The San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz

Lucky 13

“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. 

Again, as awesome as the swim and bike are, you guessed it, the run is every bit as good.  Beginning a wooden stair climb up the side of Golden Gate Bridge begins the very technical part of this run.  Climbing 300 feet in less than a mile gives the body all the challenge it yearns for.  Cresting this climb on a single track dirt trail with the sights of the ocean far below crashing against rocks and smells of grasses, shrubs, wildflowers and sea breezes in the air charges the soul.  With the soul charged the body responds with ever quicker feet.
Running down to Baker Beach I finally have a racer in sight.  John Kenny, running in 5th place is just a stone throw away and straight above me.  Looking up the sand ladder with its ominous grade and scanty footing he is a most delicious carrot.  The motivation to catch John outweighed any pain that I might have felt hurtling the infamous sand ladder and it’s 400 plus steps.       

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.

RESULTS

Slowtwitch Article

Emmett’s Most Excellent Triathlon 2010

DAD POWER

Changing diapers at 1am, 3am, 5am, and 7am…and loving it.  Hortense nurses Lola, I burp her, Lola goes back for dessert, many minutes later she finishes then I change her diaper and burp her again.  We get some father – daughter time for a few minutes before she falls asleep then I put her back in the Moses Bed and lie down on our super comfortable T3 Recovery mattress; I’m seconds from dozing off.  Little Lola whimpers, you’re really tired but the need to comfort her is overwhelming and she cries again anyway.

Getting up, you check to make sure the newborn is getting along OK with the ‘new’ world.  “It must be scary all the time”, you think to yourself.  Experiencing everything for the first time; being alone, getting chilled, having bad gas, the constant hunger pains, being hot, soiling your diaper, being so small, strange noises with amazing hearing, hiccups, did I mention the constant hunger pains.  Typical with newborns but if her metabolism is anything like her parents…she’s going to be hungry all the time.  Sure enough, after going through the usual checks, it’s clear she needs more milk.  That’s when you feel powerless.  You’ve done everything in your capacity but Lola’s going to keep on crying until she gets nutrients from mom.

The true power in this equation is really Mom Power.  The pure stamina a mom needs to care for a newborn while providing all the cuisine she needs on little sleep is stunning.  It’s no wonder that women come back to athletics after child rearing so much tougher than before.

Being a father for 2 weeks and 5 days at the start of Emmett’s Most Excellent Triathlon had me doing lots of dad training and very little Tri training.  But there is something about being a dad that feeds the body, mind and soul with inner strength.  While out on the course pushing my body to move faster I kept thinking about my family.  Swimming, biking, and running in your swimsuit seems simpler and easier.  It’s still a wonderful source of joy and it’s still important but for different reasons.

Still, going a best time at this year’s Emmett Triathlon would give the impression of being quite unlikely.  What does Dad training and its sleepless nights and lack of training have to do with going faster in an endurance event?  Plenty.  Pure and simple…it’s Dad Power.  Albeit, a much lesser force than Mom Power, notwithstanding; stalwart and robust does the Dad Power now flow, spring and flood my veins. 

The Emmett Triathlon starts in the waters fed by some of the most outstanding white water in the world in Blacks Canyon Reservoir.  The best word to describe the water, the atmosphere and race time temperature; pleasant.

The race started at 9am and the guys got a nice 5 minute head start on the gals.  Trying to push a good pace some of my focus was on the simple delight of moving through the water, the sun on my back, and the scenery of the canyon.  I also focused on riding high in the water, close to perfect balance and a strong kick.  The swim always ends too quickly, but wait…there’s more to do!  Yeah, let’s go ride bikes!  On the bike, freshly chipped sealed roads and the bumpy rides they provide would seem to work against fast bike splits.  The course heads west on farm country roads with few turns, you’re left with little else to do than turn those cranks.  The stiff carbon frame of the SCOTT Plasma absorbed the bumps well and I flew in my cockpit.

Finishing the bike often times ends my fun for triathlons, not so anymore.  I’ve learned to run at a good clip without the drudgery of extreme suffering.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still a level of uncomfortable pain, however, the joy of moving my body masks it well.

I ran fast enough to overcome slower swim and bike splits and PR in 1:51.49 almost a full minute faster.  Cool, that’s 2 PR’s in 2 days in races I’ve done very well at in the past….what’s going on?

Dad Power!

There also must be some Grandpa Power flowing in my dad.  The 58 year old 60+ hour a week CEO with limited time to train managed to get 19th overall and 2nd in his age group with a time of 2:21:47.227.  3rd place in his age group was 2:21:47.302!  Yikes!  That was close and it was a daunting sprint finish for a couple guys in their late 50’s.  Nice job guys…it was super fun to watch and very entertaining for the spectators!  When is the rematch? 

Congratulations to the over 1100 athletes that competed in the YMCA’s YNOT Triathlon and Emmett’s Most Excellent Triathlon over the past weekend!  Here’s to moving your body!

Thanks Boise Aeros, Ken Runyan, and Emmett for another superb event!  It is an outstanding community event in so many ways!  I’m looking forward to the 10th anniversary next year!

YMCA’s YNOT Triathlon 2010

We need more short distance triathlons.  We need to embrace the short distance triathlon like we have the coveted ironman distance races.  You get more abilities and every age group involved.  You see many people getting their feet wet with their first multisport event and experts honing their skills.  And don’t forget… these triathlons are a whole lot of fun.

The YMCA’s Y-Not Triathlon is a 400 yard swim a 6 mile bike and a 2 mile run.  Training for any one of these events requires a ton of endurance, putting them together…back to back to back requires even more.  We triathletes are a little nutty for calling this event a ‘sprint’.  An outstanding swimmer would complete a 400 yard pool swim in well under 4 minutes and his training would reflect that of a ‘distance’ guy and his coach would call him a ‘slowtwitch’ kinda guy.  The same holds true for a 5k runner who might run that distance in 13 minutes…his peers and his coach would consider him an endurance athlete.  He may not have a sprinters muscle in his body.  But a triathlete does a 30 minute race with 3 separate disciplines and calls it a sprint!  Ha!  The 50m freestyle takes under 19 seconds…that’s a sprint.  The 100m dash takes Usain Bolt 9.6 seconds!  That’s a sprint.

If you really want to do a sprint triathlon, let’s see a 50m swim, 1000m bike, 100m run…ok, that’s a sprint.

I love doing this race.  It’s one of those races where you can just let it all go and let your body fly over land and water with few limitations.  That little demon in the back of your head says, “It hurts and you can’t keep pushing this hard”.  Your soul responds, “Watch me”. 

Once the race starts, the world melts away.  It’s just you, and it’s dead easy; how fast can you move your body against each tick of the clock.

Years of endurance training have taught me the importance of holding back ‘a little’ when it comes to the day in and out preparation.  So it can be a real treat when a race comes along and you allow your body and mind to take the gloves off, to roll in the dirt, to play all out.  It’s exciting to see how fast you can move your body and feel it working.  The race is a celebration of your fitness, harness it, use it, and then thrive with it.

Hundreds of Boise’s athletes celebrated their fitness on this 100 degree plus evening and the youth started us off with their exuberance.  Wave after wave started and parents cheered on kids, friends cheered on friends and then kids cheered on parents and you get the feeling at this type of race that many of the spectators are saying to themselves, “that looks like fun, I should try it”.

I’ve done this race a few times, so being 35 and finishing in a PR of 29:45 must have something to do with Dad Power!

Thanks to the YMCA and all the volunteers for providing the community with this wonderful outlet!

The Essence of Another

There are two halves too many people’s lives; the first half leading up to the birth of their initial child and everything after it.  This is my experience with this most significant turning point.

 

There is a moment that my being keeps reliving.  It’s a slice of life that will transcend time; it’s as if this moment did not abide by the laws of physics.  Stepping out of my body and the fabric of time itself “I” became present in the nether world.  This place that may not even be a ‘place’ that is neither here nor there but somewhere strange all while being familiar too.  It was not surreal but sharp and stunning in its lucidity, its intelligibility, and its transparency.  I became a man of the soul like countless new parents over the eons.  Holding my daughter for the first time brought on this unexplainable wonderment.  Floating there, dancing in the universe of the fantastic, my daughter looked deep into my essence.  She saw the real meaning, I felt it, we felt it but there was a learned response to speak it.  Molded into the foundation of my being I will remember how speaking those first barely audible whispers touched on something amazing.  Still looking into each other’s eyes I spoke to her.  It was not the spoken words themselves that left the lasting impression but rather the sensation, the vibration, the energy and the weight these ‘words’ carried.  This soft murmur rang with profound strength in my ears, like I bellowed it out from deep within, trying to echo it off the walls of a valley laid out before us.  My body and mind retreated to some distant place and this is probably the reason I don’t recall the exact words spoken.  But this much is clear; this atmosphere of communication linked one soul to another.  The ambiance was familiar and ancient; this most basic rite of passage had been experienced and felt for as long as time has been realized.  For an instant, we felt them all, the awe and pure joy felt by the masses over the eons of parenthood.

But those words…, my mind keeps coming back to the sensation of feeling the energy come out of my mouth.  The mind does not understand or reason with the spirit world.  It stood, focused in the mezzanine as the most awe inspiring theatrical play took shape on stage.  How to explain the emotions and the power of that moment goes beyond the minds interpretation abilities.  Perhaps this instant in time really did stretch out for a few hundred years, how else can one explain a few seconds and 5 words being enough to know, thoroughly and completely the essence of another. 

Coming through on the other side of this point of singularity in one’s life has one grasping the magical.  The awe does not end with the newborn but continues with the mother and her ability to give and grow and nurture life.  I have a new found respect and admiration for women who now seem like an entirely other species.  A more advanced species.  Am I nothing more than a worker bee, I find myself wondering while mom nurses life like only she can.  Her endurance and strength far outreaching the substantial lot I’ve garnered.

“Call it “womb awe” or even “womb worship” but it’s not simple envy. I don’t remember ever wanting to be a woman. But each of the three times I have been present at the birth of one of my children, I have been overwhelmed by a sense of reverence… It was quite suddenly, the first day of creation; the Goddess giving birth to a world… Like men since the beginning of time I wondered: What can I ever create that will equal the magnificence of this new life?”

Sam Keen 

Is there anything better than living with a sense of joy and awe with the miraculous feats we encounter on our journey through life?