As it turns out, paella and prosecco mixed with a little sleep (but not too much, mind, you wouldn't want to overdo it) are a fine foundation on which to run and cycle a duathlon in the glaring sun and blinding heat while slogging through mud.
Yes, I'm not quite sure why I thought this would be a good idea either. For most of the race, I wondered at what point I could respectably give up.
There was just one thing I was really sure of: I would NOT let my Italian practice pal Donna E. finish the bike ride in front of me. The thing is, at practice, I am sometimes faster than she is. And though she is much better trained (much much much better) and much more experienced (much much much more experienced), she is also a little older, has two instead of one child and her favourite bit of the triathlon is swimming, whereas mine is cycling (because you get a breeze in your face, not because I am good at it. Which I am not.)
The Metasport duathlon consists of a 3k run, an 18k cycle and a 3k run again. (This is 1/8 of a full Ironman, which consists of a 3k swim, 180k cycle and a marathon. And which I hereby solemnly swear I will NEVER EVER attempt to do.) See, no swimming.
I fully expected La Donna to have better stamina than me (both on account of her superior training as because she had three supporters and a dog cheering her on, whereas I had just two supporters, one of which had to be restrained by the other because she wanted to run along with the racers), but I knew that La Donna would start the first run slowly and that I could keep up with her on the bike. So I ran the first run briskly (at a respectable 10k/hr speed, which pleased me greatly) and finished just in front of her.
On to the bike. And I discovered something really, really annoying. My handling technique, which has been honed over the years under the personal tutelage of racing champ S., turned out to be vastly superior to that of most of the other competitors. (Which is to say, I know how to ride a bike, whereas many of the non-Western competitors were clearly still learning.)
This meant that whenever there was a turn (there were 18 turns) everybody slowed down to a crawl, whereas I just wanted to slow down to walking pace. Also, apparently nobody was using their gears or able to drink while cycling. This meant that I would swiftly pass all my red-faced co-racers on the way up, only to be just as swiftly passed by them on the way down, when I was taking my well-deserved sip of isotone water (thank you S.!), and then suddenly having to swerve out of their way when they decided to stop (full stop!) to hydrate themselves.
So, while I was busy adjusting my self image and swerving, La Donna passed me. And waved. She probably meant well.
It took almost everything I had, but I managed to keep up with her. I would have even finished ahead of her, had not somebody (I suspect the dog, it looked devious) suddenly shouted: "Turn! Wrong way! Turn!" making me stop in confusion, turn around and see La Donna zoom past into the transition zone.
Having failed my one objective, off I went dejectedly into the last bit, and it was quite horrible. By this time, the sun had decided to come out in full force, there was no shade and my legs kept on cycling. I was basically falling forward. I channeled the last few drops of will power left after the cycling into keeping upright and running (and by running I mean placing one foot in front of the other while pumping my arms resembling a barbie doll pretending to run in slow motion. A really fat barbie doll, which incidentally is why there are no pictures to this post). I did not spy La Donna anywhere and did not have the power to speed up and get closer.
After 2k my body decided to shut down certain functions to enable my legs to keep on running. So when I crossed the finish line, I had peed my pants. Good thing I was wearing cycling shorts. S. was really proud of me. He even claimed I didn't smell.
At home, after hosing myself down and scrubbing all mud, dirt and other icky substances off my body and replacing them with lots of nice-smelling Korres body lotion, I finally dared to look at my results. I wasn't too impressed, seeing as how I had to urinate all over myself to get them (but on the plus side, I did hydrate well).
But then, agonizingly slowly, my brain function returned (which had obviously been shut down some time prior to the bladder muscles, because what thinking person would have run on?). And I realized a couple of things:
1. I beat La Donna. (She later complained that she took too much time in transition.)
2. I beat about 200 guys. Or 300. (I'm purposely fuzzy on those details. Don't burst my bubble.)
3. My best bit was actually the second run - this is where I left the competition behind.
See? You gotta pee your pants if you want to get anywhere in life.