race and PB'd my 10k.
I won’t even talk about my transition because, well, it’s not worth talking about. I have not put enough (or any) focus there and have learned that lesson the hard way. But, once I was securely fastened to my bike, I was off. I used the first few kms to get my breathing in check, assess the situation - who was ahead of me, how far ahead were they? And when I was ready I put my head down and I went for it. I felt so comfortable on the bike. I caught all but one girl within a few minutes and just kept pushing. These girls were faster runners than me and I knew I needed to put as much time into them on the bike as I possibly could. I averaged over 4 watts/kg on that time trial and felt so at ease. I knew the bike was my only ticket to a podium.
Sharon Styles was there (best cheerleader EVER) and told me I was second girl and first in my age. Hearing this gave me enough motivation to drain myself on the bike and hope for the best on the run. My logic here was, how much time can they really gain on me in 5k even if I feel like death?
Transition II was almost as shameful as the first. Once running, I made a mental decision not to look at my watch because my last run in a duathlon is usually quite pitiful. “Just run” I kept telling myself out loud. “Just run”. My upload tells me I ran a sub 20 min 5k and even though many girls ran it faster than me, it was enough to hold off the remainder of the pack.
I can’t really describe what running through that crowd screaming at me with excitement felt like. It was such a surreal experience to run for the satisfaction and pride of others versus myself. Someone handed me a flag and told me to bring it home. As I rounded the corner and saw that finish line I instantly began to cry. I had done it. I had really done it! And just like that, I did!
The amount of support I got following the race brought those tears back many times. The number of people in the running and cycling community that took the time to send Ren and I personal messages about our races was incredible.
Ren finished a respectable 7th overall in his age group. I was so proud of him and would never want to do this without him. On his very last lap when I was done and got to cheer him on, he yelled at me, “How did you do?” I yelled back, “SECOND!!!!” and he pumped his fists in the air and kept running. The stranger beside me says, “I don’t think he’s running hard enough!” It made me chuckle because I know my husband and I know that whenever I have success, it inspires him more. Strava tells us he ran a 3:39 last km.
And so, this chapter is closed. Or is it? It has kind of left me wanting to do it all over again…