Well – the triathlon is complete and we are still on such an emotional high. Though our bodies are not in as much of a celebratory mood. As of this moment, here is my laundry list of post triathlon ailments:
1. First and foremost – severe withdrawal from T2 family
2. Cold sore on left corner of my mouth. Nice.
3. Canker sores in left side of mouth and back of tongue. Really nice.
4. Swollen everywhere – particularly my feet. Think paddles. No, planks.
5. Low-grade fever & swollen glands.
6. Sting on left toe from some critter that was in the ocean. Not sure and don’t want to know.
7. Eyes sore and gritty from salt water and sand.
8. Right forearm swollen and stinging from celebratory new tattoo, which means “brave”. Could not find the arabic for “denial”. PS – double checked to make sure translation was “brave” and not, like, “tortoise”, to respond to all those who have felt the need to profess their natural (fantastical?) ability to read and write Arabic and comments of “Hmmm, are you sure this is right?” Yes! Although not 100% sure on Cooper’s birth coordinates on my right shoulder, which, given Santa Monica hospital’s close proximity to the Bagel Nosh, well, you get the picture.
9. Back hot and sore in two places from tattoo touch up and new tattoo. (with coordinates of Stuie’s and my 10th year vow renewal in Darling Point).
10. Feeling chubby and lazy after not working out since the race. (I know I know).
The Race – being present and savoring the experience
My first priority was to enjoy the experience. To be present. Not caught in my head beating myself up or pushing myself so hard that I couldn’t revel in the joy of the culmination of my training (of course, I use the term training loosely). My second priority was to do the race my way. According to my own style. Not that I didn’t want to excel or wanted to make light of the event. No no no. I had very specific, thought-out timing goals to meet, which I did, but I wanted to give the experience my twist. Which I did. Beginning with the wetsuit, which I was determined would be my watertight homage to AIDS awareness. At minimum, I figured that having a colorful wetsuit would get me noticed by the lifeguards in the unlikely event things didn’t go well in the swim. When I found out my swim cap was to be neon yellow – well – I couldn’t have been more delighted! And thus, much to the amused and slightly nervous stares of my fellow racers, and with Coop by my side as the gun went off, did I slowly wade into the race as far as I could before that moment – to me – the worst moment of the whole triathlon – when you have to actually do your first swim stroke.
Note: I am a great swimmer in the pool. Strong crawl stroke. Bilateral breathing. Very comfortable in the water. In the open water however, compounded by the pressure of the race, as well as arms and bodies flapping and flailing all around you like salmon in heat flying out of a stream, I revert to my swimming safe place. And so, as I rounded the first buoy, I swiftly, Esther Williams style, turned onto my back and swam the entire race – 1.5K – on my back doing something Cooper and I call the “Modified Jellyfish”. Steady and strong leg-kicking accompanied with arms and wrists fluttering myself forward. Think of the wrist movements in the hula. There ya go.
Actually, this worked fairly well for me. My time was not embarrassingly bad. On the contrary – there were many in my tentacled wake – and except for the buoy that I accidentally ran into (hard to see when you’re swimming on your back) and the jerking zig-zag path, caused when one of the lifeguards (lining the swim lane and with whom I could chat more freely from my modified jellyfish position) gestured for me to change my trajectory, which was headed at a 90-degree angle towards shore (like a torpedo) rather than parallel to shore, at which point I would completely over-correct and flutter my way out to sea, only to over-correct in the opposite direction about 10 minutes later. Hence the zig-zag.
Of course, at the last buoy when it was time to make my way to the beach, there was no modified jellyfish in sight, but a straight and strong crawl stroke, greeted by an equally strong,”great strong finish” from the lifeguard at the buoy. As if! Once I could touch the bottom, I looked back and like Gidget, bodysurfed the next wave in. The crowd cheered, and I casually shuffled out of the water – no running for me – thru the chute and past my coach, who, God bless him, just shakes his head in confusion. He has no idea what to make of me, but he’s pretty sure I’m not great for business.
There are good transitions and there are bad transitions.
And then there are MY transitions.
As you come off the beach, you are meant to be running while pulling off your wetsuit as you go, thus saving valuable time while you make your first transition – T1 – that being from swim to bike. This is where I went oh-so-wrong, yet oh-so-right. First – as some of you will know – I like to call it a tailgate, not a transition. I grew up tailgating and socializing at USC games. It is part of my DNA. And sometimes you just revert to type. Even though everyone tells me the triathlon transitions are supposed to be fast – in and out – I seem to spontaneously reject the notion. Moreover, I consider it a great sacrifice that I don’t light candles, set up folding chairs and throw some coals into a small and discreet Hibachi grill. But before I even got to the transition area, I got stuck in the showers – no one mentioned there would be showers to run thru – like at a car wash – (operative term run thru) to rinse off the salt water. I was so enamored of this spa-like feature, I simply stayed. I was just about to ask where the shampoo and conditioner were when the volunteers shouted me through and into the transition area, otherwise I might have stayed even longer. I sashayed over to my bike and began my process of pulling off the wetsuit, getting the sand off of me, and throwing on my bike gear (including – gasp – sneakers not clip-in bike shoes – the ultimate mark of an amateur).
Now, you are supposed to take about 4 mins or less for your transition. And for the life of me, I don’t know what happened. But somehow, my transition took over 9 minutes!!!! HOW did this happen, I wondered? Cooper, who watched in astonishment from the sidelines, said I didn’t stop chatting. To everyone. To anyone! Sometimes, just to myself. Did not stop.
Anyway, it didn’t FEEL like I was there so long, and as I raced off to do the 40K bike ride, I felt on fire. Lightening speed. Indeed, I passed many. And as I passed them – ever enjoying the experience – I would chat, or say, “Gingerly passing on the left” or “I’m passing you now, but you’ll probably be passing me next”, or silly comments like, “Don’t you HATE this hill?”, as I would smile and blow past them. Never let it be said I am an unfriendly competitor. I greeted and thanked every single cop stopping traffic. Every volunteer cheering us on. And as I buzzed by, I remember singing. “If…they…could…SEE ME NOW that little gang of mine…I’m eating fancy chow and drinking fancy wine.” I felt great, though. Fast and fearless. Indeed, I came into the transition so fast that the volunteers had to scream for me to stop the bike lest I ride past the official stop line and get a disqualification.
The transition from bike to run was, not surprisingly, much better, though had to change from one pair of running sneakers (that I use for the bike) to my other runners, which in retrospect, seems beyond ridiculous, as I suspect my poor coach concurs. Grabbed my water bottle and whoosh, off for the 10K run, with my legs feeling like cardboard moving boxes full of books. Oh well. And the chatting began again. Every time I passed a fellow Team 2 End AIDS team member heading towards the finish as I was heading away from the finish and starting my run – I would hi-five them and be so proud. I chatted to fellow runners, “Atta way – you go, girl.” Chatted with spectators, “I thought this was supposed to be a SPA HOLIDAY!!” yuck yuck. Or my other standard comment, “I thought the run would be more fun than it is.” Which was true. I hoped to pass Stuie on his way to the finish, but we must have missed each other on that monotonous, curley-q course. And by the time I hit mile 5, I had grown slightly more quiet and significantly more annoyed. The fun was starting to wane. The shame of walking in front of fellow teammates made that a no-go option, so I sort of shuffled along that last mile, thinking “last mile last mile last mile.” I took that time to chat with Bill, dear old Queenie Bill, for whom I was putting myself through all of this, and who, I am sure, was watching the whole thing with great amusement, indeed, peels of laughter, from whatever cool gay bar in Heaven that was running a Cosmo shots promotion. He was shaking his head, laughing, saying to me “YOU ARE COMPLETELY CRAZY! Why in the world are you doing all of this for me? I know how much I mean to you because I see Cooper, who is named after ME, for God’s sake, every day. Where do you think he gets his sense of humor? Who do you think is the one who tells him to hide in the dark garage when you pull in late from work so he can jump out and scare the beejeezus out of you? See, you don’t have to do this to show me you love me or to keep me relevant in your life. I know. I’m right here. And I’m not going anywhere. Ever. But I would like to watch you do that swim technique again.”
Finally I came to the finish, and to the cheers of my coaches and teammates, all wearing red, lining the finish barrier. Frankly, I think they were clapping and cheering so enthusiastically out of relief that I hadn’t died on the course, but never mind that. And there alongside them, were Coop and Stuie. So proud and so emotional. The hugs – I can’t describe the hugs other than to say that they were extra long and so strong – like a lifeforce. And of course, the tears are flowing and I am somehow co-existing between being blissful and proud, so grateful to have turned such a devastating loss in my life into such a series of positive events, yet missing Bill with every fiber of my body and knowing that I would trade all of this to have had him for just a few days/months/years longer. And then that incandescent endorphin high kicks in – the buzz of all buzzes. And just as I have said – vowed – shouted to the heavens, that I will never ever ever do this again, inside, I feel a recognizable spasm of delight mixed with anticipation because I know I will. And I can’t wait.
So, April 22nd – New Orleans 70.3. Double the distance, half the fun. I am thinking of bringing a smoker to the transition area.
Final times for Malibu Nautica Olympic Triathlon
1.5K Swim: 44 mins
40K Bike: 1 hr 36 mins
10K Run: 70 mins
Tailgate 1: 9 mins 11 secs
Tailgate 2: 2 mins
Total time: 3 hrs 43 mins