I'm sure most of you who have had any contact at all with me for the last six months or so were well aware that I was going to run a triathlon. This was done to make sure that I wouldn't punk out and not do it. Well, I actually managed to finish it yesterday, so now you all get a blow by blow description of how I did. Let me start by telling you how I planned for it to go, and how I imagined it going in my mind. The plan was to start with a swim that I could do in a low heart rate zone. I have been very successfully training long distance swims without getting too worn out. I was then going to work a little harder on the bike leg, but save plenty of energy for the run, which is my weakest event. I was going to go out easy on the run, and save the really hard push for the last half. I just wanted to make sure I could finish the triathlon standing up, with a smile on my face. That was my plan.Here's what actually occurred. Kathy (my 16 year old daughter) and I arrived onsite about 6:15 a.m. When we got there, there were people with bikes everywhere. We got in line and got our race numbers, chips, and body markings. I'm told they mark your body with Sharpies so they can identify the body if you don't survive the swim portion (just kidding!). Kathy's age group started the swim long enough before mine, so I could watch her coming out of the water before my race started. I was relieved that she made it out, because she hadn't done a lot of training in the pool before the race. Next it was my group’s turn to start, and that's when things started to go horribly wrong.
As soon as my face hit the water, my swimming goggles immediately started to fill with water. I had to stop several times to try and get my goggles to seal, while the pack slowly swam away from me (after first swimming over the top of me). I never could get my goggles to seal, so I just gave up and swam the whole race with a side stroke. Side stroke takes much more energy and is way slower than the crawl. I did manage to beat about half a dozen other floundering souls out of the water, but that's it. This was supposed to be my best leg of the race, so as you can imagine, I was quite disheartened at this time. Not only that, I was darn near exhausted already and I still had to do the bike and run. I stumbled out of the water and kind of walked and half jogged to where my bike was. At this point, I wasn't at all worried about a transition time, so I casually put on my socks, bike shoes and race number. The good news was that it wasn't difficult to find my bike on the rack, because most of them were already gone.I took it easy on the first part of the bike leg in an attempt to get my breathing back to something resembling normal. After I started feeling better, I started to hammer the pedals a little. I was going up a hill past a lady on a mountain bike and said to her, "Just think how nice this will be to go down on the way back," to which she replied, "You haven't seen the next hill, have you?" Actually, there was no problem at all going up the next hill, but it was a real ride going down. I bet I didn't have to pedal at all for at least a half a mile. Did I mention that this was an out-and-back bike course? I think you get the picture. The rest of the way to the turn around was a great ride, and I went faster than I usually manage in training. I always worry when it seems so easy, and my instincts were correct. As soon as I hit the turn around I found out why it was so easy on the way here--I had a tail wind, which of course was now a head wind. I down shifted and gave up any hopes of a really nailing the bike leg of the course.
Meanwhile, all the guys with the triathlon bikes and zero percent body fat were passing me like I wasn't moving at all. They were on the longer race which was twice as long as the race I was doing. Talk about a buzz kill. I trucked along pretty steadily until I got about two miles from the end of the bike leg. Then I got to the hill. The hill that was so much fun to race down at warp speed was now a soul-crushing monster. I was determined to stay on the bike all the way up. It probably would have been a smarter strategy to just walk it, but my brain was hurting for oxygen at that point and my ego outweighed my good sense. I ran out of gears about two thirds of the way up the hill and was mentally refitting my bike with a smaller front sprocket the rest of the way up the hill. I did manage to make it to the top, but my legs were on fire and I actually had to put my lungs back into my chest cavity so as not to gross the rest of the racers out. Luckily, the rest of the bike race was downhill and it gave me a chance to get my lungs to function again. Again, at that point I couldn’t have cared less how long it took me to change shoes and rack my bike; I just wanted to finish the race. As soon as I started running, I knew I was in for three point one miles of torture. My legs felt like I had already run five miles. I know this because I had just completed my first 8K run the week before, and I felt exactly the same at this point as I did coming down the home stretch of that run. It was uphill all the way out of the park. I started to walk a little when this little girl that was walking up the trail said, "Don't quit now, you can do it." Ashamed, I thought quickly and said, "I'm not quitting, I was just giving that guy up there a little more of a head start." She laughed, but nevertheless, I began running again. As I was coming out of the park, I could hear Kathy's boyfriend Steve yelling at the top of his lungs, "You look great Mr. Drouillard, you're almost to the first mile mark." Steve is a great kid, and apparently a pretty good liar--that worries me some. I kept plugging along, and I think I saw some of the race officials driving some stakes to check my progress.
Once I got to the turn around, I actually started feeling better. Most of the way back was downhill. Once I got back to where Steve was, I was starting to realize that I was most likely going to actually finish the race. He took pictures for which I struck a pose, we exchanged high fives, and I was off to finish the race. As I was getting into the park, a guy passed me and told me I was first guy he had passed the whole race. I said, "Ha ha, I'm not in your age group." I guess it's the small victories. Once I got in sight of the finish line, I gave everything I had left, which wasn't much faster than I was already going. It's hard to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line, with everyone, including your little girl, cheering for you. I had been visualizing that moment for the last eight months, and let’s just say a lot of emotion came boiling out of me as I crossed the line.Even though the race didn't go the way I had hoped, I take a lot of pride in the fact that I kept going despite the obstacles. You might ask why anyone would want to subject himself to something like that, and I used to wonder the same thing. The best answer I can come up with is that, besides all the health benefits, it's a great way to see what you can accomplish once you decide to do it. Right now, because I conquered this small thing, I have faith that with God's help, I can do even bigger things that before this, I would never have believed possible.
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