The Whole Picture is Nothing But a Compilation of Details.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Triathlon Epilogue

Triathlon: a trilogy of sports totaling sheer madness ranging, in order of madness (worst to least): Ironman, Half Ironman, Olympic Distance, and Sprint. The sport is said to have originated in the 1920's France even though the name comes from the Greek words trei (three) and athlos (contest). I'm not sure how the French ever agreed to the name being Greek.

Competing in a Tri was never on my list of things to do, especially as I considered it having become something people did to be hip. Didn't feel the need to prove anything. I was quite happy with my routine of cross training, and my body seemed to agree.

People asked what I was training for, what my goal was. Truth is, I always trained because it makes me feel good both physically and mentally. My goal? To feel as good as possible without getting injured (a historical snapshot of my life indicates I have a special knack for this).  But one after one, they asked "Why don't you do a Tri? You already run, bike and swim." My answer is noted above.

Then I came across a Sprint Tri advertised in the next town over from where I live. The date was in three weeks. Being fitter and more cross-trained than ever before I was admittedly tempted. I wouldn't have to train any more or drive three hours to get there. I routinely did more than the 1/3 m swim, 14.5 m bike, and 5k run. Just hadn't put it all together yet. This was a little too close in time and distance to pass up...

However, I did not lose sight of my goal of not getting injured so I asked an equally motivated and life embracing friend to do the run. He needed little convincing. We registered as the relay team "Never Too Late" because in our minds it's never too late to starts something new.

Once or twice before the race, I combined swimming with biking, roughly the distances required for the race, but absolutely without applying scientific methods. This race was going to be fun, not overwhelming. I was thrilled that someone else was going to do the race with me and as an extra bonus relieve me from the pressure of having to do the run. In fact, the week before the race I got sick and focused more on sleeping than training but as someone who tends to over-train I believe it worked in my favor.

4:30am Sunday morning. A knock on my door tells me I'm actually committed. To a Tri. I consider the fact that people who go to the early Sunday service don't even get up that early!

Bike strapped down sideways on my roof rack (bike racks are overrated), and helmet, fairy shoes, sunglasses, gloves, towel and running shoes accounted for, we drive down to Nahant for the First Nahant Annual Sprint Triathlon, September 9, 2012. Both giddy, laughing at the madness of it all. Two peas in a pod, disguised as a red VW Golf GTI.

The air has a definite chill to it but I know from an ocean practice swim I did a few days ago that the tropical storm brought along some pleasant, warm water. The reports said 65 degrees. Tropical indeed.

Registration and marking first: entry number on left shoulder and age on right calf. (A revolutionary thought enters my mind: dating would be an easier process if everyone always wore their age and marital status inscribed on their body for everyone to see.) In the transition area, competitors lay out a towel on which they carefully organize their two pairs of shoes, helmet, running bib, lucky charm... you get the idea. I follow suit, minus the charm. I wear mine around my neck.

The sun rises over the horizon and chases the night's rain clouds away as we make our way down to the start of the race. Upon arrival I notice that all but five participants are wearing wet suits. I'm one of the five and not one of the "better insulated" participants.  They are all in fact, wearing wet suits.
The pre-race meeting is brief and soon enough the first wave of competitors throw themselves into the wet. I place myself on the outside of my field to avoid getting caught up in the sea of madly swinging arms and kicking legs which is where, I learned in a swim race last year, contact is the rule rather than the exception. This turned out to be a good strategy and soon enough I am out of the water and on my way across the street to the transition area, happy to not be twisted up in a wet suit: Sixty-five degrees is not cold when you have 125 psi of adrenaline pumping steadily through your system.

With soaking wet and sandy socks, fairy shoes, bike shorts and helmet I mount my Cannondale and embark on part two. We'd checked out the course a few days before the race so I know the rolling double loop by heart: 1 km in to the course, we are sent straight up a hill that rises up steeply, immediately after a 90 degree right turn.  No cruising speed to help you up there.  Carefully navigating the wet leaves that had been knocked down overnight I push through as hard as I can, cheered on by onlookers and police, wanting to set free the chained cheetah waiting eagerly to run. Damn this is fun!

Back in transition I throw my bike on the ground, hand off the timing chip and wow I'm done. Now it's up to my teammate who takes off like a rocket and keeps the tempo up all the way to the finish which helps land us in second place out of eleven teams with a total time of 1.17.09. Not too shabby for a pair of first timers. We are on the moon, jumping with joy and adrenaline proudly wearing our medals to the post race breakfast, complete with beer, eggs, and live music.

A few days later I mention there's another Tri in Rye, NH in two weeks. We enter as individuals this time... hooked.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Turning Leaves

I relate to the dragon fly for its affiliation with summer, close relationship with water and being a mythical symbol of greater awareness, change and an example of living in the moment. Fortunately, I get to see more seasons than this fascinating insect which only gets to live as a flying adult, outside the shelter of a cocoon for about two months in the summer, much like those who decide that summer is over after Labor Day and impatiently sit around and wait for next summer to start, regardless of weather on Memorial Day. 

Yesterday, I put my Triathlon competition gear away, contently, with a smile and a sigh of relief. The sigh was far from the kind of sigh you let out when you have finally filed your taxes but instead a sigh filled with a sense of inner gratification and completion. With the last Triathlon of the season at Wallis Sands, NH, and a great race at that, time has come to alter the pace.

Time has come to wax up the longboard and enjoy the long awaited swell of storms with given names churning off the coast, then drive home with both hands latched on to a cup of hot chocolate and the car heat blasting in an effort to regain circulation in fingers and toes. Only to do it again as soon as possible. 

Time has come to run on empty, silent, moonlit streets or head to the White Mountains for a day of hiking before the sun has woken up. 

Time has come to paddle out through the estuaries under a pale sun, in solitude, as the season grabbers who gave up and pulled their boats are gone, the bugs are dead, birds have departed for warmer climate, and only the enthusiastic paddlers and those who make a living off the ocean come out: Those of us who appreciate ten miles of visibility in clear, crisp air, the company of harbor seals, and no wake from inconsiderate summer weekend yahoos all in a great hurry to sooner or later in the day find themselves stuck on a sandbar awaiting the next high tide. 

Time has come to curl up and read a captivating book, to be creative and to sleep late under a heavy blanket, windows wide open, a cool breeze whispering in your face.   

Two days ago, the almanac marked the first day of autumn. Time has come to turn a leaf.