Cowtown marathon was my 3rd installment of handcycling at a marathon. It was the day after completing my 60th half marathon, the Jail Break Half.  Cowtown was my most challenging race to date for many reasons. I didn’t train for it, I competed it the day after a half marathon and the inclines were insane.

Pre-race sign up

First and foremost I had no intentions of signing up for the race.  I returned from Arizona with my foot a little tender. Making “running” the Jail Break half marathon a no go, but I did it anyway,  but a marathon out of the question. I know my body well enough to realize that was definitely a bad decision. I wanted to qualify for Boston like I had done last year without trying and Cowtown was my last chance with my crazy schedule. A few days upon my return from Arizona I decided to go out and get some exercise. I decided to use my newly borrowed handcycle.  I rode around the trail practicing shifting on inclines and declines with Adessa. My chain dropped so many times I got frustrated and took my bike to the shop.  Adessa followed me to the cycle shop, I should have know that something was up.  Her wheels in her head were turning, she decided she was going to punk me into racing Cowtown so she could win against whom she calls her “Second Place Friend”.  Yup that is what she said, I wasn’t fond of the idea, I didn’t find her joke funny and I actually found it very insulting.  We discussed me not running Boston in 2020.  She knew I would rather handcycle and used it against me.  I asked a teammate if he would not mind driving to Fort Worth. When he replied he would drive I signed up. I signed up for the marathon not to beat her, but to qualify for Boston. I wasn’t worried about being unprepared. I was worried about my hydration level. I  worried about my body being fixed in a 90 degree position in the back seat. Those worried were silenced because I was going to qualify for Boston.

Pre-race

The day before the race I tried hydrating and resting. It was difficult because half the day was over by the time I got home to shower from the race. I typically spend time with my family on Sundays and I don’t like to shaft my mom especially with her medical diagnosis. As soon as I returned home, I packed my Jeep with Jeffrey’s Ghost. I made sure I had everything I needed for the race. I laid in bed and tried to fall asleep. I woke up at least 3 times between 7pm and 11pm. Definitely not the most restful sleep I have had. The alarm went off, I jumped up, showered, took care of my dog and left for Whataburger. Adessa called me a few minutes later to ensure I was awake and headed to Cypress for our carpool. Approximately 45 minutes later I arrived at the Kroger Parking lot. Rick, our teammate,  showed up early and packed our bikes. I climbed into the crowded back seat, placed my head phones into my ears trying to drown out Adessa’s and Rick’s voices so I could get some sleep. EPIC FAIL! I closed my eyes, but could not fall asleep. A few minutes later we had our first potty break. We all exited the vehicle like kids on a school bus. After we ran around the store grabbing snacks we returned to the truck and headed to Fort Worth. I never fell asleep, but who needs sleep? We arrived an hour before the race start. The race staff were nice enough to pull our packets and have them ready for us at the VIP tent. I couldn’t believe the temperature, It was a cold morning in the DFW area 40 degrees. As the race was getting ready to start my favorite Marathon Maniac Nick took an awesome picture of me as I headed to the corral to start. My race plan was to learn to draft, BQ and enjoy myself. Although it would have given me pleasure to show Adessa that I was not her second place friend. I opted not to try to beat her to the finish line by miliseconds. I decided to just race it and not take photos and hit water stations like I always do. EPIC FAIL!  I hit the water stations, my hydration wouldn’t stay attached to my bike.

THE RACE

The gun went off and the guys took out as if someone shot at them or a bat outta hell. Adessa wasn’t far behind them. I switched gears quickly and headed out down hill and when I turned the corner I was surprised by the incline. I was not prepared for the 1st incline; I was in the wrong gear. I had to muscle through it and that’s where I lost everyone.  That was the beginning of my gear problems. No matter how I cranked it was just so hard to cycle. I had no idea a half marathon would take a toll on my body like that. I got to mile 3 and Adessa was waiting for me. That’s a first! She usually says she is gonna chill and burns off and leaves me.  I was surprised she decided to hang out, later she said she didn’t want to ride alone. I thanked her and passed her up a little after I turned, but I continued to hear grinding on my cycle. When I looked down I noticed my chain rubbing between the fork and derailleur. I had to stop because we were about to go up a hill and I couldn’t switch gears. The pace car was gone with guys and the other car that tails the last cyclist was behind me sitting. I don’t know who tightened the skewer, but it was super tight. There was no bike guide and no one around to help. After struggling with it for 8 minutes I became frustrated and decided to quit.  There was no way I could qualify for Boston like this. It took Adessa and me almost 20 minutes to get the wheel off to adjust the chain after yelling at each other. She told me that I couldn’t quit and had to continue on, but that hill in front of me made me want to quit. I wasn’t going to quit, I’m not on to throw in the towel. So I do what I do best, I prayed and I tried. I cranked with all I had. The motorcade and lead runner caught up to me and passed me on that hill.  The car behind me told me she couldn’t hang out anymore the runners were on the road.  I thanked her for her kindness and  kept cranking. I was so happy to finally get off that hill. There were a few downs in Cowtown, but the grades were definitely felt. It felt like I was constantly going up. It was such a technical course, we turned every which way but loose. On some hills I would fly by Adessa and then wait for her to catch up. I tried getting in front of her so she could draft, but she wouldn’t get close enough. A few other hills she would ease on by me. There were some cool things to see on the course and I was upset that I couldn’t stop and take pictures. I like to remember cool things from the race, what better way than to take pictures?  My water bottle fell out miles back.  So I had to go through water ststions to grab water. More time spent slowing down to get hand ups.  Water stations are not accustomed to handing hand cyclists water.  I love to school them, this time I was thirsty so I needed every drop in the cup. Towards then end of the race we were guided to a trail. It was hard to turn at the perfect angle and not go into the grass and down the slope, but I did it. That’s where I lost Adessa. Somehow I didn’t notice my front tire was loosing air. I cranked and cranked it was becoming different to crank, but I had 4 miles to go; I could do anything for 4 miles. I appreciated the little ramp they made for us to go over the curb. It wasn’t large enough for the back wheels with the immediate turn, but they tried. I past the lead  female runner for the marathon on that trail.  I saw Adessa; she yelled to me to tell me there was a curb ahead. I was feeling good I wasn’t that far behind her. Then I had to jump the curb to leave the trail and turn, ugh. The last 1.5 miles were the hardest, the grade was killing me. The grade, ha!  My arms were on fire. Unbeknownst to me my front tire was flat. The female lead runner for the Ultramarathon passed me up, then the female lead runner passed me up and I was alone digging deep trying to get to the finish. I had to stop for a second, but I was so close. I didn’t know how close, but I couldn’t take the burn. It was so hard to crank. It was time to quit. I gave it my all I was spent. I decided to be “spent” once I crossed the finish line. I decided to keep pushing and as I pushed I saw the half marathoners going into the finishing shoot. I saw where the marathoners were to go and I followed the cones to the finish. I entered the finish slowly a few runners passed me, I wasn’t trying to injure anyone. I wasn’t on foot so there was no need to sprint to the finish. I slowly cranked and coasted.  I crossed the finish! Yaye! Get me of this bike!
I rolled to the side and the volunteers did everything they could to make us comfortable. They brought us our medals, finisher jackets, finisher shirts and brought us food. I was so stiff I could hardly move. I rolled off the bike to sit in a chair. I stopped my watch to find that I qualified for Boston 20 minutes under the qualification time. YAYE!
All in all Cowtown was a great marathon.  I learned a great deal from this course.  I would race this race again and encourage others to do so.  After we ate we made it back to our vehicle.  We noticed that we had different badges and made fun of each other. Then we loaded up and prepared to take the trek home.  I sat in the back seat and drifted off to sleep for a few seconds we talked all the way home.  Upon our arrival Rick downloaded the bike.  It was then he told me that my tire was flat.  I smiled and shook my head. WOW!  A BQ on a bike with a flat tire up mountainous hills, I thought. I really can do anything through Christ who strengthens me.   Not only have I overcome physical challenges ( right hemiplegia), mental challenges (reduced mental toughness), course challenges (inclines) I dominated the the  mechanical challenges with a new bike (chain falling off multiple times; riding in the wrong gear).  Believe it or not, that was the third time I had ridden that bike. Imagine had I trained and was comfortable on that bike.  If I can overcome these challenges in a race and the challenges I have overcome in life, imagine the challenges you can over come.  What doesn’t kill you definitely makes you stronger.  MOOOOO!  Moooooove out the the way!  Mooooove out of your own way! You can do anything you put your mind to, but don’t be a fool..be prepared.

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