Flying home from New York the day after a successful race my attention turns to being with my wife and daughter. The week ahead is packed full of activities so each moment with them becomes central. One of my favorite tasks as Head Coach of the Boise Y TriClub is running the week long Youth Camps. Seeing the kids acquire these essential skills; you know you are setting them up for a life long journey that includes more fulfillment. Kids swimming, biking and running just makes a lot of sense.
Sandwiching two east coast trips on back to back weekends takes a lot of demands on the mind and the body. Asking your body to then perform at its highest level to race against the world’s best endurance athletes is wishful thinking, especially when your week is packed full of activities.
The Ironman 70.3 Steelhead is in St. Joseph, MI where I spent 4 years of my youth. The seeds for my love of swimming were planted here. My first day of swim practice happened on a Tuesday evening when I was nine years old (a late start for a kid whose dad was a swim coach). I spent about 40 minutes of the 45 minute workout in the showers at the Y, intimidated. I finally worked through some fears and yielded my shy persona out to the swim deck. The coach introduced me to some swimmers and then I jumped in and swam a fast 100 yards racing some of the others. I haven’t been away from the water since.
Joining the swim team enabled me to have the confidence to take my love for swimming to the next level; spending much of my summers on the beaches of Lake Michigan, swimming. This lake is an open water paradise and having the pleasure to enjoy this at a young age has shaped me to this day. Most of the time the lake is calm but my favorite days were when the wind picked up and the waves rolled in. I would play in the waves for hour after hour until hunger or mom said it was time to go.
Every year of my life gets better and this golden age refreshes the memory of the beginnings of my journey.
Now, a fish story. A rainy day along the banks of the river did not keep the true fishermen from casting. My dad got off to an early morning start and headed to the St. Joseph River. I have fond memories of waking up before sunset to spend serine mornings on the lakes of Northern Michigan fishing. Unfortunately, I slept in for this outing.
Hearing the raindrops hit the river as the water flows towards the giant lake, one can meditate on the movement like watching sand spill out of an hour glass. Fishing is a patient mans game and much of the time you ‘settle’ for the simple act of being outside on the water. Then, the line starts reeling. The senses go on high alert and adrenalin spikes through your body. I can only assume a fervent, “Holy Crap” was uttered. This was no ordinary fish. This sucker was pulling the full weight of my dad along the river banks. With the line reeling he stumbled to find better footing while being pulled along the shallows of the river. Then, he lost the white knuckled grip he had on the pole. The fishing pole slipped into the river and out of sight. With out a moment’s hesitation he jumped in the river.
The picture below is of me when I was 9 holding up the prized Steelhead. I remember having a hard time hoisting it for the photograph. My dad is decked out in all Levis denim on cloud nine from an epic day on the St. Joseph River.
He spent the next hour swimming and fishing in a battle of wills that ended with one fine ‘catch’.
Returning to St. Joseph for the Steelhead Triathlon after more than 20 years had me excited to race on semi home turf. It also proved to be an awesome family reunion as much of my extended family still lives in the area.
Race morning came and the conditions were perfect; breezy and cool. Lake Michigan looked marvelous with some subtle 1 foot waves rolling in at irregular intervals. The 9 year boy in me saw the lake again and looked forward to a fun swim.
The race organizers saw it differently and canceled the swim. I was stunned and disappointed.
I let it go and prepared for the longest time trial I’ll ever do. Having the pros start at 30 seconds intervals took the race away. A 56 mile bike and 13 mile run is a long way to race the clock.
Still the biggest shock of the day came when a draft pack of about 14 pros swallowed me up around mile 40. Without any referees (no one saw any all day) the drafting got way out of hand and turned this ‘race’ into a very unfair day. I got mad and went to the front and hammered home the last 10 miles not wanting to be a part of the cheating. All I did is pull everyone to T2. I ran hard for 3 miles holding almost the whole lot off but by mile 6 my fight was gone.
The race that could have been didn’t materialize and I’ll be honest it left a sour taste in my mouth. It had its moments in the early parts of the bike and run but the overall race was not at all what it should have been. It is imperative to know that when you spend a lot of time, money, and energy for a race that you are going to get what’s promised; a swim, bike, and run in a fair racing format.
Later that same afternoon my family and I enjoyed some time on the beach, my wife and I went for a leisurely swim while doing some body surfing in similar conditions to the morning in what we felt was very pleasurable.