Sunday, June 16, 2013

Time to Try

Back in the 1990's I used to consider myself a triathlete.  Swimming, biking, and running were part of my daily routine – part of my life.  My goal, like that of almost every serious triathlete, was to get into the main event on the Big Island of Hawaii – The Ironman World Championship.  The race takes place in Kona each year in October and consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run.

Himalayan Training Grounds
As part of my quest, in 1994, I flew to Nepal and turned the Himalaya and a trek up to the base camp of Mount Everest into a 4 week altitude training camp.  I always loved training camps and setting up a camp in a remote part of the world was even better still.  I would run ancient paths up to Tibetan monasteries past yaks and through Sherpa villages.  I remember that the Sherpa along the trails would often ask me why I was running.  As if,  the only real reason to run at this altitude (often above 14000 feet) was if you were being chased by something.  I never came face to face with the Yeti (mythical snowman), but if I did, I was fast and hoped to be able to out run him.  After reaching the Base camp of Everest at about 18000 feet, I came down the valley and I spent a week with Tibetan monks at the Thyanboche Monastery.  In between 4 hour sessions of meditation I would run or sometimes play basketball (yes, basketball…they are into it) with the monks. 

Liam toeing the line for his first triathlon back in October
My journey to the Ironman World Championship began by way of Nepal, and it continued with a 5 year adventure that led to an Ironman in Canada, trekking and hiking in the Andes of South American, swim training in Lake Titicaca in Peru, hiking and mountain biking in the jungles of Thailand, 5am 3hour runs through Bangkok, Saigon, Tokyo, more running and swimming in the jungles of Vietnam.  I was a different type of tourist – the active traveler type. 

Liam running his way into 3rd place in his second triathlon a few weeks ago
After 5 years of pretty dedicated training I got the ticket - an entry into the main event, the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship in October of 1999.  I had already finished the Canadian Ironman in 1996 so I knew what to expect – it’s a long day. My goal for this Ironman was to finish in around 10 hours.  I was on pace to beat my goal, but 16 miles into the run with 10 miles to go I started to get leg cramps.  Every time I tried to run, my legs would seize up.  I ended up walking the last 10 miles of the race and finished in 12 hours.  I crossed the finish line and just like that my journey – that part of my life was over.

Aidan bringing it home in Saint Laurent du Var
I never really thought too much about triathlon again, that is, until this past fall when the boys decided that they wanted to give it a try. In September, Aidan and Liam and a few of their friends signed up for an Ironkids event in Aix en Provence.  The event was a swim/run aquathlon, not a full triathlon, but enough to give the boys the bug to want to do more.  We started to look around and found a real triathlon in Le Lavandou for the boys to do at the end of the season in October.  Both Aidan and Liam had a blast in their first event.  Both are excellent swimmers, strong bikers, and the two have a great run with a kick finish.  Roan couldn't participate last year because he needed to work on his swimming, and much to his credit he joined a swim club over the winter to be able toe the line this spring.

Roan - proud triathlon veteran

The winter and early spring schedule was filled with cyclocross racing, mountain bike racing, Swim meets and of course lots of road bike racing, but I think everyone was counting the days to the first triathlon of the year.  We chose a triathlon in Saint Laurent du Var on the 26th of May. And, wow, everyone had a ton of fun in the Cote d'Azur.  Little Roan, who is now 8 years old, powered his way through his first triathlon.  Aidan had a great bike split and run and ended up 6th or 7th in his division.  Liam had the fastest bike split of all the categories and finished 3rd place overall despite losing his shoe briefly in the transition!

Liam picking up some hardware in the Cote D'Azur
It is great to see the boys develop a passion for new sports, and I get to discover triathlon all over again as a father/coach and perhaps participant.  Its hard to stand on the side lines. I have a feeling I’ll be jumping into a few of those tri’s, as well, one of these days....

The Flanagan "tri" brothers

Live Strong, Train Safe and Live Well

This is Bill, Liam, Aidan and Roan signing out