In The Beginning
In 2011 I decided I wanted to do the Malibu Triathlon. I have zero recollection why.
I was never a swimmer. Never a cyclist. And never a runner. Although, I had been doing a spin class for a number of years before it was so cool and soulful. And I was getting better running 3 or so miles without stopping … on a treadmill.
I went to Pepperdine University so I have a special connection to Malibu because I lived there for some pretty formative years. Pepperdine was really special to me because I applied just to see if I could get in. I never thought I’d go. My family certainly didn’t have the money and Pepperdine was way out of my league.
But I applied anyway and I got in! A very long story short, I was offered a huge financial aid package that put it in reach and my family, karate school and other friends made it possible. I graduated and became the first in my family to graduate college.
It was the first time I learned that if I work hard and get resourceful, I can make things happen. I often say I was dumb enough to believe my Grandma when she said, ‘If you put your mind to it and work hard, you can do whatever you want.’
So maybe I just felt like the Malibu Triathlon was a good excuse to go have a Homecoming, get fit, and add something big to my accomplishments. And, chase JLo and Terri Hatcher around Malibu for a day.
2017 Race Recap
This year has been a bit frustrating because I’ve been dealing with pressure wounds on my outside ankles bones from last year’s triathlon season. Pressure sores are a common occurrence for paraplegics (and quadriplegics) because of the lack of feeling, circulation, muscle mass, and functional use of the lower body. They also don’t heal very fast for those very reasons.
My ankle wounds took 8+ months to heal, involving weekly visits to a wound clinic (whose title also included ‘Amputation Prevention’) for treatment and a Koban wrap which is like a lame soft cast for compression. It helps circulation and prevents swelling in my legs as I’m constantly in a wheelchair. Not walking and using those muscles which in turns pumps blood against gravity has other effects like pooling blood in your feet. It’s like cankles, but not that funny.
All that told, it’s kept me out of the pool and off my racing chair that puts a lot of direct pressure on that area. So, I’ve been focusing all of time on my handcycle. As you’ve seen, I’ve been doing a LOT of cycling.
When it came to triathlons for the year, I still wanted to participate because honestly it is a little addicting. It also is a great excuse to get my best friend from college out from the East Coast and gather our other college friends together.
Another close friend, Aaron Jasper, is a fierce triathlete and casually puts up times I used to aspire to run. This year I talked him into doing a relay with me. He would swim, then I would bike, then he would run. He killed the swim in just over 10 minutes which meant I was on the road with pros, celebrities and other challenged athletes. I caught up to Zac Efron on the road while he had an issue, but later he passed me like it was nothing.
As opposed to the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon’s 1,800+ ft of climbing, Malibu had 800 ft of climbing in 17 miles. Only doing the bike, I put the hand-crank(?) to the metal and averaged about 17mph versus 12mph last year.
Which really means when I wasn’t climbing I was doing around 20mph on the flats & 37mph downhill.
And THAT was fun.
So Nautica Malibu Triathlon #5 in books. #2 as a paratriathlete. First as a relay team.
We were fortunate enough to get a little reception together on Pepperdine’s campus and gathered friends, spouses, their kids, and even Hung Le whom Seaver College grads know well, AND Andy Benton who is the President of the University. While in school I took his business law class. Pepperdine is a special university where fostering relationships with students is possible and encouraged. My constant argument with Dr. Benton is when he says, ‘Call me Andy’ and I say, ‘No, Dr. Benton.’
I have to give a big shout to my crew there. You set the bar for what I deem high-quality people and I’m proud to call each and every one of you friends. Even those that couldn’t come, I love ya’ll dearly.
One of the reasons I think ‘I tri’ is because it’s a challenge to prove to myself I can do it just because I decided. Before my spinal cord injury (SCI), triathlon was something I did to prove I could it. IT being open water swimming. IT being cycling outdoors. IT being running on top of all that. IT being the journey every year to do better than the last year. IT being consistent and committed to doing what it takes daily, weekly and monthly to accomplish a B.HAG > a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
In 2015, for those that haven’t read, I took it up a few notches and had 5 triathlons on the calendar but crashed (resulting in my SCI) a week before the IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Cruz and about 3 weeks before what should have been my 4th Malibu Triathlon.
One of the things that I will always remember is my surgeon saying to me, ‘Your long-game work towards triathlon will benefit you on this long road to recovery.’ It gave me a perspective on what was to come:
After my first triathlon, I was super-motivated to do better the next year. So I started swimming in the open water of the San Francisco Bay at Aquatic Park right by Ghirardelli Square. There’s four buoys and a flag at the end that most people swim along the beach there. When I first got out there, I couldn’t swim to the first buoy and back. After a few more attempts I got to the next buoy. After awhile I could get to the flag at the end. Eventually over a few more weeks and months I got to the flag without stopping. Eventually I could swim the whole perimeter of aquatic park twice.
Over and over again in this recovery journey, I’ve had to have faith over what seems impossible. My first week in rehab, that challenge was sitting up with no back support. Another time is was transferring from my bed to my wheelchair. Yet another time was transferring from my wheelchair into my car. What was impossible yesterday, is routine today.
I didn’t become the best swimmer ever. I didn’t ‘win’ any triathlons. But I did better than I did yesterday. I did something I could be proud of.
I have to tell you, I often hear people tell me ‘they could never do a triathlon’ and I really want to call bullshit. So if you’ve ever said that to me, that’s what I’m telling you now. I have seen every gender, age, weight, body type, cancer-survivor, missing a leg, missing both legs, missing an arm, etc. cross an IRONMAN finish line. That’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 marathon run in one go.
I have yet to do that distance. But it’s on the menu.
Maybe triathlon is not your thing and you have no desire. That I can respect.
But what could be your thing and what might you have a desire to accomplish?
If you’re not doing it because you think it’s impossible; if you’re just telling yourself you have no desire because you think it’s impossible. Let me be the first to call bullshit. I invite you to be second.
There is a funny thing that happens for you when you do B.HAG things and prove to yourself you can; when you do it just because you decide.