I’m racing the Malibu Triathlon sprint distance triathlon on September 14 as a fundraiser for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. (The apostrophe is intentionally left off, that is how they spell their name.) The sprint distance is a 1/2 mile swim, 18 mile bike, 4 mile run at Zuma beach, a gorgeous stretch of Southern California coast. The CHLA Team is about 140 members, and each of us has a fundraising responsibility as part of the race. The link on the right will take you to my fundraising page should you wish to make a contribution. I met coach Brian through the team, he is the co-captain of our team as well as having been successfully treated for brain cancer when he was 13. For him, and so many others, this race has a deep, personal meaning.
Before Boise I wouldn’t have had the courage to call myself an advanced triathlete. Brian kept saying, “talk to me after Boise”. The man was right. I am a different person having gone through the crucible of a 70.3 race, so much so that the idea of a sprint doesn’t scare me at all. In fact, at this point, only the full Ironman distance remains a frightening specter, but I don’t doubt I can do it. The fear is in the overall commitment to the training and how much of my life has to change to make it work. That’s a lot different from wondering if I will survive 140.6 miles of brutal effort. Today I know I can roll out of bed and knock out a sprint distance triathlon. Without proper prep my time won’t be great, but I can absolutely do it with confidence. There are a number of people on our team for which this is their first triathlon. After Boise I told Brian I was game to help in any way I could – which is why he gave me more responsibility for the open water training session a few weeks ago. I volunteered to host a group ride for newbies on PCH with a run brick session, just to add a training event to the calendar.
As I waited in the parking lot of Malibu Bluff I watched a few social groups of cyclists unpack and ride out, with the sun rising over the mountains and lighting up the crashing surf of a beautiful Sunday morning in Malibu. I didn’t know if anyone was going to show up, I hadn’t received any emails from team members. The email to the team said I’d host an easy 15-18mph pace, no one would get dropped. My hope was to get a group of five to ten people, and maybe get to push them a little out of their comfort zone within the safety of a group. By 8am I hadn’t seen anyone show up for me and I think I accepted that it’s really hard to train for a triathlon if you’re a nurse or doctor working twelve hour shifts on a changing rotation. So I was delighted when I circled the parking lot one last time and found that one woman was there for the ride! We talked for a bit about her comfort level, riding experience, speed, and rules of the road. Then we headed out for a twenty mile ride together.
I’m not a coach. But thanks to over a year of constant riding, several thousand miles, and siphoning every bit of knowledge I can from experienced riders, I’ve learned a few things. My teammate was a great rider and we worked on a few different riding tasks including shifting, cadence, and moving into a few short sprints to boost speed. She was a great riding partner and it was a good lesson for me in observation, offering advice only if it was relevant to what she wanted to work on, and trying not to embarrass myself by falling, or being annoying. After what felt like a great ride we went for a 4 mile run on some big hills, wrapping up just under 4 miles in 35 minutes. Most helpful for me was learning that if I’m going to host an event, it’s likely that it will be less of a workout for me since I’ll be accelerating or decelerating to line up with the other riders. It makes me appreciate the rides with Brian that much more, since he is so much stronger a rider than I am and he modeled great coaching behavior right from the start.
On a mildly related note, I’m not sleeping enough. I went to bed at 11 last night after dinner out with friends, and was up today at 5:30 without the alarm. After I got home from the ride and showered off at 11 I went to take a nap. Three hours later I opened my eyes. I might need another nap today, since I’m in the ocean with Brian for a mile swim loop tomorrow morning at 6am. Yawn!