What I Learned in Maui

I've never been much of a distance runner, but I do like to swim and bike; so in my early 50s I talked myself into doing a few triathlons. My last race was an Olympic distance course in Maui, and as usual the goal was to finish and to do no harm. I had completed the race 2 years before, so that gave me some confidence; but I hadn't trained as hard this time, as I kept hurting myself during training.

At the start of the race, I had my usual adrenaline rush and quickly settled into my swimming stroke. The swim distance was about 1 mile, and at the 3/4 mile mark, my goggles began to fog. When I raised my head up from the ocean water to rinse them off, I immediately threw up in the water. My first thought was that I was about to choke and die in the Pacific to be found the next day. But that didn't happen. Instead I swam to a nearby kayak manned by a race volunteer, held on for a few minutes, caught my breath, and restarted my swim. As my feet hit the sandy beach at the end of the swim, I threw up again, this time to the eeeeews of a few hundred formerly cheering race fans. It was at this point I said to myself, "I'm screwed" or something like that. Was it the rough salty water, food poisoning, a virus? I had no idea, but was convinced I would never finish.

I'm nearly 20% into my time here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. The initial adrenaline rush is over. I've survived a few throw ups, some big, some small, and I'm convinced that I will never finish this. Thankfully, I have the remainder of that last triathlon to remind me what can happen. Did I have a miraculous recovery to run my best time ever? Not a chance.

With the swim completed, I climbed on my bike and on the first major hill, my chain came off the rear sprocket. That had never happened in over 1000 miles on that bike, so I had to dismount and reattach the chain. Going up the second hill, it happened again, so I knew that I would not be able to use my lowest gears to ascend the worst hills. The bike portion of the race had thus become significantly harder. There was one murderous hill that I had to climb 3 times to complete the 26.4 mile course. On the 3rd lap, I was going so slowly that my bike started to tip over. I was forced to make a walk of shame pushing my bike up the last 50 yards to the top of that hill.

After that last hill, the bike course was mostly downhill. To my surprise, I finished the bike portion. Now all I had to do was run a 10K, which I had barely done only once before in my life, 2 years ago on this same course, but when circumstances were more to my liking. During the run, I was passed by women whose rear ends were twice the width of mine and by a few kids whom I would have gladly tripped had I the energy. I threw up the 3rd and 4th time during the run and twice poured Gatorade over my head thinking it was water. My friend finished the course so far ahead of me that she walked back up the course and ran the last 2.5 miles with me. When I saw her, I thought she was an angel. She may have been. Had she not done that, I'd have quit.

So what did that last triathlon teach me? It should have taught me that things here are going to get worse, maybe even "worser". But I'll not have to finish this alone. All I have to do is take the next step, live the next day, one at a time. God, in the form of angels and people will show up to walk with me, so I won't quit.