Bermuda Run Duathlon – Chariots of Freedom

This week I got a call from Mike Shemancik, director of Chariots of Freedom, the non-profit we fund raised for last summer, helping him purchase a “chariot” for his challenged athletes in the process. It was a great collaboration and together with a group of runners from the store, we became partners in helping promote his cause and also when needed I offered to race in any event he targeted with any of his kids if they wanted to. Mike has the Bermuda Duathlon, held in Tanglewood, NC as his season opener, and this year part of the race’s proceeds went to COF. He needed someone to push/pull/push an 18 year old, 100lb girl and wanted to see if I would be on board. The event’s distances were a 2.7 mile run, 12.5 mile bike, and a 3.1 mile run. The course was challenging itself, with the run portions on the Bermuda Run hilly golf course paths, and the bike on the rolling roads of Tanglewood. Sounds great right! A nice training day and in the process, making a kids’ face light up with joy in competing in and finishing a race. I had only ran with the chariots before, and with kids in the 50-70 lb ranges, and never biked with one, so this was a challenge for me indeed. Eimear Goggin, who knew Mike when he worked at UNCC was on board and offered to drive with me and be my support “pit-crew”mate. She was instrumental in connecting Mike with us and helping him get his initial word out to Charlotte.

The week was semi-busy itself so I had no idea what effort would be needed for this event. I trained regularly and made sure everything was ok going into to Friday. But it was crazy busy at the store, and after a morning’s training session, I was getting a bit cautious. But by the time I got home, Gina made a great dinner with a little sangria to match to help wind me down. I made sure to wear my 100% knickers to bed for a few hours as well. But what the? Rain?

I got up at 4:30am and it was pouring! I quickly changed a few clothing items – 100% socks, Karhu Fast3, Polar RS800cx, skinsuit, COF tshirt, baggy shorts, a waterproof thin jacket, waterproof pants, arm warmers, CRC woolie beanie, mittens, and my heavy Odwalla jacket. Plenty of Aquaphor. And by the time Eimear picked me up at 5:30, it was still raining. G had me text Mike to make sure all was a go, but he said it was all clear an NO rain there. That’s Charlotte weather for you. I gave G a big kiss and hug and we were off. Sure enough, after 30 minutes driving north, it stopped and cleared up. Granted it got about 5-10 degrees colder, but a contrast in 30 miles. We got to Tanglewood in just over an hour and were able to park easily in the clubhouse area. We walked the half mile back to the start/finish area where we found Mike and Essentra (“E”) Barham, the young lady I was to race with. Her mom was a ton of energy and heart and excited (though she did jokingly wish me the best in doing these distances with her – I guess once she saw my size). Mike was racing with one young boy, and another guy was racing with his own young son, and they’ve done this before since they had a compact version of the chariot that had a better front changing bike hitch and clearly was meant for speed (and did they, guy was smoking fast with him!) It was cold out so anything dealing with the hands was an effort. We had some volunteers help us get organzied and Mike had one volunteer who has been to a few of his events as he was the official COF pit crew guy. In order for these big chariots to hitch to the bike, the front wheel comes off, the kid has to be removed from the chariot (usually by the parent), and the chariot has to be flipped to align the hitch secure, the flipped back and placed secure on the bike rear chainstay. Then the kid – with helmet on – gets placed back in and is secured before riding out. And reverse for the second run. Sounds like a lot, but we got it done come race time in less than 5 minutes each stop.

Now it was time to line up. We were granted a 5 minute head start on the field and the 3 of us lined it up. E had her music playing already (Julie Andrews – but was a mix playlist of R/B old school 60′s stuff) and was excited. I took 3 deep breaths and said Let’s roll!  Off we went and right into a gradual climb. I had Becky running with me and we started talking to gauge the effort. Was great company too as she kept a constant look/monitor of E during the whole time. The downhills were very tricky in that all of the weight was impossible to brake stop so I just sped up and rolled down with it. Then some more climbs. This was tough. My heart rate was high I knew and I tip-toed the hills but pushed hard. We got passed by the first 2 racers and came into transition in decent shape – a time of 21: minutes. We had the bike setup nice and quick. EG helped hold my mountain bike (yes I felt I would have better gearing and control with my big fat tires) as we hitched the chariot secure. The pit crew leader helped me get my pants off wetsuit style and I was way cooler (you could see the steam evaporate from my legs). I had a second woman bike behind me for safety purposes and Becky stayed in front. My only concern now was how it would handle. Like a charm!!! I pedaled comfortably (but zone 2-3) the whoel way and was able to obtain a decent 12-13 mph range. E’s music played and she occasionally shouted a cheer. The way we were cruising I was sure she should could have fallen asleep. It was not bad at all. Sure we could have sped up in some sections, but this first time, safety was paramount. By mile 8, Mike had caught us and passed, making it a race now!! But at mile 9 we had a full uphill for a good mile, rough. But the sun was out, was plenty warm, and knew we were near the end. We flew down the last 3 miles, finishing the bike leg in 1 hour 2 minutes and just as we entered transition, Mike was leaving, and the fast guy just finished. We were 90 minutes in the event and had a super fast change this time, I tossed my 2 jackets, and now was in the COF t-shirt ready to roll. We exited out and started to pass people. E blasted her music and I soon was going under 7 minute pace. I finally grabbed my first cup of water here believe it or not. Yes I actually did this whole thing on no calories. All heart.  I caught Mike at mile 2 and coming into the final mile stretch had a nice downhill section bringing us into the finish with plenty of cheers. The last 5K segment took us 20 minutes and I popped a “wheelie” with E just before the line in a time of 1 hour, 50 minutes, and as we crossed, her mom was so elated, she grabbed and picked me up!!!!!! The smiles and seeing her with a medal was indeed, priceless and worth every ounce of energy I put out. Would do it again tomorrow if I had to. Perspective.

Mike finished a few minutes behind me and we all high-fived, took pictures (see their Facebook page – ), and just recapped a morning of joy for all. It was warm and sooooo full of the Easter spirit. Inwardly, this was the best way I could culminate my Lenten season. Mike and the whole crew, along with EG, E, race directors, made it a great venue for COF to pull this off. EG and I gathered our stuff and walked back to the car (this golf place even had its own Post Office hut station!). After a quick stretch we headed back home – and quickly for Gina had made us an awesome brunch!! We were able to eat, caffeine up, and share the moments. I am still wired as I right this and it as a hard training load for a Saturday. The sun is out and after a short walk with G later to soak more of it up, think I will take Easter Sunday OFF, training that is, since it will be my first day this month. But my heart and spirit grew so strong today, I am indeed eager for the 2013 racing season! Have a blessed Easter everyone!

The race results are on their race website (look under Chariots of Freedom category. They currently have her name incorrectly listed as Sharika, but is being updated)

Next up – Charlotte Racefest Half Marathon – April 13th!


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