Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trying to Prove Something

"Do you do this endurance sports stuff because you didn't play enough sports in childhood? Or, are you trying to show or prove something to yourself?" Clearly, I must have a problem here. Maybe I should seek psychiatric counseling for this endurance sports business. Maybe there is a name for my psychological malady like enduromanic or tricotic. Who knows? And this person wondering why I am trying to "find myself" in endurance sports, is 25 years younger than I, 40 lbs overweight, cannot run, takes blood pressure meds, and is a diabetic? Of course, I am crazy. I am spending my children's inheritance and my meager fixed income on stuff and events to ensure I can go out and hurt myself. Yeah, nuts. That's me. Must be trying to prove something. Could be I just want to be different. As the scripture says: "And be not conformed to this world but ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable, and acceptable will of God." Romans 12:2 I know of no better way to be renewed that to pour oneselve out in effort. Maybe that person was right. Yeah, I am trying to prove something.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Through It All - Rose City Race Report

The older I get the sweeter the aftermath of each event seems to be. Readying my transiton at the Rose City Triathlon in Tyler, Texas this past weekend, I felt especially blessed. The trail to this day had been strewn with back problems,knee problems, urinary tract problems, and bike mechanical problems. But, this morning, here I stood, alive and well, preparing for a great day.
It all went so easy that I thought something surely must be wrong. I must have missed something. But no.
On the open water swim there was lots of contact; the most I have ever encountered; sort of exciting trying to survive. And the guy doing the back stroke: I think he got crushed. Finally, about half through the swim I freed myself from the crowd and had a great swim. Transition from swim to bike was seamless, and I again thought that I must be forgetting something. But no.
This was my fourth year in a row to do this event and had never done really well on the hilly bike course. One hill,in particular was my nemisis. It comes near the end of the bike leg, is steep, curves around to the right, and then goes on up at a lesser yet demanding grade. The first year I did this event the hill got me. I had to get off and push my bike up the hill. The next few years I made it up the hill without having to get off and walk, but just barely. I dreaded that hill. The course is an out and back and after cominng down the hill on the way out, I found some landmarks to use to ready myself for this hill. Sure wanted to be in the right gear and ready this time. All went well and I was having a really good ride. Finally, I knew that it was about time for that hill to show up, and I started looking for my landmarks. No landmarks yet, but ahead of me was a rider who didn't look all that fit, and was wobbling all over the road. I sure didn't want that guy in front of me when I got on that hill. He might fall over in front of me, stop, or anything that could break up my run up that hill. So I ramped up, and gained quickly on him. However, when I was about to make my pass, Mr Wobbly decides to make a race of it. "No, we are not going there!" And, I put the hammer down harder and went by. This little race had me moving pretty fast. I was going to look for landmarks, but I found one right in front of me. I was on the hill already. Some quick shifting and I am still moving well, passing strugglers on the hill. On up I go around the curve, over the crest of the steep part and on to the lesser slope. I am passing lots of riders. I was in zoom mode. "Yes!" The short remainder of the ride was about the same except for two riders who came around me one after another. They were really moving and I wondered how they caught and passed me as fast as I was going. After they got around me, they slowed and one pulled up alongside the other, and they began this conversation. The gist of it was that they were really tired, and just didn't have it to push the end of the bike leg. Shame they didn't figure that out before they did the gut wrench shuffle to pass me. They continued to chatter, so I pulled out, "on your left." I never saw the guys again. The bike to run transition was perfect. The run was my usual plod with me feeling like someone was choking off my airways for three miles. But I found my rhythm and eventually found myself coming down the finisher's chute with my wife on the sideline yelling encouragement at me; graciously lying to me about how good I looked. God bless her. And at the end of it all, I was first place in my age group: the only one in my age group. I told everyone that the nursing homes in Texas must have been on lockdown and my usual competitors couldn't get out to come out and beat up on me.
After all the fears and doubts, I really did make it here, and I really did have a great race; my PR here for the bike and for the event. When one can set PRs at this stage of life, one is exceptionally blessed. And I think it was the scares, the problems, the fears overcome, which made this a very special race. But more than that even, I think it made me a better racer, a better person, a more grateful, humble child of God. Like the words of the song: "Through it all, through it all. I've learned to trust in Jesus. I've learned to trust in God."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Just Going a Little Deeper

It was the most contact during the swim that I have ever experienced in the forty triathlons I have done. Hope I didn't hurt anywone; certainly didn't mean to, but it was rough out there for a while. But, it was good too, and it fired me up for the rest of the swim and the rest of the race. About mid-point of the swim I found myself swimming alongside, and almost stroke for stroke with another swimmer. something made me think that this might be a good test for the effect of form on swimming pace. I did a quick inventory to find that I was pulling a little shallow. What would happen if went a little deeper with my pull. So, I did. My next breath and quick look showed me I had put about two feet on my tandem swimmer. And soon, he had dropped off and got in behind me for a draft. I wasn't turning over any faster; I was just going a little deeper. On the run-my worst event-I was getting passed frequently. And, I thought: I am going as hard as I can. I can't help it if I am getting passed. This is as fast as I can go. The swim lesson came to mind: go a little deeper, push yourself a little more, hurt a little more, you have more, go a little deeper. And, so I did. Before long I could hardly breathe but I held on; keep that cadence up; you are out there now, keep digging deeper. And I did. After the finish, I just walked off to the lakeside where I got my wind back and prayed a short prayer. I almost got up and walked off, but then I reached down and prayed longer and more thankfully; just going a little deeper.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why I Tri - Rose City Triathlon II

Did my best but it wasn't enough last year. In fact, I set a personal record for this race last year and didn't place, even in the old folks age group. I love this stuff. It is so honest. In a couple days, God willing, I will again be in the half-light on Lake Tyler, awaiting the swim for my fourth try at this tri. There is a good chance we will have rain: nice. The first time I did this one it was pouring rain. Since then I have done a bit of rain-riding,
and feel better about my prospects should it be raining. I love this antsy feeling about going to this event. There is a a grin most of time on my face now, like I have some secret I am not telling anyone. The feeling is heightened by the fact that I had a great bike ride yesterday on a hilly course; hammered it, felt great. It is all working. Thank you God! Winning my age group this time? I doubt it. The competition in the geriatric age group is the best at this event; another reason I love this event. If I do place at this one, it will because I put down a great performance,not because I was the only old geezer there. Times like this with all the hopes and anticipation are a big reason as to why I tri. Again, thank you God.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friendly is a Choice

Friendly is a choice. I made it. When I started using this bike route regularly, I noticed an occasional large tanker truck sharing the road with me. For some reason I decided that I was not going to get into the road rights thing here on this route with a large tanker truck. So I chose friendly. When the tanker truck came up behind me while I was climbing a hill, I didn’t make him risk a dangerous pass or chug, chug that big engine along behind my slow self. I got off the narrow road and let him go. He always honked thanks. Sometimes, I would come upon him pulling out onto the narrow road with all that truck and it was obvious he could not clear the road before I got there. Times like these, I slowed down or stopped to wait. He honked. Other times he just honked when we passed on the road.

A couple of days ago, I again let him get that big truck out on the road before I tried to get by. As we began to pass each going opposite directions, I waved. He creaked to a stop and I turned around to see what he wanted. He had an arm out the window. Surely, he is not giving me the bird? No, he had a bottle of water in his hand, holding it out to me. The afternoon was hot. I was very hot and the water in my bike bottles was more than lukewarm. This water he had was ice cold! Yes! I gushed my thanks to the driver, telling him I was going to put some this water on my head too. "If you are going to do that, do you want another one?" Seems like this driver had made the same choice that I had: biker and trucker, different goals, different purposes for being on the road, we had decided that as much as we are different, we are all the same. We are all just people trying to do what we do on the same roads. The roads are not mine; not his; they are ours. I told him thanks so much and left with an extra cold water, refreshed, and smiling. Friendly had made my bike ride that much better. I hoped I had made his day better too. Friendly had been a good choice.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Its Been Quite a Party?"

"It's been quite a party," said the character Gus to his lifelong friend Call, as Gus lay dying in the movie, Lonesome Dove. When I look at the quilt top my wife made with some of my triathlon shirts, I have to say the same thing: It's been quite a party. As I look at the quilt top, read the names of the events, recall the struggle, sometimes the pain, I cannot help but smile. The quilt gives a warm fuzzy far beyond its ability to cover and warm the body. And I have done other types of events as well: several hundred 5Ks, 10ks, half marathons and 32 marathons. I have Two other quilts made of marathon shirts. Ah yes, it has been quite a party. Sometimes, it seems a little greedy, that after all these wonderful excursions into the best and worst of myself, and deep into hard, yet meaningful experience, after all that, I would still want more; still think there is more out there for me. Just reach for it. At present, I am signed up for Ironman Texas in the 70-74 age group. When all this is over maybe that would be a good place to hang up my swim googles, my bike helmet, and my running shoes. Maybe it would be a good place to pack it all in, and learn to relax and revel in memories of yesteryear, wrapped snuggly in my triathlon quilt. But, as I contemplate all this, as I look at the photos and the shirts of events from the past that are on my quilt, I realize that this is not just a "party"; something I went to, something I tried. No, this is a lifetstyle, my lifestyle: who I am. And I like who I am. I won't change that. Yes indeed, this has been quite a party and --- it still is quite a party, and God willing, it will continue to be quite a party. Praise God, the party is still going on.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Finish Line is the Only Way Home

I was done. I remember it well: mile 19 of the marathon, 36 degrees, pouring rain, wind, and I was exhausted. Stopping in my tracks on the sidewalk, I just wanted to lay down. I just wanted to quit. Take me to a warm place. I am done. But, the volunteers were mostly gone. There was no one to quit to. I was in an unfamiliar city very far from home, and had no idea where I was. There was only one way home: the course, the finish line. So, the miles of this journey, this day began with a single step; one step closer to the finish line. Just another step and another; it is the only way home. Over the years of racing and training, I have faced this demon many times and the answer is always the same: keep going forward, the course is the only way home. Times are that this journey grows weary and the elements seemed aligned against my effort to keep running "the race that is set before me." There have been many times I have not been able to run. But, I could always take that one step into that course before me, chiseling away in obedience at the distance between myself and the finish line; an act of faith both in the course, and the Course-Maker, and of course the finish line awaiting me, rewarding me for the many painful steps, with the words, "well done my faithful servant. You are My Ironman."