Sunday, July 11, 2010

You can do it buddy!

My first real race...  Where to begin? It's been a couple of years now so, there are parts that are a little fuzzy. However, the parts I do remember are quite vivid. As I eluded to in last post I'm not exactly Michael Phelps out there. The swim definitely stands out the most.  The race I chose to make my debut at was Titanium Man.

We chose this race for 3 reasons.

1)  The swim was downstream.  I knew that at the very worst I could do my best impression of  a log and ride the current all the way to T1.

2) The race is called Titanium Man. To me, being called a Titanium man is much better than being called a Chlelan man or an Onion man. So the race had a good name.

You wanna be this guy?
Or this guy?

3) This is the reason I still race this race every year. I'm a little hesitant to throw this out there on the Internet, but it's only $35.00. That's about half the cost of any other triathlon out there and the swag is just as good.  I like to procrastinate my race registrations so I hope this doesn't fill these thing up any faster.

Okay back to the race.  John and I arrived at Columbia Park in the Tri-Cities about an hour and a half prior to race start. We thought 1) The swim was downstream in the Columbia River. To be honest...that's the reason I chose it. John is about as easy going as they come, so he let me pick the race schedule. I figured if I completely fell apart, I could just float down the river like a log to the bike transition. The thing that really screwed up out timing was the point to point swim. This meant a swim to bike transition (T1) and a completely different bike to run transition. On top of those two things the swim was about right in the middle of the two. So the morning was filled with us running back and forth to the transition areas, dropping things off. We missed the pre-race meeting. Which is a terrible thing to have happen at your first race. With this being our first race I was already a nervous wreck!

We followed all the rubber people through an opening in the bushes that lead down to the river. I looked out and everyone had wetsuits on (except John and I). This kind of freaked me out. Apparently they knew something that we did not. A wetsuit makes a HUGE difference in how well you float. If you suck at swimming it seems to help even more. This was the first mistake of many throughout the day. As I looked out, I could see all these neon heads fighting to stay in the same spot. The current looked pretty strong. I was thinking at least the current looks strong... I should make this no problem. My confidence began to swell. I would barely have to do anything, and I'd be cruising right along. 

I waded into the shallow area of the water just as the gun went off. It was insane!! Instantly there were people all around me. I started to panic a little, but continued on. About 20 yards into the swim I noticed my goggle wasn't sealing. Great!! That was all I needed. On top of the fact that I can barely swim... now I could barely see. I tried to go another 20 yards, but I just couldn't find a rhythm. At that point I decided it was time to switch strokes.  I went from freestyle to that thing you your mom does when she doesn't want to get her hair wet.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's sort of a breast stroke, but you keep your head above water at all times so you don't mess up your perm.

I slowly watched everyone pass me by.  After about 5 minutes I saw a lady doing the backstroke cruising by me.   I was starting to have pool flashbacks of the of the 60 year old ladies in there aqua dresses cruising by me.  This was a disaster.  I decided to check behind me to see how many people I was beating.  Let’s see, there was one, two?  Nope just one.  This person was about 25 feet farther out and pretty much hot on my heels.  I decided then and there that I would not be the last one out of the water.  I put my head down and started to go hard.  I went for about 10 maybe 11 strokes and decided I better look up to see where I was.  WTF!  I was heading straight to the middle of the river.  You see in the river there is no black line to follow like there is on the bottom of the pool. 

It was then that I resigned myself to bringing it on home mom style.  I just continued to paddle along staying just ahead of the last place person.  The weird thing about being that far back in the race is that you get a personal kayak escort.  Actually I guess they’re less of an escort and more of a “make sure this guy doesn’t drown and we get sued by the widow, because he looks like he’s never swam a day in his life” type of thing.  Oh, and for the record I’ve instructed my wife not to sue if I ever die in a triathlon.  It’s ridiculous!  If 1 person drowns, but 2000 other people finish the same swim, who’s fault is that?  I’d guess it’s the guy who drowned.  Not the race director!  But I digress. 


So I’m about halfway and started to sense to a presence on my left.  Luckily, it wasn’t the other swimmer.  Unfortunately it my “escort” coming to ask me if I was doing okay?  Damn it!  That was a blow to the ego.  For him to feel the need to pull up next to me and ask me if I was doing okay, must have meant that I didn’t look like I was.  “I’m fine, but this is about all I got so I’m sorry”. 


His reply to this really stung.  “Don’t apologize, your doing great BUD”.  Again with the bud!  Bud probably doesn’t seem like an insult to most people, but I’ve had it ingrained in my head since a young age by my friend Mark Ward that this is the highest form of disrespect anyone can dish out.  He once told me he’d rather be slapped in the face.  I don’t quite feel the same way, but it still bothers me.  Well, there was nothing I could do about now so I just continued on.  I decided my energies would be better spent trying to hold off the dude I was battling for second to last place out of the water.  We were in a battle to the finish line, and although it wasn’t actually a battle to the death it was close.  I was not going to finish last!  Drowning seemed more appealing.


The race came down to the last ten yards.  By now it was obvious that this guy was also aware that we were battling for the dubious distinction of coming out of the water last.  He kicked into another gear, but he had no idea that I had a secret weapon.  I broke from my “mom not letting her hair get wet stroke” and unleashed a few strokes of freestyle, and I just edged him out!


I came out the water and started running towards my bike.  It was now time to get a look at my nemesis.  As I turned around I heard her say, “We made it!  This is my first tri and I’m loving it!”  That’s right, that’s not a typo I said her and she was about 50 and probably 20 pounds overweight.  I guess I can’t really expect the only other person out there with a personal kayak escort to be a guy my age. 


The thing about triathlon is it’s a three headed monster.  It would have been really easy to write off the rest of my race and just take it easy for the rest of the race, but that’s just not me.  Just because I wasn’t great at something didn’t mean I would give up.  I decided I would get on my bike and hammer to see if I could catch some people.  At first I was passing mountain bikes and hybrids, then I started passing a couple road bikes and by the end of the bike leg I was passing some guys on tri bikes and I had taken a few age group places back.  I realized this is actually really fun!  To be honest about 1 mile into the bike I came to the realization that I LOVED this sport. 


When the dust settled I had passed 200 people and I finished 50th overall in a time of 2:30.  For the first time I began to think that this might be something I could be good at eventually.  All I needed to do is stick with it and learn how to swim. 


The next year I came back to this race and finished 8th  overall and 2nd in my age group.


The lesson here is don’t give up just because things don’t go the way you want or envisioned, because if you continue to work hard eventually things start to go your way.


1 comment:

  1. scott... bu... i mean... bro... this is an awesome post. i probably would have slapped the guy then drowned for calling me bud myself, but, i dont think he meant it to be rude... ha. anyway man, that was an awesome story, i honestly could picture it. good luck on the training for kona, youre gonna kill it man. whoop up.