Saturday, September 09, 2006

the littlest triathlete

in elementary school, the day we did the mile run in gym class was the most dreaded day of the year. it seemed much too long and really quite an unreasonable expectation for children. that many kids were getting 'gold' and 'silver' awards for clocking in at 6 and 7 minute times did not help, as my fastest time was 9:55 in second grade, and i did not break that until high school. [that that time has stayed with me for nearly 20 years is evidence to my feelings about this.]

in junior high and high school i strayed from sports. they seemed difficult, beyond me. i didn't enjoy gym class much, spent my electives on band and choir, and my after school hours were in musical theatre. [i won't play the 'last picked in gym class' card here, but you know i hold it]

in japan, a mountainous country, i drove my trainer nuts by never really having ridden a bike much before the mtc and being quite slow [and often tired] as we traversed that isle of the sea.

this spring, my sister talked me in to running the rex lee run, byu's 5K fun run. i did it.
i published the post so late that many of you probably missed it. you can read about it here.

becky has developed several weird hobbies, including visiting hard rock cafes in foreign countries, medicology, and running triathalons.
we talked of doing one together, and so i began training [running], a little worried that our pool has been closed as of late. last week, we decided not to do it.
'smart idea,' i thought. 'i really wasn't prepared.'

then, as you read, i learned that the decision to 'do' was back on, with less than 48 hours before the event.
i rented me a wetsuit [really rather excited to have that], found a bike to borrow, and put together a special playlist on my ipod. at 11:30 p.m. the night before, my friend brought over his bike, one fit for a tour of france. it didn't even have pedals; it had little silver dollar-shapes, whereupon the rider, wearing special little aerodynamic shoes, attaches to the silver dollars, allowing one to go very fast.
watching my friend [an able sportsman] demonstrate them and fall over in the process, my anxiety of what was to come in six hours did not calm down.

sleep cycles go in four hour segments, and i've noticed i feel better if i sleep for four hours than if i sleep for 5-6. so i watched 'conan' and went to bed at 12:30, my alarm set for 4:45.

i am not a morning person.
i am working to be better at it, but not there yet. even if i am in the morning of the first resurrection, there's a chance i will be cranky for the first hour or so.
i fought to stay awake as we drove to get to yuba lake, somewhere past nephi, by 7 in the a.
the thought of swimming half a mile in a lake on a cold morning, the getting on this superman bike and praying i don't fall over while my feet are attached ['you can really hurt yourself' phil told me last night], then running 5K did not have me too excited.

'remember how brothers are awesome!' yipped my sister and she and her friend got their gear ready.

i was somewhat calmed as i looked at the people around me. scattered about were those who looked like they were sponsored by adiddas or powerade, but many were gas station attendants, bus drivers.... you know, regular people.
maybe i could do this.

becky's roommate and friend of mine came down with a few other friends [obviously crazy] to take our pictures and cheer us on.
by now, my attitude had thawed and i was making jokes and had a good spirit about this impending gauntlet.

the water was cold.
the half mile course was outlined by three floating orange markers; the first two weren't too far out, and i felt kind of good. then i saw the third one-- this was a very scalene triangle.

ten minutes before us went the 'olympic' crew--they do twice the ordeal that we 'sprinters' do.

then they blew the horn and we all burst into the water.
i'm not a swimmer. i did the crawl stroke for about, oh, half the distance to the first floatie. then got tired.
this was not looking good.
but i still saw people around me, and that was comforting. there were also lifeguards out in bright green boats, ready to save any floundering soul.
as i rounded the second floater in the backstroke, realizing that even if i just turned around and swam back to shore i would be tired, i thought of calling out to the bright green and just holding on.
i didn't see how i could make this. when you're swimming, you can't stop to catch your breath. your only other option is to go under water.
i switched to the sidestroke. my right arm hurt all the more. i even doggie paddled as i noticed the people around me become scarce. every muscle in me was sore. i couldn't balance my head and it felt like i was falling back in to the water, my body was arching backward, yet i didn't go underwater. i wondered if i was hallucinating, panicking, but didn't feel like i was.
i did the backstroke again. water splashed in my face as i stared up at the sky, desperately trying to stay straight. a jet had gone by, leaving a line of smoke. if i could keep the line the same place, i would be on a straight course.

yet everytime i came back from the sidestroke and checked to see that i was still going toward the bouy, when i looked at the sky, that line at turned. a lot. that really confused me.

the lake was nearly empty by the time i came close to the dock [keep in mind, the olympic guys had gone around that course twice] but i could hear our friends cheering for me. i paddled and paddled until i touch ground. i stood up.
and then fell down into the water.
melissa and andrew helped me out as i stumbled, confessing that i hadn't been in water since maybe january.

it was like having my own pit crew. andrew helped pull off my wetsuit as i dried myself off. melissa held out my shirt while andrew put on my socks and got my special shoes ready. i put my ipod on, donned my wind tunnel-approved helmet, and took off. i didn't bother to lock my shoes onto the super-pegs; more speed is not worth having me feet securely attached to the bike, should i fall at such high speeds.

as bon jovi told me we've got to hold on to what we've got, the killers reminded me of all these things that i've done, and i fought like a lion. i sped down the freeway, crossed the bridge as the police officers watched for traffic, and passed my sister as she was coming back the other way--i was looking for her, but with her issue number written on her arm, she looked like some granola girl with a tattoo and i almost missed her.
i kept fighting at i rounded the turn around point and headed back. every time i saw someone on the horizon ahead of me, it gave me new resolve to work harder and i would pass them as japan's 'judy and mary' sang in my head. the terrain began look familiar once again when moby's james bond theme fueled the fires all the more, and i pushed even hard, passing three more girls.

'mission: impossible' was playing as i was helped off my bike and into my running shoes. i downed half my bottle of gatorade and took off, running like ethan hunt until andrew came up from behind and grabbed me, turned me around, and pointed me in the opposite direction. i thanked him.

the running part of the event never concerned me too much, because i get out and run 2.5 miles a couple times a week anyway [and there's no hill here]. but as i started down the course, my legs brought up a point of irrefutable logic: the rex lee run was a fun event, and becky and i were rather tired after that. i have just swam and biked a total of 13 miles, and now i'm going out to run five thousand meters? that's down a football field fifty times.
so, yes, i walked for a good part of it.

the course was also a bit of a psychological game, too. i ran across the field and then came to a guy who told us this was the turn around. they had little spats of flour on the ground to mark the course, and sure enough, this was the place to turn around. as i headed back to the base, i was feeling pretty good, thinking that this almost felt too short. after having done 13 miles, three more isn't that much.

but the flour didn't lead me back to the base. it kept going down the road.
so i ran.
after a good run [+ walk] i saw a guy leaning against a red converable, with a path leading down to the beach and back to base. i watched the horizon and saw people turn down there and go back. but when i reached the guy, he didn't point me down. he pointed me onward.
so i ran.

i fought. i wasn't getting any more tired, oh no. i ran out of energy shortly after the second floating orange marker in the lake, and never really got any weaker. afterall, you can't expend something where there is nothing.
i wasn't running on energy. i was running on my soul.

as a techno version of 'ode to joy' played, i began to imagine what it would be like, to cross the finish line; began to get emotional even at that thought; i even began to hyperventilate, though i'm not fully sure why. because i was pushing myself to the limit, i suppose.
and i began to understand why people did sports in high school. you can't get the feeling of being on stage on opening night in front of a packed auditorium out on the road, but you can't get this feeling there, either.

the course didn't seem to end. the road went around a mountain. eventually i saw a nice lady and her children at the water table. i drank two cups and turned around. i passed the guy by the convertable and headed down the hill and ran along the beach.

i was in my own movie. i was rocky. i saw myself in silhouette, running against the sun as sand kicked up behind me [and rocks fell into my shoe, but you don't see that part in the movies]; i pushed as the camera showed close-ups of my hands, my legs, my teeth, gritted and strong. i wanted to find 'ode to joy' and have that playing, but couldn't spare the energy. instead, i had 'kung fu' playing by 90's alt. rock group ash, and just as i crossed the finish line, cheers errupted from the song as people in reality cheered for #168.

i found my friends and hugged my sister, partially crying as we took pictures. it didn't matter to me that i was near the end, that they had all been there for 20 minutes. this was for me. crossing that finish line tasted just as sweet as first place did to the victor.

i did it.
and i wore my dirty, sweaty shirt for the rest of the day my number pinned to it. i had been through too much to earn that to just take it off for not good reason.

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