May 02, 2006

A Churning Cauldron Of Intimidation

Sunday's I mean Race
1500 meters
24.8 miles
6.2 miles
Pizza (3 slices), Doritos, 7 Ounce Steak (medium rare), Onion Rings, Baked Potato, Carrots, Zucchini, French Onion Soup, Salad and a Macadamia Nut Ice Cream Sundae to wash it all down

Random Comments: It's Tuesday now. If I weren't sitting in the chair typing this, I'd be laying on the floor on my back. My piercingly, punishingly, perpexlingly painful back. The back has been hurting steadily for about a week. The race didn't quite help. But it was really the point yesterday after Cat and I returned to Los Angeles, carried the bike box up the stairs and rested it on the ground. I stood up to turn around and walk back down the stairs but my back wasn't quite ready to stand and turn. The back fought back. I screamed. I winced. I uttered words that are not quite appropriate for young children. Ten minutes later I was laying down with an ice pack on my back. Three hours later I was in physical therapy. Today I'm still in pain and starting to get stressed again. Couldn't workout this morning. Hell, I can't even bend over and put on my socks. I probably won't be able to workout tomorrow and I'm praying that I'll be good enough for my 6 hour ride on Saturday and 2 1/2 hour run on Sunday. My physical therapist told me a couple of weeks ago that I need to focus all my energy on strengthening my core/trunk. Apparently she was right. Can I have a do-over?

Let me tell you about the St. Anthony's family fun extravaganza that I had this past weekend. Eight cheering family members descended upon the streets of St Petersburg, Florida to herald the achievements of the five of us triathlon competing masochists. And, like every family get together, there was a fair bit of sickness, a modicum of injury, a pinch of tension and a whole lot of happiness.

My step-brothers and I have all raced St. Anthony's (and other triathlons) before. However, this was Cat's first ever Olympic distance triathlon (she'd only done two sprints in the past) and my sister's first ever triathlon, period. Sure there was a bit of nervous energy floating around, as one would find before any race, but we definitely had enough of a support team and pit crew to help assuage any fears, not to mention to carry away our left-over flip-flops, body glide and anti-fog while hauling around an over-sized ice-filled cooler of Endurox bottles. (For the record, I've never used assuage in a sentence before. I'm pretty proud of myself right now.)

I was in one of the first waves at 7:20am, and family members kept starting periodically beyond that until we got to my sister's wave somewhere around the 9am hour. Needless to say, I was the first one to the experience the water - and what an experience it was. You see, the water on Sunday morning was a churning cauldron of intimidation that could set knees trembling to anyone who hadn't had ocean swimming experience. As for Cat, she had only done just enough ocean swimming to be scared of such reckless water activity. And my sister? Well she had never done any ocean swimming whatsoever, which may be good as she was left completely ignorant of the looming danger and frustrations. If you're wondering about those dangers and frustrations that were looming, why don't you ask the people who almost died.

So my gun went off at 7:20 and I jumped into what was the most challenging swim I've ever done in a race. The 20 mph-ish wind caused a choppiness that had seagulls getting seasick. Waves were about four feet high and smackin' around in every direction. I mean this was a "stick your head in the toilet bowl and flush" type of swim. Throw on top of that a whole bunch of people who aren't used to swimming in a volatile ocean and are kicking a bit more than usual, getting pulled by the current and consistently swimming off course, and flailing around in the water a bit harder than is recommended by four out of five doctors. And somehow I seemed to put myself right in harm's way at every move. It was a war zone out there from the moment the gun went off until the second I stepped out of that godforsaken water. I got punched in the jaw, kicked in the face, slapped in the head - and that was only the first minute of the race. I had four people swim right over me and one guy kick me so incredibly hard right square in the middle of the chest that it not only put an immediate halt to my swimming, but it knocked the wind out of me and actually pushed me backwards in the water, so much so that the guy stopped and turned around to make sure he didn't kill me. This is not a common event in triathlon, people turning around to make sure there isn't death and destruction in their path. That's how solid of a shot he landed on me.

The further I got into the swim the more frustrated I became and just spent most of my time trying to avoid all the other violently flailing racers scurrying about aimlessly. And all I could think about was how I wanted this swim to be over and, more importantly, how I was hoping my sister and Cat wouldn't strut any bravado and feel like they needed to start this dangerous excuse for a race. In fact, I actually spent a good 100 meters trying to figure out how I could turn around and send some message to them to stay on the comfort of land. Oh, and while they're at it, maybe throw me a life preserver and a spear gun. Then, just as another swimmer cold-cocked me in the jaw, I realized that there is no possible way they would get into this water anyway. I mean, they were scared just looking at it yesterday, there's no chance in hell that they would even think of swimming amidst the competition chaos.

Lo and behold, I not only survived the swim in one piece, but somehow I managed to eek out an even 27 minute PR. Go figure.

You are probably familiar with Murphy's Law, which states that if anything can go wrong, it will. You may even be familiar with some of the other Murphy's Laws, such as the Commerce Law (To err is human, to forgive is not company policy), the War Law (Friendly fire - isn't) and the Computer Law (Any given program, when running, is obsolete). You may, however, not be familiar with the Triathlon Law which clearly states:

Despite your contingency planning for any given race, all of the things you never think about will, at some point, end up going horribly wrong.

It started immediately as I got onto the bike and continued on through the run. First it was the gears not shifting into place. Then it was the rickety-rickety-rickety of my speed/distance sensor smacking on my spokes. Next it was a random thwackata, thwackata. It took me a good two miles at a slower-than-preferred pace to even figure that one out. What with the echoing thwackatas, I couldn't even tell which part of my bike it was coming from. As it turns out, my cadence monitor had somehow become dislodged. Not wanting to stop yet again, I spent a few minutes reaching down to jam it out of the way all the while trying not to fall off my bike and smash my face against the pavement. I'm not a big fan of pavement-smashed face.

When I finally finished the bike ride, with the back a little worse for wear, I started out on the run or, shall I say, the run-stop-run-walk-stop-walk-run, as I nursed what could've been an anatomy lesson of ailments. Calf, shin, achilles, foot, hip, back. You name the body part, it hurt.

As luck would have it, my body seemed to warm up around mile 30 of this 32 mile extravaganza. In fact, those last two miles of the race felt great, which seems to be par for the course for me. No matter the distance of the race, I usually feel my best on the last two miles. How sad. Anyhoo, I sprinted across that finish line with a smile on my face for the cameras, knowing that years down the road I'll forget about all my ailments, my technical glitches and the smackdown I had in the water.

But the smile of the finish line was just the beginning - it just kept growing as my family members came across the finish. My step-brothers came in, one by one, as strong as ever. And, lo and behold, both Cat and my sister had not only survived the swim, but thought it wasn't so bad. They both crossed the finish line in blazingly fast speeds.

People may laugh at us, the family that tri's. But I say, let them laugh. Let them mock. Let them make fun of us all they want. I'm proud of my family - each and every one of us. And it warms the cockles of my heart that we can all share this wonderful sport and bonding, borderline death-defying, experience together.