It’s been awhile since the last time I raced in any triathlon. Over two years actually. For those of you familiar with my story, this may seem a little peculiar, as triathlon is the sport that provided focus to the active management of my Diabetes, & helped me recover from two years spent in my bed- so sick that I would only get up to use the restroom IF I was physically able to do so. I remember that time of my life with both a foggy haze of un-managed blood glucose recollection, yet a frantic vividness of a life saving fight against the chronic illness that affects millions worldwide: Type 1 Diabetes.
Though my goals were still masked in uncertainty, after a short time spent outside, enjoying running & cycling around the beautiful central Oregon landscape, I knew I needed to get back in the pool. Though born in Tallahassee, Florida I grew up in Bend, Oregon. I have bounced from coast to coast several times but in the summer of 2010 I found a renewed purpose for living in advocating for a healthy lifestyle & active diabetes management. This would put me back in the realm of physical activity, and after two years spent sick in bed, central Oregon provided the ultimate outdoor lovers playground! Summers in Bend are warm, dry, and there are boundless opportunities to get out and enjoy nature (even in an urban setting!). But I grew up staring at the black line at the bottom of a pool, and that’s where I always seem to gravitate, albeit kicking & screaming sometimes! So despite the serenity of the river, lakes, and mountains I remember stepping back onto the pool deck at Juniper Aquatic & Fitness Center.
I had no idea what to expect on so many levels. Where was my physical fitness? How would swimming affect my blood glucose levels? Do I still remember how to swim?!?! I walked out to the equipment bin to grab a kick-board & pull buoy. I didn’t know if I’d use them but it helped me procrastinate actually getting to the side of the pool. As I set my equipment at the end of the lane I was so thankful that there were only a couple other people swimming in the pool & I was fortunate to get a lane all to myself. With shaky hands I pulled my goggles on… now let me, quickly, catch you up: I started competitive swimming when I was six years old. I swam for a top 10 division 1 swim program in college. It had the fastest distance program in the nation with a 25k world champion, and yes, I was a distance swimmer. Yet here I was, shaking nervously, before taking the plunge!
To this day I have never forgotten that initial dive into the pool. Once my toes hit the edge of the pool I sprang confidently into lane 6… the rush of the bubbles around me & the compression of the water was exhilarating! I gave a few powerful dolphin kicks before doing a few corkscrews underwater. I pushed off the bottom of the pool, gave a deep breaststroke pullout & kicked a few more times while screaming underwater with unbridled enthusiasm!!!
It didn’t take long before my excitement was transformed into exhaustion. My heart rate was through the roof before I had made it back to where I started just 50 meters before. That said, I believe I managed to swim an entire 500 meters before crawling out of the pool, and flopping my back onto the pool deck. I punched the air a few times while smiling. The time & length of my swim didn’t matter much at that point. I took the plunge! And it was worth it!!!
The last time I race in a Triathlon was Ultraman Florida, in February 2015. It’s a three day ultra endurance triathlon. Day 1 consists of a 10K (6.2 mile) swim, followed by a 90 mile bike ride. Day 2 you ride 172 miles. Day 3 you run a double marathon (52.4 miles). When I finished that race I was 6th overall, and to date, I am the only Type 1 Diabetic in the world to race an Ultraman.
Tomorrow I am racing in a local sprint triathlon. 450 meter swim, 16 mile bike, & a 3 mile run. My wife signed me up a week ago while I was out of town helping my mom with her packing & upcoming move.
How many athletes out there have gone back to the sports they love after a long hiatus? How many have nervously tried something new just because? All the anxiety & excitement, stress & uncertainty. I love this feeling. Not quite the calm before the storm but the frenzy, before the calm, before the storm. What will tomorrow hold? I look forward to taking the plunge back into triathlon!!!