#Training Days: Am I REALLY pathetic?

If you follow this blog you will remember that early last year I slightly alluded to my battles with depression. I haven’t written about it much since because I have been able to somewhat keep it at bay and have been able to ward it of whenever I felt it materializing. And I think I have been kidding myself for a long time as to the progress I have made in dealing with it. But I am finding that depression is not dissimilar to being and addict or an alcoholic: the first and most telling sign is denial yet once it is accepted you are never healed; you will always be an addict, or an alcoholic, or have depression. And THAT part of it sucks ass. I didn’t ask for this. I don’t deal with it good. And I don’t want this.

I noticed that my bouts come and go. And since I have been doing triathlons I noticed that the bouts are more frequent, but I also realize that I bring them on myself without knowing it. Which leads me to being a pathetic triathlete.

If you have read my race reports you know that I suck at swimming. Which confuses me because I really don’t suck at swimming. Right before the swim I have these anxiety attacks that just sort of come from nowhere. I am good and fast on the bike, but could definitely improve, but then I am a slow runner. So I just haven’t been able to figure this whole triathlon thing out. And because I haven’t been able to figure it out I am realizing I am being way too hard on myself.

So I joined this group on Facebook called the “Pathetic Triathlete.” Considering my woes with triathlon I felt this was an appropriate place for me to wallow around in my self-loathing state with all of the other pathetic triathletes. Each sport has its own patheticness (yes. I made that word up. Feel free to use it!) and I just figured that triathlon has way more than its fair share. But a funny and marvelous thing happened while loathing my way into convincing myself to just give up triathlon and the dream of doing an Ironman. I realized I am not a pathetic triathlete at all. I am just….

Normal.

Since my last post I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting, training, reflecting while training and perusing some of the posts in that group:

  • One triathlete, convinced he was having a stroke during the bike portion of his race, called for medical help during T2. He didn’t have a stroke; he had left his swim cap on under his bike helmet, thus the reasons for the headache, overheating, etc.
  • Another triathlete forgot to take his bike helmet off during T2, thus ran the entire run portion with his helmet on.
  • A triathlete began the run with his bike shoes on while yet another triathlete rode the bike with her tinted swim goggles on, forgetting to take them off during the chaos that is T1.

And on and on it went. People DNFing during the swim, crashing their bikes, cramping during the run, you name it, these “pathetic” triathletes experienced it. So I dug deeper and found even the pros have their pathetic moments as well.

What I found is that 1) I don’t suck nearly as bad as I thought if the stories I read in the group are true and 2) NOT one single member of that group is a pathetic triathlete. We are all incredible triathletes who have pathetic moments; i.e. life’s stupid moments happen in triathlon too. We are brave enough to commit to training and even more brave to start. Starting isn’t pathetic at all as it tells the world that you are ready to conquer whatever follows by any means necessary. Too often we let our minds dictate the outcomes when it really should be our bodies. And since our bodies are capable of often insurmountable endurance and performance we don’t give it the due justice it deserves so that it can show us what it is capable of because we believe what our minds tell us. And maybe that is and has been my problem all along: not conquering the mind because I believe the mind. I love my mind because it is beautiful, but how can I turn my back on something I love?

Once, when talking to my wife about her previous marriage, I asked her, fundamentally, what was it that made her first marriage not work? She answered, “Sometimes…love just isn’t enough.” And now I wonder if that is applicable here? Is loving my mind enough of a reason NOT to let it rule the outcomes, or is loving my mind THE reason why I SHOULD try to conquer it and not let it rule the outcomes?

Hmmmm. Let’s see where this takes us.

#Training Days: You don’t know what you’ve got, ‘til it’s gone

Back during the hair band days, the group Cinderella released a song that Rolling Stone magazine dubbed at the time the “Greatest Rock Ballad of All Times.” The song’s name was “You Don’t Know What you’ve got ‘til It’s Gone.” Here is the video:

Back during the hair band days, the group Cinderella released a song that Rolling Stone magazine dubbed at the time the “Greatest Rock Ballad of All Times.” The song’s name was “You Don’t Know What you’ve got ‘til It’s Gone.” Here is the video:

That is the song I heard for the first half of a scheduled 45 minute bike/30 minute run brick session yesterday.

While I recommitted to my training for these final 11 weeks, I missed my scheduled 1 hour on Tuesday. The plan was simple. My family and I had scheduled a family night at the movies Tuesday night, which is normally a swim night. So I planned to get up and swim before work, then run at lunch. While I went to bed at a decent time for me, I didn’t sleep worth a damn. About two hours into the night I woke up with my legs hurting. I had taken some Tylenol before bed in hopes it would help ward the restless legs off (my legs hurting during the night happens quite often), but they still hurt and only subsided after I had taken 800 mg of ibuprofen. And since I was awake my wife took it upon herself to, ummmm, “talk” (READ yell) at our son from the bedroom telling him to go to sleep. Let me explain that for a minute.

If you have been following this blog you will know that during the school year we had issues with my son’s friends coming over to our house after school before we got home. On the surface this seems innocent enough but when the boys get together they don’t make very good decisions (see “lighting hairspray with a grill lighter…INSIDE the house”). At one point early on we acquiesced a bit by allowing the boys to come over but that had to stay outside. No one was allowed inside. Since we have the neighborhood basketball goal and trampoline, we felt this would not be an issue. But the trampoline has a way of bringing out the “boy” in boys.

The boys, sometimes 5 or 6 but most of the time 3-4, played this game where they would all get on the trampoline and start bouncing around the perimeter and try to cross over to the other side. Once one of them was in the middle of the trampoline he was fair game to be tackled, and this usually turned into an all-out royal rumble not dissimilar to what you see on WWE.

RoyalRumble

Then one day it happened. After warning the boys over and over that someone was going to get hurt by doing that, and them not listening, our worst fears were realized one day when Brendon was over. Brendon is a good kid, same age as my son (12), but smaller than the other boys except for Mikey. One afternoon during the daily royal rumble, Brendon went to tackle one of the boys, missed and fell down. As he tried to catch himself with his left arm the trampoline popped up in a way from all of the bouncing, caught Brendon’s arm just right, and snapped both bones in an instant, similar to this:

BrolenArm

After that episode, and after complaints from the neighbors to the homeowner’s association that the boys were making catcalls to the neighbor’s wife (I don’t know why. I thought they would have better taste than that) and reports of them swearing, we made the house and yard off limits to all kids that are not ours if we were not at home. We even enlisted the help of the kid’s parents and made it very clear to them that if we were not home then their son could not come over. Although we made progress we were still having issues right up to the end of the school year. Which brought us to summer.

My wife and I had several intense discussions about what to do with our son during the summer. I felt like he couldn’t be trusted to not have his friends over and should go to some sort of camp. She felt like we should give him a chance to prove himself.

“Besides.” She said to our son one night. “You should game and go to bed late, then sleep half the day, then it will only be a couple of hours or so before we are home. Then they can come over all they want.”

I wasn’t buying this but being married I know when no matter what I say or suggest I don’t stand a chance. So I let it ride. And it has worked out quite well, actually. Our son does stay up late, often to the tune of 3 or 4 in the morning or later. There have been a few times when my alarm has gone off at 4:45 AM so I could be in the pool by 5:30 and I find our son still awake playing video games or watching videos. It’s not unusual some days for him to not get up until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Which brings us to Monday night.

My wife has been on this kick lately about how late our son stays up.

“It’s not healthy.” She says.

“Why? Not only is he getting eight or more hours of sleep, he is doing exactly what you told him to do: stay up late and sleep most of the day.” I respond.

“But I didn’t mean for him to stay up past 2. He is staying up almost all night.”

“And what is an extra 2-3 hours hurting?”

And on and on we go. So Monday night, when I woke up at 12:38 AM she decided to start yelling at him from the bedroom, instead of getting up and going to talk to him, about him going to bed. So couple together my legs hurting + me being awake + my wife being awake + plus her wanting our son to go to bed 2-3 hours before he normally does = a very difficult time getting back to sleep. Why? Because her wanting him to go to bed that early prompted one of our discussions about how late he stays up. When my alarm went off at 4:45 I very quietly turned it off and set it for 7, thinking I could leave work early enough to swim before our 7:40 movie and that I could do like I do a lot of time and run at lunch.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are bad for me because I have meetings both days in the morning and the afternoon. Typically the morning meeting doesn’t run long enough to interfere with my lunch, but Murphy’s Law kicked in and I didn’t get to run at lunch due to the length of the morning meeting on Tuesday. I did leave early enough to go swimming and knocked out a 3,000 yard workout, something I hadn’t done in weeks. I planned to make up my missed long run on Wednesday but again meetings dictated otherwise. Besides, I was going to run for 30 minutes after the bike session.

I was looking forward to the bike because I hadn’t been on it since the flat. That would mean that it was over two weeks since I had ridden. I put air in the tires, sent the Road ID eCrumb to my wife, and away I went. And that is when I was very quickly reminded that you lose your fitness quicker than you gain it. So I didn’t know what I had until I didn’t have it. Turning right onto Owen Davis Blvd put smack dab into a headwind, but I had it as a tail wind on the way back. I turned into the elementary school parking lot to practice my turning in the aero bars, like I have done every ride. While I still didn’t have the aggressiveness I once had I was more aggressive in my turning that I had been since the wreck. And the longer I rode the more comfortable I felt being back on the bike. I was able to get in some big ring work on the long straightaway on Coventry Blvd, and felt sleek and fast. While the speed limit on that road is 25 mph it made me feel good when a car would pass and I could tell they had to speed up to do so. I loved it. I passed a couple of other bikers along the way, but I still struggled a little during those times when I faced a headwind. And remembering how the wind wreaked havoc in last year’s Ironman Florida I knew I had to get the fitness and endurance back in my legs that I had before my last race.

To ensure I met the 45 minute mark, I turned right off of Coventry onto Owen Davis, then turned right onto Wrought Iron Bend Circle and relished the feel of speed and tire humming as I hammered around the ¾ mile circle. My strained relationship with my bike was mended, and the humming of the tires reminded me of my breathing: rhythmic and steady and hypnotizing.

When I started the run I was surprised that my legs didn’t feel heavier. Like my biking, I had run very sporadically the last two weeks, if at all. In fact I had run so little my son asked me on the way to the movies Tuesday night why I didn’t run any more.

“I do.” I responded.

“Well, you used to go running all the time, even at night. Now you don’t.” he said.

“I will get it back.”

In fact, while I thought my legs were being worked over good during the bike they felt like they had not been taxed at all when I started my run. My breathing fell into place, but my stride was longer for some reason. And, as is usually the case, I had the urge to go pee at 3/10 of a mile into the run. No worries. I would just stop at the porta potty by the soccer field like I always do except…it was turned over. I couldn’t go in the trees along the running path because it was daylight and there were a lot of people on the path. So I knew I had to hold it until I got to the Royal Farms convenience store a little over a mile away. So I fell into a rhythm while doing all I could do to keep my mind off having to use the bathroom.

While I know how long it typically takes for me to make it to Royal Farms from my house, when I arrived and turned off the timer when I stopped I noticed I had four minutes or so left on the 15-minute out leg. “Hmmmm.” I thought. “I wonder…” I run for time and not for distance, but I know that I am typically a 10:30 – 11 minute miler. I know. I know. Slow as molasses.

Since I had time and had not completed the “out” portion of the out and back, I ran up route 17 and accepted the energy of people in the passing cars looking at me. I felt great. When the timer finally went off and I had to turn around, I saw my wife pass on her way home. I ALWAYS derive great energy when she sees me training. She only sees the sweaty and sticky after effects, so when she gets to see how I get sweaty and sticky it is a highlight for me. I WANT her to see me training and know that I am putting in the work.

The “back” leg of the out and back was uneventful, but it felt a little slower. But when I turned down the road to my house I knew I had a negative split because I had 53 seconds left when I got to my house, so I kept running until the timer went off.

When I checked the time and distance after my cool down I could not believe what I saw: 3.06 miles in 30-minutes, a sub-10 minute mile time, 9.8 minutes per mile to be exact. Either way I had somehow knocked 30 seconds or more off per mile during this session. The latter portion of the run was a little difficult because I was visualizing the finish of the Ironman. I visualized me seeing my brothers James and Johnny at the end, before I crossed the finish line. And I visualized me stopping and taking a picture of them two together from our motorcycle trip 2-years ago out of my running belt and giving it to them. And I visualized them looking at the picture and seeing the words “My Inspiration” written on there, and hoping they understood how the picture was part of what fueled me to finish the Ironman. And visualizing all of this made me very emotional all of a sudden and I started to cry…and it is very hard to run and breathe when you cry.

During my cool down I took off my shirt and my running cap, and sweat continued to pour down my body and off my face like a faucet. I was standing on the steps in the garage that leads to the laundry room when my wife opened the door.

“Ewww!” she said in disgust. “You’re all sweaty and sticky.”

“Mom!” I heard my son say from the other room. “Is my dad home?”

“Yes.” She answered.

“Dad!” he then yelled at me.

“Yo!” I responded.

“Do you want to throw the football with me?”

“Absolutely!” I said, even though I was tired and thirst and sweaty.

As we walked out to the yard, me threatening to give him a sweaty hug, he must have remembered a conversation I had with him over a year ago.

“Dad.” He said as he threw me the football. “Did you always want a son that you could throw the football with?”

“Always.” I said, throwing the ball back to him. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

#Training Days: The Road to @IronmanTri Florida is a short 11 weeks long

The week following the Tidewater Triathlon saw me nursing a sprained wrist and other scrapes and aches and pains from the race and the bike crash. My wrist was so bad I couldn’t swim. But I could still bike and run.

After a successful run on that Tuesday at lunch I went out on Wednesday for my first bike ride after the crash. I didn’t think too much about the crash while riding until I made the first u-turn to start the bulk of the 8-mile loop. As happened in the race my front wheel was obviously a little low on air and it started to buckle a little. While it wasn’t enough to cause the bike to slide out from under me it was definitely enough to get my attention.

I approached the turn into the elementary school parking lot. I like going through there because there are no cars or buses and it gives me an opportunity to practice turning at a nice speed while in the aero position. But when I made the turn I caught myself slowing down and being way overly cautious. For some ungodly reason all I could see was the Joker from the movie Dark Knight and his famous question to the mobsters:

I saw it over and over.

As I biked back onto the main road I tucked into aero position and gained speed for my merge onto another road ½ mile away I have always liked this stretch of road for biking. I merged onto Coventry Blvd, like I have done so many times before, but noticed that as I rolled into the bike lane something just wasn’t right with front tire. It felt like it was losing air. So about ¾ of mile into an hour long ride I turned around and slowly pedaled home, not wanting to do anything that caused me to crash.

The next day I took the wheel in to Bike Beat of Newport news to have them take a look at it. I was hoping that I would have the tire back by the weekend, but I actually got a call later that afternoon that it was ready.

My wheel set is Zipp FP60 carbon fiber clinchers. They have this weird valve extender that sometimes comes loose to the point where I can’t put air in the tire. But knowing that my extender was tight I couldn’t understand why each time I went to put air in the tire the air would just come out of where the valve extender was. The extender itself is weird because it has this lip on it that has to “catch” when you place the pump on there, and you can’t just use any ol’ pump. It turns out that the Presta valve on the tube was stuck in the up position which was the reason that I couldn’t put air in there. They took the tube out to see if there was something wrong to determine why it wouldn’t hold air, but they didn’t find anything. So just to be sure they put sealant around the valve on the tube, plumbers tape around the top of the Presta valve for the extender, and put it all back together. For the $10 they charged, it was worth the peace of mind.

I finished off the week running as scheduled except for the long run on Saturday. My wife’s niece and her best friend came into town Saturday for two weeks. When we have visitors like that my wife just goes ape shit about cleaning the house and yard and laundry. Not that our house or laundry was dirty. She just kicked everything up a notch. My son and I hate the week before someone visits because of my wife’s OCD shit kicking in. So I didn’t get to run as planned on Saturday because my wife had me doing some last minute stuff before the girls arrived. I made that concession with the understanding that Sunday morning was reserved for a long bike ride (I was scheduled for 3-hours with a 45-minute run).

To say that I was excited Sunday morning to get out on the bike is an understatement. While my love for swimming has sort of switched over to a feeling of it being a necessary evil, and knowing that running is not something I long to do, I always love the freedom riding the bike brings. I love the wind in my face, sound of my pedaling and the wheels on the road. I love to see the sweat dripping from my helmet and taste it when it runs down my face. There is just something about being on the bike that screams FREEDOM!!! I guess it is a holdover from my childhood days when my brother, my friends and I would ride our bicycles all over the damn place without a worry in the world.

After taking a selfie,

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I proceeded out of the parking lot, trying to get my left foot clipped. And since I was watching my foot I wasn’t watching my riding and damn near hit a guy running perpendicular to me, missing him by inches. “Damn.” I said out loud. “That was close.”

I turned left out of the parking lot and proceeded toward the river road. I merged left toward the short downhill and was able to top out at 25 mph, blasted up the small uphill and turn right onto the river road. I love this road because it runs along the James River. It has picnic tables and areas to congregate and is just a nice road with small rollers that keep the ride interesting.

At the 2 mile mark I hit a crack in the road, like I have done so many times because you can’t avoid it. I immediately thought that it was weird because it felt like I went over the crack with my back wheel instead of the tire. And sure enough, 15 feet later I was stopped dead in the middle of the road with a damn flat tire.

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“Mother f—–!” I said out loud. “Aint’ this a bitch.”

Now I know what you are thinking: “Just change the tire and press on, brother!” And that is what I wanted to do but…I didn’t have a spare or a pump with me. So yes, I was two miles out with a flat tire and no spare, and I had to walk my ass back to the jeep. Although no one stopped to offer me a ride back I had already decided that if someone did, I was going to refuse and walk back anyway as my punishment to myself for riding without a spare.

After getting a new tube and a spare and a couple of tire changing tools (which are shit, by the way), I fixed the flat. Naturally my having a flat without a spare was great fodder for my family.

After my regular swim and run session on Tuesday, I was anxious to get back on the bike Wednesday. I was scheduled for a 45-minute ride with a 30-minute run brick session. I decided that I wanted something new so I went riding out at the Yorktown Battlefields, riding the French Loop. All told I rode a little over 15 miles, hammering the hills (short but a little steep at times), and knocked out the run like there was no tomorrow. It was by far the best workout I had had in a long time and I was extremely pleased.

So 11 weeks away from Ironman I wish I could tell you that the remainder of that week and the following week that my niece was here that I got my workouts in, but I let them being here be my excuse for not riding or running. I did swim, but I didn’t complete the entire swim session (3000 yards) either time, stopping at 1700 yards each workout.

Am I concerned? Yes…a little. I have no doubts that if I can consistently get my rides and runs in and get the long ones in on the weekends I will be fine. The swim does have me worried a little because of my struggles away from the pool. I did what I always do at times like this, I researched on how to best approach the swimming. And I found one simple clue: swim more, but shorter workouts. So I will increase my swim sessions to 3 per week during the week and then as many open water swims as I can muster on the weekends between now and then.

Considering that when I started this journey it was 78 weeks ago, 11 weeks is now just a blink of an eye. The question is, will I be able to see after the blink?

Tidewater #Triathlon Race Report: A Sprint Tri PB in the Run and Takeaways

After what happened during the swim and the bike crash, I literally had no idea what to expect on the run. As I left transition I drank as much of my water/electrolyte mixture as possible then swished it in the trash can on the way out of transition, hitting a 10 foot jumper, so to speak, on the run. Funny how I find such great pleasure is such unmeaningful things.

I turned right out of transition onto the boardwalk, ran the hundred yards or so to the turn around, and headed back. My legs were heavy, but not like they were from previous races. I used this as a benchmark that maybe my training was actually paying off. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t able to go balls out right away but I was definitely feeling better after the bike than I had in my previous two races.

The run down the boardwalk was beautiful but uneventful. The race team were already dismantling the swim course, but the weather and the beach were gorgeous. I made small stalk with this lady that I was running beside, but for the most part it was a nice stroll out to the first water station.

About halfway down the boardwalk I noticed that runners were coming in on their way to the finish line. It reminded me of my very first half-marathon that was also an out and back. I remember when I approached the first group of runners who were on their way back in how discouraged I felt that they were about to finish and here I was not even near the turnaround yet. But now that I have matured as a runner/athlete I am comfortable with my abilities and know that I am NOT racing them, I am only racing myself. If I don’t do as well as I expected, then that is on me.

I made the turn onto First Street and passed the apartment building I lived in when I was married to my daughter’s mother. Small one bedroom. It was nice for a couple just starting out, trying to make a go at this thing we call life and marriage. I remember that even though I was in the military working full time I also delivered pizzas part time. Man. What a time.

While running up First Street I also passed the estate my current wife used to take care of. I was excited that it was for sale but knew that I couldn’t afford the ¾ million dollar price tag. Sigh.

I ran to the turnaround and headed back and took solace in that I was the one heading back as I passed others who were on their way out. Funny how certain things in races can lift you up. I felt good. I wasn’t having the usual heavy leg meltdown I normally had. I attributed that to all of the lunchtime run sessions I had been doing since the Tavern Tri back in June. I had not missed a one and it was paying off here. It feels so good to know that all of those lonely miles running were coming together in what would be a personal best for a sprint tri 5K.

Upon merging back onto the boardwalk for the few hundred yards to the finish line I spotted some people in front of me and set out to catch them. I never did catch the guy in the Penn State shirt, but I finished strong, passing 2 or 3 people 50 yards out, then crossed the finish line alone. Something about hearing your name. On the way in, as I was picking up the pace to pass some people, my wife snapped a couple of pics. My form looks good! LOL

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Upon crossing the finish line I received my medal, then the lady asked for my timing chip. I looked down and it wasn’t on ankle. Remember the flimsy strap I mentioned in the first part of this report? When the final results came out I showed no times for any of the legs or transitions, so I am thinking it came off during the swim.

Take aways

My total time was 1:28.40. I did some quick calculations. I started at 7:04, so my official time is really 1:24. Had I not wrecked I could feasibly have a time around 1:19. Considering, by my estimations, it took me 15 minutes to swim 500 meters when it really should have taken me around 10, I am now down to around 1:09 or 1:10. That is almost top 10 for my age group. Yep. I could have done better, but I finished.

Looking back I didn’t really make the rookie mistakes that I have made in past races. My T1 time still needs work (based on my estimates since there wasn’t a time recorded) but my T2 time was cut down by over 1 minute. While my swim still sucks and needs work, mostly mental, I am happy with the bike sans the accident. And…

I am not giving up triathlon.

When I stood in the transition area the day before the Smithfield Tri, my very first one, I remember how everyone I talked to said how much they loved triathlon, and some even saying they were in love with the sport. I made mention of this in my race report and stated openly that I didn’t love triathlon and I definitely wasn’t in love with it. Naturally, one reader suggested that I was in denial, that I actually DID love the sport.

Had you asked me after the Tavern Tri in June I would have said absolutely I love triathlon. But now I am not so sure. My relationship with triathlon is just like any other: some days I like it more than others, and there are glimmers that I do love it but am not ready to fully commit to it yet. But I know that I like it A LOT!

Spending some time reflecting in the week after Tidewater I have grown to really, really love the training aspect. Although my sprained wrist kept me from swimming last week, I approached all of my workouts with the excitement of a newfound relationship. The only hiccup in training since Tidewater, aside from the swimming, happened Sunday. During my long bike I had just completed a swift downhill where I topped out at 25 mph. I merged right onto what I call the River Road because it runs right by the James River. 1.9 miles into the ride I hit an unseen crack in the road. 2.0 miles I flatted…without a spare. So I had to walk my ass back to the jeep.

So now, as of today, I am 13 weeks away from Ironman Florida. The cynical side of me is warning me that the swim portion of my triathlon will keep me from possibly succeeding. But during a discussion yesterday with a friend of mine regarding how Quantum Physics affects the universe, I reminded myself of a very basic tenement about energy:

If everything is energy, and if energy cannot be created or removed, then my Ironman finish already exists…I just have to materialize it.

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Tidewater #Triathlon Race Report: The Bike: it was a woman who broke up the #Beatles…

And it was a woman who caused my bike crash.

As I left the water I was amazed at how good the sand felt on my feet. They, whomever “they” are, have done a great job over the years making Buckroe a nice, family friendly beach, and it felt like that they did not skimp out on the sand. It was light and almost powdery.

I saw my wife, who took this picture as I passed:

IMG_3991It shows exactly how I felt; I was in a contemplative mood, trying to decide if I would really quit triathlon or be optimistic and hope like hell that Belinda Shea, my bike, would bail me out as she has done on so many occasions.

I am in love with my bike. She is the “other woman” in my life. I use to make fun of people when they would say that they were in love with their running shoes, or their food, or their whatever because I didn’t believe that a person could be “in love” with an inanimate object. But now that I have my bike I know exactly what people mean when they say those things, and why I have no qualms at all saying that I am in love with my bike. Maybe I should become a polygamist and petition the courts to allow me to marry it.

I stepped through the kiddie pool in transition to rinse my feet, sat on my bucket to wipe my feet of the grass, put my socks on and away I went out of transition. Because I came to transition at the same time as the wave of others did, it was a little hectic getting to the mount line. I mounted the bike, got my feet situated on the pedals, turned right onto Point Comfort, and hit the merge onto Mallory while gaining speed.

The bike out was nice. There was a little bit of a head wind, but for the most part I was able to get up to speed fairly quickly, but I wasn’t in a hurry so to speak. I was still going to pretty much hang up triathlon after this race, so I really didn’t feel any pressure to perform. I passed my fair share of riders, but was also passed by some of the elite men who went out in the wave before me and were now on the second lap of the bike. I can say, however, I passed more that I was passed on the way out.

I made the turn left on Mercury and hit an unmarked hole. It felt like my tire deflated some because hitting the edge of the hole felt like the edge hit my front wheel. I motored up the small hill on the approach to the bridge, and looked out over the James River to the right as I crossed the bridge. It was nice because the road had opened so that we had both lanes to ride in, so I was able to maintain speed while staying to the right or passing others and while enjoying the view. Man. It was a NICE morning.

There were two dynamics at play as I approached the turnaround: 1) there was a guy on the right side of the road signaling for us to slow down for the turnaround and 2) I had no idea that as we approached the turnaround there was a group of 5-6 riders lining up behind me.

We got to the turn around and I took an inside track. As I began my turn that group of 5 or so riders took an aggressive outside track, trying to make the turnaround at the same time I did. I am not sure what caused this woman leading that pack to turn even sharper toward me. I don’t know if she was getting “pushed” to do so by the pack, but she turned toward me, forcing to turn even harder inside. When I did that, the bike slide out from under me and then I was flat out on my left side, with the my left wrist and elbow catching the brunt of the force. I looked up in time to see that woman and I immediately recognized her: sort of young, low to mid-20’s. I recognized her because I passed her on Mallory. When I yelled “On your left!” as I approached her she sped up like she wasn’t going to let me pass. Because the course official riding around on the motorcycle was in the area and because I didn’t want to be called for drafting, I sped up. She sped up. I finally had to gear up and stand up to power past her, unnecessarily wasting energy to do so. Did she cause the crash on purpose? My mindful, caring side says no. But…

I was dazed and sat there for a few seconds as riders passed and yelled, “Rider down!” I was embarrassed a little, but more pissed off than anything. The police officer assigned to that intersection came over to check on me and asked if I needed her to call the race officials to take me in, but I told her no, stood up, picked up my bike, and rolled it out of the way of the turnaround. About that time another large group of people approached the turnaround. The sudden braking caused this other rider to crash too. I looked at my elbow and it was bleeding a little and my knee was starting to bleed. <Insert pic> As I looked at my bike to survey the damage I remembered that conversation I overheard the night before by that guy who said people always crash at the turnarounds. “Way to speak it into existence, dude.” I said to no one in particular.

My chain was off and that seemed to be about the only thing that was wrong with the bike other than a bottle cage was bent a little. The chain was stuck between the small ring and the frame, and for a few seconds I felt like the crash was a confirmation that I shouldn’t be doing this at my age. I fought with the chain, cursed a little….cursed a lot…and got more pissed off by the minute. I finally got the chain on, and proceeded down the road.

Once I crested the small hill on the bridge leaving Fort Monroe I saw a guy sitting on the curb with his back wheel off, meticulously looking at it to see if it was punctured; he obviously had a flat. As I came down mercury I tucked in the aero position, geared up, and let my anger drive my legs. I tried to let go of the crash. The wind in my face and the sound of my tires on the road reminded me why I love the bike so much. I took the turn onto Mallory a little easy because my front tire was a little low on air and I did NOT want to crash again. But once on Mallory I tucked down and cranked and passed people and stayed a little pissed off. I was no longer thinking of quitting; my thoughts were only of finishing as fast as I could.

I had the surprises of surprises at the Mallory turn around for the second lap: my wife was there cheering me on. I was surprised because she told me that due to her foot issues that she wouldn’t walk down to the turn around. But she was there and took a couple of pictures.

IMG_3992 IMG_3993I completed the second loop of the bike without incident, but a little cautious around the turns. As I came back down Mallory to merge right onto Point Comfort to get back to transition I caught two regular riders and a rider pulling one of the Team Hoyt kids. Needless to say we all got bunched up merging onto Point Comfort so I didn’t get to haul ass around that merge to show off a little to my wife.

I got to transition, got off the bike good, racked it, grabbed my cap and sunglasses, and headed toward the run out. If I was going to make up some time, this was it.

Tidewater Triathlon Race Report and Pics: Pre-race and the #swim: I’m quitting #triathlon

I have an announcement: I FINALLY peed in my tri suit!!! More on that later, though…

Even though I live maybe 15-20 minutes from the race site, I still woke up at 0430 so I could take my time getting ready and still make it down to transition with plenty of time left to chill out. I don’t like to be rushed.

If you read my Tavern Tri race report I had this fear that I would be in mid swim or bike and have to do number 2. My body is pretty regular so that was a valid fear. I bring this back up because I ended up having to “go” right after I woke up, so I was somewhat relieved that THAT part of my morning was over with…sort of.

As I have done with all of my races I set up my transition area the night before the race in my den, right beside my bike, so that I could ensure that I had everything and I could ensure that my transition area provided the best opportunity to get me in and out of transition as quickly as possible. After making my butter coffee (black coffee with 1tbsp of real butter) I put all of my transition items into my orange Home Depot bucket and got dressed. Before each of my previous races I ate a ¼ cup full of almonds with my butter coffee but for some reason on this morning I was craving…pop tarts…cinnamon sugar ones at that. So I took a pack from my son’s stash on the way out the door and rationalized it by making myself believe that I would “work it off” during the race.

I arrived at Buckroe Beach at around 5:45, which gave me plenty of time to set things up. I found my rack and put my bike on the end and set up transition. And because I had set it up the night before I didn’t have to waste too much time thinking about it. As I set everything up I could feel the excitement in the air and I marveled at all of the cool ass bikes people had. At one point, I sat on my bucket and looked to my right and had to laugh: there was a pink themed Quintana Roo with race number, what else? 69!!! “How appropriate.” I thought, took a picture of it, and then tweeted it out stating I wasn’t surprised by this coincidence.

IMG_1290[1]I went and got my body marked: both shoulders, both thighs, and age on the left calf. I then went to get my timing chip. While I am quite sure these were the same chips we used during the Smithfield tri, I was concerned at the flimsiness of the strap for the chip. I voiced my concern a little and was given another strap that wasn’t much better, if it was at all.

I spent the rest of the time before the swim just hanging out. I walked down to the water and let it run up on my feet. It felt so warm for that time of the morning. In fact, the entire morning was perfect for triathlon: a little cloudy, 74 degrees air temp and 79 degrees water temp. Standing in the water and just letting it roll onto me, looking up at the sky, emptying my mind and focusing on my breathing was a very relaxing, Zen moment that I wish I had more of.

I looked out into the water and saw this nice sailboat anchored by the turn buoy we had to swim around to go back to the beach.

IMG_1291[1]I saw several swimmers taking warm-up swims, noticing how choppy the water was. IMG_1292[1]And as is usually the case, it wouldn’t be a trip to the beach without the resident treasure hunter.

IMG_1293[1]I went back to the transition area and just hung out, took a selfie and tweeted it out IMG_1288[1]and took a picture of other people in the transition area.

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It was a great time for me because I was just not in a hurry and was very relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that I was hit with another bout of having to go pooh about 20 minutes before race start. It was then I knew I had it all out of my system and didn’t have to worry about it hitting during the race.

The Swim

As much as I hate to say this, and I hate this because of how much I value my alone time, it was sort of a long and lonely walk to the swim start because I didn’t know anyone. And I felt like that everyone else knew everyone else. So imagine my excitement when I got near the swim start and saw my wife standing there! Man. It was like seeing the sun rise! We chatted a little and she took a couple of pictures,

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then I moseyed down to the swim start area to listen to the final swim instructions being given by the race director.

I got the chills listening to the National Anthem and waited anxiously for the first wave of swimmers to start. We were being sent off in waves every 4 minutes and I was in the second wave with the red swim caps. When they went off I remembered what I had observed earlier about the choppiness. The race director had said that the current was moving south and the wind was coming from the south, thus the reason that the surface level chop gave the impression that the current was moving to the north. These two opposite moving forces created a chop that, in all honestly, I wasn’t prepared for. But I wasn’t worried because the swim was only 500 meters. Hell. I do 500 meters as a warmup during all of my swim sessions. But, and this is a very large BUT, I learned immediately my 500 meters in the pool is not the same as 500 meters in the Chesapeake Bay with some minor chop. I had not swam in open water like this, so I wasn’t prepared for neither the current nor the chop.

Before we went off, I stood talking to a guy I had just met, Ariel Martin. While we were talking I got the familiar urge to go pee. Bad. Remembering the difficulty I had peeing in my tri suit at the Tavern Tri, I pushed anyway. And the next thing I know, I was peeing and it was running down my legs onto the beach, right there in the middle of 125 people in my swim wave. Pardon the pun, but I felt a sense of relief that I finally peed while wearing my tri suit. I also noticed that I was up in front of the wave. While I moved to the back, I realized later that I should have probably stayed toward the front a little.

When the gun sounded for us to go I walked out as far as I could, about chest deep, before I started to swim. I started out fine until I got past the jetty. Once I passed the jetty I faced the full current and wind dynamic and was washed over by a chop. A couple of times the waves were enough to submerge me under water, and this seemed to happen when I had to rotate and breath. For a while there it seemed that no matter how much I rotated my face out of the water the waves overcame me. Believe me when I say that I swallowed my fair share of water.

About 75 – 100 meters in I decided I had had enough. I was quitting. This whole triathlon thing was shit and I didn’t want any part of it any longer. Who was I kidding to think that I could do this? My mind and self-image became so flooded with negative thoughts I actually turned around to swim back to shore. My thinking was I only had about 60 meters or so before I could walk back out onto the beach. But as fate would have it, a funny thing happened when I turned around to swim back…the next wave started!

I then had a choice. I could swim back anyway and have to swim through the wave of 100 or so of the elite women. I could dog paddle my way over to a kayak or paddle boarder and tell them to take me back to shore. Or I could keep going. Looking back at the next wave approaching, then seeing my wife on the pier watching me, I chose to keep going and didn’t care how long it took. So I did what I have always done when I have gotten into “trouble” in open water: I turned over on my back and swam until I regained my composure enough to swim regularly.

And while I was on my back I was still slammed with thoughts of quitting triathlon. I tried real hard to eliminate those thoughts as quickly as possible. I alternated between just relaxing and enjoying the swim to reminding myself to just trust my training and swim.

The swim course consisted of us swimming out 125 meters, swimming across 250 meters, then swimming back in 125 meters to shore. During the 250 meter leg I actually made good time and was excited when I came upon the turn buoy when I wasn’t expecting it.

At some point into the 125 meter leg headed back to the beach I was caught and passed by a few of the female swimmers that started in the wave behind me. I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of the water as quickly as possible. My wife took a picture of me right before I came to shore and it tells the entire story of my swim: out of 125 people in my wave I finished the swim dead last in my wave, finishing as part of the female wave behind us.

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I just didn’t give a shit at that point. I had decided that after this race, my triathlon career was over after only three races. I was tired of always struggling with the swim when I know I can swim that far.

As I came out of the water, walking slowly with my head down, me projecting complete defeatism, embarrassed as hell that I was finishing the swim dead last in my group, I remembered a mantra I had repeated countless times to new runners when they were worried about finishing last in a race: Dead Fucking Last trumps Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start.

“At least you had the guts to start.” A voice said.

“Start. Fart.” I responded. “Swimming sucks ass. This is it. I am done.”

“Remember what Mike Riley from Ironman fame said,” the voice continued. “You can quit, and no one will care. But YOU will remember forever.”

Happy 14th Anniversary: An Open Letter to My Wife

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Dearest Gloria,

I remember the first time I ever told you that I loved you. It was a sunny afternoon and we were swinging together in the hammock down at the beach house. You were on my right with your head on my arm, and we were just swinging and not really talking about anything. And then all of a sudden those three magical words came out and it changed our destiny forever. We made love in the hammock and on the back of your Mercury Capri and as a couple, we never looked back.

I remember how you would sit on the edge of the bed and I would brush your hair and how I would fall asleep at night with my finger in your belly button because it made me feel so secure for some reason.

I remember the many nights we spent at the block party in Hampton, getting beer tickets from Tony and just hanging out with friends, drinking beer, eating boiled peanuts and just living in the moment.

I remember our first trip to Hatteras and how difficult it was lighting a cigarette with the convertible down, and all of those mosquitos! And that first Christmas how we bought your parents a huge swing for their back yard and loaded it into Old Blue. We spent Christmas Eve eating at Harpoon Larry’s because Newport News had suffered an ice storm and we couldn’t get up to your parents’ house. We then went to the video store, rented some movies and just vegged out watching them.

I remember when you called me to tell me we were having a boy and how I cried. And I remember pulling up to John and Ann’s the day she died and seeing you standing outside, sort of lost, crying, and thinking you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. And I remember the hug you gave me when you saw me. And I remember driving up to John and Ann’s that day and how, on an otherwise sunny day, it started raining from this one cloud, making me remember that God cries when someone special leaves us.

Looking back over that last 14 years I can honestly say that all of our good times far outweigh the bad times. And even though we have had our share of bad times I think it is awesome how neither of us left or brought up leaving. We may not have liked each other for a few days but we always worked it all out and because of that we are stronger today.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still times when I look at you and I think, “Man. All is right with the world.” But there are also times when I look at you and wonder, “What the hell?” But never do I think that I want out because every day I see you I still get the warm fuzzies. The hardest thing in the world for me is to leave you those mornings I get up early to train.

Often times, when I get up during the night, I can’t go back to sleep. So I will just lie in bed, watch the fan, and listen to you breathe…or snore. Sometimes I will watch you wonder if you think while you sleep. When you are sleeping, it comforts me to see that you have slowed down because of how stressful your days are. While sleeping I know that, if only for a few hours, you are at peace with your world. And I lie awake fully understanding what it means to fall asleep and miss you.

There are still a lot of things I don’t know about you, even after 14 years. For example, I don’t know if I have made you proud or ashamed. But those things I don’t know are not important because what I do know about you is that you are one of the most caring and loving people I know. Your ability to shamelessly make friends with others and how your charisma takes over a room regardless of the gathering is the yin to my anxiety-with-strangers-and-in-a-crowd yang, and are the most enviable traits I can imagine. Your smile attracts others and makes them comfortable, as if they have known you forever.

So I guess what I am trying to say that hasn’t already been said since we started dating is this: I went to a conference one time in 1996 and listen to this man talk about relationships. He said that a man would crawl for miles on his hands and knees, through broken glass just to hear his wife say that she is proud of him. That stuck with me all these years and I think he is right, literally or not. Because when you come home, regardless of the day I have had, it is a message to me that you have allowed me one more day to love you and make you happy. And as long as I get one more day, I know that I can love and care for you more than I did the day before, and the day before that.

I know that I can sometimes, maybe often, be an asshole, especially over the last year since I introduced yet one more dynamic into our relationship with training for Ironman. I just want you to know that I am truly grateful for you sticking around and understanding that my being an asshole has nothing to do with you and it is not to be taken personally. I am very well aware of the fact that I have given you every reason to leave at times, but you haven’t left and I keep that close as a reminder that your love is NOT to be taken for granted.

I just can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate all that you do for me and our family, and how much you sacrifice for us so that we always have food to eat, a clean home to live in, and clean clothes to wear. Your support of me and my mid-life athletic crisis is not lost on me. Seeing you when I come out of the water, or off the bike, or at the finish line is my inspiration. I guess, metaphorically, it is my glass crawling. You can never understand what your presence means.

So here we are, 14 years into a lifetime together, and I had a dream:

I had a dream that I saw you for the first time,

And this is what it felt like:

Finding money in your pocket when you didn’t know it was there

The first taste of your favorite ice cream cone

The first glimmer of sunshine over the horizon

The first taste of rain

A Lifesaver candy piece when things are challenging

The runner’s high

Scoring a touchdown in front of thousands of people

Winning

Achieving the impossible

Holding your baby for the first time

The first bite of your favorite food

The first swallow of the day’s first cup of coffee

A handmade card from your child

The exhilaration of sledding down a snow covered hill

Hearing, “I am proud of you” from your father

Hearing, “I love you” from the ones you care about most

The first kiss

A big, hearty belly laugh that lasts for minutes

Hearing the pitter-patter of your child’s small feet running through the house

Getting hugs from those you love

Helping someone who is less fortunate

Winning a bingo game by bingoing on O-69

Catching candy being tossed out by parade participants

Finding the closest parking space in a busy lot

Christmas morning

Thanksgiving dinner

All rolled into one.

But you didn’t see me.

And I awoke, glad it was just a dream.

I love you mostest, to infinity and back.

 

M.