Editor’s Note: This morning Matt & I awoke to the horrific news of the Colorado movie theater shooting. Although we tend to focus on the humorous side of things here on The Bro Journey, we want to extends our hearts and thoughts to those who were affected by this unbelievable tragedy. That being said, if you need to shift your mind to a slightly better place this morning/afternoon, you can read below about how my bike hates me.
On Friday May 11th, 2012, The Bro Journey made a declaration, or dare I say a proclamation, to the world that we would do the unthinkable or, at least improbable, by completing a sprint distance triathlon. Well friends, after a few minor setbacks (i.e. Matt’s ankle not healing in time to participate & my complete lack of swimming abilities), The Bro Journey did just that, albeit with a few more minor setbacks occurring mid-race, but more on that later.
The Couples Tri is the fourth part of the Texas Tri Serieswith each race varying in size/classification. As for Couples though, the course included the following: an 800-meter (1/2 mile if you’re ‘Murican) swim, an 11.2-mile bike ride, and a 5K (3.2 mile) run. After riding the bike course a few times, it became the section of the race that I not only didn’t fear, but also the section that I expected to kick some ass on. After previous rides on the exact course, I was confident that I could finish it in less than 34 minutes, or just above a three-minute/mile pace.
However, before I could get to that I first had to overcome years of discomfort in the water and swim a distance that, most likely, I hadn’t swam if you combined every single instance of me being in the water for the first 23 years of my life (however, if y’all will recall, a year ago, I’d never ridden a bike and Jeremy Lin was riding the bench on his third team (yes, I just compared my learning to ride a bike to Jeremy Lin elevating his hoops game to “earn” a three-year, $25 million dollar deal) already, so crazier things HAVE happened). On my first day in the water at a public, 50m pool, I encountered two women reppin’ some triathlon swim caps and asked if they had any suggestions for me regarding the swimming section of the race. “Look down and don’t stop.” Well, thanks ladies.
To put things into perspective for all of you, I could roughly swim 100-meters of breast stroke without tweaking out over being in the water/not being able to breathe/feeling like Wahlberg & Clooney in their closing scene of The Perfect Storm. Yet, after receiving the suggestion to check out an alternative venue for training, i.e. Austin’s famous Barton Springs pool, things got better. You see folks, open water swimming, which is what you encounter in a triathlon, is a different beast then what you encounter in a pool. For instance, there’s (usually) a current and plant life clinging to your body as you shoot through the water. Oh, and there aren’t any walls to rest at. So when you think of swimming 8000m, try to remember that it is continuous and that unless you want to tread water, there are no stops allotted mid-race. Oh and one other thing, open water swimming doesn’t denote lane usage or organized flow for participants. Think of the scene from The Lion King when the wildebeest begin stampeding down the canyon that Simba is posting up in, but take out the Sahara setting and insert the sinking of the Titanic and you’re about there.
Anyway, after honing my “skills” in the water (i.e. not drowning/going in circles), I was able to get a 2:30/100m pace, which came out to about 20 minutes to finish the 800m required for the race. By no means is this particularly impressive, however, I was barely able to even finish 400 meters day one, so I was satisfied. As I found out early, almost every triathlon participant (NOT triathlete) has a weak aspect of the race and swimming was mine. Of course there was also the running portion to worry about, however, as I’d completed several 10Ks in the past few months, I wasn’t too worried about it aka I probably went running four times over the past two and a half months. I’m going to skip the foreshadowing here and just say that wasn’t the wisest idea.
As race day crept up increasingly fast, I started analyzing every aspect of what could go right or wrong and how that would affect my time and, after looking at the results from previous years, I decided that my goal for the race would be 90 minutes. Most of the pro participants finish in the 60 to 75 minute range, which is a ludicrous suggested time unless you’re beyond dedicated/crazy/a former navy SEAL, and after doing enough training I knew I’d fit into a certain mold time-wise: 19-20 minute range for the swim, 32-34 minutes on the bike, and 25-27 minutes running, plus 4-5 minutes for transitions from event to event. On top of that, I had suspicions/worries regarding things out of my control, i.e. something happening to my bike, during the ride. My oh my, what ominous thoughts they were. What if my chain comes off? What if I pop a tire? What if I’m forced to ride unicycle-style during the last climb (This one didn’t happen)? Well, as we all learn when embarking on new challenges, there are some things that you can’t control and sometimes it’s how things don’t go according to plan that have the most lasting effect on an experience.
At 8:00am CST, July 15th, the swim began. Did it suck? Well, yeah, kinda, but I expected it to and, aside from a few women that whipped/pummeled me while they passed me mid-swim (note – these women, including my main squeeze, all started four minutes after me. HOE JOURNEY!), it was pretty uneventful. I finished in almost 20 on the dot and quickly dashed up the hill to the transition area, where I dried off and threw on my gear to start what I expected to be my make up for lost time/pummel the masses period of the race, and then shit got real. After crossing the checkpoint onto the bike course, I realized my chain had come dislodged and, let’s just say my patience to fix the situation was limited. After struggling with it for two or three minutes, one of the volunteers came over and fixed it within 10 seconds and I was again on my way.
I hauled as much ass as I physically could and rode faster than I ever have before and I actually made up quite a bit of ground, however, after climbing the last hill and setting my sights on a coworker, who I had a healthy rivalry going with into the event, I hit a pothole sent from another world. With a quarter mile or so to spare in the race and while going about 25 mph, I hit a shallow sub-continent that did exactly what it was there to do: pop my back tube. I decided to hop off to prevent any further damage to my wheel, but at this point I had checked out and basically said, “Fuck it.” I begrudgingly hauled my bike back to the transition area, capping off a 40+ minute biking “performance,” and started the most lackluster run of my life.
At the start of the run, I had approximately 24 minutes to hit my goal of going under 90 and although I am confident in my running abilities, hitting a sub-eight minute mile pace after swimming a half-mile and biking 11+, I knew my chances were slim. In the end, I crossed just as the clock hit 1 hour, 32 minutes and, although, I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t A) hit my goal, B) beat my fellow coworker (who is also 20 years my senior), and C) got whooped by my lady friend (we crossed the finish line at the same time, which meant she dominated me by a solid four minutes), I soon realized that I’d just completed a fucking triathlon and the world could totally kiss my ass if my performance was not found to be adequate. Do I still wonder how I would’ve finished had I not suffered two mechanical issues? Sure. Am I frustrated with my lack of effort? Hell no. Am I going to do another triathlon? Most definitely (in fact, there’s another onein three weeks with a reduced swim and run and longer bike, which, in theory should play heavily in my favor for utter domination). At the end of the day, when a bunch of fellow participants (and Coach Jared) and myself sat around devouring food, drinking well-deserved beers, and analyzing every aspect of the three previous hours of our lives, I realized that although some things didn’t quite go according to plan, I gave it my all and overcame some serious hiccups to still finish strong. That and I now have a hell of a lot of motivation to kick some serious ass in the next go around.
Had you told me a year ago that I’d be compelled to participate in multiple triathlons during the summer of 2012, I would’ve told you that not only were you crazy, but that you were undoubtedly a threat to yourself, the state, and all within close proximity to your being. However, climbing these metaphorical mountains and dealing with whatever obstacles greet you along the way is what The Bro Journey is really all about and whether its coding a Web site, trying out a new hairstyle, or participating in some ludicrous athletic event, we’re going to be here delivering the goods, or at least some distorted perspective flirting with the truth (Did I mention that the Tri was actually held on the grounds of Hogwarts and mer-people were encouraged to pull you under during the swim?). Stay tuned for the follow up piece where I either inform everyone of how awesome I did or how my bike took a page out of the Michael Bay playbook for bringing in an audience and blows up without precedent at Jack’s Generic Tri on August 5th(personally, I’m banking on option two).