Proving Grounds in a Triathlon Ocean Swim

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    13-Apr-2017

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Proving Grounds in a Triathlon Ocean Swim A Bloggers Journey Into Chaos and RedemptionIm going to lay a story down here for you. Youve seen this plot unfold in a 1000 movies. Hope...Despair...Triumph...Redemption. There aren't any Hollywood stars. Just me and my baptism into the world of triathlons. At the time, I would have preferred baptism by fire or pestilence...anything but that moment in the ocean when the fates came together to smash me down to the depths of the sea. But...well...read on.Triathlons - Not Just for the CrazedA theory exists in some circles that anyone who knowingly signs on to do a triathlon must be considered mentally insane. Now I ask you...Do the folks in this video look like they're nuts?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwYwUPVPLnM

Thank you....I wanted a challenge in a new, hostile environment where the obstacles would be so demanding there would be a need to dig down deep and find inner resources I had never called on before.The Boca Raton Sprint triathlon appeared to be a good choice...so I signed up. This triathlon would be three continuous legs consisting of 1) 1/2 mile swim in the Atlantic Ocean 2) 12 mile bike ride 3) 3.1 mile run.TrainingLike any good driven A-Type, I plunged headlong into the physical and mental training. If the training manual said run 4 miles today...I ran 6. While biking the hills, Id run the race over and over in my mind or preparing for any obstacle danger that might come my way.Come race day...I felt great. Training went well. My plans were laid out for best execution and best finish of the race. Give me your best shot, Boca.Race Day Minus One - First Chink in the ArmorA minor reality check popped up at the first-timers pre-race briefing meeting. The race director offered some do's and don'ts for avoiding trouble...that there were no guarantees in a triathlon. Bad things can happen..make sure our wills are updated before the race. Your swimming in the ocean tomorrow morning, he said...not a pool.Daydreaming through a meeting like that was a huge mistake. Instead of knowing the procedure for alerting rescue personnel your in trouble. I looked out at the swim lanes in the water imagining myself gliding effortlessly like a dolphin in the water. The next morning, I would find out the hard way how fine a line there was between swimming like a dolphin and swimming with the fishes.Race DayI arrived at the race around 6:00 AM and the first thing thing I noticed was...every contestant...all 899 of them were wearing a Speedo...except me. I had biking shorts on. Okay..I thought I could cut a little time off the bike transition and maybe get a better time. Enough of that.6:55 AM Race Marshal Instructs All Triathletes into the Ocean. It's Show Time.We all stand waist deep in the Atlantic as the National Anthem plays on. My emotions were sky high. I was proud...proud to have made it there. Proud of my country...Proud of all that hard work and preparation and all those best laid plans. It was time to execute the plan.I didn't really notice how hard the waves waves were hitting my body but it hurt. Plus, the water looked really choppy. It gave me a bad feeling.The Swim - First mileThe starter gun sounds. Boom. Show time!Its Funny How the Fates Know When to Come Together and Put a Whup Ass on all Your Plans and Dreams.900 triathletes move forward into the world of pandemonium and chaos...nothing like I imagined. Can't believe it. We're walking..looking for some patch of water to swim in...one opens then closes...stop...walk...swim. I got aggravated...couldn't make sense of it...OK...moving again...bigger patches off to the right but Im going straight...finally some water to swim inone stroke and arms come from everywhere slapping my head and back. pushing them away but cant make headway. Stop and stand again for bearings. Whoa I'm neck- deep in it now...big open patch in front opens up...swimming now but another veers hard straight into me...angry now. I grab his ankle and pull him back behind me...felt good doing that one but too much energy wasted. Not in the plans. Space opens up and I swim...Ahh...finally things get better...back on track. Get this swim over.Not a Good Day to DieSwimming for even 20 seconds feels like heaven but must stop for bearings. I raise my head up to suck in air but a wave smacks my face and water not air fills my mouth...try to stand but cant touch bottom...a swimmer from behind slams into me pulling my goggles offI cant breath....Im turned sideways I think underneath this guy...not sure which way is up...panic sets in...Im frantic...Im going to drown. Wheres my remote. I want out of this horror show.You can quit if you want, and no one will care. But you will know the rest of your life. John Collins (Ironman Founder).Somehow the surface came to me and I got some air...not an ounce of energy to look for rescue...went into survival mode instead...turned on my backarms and legs spread out wide...floating now...calming myself...the sky is blue and peaceful...breath slowly improving...moving my arms over my head and pushing water down behind me... swimming again... moving forward. I'm going to make it.I literally crawled out of the ocean and sat for a moment on the beach...thinking...no way can I do the bike and run. I took one last look back at the water and...My God...there were at least 20 swimmers still splashing their way to the beach. I thought..theyre not going to pass me. So motivated again, I push on.The BikeEverything after the swim was a blur. The bike transition tent was dark and confusing. I couldnt find my accessory shoe bag. It had my bike's location and personal info ( Curtis, D #127) in it. Finally find it and the bike. Climbed aboard and headed out onto the road. It was a male in the crowd to the right that said, Hey #127...you still have your goggles on.The only other thing I remember was around mile 4... my bike shorts started rubbing into my thigh...wretched news since my pants were still wet from the swim and they rubbed every cycle rotation...every time my right legged pedaled down came more ripping. By mile 7, my thigh was on fire and bleeding. Mercifully, an aid station appeared at mile 8. Someone said, Oh, that looks nasty She put some salve and a large bandage on it an off I went. At mile 10, the bandage fell off. I must have looked pathetic crossing the bike finish line...pedaling with the left leg while airing out the right.The RunTransitioning to the run tent, I sucked down 4 or 5 gel packets for a quick energy boost. Gel is sometimes the only think your stomach won't throw back up.I felt the buzz entering the tent. Call it delusional, but I actually wanted to run. My free-flowing running style allows me to settle into a nice groove running distances.But you cant run if you can't get your shoes on. I couldnt raise my leg high enough to rest it on my knee. So I bent over to change them on the floor and nearly passed out. A tent staffer said, You better get up and git or youll tighten up big time. He was right...I already had.I finally got the shoes on ...turned toward the tent exit and couldnt walk. My legs felt like jelly. I couldnt go back...that staffer. So...I headed out like a bow-legged Elmer Fudd...one foot in front of the other. My legs slowly came back and I began to pick up the pace.The jelly legs are called heavy-leg syndrome...common in triathlon transitions. During the bike ride, blood pools" in the quads area because thats where the demand for energy comes from. The blood stays put until theres another big demand in another area...in running...its the hamstrings and calves.After the 1 mile marker, I started making up mental games to pass the time and forget the pain. My favorite was, Lets Pick Off the Dude in the Red Ball Cap Up Ahead. It worked until I heard someone near the 3 mile marker counting out intervals 38:35...38:40... The crowd was clapping and shouting, You did it or Way to go or my favorite You are a triathlon finisher.And then it was over. I felt no emotion crossing the finish line. I got an IV in the medical tent, then, found my car and drove home. I hit the bed and laughed and cried until falling asleep.The triathlon bugged me for the longest time. I couldnt accept that all the preparation I did...all those plans I laid out...to succeed...proved worthless. And why me...out of 900 swimmers why did that wave have to hit me.Then one day it dawned on me that something bigger had taken place. I believe that once I committed to the triathlon, God stepped in to test me...not my goals or my plans...His. It was a test of survival...in that patch of ocean water when the fates came together to do me in. In the ghastly moment of drowning, I dug down deep and called on those never-used resources and survived. And I am a triathlon finisher and that feels really good...25 years later.

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