Tucson Triathlon. Sunday March 12th 2006 (Swim 750m, Bike 12 miles, Run 3 miles)
For my dad…..
In late 2005 my dad went in for a bilateral hip replacement and all went well until, during recovery that evening…there was a blockage and he had a massive stroke…was in a coma for days…when he came to he couldn’t move, swallow or speak. You knew they thought he wouldn’t make it. One doctor even told us that. She didn’t bother to understand who the patient was and what he was capable of. Gradually, in miraculous leaps, he worked himself back from “the brink” as he says and made the grade to be transferred to the stroke rehabilitation ward, which is where he was in February 2006. My 3 brothers and I always wondered where our incredible resolve and drive inside of us came from – that allowed us to run marathons and ultimately for 3 of us to become Ironmen. Now it was staring us in the face…the toughest of us all was my dad…the guy who wasn’t meant to make it – DID
One of my dreams was to win a prize in a Triathlon…I won a mediocre third years ago as a Senior in a small race way up North in Scotland, I placed 2nd in my age group in Rocky Point in 2002 which as far as I was concerned made my dream a reality (my hand-carved swordfish at home is my proof). USAT (the USA Triathlon organisation) had a rule that your age was that on race day as opposed to the ITU rule where everyone was a year older on January 1st. This always made it a little bit harder for me in early season races (before my birthday in July). In 2006 USAT announced they would align with the ITU rule. I had raced in the Tucson Triathlon a number of times before (with a best place of 4th) but this meant in 2006 I aged up to the 45-49’ers and (not like me to be analytical) I pored and pored over previous race results, working out who might be in my age group to see if I had even a miniscule chance of racing for a prize. By my reckoning I had a slimmest sliver of a chance of getting a podium as it looked as if on paper I was roughly about as good as a 5th place…of course, the speculation was…who would enter the race? who would turn up? how fast would they go? how fast could I go (given I wasn’t exactly in the shape of my life…)?
Always one for staking out my plans…I decided I was going to Tucson to train for Ironman Arizona anyway and I would be in town for the Tucson Tri, so I told my dad about the age rule change and that I was going to race and that I was going to try and win a prize for him. My dad had told the nursing staff I was going to America to race and try win a prize for him. A tall order. But, hey I’m a warrior.
I register for the race with my friend Rane (one of the race co-organisers) on the Saturday and she says nice to see me back in town and racing. My buddy Mike and I head outside to analyse the guys in my age group. Trouble. Mike quickly identifies an ex pro and another dude he says is wicked fast. I also recognise the names of 2 of the other guys I know are faster than me. The stats say I should be 5th. Hmmmm…..The remainder of the day was cool even by Scottish standards..a high of 13 deg C (55 deg F) and even a little rain (the first since October). I would have preferred to ride as I was preparing for IMAZ, but not when it was that windy and wet. Confidence was in short supply.
The day of the race and an accidental hero
When I woke on the Sunday – early – very early – dark o’clock early (and most of you know what I’m like then…) the dark clouds had rolled in – both over Tucson and into my head. Even though my buddy’s house is half a mile from the race start and I knew I could rack my bike and come back to bed- I knew I really didn’t feel in the mood – a peek outside revealed the puddles in the road (not exactly yer normal desert climatology…I thought I was back home in damp, cold Scotland) as it had rained all night. It was cold. It was 5am and 3 deg C (37 deg F) brrr fecking brrr…Where’s a sport psychologist when yer a middle of the pack amateur?! I got up for some hot tea and told Mike I “couldn’t be arsed” as it was crappy weather…I’ll never forget Mike talking me round and telling me to go race and see what happens…I’m not saying I wouldn’t have started but without Mike….well without Mike as one of my best friends my tapestry would be missing a whole bunch of threads…I walked slowly along the road to the U of A pool car park to rack my bike…my breath conspicuous each time I exhale…I can see snow on the Mountains…then, back to bed.
The sans warm up
I’m trying to stay warm, waiting for the start time for my swim heat to get closer…I’m wearing ALL the warm clothes I’ve brought. The steam rises from the Olympic size pool which has been split into 18 x 25 yard lanes. I know time in this sprint triathlon (750m swim, 12 mile bike and 3 mile run) is sooo precious. My bike shoes are clipped into my pedals. I have my ultra light race shoes (only for use in this race) with elastic laces. I’m pondering. I would normally only put on a vest after the swim and that’s it. However. It’s 8:30am and stilllll only 5 deg C (41 deg F). Eek. I hear that there is snow in the foothills and that maybe quite a few people won’t make the race. I know I would like to survive without putting any more clothes on…cos everyone else that does will lose time to me…BUT it’s freezing. I need to sell it to myself. I ain’t convinced. I ask one of Pro girls I know (Kathryn Bertine) what her dress code is. She smiles and says swimsuit. Only. She is in the last swim heat though but it won’t be that much warmer. I look at my dad’s initials I have written on my left hand in marker pen. Ok, minimalist it is
It’s nice and warm in the pool. My swim hurts – I try hard but it sucks. Usual. Personal worst (13:46). But I’m on a mission…outta my way. Through the lobby, over to Tigana. Vest on, Oakleys on, helmet on and run with the bike. Feet in shoes and then hammer. I tell yer what…soaking wet in a speedo and skimpy vest…drying off at 22mph+ in 5 deg C heat. Ouchy. I feel no pain. I feel no legs. I feel no arms. I feel no hands. I used to have functioning limbs. I’m burning with hot pain inside and cold pain outside. I don’t have my race wheels with me (carbon fibre tri spokes) so I’m on regular wheels and cursing how much time (in seconds) I’m losing.
3 laps of Campbell, Euclid and Speedway (with Mike cheering me on) and I’m done. I have no knees. There is something cold and dull pained numb in their place. Off the bike, shoes on in seconds and run…get the furnace on…well, we all know if anyone could heat up on a run – well, it’s me! I race with the rev limiter cutting in – I look at my dad’s initials on my hand and confirm I am doing all I can. I know there is a force with me today. I’ve no idea where I am in my age group as all the fast guys are in a later swim heat. I run under the finish banner in 1:08:25. I’m pleased. Only 3 seconds slower than 3 years ago. That’s the benchmark from a little guy 6,000 miles from home.
I wait around for the results but they don’t appear. The prize ceremony takes place and I wait for my age group top 3 to be announced…I am wondering if by some wild chance I might have made 3rd place. The third place, second place and first place names are all announced. I’m not. I’m out. Oh well. I did my best.
The real results
No times were announced so, I ask the guy that won my age group his time (so I can assess just how much I missed out by) and he says 1:11:25. I stop. What?!? I ask him if he could please repeat. I tell him I clocked 3 mins faster than that. Wow! Maybe, juuuust maybe…I go speak with Rane and it’s all confirmed. Not, only did I get a prize. I got the win. I WON! Ok, so that was a dream that I maybe didn’t make completely public…that one day I would WIN my age group. I have a dark blue towel with 1st place embroidered on it
It turns out that the 4 guys in the race who were faster than me didn’t show. The weather gods and all the people willing me on had…well…
When I called home to say to my mum to tell my dad I won him a prize, as I said I would, and I could say not only a prize but I WON, I cried. He cried. We all cried. I’ve often said, if it doesn’t make you cry it ain’t worth doing. I also know, if I hadn’t raced this day for my dad, I wouldn’t have won. Who woulda thought…
I tried telling my friends (who have all won their age groups or the race like JAK) that I only won ‘cos the fast guys didn’t turn up. They said “Peter. A win is a win”. For the second time in my life I felt I really was one of them. I had proved myself. I’ve never won anything in my life. On this day I was the victor. It was sweet, just for once. Thank you all!
Next time you want to win. Get yer dad to help!
HMG this was for you.