Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The helicopter

Promises are tricky things. Having never been married, I have never have pledged "for better or for worse." The only times that I have run across this types of duality are grad school and the wildflower triathlon.

I tend to make smaller vows and promises. With some like trying to cut down on Starbucks I don't do a great job, but I do pledge that I want to do some distance event every year.

This year I wanted to warm up for the Keahou Kona triathlon by doing the wildflower triathlon. I joined team and training to keep me fit and ready, and looked forward to the day.

The swim was a scrum - a Euclidian notion held by several in my wave that sometimes the shortest distance is through another swimmer. I had my goggles kicked a couple of times; but by the time we were to the second buoy, the pack had thinned to the point I could concentrate on deep, long strokes.

I cruised through the transition area. My normal bike jersey has three pockets in the back, but the TNT singlet has only one and I did not get hammer gel to a place where I could reach it. My camel back was filled, the shades were on, and it was time to race.

The bike strategy was to spin Lynch Hill, a quick nasty climb, in a granny gear and then cruise the flats at a 165 heart rate. I drank continuously. One of the water bottles that they gave on the course tasted like bleach. I stuck to getting Gatorade from the road crew and drinking from the camel bak. Without a headwind I easily stayed within range.

When I hit the second transition area I looked at my watch and saw that the time was two hours. This is when the thought came that I could finish this race in sub three hours. I don't know why we have an obsession with round numbers - there are lists of things to before you are thirty and certainly the Ten Commandments. Race results have that same glow from sub 3-hour marathons to sub 4-minute miles.

At a 10k I would have to go less than a 10-minute mile over a hilly course in 105 heat. It was time to breakout the game face. This day was going to memorable - a chance to full test my edge. I averaged a 9-minute clip if you include the time I stopped at every water station.

There was a hill on the backside that I promised I would run up for a childhood friend who had passed away earlier in the year. Most of the crowd was smartly walking up and I passed them in blind determination.

Should I have stopped or slowed down? Should I have I realized the heat had taken the most of me at this point? Courage is the well-liked twin of stupidity. I wish I had thought of it as an option.

I was at the top of the hill and still running strong. The last section of the course is gravy - a long descent that you could almost sleep walk through. I had kilometer left to go and looked at my watch that read 2:50. I started a new mantra - I can finish this in 2:55.

2:55, 2:55, 2:55, 2 ...

And then I found myself in a hospital. With cords winding around me it looked like an octopus was trying to mate with my chest.

There is a temperature to thought, and when your body is 102 there isn't much more warmth it could handle. As the IV bag dripped into my body, slowly I started to gain back memories - like whom my parents were. I had no idea about phone numbers, my brothers, what day it was, or that even I had been doing a triathlon.

Slowly details crept in from the nurses and doctors. Heat stroke. Seizure. Helicopter Evac.

My brothers are George and Edward. Still no idea about phone numbers.

The nurse came by again and told me that I had been picked up on the run part of a triathlon.

Completely ignoring the relevancy I asked my first question:

Did I finish?

* * *

First want to say that I am fine. I am deeply embarrassed and frustrated, but emotions can be healed with nice swims in cold waters.

A few IV bags later I was back to a sedated normal. . My stomach is a little queasy, and I have been told to take it easy for a week.

The hard part is that I don't know where I am going from here. I love team in training. I love triathlons. But to get hospitalized twice is foolish. The math major in me should know that if you give 110% then you are only going to make it 90% of the way.

When I am finally healed I will try a new goal, perhaps in a different direction. Still full of passion, I will try this time to be wiser. This I promise.