Ain’t nothing like being a rookie and there ain’t nothing like taking a BEAT DOWN…
Many people somehow think I somehow seamlessly transitioned from the baseball diamond into the world of endurance sports and triathlon… Gosh damn that couldn’t be any further from the truth. We wrap up our F*IT List celebration week with a chapter titled “Become Comfortable With The Uncomfortable.” I had no other choice…
Excerpt from the F*It List
Become Comfortable With The Uncomfortable
“My life was going to be different. I felt my life changing. I made a deal with myself. A deal was struck. And I don’t care if it hurts, I don’t care if it’s messy, I don’t care how it looks, but I would finish. I would finish.”
As much as I loved my new job and was having a blast golfing, surfing, and playing slow-pitch softball, there was still definitely some sort of void in my life. I took the infamous beach cruiser for a spin one day in Half Moon Bay and ended up running into some grade school friends of mine over at States Beach that I had not seen in years: Kevin “Chops” Quellmalz and the Wray sisters, Erica and Lauren. They were telling me about a triathlon that they were going to be doing in a few weeks. I had always been intrigued by triathlons ever since I was a 6-year-old kid sitting on the couch with my dad, watching the Ironman World Championships and Julie Moss collapse at the finish line in Kona in 1982.
I always wondered what kind of event could possibly push somebody to the point of complete and total exhaustion, and what sort of person would put themselves through such extreme agonizing pain. Every year from that point on, I would watch the Ironman World Championships with my dad and we would marvel at the athletes that would put themselves through the challenge. All three of my friends were experienced triathletes and began trying to convince me to join them for the sprint distance triathlon.
The problem was, like most of the people who get into the sport, I didn’t really know how to swim. I surfed a ton growing up, but I was always attached to the board, which essentially serves as a flotation device. Swimming without a pool wall to stop and hold onto seemed daunting. Nonetheless, I took the challenge and had about 2 weeks to get ready. The race was the Pacific Grove Triathlon that took place in gorgeous Pacific Grove, California, right next to Pebble Beach and Carmel. The distances consisted of a 750-yard swim, a 12-mile bike, and a 2-mile run. Immediately, I headed to the swimming pool to figure out what I was working with. I started off swimming the first 25 yards freestyle. When I got to the other side of the pool, I was completely gassed. There was absolutely no way I could swim 50 yards, let alone 750. I needed a new plan. I then swam the next 25 yards breaststroke; albeit I was extremely slow, I actually felt okay when I got to the other end. That first day I swam two more lengths of the pool to finish up my first ever 100-yard swim workout! That was it; I was going to have to swim breaststroke so I could become confident that I wasn’t going to drown. I did 150 yards the next time, then 200, 250 and so on, celebrating my miniature “50 yards more” victory every step of the way. I went to the pool just about every day leading up to the race and slowly built up to the 750-yard distance I was going to have to cover in the competition.
Race day arrived a lot quicker than I would have liked, but I felt like for 2 weeks of preparation I had done all I could do. The morning of the race I was running late so I had Tarah drop me off as close to where the race started as possible. I hopped out of the car with my 5mm surfing wetsuit, my beach cruiser, and some board shorts to ride and run in after I got out of the water. When I got to the expo area, the place was absolutely booming with energy. Music was bumping and it seemed to me like everybody was good-looking, in shape, and genuinely very motivated and happy. The workers handed me a packet with a timing chip inside and all sorts of numbers that I had no clue what to do with.
I met up with “Chops” and the Wray sisters in the transition area where the three of them quickly dialed me in, putting the appropriate stickers where they needed to go. We then scurried down to the start and before I knew it we were off. I headed into the water towards the back of the pack, figuring just about everyone there was going to kick my ass in the water. I was right.
I started swimming breaststroke but kept getting tangled up in the overwhelming amount of kelp in the water. Apparently, I came to find out that the swim portion of the race was notorious for the kelp, so much so, it is actually publicly referred to, and even advertised, as the Kelp Crawl. All I could think was, “I may die today.”
With only a couple weeks to prepare, I was just worried about being able to swim the distance and never really gave the kelp any sort of thought. Bad idea. However hard I thought the swim was going to be, and I thought it was going to be bad, it was 10 times worse. At one point, I thought I was drowning; I thought that was it. I then went into a doggie paddle, straight survival mode, and somehow made it through the kelp-entangled water and literally came stumbling onto the beach, where I laid down as if I was some sort of beached whale or a sailor who finally made it to shore after days stranded out at sea. After a few minutes of laying on the beach, watching hundreds of people who started after me fly by, my heart rate began to slow down and I once again began to breath normally. I was ecstatic that I was still alive. Realizing that the worst was over, it was time to move on to the bike.
I began the trek up some stairs that took us to the transition area where my beach cruiser was parked amongst a bunch of high tech triathlon bikes. By the time I got my surfing wetsuit off and towel-changed it into my board shorts, the only other people in transition were women, who started a good 10 minutes behind me and already had caught up. Just thankful I was still alive, I hopped on the bike with a big smile on my face and started pedaling away.
I felt okay at first, and then as I got through the first few miles, I actually started to feel pretty good. One chick after another continued to pass me as I “cruised” along. Finally, a 14-year-old girl went flying by and my competitive spirit took over. It was on!
I started cranking the pedals, and pretty soon, not only were people not passing me anymore, but I started actually passing people. As we made our way into downtown Pacific Grove, people on the streets were going nuts, “Look at the guy on the beach cruiser. Go Beach Cruiser Dude!” All of a sudden, I became the sentimental fan favorite and I was loving every minute of it. I finished the 12-mile bike ride in a very respectable 44 minutes. I couldn’t feel my feet, but I started running and hammered out a couple 6-minute miles and crossed the finish line with a high I had not felt since 2007 when I hit a home run in the playoffs at Wrigley Field.
The Wray sisters and “Chops” were all waiting for me at the finish, and I immediately gave them hugs and thanked them for introducing me to the triathlon world. I then told them that was going to be the last time any of them would ever beat me. I was hooked. Tarah was there with Chloe and Cali in the stroller, took one look into my eyes, and knew I had found WHAT’S NEXT. We all went back to the hotel, rehashed the day over BBQ and cold beers, scoured the internet, and immediately found our next race in Arizona a month later.
Human Crash Test Dummy Life Lesson #99
Push yourself into the unknown. Try everything and always be prepared and open to what may come your way. Understand the situation and the dynamics involved, and then realize it is going to be difficult and uncomfortable. Becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable is the key to life and will push you beyond limits you never thought possible. When you do the work that allows you to complete a new and challenging task, your sense of accomplishment will be a direct result of immersing yourself in the process and will help redefine what you believe is possible.
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