Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11, 2011 TriRock San Diego

Triathlon is a great thing for my life and for my marriage.  It keeps me healthy and in shape and it gets Robert and I away for a weekend every once in a while. It's fabulous for me as I have my guy all to myself for a couple of days and we think about something other than our family life - the kids, the bills, all the stuff that needs to be done at home.  Believe me, all those things will still be there.  We have time to really think and talk about us - as people.  We relate to each other as male/female, athletes, supporters, friends....not as parents.

Triathlon is also great thing for me personally.  Every event is different, but usually someone comes along during the race and I am forced to step out of my little world and put my race aside for a bit and nudge someone else on. 

I have stopped questioning why.  Why did I have to slow down at Race on the Base and talk that teenager through the last of his race?  His smiles were priceless at the and it was well worth the few extra minutes it took me to run with him pushing him on.  I just knew he was going to give up, but the fantastic feeling at the finish line was just within his reach, so I talked him through it.  Hey, I am NEVER going to make it to the podium, so what's a few seconds or minutes?

9-11-11 turned out to be no different.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.—Buddha

Thanks to a couple of swim angels that I have (Paulene and Anna), I felt pretty secure about the swim portion of the TriRock race. Even so, on the palm of my left hand in permanent sharpie I wrote "CONQUER SELF."  On the palm of my right hand - Love Swim.

The first time I showed my left palm was at 5:50 a.m. in the elevator.  Robert and I got in together with our bikes.  When we stopped at the main floor to get off, I guess I hadn't had enough coffee, because I could not for the life of me get out of the darn elevator and the door closed with my bike and I still in it the elevator. I pushed buttons to open the door, but no luck.  Next thing I know I am being lifted to the 21 floor, where two people get in - a guy in black carrying a guitar case and a young woman.  We chatted on the way down and he told me he is singing the National Anthem at the beginning of the event.  He asks if I am nervous.  I say no. Is he? Yeah.  I show him my palm..."CONQUER SELF."

A while later I hear him singing the National Anthem.  I can't see him.  Too many people. It isn't until I get home and look it up that I find out his name is Aaron Hendra (Aaron Hendra Project).  Hey, there is even a video of him on youtube singing at the beginning of TriRock.

Finally it is my time to jump in the water.  I am the first one in line in my wave and I am first one to jump in the water.  My swim angels would be proud of me.  All I can think of is - yippee- I get to get in the water.  Some women are really slow and scared to get in.  I swim around a bit waiting for everyone to get in. The blue cap swim buddies keeps telling me how many minutes until we start.  I don't want to be in the front.  I want to be in the back right hand side to start, but now behind the swim buddies with their swimmers.

Not once was I worried about the depth or how far out we were swimming.  All I could think of was go, go, go, go.  I was aware of the swim buddies in the blue caps.  About half way through the swim, one swim buddy was having a hard time with a swimmer. Yeah, well, you would think I would be well in front of anyone who needed a swim buddy, but this woman was a fine swimmer, just scared of the depth.  She about froze half way through the swim. I swam right up into her face and yelled at her - read my hand..."CONQUER SELF"..and then yelled - that means (and I pointed to my brain).  And then I showed her my other palm (LOVE SWIM).  "You are a great swimmer, so swim." She did and she stepped out of the water and up the stairs right in front of me.  She smiled and waved on her run into T1.

OMG...T1.  It took me forever to get my wetsuit off.  In a couple of places it was like it was glued to my body.  I could not understand it.  Then my right calf cramped up and made it doubly hard.  I had to laugh.  But I keep working at it and finally I was out of T1 and on the bike. 

I love to long as I have a nice smooth road that is flat. Okay, that was not the case at TriRock for about 2/3 of the race.  After the nice smooth road, there was junk - potholes, crevices, railroad tracks, gravel, unevenness, repair work - well, you get the idea. I just went as fast as I though was safe.  I passed a lot of people and had a lot of people pass me. On my second lap there was a women (with a 45 on her leg) who seemed to be having a hard time.  She was breathing hard and didn't know where to ride on the road.  I edged up next to her and asked her how she was doing.  She could barely breath, much less talk.  I asked what her goal was and she said to finish.  "Hooyah," I yelled, "That's exactly what you are going to do." Then I asked her what she was worried about.  She said falling on the railroad tracks. I showed her my "CONQUER SELF" palm and said, "Just follow me and I'll get you over the tracks."  We road side by side until the tracks and then she followed me over them.  I waved at her and went on.  I just know she went on to have a fabulous race.

T2 was much faster...though I did just walk through the transition area.  I don't really know why. I could have ran, but it was like I had a hand on my shoulder holding me back and making me walk.  Out of transition the run was great.  It was a beautiful run along the marina. The sky was clear and it was sunny.  The boats and ships sat in the shimmering water.  Who could think about how badly legs could be aching at this point because the view was so wonderful.  I passed a lot of people and was enjoying myself.  A few younger people passed me.  I didn't talk to anyone for quite a while.  I just ran along enjoying my feet hitting the boardwalk and watching the people sitting in the restaurants along the way.  Every once in a while I would shout out, "on your left" as I would pass a couple who were just strolling down the boardwalk oblivious to the fact that a race was going on right under them. 

Just before the turnpoint, where the Midway sits at dock, I came upon a guy in full firefighter turn-out gear carrying an American Flag.  Since my dad had been a firefighter I have a pretty good idea how freaking heavy turn-out gear can be. And damn, he was carrying a flag.  I jogged up next to him and just kind of kept pace with him.  He was sweating and suffering.  He was suffering.  I asked him if he wanted any of my water.  He just shook his head no.  I jogged next to him for a couple of minutes hoping some of my gratitude for firefighters, policemen and our military was rubbing off on him.  Then told him "YOU ROCK!" with tears on my face, I ran on.

I looked in front of me and two guys  - 40 on one guy's leg and 50 on the other guy's leg - were in front of me.   So I set my sights on them to pass.  I keep my pace and knew that I was going to easily overtake them.  As I jogged by I threw out the taunt, "You guys aren't going to let an old lady pass you, are you?" The 50-ager tried to keep up, but then stopped and walked.  The 40-ager sped up and kept my pace (and believe me, it is not a fast pace). We started talking. Well, I talked and he tried to breath between sentences. Turns out the guy had started having strokes at about 35 years old and the doctors couldn't figure it out.  At 38 he had brain surgery and the doctors still couldn't figure it out.  They put him on heavy duty steroids and since he hasn't had any strokes, but he had gained about 65 pounds.  So about a year ago he started training for a triathlon.  He was competing in the Clydsdale category.  He said this was his third sprint triathlon and training for each one had helped him lose a little weight. I told him how this was supposed to be my first Olympic Distance, but since they changed the bike mileage from 24 to 20 to 14  miles, I decided just to do the sprint distance as I want my first Olympic Distance to be a "REAL" Olympic Distance.  I said that was my next goal, to compete and finish an Olympic Distance.  He said his goal was to live until he was 50.

We ran along beside each other in silence for awhile and then we were at the 1 mile to finish mark.  I showed him my palm "CONQUER SELF" and told him, "You are totally going to make your goal and more, but you need to conquer your thinking." And slowly I started picking up my pace.  My legs started screaming and they really wanted to stop and walk.  But NO WAY was I going to stop and walk when I was pulling this guy along. So I kept running along and then we hit the final run in, probably 2 city blocks to go.  He wasn't going to let me get too far ahead of him, but he was hurting.  "You okay?" I asked him. "Yeah," he managed to breath out.  "Okay, so here we go," and I started sprinting down the boardwalk, around the turn.  "Come on, we are almost there," I yelled at him. He was about a stride behind me, but he was pushing on. I didn't slow for him. Around the corner and there it was.  "GO, GO, GO," I yelled at him as I kept running. I heard the announcer say, "And here comes Kandi and Chris." We ran over the finish line almost side by side.  But I never stopped. I just went on through the process and collected my finisher medal and had my ankle chip collected.

Robert was waiting right around the corner for me.  We went through the buffet line and had our banana, orange and pancakes. 

And I will never forget 9-11.

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