Inspiration for Sylvan Beach
Jun 13, 2010
|Yesterday when I went to race headquarters to pick up my race packet the winds were howling at 20 knots from the SE and the wave set through the race course could just as easily have been home for the 2010 World Surfing Championships. My enthusiasm was immediately dampened but I was committed and I was not going to let the weather conditions ruin a good night's sleep.
The 430AM alarm went off to some NPR monotone reporter talking about the Gulf of Mexico and the encroaching oil that is heading west to Texas. Real nice wake up call for a guy that is about to swim the better part of the mile in murky, diesel smelling, but oil-free, 84 degree Galveston Bay in less than four hours. The pre-race routine is kind of getting familiar to me and my invaluable support crew. Up early, gear on, race bag prepped from night before, carbo and protein load 3 hours before race, a cup of coffee and 16 ounces of water before I open the back door. I was relieved to both see and hear that the winds, while still from the vulnerable SE, were between 8-12 knots.
The beautiful thing about this event and frankly, there are so few beautiful things associated with LaPorte, TX and this triathlon that I just have to mention that the starting line was 11.2 miles from our back door. Within 15 minutes I have passed a bike inspection, been processed through body marking, received my timing chip and entered the transition area to prepare my station.
After the obligatory stand in line for a morning talk in the blue 'phone booth' I was off to the beach for a quick swim and warm up. My entire focus for this event is to not get involved in a swim race or to ingest any second hand testosterone after the start of the young 'uns in the dark blue bathing caps. I want my heart rate to be entirely in control and for me to be able to exit Galveston Bay with a smile on my face.
Five, four, three, two ...and the High Testosterone start is off which means the Lower to No Testosterone guys start in five minutes. Incredibly, I am not even nervous as the clock ticks down. I have picked a starting area on the beach well off the preferred line so as to stay out of the traffic. I also wanted to be over there so I would not have some Pavlovian Response to one of my kids cheering for me and stirring up some thought that I should sprint the first 25 yards for good measure.
The countdown begins, I check my goggles and walk, ever so leisurely, the first 20 yards of the sprint to the first marker. Galveston Bay is not a pretty place at the best of times but from in-the-water level it really does leave a lot to be desired. The sand is churning from the wind that has at least 3 miles fetch, there is a vomit-inducing stink of diesel that is floating on the surface like a permanent cologne for this beachside community and finally, you cannot see 6 inches in front of you. I start slow but even my slow seems to be a sprint for a number of the participants. Eventually, I roll over to do some backstroke to see if that will make sighting easier but two 2-3 foot waves crashing over my head put a damper on that experiment. I wandered too far to the west and a kayak-bound floating traffic cop directed me back on course.
Around 15 minutes after the start I touched sand, lifted my head, saw a young lady who had just finished beside me ( meaning she had made up 5 minutes on me..yawn) and bounced out of the water with a huge smile on my face. To be honest, the swim was kind of fun and sets me up real nicely, from a confidence perspective, for the next distance which is one mile for the Olympic Distance Triathlon. While some sprint out of the water and into transition one, I basically lumbered over the sand, over the timing mat and up to T1.
With clear mind, unlike Silver Lakes where I was a little dazed exiting the water, I was on my bike quickly and smiling to the crowd as I started the 22 mile journey. This is not a terribly long ride but a brisk head wind and +90 degree weather seemed to zap the energy of a number of the people I talked to after the race. I have not seen my splits but I would be surprised if my average speed was over 19.5 mph. The elite men are way off in the distance but the elite women pick me off, one after another, in the first 10 miles of the bike ride. In the back of my mind a red warning light is going on as I am not getting the right amount of water and Gatorade into my system. My plan had been to finish nearly 40 ounces of liquid on 15 minute intervals but as I finish up the ride I see that I have only drank about 10 ounces of Gatorade and 8 ounces of water. No doubt about it I am going to be short on my hydration goals. Over the course of the ride I take time to thank all of the police officers that are making sure drivers don't pick us off for sport.
The beginning-of-the-run pictures tell a whole story by themselves. My gait is usually a little longer than the 6 inch, pegged leg, strides that I was able to muster. I am tight like a tennis racket strung at 100 pounds. After about one mile the IT band on my right side began to knot up and at the 2.5 mile mark my right quad started to quiver as a warning that it was going to go into full rejection mode with a huge cramp. My head is aching which drives home the point that I am pretty severely dehydrated. Try as I might to catch up I cannot ingest enough ounces without completely stopping for a leisurely drink. I pushed my sweat band up on my head and got immediate relief of the head ache.
The next two miles were run/walk/run/ walk/walk as I tried to nurse my left leg and coerce it to the finish line without suffering a dreadful cramp. About a full mile from the finish line a tall, large man in red passes me and he has a 70, as in years old, on the back of his leg. We chat a bit and proceed to run the last bit of the race together. As we rounded the last curve there was Daniel, the scout for my support crew. He is all smiles, great words of encouragement and a wonderful source of energy for my last 100 yards to the finish line. Just as I approach Daniel I stole a glance behind and saw another man, about my age, trying to close quickly. Well, not this time!
Post race, a local hospital provided complimentary massages which, truth be known, hurt much more than the last mile of the race. Daniel stood over me as these sadistic vamps ground their razor sharp knuckles into my screaming hamstrings. As I recoiled they would giggle something about stopping but Daniel, twice, says "No just keep going he really needs this!". My support crew, my son a traitor!
After a couple congratulatory comments from BAM team mates and a couple Team 55 members who were at the previous events, I gingerly walked to the car and was back on the sofa, wrapped in ice in less than 15 minutes. Beautiful, that is what I think of LaPorte!
For a 55th birthday celebration I cannot think of anything that I would rather have done. I met all of my goals for this event; I finished the swim with a smile on my face, I had a consistent but not overly fast bike ride, I employed the Run/Walk/Run strategy after one mile as the heat dictated and finally, I finished comfortably below the 2.5 hours personal target. All of the distances at this event were new and longer for me. A lot of 'firsts' should buoy my confidence and will to continue training. The longer distances brought out many, much more serious competitors, so don't look on the race web site to see if I got a trophy. My trophy is the final picture with my support crew!!
It is nearly six hours later and while my legs hurt and are stiff in protest there is no apparent damage that would prevent me from starting my training this week. And, with this triathlon complete, I get to splurge at my birthday dinner tonight!
I believe the first picture of this series is me showing off my guns or cannons or whatever they are called with the initials of a very special lady etched on my right side to remind me that I am so darn lucky to be able to do this event today. "MVE" and her entire family are runners, they have continuously encouraged me on this path and even introduced me to the life saving Run/Walk/Run philosophy of running. As this lady, with the love and support of her family, mends from her bout with breast cancer she should know that she inspires me and I cannot wait to run with her at soccer practices in the fall.
And we are now off to BC to run, ride, swim and fish in much more hospitable climates.