Spreading the Word - Mere Mortals Surviving Dangerous Challenges

author : infosteward
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The Boulder Peak bike course is legendary. It is, literally and named as such, one of the toughest bike legs in the country.

By Ovetta Sampson
B.T.com Managing Editor

The water felt cool and curious as I dug my face into the lake at Boulder Reservoir. The announcer blew the dreaded air horn and about 100 other women in my age group splashed excitedly in the water. It was the start of my first Olympic triathlon. That in itself left me feeling anxious and nervous. But that race at Boulder Peak would turn out to be one of the most nerve-racking, yet life-affirming events I have ever entered.

I started my swim like I always do – in the front and to the outside. Whipping my arms around, I made a beeline for the furthest orange buoy. My swim start was great – straight and steady. As I rounded the first buoy I looked back and was surprised to see that I was swimming alone. Usually about this time I could see the other wave, especially if it is full of males, hot on my heels. But there was no one. I felt as if I was swimming a lone in this huge lake.

As I ducked my head underwater and then out again to breathe the race had been halted. At the time I was swimming to my best swim time ever. Howard Garcia was laying face up floating in the water. Reports say he had a heart attack. Over 70 years old, Garcia was a familiar face at triathlons. He was a recent multi-sport convert. Like many of us, he caught the triathlon bug later in life and reports say he competed with gusto.

It wasn’t until later that I discovered that 10 minutes into my first Olympic triathlon someone had already died. And, unfortunately, it was not the only tragedy that would occur during the four hours it took me to complete this race.

I flew out of the water hopping as I traipsed up the rocky beach. I saw COgirl and her beautiful daughter Tara smiling at me at the swim finish. Stopping for a sec to kiss Tara – hey it’s worth the added transition time – I skipped to the transition area and quickly found my bike.

The Boulder Peak bike course is legendary. It is, literally and named as such, one of the toughest bike legs in the country. Six miles into the bike I had to traverse a hill that was a 15% gradient to top then skid down the backside of the hill reaching speeds of 40 to 50 mph. As a new cyclist, this bike course scared the hell out of me. One participant said she needed a psychiatrist to get over the trauma the downhill ride had caused her. It’s safe to say Boulder Peak’s bike leg isn’t for the faint of heart.

As I was churning up the hill I saw an unusual amount of fire trucks. There were ambulances and sirens. I peevishly thought they were waiting on me, so sure they were that I wasn’t going to make it up the hill. At the top there were people standing waving at cyclists to slow down. I looked quickly to my left to see a brown compact-sized car its left side smashed in. The smash was the result of Gary Henry, 37, of Colorado Springs, hurtling at some unknown high speed head-on into the car’s front end.

When I finished the brutal run, I found out that Henry and another cyclist were taken to the hospital with serious injuries from a crash sustained at the race.

Later, after reading the media reports about the tragic events and talking about them on the B.T.com forum, I read an article by Scott Hinley on fear.

Hinley, the father of our sport, wrote about the fear that can go hand in hand with competing in sport challenges that most mortals would run—not walk—away from. The article made me think – I did a race where one guy died and two others went to the hospital clinging to life. What the hell was I thinking?

But in the next breath I was thinking, “Thank God, I only have to do Boulder Peak once a year.” I was already thinking about next year, thinking about my next foray into the triathlon world.

Doing Boulder Peak was a dream of mine. That dream became a nightmare because the events made me think about my frailty as a human being. Still they didn’t keep me for wanting to do triathlons.

My heart goes out to Henry Garcia and his family. It must be devastating to wake up one day happy and cheering for your loved one and then going home to find out that he’s gone forever. The Garcia family lost a father, grandfather, husband and friend. It is a tragic and totally infuriating circumstance. But my entire reason for doing triathlon is so that I can be like Garcia.

So I can train and live a healthy lifestyle and do triathlon races well into my senior citizens’ years. I want to be just like Garcia, well into my seventies, standing on the shore of some great reservoir, waiting to participate in my umpteenth triathlon, highly anticipating my swim start. And if I step into the water and fall face first seizing my last breath, I can’t think of a better way to go.

 

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date: September 3, 2005

infosteward

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avatarinfosteward

New biz venture for me check it out: writewaywriting.com
Literature - the big heavies - Wright, Shakespeare, Zora, etc.
Love movies, singing (Karaoke), traveling, swimming, dancing and playing all kinds of card games. Love good food, better wine and even better entertainment.
Help children in poverty. Sponsor a child today.
www.compassion.com

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