Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Race Report: Napa Valley Half Iron - The Decision

I was dreading the Napa Vally Half Iron for the three weeks preceding the race. I knew that my fitness level was not as high as I'd like it to be heading into a race. I knew that my life had become busier than ever; that trying to build a business, develop a relationship and explore a new city had all taken priority over hours SBRing, and rightfully so. I knew that my passion for the sport was starting to wane and that my heart was not fully into triathlon anymore.

I proceeded like I would for any other race, I began waking up 15 minutes earlier each day starting on Tuesday. In the three days leading up to the race my sleep wouldn't cooperate and while I was waking up at 4:30 - 4:45 am I wasn't falling asleep until 11pm or later. The night before the race I had maybe 2 hours of sleep.

With blurry eyes, a splitting head ache and a pit in my stomach I drove to the race site early Saturday morning. I was silent for the entire drive, not because my intensity to do the race was peaking but because I was dreading toeing the starting line. It was becoming increasingly apparent that my heart and soul just weren't into the sport anymore.

Ever since my diagnosis of type 1 in 2007 I have fought tirelessly to prove to myself that I could accomplish whatever I wanted with a life changing disease. The way I mentally dealt with my diagnosis was signing up for an Ironman, and ultimately proving I could actually compete in an Ironman like I did at CDA. In my anniversary post I wrote that I was at peace with having diabetes, with having to test my blood sugars constantly and avoiding certain foods. I had mentally over come my diagnosis and had become 100% comfortable with everything it meant. While I still love sport and still love athletics I was realizing that triathlon was not what I loved anymore.

Once at the race venue the adrenaline kicked in a bit and for a few minutes I was excited to race. I went for my warm up run, got in my wet suit and did my warm up swim. But something weird was going on, I had one desire - to ride my bike. I did not want to swim and did not want to run I simply wanted to ride my bike, see beautiful sites, descend fast and climb hard. I stood at the starting line thinking how different it felt than starting CDA or even the start of a small race in South Carolina. Instead of feeling excitement and energy I felt dread and downtrodden.

We started in a time trial fashion, the fastest swimmer did the alleged 1.2 miles in 33 minutes (the water was brutal). My time was 42 minutes. I left the water my legs were killing me, I had cramps in my shin muscles, my feet arches and my calves. I tested and was at 118, I thought of stopping, I thought of not doing the one thing in the sport I still undoubtedly loved. My blood sugar spiked 6 minutes later to 154, I put on my cycling shoes and out I went.

From my first pedal stroke I knew this would be my last triathlon for a while. As I passed cyclist after cyclist I wondered why I didn't just focus on the one discipline that brings me almost as much joy as football did.

As I continued to ride the lack of sleep was catching up to me, my stomach was upset, I threw up a little in my mouth. I continued to ride, averaging close to 20 mph for the first 20 miles of the course, my back acted up a little bit but I pushed on. At one out and back I thought of heading back to the finish and skip miles of the race, just pull out without finishing the bike. I turned it into a training ride and kept fighting knowing I had my first road race the following weekend.

My speeds topped out at 28 on the flats, they slowed to 7 to 11 on the climbs. The course was brutal, my time 3:04, slow for me but respectful for a tough course. Not bad for a guy whose longest ride in the past 2 months was 50 miles. I can still ride, I can't still tri.

I got into transition, dismounted my bike and instead of jogging with my bike to my rack took a slow, long deliberate walk. The entire time I knew what was to come, the entire time I knew I was going to remove my timing chip the second I got to my rack.

I got to my rack, looked at Katie, smiled and asked "are you ready to drink some wine?" Her, knowing me so well smiled back and said "absolutely." She, unbeknownst to me knew for weeks that this would be my last triathlon for a while. She later told me she could see the joy in my face when I talked about cycling or went out for a ride but heard the dread in my voice when I would go for a swim or out for a run. She knew what I didn't yet realize, that I was ready to walk away.

I racked my bike, removed my helmet and tri top. I reached down, pulled apart the velcro and held my timing chip in my hand. It was as if a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders, I smiled as I knew it was time to take a break. I walked to the aid tent, and said "athlete 160 is turning in his chip." The two EMTs looked at me curiously, I responded "after doing something like 10 of these sometimes you just know it's time to walk away."

I smiled walking back to my bike. Triathlon has brought me so far, has helped me with so much has let me meet so many incredible people, has turned me into an endurance athlete. But for now, for this year I'm taking a break. I can't sacrifice what I need to, to train for tris and compete as I want anymore. Training doesn't bring the same smile to my face it once did, in a word I'm exhausted. For the next year I'll focus on what I enjoy so much. Its time to take a bit of a break; 3 days after the race I'm as happy as I was the second I turned in my chip, walking away was unquestionably the right decision.


Anonymous said...

I love you man. This was so obviously the right thing to do. Had you not gone out and done it, you would have never found what you are looking for!

Anne said...

all those other road racers better keep up on their intervals or they won't have a chance. I look forward to seeing you out there. good luck at berkeley hills!

Bari Liebowitz said...

Ed, congratulations on realizing your true passion. I am so proud of you and I love you.