Team CHLA: no man is an island.

Yesterday was a long day of physical activity, thus the delay in posting. Yesterday morning was the first Team CHLA meeting for an ocean swim clinic for the newbies. I thought my team captain was joking when he said he’d put me down as a coach. Nope.

Turns out he wasn’t kidding. In the past I would have begged off the responsibility, lacked the confidence to accept that I was competent enough to be seen as an advanced or experienced athlete. The other side of 70.3 miles is a different story. My role wasn’t lifeguard – newbies to the ocean should still be able to swim 300 yards nonstop in a pool. But there is always the potential for someone to freak out in open water and having someone in a red swim cap ready and able to help is critical. We were instructed by the clinic coaches that we were to watch people for panic, and if someone was in trouble to get close to them to calm them down, but no more than an arm’s distance. Apparently when someone is in panic in open water they see their “rescuer” as an island to grab and board. This will often kill the rescuer. The half dozen of us got our instructions from the coaches, the very same ones that taught me how to ocean swim a year ago. A year later and the curtain is pulled aside and I’m told how much other stuff is actually going on during the clinic. Primarily that the goal and the method is to keep everyone calm and comfortable in the water and the different ways the coaches function to make that happen. A year ago I was standing on the same beach without a wetsuit, having just learned how to swim freestyle in a pool, just two months away from my first triathlon. Now I’m in a red swim cap, offering tips to fellow teammates.

The meetup and clinic ran from 9am to 11:30, and I managed to grab a swim out to the buoy and back to move my legs and start my workout. Trunk transitioned into my run gear and got in a half hour run, or about 4 miles. Afterwards I connected with my team captain, Brian, to discuss our scheduled long ride on Sunday. As I’m pulling food out of bags to refuel he again says that I’m ready for an Ironman next year and to throw down a gauntlet he even says he can get me there in 10 hours a week of training. Now he’s just baiting me.

I share my cashews with the CHLA nutritionist and fellow racers while stuffing deli meat and whey shake in my mouth denying that I’m ready for an ironman. Having just been in the ocean swimming like it was nothing, run four miles just to stay moving, and eating every two hours to shave percentages off my body fat. I have no doubt that Brian can get me to an ironman next year. But I want to enjoy this pre-iron state for a little while longer so when I commit mentally and physically to the event I can rock that thing hard. Not just finish, but set a goal time and train for it, learn everything I need to get there, and hit it out of the ballpark.

Later in the day I go to a pool party at a friend’s house and am back in the water. Still in my racing briefs. For the first time in my life I don’t beg off when a floating hoop and ball are put out. No, instead I pull on the goggles and play with people. I know this sounds stupid to may, but when you haven’t lived an active life out of shame and the feeling of failure before even beginning, just being undressed in public and enjoying friendly sport changes. I had a blast, and then talked about food and nutrition with a friend for an hour comparing notes and processes between what he’s learned on his own research and what my nutritionist has had me change.

We have new neighbors, and as I introduced myself to them she asked what I did for a living. Without thinking I answered, “I do triathlon, I write, I write screenplays, and I do technology consultation.” That is exactly what I do right now, in that order of importance. In the past I would have said “I’m a screenwriter” and grouped my running and stuff in as misc. But I do define myself as a triathlete first these days, regardless of comparative performance. Embracing that has made me really happy.


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