My goals were simple: try not to drown, try not to crash, and try not to break anything.
As a kid, my parents enrolled me into every sport our town had. I swam, played soccer, basketball, and baseball, and even tried gymnastics. I was never particularly good, but I loved to play. I figured out quickly that hand-eye coordination was not my strong suit. Opening your eyes when you’re trying to hit a baseball helps a lot. As the shortest male in a family of 6 ft plus men, basketball quickly fell by the wayside. I did well in soccer mainly because I could run around all day without getting tired. In high school, I decided to put running to use and joined the cross-country and track team. On weekends I took my 10 speed and rode all over town.
After years of marathons, running had become a grind. I was looking for something new. I thought buying a new bike would help me make exercise exciting again, but a few unfortunate incidents got in the way. In March 2010, on a fast training ride, I crashed into a city bus shelter while trying to avoid another cyclist. I needed 4 ½ hours of surgery, six days in the hospital, and six months of rehab to get my left hand to work again. In January 2012, I broke my right foot while running through my neighborhood. For two months, I had to get around on crutches.
For rehabilitation, and for the sake of my wife’s sanity, I took up swimming. Learning proper stroke technique decades after leaving the neighborhood eight and under swim team was harder than I thought. I have swallowed enough pool water to fill a bath tub, but have not drowned yet.
My struggles with swimming made me nervous before the start of the race. I entered a slow swim time because I was afraid of getting run over by faster swimmers. Once I jumped in the water, my fears eased. “All I have to do is swim 300 meters without drowning.” Three laps later, I gladly accepted the hand that lifted me out of the water. “Now comes the fun part,” I thought. My bike leg went smoothly as practicing on the race course the weekend before helped. The second transition was slow as I struggled with my socks and could not get my visor to fit. I even forgot to put my race number around my waist. My wife’s cheering was really her attempt to tell me what I had forgotten. I just smiled and waved. I was able to run about the pace I thought I could from training and crossed the finish line in just over 53 minutes. Starting at the back after the swim left me with no idea of how I had done. I was simply proud to finish feeling good.
When I saw that I had won my age group, I was shocked. No way. The high fives from the other triathletes felt great. I went home, joined USA Triathlon, and signed up for my next race.