My trip to the ITU 2013 World Triathlon Finals race in London 2013
It all starts here before I knew I was even going.
I quit smoking then gained weight to almost 300 lbs. I was going nowhere fast, well, actually going nowhere slowly… I said to myself, “David, old man (I was turning 50), time to fix this and by this time next year do a sprint triathlon in Naperville.” A guy can dream, can’t he?
My first race – little did I know I could not sign up on the same day as the race. What was I thinking? Ever see the movie “The Jericho Mile” (1979) with Peter Strauss based on a true story about a guy in jail? He ran fast enough to qualify for the Olympics but in the end he was denied. Now, I was not competing for the Olympics nor was I EVER in jail, but I went home after being denied the race and instead of being out of sorts I did my own race and kept time and, just like the movie, threw my watch against a wall and broke it at the end of the race – kind of my “So There!” moment, which I don’t recommend. Very expensive move.
Time for my first actual triathlon, location Naperville. Here I come, I thought. I trained, and surely another year of David-style training WILL HELP. Except swimming. I did not train for the swimming as I grew up across the street from a pool. I was there all the time in the summer, and I thought I was good at it already. You know the saying “Sink or swim”? Well, I did a bit of both… read onwards for the details.
So into Naperville quarry I go doing the breast stroke (no laughing, I thought that was swimming.) With 150 yards to go I put up my hand for help but the lifeguard passed me right by to help someone else. I guess I did not look desperate enough (little did he know.) I said suck it up old boy – sadly that was mostly water I sucked up. I did finish without the help of others, finished the swim and got on my bike (mountain bike with big honking knobby tires) and then I ran (not so much running but more of a quick 2 step. Hey, I AM from western Canada. It is what we do.) I forgot to mention one tiny detail, no left ACL so no training on the run either. I was pretty darn fast – fast on that mountain bike.
Raced (if you can call it that) the next 2 years, which is to say I just finished. I upgraded my road bike, and got rid of the clunky mountain bike but that’s another story (I rode into a parked car and was forced to get rid of the mountain bike.) Oh, and I said, “Give me some thick tires and forget those tri-clips – I will never use those. Just give me the toe clips for my running shoes.”
This year no races because I came up against some medical issues and could not race all year. Just a little something called a heart fibrillation. GEEESH, can’t a guy catch a break? After a couple of procedures and a serious allergic reaction to a medication (took my heart rate down to 30 beats per minute) by the end of September I was back to normal, my normal, and feeling the lure of the races….
All better again and ready for the next race season except for the planters fasciitis I got in the spring time, but what the heck? I said to myself, “This year I am not going to just finish, I am going to race, yes I am!” Remember, I am an optimist! Then reality set in: four races this year, the first one in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. This race was an un-planned race, a spur of the moment decision. I was going up to Canada to renew my passport and visit my son, his wife, and my grandkids and found out Edmonton had a race there the same weekend. It was a qualifying race for the ITU in 2013 in London England (tie into England – my mother was born and raised there) so kind of a homecoming for me.
The race was my first 750m swim, so in preparation I bought a wetsuit and only tried it on for the first time the day before the race (Mr. Last Minute) and then, of course, it turned out to be a no WETSUIT race because the water was too warm. For the bike I still did not use tri-shoes, and they would not allow the toe clips. My footwear of choice was running shoes – 5 year old gym shoes. The bike portion had hills and the hills were BIG, BIG hills. How big were the hills? REALLY BIG HILLS. By the time I started the run it was about 95 above. I had not run for almost two years. Let’s just say running was an option. Walking was the best option. But… insert applause… I still managed to quality for London 2013. THE OLD GUY’S STILL GOT IT AFTER ALL.
Not only did I finish but I placed in the top ten for my age group. No need to mention that there were only ten in my age group and I finished tenth – just a coincidence. That is what I told myself! I encouraged my son, daughter-in-law and brother to do the relay and they did. Dam, they beat me by three minutes.
For the Naperville Sprint triathlon I thought I would get new tires. I had ridden on them for a while and had had a few flat tires (no one told me I had to pump them up EVERY time, err the things you learn). I even managed to make a fashion statement when my tri suit zipper broke and I had to tie the top together. It looked like I was wearing a man-bra. But I did manage to buy running shoes, hooray, and triathlon shoes. Tada! I upgraded!
Added another local race, a mini tri in Woodridge, but by now I was having gall bladder issues and I was waiting for a minor procedure but I decided what the heck, let’s give it a shot. I nearly lost my false teeth in the pool spitting up water during the swim but nevertheless finished with all my parts intact and enjoyed it!
I figured I had so much fun on this triathlon, why not try another – the Chicago Triathlon? Actually, it felt good. There were no issues unless you count MY CHAIN COMING OFF MY BIKE an issue.
Winter was on its way and I was still training on my own but this time I decided I wanted to get better, SO I joined ET’s CompuTrainer classes with Coach Sarah for the winter and swim lessons with Coach Judie in the spring. REAL lessons from real trainers from Experience Triathlon who knew what they were doing.
Back to Edmonton to qualify for the 2014 ITU which will be in Edmonton. Dam, I was 9th with the top 8 qualifying. I did lower my time by over 10 minutes. But wait, maybe, just maybe, someone will get disqualified or drop out? Not that I wish evil on anyone or on the world in general, but if someone were to think twice about going, wouldn’t I get bumped up to 8? Not so lucky – no one dropped out.
I went to Toronto where my daughter lives to try to qualify. I finished 17/19. Top 10 get in. Ironically, my time would have qualified me the year before. Where did all the fast old guys come from this time? I had my best run and best cycle to date.
On to The Naperville Sprint presented by Experience Triathlon. It was a good race – my first sub 1:30 race – and hey no stories to tell. All the equipment I bought and my body worked as it should.
NOW IT’S TIME TO TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY! I have a coach, Coach Sarah … So, I thought I was training – NOT. I thought I was eating well before a race – NOT. I thought I had a small clue what I was doing – NOT. Sarah had a work horse (me). She was teaching this work horse how to work, train and race. Who knew resting before a race helped – okay, put your hands down – or carb loading was better than protein loading (NOT ME AGAIN) so no gardening or spinners the day before a race or fiber cereal in the morning.
Woodridge mini tri – good race – no issues for me except the lady ahead of me. When the starter said ready, she decided it was time to adjust her goggles, then stretch a little, stretch a little more and then jump in the pool and then decided to come back up the lane she just swam in and then missed lane three. By this time I was almost in tears laughing, and oh, by the way she was not a good swimmer. You gotta keep your eyes open for these things! I loved it because it made me look like a pro, at last!!! Even at the expense of another, but hey, I have been there, I sure have!
On to the Chicago Triathlon: The race went well. It was my last race before my London trip. I lowered my time by over 11 minutes from the previous year, which meant last year I sucked and this year I did not. The only thing that sucked this year was not putting on my body glide under my tri-suit (ouch – double ouch.) Some things you cannot coach no matter how hard you try.
This is it, the final race of the year, the World ITU Finals in London, England. The travel was fun. I booked on British Airways so I could get the full British accent and experience from the get-go. The plane was packed and my carry on was nowhere near me (note to self: pack a small carry bag that fits under the seat in front of you and still have room for legs to stretch out.) Food, movies and a little sleep on the plane and well, yes, a couple of drinks. I am only human after all. Eight hours later I arrived in London. The trip to hotel (dorm) took three hours: airport wait, airport wait and airport wait and then the trip. No need to worry on the duration. They were very punctual on the check in time of 2:00 PM so 4 hours to go. The week went fast with sightseeing, meeting other people from Canada and wearing our country’s colors and wind breaker all week. It was so easy to spot me wearing a maple leaf.
The tension was building at registration as people eyed each other up, Then, the venue, opening ceremonies, riding the course, swimming, running the course, expo, bike check-in, YIKES it’s almost time. Pre-race day I take it easy and enjoyed a pasta dinner and pre-race night I enjoyed very little sleep. Pre-race bag check, timing chip, shoes, uniform, wetsuit, timing chip (double-check) etc. Morning transition opens at 6:00 and closes 7:30. I race at 11:10 so more tension. Time to head back have a small breakfast, rest the legs and chat a little.
Race time, in the chute, on the dock (next to a chatty Cathy – not my style) ready, (horn) go go go… Once into the race I did not notice others but heard Go Canada, Go Great Britain, Go USA! It was not your normal race, not your normal athletes as we were all in our uniforms participating proudly for our country. (We represented our country the whole week so I had to behave.) Swim — dirty water, a bit cold but not the coldest I have ever swam in. It’s a long way to Tipperary but even longer to get to and through transition.
Time for the bike – did I tell you its a long way through transition? And for all those who put out a towel to dry their feet or a bag for their shoes (it rained the whole week is was England) that was all taken away. Only the bare essentials were left behind. Bike: narrow mount and dismount, 180 degree turns, switchbacks, slick roads and a downpour while on the bike – why not, eh? Still, I used my aero bars more than normal (way to go ME.) I did not crash into others and I did not miscount the number of laps – like others. I did not miss my lap corners – others did and went back to transition. I did not have a flat tire… not this time. Did the chain came off this time? No! The biking Gods were smiling down on ME, an over-55 Canadian boy who beat the odds and ended up in London doing what he dreamed of: a race, a real race, a triathlon, and doing it while proudly wearing his country’s colors. The run, the final frontier where all men and women have gone before. The last run lap, smooth as silk. Just puddles and puddles and puddles of water.
Finish line – what a feeling! I competed and completed the race at the ITU World Triathlon Finals against other athletes from other countries. Finished 88 out of 94 in my age group. My brother said, “David, you were 88 in the world!” (That is a good way to put it.) A friend said, “You qualified for the Pro Bowl of triathlons. You are all top notch athletes. I hope you just enjoyed the experience and realized you are among your peers and equals in the sporting event you enjoy.”
I will take away a lot of special moments on this trip. I enjoyed the race, the venue, the location, but nothing as much as spending time with my son who took the time to come watch his Dad race and share the moments of the ITU Race Week.
I would like to thank my wife for supporting me through all of this. My coach, Sarah, whose encouragement and training helped me through the last part of this journey and will be helping me through future Journeys. My family and friends for putting up with all my stories. My children for believing in their Dad.
A new chapter in triathlons, who knows? Olympic distance, 2014 World Triathlon Finals, maybe even an Ironman someday. It has been quite a journey and I am happy to report it is NOT over yet. Roll on 2014! I am ready for you! Stay tuned and stay race ready!