Archive for April 11, 2011

Looking back on my journey from non-runner to Boston Marathon Finisher it is really hard to pinpoint “the moment” where things changed for me.

I remember the conversation I had with the owner of our company when he was the first one to plant the “you should run a marathon” idea in my ear.  But no matter how hard I look back over the past 6 years, I can’t seem to put my finger on that single moment when things went from a curiosity about a new sport to a passion for it.

That’s too bad as defining moments by definition are infrequent.  Sometimes they are the culmination of hard work and singular focus, all building toward a date on a calendar and a date with fate or destiny.

But other times they just sneak up on you when you least expect it.  Something rather innocent like starting to take a walk on your lunch hour can when mixed with the right ingredients and happenstance lead to you standing on the starting line of the Boston Marthon less than 5 years later.

But this week I know is going to be a special week.

This week I hit the pool and learn to swim.

Now, perhaps “learn to swim” is a bit too dramatic.  Thanks to lessons at the Y when I was a kid and summers on the Jersey Shore when I was just a little guy, I know how to swim.  Surely surfing on the East Coast when I was living in Charleston South Carolina helped me not be afraid of the ocean.  Wakeboarding and floating with friends here in Austin on Lake Travis has helped me lose any fear I might have of open water.

But this week I will be taking my first strokes in an effort to learn how to swim like a triathlete.

I will hit the pool on Monday and Wednesday to get acclimated and then on Friday afternoon have my first 1-hour swim instruction with my triathlon coach. 

I have what I think is the proper mixture of apprehension and excitement going on.  I can’t wait to get started just to find out how much I don’t know.  Then it will be a matter of learning the proper technique, practice, practice, practice and more practice until that muscle memory becomes a part of me.

Perhaps I will take to it naturally as I did to distance running.  I did not have to worry about changing my stride.  Where my feet landed.  Whether I was a neutral runner, a mid-foot striker or anything else.  Luckily for me I was very neutral and natural.  No orthotics or changes to my running economy.

I just ran.

With the bike it took me awhile to get used to getting down over the aero-bars and popping my cycling shoes in and out of the cleats.  But again, I was very fortunate to be able to take to the bike very quickly and easily.

The swim is something different entirely though.

The engine that fuels my runs and bike rides will be the same, but I will need to learn a very technical approach to the swim.  I will not be able to simply rely on any natural athleticism.  I will need to watch, listen and learn.

In 19 months I hope to be competing in the Texas Half-Ironman here in Austin.

1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.

Not only would I like to compete in that event, but I would like to leave my mark.  I would like my debut at the half ironman to be remembered as an auspicious one.  Where a competitor in their first attempt at that distance competed with athletes with much more experience than he, but still held his own.

That is the goal.  19 months seems like a long way off.  But it is the exact length of time between my first ever marathon and my second, when I took more than 41 minutes off of my time, more than 1 minute and 30 seconds every mile, to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

My daughter will be a two-year old toddler, able to cheer for her Daddy that day.  Whatever happens, whether my goals are realized or I am humbled at the event, we will be able to trace it all back to this week.

The week I started to swim.