photo by Holly Meyer
I have to admit, coming into the weekend, I wasn’t 100%. Less than a handfull of people knew about my situation, but the Thursday before Desert Tri, I was visiting my uncle (dad’s brother) in the hospital. It was an intense emotional roller coaster of a day. I’m going to spare the details, but unfortunately he passed away that afternoon. The family was there to say our goodbyes, and we’re glad we did, but still, no one should go through this, or witness it. Took the day off on Friday to reset and collect my thoughts (and have Scoops Ice Cream), but if I was a little weird or distracted last weekend, now you know why. I tried to stay strong all weekend. I came at peace of the whole situation on our drive to the desert, because my overall outlook on someone passing is more of celebration of their life and how they influenced family & friends, how great of an impact they had, rather than sit in infinite sadness and dwell on it. I like to see the positive in things. We all know he’s in a better place, and all I could do coming into the weekend was to dedicate my race to my uncle. It was more than a race. It was more than “my revenge” to finally complete a race I was disqualified the year before. It was about overcoming life’s challenges, and how we deal with it. So the amazing sunrise photo above was a reminder that it was a new day, a new day to create new experiences. Time is precious, and we better make the most of it.
So they morning started with a 4:00am alarm… snooze… 4:15, 4:30… ok ok… 4:45. Got ready in a quickness and our room was out the door by 5:00am. I wasn’t nervous about the race, but more excited about how most of my teammates will be newly crowned triathletes. If anything, I was looking forward to the finish line experience with everyone. We arrived at Lake Cahuilla in La Quinta around 5:45am and was able to park the Triathlon War Machine nearby. We set up our transition areas, and I was glad to have shared the space side by side with my close friends Rommel Calderon, Mike Ngim, and Donovan Batiste. 7:00am, the team gathered to do a 5 minute warm-up jog nearby, then we were off to suit up for a warm-up swim!
The event: 0.75 mile swim, 24 mile bike, 6 mile run.
This race was supposed to be “just another day at the office,” and I treated it as so. It was another practice for our team, so we shouldn’t let it get to us. Since we did pretty much the same distance the previous day before, I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up on Sunday. I was just to go out there and have fun with it. 7:33am was my wave start time, and just like all the other triathlons, I stayed in the back of the pack and calmly went from buoy to buoy (in a zig zag fashion, I bet). Didn’t get hit or kicked in the face, which is always a good thing. Took longer than usual at T1, but I made sure I applied the right amount of sunscreen and wiped away all the excess dirt from the lake.
Throughout the bike, I felt fresh. I learned from Ironman Champion Chris McCormack’s book “I’m Here to Win” the concept of pacing, not drafting. It’s where you find someone to match your target speed, and try to keep up. Whenever someone would pass me on my left, I would take the opportunity to follow (within a safe distance, of course). I wouldn’t pace the same person all the time, as it was a trial and error from time to time to see who was right my liking. This allowed me to move ahead, catching up to my age group offsetting my slower swim time. It’s actually a strategy I used at Vineman 140.6 last year. From time to time, I would think about my late uncle, and think about the happy memories we had. He definitely gave me the strength to push my limits here. Towards the end, I pulled back my effort, to recover and save my legs for the run.
It was a quick T2, but by the time the run started, I could definitely feel the heat. By the first water stop, not even a mile into it, I splashed two cups of water over my head. “Oh, that’s why visors are better for triathlons!” It was the same run as the day before, so it was no surprise here. Flat, boring, and hot. I splashed water at every aid station as much as I could, and tried to keep a decent pace throughout. As long as I was faster than Saturday’s stomach disaster, I was happy. I’m not sure what the difference is between an Olympic and International distance is, but compared to my 3:37 Carpinteria Olympic, and getting DQ’ed last year at Desert, this was definitely a PR at 2:50:29!
By the end, always the best part of any of the races we do as a team, was cheering on everyone coming in through the finish line. We stay til the end, leaving no man behind. Hugs all around, high-fives, cheers everywhere. IronTEAM “Tunnel of Love”. It’s tough to explain, but it’s a tear jerking moment. That’s why I seriously love this IronFamily. The support we have for each other, the bond that we have is stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced. We endure through many challenges, we witness the transformations, we witness greatness. Much props to our coaches for guiding us through this journey. This is only the beginning too. There’s many more months to come and many more “tune-up” races to do this all over again. I’m already having my IronTEAM withdrawals. When am I going to see everyone again? Oh yeah, swim is tonight… so it will be soon enough. Go TEAM!