Unlike for other Olympic distance races when I would beat myself into exhaustion - and probably injury - this time I took a moderate training approach and followed the advice of coaches and veteran athletes-of-a-certain-age. The focus was on fewer days of training allowing for more rest and physical adaptation. Swimming, my best event, moved away from the fast-as-you-can-go interval sessions to slower, more endurance and skill building sessions.
The run - my limiting event - training concentrated on strength, hill repeats, and track speed. Bike training was much like the run; short speed sessions over long endurance rides. A six day a week training regimen was now down to four. Although my left kneed isn't 100% healed, and may never fully recover, I felt the most prepared for a triathlon since last summer.
More importantly than completing the race for my body I also fulfilled promises. Like erecting scaffolding surrounding an aged structure I put in place a standard suitable for work intended to be used as a basis for enquiry and design. The project? My purposes for racing. A purpose to strengthen my family, to encourage my friends (like this guy, and this guy, and the gonna-be 2 x Ironman pictured to the left), and wear the race colors for those that can't but wish they could.
Please allow me to divert from this post's stream of self-examination and review my race.
During the swim I arrived at the first turn buoy with the front of the pack by taking smooth, below a hard effort pace when either a competitor's hand, foot, or elbow hit me on the corner of my left goggle so hard it knocked them off of my head and bloodied my nose. While seeing stars from what felt like a prize fighter's jab I hurriedly retrieved my goggles from the water. But while trying to put them back on dozens of other athletes pushed, punched, and kicked me as they tried to get around me and the buoy. In the scrum the strap broke. There I was, getting pummeled in the middle of a frenzy, only 300 meters into the swim, tasting blood from the collision, with a broken pair of goggles. My options were to swim without the goggles, repair them while treading water, or quit. I chose the repair. After the main pack of swimmers passed me I tied the ends of the thin, black strap into a square knot. Although I couldn't breathe through my nose and couldn't focus my left eye, I could continue the swim. And I did. It took me over 35 minutes to finish what usually takes me 27 minutes... and it hurt.
Into T1 I went, finding my bike without trouble. I put my helmet on and grabbed my sunglasses. While putting them on the left lens popped out the frame and into my hand. It took a couple of year-long minutes to fit the lens back into the frame before heading out on the bike course. The CapTex bike leg is nothing but fast fun. The course is a four loop hammer through downtown Austin with two come-to-a-near-stop u-turns in each loop. For all that was lost in the rugby match of a swim it was made up, and then some, on the bike. As a bonus, on each lap I got mucho cowbell from my wife and family who were easily spotted waving their American flags.
Although my ran wasn't my fastest time in the sun I was happy my nose had stopped bleeding and I could see out of both eyes. The pace was kept at a moderate effort that I felt I could hold and still finish the race in under three hours. Which is what I did with a couple of minutes to spare.
Now back to the heart of this post. Some have said they might not have continued after getting their goggles knocked off their head and the taste of blood would have sealed their decision. And, that's exactly what it did for me. But my decision was not to quit. The whole fracas in the water, the eye, the nose, the blood, the hastily repaired goggles, all of it added up to race experience for which I wouldn't change a moment. Not one.
The reason for going to Austin to race was more than the swimbikerun. It was to keep a promise, regain purpose, and rediscover something forsaken. The race put AllTri.org on the map in its debut fundraising event. AllTri.org will direct $2,000 of generous sponsor's donations to the Athletes for a Cure Foundation. Gladly, I toe the line for the millions of families affected by cancers who have turned over their bodies to radiologists, insurance companies, pharmacists, oncologists, counselors, case workers, therapists, and blind faith. Maybe in a way of reclaiming myself they too can reclaim their hope. Those two promises were made and kept. (Stay tuned for a lot more from them.) I went to Austin as part of a family. Rediscovering their support rediscovered their love. Racing in Austin renewed my purpose. I am as common as they get and the logical thing would be to accept the common place and the common existence. But everything beyond the logical, everything instinctive tells me different.
Again, I see my world as a triathlete. The way I eat, the way I sleep, the way I drive, the way I evaluate the world is first filtered through the gauze of the swimbikerun. With purpose.