Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Sidelines at IM Arizona

I've been meaning to write a long and meaningful post about why I decided not to race Ironman Arizona this year, but my blog habits got the better of me. (Not to be confused with the blog hobbits, who have asked me to get to writing.) What I mean is that I ran out of time to post my thoughts.

Now I'm feeling a sense of semi-urgency to announce that I will not be racing this year's IM Arizona... on Sunday. I chose to do one this spring, and that race will be IM Coeur d'Alene. I may someday get around to sharing the lengthy reason why not, but for now suffice it to say that I'm happily on the sidelines of this event.

I'll be here cheering for my friends (James and Terra, amongst many others), and I'll be doing some work for the event (commentating and hosting sponsors).

I appreciate all the well-wishing; I love the good luck notes; and I am sorry to not be out there battling it out with the rest of you to another sub-seventeen finish.

Good luck to all of you, and thanks for the support!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lonestar Sprint Triathlon

In some ways, I felt like I was going back in time about fifteen or sixteen years. I was traveling across the large state of Texas, en route to a sprint triathlon; my bike was on the roof, collecting bugs; and I was enjoying the company of a good friend, as we admired the wildflowers on the sides of the highway. It was just awesome.

Almost a week ago (I'm slow to update, as usual), Amanda and I headed down to Galveston Island for the Lonestar Tri. I was planning to do the sprint on Saturday, and Amanda was set for the Quarter on Sunday (1/4 of an Iroman). We left the dogs with Uncle Fred, so it was just the two of us, our bikes, and a lot of gear... and food.

What it reminded me of was my first full season of racing triathlons back in 1993. I had just discovered the sport; I had just met a bunch of great folks; and I was driving all over the place to do every race I could fit in my schedule: Athens, Corpus Christi, Del Rio, Jefferson, Grand Prairie and Canyon Lake. We went everywhere.

On Saturday morning, when I strolled out of my hotel room and down into transition to pick up my packet, a flood of memories overtook me. I was seeing some of the same faces from way back in the early nineties: Dave Sing, Carl Stewart. I was anticipating a brand new event. I was unsure of how I would feel racing. Somehow the newness of the venue, coupled with the sameness in my mind's eye made me feel strangely nervous, excited, comfortable, and relaxed. I loved it.

Amanda showed up to see me off in the swim. It was somewhere between 500 and 600 meters (or was it yards). I do not know, and it does not matter. I was in the second wave (how long has it been since the last time I did not get the first wave!?!), and I was ready to swim flat out for the duration. It was truly a refreshing break from the strategy-laden, pace-oriented swim of an Ironman. I swam until I blew up. Then I just swam a few more meters and got out. How cool.

Next up was a FAST transition. Fortunately, I got my helmet positioned and strapped in no time. My flying mount was flawless, and I was on the way.

Just as I was starting to get a bit uncomfortable with the intensity of the bike ride, I realized I was at the turnaround. Whoa. The 12.5 mile bike ride was over before I knew it.

Coming into T2, I was so excited for the run. Of all three sports, my run training has been the best. Not unlike that first season, when my run was my only fighting chance, I was about to make my move.

I slipped into my shoes without socks. This is something I have gone away from as an Ironman and 70.3 athlete. It just seems so fun to be carefree and fast and sock-less. I was off to run a 5k. I figured that was not the time to worry about blowing up. Again, how bad would it be if I blew up for the second half. I could always make 1.5 miles.

The pain I felt for that 55 minutes (plus or minus) was awesome. No matter how much my legs or lungs or arms hurt, I was almost done. I felt I was almost done when the gun went off!

After the race I stood at the finish line for probably 45 minutes. I shook hands of random finishers; I talked splits and data; I admired those who won their sprint finishes; and I reveled in the return to my roots.

I reflected on how far I have come in the sport. After racing my first triathlon on a mountain bike, wearing soccer shorts, and struggling to finish the sprint, I have made my way back to my roots. Sure, I've won a few races between then and now, but in the end, I'm still right where I started: having fun sharing a great sport with great people.

I am grateful to have shared in many others' experience at their first triathlon. Thank you for sharing it with me, and I urge you to enjoy the journey the sport will present to you. I remember vividly (now even more so) how much that first race impacted my life. Many moons ago I got hooked, and I am as hooked now as I was then!