The making (or breaking) of a triathlete

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I’ve always had this problem of getting caught up in the excitement of the moment. Like the time I went deep-sea fishing in Maine.

“Hey, a bunch of us are going to get up at four am, drive for two hours, get in a boat and spend the entire day drinking beer, catching foul-tasting cod fish, and getting seasick all over each other.”

“Wow,” I said. “Count me in.”

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Or the time I went bear hunting in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

“Hey, a bunch of us are going to camp out on this trail that the black bears use to get to and from the dump at night. They’ll have to walk right by our tent so we’ll probably have dozens of encounters and get to see bearskin rugs in their natural state, if we don’t get mauled or anything first.”

“Wow,” I said. “Count me in.”

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And just recently, after Christy and Jon competed in and finished a triathlon to benefit the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, some other members of the family said: “Hey, how about we all compete next year?”

“Wow,” I said. “Count me in.”

And that’s why I’m on the bike path today – day one of my training regimen: more than two miles from home, walking along beside my bike …fwap fwap fwap fwap… ow ow ow ow… that now has a flat tire.

“Don’t those rocks hurt your feet?” asked my seven-year-old granddaughter, Leila, as she rode around me in a giant dusty circle.

“Not as much as that black pavement,” I said. I made a mental note to wear shoes next time I trained.

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“I’m thirsty. Are you thirsty?” Leila asked, as she rode around again.

“I wasn’t until you mentioned it.” I made a mental note to bring a water bottle next time, or a six-pack of beer.

“You’re getting all red. You look like a tomato.”

“Thanks.” I made a mental note to wear a hat next time. And a shirt.

“I’m getting a little bored,” Leila said, completing yet another circle, while standing on her pedals so she could pedal skid, pedal skid, pedal skid and throw up the optimum amount of dirt.

“You know the way home, you can go on ahead,” I said.

“Okay.” An instant later, when the dust cleared, she was nowhere to be seen.

I stepped back onto the hot pavement of the bike path. It didn’t seem to burn as much now that my feet were numb from the gravel. I started to jog, figuring that it would hurt more, but for not as long. Besides, I had to be able to jog two miles for the triathlon.

“They train barefoot like that in Kenya,” someone yelled, as they whizzed past me, munching on some kind of energy bar.

My kingdom for a Kit Kat bar.

I heard something really loud. A pounding sound. I realized it was my heart.

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“Passing on your left,” someone yelled behind me. A family rode past. The last kid couldn’t have been more than three years old. His bike had training wheels. It also had a little bell. He rang it as he passed. It made me wonder what the last-place award in the triathlon looked like. A giant raspberry?

My breath became a bit labored. …pant pant pant pant …boom-bada-boom-bada-boom-bada… fwap fwap fwap fwap… ow ow ow ow…

I hadn’t been this tired since I spent an entire night sitting up in my sleeping bag, staring at the tent flap, just waiting for that first bear to come in and eat us.

I had to learn how to say “No thanks.”

I rounded a corner and spotted our house. It had never looked better. I couldn’t wait to sit down with a cold drink…

“A bunch of us are going to the beach,” Leila said. “Daddy said the waves are really big. You can practice your swimming.”

Before I could stop myself, I said. “Wow. Count me in.”

Stay tuned to this spot for triathlon updates or my obituary, whichever comes first.