Monday, January 15, 2007
Well, the third tri is over! And not a minute too soon! Man it was hard this time, so much harder than I thought it would be. But I did it. I crossed that finish line. I'm happy.
On Saturday morning, the day before, I went down to Elwood to train with the squad as usual. Ordinarily we would have started with a swim, but it was very rough, so we did a 10k bike ride and then a 2k run while we waited for the ocean to calm down a bit. It was still very choppy when we went in, but I thought I'd be ok. I had practiced open water swimming earlier in the week at the same beach and had done pretty well, so was feeling confident. But that was in calm water!
The waves were so rough I felt like a piece of seaweed, being knocked every which way and receiving a mouthful of seawater every time I opened my mouth to breathe. I felt sick and very tired. And then my right calf started twitching and I knew what was coming! Cramps!!! I just panicked and thought "Right, this is how I'm going to die!". Thank goodness one of the trainers saw I was in trouble and came to my aid. I felt like such a fool! It was the first time something like that had ever happened to me, and it knocked my confidence down a few pegs. I was reassured by everyone that it would be more sheltered in St Kilda on race day, and to just do whatever it took to get through the swim.
In the end, that's exactly what I had to do. Just whatever it took to get through it.
It was a long swim - twice as long as the first race, which I had been so petrified about - and at first I was doing ok, but then I found myself getting very fatigued by the first can and had to stop for about ten seconds to get my breath back. When I looked at my times later, I saw that my swim was on par with what I'd achieved in the last two tris - it takes me about three minutes to do 100m - but unfortunately that is just far too slow! By the time I got out of the water, some of the people in the wave after me had passed me!
It was such a relief to get out of the water. It always is.
I headed to transition with very shaky legs, found my bike and headed off. I know I should have gone all out to make up the time, but I was feeling so bloody stressed about how I'd fucked up the swim, I just took my time for the first couple of kilometres, trying to get my breath back, trying to calm down. And as great as Snowball is, she's not as fast as other bikes, and by that I mean proper road bikes - she's only a hybrid! So people were passing me like nothing else, and I started to stress out again. But then I thought to myself "Phil, you can either stress about the times, or you can just bloody enjoy this and celebrate the fact that you're doing it, and that you're going to cross that finish line, come what may."
So, that's what I did. I'd done whatever it took to get through the swim, now I had to do whatever it took to get through the rest of the race.
My friend Mark had come to watch me in this race, and I saw him about halfway through the ride, waving, grinning and taking photos of me (which he forgot to send to his work email address, so he'll send them to me tomorrow!). I also saw my friend and new housemate Louise, who was competing in her first tri, coming back from the ride, and she called out "Hi Phil!" There were heaps of people on the road, clapping and cheering us on. That made me feel really happy.
Finally, the ride was over. I headed back to transition, racked the bike, gulped as much Powerade as I could, gasping for breath the entire time, and then headed off for the final stage, the run. I could feel my feet slipping around in my shoes, thanks to the Vaseline I'd used to grease them with!
I expected the run to be terrible, considering I was so exhausted and stressed from the last two legs. But, to my surprise, it was fabulous. I wasn't in a lot of pain, and when I was, I just kept going and it went away. And I thought to myself, while I was running, that it shouldn't be surprising that the run was my strongest event, because that is what I train the hardest in. I have been running between 4 and 6 kilometres every run that I do. I've improved my distances and endurances out of sight over the past couple of months. So, in spite of the cheek-burning humiliation of having stuffed up the swim, I felt so strong and capable and fabulous on that run. I felt proud of myself that I kept going when it would have been so easy to stop and give in.
As I was doing the last 250m of the run I saw Mark on the hill, waving and snapping photos on that professional looking camera of his. So I summoned the last bit of energy I had and attempted a sprint finish all the way to the end....
Oh, the exhiliaration of finishing. The joy of knowing what it's like to look defeat square in the face and say "No, I can do this!", knowing that you've pushed your body to its absolute physical limits, and you've survived.... it's an incredible feeling. I guess that's why I keep doing them.
The official results:
Swim - 300m: 9.20
Transition 1: 2.10
Ride - 10km: 27.42
Transition 2: 1.39
Run - 3km: 16.47
Total time to complete the tri: 57 minutes and 41 seconds
Mark met me at the finish line and hugged me and told me how proud he was of me... it had never felt so good to be hugged in my entire life. I was so exhausted and just felt every muscle in my body relax! Chatted to a few of my friends who had also finished their races, and then went and had a free massage in the Trialliance tent. Then the SMS's started, of course! Thank you to everyone who sent one! I even got an SMS from KT in Ireland!! That made my day!
On the way home I realised that I was dangerously low on petrol and so stopped in at the Shell on Heidelberg Rd. I never thought I'd see the day where I'd go to the petrol station in my bathers, but there you go. Everyone was staring at me! I didn't care! I'd just done a triathlon, I felt fabulous!
Went home and showered, and then Louise and I headed off to Ikea to get a few things for her room. I am so thrilled to have Louise here. She's a good friend of Ironman's, who I have got to know very well since I moved in with the guys in July. We get along so well and frankly I am just thrilled to have another girl in the house at last!
After Ikea, Louise headed out and I was planning to go somewhere too, but thought "I'll just have a little lie down, just for ten minutes", and woke up two hours later!
Went and treated myself to the Italian hot chocolate at Brunetti's and it was scrumptious. Definitely not a frequent treat, but well-earned I thought. When I went up to the counter to order it, the barista pointed to my arm and blue wrist band and said, in broken English, "you've been to a rave, a party?".
I laughed and (wishing with all my heart that I could speak Italian) said that I'd been in a race. "Did you win?" he asked.
"Far from it," I replied, "but I finished it."
"So, you'll be having this hot chocolate with cream?" he grinned at me.
I smiled and nodded. "Absolutely, I've earned it."
I couldn't remember the last time I've eaten cream. When I was a child I used to love whipped cream, and would smother scones or desserts in it when it was on offer. I remember my sister Liz's seventh birthday, and the other two girls and I were sticking our fingers into the cream filling of her birthday cake with great delight (not Liz's though! She was screaming at us to stop!) while waiting for Mum to find a knife....
This was lovely. I sat and read Lonely Planet's Guide to London (not Rome!) while I sipped it. Then I headed back to my car and drove back to St Kilda where I'd booked in a massage with Sole Sisters. I'd had my legs worked on my the sports masseurs in the Trialliance tent earlier that morning, but my neck and shoulders were sore. Est had told me about these people - very good and open till quite late at night. After finally finding a park (St Kilda on a Sunday night is bedlam!!) I was sitting blissfully in a chair having all the tension massaged out of my body.
Afterwards, I walked back down to Catani Gardens, where I'd been racing fourteen hours earlier. It held no evidence of the sheer hive of activity that was there in the morning. All I could smell was the sweet earthy scent of dry grass - a smell that will forever make me think of St Kilda, Elwood and triathlons.
I saw the bay where I swam that morning. The sky was stained faint peach and grey with the setting sun.
I felt so grateful for the opportunity to do triathlons, and to understand what it truly means to get out of your comfort zone. I have a feeling that the one I did yesterday might be my last one for a while. I still have the security wristband on today at work, and the race number, tattoo-like, on my upper arm. I don't want to take them off because I like having them there. I'm proud that I've done what I've done. I'd like to keep going, but there are are lot of other things in my life that need my attention, and tri training has kind of taken over my life of late. And I'll need to train even harder for the next race, and I don't think that's possible! What I would like to do is fun runs. Seeing that I enjoy running so much, and it is by far my strongest event, that is something I would like to pursue.
There's so much to do, so much to say. I'm just absorbing everything at the moment, happy and determined to make the most of life. Loving life. Grateful for every thing, every person, every experience, good and bad. Grateful to whatever act of Fate or Providence that brought me here.
Every day, every thing gets clearer.