Monday, June 16, 2008

Not In Kansas Anymore

90 minutes into a five hour race and I was already having doubts. Pain and fatigue had set in and my focus was waining.

An hour earlier, I completed the 1.2 mile swim where I was punched and kicked many times by fellow triathletes. It was not unlike a hockey game in there. Once, I was kicked so hard in in the face that a knee jerk reaction resulted in a severe right hamstring cramp. Stopping to stretch in a middle of a deep lake among thousands of swimmers and a 1/2 mile yet to go posed quite a challenge. I managed.

But it just wasn't working on the bike. Lactic Acid coursing through the veins and that hammy threatening to act up, I had a moment of doubt. Would I even finish the race? My mind started to drift.

I thought of all of the training I had completed over the months. The long rides with my cycling friends Munson and Bryan, the weight lifting, the early morning Masters swimming practices and the long runs I had completed with this day in mind. There are always the what-ifs and wishes for more training, but I knew I was pretty well prepared.

I thought of Katherine and brother Murphini who were somewhere out on the course cheering me on. That helped carry the burden.

A cyclist or two passed me. No big deal. A hill was approaching where I'd reel them back in.

I thought of brother Brendan who had surprised me by rolling up to Murphini's house late Friday night from Colorado to compete with me. He was racing with elbow-to-wrist and full calf raspberries from a training ride crash only days before; the crimson scabs caused many to wince at the pre-race number markups. Dude's as tough as he is and nuts. Along with him was another triathlete and friend, Ryan, who was also racing. And joining us on Saturday was Brendan's girlfriend and professional triathlete, Karen. I was in excellent racing company and I sponged up as much racing advice and encouragement from them as I could soak up. Indeed, I was as ready to take a chance, go fast, pass on turns and feed the anyone could be.

Reaching the peak of the hill, the road turned into a strong headwind and a series of rollers with another menacing climb five miles down the road. Morale sank even lower.

In truth, the bike course favored my smaller size. While I spun seated in the hills, most of the others stood and labored. I'd make huge gains on the climbs only to having some of that erode on the downward slope and flats.

Knowledge of my cycling advantage did little to help my spirit. Even without the heart rate monitor, I knew that I was near my red line and I had a lot of distance to cover. Heat was also becoming a factor as I continued to struggle with motivation.

Then I remembered my cycling friend Munson telling me how he endured the physical pain of time trials: distraction. He copes with the pain by mentally picturing happy thoughts, like lollipops and bushy-tail bunnies. I tried, but Charms Blow-Pops and Br'er Rabbit just floated on by. Something else lurked in the shadows of my subconscious. I concentrated a little harder as a human figure began to form. It was holding a drawn bow and arrow. What figure would emerge from this archetype? Was it Apollo hunting, or the brave warrior Geronimo?

To my horror, the image that resolved was a pot-bellied Athena bow hunting carp in a camouflage bikini during a recent time trail training session at Lake Manawa in Council Bluffs.


I was cured. I was now grateful for the remaining 41 miles of torturing hills and the half marathon that would distract me from that cross-breed between Vince Neil and what I imagine to be Ted Nugent's soul mate. I tucked into a tight aero position and began counting the cyclist I passed. It was a good bike ride from then onward.

Transition from the bike to run is never fun. A mile into it, the hamstring finally seized up. Fortunately, another triathlete who might as well have been Jesus in Asics gave me a package of salt tabs with the instructions to take two with water every four miles. Hallelujah! It cured the hammy, but for the next five miles I still fought GI issues and bloating while struggling to find my running form. After taking a port-a-potty pit stop at mile six, I felt well enough to race and completed the half marathon in one hour and forty-one minutes to the cheers of Katherine, Murphini, Karen and Brendan (who finished the race some sixteen minutes ahead of me). Nearly five hours had passed since diving into Lake Clinton; Iwas quite emotional as Katherine hugged me just beyond the finish line.

Official Results:
53rd overall, 22nd Citizens, 7th Age Group
Swim: 0:33:04.9 -- 01:34.0/100m pace
Bike: 2:32:22.9 -- 22.1 mph pace
Run: 1:41:57.0 -- 07:47.0 min/miles
Total Elapsed Time: 4:50:30.3

I am happy with the results, especially considering it was my first at that distance as well as the challenging nature of the course.

Finally, a super-huge shout out goes out to the Murphini family for hosting us over the weekend. We appreciate you loaning us Guz, for feeding us, chauffeuring and just making sure that three racers under your roof could prepare for the main event. Thank you - you guys were terrific!

Well what's next? Unpacking, laundry, yard work, the list goes on. Sigh. Indeed, I'm not in Kansas anymore!


  1. yes! I'm halfway excited, but fully supportive. Great day, Brady. Doubt is a tricky guy to get rid of, even if you've worked hard. I've had times on the bike this year where I wondered exactly what I thought I was doing out there. I'm sure you know the feeling well.

    But you powered through it -- and that's awesome. Well done.

  2. It was very fun to watch Brady and Brendan duke it out on the big stage. They made it look easy. Too easy.

    Several times during the race I had the fleeting thought of "maybe I should try one of these again..." only to quickly squelch the thought, relish my retirement, and remember the sage advice of my ole pal Heraclitus; "You never step in the same river twice."

    I enjoy the roles of being a proud brother, as well as a comfortable spectator, instead of a wobbling, doubting, balding, 45 year old participant. That river done passed me by.

  3. Thank you, Brady, for the exquisite race report and motivational mental image to use when "digging into the cauldron of pain." That does sound like oodles of fun, the kickboxing tournament in the water. Another reason I'd never pick up triathlons. Humans just weren't meant to venture into the water; we'd have gills or a blow hole if it were meant to be.

    But seriously though, great job. Next Shabbos (+1) ride we'll have to hear more about this wondrous event.

  4. you look relatively comfortable given the situation during which those pictures were taken. Not bad.