PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
On Sunday July 28th, I will have the pleasure of traveling to New Mexico to race the Cochiti Lake Triathlon. Cochiti is a small town on Pueblo de Cochiti land, just south of Santa Fe, and it plays host to a small but venerable (and challenging!) triathlon. When Angie from Chasing 3 Race Productions invited me to compete, I jumped at the chance. Not only was I excited to support one of my friend’s charities – the Endorphin Power Company – but I would be given the opportunity to return to the very venue where I completed my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon, exactly twenty years ago!
Back in 1993, I made the hour drive from Albuquerque to Cochiti to tackle what I thought was going to be two-thirds of my first Olympic Distance Tri. I was in the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year at UT, and I had been hooked on the sport from that previous fall (1992). I was seriously lighting up the sprint circuit all over Texas, and just moved home for the summer to light up the home courses (truth be told, most of these races were actually lighting me up!) I had built my way up to what I thought was an appropriate level of fitness to complete the standard distance triathlon: 1.5km, 40km, 10km. Yes, I just went metric on you.
My choice of summer employment, naturally, was to be a lifeguard at a local country club. I had been training by way of riding to work, swimming at work, and running whenever there was time. I was 19 years old and I was fit and I was loving it.
About a four days prior to the Cochiti Triathlon, I decided to play some one-on-one basketball during my shift break at work. Rather than churn out some laps, as was normal, I took the “taper” easy and shot some hoops. Somewhere between my devastating jumper, my pristine skyhook, and my dominating off-the-boards rebound, I landed on my opponent Tom Solomon’s foot, and completely torqued my knee. I have never been one for overuse injuries, but leave me to the freak accidents, and evidently I can do some damage. The damage was a dislocated patella (knee cap). And the symptoms were major pain and swelling. I had done this once before, while slam dancing, so I knew the protocol: rest and ice. (Yes, I said slam dancing: child of the 80′s.)
The problem with a 19-year-old who has just discovered triathlon, and who is a few days out from his first Olympic Distance Triathlon, is that there is no talking sense into him. Despite the swelling and pain, I chose to go ahead and travel to Santa Fe for the triathlon. I told my mom – who was my capable support crew – that I’d just do the swim and bike, and I’d drop out before the run. No way I should try running 6.2 miles on that knee.
Fast forward to the race itself, and I really can’t give that many details of the experience. The swim went fairly well, but starting the bike I had a bit of a deficit to my age group competitors (starting the pattern early). I jumped on my bike (a hand-me-down Cannondale with one piece Scott Aerobars and Grip Shift), and tore after the bike with little regard for pacing (starting the pattern early). And I had so much fun riding this long 24.8 miles through my “home course” that I believe I actually got myself into a podium position by the end of the bike. But it was going to take a great run to make the top step and win that race (again, the pattern).
But wait! I was not supposed to run. I had said I’d drop out…
My mind was racing, and I chose to put my shoes on and just “test it out” a bit. After “testing it out” in transition 2, I determined that there was no way in hell I was dropping out of my first Olympic Distance Tri – no way! So I ran and ran and ran. And the next thing I know I was crushing out a 41-minute 10k. Disappointed only that I did not break 40, but elated to have overcome the challenge, and to have finished the race. I realized then and there that a DNF was not something I wanted to experience. Ever. Thus, I started another pattern of no career DNF’s. As for the knee, well, it seemed to hold up. Possibly I’m a quick healer, or possibly the 19-year-old body was just a bit more resilient. Either way, I was pain free for the run.
And here I am twenty years later, about ten days out from the Cochiti Lake Triathlon. This time I’m going to stay away from the B-Ball court – so don’t be challenging me to a game of pick-up, or even H-O-R-S-E. I won’t do it. I’m focused and determined to show up healthy and to enjoy the second go at this great race.
Fortunately for me, I have an extra set of incentives to keep me focused. I am racing to help out a friend’s incredible cause. As I mentioned, Endorphin Power Company will be the designated charity of this event. Any proceeds that Chasing 3 gets will be given to EPC as well as the the Cochiti Pueblo (for the generous use of their land for this event). All in all, the money goes to some great and deserving causes, and I’m ecstatic to help them out.
Endorphin Power was created with the aim of helping people with substance abuse problems find more powerful, more meaningful, and healthier lives. Their goals and their missions are pure and admirable. Additionally, I’ll be donating any prize money that I win next Sunday to the fine folks at EPC. While I have had a few struggles here and there, I will never pretend to have known the battles faced by many of these folks – and I am honored to help them.
For those of you who live within 6 or 10 or even 15 hours drive of the Santa Fe area, I encourage you to join us at Cochiti Lake on July 18th. The race could serve as a great tune-up for the Boulder 70.3, for your key August race, or it could even serve as your midsummer A race. It’s not too late to sign up, and we New Mexicans would be glad to welcome you to the Land of Enchantment. Come race Cochiti, but please wait to eat your Green Chile Stew until after the race.
And keep the basket balling to a minimum this week…