Maryland #39

June 12, 2011

Subaru Eagleman 70.3 Ironman



With a professional business career and a big journey in progress, I dealt with trade-offs of not being able to go to all the family events. One big disappointments along the journey occurred by being well planned in advance for the Subaru Eagleman 70.3 Ironman. Signed up on the first day race registration. Unfortunately, Hayes qualified in mid-March for the Illinois Sate Special Olympics swim meet which created a scheduling conflict for the same weekend. She still had great support from her mom Chris, her sister Caroline, and her teammates.


Hayes gave me a pep talk the night including being safe in the swim before I left on the trip to Maryland. She added to rest and sleep before the five hour race ahead of me on Sunday. I didn’t miss the irony of her continual growth into a nurturing adult. Most parents instruct their kids to be safe in and around water. Now she asked me if there would be lifeguards in the water watching all the competitors. Hayes, was ensuring everyone would be safe in and around the water. The kid turned the table as she now watched after the parent in swim safety and race performances.


Tri Columbia personnel put on the Subaru Eagleman 70.3 Ironman. They did a great job on communications during the weeks and days leading up to the race. The e-mails and race guide informed us what to expect, when to be where, and why Eagleman would be a great race. Unfortunately, all their communication could not inform me of a few unexpected barriers thrown up before race day.


The drive from Baltimore/Washington airport to Salisbury, Maryland became almost unbearable as the radio stations were bad: no good music, no good talk shows, and no satellite radio offered in a rental car. What the radio lacked in entertainment, bumper stickers filled the gap. My favorite of the drive was: “Hurricane Evacuation Plan: 1.) Grab beer 2.)Run like hell!” I kept a lookout for a Triathlete’s Execution Plan bumper sticker: 1.) Swim fast 2.) Ride like the wind 3.) Run like hell! 4.) Grab a beer and relax afterwards. Figured at least one bumper sticker like that would be on the back bumper of a Subaru Outback.


My total travel time to the hotel from the townhouse was a long 13 ½ hours. Then the trip got worse. Stop me if you heard this before, my bike didn’t arrive at the hotel by the time I checked in on Friday night. Called the carrier once inside the hotel room in Salisbury. They misplaced the bike somewhere between Oklahoma City and Salisbury. The customer service representative could not determine what truck was headed with my bike to Salisbury. They were not sure my bike was on a truck. The rep talked with a pleasant demeanor but not helpful in letting me know where my bike was or better, if it would arrive in time for the race. She said to call back later in the evening after she did some research on my bike’s whereabouts.


To keep some normalcy I tried to follow my pre-race routine while thinking how to get a bike, bike shoes, and helmet for the race. I jumped into the hotel pool for a 500 meter swim workout, showered, and ate pizza for dinner. This was my normal routine two days before a race.


I stepped out of my routine by getting back on the phone with a representative from the carrier for over 30 minutes on Friday night. They were not sure where the bike was but knew it was somewhere in one of their warehouses. The rep thought they would fly the bike for delivery on Saturday. Told them the closet airport was 3-4 hours away, they checked their schedule and said no deliveries would be made to the hotel on weekends where I stayed. We agreed to have it shipped home. Of course, this was contingent on them finding it. I had a flashback to the warehouse storage scene near the end of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie. Hoped like hell the carrier didn’t operate that warehouse.   


The 10pm action plan in order of priority: A.) surf the net for bike stores that rented bikes in the area. B.) Go to the Race Expo early Saturday and look for a bike store or a bike company that would rent me a bike for race day. C.) Start asking at the front door of the Expo to barrow a bike.


After an easy 30 minute run on Saturday morning; showered, ate breakfast, and started executing the plan to secure a bike. First, searched online for a tri or road race bike rentals in the area. No results were returned. Moved on to plan B and drove 30 minutes to the race Expo at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge to look for an exhibitor who would rent me a bike. First though checked-in and picked up packet of numbers and swag bag.  Then asked the volunteers if they knew of anyone renting bikes for the race. No one did. I walked the entire floor of the Expo and didn’t see any exhibitor actively renting bikes for the race.


I moved to Plan C. Went to the entry doors and start asking everyone entering and existing in hopes someone had an extra bike to share with me. This was not me. I was far outside my comfort zone. Getting rejected time again was chipping away at my ego. I liked to be independent and self-reliant. I lived in my own bike bubble that allowed me to choose from a fleet of my two favorite race bikes or if in a pinch two solid workout bikes. Now, my comfort bubble had burst.


No one I accosted at the entry had an extra bike to lend to me for the race though almost everyone provided suggestions of dealers in the Washington, DC or Baltimore area. All the triathletes were helpful with bike ideas. Most provided store names and phone number or directions. Logistics wise these options would take too much time to leave the Expo and return to get checked in.


After 30 minutes of soliciting people for a spare bike to race on at the Expo front doors, a couple of guys from Aerofit knew exactly who to contact. The guys took some time away from selling their services, performing wind tunnel testing on triathletes in a mobile unit. It was a slick testing process that returned actionable feedback. They also provided a video analysis that showed a combination of the optimal bike fit based on the triangulation of power, aerodynamics and comfort by triathlete. Aerofit debuted their equipment at the Ironman 70.3 Eagleman triathlon. The guys walked me back inside the Expo and hooked me up with Robert Vigorito, the Race Director (RD). He also goes by the nickname of “Vigo”. We did quick introductions. They explained my situation to him. I thanked the Aerofit guys again.


Vigo walked me directly over to the On the Rivet Cycle & Sport bike store booth. More introductions and quick summary of the bike situation. The worker called the store and confirmed the owner would help me out at the store. They were not set up to rent equipment at the Expo. The owner, Matt Beletsky, was hustling to sell equipment and make last minutes adjustments for people in the race when I pulled up at the store 15 minutes later.


The store gets its name as a reference to riding fast when your butt edges out on the nose of the saddle. The old style leather saddles were held together with a brass metal rivet at its tip. The cool, old Bianchi green cool racing bikes decorated Matt’s store were equipped with those riveted saddles. Way cool! Matt rented a brand new Felt Bike S22 with a black, red and white color scheme. The best bike fit was the 56cm on display back at the Expo. Matt called back to the guy at the Expo to ensure the bike had not been sold. Luckily the bike was still there. We completed the paper work for the rental. I also bought traditional riding pedals with steel cages, a blue and white bike helmet, and some gels. Unfortunately he was out of bike shoes in my size so raced in training flats. Hence, the reason for the basic, non-clip-in bike pedals.


While talking with Matt I learned he was racing the bike leg on a relay team. I predicted he would be biking fast, sitting out on the rivet of his bike seat for most of the way. There I was, stressed out to get furnished with a bike. I wanted to get off my feet to rest. Yet Matt looked relaxed and fulfilled in helping others get ready for their race. He was on his feet the whole time helping other customers. Most people would be exhausted before starting a 56 mile all out bike race if on their feet the whole day before. Matt seemed to build up energy in helping others who embraced a mutual passion of biking and racing.


I headed back to the Expo to pick up the rental bike from the On the Revit booth

The guy at the booth was busy with customers so I talked with Nan Kappeler who was also in the On the Revit booth selling triathlon transition mats. Think of something comfortable to stand on that stakes out your own little space in the big overwhelming transition area. That’s a transition mat. I always used an old towel. It did nothing more than mark out a reserved space for me. The mats Nan marketed and sold were soft, like a cross between foam rubber and neoprene, sturdy and distinct. It provided triathletes with a comfortable springy space to set their race gear on such as bike shoes, sunglasses, running shoes, and race belt during the race and to stand on changing footwear during the transition periods.  

I was focused on my world of getting the bike to compete in the race I failed to think through the need of a mat. Nan gave me her business card at the Expo but since I was bike focused and didn’t have my reading glasses, I didn’t read the card until at the airport after the race.

I showed the guy my paid invoice and picked up the bike. I added the retro bike pedals, cages and all then took a test ride on the Felt bike in the parking lot to get the seat at the right height. I straightened the nose of the saddle to be parallel to the top tube and tightened the seat post to keep its height and positioning steady during the race. Didn’t check the handle bars for tightness to ensure they were secure. I checked the gearing. Everything moved smoothly as expected.


Eagleman 70.3 Ironman felt like a family friendly race and family participation race. In the Expo parking lot when I made adjustments on the bike I met a dad who competed in this race back in the early 80’s. His son did this for the last three to four years and now in 2011, it was his wife turn to compete in Eagleman. Hearing these little tidbits provided antidotes to the roots and sustainability of a relative young sport of triathloning combined with legacy of Eagleman.


I drove over to the Great Marsh Park and racked the Felt bike in the transition area. It was a beautiful basic road bike with one water bottle cage. No speedometer. No aero bars. No deep dish rim wheels. No clipless pedals. No big deal. I was happy just to be equipped to race in Eagleman. And I was glad to be renting a bike with no rust like I did in Port Elizabeth.


The Great Marsh Park is designated as a, "leave no trace" park. One of The County and Columbia Triathlon Association values is to support the locations that host their races. They encouraged all racers, volunteers, and spectators to honor the “leave no trace” protocol. They encouraged everyone to use trash and recycling receptacles and to take trash out with them when leaving the park to protect the environment. I took my recyclable drink bottles and only left my rented bike at the rack.


Finally, late in the afternoon, logistics wise I felt race ready. Water temps were above the 76° F degree so no wetsuits allowed. I had no bike shoes nor running racing flats. I chose to ride with my trainers and run with them too. No time to break in a new pair of racing flats. The risk of getting blisters would be too high.


Chris called me and gave me an update on Hayes’ swim performance. She swam well time wise but didn’t finish in the top three as wanted. Chris also said the carrier delivered the bike case after 5PM Saturday evening to the front door. All safe. All packed. All ready for another race later in the summer.


On race morning I woke up, stretched, ate a Clif Bar, and then drove 30 minutes to Cambridge. I took a shuttle bus from the eastside gathering point located at Mace’s Lane School, a public school parking lot. The last time I rode in a bus to the starting area was in Rhode Island. Here we rode in a school bus. Not as classy as the bus in either Rhode Island or Florida but then the driver didn’t take out a single orange traffic cone like in Clearwater two years earlier. That was a good predictor sign of safety for the actual race.


Rain started coming down in a drizzle as competitors boarded the bus. The rain picked up to a light sprinkle as we headed to the transition area a couple of miles away. The rain stopped after 30 minutes. Long enough to get the ground wet and the humidity up. Even without a wetsuit swim, I knew with a warm water swim, humid conditions, and the sun baking off the early morning cloud cover, we would be racing in hot conditions on the bike and run legs.


Vigo, the RD flew in a special guest star as the Race Announcer, legendary triathlete, Julie Moss. Her presence was special in a personal way. Like many people in my age group, she suckered me into this sport while watching her compete in the 1982 Hawaii Ironman as part of her research on exercise physiology thesis.


Julie led whole race for the women’s division except when she collapsed less than 100 feet from the finish line due to severe dehydration. She got up and staggered only to collapse again. The eventual winner passed her and Julie crawled across the finish line in second place while leaving a significant impact on the future of triathlon racing. Riveting images of Julie's finish in Hawaii were broadcast throughout the world provided inspiration to thousands of athletes. Many became triathletes who competed in Ironman distance races all over the world. Those same images convinced millions of other people to never, ever race in an Ironman distance triathlon. The opportunity to compete in a race she announced was inspirational and cool. I should have taken my camera for a pre-race or post-race picture.   


Almost all the triathletes at Eagleman looked in great shape. These were not a whole bunch of people doing an Ironman 70.3 triathlon for the first time. They looked damn serious about the race. They strutted around in the transition area to get their equipment set up to be race ready. These competitors with highly defined muscles walked confidently to the race start. They went strikingly fast from the start of the horn until they crossed the finished line. I doubt if any competed in this race as part of their research for a senior thesis paper.


I met up with professional triathlete Richie Cunningham from Australia who raced at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand when I raced there. We met in the Porta-potty line. I recognized him and let him cut into the loo line as his race started 15 minutes before I went off so no worries. He was a nice guy. I asked him a couple of questions but he was more focused on the race and the business at hand. Just before he stepped in for privacy he said he would talk more after the race. I didn’t track him down afterwards to hold him to his promise. Though I would have congratulated him on a helleva run split at under 1:17, over 5 minutes quicker than the race winner. He ran out of real estate to make up the deficient though he finished second overall with his spectacular effort.   


The race started and finish at the Great Marsh Park off the US 50 bridge over the Chop Tank River. The transition area was located at the Park too. For the swim start I shuffled down the park’s boat ramp with my age group wave competitors. Julie Moss said when she introduced the 50-54 age group males we deserved special attention as it was her dating pool! Within three minutes we walked into Hambrook Bay of the Chop Tank River and started the swim leg. The course was a rectangle with the first side covered by our warm-up swim and drift to the starting line. We then swam 700 meters up river, turned right and swam a short ways towards the shore, then turned right again to go downstream paralleling the shoreline to the exit point to close out the rectangle.


The Chop Tank River was literally at sea level as it flowed on into Chesapeake Bay a few more miles downstream.  The water conditions for the race were clean but not clear. After an uneventful swim I exited the water in 9th place for my age group and I ran into the six inch grass of the transition area. It was a slow transition.


Upon arrival at my bike I realized the value of a transition mat. I stood on a soaking wet towel, in thick high grass wet from rain, dew, and humidity. At that moment I realized that I needed one of the mats Nan tried to sell me the day before. Made a mental note to get a mat as soon as the race ended.


My #1 transition time took at least five minutes to get socks on, running shoes tied, and my new helmet on with its funky buckle I figured out on the fly how to get it snapped shut. I purposely wore gloves because of uncertainty of the bike feel and the probability of me getting sweaty palms. Didn’t want my hands to slip off the unfamiliar handlebars and crash out. Also, was distracted by a guy at the rack in front me who sarcastically said, “That’s a penalty.”


Looked up as the guy nodded in the direction behind me. A triathlete at the rack behind me stripped down buck naked to put on his bike shorts and race shirt. While accepted at some European races, nakedness in the transition area at Eagleman and across the US was prohibited and warranted an automatic disqualification if observed by a race officer. I didn’t see a red DQ flag, only a couple of red faces. I didn’t hear any whistles blown by officials or catcalls from the spectator gallery. And luckily, the naked guy was not prancing around with thinly folded dollar bills stuck inside his race belt either.


Just outside out of T1 there was a tight 90 degree right hand turn with the mount line beyond the exit point. Racers were anxious to get on their bikes at first opportunity that a bottleneck was created back into T1. Competitors stood still in line with bikes in hand impatiently waiting to get out of the transition area.


The bike leg started in the park. We then pedal through a small and quant residential area  with a couple of zig zags over the first three miles to where the out bound route took a right hand half loop and then turned right again onto Town Pt. Road and Dallsville Road. I rode a couple of more miles; hit a bump and the handle bars twisted loose. The bike was equipped with typical drop handlebars bolted tightly to the stem with a hex bolt in the middle of the straight central section of a horizontal bar. The bars curve at either end and looked like ram horns only in reverse. The curve goes forwards and down, and then back towards the rider with two short ends parallel to the ground.  When I hit the bump, the bar spun with the bar ends now perpendicular to the road surface. Without a hex key (or Allen wrench) had no way to tighten the handlebars in place. I still had over 50 miles to ride. We were in the countryside with no tools or any help. I quickly learned the Felt bike was great for riding, not great to get aero or to over leverage the handlebars for superfast racing.  


At the 10 mile mark we turned right onto Church Creek Road and rode a 35 mile counter-clockwise loop through Dorchester County. If you looked down on the course, its shape   resembled a flattened out ham leg. For much of the race we rode in the protected Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for migrating birds that included brackish and freshwater wetlands. We also rode by farmlands and through small residential neighborhoods. A nature lover described the course as full of birds, mammals, reptiles, meadows, forests, and lots of marshland. The whole area was filled with sounds of nature, a spiritual feel of peace and sights of wide open spaces.    


A couple of triathletes summed up the course description more succinctly as flat, hot, and windy. We rode under direct sun from the start to finish. No shade trees. No cloud cover for us to get a break from the temperatures as they rose into the mid-80’s. The wind seemed to blow into our face or sideways on the first part, then a tailwind coming back but mostly crosswinds. Sometimes the wind felt like a headwind on the way back but more from the speed of the bike and the air resistance in our face as we neared the transition area. Veteran Eagleman participates shared afterwards the winds this year seemed tamer than usual.


Along the whole route I constantly re-position the bars. With every little bump the bars would twist downwards again. Stopped at the first few aid stations to ask if anyone had a set of wrenches. No one did. Asked riders who passed me or I passed them if they had an Allen wrench. None did. And at the risk of being disqualified for outside assistance, I asked some spectators along the route if any of them had a set of Allen wrenches. Funny, it didn’t feel awkward asking total strangers a strange question during the race. Yet the day before, I almost got sick to my stomach asking complete strangers for a not strange but almost unreasonable nerve wrecking request, barrowing a bicycle. On Saturday I received lots of “no’s” but lots of helpful suggestions. During the race, the only responses were strange looks or no’s. Easily asked more than 100 people over the next 40 miles if anyone had an Allen wrench. None did. Never had I been rejected with many “no’s” in a 24 hour period without getting depressed. Did anyone near the race know what an Allen wrench even looked like or how it would be used on a bicycle? I also thought to look for something to use as a shimmy but did not see anything small enough to jam in the gap. I stopped asking when the bike course started backtracking on itself in the return to the transition area. I rode safely. I chose not to ride aggressive so as to not wrench the handle bars out of balance.


Over the last 10 miles we backtracked on the starting portion of the leg except for a mile on Route 343. The whole course was flat. No hills. No inclines. No milder rollers. What the course lacked in elevation it made up for it in heat and humidity. The only thing more difficult instead of riding would have been to be a volunteer at one of four aid-stations standing out there all day dispensing water bottles to competitors for the duration of the race.


On my non-aero bike, without bike shoes, and no instruments for feedback I rode as competitive as I dared. I did not blame the bike store at all. It was my responsibility to ensure I rode on race ready equipment. No different than what I did in other races when re-constructing my bike after a shipment or even checking it out before any bike ride. Matt got me a bike to race. And for that, I was truly grateful!


By the end of the bike leg I entered T2 in 18th place in my age group. My transition was quick. Swapped out my rental bike and new helmet for a race belt and running hat. Wore the same shoes to run in that I biked in. By mid-morning the burning sun teamed up with the suppressive humidity to make all the triathletes run leg miserable. The run course was an open, flat, and a relatively simple 6 ½ miles out and back. If you looked at a two dimensional map, the run course resembled a true to scale lollipop. The stick portion split the road with the cyclists coming in as the runners headed out. We ran through a neighborhood with local spectators for emotional support and many who provided ad hoc lawn hose showers. Most competitors accepted a quick spray of heat relief from the water. A few residents held outdoor party celebrations for the event. Everyone in Cambridge supported the Eagleman Triathlon on race morning. Everyone in town either volunteered, spectated, officiated, or competed for the day.


Halfway through the run leg I passed someone in my age group I recognized from the Providence Amica 70.3 Ironman race in a not so fondly way. In Providence 11 months earlier, he passed me on the bike and said, “Good swim,” which I interpreted as a backhanded compliment. Something along the lines of, “you had a good swim but I’m kicking your ass on the bike.” But in Maryland the same age-group competitor said, “Nice run” as I passed him. There was a genuine inflection in his compliment. He out swam me and out biked me today at Eagleman and then had the gentleman’s politeness to tell me I was having a great run as I strode by him near the 10K mark.


In a brief reflection, I practiced my Mother’s wisdom though she had passed away 4 years earlier. Simply stated I can’t control what people say to me but I can control in how I react to them or to the words they speak. In more detail her philosophy of how she lived was: “Life is made of many words but two important ones are choices and attitudes. Everything we do is made of choices; everything we feel is made of attitudes.”


I realized my perception of a year earlier, made in a less than satisfied race setting when I was not biking well at the Providence triathlon, made me think a similar comment was negative. Yet now, in a positive setting, as I passed many other runners it was a true compliment, not a backhanded one. The reality of both comments from the same competitor was meant to be compliments. I thought differently, using my Mother’s wisdoms and intuition/intuitive thinking to look at the best of everyone before being too judgmental. This was an example of a fine line in racing. I felt ashamed and embarrassed of how I interpreted his comments of the previous race season to only realize now it was a compliment of sincerity. While 11 months before I said nothing, today I thanked him. I added for him to stay relaxed and keep going. Then went silent thinking I misread the triathlete for the last year. He was a classy competitor and I couldn’t match him on that attribute but I did discover a new role model for sportsmanship going forward.


At Mile Marker 5 to Mile Marker 8 we did a counter-clockwise loop around the top of the lollipop. Just like the bike course, the run portioned was flat, hot, and windy. Unlike the bike course, there was no wildlife refuge for our minds to wander towards the soft side of nature. The sun and the asphalt road radiated higher temperatures than the ambient air kept our minds suffering from heat instead of wandering into a peaceful landscape. We did not see water until the last mile and half of the run except in the hands of volunteers that continually served it up to us as we passed through the aid stations. And for most of the competitors the limited cool breeze that came off the Chop Tank River was too little too late. Many runners slogged along the course. A few walked. And some unfortunately, dropped out from the heat and exhaustion. With a mile left we passed through the last aid station and by a friendly resident who offered up a final spray of water from his garden hose. Finally the race tents appeared at the back of the park with 800 meters to go to the finish. The pain and heat subsided but the lungs started hurting more as runners picked up the pace to the finish line.   


I passed over a dozen guys in my age group on the run but still fell woefully short of an age group win behind Ebon Jones. You know until Sunday I thought I was getting this triathloning stuff down pat, at least in my age group. Then, Ebon beat me by close to 30 minutes. He said he used to race professionally with his peak in the early 1990’s. He finished 7th in the 1991 addition of the International Triathlon Union World Cup series. He came back to racing in 2010. If I was on my own racing bike, instead of a rental bike, and with racing flats, I probably could have reduced my gap to him by at least two minutes. Even without all of my own race gear, Eagleman was a great race in another beautiful part of America.


I picked up my rental bike and other race equipment once the transition area re-opened. I needed to return my rental bike to the On the Revit bike shop, then drove back to the Washington/Baltimore airport for a flight to Twin Cities. As I left Great March Park I found myself walking on the street with Miranda Carfrae. We were pushing our bikes back to the offsite parking area. She was exceptionally humble. I tried to speak Australian with her saying “How did you go?” instead of the more common American phrase of “How did you do?” She said she did alright. I had to press to learn she won and reclaimed her title from two years earlier at Eagleman.  She was confident, personable, and fast! She went on to win Kona five months later in the season.


The best performing athletes are freaks of nature. Great freaks. Miranda, Richie, Ebon, and many others fit in that category. Some key ingredients of a successful elite athlete include the appropriate genetic make-up, psychological capabilities, the financial wherewithal, environmental nurturing, and choosing a sport aligned to these components. A sumo wrestler who bulks up on carbo loaded rice is not going to throw down a 3 hour run leg marathon in an Ironman Triathlon. It’s doubtful a top notch marathoner born at altitude away from water will finish a 2.4 mile swim leg before sinking under the surface of one of the world’s great oceans. It’s just not going to happen.


Elite long distance triathletes are generally filled with slow-twitch muscles fiber who efficiently deliver mass quantities of oxygen to the muscles which then flush out the carbon dioxide/acid build up before the acids linger to cripple the muscles. Their brains are tactically effective at keeping a keen focus on the task at hand, to beat everyone else in the race, or at a minimum to get a personal best performance record (PR). That same brain also is effectively discounting any pain or physical discomfort when compared to those desired race outcome objectives of winning, earning a podium, or at a minimum, a coveted PR creating more motivation and bucket loads of hope to realize those same goals at their next race.


Though many of the age groupers, no matter where they finished in the race, were tough competitors. The great thing about sports is it crosses many different kinds of people from world class performers to strong age groupers to people wanting to participate. All of them positively motivated to push themselves to the outer limits of their bodies. Many athletes mentally performed no different than Olympic gold medalists. The Olympians have a different physical make-up than almost all the triathletes. We all competed to achieve the best we could with what we had to work with in the competition.


At the On the Revit bike shop Matt was already back at work. He was non-committal about his bike split probably so fast others would be in total awe. I thanked him extensively for letting me rent such a great bike on such short notice. I returned the bike with the pedals attached as a pay it forward gesture.

When I read Nan Kappeler’s business card I learned she was the President of T Mat Pro. I went to the company web site and immediately placed an order for a bright red transition mat. At all future races, I used the mat when I could as it was more comfortable and practical than an old, torn and tattered towel. I highly recommend this for any racer to use. And this is a non-compensated endorsement. And on a side note, Matt and Nan were relay teammates. She swam. She was a great swimmer and strong triathlete in her own right.   


On my ride to the airport I realized all this racing on the journey not only turned me into a travel junkie but also a competition junkie. Some athletes become addicted to the competition. For others the addiction was the attention given to the person for the achievement. For some the addiction was the workout drug. That’s where I’m at now. I rationalized the races were the prescriptions but the drug came from the training. First the fixes came from training for middle distance track races. Next, the fix came from training for an Olympic distance triathlon. I moved on to something harder, a full marathon run. Then being strung out further with my first Ironman triathlon. And the addiction continued to another Ironman with lots of workouts between the commitment and race day.


Others get addicted in triathlons to a podium spot, an age-group win, or the qualifying to Nationals or World’s. The addiction is the motivation to get up the next morning and do workout after workout. Sometimes in the dark, the cold, the rain, the snow, heat, or in the middle of the night. All the finishes give the addicted competitors a swagger of success.


My daughters are no different. We like the fix whether physically or emotionally induced. Hayes and Caroline are no different than other millenniums who thrive and excel. Both want some positive feedback. They want to give and receive respect. And they want to help other people. Really, they are no different than triathletes. We thrive with PR’s, an instant and non-judgmental feedback from the clock. We like to be treated with respect from fellow competitors. And we help new comers into the sport by sharing knowledge, making friends, and making the whole sport better.


The triathlete has the flexibility to determine their own chain of success, different than something more defined in corporate America and more defined in the most organized professional sports worldwide. I witnessed this in triathletes, special needs kids, and the workplace. Success breeds more success. People go from inexperience to successful producers. They move from performers to competitors. We as parents consciously encouraged our daughters to try for another ring up the success ladder of progression.


I never thought twice of skipping this race though a few barriers were tossed up. My bike, bike shoes, and racing flats didn’t arrive. The race included a no wetsuit swim. The weather was hot. When I did get a bike it was not a tri bike set-up. The bike was not equipped with a speedometer. No aero bars either. All were issues to be resolved as barriers to overcome.


For some people it is a fine line of needing everything as designed to be competitive or being competitive with what you have to work with for the race. I raced with what I had to work with for the day. My kids do this every day in their challenge of living a fulfilled life. They never complained what others have more of, or smarter minds, stronger bodies, faster equipment, or other so called advantages. Life can be a fine line of what is needed to live a fulfilled life and what is wanted to eat someone else’s spectacular social, professional, or personal lunch of life’s gluttony.


Hayes called while I waited for a flight to Twin Cities. She asked me how I did in the triathlon. I asked Hayes how she did in her races at the Illinois State Special Olympics Games. Hayes is generally polite and proper. In an endearing manner she asks for permission to do things outside her boundaries of behavior in front of adults. Thus she responded to my question with her own question and asked if she could swear.


You may think Special Olympic athletics are not competitive but they will prove otherwise. Often male and female divisions do not exist with mixed sex races common. In most sports only two age group segregations exist. Everyone’s mixed in together in many of the sports races, games, or events. More like corporate workplace competition than 5-year age group segregation in road races, swimming, and triathlons. I wasn’t sure how she would respond, “Sure, it’s okay.”


She said of her performance, “I sucked.” She explained she swam the butterfly stroke in her freestyle event. Hayes took responsibility by stating she didn’t confirm with her coach the order of her races and got it wrong.


As a dad I had the responsibility to teach Hayes of her grandmother’s attitude of life in the terms Hayes made a wrong choice of swimming butterfly in the freestyle race but her attitude should not be she sucked.


She shared race results then asked if anyone needed medical attention, a nice way of writing here a more graphic set of questions she didn’t ask: “Did any one die? Did anyone drown? How many people went to the hospital in an ambulance?” She asked with a great deal of interest in hopes there was some drama at the race yet wanting no one to be injured or worse.


My biggest disappointment in Maryland was not being crushed in my age group or not being able to race on my own equipment. My biggest disappointment was not being at Illinois State University with my family for the Special Olympics competition but that was a choice I made and will live with forever.


Results: 125th overall. 3rd in age group.

Doug Morris

Coach of Exceptional Outcomes

Palm Trees Ahead, LLC

Tel: 1.630.457.7889

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