Monday, September 17, 2007
"Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, until you can do it well." -Dave Packard (HP)
If I was someone who had slept in an oceanfront room on saturday night and got up for a little walk on the boardwalk, and seen the wetsuit-clad hordes, about 8AM Sunday, just strolling leisurely down to some appointed location on the beach. I'm sure I would have thought, these people are completely insane. The ocean does not look very friendly this morning yet they're about to jump in and go for a swim. Don't the red flags mean it's dangerous to swim? So it was that I found myself among the annointed, standing on the beach waiting to run into the surf. A mixture of fear and excitement simmering inside me. I should say that getting to this point has been an interesting journey. I'm really not much of a swimmer. But for reasons which I do not completely comprehend, I've wanted to do the Sandman Triathlon in Virginia Beach, for the last 3 years. I had made a special point to come out and watch in each of the last 3 years. Each time marvelling at the physical and emotional strength of the participants, and the size and ferocity of the ocean. I say emotional strength because a stern upper lip would surely desert many in this situation. This was my 10th triathlon and I actually felt ready(another point in favor of insanity). Having swam in the ocean 6 or 7 times before this day, and the bay dozens of times. But never in surf like this. Somehow the ocean seems to know the date of Sandman and works itself into a frenzy, after relative calm in the preceding weeks. In previous years I've seen people quit at the starting line, just walk away, get pulled from the surf by the lifeguard service, go into the surf to start, fight the waves a while then give up and return to shore. I was determined not to be one of those. I don't think anyone has ever drowned but I wasn't trying to be one of those either. The swim course was off 32nd street, swim out about 75 yards, right turn around the big orange(red??) buoy then south to the next big orange buoy at 24th street, and then right turn to the beach where transition is setup. I planned to be smiling as I exited the water at 24th street. It never ceases to amaze me, when the horn blows and my wave starts to head into the water, my own feet start to move forward and I'm right there in the mix. Insanity! The only thing I remember is diving under a few waves, then looking up and noticing that I seemed to be a bit farther to the north than my green capped compatriots, so I start swimming at an angle towards the buoy, figuring I can get around it with room to spare and without alot of traffic. I sort of fight the waves a while and then notice that I'm no longer in the breaking surf, I'm out in the rolling waves and headed around the bouy. Really not sure at this point how I got there but I get around that bouy(there was a lifeguard sitting on a surfboard at the buoy) and hear the horn for the next wave to start behind me. Now I'm thinking just relax and swim, and so I do. Normally when I get around the first buoy, I'm looking for the next one, this time I decided not to even look until I had swam a while. The presence of others around me is a mixed blessing, it lets me know that I'm going in the right direction and there are others as slow as I am, but it's somewhat unnerving as people hit or kick you. This happened a few times but I just kept moving forward, trying to relax and breath. I could feel waves pushing me up and dropping me down and sometimes I could see nothing but the wave that had just gone over me. Sometimes I was side-by-side with someone for a while or I could see faster swimmers go cruising by, still just doing my little ugly freestyle. Probably not much different from the stroke I started with 3 years ago, breathing to the right side. Which was also good because I could see the beach. I seem to always revert to this in races, even though I can breath both sides in the pool. This is really not like swimming in the pool. A couple of times I get hit with a wave and instead of a breath of air I get a mouthful of seawater and I'm amazed that I can just blow it out, get another breath and keep going. I think I remember passing a boat on the left and then I start looking for the bouy, for that last turn into the beach, cause this is starting to take a long time and I am starting to get a bit tired. I don't see it but I think, just stay calm, relax and keep going. Then I do see something red in the water but it's not a buoy, it's one of those things the lifeguards carry. At about this time I notice the jet ski coming close by and shouting or waving, and I notice that the other swimmers seem to have taken a right turn, I look up and see the transition area and figure, it's time to go in. So I make my way, uneventfully, to the beach, exiting the water 1/2 a block from the point everyone else is exiting. I have no idea how long that took and at that point didn't really care. I made it! And managed to smile as I made my way to transition. Later I learned that the second buoy had blown away... Wish somebody had told me!!! To be honest, the rest of the triathlon was anticlimatic, we had a strong head wind the first half of the 14 mile ride, which turned into a nice tail wind coming back in. A few passed me, I passed more. I spent way too much time trying to put on my bike gloves at the start of the ride. Bike gloves are not necessary on this short a ride. That cost me some time. The run was grueling, but I kept telling myself not to stop. The run is supposed to be my thing... right? Again, 2 or 3 passed me, I passed a bunch. I finished in 1:41:something. Not my best effort at this distance but I'll take it. I'm firmly in the middle of the pack. In my age group 22nd out of 44(2 DNF's). As is always the pattern I was near the bottom of the pack in the swim, 36/44 better on the bike 14/44 and best on the run 11/44. So basically I operate from the back and move up on the bike and run. Out of the water 36 out of 44, ending up 22 out of 44. That's actually how I like to operate but I do plan more work on my swimming. Some day I want to actually *race* the whole thing. The after party was cool. Some folks from the YMCA are talking about doing IMUSA in 2009. I'm considering it. More on that later. The muscles in my right arm are sore this morning, testament to my broken survival mode swim stroke. But who cares, I had a great time. Can't wait to do it again. Oh, forgot to mention, I ran 15 miles Saturday for a total of 40 miles this week. I want to be ready for New York.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
|5251||JKA||Chesapeake VA||M-47||Half Marathon|
|Gun:||7:00:56||5k||10k||10 Mile||11 Mile||Finish|
This was maybe the best race I've ever run. I think I had a smile on my face the whole way. I don't think I can say the strategy worked. I forgot about strategy and just ran. Maybe the biggest factor in that 1:45:11 was the weather. It was cooler then it had been in previous years. Or maybe the key factor was that I've learned enough about running a race like this that I understand most of the salient points and can just run and not overthink the thing. There are always huge numbers of people in this race, which I think really adds to the fun factor. This year there were about 17000 finishers. My most vivid memory is of the people who pass by. I like feeling that sense of camaraderie as you run along with and chat with, sometimes friends and acquaintances, sometimes perfect strangers. Maybe people can't be considered strangers in a situation of shared suffering. Or maybe we're all brought together by a shared goal. Anyway, this was my seventh year running this race and my fastest time, by 6 minutes. I'm very proud of the race pace listed above. It shows that I was getting faster as the distance increased. Ran the last 5K faster than the first. If I could run a full marathon like that I'd probably end up qualifying for Boston.
"If your heart is closed, then you will find behind that door nothing to light your way. But if your heart is open, you will find behind that door people who, like you, are searching, and you will find the right door together with them. None of us can save himself; we are the instruments of one another’s salvation, and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness into light. "
- Dean Koontz, One Doorway From Heaven