So you want to be a triathlete?
I can honestly say that these were not the first words I thought when Eric quit smoking 11months ago… But they were said or thought at some point in this journey.
11 months ago (and 10 days)… Eric quit smoking…. He did so quietly and without conversation… He did so when he was ready.. After years of us all begging, pleading, an trying every tactic in the book…. he did it quietly and very much on his own terms… I noticed quickly that he wasn’t getting up for his smoke breaks.. But I also knew that I wanted to broach the topic at the right time… So I gave him a few days and watched…. And when I was sure that this was a new pattern.. I asked what made him quit… And I was told he didn’t want to talk about it.. He didn’t want any added pressure and we would talk when he was ready…. And so I supported him.. Quietly and happily….
Eric is not much of a talker… He does things on his own schedule and in his own way… He fully thinks about things before he puts them into action… Spontaneous – he is not.. I on the other hand.. Well.. That’s a different story…
So I knew that if he was doing and not talking… This was the real deal… Fully thought out and he had a plan.. And that would mean he would not fail… Because when Eric puts a plan into action. Failure is not an option… This is one of the many things I respect about him.. His strong will is not surpassed by anyone I know…. So on that day in October.. He quit and put a plan into place to start to run….
And long after we talked about the quitting of smoking and the running and formulated goals of 1/2 marathons and full marathons .. Ironman came into the mix… And this may be when I thought or asked… So you want to be a triathlete? Because one sport is not enough?
And I knew… I knew then and there that the ride would be wild.. But that he would not fail.. That once his mind had been made up… We would be off and running.. And swimming… And cycling…..
This past weekend Eric ran his first Olympic distance race… The Pacific Grove Triathlon…and he didn’t just do… He went out and killed it and beat his goal time by 14mins….
Remember how I always say that he doesn’t race for a podium.. Well he does.. He likes to beat people.. He likes to go out and really.. Beat his own expectations of himself..He not only wants his family to be proud… he wants himself to be proud of all that he has done and make the hours upon hours of training mean something…
Eric can be a difficult man to love and live with because he fiercely holds himself to high standards -and wants to be the best possible version of himself.. He wants this for us as well.. But is a million times harder on himself and thus puts unbelievable pressure on his goals and performance…. He doesn’t want to go out and JUST race.. He wants to push himself beyond what he thinks he can do.. He is driven to be better than he ever imagined… This will is what makes him rush head on towards his fears….
This is why I think people are sometimes shocked.. Not only by his goals but by what he actually does. As we walked around the Tri sports expo we met a very nice couple. We noticed the Specialized Shiv setup… and I quickly checked out all the components and how his bike kit bag was set-up, etc… We then noticed that his race numbers were from Ironman Mont Tremblant and a conversation struck up. Chris and his wife Janice own The Treadmill in Carmel, CA and were a total pleasure to speak with. Chris shared his thoughts on IMMT – which Eric is registered for in August 2013. Which, got us even more excited about that race in particular. We laughed about how Chris told Janice he didn’t want to be stressed before the race, as they have a 1yr old… and she and I commented on how nicely that works for them… “Honey, I need to rest – you get the kids..” and she knew exactly what its like to the partner of a triathlete and especially an Ironman (or one in training)… and as we talked about races and they learned that while we live in Santa Cruz, he has never done the SC tri because this was Eric’s first race… and that yes, he will be doing that race in 2 weeks, she was shocked that he was already signed up for IM and seemed to be charging it like a pro….
To me… this was a true example of Eric… He is not someone who goes out and buys the gear to just finish a race (we saw a lot of those people this weekend… full AERO helmets and crazy wheels and thousands and thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on gear)… he gets the gear because he works his ass off and blows past those folks who think that gear is all that it is about… and while yes, the right gear will help shave seconds and even mins off your time… but..it is the training, the nutrition and the strength of will – that allows Eric to not go out and do… but blow past the 20 and 30 year olds and finish his very first tri …. 11 months after he quit smoking.. in 2hrs 46mins…. To finish 14th in his age group and 108th over-all.
And let’s be clear… It wasn’t easy for him.. And in those first few moments of being in the washer machine of the swim start and getting stuck in the kelp.. And needing to literally pull himself through the kelp beds…instead of swim.. He thought about quitting (and yes I am working on getting his post race recap)…. As he said – all his fears seemed to be coming true.. That he thought about quitting…. Being done… And then he thought about the Operation Rebound soldiers who were competing and the guy who was a double amputee (above the knee).. Who was out there swimming… And at that moment.. Eric told himself to over it and get it done….and while he had no hip rotation and his form sucked and he hadn’t trained to pull himself through the water using the kelp.. He could do this and still do it well… And he did… Completing 1700 yards of his open ocean swim in 37mins…
When we watched him complete his first loop.. I had no idea he was going through and packed up the kids into the stroller.. along with their healthy breakfast of chicken nuggets, fries and grilled cheese and we went to find a spot along the bike path. He would be doing 4 loops and I wanted to find a spot that the kids and I could not only see him and cheer him on but one that hopefully allowed him to see us..
When we saw him pull out of the bike start there was a rush of butterflies for him and excitement.. because I knew that he had completed his first open water swim during a race.. and THAT WAS A HUGE DEAL…. We cheered loudly and I snapped some pictures…. My “during race” set-up was less than ideal.. we had gotten the second seat for our Phil & Ted’s double stroller, so I was wearing our 7.5month old, pushing the 3yr old in the stroller and trying to hold onto the 6yr old… keeping the kids entertained.. eyes on Eric and the clock – well.. it can all be slightly draining… but we timed him and right around the time I was telling the kids that Eric would be coming back by in about 5 mins… he blew past us… I KNEW he was fast on the bike.. Faster than he thought he would be… The nice thing about this race was all the loops.. There would be four total loops on the bike so we were able to cheer Eric on for both his approach and departure… I later asked him if the loops made the race tough… and he said he thought it would.. but then he looked forward to seeing us in the crowd and that helped him.. Which made us all beam… So we watched and cheered and counted… and as he went out for his 4th loop.. we walked to find a spot near the “bike in/run out” spot…. The course was great and we loved being able to cheer him in and the out… and then we had plenty of time to go walk over to the run course and find a spot… knowing he had 3 loops to do… we did the same thing.. stood and cheered.. until his final loop when we went and found a spot at the finish line…
Eric maintained his pace and this helped me estimate where he would be and when and we all were able to stand and cheer him through the finish line!!! We quickly met up (which was good sine we DIDN’T have a Post Race plan.. and I think its because we felt the course was small…I am not really sure what we were thinking.. HAHAHAHA).. We then got Eric his “Finisher’s meal” and hydration and then made our way back to transition to pick up his gear….
We had scored a GREAT parking spot first thing in the morning (yeah for scoping it out the night before) and were able to load up the kids, bags and gear.. get Eric into flip flops and make our way back to the hotel.
We all changed and got refreshed and then headed out for some family fun…. We went out to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey and had planned on taking the kids Whale Watching but due to winds and swells, all had been cancelled… so we bought tickets to the glass bottom boat and hung out on the wharf watching Seals, Otters and Pelicans until our cruise time… the boat ride was a perfect 30mins.. we saw TONS of jelly fish and seals and the cutest baby otter and their momma.. lots of birds, etc.. and it was a perfect low impact activity…. Then we headed over to this AMAZING Pizza place… for Eric’s Post Race splurge… it was yummy! The entire family looks forward to these meals…. It’s a nice little treat for a day well done.. and we all participate… Eric for burning 2500 calories and rocking the course… and me and the kids for surviving the shuffle and hustle and bustle of the day… we train, race and celebrate as a family…
In regards to the race and course…I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The day before, I felt that packet pick-up, the expo and the info sessions all left a little something to be desired.. (though in retrospect, I think this is the smallest event we have done and the expo, etc.. was just a reflection of that)… and I was worried about race day organization… however.. it was stellar. The course was blocked off in a way that kept the racers safe.. it was well supported and a GREAT first Tri for Eric and for the family… the loops allowed us to participate more and really be present for more than just the Start/Finish… I felt like my guy was well protected and his safety was well thought out…. And while these events take a toll on both of us: For Eric, he is pushing his body and mind.. mentally and physically.. pushing himself to the limit…. For me: I am left to wrangle 3 small children who get woken up early, are often hungry, tired and either hot or cold and typically bored… I am torn between my children’s needs and trying to make sure we are right where we are supposed to be at all the right times…. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. The positive influence is awesome… Showing the kids this type of sport and activity I think shows them so much… having my son watch the operation rebound soldiers and knowing that he can do whatever he sets his mind to, even with being different – such a great lesson.. Our 3yr old is already talking about doing her own races and I told Eric we could have a family of little budding triathletes…Its our journey together….
After our post race meal – we all headed back to the room and it was bath time for all the kiddos… and while it was still fairly early.. we pulled the shades and had everyone in bed and relaxing (after their ice cream treats).. so to encourage an early bed time.. as we had gotten everyone up at 5am that morning. By 7pm.. the kids were passed out and Eric and I were well on our way to doing the same.
We slept in a bit (or as much as you can with 3 kids), grabbed breakfast at the hotel, packed up the van and made our way back to Santa Cruz… It was a great race weekend and we will be doing it again – in our own town – in a week and a half….