About two weeks ago I did something crazy. Something I never thought in a million years I would ever do. Something that was always on my list of things to do/accomplish but that I didn’t think I was necessarily ready for, yet. But then I threw myself into the “deep end” and forced my self to either sink or swim; and boy did I swim!
Just over two weeks ago I participated in a triathlon. It was in San Francisco and it was called the “Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon.” What follows is the story of how I wound up participating and having an amazing experience.
|Just after completing the registration/packet pick-up process.|
Back in October or November 2010 I mentioned to my trainer (for a few moths I was working out with a trainer to try and finally achieve the body that I have been striving to have for so many years) that I had always wanted to do a triathlon. Being that I grew up swimming and never considered myself much of a runner I figured a marathon was not a good fit, but that a tri would be my best bet. We started do some tri specific training and then in March I signed up for a local tri that takes place in the fall. I signed up for the “Classic Distance” which is a 1/2 mile ocean swim, 18 mile bike, and then a 4 mile run. I figured that over 6 months to train and prepare was more than ample time.
Then, one day I walked into the gym and saw a little sign for a nation-wide competition to compete for a spot in “E.F.A.T.” I grabbed a flyer and threw it in my gym bag. Later that night I went online and registered for a spot in the qualifier contest. I saw it as an opportunity to see how prepared I was for my tri in Malibu this fall. I then had two weeks to prepare. I started going to spin/cycle classes, to try and increase my run speed and to look into ways to increase my swim speed as well. After only two or three weeks of training it was time to give it a go. I knew the finish times of the people who had won spots the previous year, and knew the time window I needed to finish within in order to get a spot this year.
I got to the gym a little early to check in. I went and warmed up on the treadmill and then did some stretching to loosen up. I got to the pool deck and waited for my time to jump in. They called my name and I swam, finishing faster than I had been doing in all my prep. I got out and jumped on the bike. Rode it like crazy and finished right around where I had planned to. Then I headed over to the treadmills, jumped on the first one and ran a quick 5K and was done. When all was said and done I had finished with a better than expected time in each event. I felt like a champ! In the end I finished in the top 20 (out of 260 people)!
So, there it was. I managed to more than qualify for one of the 75 spots in “E.F.A.T.” and had no other option than to take that spot and accept the challenge. I now had just over 2 months to prepare for a 1.5 mi. swim across the chilly San Francisco Bay, an 18 mi. bike through the hills of the city, and then an 8 mi. run along the coast, along trails, and even on the beach.
I went out and bought a triathlon training book and started upping my workouts. I started cycling more (both in classes and out on the streets) running more (lots of short-ish treadmill runs and longer runs outdoors) and to swim (greater distance and also in open water, not just the pool anymore).
After all the build up, the prep, the training, and the acquiring of all the gear necessary to compete in a tri, race day was here. I woke up super early on the morning of June 5th and had a light breakfast (vegan energy pancakes that I made and brought with me to SF). I got my on tri shorts and tank top, threw on a pair of gym shorts and a sweatshirt, grabbed my bag and my bike and rode down to Marina Green (the epicenter of the event). As the sun was fighting its way through the clouds and rising over bay I set up my transition area. I got my bike on the rack and threw down a towel to stand on. I set out my running shoes, lined up my snacks (a must for endurance athletes is to continually take in calories) and hydration, put my wetsuit on up to my waist and grabbed my swim cap and goggles. I left the transition area and headed for the shuttle that would take us to the boat.
Once we were all on the boat and it set off toward Alcatraz the energy was insane. Everyone was so pumped. Most of us were in our own zones getting mentally prepared for the race ahead. I did some light stretching and breathing. I put my suit on the rest of the way. I got my swim cap on and my goggles on my head. I was SO ready to attack this race course. Over a loudspeaker they announced that we were 2 minutes until race start. Everyone started cheering and getting even more amped up. We all started condensing near the exits.
And then the race started. The pro athletes dove in and then they started waiving the rest of us out to take the plunge. I couldn’t even tell you if the water was cold or not. I didn’t feel a damn thing. I hit the water and the only thought going through my mind was to swim. And that is what I did. The first 5 to 10 minutes of the swim were a bit chaotic and a little stressful. There are 2000 people jumping in within a 6-minute time frame and there were lots of collisions. The visibility was pretty low, I could just barely see past my outstretched hand, so all of a sudden you would come up on a slower swimmer and have very little time to avoid contact. I fought my way past the slower racers and finally found my own bit of open water to swim in and made my way to shore. The swim was over in the blink of an eye and I was on to transition one (a 0.5 mi. run over to the bike start). I peeled off my wetsuit and threw on my cycling shoes and helmet and hit the road.
|Yes. This is actually me getting ready to do the bike leg.|
The bike course was beautiful. The day was clear and the sun was out (the day before was overcast and rainy, and the forecast wasn’t predicting conditions to improve) and there was a light breeze coming off the ocean. It was a very hilly course, but it was full of nice views and lots of jovial racers. As I was on about mile 4 of the bike the lead male pro was already on his was back into the transition area; all the racers cheered him on as he passed by.
Before I knew it I was back in the transition zone throwing on my running shoes and downing some coconut water hydration cocktail I made and was back out on the road. I was feeling great and ready to make the run my bitch. I was steadily passing people all along the way. We went up hills, and up stairs, and on narrow trails, and on the beach, and up a 400 stair “sand ladder” (essentially, a hillside with rail road ties and sand as steps), and back on to trails, and then back along the bay for the last 2 miles. For about the last two miles I was running along side another racer, he and I chatting about the race and what brought each of us there that morning. I told him that I was a former fat kid and that, for me, this was the culmination of years of hard work (I told him about how I had lost over 100 lbs.) and this was my way of proving to myself that I had achieved something huge. As we reached the 7th mile marker (just one little mile left to go) we both cheered each other on and raced into the finish line, random spectators shouting and cheering us on. I saw my friends and family in the grand stands and I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I turned around a looked at the time clock, it registered that I had beat my projected goal finish time by more than 15 minutes. I turned toward the exit to try and go find my loved ones and I was overcome by my emotions. I was so proud of myself, so happy to have completed the race, and so full of adrenaline that I began to cry. I tried my best to stifle my tears and the sobs that I was barely managing to hold back. I finally spotted my friends, and as they gave me a huge group hug I completely lost it. And then I laughed it of. I felt like a badass!
I DID IT! I COMPLETED MY FIRST TRIATHLON, AND FINISHED FASTER THAN I PLANNED!
-This is a huge FUCK YOU! to the kids who made fun of me growing up: the ones who teased me for my weight and my appearance. Sure, I was fat (not that that is any excuse for their behavior), but I have managed to change that. Odds are, they are still “ugly” on the inside.
-It’s a huge FUCK YOU! to my dad who thought that tough love and name calling was going to make me want to lose weight, and who never thought he would see me as thin as I am or do anything as athletic as a triathlon. I love my dad, but he needed to realize that no one was going to make me change my ways but me. I know he is very impressed with my accomplishment.
-It’s a huge FUCK YOU! to the doubter’s; the ones who wrote me off as a lost cause, the one’s who told me I would never do it or I should set my goals lower. Don’t fuck with me when I put my mind to something.
-But mostly, it’s a huge FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! to the inner fat kid. To the apathetic, overweight, miserable, and hopeless person I used to be. The one who allowed all the negative thoughts to bog me down, and who would quit trying to make a positive change before I had even started. To the kid who ate his emotions, then was depressed by his overeating and the excessive weight on his body. I am so far removed from that person that I can happily say, “FUCK YOU!” You will never have power over me like you once did.”
P.S. It also took a lot of courage for me to get out there and compete in a tight tank top and what are essentially underwear. I am proud of myself for getting over my body issues and doing it.