Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Invitation


Round about December 31, I got an email from a co-worker about doing a triathlon relay.  Val is a swimmer and he thought he would put together a relay team so I was the designated cyclist.  He also invited Terry to run.  The half iron distance (1.1 mile swim, 56 bike, 13.1 run) Gulf Coast Tri in Panama City Beach, FL (where I work) would be in May.

Yeah, right.  I was in terrible shape on 12/31 having eaten my way through the holidays and tipping the scale at 286, my highest weight since 2007.  No worries, I was sure that Boston based Terry would decline . . . until he accepted 10 minutes later.  Shit! 

After consulting with my chief cheerleader and reality checker Deb, I was in.  I've always risen to the occasion when an event was on the line.  This one spooked me a bit . . .  not about my own performance, but with the knowledge that if I didn't make the estimated 4 hour cutoff, Terry couldn't run. 


I joined a gym in Panama City Beach as I knew I had to drop the pounds.  I also knew I had to get training.

My first ride in January scared the crap out of me.  22 miles at a 13.7 average.  Not a good start. My riding buddy Brian was also a great cheerleader but I was far from pleased. Very far from where I was.  I had a long way to go to be able to get the mileage in and the speed up.  Absolute minimum would need to average 14 mph running time (including stops.) 

Over the months, I dropped about 16 pounds.  Not quite my goal, but at least a (slightly) more comfortable weight. It took quite a while to get the mileage in, but when I finally rode 60 in April, I knew I could do the 56 and I felt pretty good about the time.


Deb and I had big plans for the week.  She was to come down Friday along with Terry's wife and our boss and his wife were going to be there to cheer us on.  I drove down with my bike and rode a couple of times during the week.  Work was particularly hellacious, with three days of all-day meetings with out of towners, meaning that my day job would have to wait until after hours -- after the heavy meals, too.  On Thursday, the news of Zach being sick put a damper on the excitement.  Deb had to cancel all of the plans for the weekend.  We were both terribly disappointed, but you can't send your kid to a friend's house sick. 

The three of us headed over to packet pickup around 2 on Friday.  There is something about the packet pickup experience.  You get the vibe, everyone is serious and excitement abounds.  The big difference between the tri and a running event is the apparent level of athleticism.  At a marathon or half marathon, there are a fair number of people that don't look like runners.  (That's a nice way of saying that they look like me!)  Not so much at the tri.  These folks are heavily trained and serious.  Not a lot of fat guys (or girls for that matter.)

The Gorey Details

Saturday finally came.  After a week of watching the weather, it looked like we were in the clear.  70 at the start, humid, but just 10% chance of rain until mid day.  I told Terry that I figured I would stop once and be back in 4 hours or so.  He should be read for me at 11:30, but be there by 11, just to be sure.

We all arrived very early to get numbered and wait for the start.  Relays were the last wave, so Val hit the water just past 7.  I went to transition to wait.  Val arrived at about 7:40, right on time.  I got my shoes and helmet on and was out of transition at 7:45.  The course runs 8 miles along the Gulf then heads north into never-never land.  Nothing but trees and asphalt and more trees.  Out of the gate I was flying.  After the first hour, average was just about 20mph.  Whoa!  If I keep this up, I'm gonna be like an hour early. 

I had told Terry I would text him when I stopped, but "rest stops" on the map were something very different than what I knew from the t-shirt rides.  There really is no rest . . . there are 30 people handing out bottled water and Gatorade with sport caps.  You keep riding.  So wait, I'm supposed to ride 56 miles WITHOUT STOPPING?  No traffic lights, not even a stop sign.  I don't think I've ever done more than an hour, and that's in spin class!  (Nobody told me about this.)  Alright, well I'll hit a portapotty if I have to to text Terry.

Things slowed down from there.  As the course turned into West, the wind picked up and I slowed.  For the next hour or so, my average dropped into the 15-16 range.  Still okay, but not worried about Terry's arrival any more.  20 miles out the forecast changed.  Yup, a nice steady rain.  Great.  But still gotta go. 

The course is flat.  I mean pancake flat.  There are two climbs, a bridge that you cross at mile 13 and again at 43.  At 13, no big deal, but at 43, that was a different story.  After 30 miles of flat, you're hit with this 5-6% climb and you haven't used your climbing muscles in almost 2 hours.  Ouch!  I passed 6 people (that had all passed me within the past couple of miles) on the bridge.  People were going 4 mph, so my 10 was pretty good.

That was what I needed to get back in gear.  My speed picked up and for the last miles back along the Gulf, I flew, passing people the whole way, rain and all. 

I pulled into transition at 11 on the button. . . soaked and elated.  Not sure if you can see the smile on my face.

Bike done -- into T-2

What I didn't know was that Terry had arrived in transition just minutes before.  He took the chip and flew out of the gate.

An hour forty later, our speedster Terry arrived back and we were done.  Yeah!
Victory!  Terry, Jeff and Val


This was a great experience.  My only disappointment was not having Deb there.  I really missed her smiling, encouraging cheering, but I knew she was back home sending positive vibes.

The four months leading up to the tri were a roller coaster.  I went back and forth eating good and crappy.  The scale went up and down around a 6 pound range that was very frustrating.  I just couldn't get in a groove for longer than a week. 

So what now . . . there is nothing on the schedule until August with a planned 4th attempt at the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred.  I do need to plan something to keep myself in check.  I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind of trying this tri thing, not just the bike part.  On the other hand, that swim looks dreadful. 

Time to start figuring . . .