Thursday, July 24, 2008

EAGLEMAN 2008 Part 1

Eagleman in June 2008 is my most meaningful race to date. Not in terms of PRs, or a great swim, bike, or run leg, but in terms of discovering what the significance of triathlon racing means to me, how the participation in multisport shapes my life, and how the fulfillment of goals provides security coping skills and grounding within the uncertainty that the rest of life creates.

A year ago, Eagleman found me establishing a PR by 11 minutes over the May 06 Devilman time of 5:52, created by perhaps ideal weather conditions, tides, run training, and health. The 2008 race is a whole nother story but one hopefully worth your hearing!

Firstly, two weeks after Eagleman 07 my wife Heather and patient race supporter, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Throughout the summer and fall 0f 2007, she dealt with doctors, hospitals, procedures, drugs, MRIs, and more of all of the above . . .. By November she had lost her hair, her health, and most of her spirit. As if this challenge was not enough, she was forced to carry Luke, son number 3 through to term until October 15, 2007 when he was born at 5 lbs, 4 oz and healthy, (No hair either though!) The uncertainty of her health greatly impacted how she thought about life, her goals, her needs in life, and where she wanted to go as a person and for her family and what more she needed from me., or in my opinion, more of everything I was doing and then more than that. Of course during this time I was also forced to reassess how I factored in her life, and how I meet or do not meet her needs on a daily, seasonal, (race season that is) and annual basis and could I still make her happy.

In short, juggling the family needs, Josh 4, and Quinn 2, and the needs of an ailing wife and newborn, and work left little time for triathlon (or no time depending on who you are). .. . However, for me a run or a swim never failed to lift my spirits sometime just a thought, a feeling, an inside joke harking back to a previous race or training run . . .would allow me to cope with the life situation for one more day, one more, trial, one more setback. I felt that this is much more effective than other less healthy alternatives, can you say NYC bar scene? . .. .However, a sick wife needs, three young boys need, the boss needs, bills need, and even the old and sick dog, Casey was needing too . . .. I always felt that even though I was checking a need off the list, three more needs were going unfulfilled . . .kind of like swimming and that sense of slowly sinking and finding it harder to resurface despite kicking and paddling as hard as you can . ..

As if the immediate family needs were not pressing enough, in late July my mother suffered a brain aneryism and her recovery and rehab stretch through the fall. While my sister and father provided day to day support, I also was providing backup and weekend support which mentally stretched my coping skills way into the red zone . . ..

I truly started to question which needs truly are important ones in life, and also if you are miserable how to find ways to feel happy and not be to feel like a prisoner in my life strictly serving all those needs of everyone around me.

That is where the concept of triathlon came into play. The athletes and personal trainers , I see and swap stories with at my swim gym one or twice a week in the early am hours, the early am weekend bikers on my 14 mile loop in the Great Swamp, (getting it in!) the same runners I see at lunchtime week after week in Central Park, fast slow, and inbetween .what drives them to be here? To take on the physical training pain, in the heat, rain, orearly in the morning? .. I discovered that I take comfort and happiness in the unspoken bond of shared suffering and sense of comraderie knowing that here are people are using the same outlet to cope with the problems or issues in their lives. In short to "feel alive" and live in the moment, paying attention to putting one swim stroke together, smooth out the pedal cadence, or run step after step . . . ..thoughts then are only secondary to the task at hand . . .

Driving to Eagleman on Saturday morning, with my relatively newly potty trained 4 year old, I reflected on what my goals were for the race on Sunday when the weather forecast was an advisory of 95 and 80 humidity. To quote a new friend of a friend and serious age group racer known as the Big Horse, "the weather chef in Cambridge, MD threw in a double helping of hot with a side of humidity to go with it. He also threw in some baking sun on the house. What can I say, he believes in big proportions!"

Obviously any thoughts of a PR were out, coupled with less consistent training this spring and no warmup race like years past. What were my goals then? To just finish seemed unworthy, so I thought let's just race and try your best and enjoy yourself and the community of it and see wht happens. (Of course a day later on the course just finishing turned into a serious goal that many racers including defending champ TJ Tollakson failed to accomplish, and I had to remind myself not to quit several times too.)

After several roadside stops in north Philly, New Castle, DE, and rural Rt 50 MD for Josh to practice his newly acquired urination skills, we arrived in Cambridge, MD, exit the A/C and are heat blasted. Unlike the prior year while staying at the luxerious Hyatt, we would be staying in St. Michaels, MD 40 minutes north at the BW (Best Western) that nite with mom and dad joining us for eats and the race the next day.

For now, Josh and I crossed the Rt 50 Choptank "look at the big water bridge, daddy!!" and hit the Rt 50 "Old McDonalds daddy!". Josh ignored his Kung Fu Panda happy meal (except the apple juice) and made friends in the tunnel network and ball mazes while I hydrated and ate Clif Bars and a banana (with a couple of his McNuggets, shhh!)

We then hit the sailwinds expo, did packet pickup and I scored a new hydration bracket for my front aero drink, as well as some Cliff Blocks as I had failed to pack my nutrition.

We then inspected the bike, did not bother with swapping in the race wheels, not like I had ridden more than 35 miles anyway! and headed to the transition area for racking. It is almost impossible to describe how thick and hot the air was sweating helped little. . .to make matters worse the rains had flooded the transition area parking lots and forced us into a long walk to bike racking . . .Josh and I ended up "swim practicing" in the "tank with other racers just to cool off after dropping off the P2C rocket. The water temp was quite warm, 74 and I started to wonder whether wet suits would even be allowed . . .

We then hightailed it to St Michaels to the pool and to meet the folks. Josh swam, we had a nice dinner in St Michaels and an early to bed in the cool comfort of the AC. I organized my race gear, checked the bags, rechecked the bags and thought about my prep and time needed in the am to get to transition. Dad was going to stay with Josh and mom and not arrive until my T2 estimated arrival time of 11 am to avoid the heat as much as possible . .. . .(cont in Part 2)

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