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."