Monday, September 17, 2012

Triathlon 2

Having done two triathlons now, I feel like a genuine triathlete.  This race takes place at Belews Lake, not far from my home.  It’s a sprint event—like I could actually sprint through the thing.  It begins with a 750 meter swim. That’s almost half a mile.  Then the bike course takes you on a 14.5 mile journey along lovely rural Stokesdale roads, before a quick 5k run at the end.  Everything begins uphill, except for the swim.  Everything ends downhill, except for the swim, which concludes uphill on the algae-slick boat ramp, threatening embarrassment and race-ending injury.

So that’s the course. 

Now, last year was a fiasco, embarrassing even for a wannabe.  My classification was “Master Clydesdale.”  That sounded really cool.  But my time wasn’t so hot.  I finished the race with the second slowest time of the entire field.  The race has a timed start, meaning that there is no mass of humanity splashing and churning at the start, fighting for breath and life.  No, this kinder, gentler start has two athletes diving in every 15 seconds.  The staggered start means that the first one across the finish line is not necessarily the winner.  Similarly, the last one across the line may not be the real loser.  Well, in 2011, they were closing down the course while I was still “running.”  I provided a sense of relief to the staff, as I crossed the finish line, and I enjoyed a significant sense of accomplishment.  There were a few of runners behind me, so I had hopes that my race time might place me in respectable position.

Mercifully, I did not know how poorly I compared until I saw the results later, on line.  I quickly remembered that I had an excuse—my bicycle.  This mountain bike was never intended to speed along lovely rural roads.  It was made for jumping roots and puddles.  The racing bike I had borrowed developed a flat tire about 12 hours before the race; so I was stuck with my fat-tired, 20 pound two-wheeler.

And there was another issue—I had not trained well enough.  I discovered this problem while panting for breath, barely 3 minutes into the event, staying afloat with the elementary backstroke.  The spotters in kayaks leaned over, ready to save me from drowning, asking me if I were OK.  I survived all 750 meters with no help, but I was a whipped pup with 17.7 miles to go.  On the next leg people passed me like a kid on a trike.  One woman expressed sympathy for me and my equipment.  When it was time to run, I ended up walking a whole lot.  But I did cross the finish line, hearing my name and age announced to the few remaining spectators.  Time:  2:16:46.

So, the stage was set for my heroic attempt this year.  I have been doing more training, especially cardio workouts, more strength training, and more serious swimming.  I also bought a refurbished road bike, just for the occasion. 

I signed up as a novice (no more Master Clydesdale), so my start time was near the end.  That way I could do most of the passing for a change, a clever tactic recommended by my runner friend Ed.  I aired up my tires to 110 pounds of pressure.  I got all my gear ready for my transitions.

Finishing the swim uphill, past the algae.  Photo by Sarah Bailey
At the bike racks next to me was another 50-year-old doing his first triathlon.  I gave him a few pointers, as if I were a seasoned pro.  He appreciated it so much that he beat me in the race—but only by a couple of minutes.  I smoked him in the swim, and then he passed me at mile 1 of the 5k.  That’s when I slowed down to a walk for a few hundred yards.  I never did catch up with him.

As I gave up hope of passing him, I remembered that I really wanted to finish under two hours.  I imagined the devastation of missing that goal by a minute or two.  With no watch to guide me, I decided to push as hard as I could, running downhill for that last half mile.

The announcer called out my name, age and hometown as I ran across the finish line.  The event clock there told me that I had come in well below two hours.  I felt good, in a sweaty, worn out way.  My wife and daughter greeted me and brought me some water.  I found my new triathlon friend and congratulated him in an accusing sort of way.

I finished at 1:53:49.  Yes!

I’m not real sure why I ran this race.  But I do know that some children around the world will benefit.  I got a few sponsors to donate to World Vision, to help with education, to buy chickens, and to support orphans.

Yep.  It was worth it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Being Bold

This Sunday we begin a new series, "Be Bold!" 

So often our lives are just...vanilla.  We don't really expect much -- from God, from life, from work, from family, from ourselves.  And we usually get what we expect.

In Acts we see some bold disciples who really expected God to do what he said.  They believed that Jesus is the Way.  They knew that all the world needed to hear.  They wanted to share the good news everywhere they went.  For them, life was all about Jesus.

So, they were bold in their prayer, generosity, witness, speech, travel and obedience.

I'm ready to be bold!