Okay. I am not a triathlete. I am in love with the idea of mastering three sports, but I’m not sure that I will ever have the determination, motivation, or commitment to fulfill such a long term goal. I just can’t seem to stick with goals. My wife thinks that I may suffer from ADHD. I prefer to think that I just have many interests that might change at any moment and without any notice. There is one interest, though, that remains fairly constant in my life. I’m a runner. Not a particularly good runner, but a runner all the same. I won’t ever win my age group, or qualify for Boston. I’m just a middle-aged, former smoker that likes to get out there and aggravate every dog in the neighborhood as I slowly plod through a few miles every day.
Now as much as I love to run, I still find the need to set goals that keep me honest about my mileage. After all, it’s easy to tell the wife that I’m going to run 5 miles, but sooner or later she is going to want some evidence of what I’m doing out there for an hour or so. Now, I have made several significant life changes, which include training for a marathon and a 50 miler. Most of the time I’m just happy to make it from point A to B, but this time I have decided to follow a set training plan. Today I had an off day and decided that some cross-training might be good for me. Swimming of all things. You know, maybe master the swim, get a road bike, and finish my first Tri next summer. How hard could it be? Well…okay, so I may not always think things through before I jump in, but in I went anyway.
Now to truly enjoy this picture you have to see my swimming set up. I don’t have a pool large enough to swim laps. We have one of those 18 ft. above ground pools for the kids, or what I like to call our “bag of water”. This could discourage all but the most determined, but not a problem for someone with a little ingenuity, too much time on his hands, and little to no shame. It’s actually a pretty simple fix. I tied a long strap to my shop, which is near the pool. The other end goes around my waist and off I go. It’s my cheap version of a never-ending pool. If it weren’t for things like this, my wife would have never married me. Of course she probably wouldn’t make fun of me nearly as often as she does, but that’s marriage.
So it’s seven in the morning and I’m waist-deep in a pool with my nine-year-old son’s swim goggles on and this strap tied around my waist. Luckily I have a tall privacy fence, so the only witness is my Labrador, Callie. It’s at this moment that I hear her laughing at me. This is not one of those little dog giggles that you hear so often. This was one of those howling laughs. Now Callie is a pretty strange dog, so if you knew her, you would see the irony in her, of all things, laughing at me. She spends long hours in the hot sun guarding the patio so that no bug shadows will invade her private space. She doesn’t mind the bugs, just hates those evil shadows. I know that when she’s looking at me like that I should probably rethink my plans.
Anyway I take off with my best attempt at a free-style stroke. I’m not an expert, but I doubt that the splashing from a good stroke should wake the whole neighborhood. Here I am though, working as hard as I can, not moving an inch, but at this moment I am a triathlete. Not one of those sprint distance guys, or even a 70.3 finisher, I am a full blown Iron Man! I have joined the ranks of athletes like Reed and Potts. So I’m swimming and concentrating on my stroke. I’m making sure to turn my head to both sides when I breathe, making sure that my hands finish close to my side, but don’t cross my centerline. Basically, I’m tearing this swimming thing up. Piece of cake! I’m ready to accept my medal and start doing magazine covers. “44 Year Old Man Comes From Nowhere to Defeat Pros at Kona.” That will be the headlines. People who have never heard of triathlons will even stop and take notice.
Finally I stop. My record breaking swim has come to an end. I hit the stopwatch button on my ten dollar watch, only to find that I managed 30 seconds of swimming. 30 SECONDS! No way that could be right. I have filed a protest with USA Triathlon and I’m still waiting on their official ruling. Until that is resolved, I guess I’ll have to live with that time.
I realized though that living with that time won’t be too difficult, because I found that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for being a horrible swimmer. I’m thankful for being a slow runner. I’m thankful that even though I can’t keep up with my kids, I can still get out there with them. At times when I stop being thankful, I think about the people who once had that lifestyle, and due to no fault of their own can no longer enjoy it… the biker now confined to a wheelchair because someone thought that their right to text while driving was more important than a persons safety…the woman facing a death sentence after being diagnosed with ALS… or the man so weak with cancer that he can’t go out and play with his neurotic dog. Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we forget that it can be taken away in an instant. We should focus on the blessings we have, and not on what we don’t.
I haven’t given up my dream of being a triathlete. God does work in miracles after all. Maybe after my arms recover I’ll try again and make it a whole minute. Maybe I will get a road bike and brave the not-so-bike-friendly roads. Don’t count me out for Kona just yet. I might still win my age group one day…maybe…if I live to be 105 and have the group to myself.