What do you do when it's 102 degrees and over 90% humidity? Go ice skating? Eat ice cream? Take a nap? All three, in that order? A trifecta?
How about a triathlon? I got up at the crack of dawn and donned by red superman uniform, ready to take on the red hot day. I left my socks behind, determined to reduce my time in transition. I would shake talcum powder in my shoes to soak up the sweat. The sun was not up, but already it was ninety degrees.
The race began in the James River. You'd think a dip in the river would be refreshing given the air temperature, but the water temperature was 88 degrees. When you are swimming hard, that is hot! As planned, I no longer hung back, allowing others to take the lead, but instead started toward the front, so I could try to draft off another swimmer. I caught one swimmer and drafted, but soon decided she was too slow, and took off. From time to time, someone knocked my with an arm or a shoulder, but I am now used to the inevitable jostling of an open water swim, so I took it in stride.
The bike course would have been gorgeous on a sunny seventy degree day, but on Sunday it was a sweaty furnace. I had a fancy new water bottle attached to the front of my bike so I could suck liquids out of straw without any effort. A couple miles into the race, as I stood to "power over" a hill as my coach had suggested, the fancy water bottle fell to the ground with a thud. Water spewed all over the hot ground and appeared to boil. I hoped I would not receive a two minute penalty for "abandonment," but knew that retreiving the bottle would take more time than that, so I went on. My face shone with sweat, and my mouth was filled with cotton. Ahead, I could see the wet air rising off the black asphalt. It undulated and made me woozy. I reached down and took a swig of water in my reserve bottle. Then, I noticed that my heart rate monitor showed my heart rate at zero.
Was I dead? I looked around for evidence, expecting to see angels. Instead, I saw a sea of sweaty sportsmen, all wearing red uniforms matching my own. Winston Churchill once said, "when you're going through hell, keep going."
So I kept going. The bike course was an out an back course, with a huge hill at the turnaround point. It was so hot, my energy was zapped. I contemplated whether I should walk up the hill rather than grind up it. Just before I arrived at the hill, I passed a "cheer station" full of Purple Passion: supporters of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, shouting encouraging words. They reminded me why I got into the sport of triathlon: my Dad was diagnosed with lymphoma before I trained for my first race, and my Grandmother died of leukemia. Team in Training helped me raise money to cure these diseases and to improve the lives of patients and their families.
I picked up speed and approached the hill. It was bigger than I recalled. Once again, I contemplated getting off and walking. But then I remembered that my friend Ed Stone was out there too, swimming and biking in this incredible inferno, huffing up the hill. Ed has competed in many triathlons, raising many thousands of dollars for Team in Training's Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. What made this particular race special for Ed is that it was the first race for him since he was diagnosed with yet another secondary cancer (having survived leukemia during college), this latest once a melanoma on his foot. His treatment included removal of two toes and a portion of the ball of his foot in March of this year. As soon as the doctors would let him, Ed began cycling on an indoor trainer, using just his good foot for a while, and then adding the other. It was incredible to me that just a few months after this surgery, he was out swimming and cycling in a race. And, he was doing it while undergoing treatments of interferon. I had no excuses. I pedalled to the top of the hill.
As I approached transition, I prepared to do something new. I reached down and removed the velcro from my shoes and took my feet out as I pedalled. As I came into transition, I jumped off Ariel, leaving my shoes with her. This way, I could run through transition in bare feet instead of cycling shoes (which have clips on the bottom and thus are not designed for running). I whipped in, took my helmet off and put my running hat on, stuck my feet in my running shoes with elastic laces (which don't have to be tied), and I was off. Pretty fast, compared to last year. It was but a baby step. Soon I will learn the full "Errol Flynn" swashbuckler mount and dismount, which involves actually flying onto and off your bike.
Thankfully, the run wound through the woods, mercifully shading me from the hot sun. There I encountered Coach Michael from Endorphin Fitness, who had finished his race long before. However, last year, he finished his 18 mile bike ride as I finished my swim. This year, at least, we were on the bike at the same time, at least for a bit. Michael encouraged me to keep going. Then I popped out of the woods into a neighborhood where I encoutered yet another Team in Training cheer station. Go Team!
Looking at all the purple, I resolved that, if I raise $5000 for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, then I will dye my hair purple for the Marine Corps Marathon. At $4000, I will add purple highlights. At $3000, I will dye one strand of my hair purple. And, if I reach any of these goals by August 9th, then I will PREVIEW THE PURPLE at a Party at Wyldology, owned by my teammate, Allyson Wyld. She's got the dye and she's dying to try it! You are cordially invited to turn me purple and to watch it happen.
I Love the Tavern Tri--6/25/10