“Daddy raced in an epic triathlon in San Francisco today.” I whispered to Lola. It was that hour of the night that you spend your whole life sleeping, unless some serious celebration is going on. I had missed much of day 38, all of day 39 and most of day 40 of Lola Belle’s life. The day had been long and full and a deep slumber beckoned so when Lola started partying early on day 41 I half jumped out of bed at the chance to hold her.
Leaving the family home for this trip took away some of the vividness my life had gotten used to. Waking up after my first night in San Francisco, something struck me as odd. It was a dreamy fulfillment kind of thing. Ah ha, it was the first uninterrupted deep sleep I had gotten since July 20. It seemed peculiar that I felt the tiredness after such a wonderful rest, like coming out of a coma. It gave me a moment’s reflection on being a husband and a dad, suddenly thrust to the sidelines.
Arriving home late on Sunday after doing battle with some fierce athletes my thoughts turned to seeing my baby daughter after being away for the first time. How much has she changed? Would she recognize me? What new tricks had she learned? What comical scenes had I missed? Jolting up the stairs to see the family I got a quick and cursory, “shhhh” from Hortense. If there’s one thing you learn early on being a dad, it’s not to interfere with a sleep deprived mom coaxing, willing her sleepy baby to doze. I wore a defeated expression on my face quietly hoping to get some dad time. Hortense was not budging and it was clear that I needed to get my butt to bed too. It is good to be home back in my immediate role as a dad…I’m a lucky man.
6:59am Sunday August 28, 2010:
One barely noticed the change from darkness to early morning sunrise with patches of fog settling in on the water. It seemed stormy and I wanted the energy from Mother Nature but it was a calm morning on the gray bay. There’s something sinister and threatening about jumping off a ferry into the shadowy and murky water. It’s what I love. It makes you feel more alive. Up the ante on the challenge and the endorphins spike high when you succeed.
The people of San Francisco are generous to let us run wild on their city. A grand tour to be fought with sweat ensues. The splendor is all around you on each part of your journey, but it becomes so obvious at times like this in the colossal Triathlon at Alcatraz.
I appreciate my good fortune to have supreme health for this prodigious challenge. My mind is ready to let my body reach its maximum. My body responds like a puppy trying to please its owner; with all the joy and sheer determination it possess.
The water feels good and I swim like few have from Alcatraz to San Francisco save for the 6 guys who must have seen a shark, and were swimming away from me with awesome power. The occasional sighting yields little as the ebb and flow of the water allows for rare instances of clarity. With all those people in the water it’s stunning who spread out and alone it feels. I like it and I churn up my 6 beat kick. Feeling stronger near the end of the swim I head into T1 just over a minute down on the leaders.
As fantastic as the swim is, the bike is every bit as good. With an inner smile I turn the cranks of the SCOTT Plasma like the pistons of a Detroit humming 1970 Chevelle. Most of the course is up and down but flying down the descents in no time leaves you feeling like you’re in a constant climb. Weary of the formidable course I pull the reigns slightly on the body willing it to negative split each segment.
Closing in on the halfway point of the bike I’m getting ready to let go of the reigns and find those maximum limits my body possess. With 4 guys up the road now less than a minute I’m determined to catch them. Traversing the rancorous streets of San Francisco has the eyes on constant inspection for clean pavement. You don’t find any. Suddenly, I hit a bump that puts my wheels airborne. The landing feels like riding in a small aircraft with a very bad first time pilot in the cockpit. My water bottle doesn’t survive the landing. The casualty happens slowly and I can hear the plastic scrapping and turning violently on the pavement. There’s a motorcycle referee right behind me. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!, shouts deep in my mind, rattling off each corner, not one inch of it wanting to accept the reality sure to come. My soul is laughing.
Madame Referee communicates with me but I ignore her subtle hand gesture pointing me to the side. Still in denial, she pulls up to the side and speaks some inaudible commands but I know the gist of what she’s saying. I can’t believe my luck.
At the packet pick-up the day before, the TriCalifornia workers hands me my bag of stuff and pronounces, “Lucky 13”. I thought nothing of it until later that night, preparing my numbers for the race I found none. Not so lucky.
The USAT rule I had broken is Abondonment, wherby, you are not to liter on the course. This was clearly an accident and the roads fault, right!? I plead and protest with Madame Referee begging her to forgive and forget. I know she’s not going to budge but I still can’t wrap my head around the injustice of it all. I feel my race slip away. I ask her how long I have to stand down, “15 seconds, right?” She says, “ONE MINUTE”. In an overdramatic heartfelt disgust I take my hands off the hoods and throw them up in loathing, half wanting my front tire to bump into another rough stretch of pavement and send me to ground so I could really feel my misery. Coming to a stop I put one foot on the ground then the other and after what has already felt like eternity she starts her watch. Feeling like a wild horse penned in his stall while his herd runs freely within in sight of him my body whinnied to be let go.
Starting to think I should have brought my book along with me to pass the time, I begin preparing for takeoff when she shouts 30 seconds. I can’t stand it.
I begin grasping the meaning of the universe when at last she finishes her 5 second count down freeing me to begin my pursuit. After another 30 seconds of accelerating I’m finally back at terminal velocity.
I’m angry. And I let it run its course in all its fury. Charging like the bull trying to mull the matador I see red on the climbs, I see red on the descents, I see red when a woman shouts, “Go Lucky 13!”
I’m all alone on wide open streets attacking the bike course venting with everything I’ve got. I see no racers, I let the brief thought of mixing it up with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishers of the bike slide into oblivion and focus on enjoying my favorite race and giving it my all.
I made the pass coming down the wooden steps 3 and 4 at a time while John played it more conservative. With a long straight mile to go and no one else in sight I took stock of my feelings and emotions. I felt vigor and joy. I wanted the race to keep going to keep feeling so much alive. Crossing the finish line to this amazing race is a success for anyone who dares take it on.
Thank You TriCalifornia for enriching my life! I am a lucky man.