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  • vantressj

No Pain, No Gain

On October 2nd, I put months of training into action and finished the Portland Marathon with the singular goal to qualify for the 2024 Boston Marathon. I'm happy to report I accomplished that goal, but, not without a crash and some drama, of course. The more I race, the more I realize most competitive cycling events will have some form of pain and frustration. I accept this wholeheartedly. I'll take pain over being bed bound on a ventilator any day of the week!

The night before, everything seemed to be going smoothly. I got into Portland early enough to eat, check-in to my room, prep for the morning, and get to bed. After I made my way to the starting line, it was one issue after another. First, I couldn't get my music to play. My bad, I should have tested it the night before. Next, I had to make my way through loose gravel to leave my drop bag. Not easy on a hand cycle. Then, as I was trying to warm up, the lead biker told me there wouldn't be anyone guiding the hand cyclists through the course. Although that turned out to be false because we ended up having two or three police officers on motorcycles leading the way, thank goodness (more on that soon). Finally, I was originally told we would be starting 10-minutes before the runners. Then, I was told 5-minutes early. And then, just before the gun went off, I was told 1-minute. I think this really made the rest of the race more difficult than it had to be.

When the race started, I was feeling good and everything seemed to be going great! But, about half a mile done, I soon saw things unravel. I barely fit my rear wheels through a narrow construction zone and not long after that, the marathon course merged with the 1/2 marathon course, which added all sorts of chaos! People were running all over the road and darting in front of me because they couldn't see me. Aid stations were the worst part of it. Despite the police officers' best efforts to ride ahead and clear the traffic for the hand cyclists, I was forced to slow down almost to a complete halt at times. I was riding angry and... let's just say my thoughts weren't kind.

Just before mile 20, I was riding pretty hard and approached a winding downhill. Unfortunately, I didn't realize just how technical that section was and I ended up tipping the bike and sliding down the last 20-30 feet of the hill. That was fun. I broke the chain guard but fortunately the police officer was able to get my chain back onto the cassette and was willing to hold onto my broken chain guard so I could keep riding. To cap it off, at the end of the race, I went down the wrong chute and had to turn around to finish in the correct one. Fortunately, the race officials graciously adjusted my final finish time though. After crashing and nearly hitting dozens of runners, my official finish time was 1:41:54, which qualified me for the Boston Marathon with nearly 25 minutes to spare! Not bad for my first marathon, all things considered.

For the safety of everyone involved, I will never hand cycle the Portland Marathon ever again! #NoWhiteFlags #Paris2024 #ALSHandcycler #NoPainNoGain


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