Mrs. Cranwell shares her experience participating in an Ironman-distance triathlon and how it inspired her to live by our Country School values.
As a teacher, I often think about how I can model our Country School values for our students. It’s a responsibility that I take seriously. Reflecting on the Eagleman 70.3 triathlon this I ran this past summer, I feel proud of the commitment that I made and the dedication that my training required.
My journey to Eagleman began last fall when my dad passed away after Ironman Maryland. The family was in town to say good-bye and we alternated time by his bedside with time out in the yard- cheering and watching athlete’s jump the hopscotch. My dad was a runner and instilled in me the value of physical fitness. Although it wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I laced up my own running shoes, the timing of his passing motivated me to start my Eagleman journey and make him proud.
I joined the Team TriMacc Eagleman group, motivated to become a fitter, stronger athlete. I also signed up to create a fitter, stronger YMCA. Our group raised a total of more than $30,000 to benefit the Y’s programs--programs that benefit so many in our local community.
The signing up was easy, but the next 16 weeks brought both challenges and joy...most of which occurred at 5:15am. We spent countless hours spinning our wheels and maxing out our heart rates on exercise bikes. We spent miles and miles pounding the pavement, slow and steady. We built our speed by running intervals on the treadmill. We swam and swam and then swam a bit more. All of the training and coaching helped me develop and write out a race plan that would give me confidence to toe the line on race day. Over 16 weeks, the workouts got longer, the miles added up, and the friendships solidified.
And then it was race day. June 9th. A day that I had been counting down to for at least six months. I woke at 3:55, just before my 4am alarm had a chance to go off. I drank coffee, ate my bagel, checked the weather for the umpteenth time, packed my last few items, and headed to Cambridge. The drive for me was the emotional part. Not nerves exactly, just raw emotion thinking of loved ones that I had lost over the last year. Thinking of cheering on the course with my dad in years past. Knowing he was with me in this race, too.
A short shuttle ride later and I was in transition, setting up and settling in, with about 2,900 other athletes. My supplies were laid out, my plan was made. Now I just needed to execute. Strangely calm and relaxed, we watched the waves forming in the river and chatted about the strong winds we would feel on the flat bike ride. It was a bit of a surprise when they announced that they had modified the swim course, and later when they cancelled the swim altogether. While a tad disappointing, I knew that most of my goals had already been accomplished. As my coach had told us time and again: “The training was making the cake; race day is just the frosting.” I was proud of my cake. And I was going to get 2/3 of the frosting either way.
We waited to hear what would happen, snapped a few selfies, and relaxed. And when it came time, we toed the line in numerical order on the bike. The roads were a bit congested and there was very little of the 56-mile course where I wasn’t passing or being passed by another rider, often at the same time. I dialed in to my race plan, watched my RPMs and my heart rate, and just tried to stay steady. I drank my carbs, ate a few pretzels, sang in my head, pushed the pedals. I felt like I was riding super slowly and it felt really comfortable for the most part. Even when heavy rain and a strong headwind started, I kept right on riding. My lower back started to ache around mile 45, but I knew I was in the home stretch. I reminded myself that ease on the bike would pay off in the long run--and on the long run. I was thrilled to see my family cheering as I headed towards Gerry Boyle Park at Great Marsh, and what a surge of energy that gave me. And boy, did it feel good to put my feet on solid ground again when I got back to transition. Friendly faces greeted me there and then sent me on my way. Off you go.
I took off comfortably with no pain in my legs at all. I felt strong. I had to remind myself again to hold back a little because I had 13.1 miles in front of me. Saying this aloud to myself (and a few strangers) reminded me that it was time to settle in, set my pace, relax, and run. And I did. I ran around a 10-minute mile the whole way, entertaining myself by calling out to runners heading the other direction, reading their names and saying them aloud whenever possible. Around mile 5, I struck up an hour long conversation with a man running my pace and we chatted amiably about our children, our lives, our training, and the race as we passed many, many people. My take-it-easy approach on the bike was paying off.
While challenging on the bike, the wind and rain were delightful on the run. I drank water the whole way and dumped ice down my shorts onto my sore hip at every opportunity. My family and friends gave me the boost I needed as I headed out and back. There is nothing better than friends who call out to you by name, and knowing that they are there for you. At mile 10, my quads started to tighten up. I drank a bit of Coke, ate a salt tablet or two, and at mile 11.5 had a shot of Red Bull. This was just enough of a buzz to bring me in strong to the finish. Still feeling calm. Still feeling relaxed. A surge of adrenaline and joy as I saw my friends and family had made it to the finish line. (Thank you, Ms. Amaral and family!)
And then it was done. And I felt good.
I didn’t have quite the same sense of accomplishment without the swim, but I had met and surpassed my goals. I had biked and ran and remembered why I was out there. And who I was out there for. And that answer was mostly, for me. I had run my race, tested my limits, gotten stronger and faster. I had reflected on the people who inspired me, believed in me, loved me.
And I think they would be proud. I know that I am proud of the commitment that I made and followed through on. I am proud to tell my students that I persevered and ran a 69.1 mile race.