A few weeks ago I had the idea that I wanted to get some masking tape to stick to my bike’s handlebar, so that I could write myself a little motivation message to look at when I tackle the longest part of my triathlon – the cycling leg.
When I first thought of it, I was imagining that I’d need this reminder at Noosa, when I will attempt the mammoth Olympic-distance triathlon I began dreaming about last September. It’s going to be a tough race, probably in the middle of a hot day, and will demand about 4 hours of effort from me.
The little message I’m planning on is very simple – it’s a short dedication ‘For xxx’ with three names of special people I will think about when the going gets tough. I’ve chosen the names because I feel sure that the thought of them will spur me on – but I’ll show you who they are when we get closer.
As the idea became a steadfast commitment, I realised I could also incorporate a race day dedication on the handlebars of my bike at the Straddie Salute triathlon. And I immediately knew who I wanted to ride for.
I have had so much support from my friends and family as I’ve chased this triathlon dream; it has been quite embarrassing and I could have dedicated this race to dozens of different people.
Hopefully some of my friends are simply faking their interest in my progress, because I certainly don’t deserve the kindness and patience they have shown. My immediate family deserve medals, having been forced to listen to all my pathetic tales of woe as I start to worry that my knee is about to fall off, or some such rubbish. Last night I phoned mum to tell her I may have some kind of poo disease. True story.
I could easily have chosen my mum, or Shane, or my beautiful sister for this Straddie race day dedication, because they all inspire me in many different ways every day.
But I wrote about my mum a few months ago, there is a post on my Sister in the works, and really every post I write is in some way a thanks to Shane – as he set me up with this blog, bought me my bike and comes with me to almost every training session and race. So hopefully he knows I couldn’t do any of this without him.
Perhaps some of the regular readers of this blog will be wondering if I’m about to announce I’m dedicating this race to Matilda the Dog – my most vocal cheerleader and happiest little supporter on the planet. But no, it’s not Matilda.
Indulge me while I tell you a short story.
In March 2015 I noticed a poster in the gym I go to, advertising a free 5km race along the seafront at Redcliffe. It was being organised by the Council as part of an initiative to encourage local people to get active.
Without telling anyone about my plans, I got online and signed myself up, along with my Grandpa, Tony, who occasionally went for a 6km run with Matilda the Dog. Grandpa had been living with me and Shane for about 5 years at that point and the dog had fallen in love with him from the very first walk he took her on.
When I finished work and went down to see Grandpa in his house, he’d already cottoned on to the trouble I’d got us in, having received the email from the Council congratulating him on signing up for the event. He pretended he wasn’t annoyed with me in the slightest and made up some rubbish about how nice it would be to do the run together, even though he hadn’t been for a run for a couple of months.
The race was due to take place in May, but neither of us did much training for it. I couldn’t train properly, because at the time I couldn’t run without pain. I knew I’d be able to do the distance at whatever pace Grandpa set for us (being 50 years younger than him) so I just stuck to the elliptical trainer.
Grandpa barely trained because he didn’t feel quite up to it. He couldn’t put his finger on the reason, but he just felt a bit under the weather. He went to the Doctors and was told he possibly had glandular fever, so he took it easy for a bit and stuck to brisk walks with the dog around the block.
On race day, we turned up nice and early and I scoffed a banana for breakfast. We gazed at the other participants as they performed a mass warm-up (at the time I never warmed up, and Grandpa didn’t see the need) and we felt rather smug to realise that Grandpa was the oldest attendee by about 20 years. With a little bit of trepidation, we lined up at the start line along with the masses.
It’s safe to say that it was the most painful 5km I have ever travelled in my life, but with beautiful scenery and the company of Grandpa I was conscious that I had no right to complain.
Grandpa on the other hand, gave it all he’d got. We overtook hundreds of people as he pushed his admirably-quick legs around the course. We didn’t talk much because all effort and focus was on the task at hand. It was hard work, but we made it to the finish with lots of cheering from those around.
Unfortunately for Grandpa, that was the end of his running career. He continued to ‘feel under the weather’ and gradually he even had to take a break from walking the dog – a break that is still in effect today. In March of this year, Grandpa was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s disease primarily affecting his lower body, which means that although his legs are still strong, they won’t do what his brain tells them to do. He has excellent medication, but even on good days it isn’t (yet) a possibility to walk or run with the dog.
Looking back on our 5km Redcliffe race last year, it makes me feel sick to know that Grandpa was probably already suffering the early stages of Parkinson’s. But it also fills me with amazement: what a strong man! He was 78 years old when we did our seaside run, which is inspiring enough. But to know that he wasn’t just ‘under the weather’ but actually, physically hindered… Well, that is the stuff of legend.
My Grandpa, the legend.
So next Saturday, I ride for you Grandpa. Your name is going on the masking tape.
And thank you in advance for the comment you will leave on this post and just about every post I write (especially the rubbish ones, which you seem to comment on more as though in an attempt to compensate for my rubbish-ness)
I appreciate you x