THREE IN ONE AND A SHIRT (What is a Tri, Who does it and Why do we pay to suffer?)
May 14, 2009
Its O-Dark-Thirty on Sunday. My alarm sounds and, initially, I am very confused. Isn't it Sunday? check. Isn't it still dark outside? Check. Long morning ahead of me? Check. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! I have to compete in a Triathlon today. OK okay, the word "compete" can be taken loosley. I know I'm not going to win. I know I probably won't even make it into the top 25% of my age bracket. Winning really isn't the point though, right? Anyway, I dust the sleep from my eyes, give my wife a quick kiss, tell her I love her and head downstairs to choke down a pre-race meal; water, oatmeal and a banana. The dog of course wants to play but there isn't any time for that. I need to triple check my gear, take a pee and load the car. Waking the kids would permanently end my Tri career because that would mean my wife would have to wake up and .... well, let's just say, I'd be a gonner. I digress. The car is loaded, I'm sure I've forgotten something and am super nervous and excited. Ready to go. WAIT! Gotta pee again, hope I haven't sucked down to much water. I don't want to be dehydrated but I sure don't want to flush out all of my electrolytes either. Regardless, time to pee. Oh great, here comes #2 too. Now I'm stressed I'm going to be late. Come on, get 'er dun! I drive off from the house and can see that soon the sun will be up. Shortly after that I'll be lining up with hundreds of other knuckle-heads at the edge of the 57 degree Pacific Ocean preparing to head out for the first leg of the race: the swim. It's not far but far enough. About 750 meters. In the ocean it should take about 15 minutes. I won't be in front so am fairly certain I will, once gain, get kicked in the face at least once. Might even get elbowed a few times and if I'm lucky, may exact some carnage on another athlete. The swim begins and I can hardly breathe. I am paddling so hard and breathing so fast I can't catch my breath. I guess I should have warmed up a little. I stope paddling for about 10 seconds to get my breathing under control and then continue. As I near the end of this leg, I try to catch a wave into shore as if I'm body surfing. It almost never works but it is fun to try. Then we run to the TRANSITION AREA. The TA is the place where the bike and running gear wait for you. As I try to get the blood to migrate from my arms, shoulders and chest down to my legs for the run, I begin peeling off my wetsuit. Oh boy, this IS fun! At least I made it this far but I don't have any feeling in my frozen feet. I arrive at my bike, wetsuit finally off. Next, biking shoes on, helmet on, sunglasses on. Out of the TA you have to walk and push your bike until reaching a designated line. Once past the line, I jump on the bike and blaze out of there pedaling as hard as I can. In fact, its probably not all that hard but since I still don't have circulation in my feet and my legs are screaming at me, I can't tell. Someone once told me that "pain is simply weakness leaving the body." About now though, I'm just thinking that pain hurts. Tucking down, I try to get as aerodynamic as possible. I don't have one of those supercool streamlined multi-thousand dollar Time-trial bikes or one of those snow-cone shaped helmets either (but if I did. . . .) but I make a good go of it.The next 10 miles will take about 30 minutes I figure. I go pretty hard but have to save some strength for the upcoming 3 mile run (yip, really looking forward to that.) Feeling pretty beat up now as I prepare to re-enter the TA. I coast a bit and try to stretch out my calf muscles and my friggin' aching back. I've been tucked in this little fetal-like position for over 30 minutes and need to prepare to get vertical. In just a minute I will be jumping off the bike, fast-walking back into the TA, throwing off my helmet like my head is on fire and putting on my running shoes. See, I try to do this as fast as I can because, remember this is a race afterall. But oh my gosh...shoes are laced up, helmet is off and I boogy out of the TA. Now most of youwould logically think, "Hey, I've been riding a back for the past 30 or so minutes, my legs should be pretty warmed up and ready for a quick little run." WRONG! Ahhhhh! I don't get it but my legs will barely move. Who the hell put the cement in my Nike's!? I gotta try and do this for three long-ass miles, are you kidding me?! Fun? Where went the fun? Weakness leaving the body? Kiss my a$$! Well, after about 4 or 5 minutes of waddling with brick-like feet, it seems the blood in my quads has finally been more appropriately shared throughout my legs. Past mile 1 I feel ok but can see I ran it pretty slow (no, you don't need to know how slow I ran it.) Mile 2 is a bit of a suffer-fest too because I know I have another mile to go after that. My speed picked up which is good but I'm pretty sure the people behind me need to be careful. I seem to have lost some control of gaseous releases (actually I just lost the will to care) and I don't know how much of that banana and oatmeal is going to come back up. I successfully choke back down my recent vurp and realize only 1/2 a mile to go -wooo hooo! Only about 4-5 more minutes of suffering to go. I know that the faster I go, the less time that I have to endure this remarkably high level of fun. With this realization, a few endorphins kick in and maybe some adrenalin and now, I'm excited, almost happy. I start to see a glimmer of the finish line and there are about 8 other athletes between me and the end. I think, "Come on, you can pick a couple of them off." I down shift. Somewhere, somehow, I feel it. I know I have more in my tank and I go. I go and go and go. Faster and faster toward the finish (maybe it was just the short little triathlon shorts I had on.) I pick off maybe 3-4 more victims but I'm pretty sure someone blew passed me as well. But I don't care (she wasn't in my age group.) I have finished. I completed another triathlon. I came, and I conquered. It's O V E R. I am exhilirated! Excited! Damn, I am pretty stoked! I find some free food in the finishing area and drink some water. I briefly look back at my race and I seem to forget about the pain. Right now, in fact, I feel stronger than ever and am proud of myself. So, I guess that is why. That is why we do it, the reason that we Tri. The feeling AFTER the race. The accomplishment. The sense of gratification and completion that only athletes who lay it all out in a race can feel; it is an amazing sensation. One that you too should experience. So get out there and Tri. But be careful, you too might get hooked. And oh yea, you do get a pretty cool shirt too.