Sunrise and Terror

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Classic Warm up (15 minutes continuously for quality)
OHS x 5 reps
Pull ups x 5 reps
Pull ups or Dips x 5 reps
GHD Sit ups x 5 reps
GHD Hip Extension x 5 reps

Notes: For each rep of each movement, go 5 full seconds down and in control, then explode up fast but still in control. Use bands as needed!

Workout (20 minute cap)
5 Push Jerks 135/95#
10 Burpee Over the Box Jumps 20?
15 KBS 24/16kg
10 Push Jerks 135/95#
20 Burpee Over the Box Jumps 20?
30 KBS 24/16kg
15 Push Jerks 135/95#
30 Burpee Over the Box Jumps 20?
45 KBS 24/16kg

For time.

Notes: A touch on the top of the box is not required, but it is allowed.  Use dumbbells in place of kettlebells as needed.

Cool down:
Active Hang, 30 sec cumulative
Cat on box, 1 min cumulative


The watchful eyes of Track Master Frank, and the fighting spirit of Cara Cooney.

A friend asked me the night before if I was nervous.  Without thinking about it, I told her I was terrified.  I told her I was terrified for days and weeks.  It took all of my will, all my bravery and humor, all my tricks and all the training I’ve received over the years with my great mentors, to keep the fear at bay.  This was going to be the expression of something I’ve continuously tried and failed to do over my 4 year CrossFit career:  Address my one great weakness (Metabolic Conditioning) in such a way as to significantly and positively affect my athletic performance.   You can read the story of how I got suckered (or how I manipulated circumstances?) to doing a Sprint Triathlon under the post Cooney’s Revenge

This is the story of how it actually went on Game Day.

Day at the Beach Sprint Triathlon, Hermosa Beach.  October 7th, 2012. 

For time:  400 meter ocean swim, 10 mile bike ride, 3 mile run.

To be honest the swim was the one thing I was not worried about during training.  I’m very comfortable in the water, love the Sea, and swam competitively in HS and College.  But that was nearly ten years ago.  And after Jess and I got pulverized in the Impact Zone several weeks before, I was actually gunshy about doing any more ocean swims.  I couldn’t bring myself to consciously go back into the Ocean knowing I could get tossed and pounded like that again.  The lifeguards warned us a week before, the Ocean doesn’t care.  The Ocean will win, you will lose. 

I set my alarm to wake up at 4am and woke up at 3am all by myself, wide awake.  Had a quick breakfast and headed out.  The first heat started at 7am, and I started at 7:06 am. 

Luckily the weather and water conditions were perfect.  It wasn’t too cold or warm.  I trained the entire time without a wetsuit, and only wore one the week before and did not find it to be awesome.  I could barely breathe, and the flexibility I depend on for swimming was, I felt, robbed from me.  So I decided not to change anything and go for it sans wetsuit.  And you guessed it, I was the only sucker in my heat without one. 

The Swim

I was edgy and scared mentally the whole time but somehow my body wasn’t.  When the gun blew for the first heat and we watched them run into the water, all my fears passed away.  I was staring at the waves and was Zen and calm and ready.  My body understood it had been training hard for this moment and here it was.  All I could do was shut my mind off and throw the dice and see how they came up.  Although my game plan was to stay in the back or to the side, my dumbass somehow managed to be in the fucking front and center of the charge line, surrounded by dudes comparing their Ironman and full tri times with each other.  I didn’t care and it was too late anyway.  The gun went off and I charged in.  The water felt great and I swam and swam and swam.  I got kicked in the face.  I tried looking for the buoy and couldn’t find it.  The huge rolling waves were undulating, hypnotizing, and strangely comforting.  I was swimming 100 meters out into the Sea, further from shore than I had ever swam before.  My heart was pounding, the water was cool, and I was exactly on pace.  I loved how the water felt gliding through it.  With my goggles I saw the whites of feet and hands in a kaleidoscopic underwater dance, vying for speed and dominance. 

I kept looking for the bright, neon orange buoy, clearly visible from the shore, but fucking invisible in the sea.  All the guys in their wetsuits started passing me and I thought, I should have swam more.  I should have done more intervals, more ocean swims, I should have trained harder.  How did I get this slow?  I used to EAT swimming.  I forced the useless self-pity out of my head and focused on my strokes and breathing.  I’m okay.  I’m okay.  I’m afloat.  I’m calm.  Breathe every rep and normally.  And there it was, this enormous bright orange floating balloon with lifeguards sitting on surfboards all around it, shouting and yelling and directing us crazy humans swimming around it for no goddamn good reason at all.  I felt like an ant next to the gigantic buoy.  I made a right around it to start swimming parallel to shore and switched to side stroke to give my shoulders a break.  Then I saw it.  The sun was rising.  In the moment, and now kind of, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I’m swimming in Hermosa Beach doing a Sprint Tri and watching the sunrise.  There was enough cloud cover to burst the rays out in straight lines, splashing orange and purple across the still dark sky.

I switched back to freestyle again and saw just why people avoid the ocean.  Looking down, I saw a bottomless, black void of nothing.  Nothing.  It drank the light.  I couldn’t help imagining a shark’s hungry maw of jagged teeth coming up for me.  It was terror.  Then I turned right to breathe and saw the sunrise again, beautiful still.  And so it was for the next 200 meters:  Sunrise and Terror, Sunrise and Terror, Sunrise and Terror . . .   The second buoy was there before I knew it, and I started heading for shore.  I kept looking back to make sure I wasn’t going to get pounded by waves as I beached, but it never happened.  Between swells I saw bodies walking and standing, I could hear the early morning crowd cheering.  I felt the surf with my foot and stood up and ran for it.  A wave pounded me from the back but it only hurt and I kept running in.  Aaaaand it didn’t last long because the transition area was so freaking far from shore.  Everyone was walking.  I heard my name but couldn’t pinpoint the voice.  Female for sure.  She cheered me on again and I looked and Cara Cooney, Doom of my Life, was laughing and taking pictures of me and cheering me on.  It was nice to have company honestly, so I told her to come with me to the transition area so I could curse her while I changed.

The Bike

First off, you can save ENTIRE MINUTES in a triathlon if you can transition with aplomb, which of course I could not.  I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing or what the fuck was going on.  Yes, they covered transitions in their excellently run Transition Clinic the week before but I had never practiced it and I had underestimated it and here I was, trying desperately to put on my Vibrams and my Injinji TOE SOCKS!  Fyi, putting on toe socks while tired, wet, sandy is not smooth or fun.  I didn’t have a g#ddamn wetsuit.  This was supposed to be fast and easy.  Right?  It wasn’t, and yes Cara is still here laughing at me and taking pictures.  Why is this happening to me?  What did I do to deserve this?

Anyway, fully armed in my Vibrams, my Tri Shorts and a grey wifebeater I hopped on the bike and headed for the 10 mile ride, 3 loops around the gorgeous Hermosa Beach Town after a steep-ish climb up Pier Avenue.  While all three events were equally hard, I found the bike to be the most surprising.  I have raced for my life against people in swimming and running.  I know what it’s like to put out in both modalities and feel like I’m going to blow my insides out of my pants, but I have never trained at that intensity with biking.  I’ve rode (ridden?) that distance before, but not with hungry, well trained dudes in front and behind you, hungry and ready to die before they let your wheel get in front of theirs.  I liked it.  I got swept up in it.  Like an animal.  I wanted it.  That guy in front of me?  I can beat him.  I can catch him.  LEFT!  We yelled to each other as we passed and got passed by.  LEFT!  LEFT!  But for every guy I passed, I was passed by three others.  Wtf, how were they so fast?  I should have biked harder and faster in training.  Stop it.  Pass him.  LEFT!  And so it was.  My first bonafide biking race. 

After the first loop I heard my name.  A female again.  I chanced a look.  Mary!  Mary Haynes was here with signs for me. My darling Badger was with her and some dude I couldn’t quite make out (sorry Graeme I couldn’t tell it was you until the 2nd loop!)  I smiled on the inside.  My heart warmed to have friends  here, crazy f#ckers gettting up early and humping it to Hermosa Beach to cheer me on.  They were here for me.  I biked harder and faster then.  For them.  LEFT!  I paid the price eventually.  Passing dudes, getting passed by, my quads hurt every time I passed someone.  The sportsmanship was excellent.  I would pass a guy and encourage him, ‘Keep it up brother!’  ‘Hoo-Rah!  Carry on!’, he would reply.  Military for sure.  After a while you live in your own head, and oh man the things that happen in there.  The beginning guitar and piano riff from Meatloafs  ‘I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) started playing over and over in my head.  Why am I thinking of this song now?  Of all times?  Haven’t heard it since Junior freakin’ High School.   And I wasn’t playing the 7 minute radio version of the beginning, where the guitar and piano are only one for a few seconds, but the fucking 12 fucking minute album version.  Where the first 2 minutes are just face shredding solos and piano pounding.  So nostalgic.  I was in Mulholland Middle School and going out with Karen Abur- LEFT!  Jolted out of my reverie, I kept going.  I saw my friends in the same spot and waved to them, wanting to thank them but wasn’t fast enough.  I let Meatloafs guitar/piano intro carry me through the third lap, where I saw Cara on my left, Mary, Badger, and Graeme on my right, then I turned left and down the hill into the transition area. 

The Run

Swim and bike out of the way, this is really what I wanted.  It has been the Bane of my CrossFit existence for too long, cost me too many chances, too many victories.  I had trained for this the most, the hardest, and I wanted it in the worst possible way.  I wanted to do well.  I was hungry for it and had something to prove and now here I am.  I stowed my bike, lost the tank top, and took off.  My quads were swoll but I was going to use my hammies to pull and lean and maintain POSE m#ther f#ckers . . . Oooor not.  My body was actually fine with the demands of the run, but the skill of going from swim to bike to run was too alien and demanding right that second.  My form was not great at all, and I knew it.  I started replaying Romanov POSE drills in my head, forcing myself to relax.  Young volunteers were cheering us on , hands outstretched with cups of water.  I took one and tried to down it while running but instead just splashed it all over my mouth and glasses.  Fuck, there was a water spot on the bottom left of my glasses that I couldn’t do anything about and it was fucking with my vision.  Just keep leaning and pulling, leaning and pulling, I told myself.  The actual run course was an out and back, 1.5 miles each way.  It seemed like a thousand miles each way.  It just kept going and going.  I was obtusely aware of the beach on my left, nice beach houses and their rich tenants on my right.  Looking far, I could not see the turnaround for shit.  Where the hell was it?  How long has it been?  I hope I make it under 1.5 hours.  Don’t stop.  Lean and pull, lean and pull. 

At some point, we had to stop and turn right and go up some stairs.  ‘They never said anything about stairs!’ someone behind me said.  I agreed, it messed with me mentally, but who cares.  I kept running and praying for the turnaround.  There were tables and more volunteers with water when I reached it.  By this time I am happy to report I had passed a number of people and was not slowing down.  After the turnaround I felt lighter and happier and more eager.  The beach was now on my right, and because of the stairs we climbed, the view of the ocean was so much nicer.  Off in the horizon was the Hermosa Pier itself, where I could finally be done with this.  Closer it came, closer and closer.  I wanted to sprint the finish but how far away was it?  For all my training and sprinting and Track Nights, I could not for the life of me gauge just how far away the Pier was.  Three dudes were ahead of me, and I wanted to pass them and knew I could, but also knew I might burn out before the Pier.  So I waited and waited.  The crowd noise started roaring louder and I knew I had to go for it.  I built up my final sprint, trying to catch one lone dude in front of me.  I could hear Mary and Badger and Graeme and Cara cheering me on.  I gunned it.  Please, let this be over.  I caught up to the dude and said, ‘Let’s go man.  Together!’  So we both sprinted to the finish line, he beat me of course, and the announcer yelled my name on the speaker system. 

And just like that, I finished my first ever Sprint Triathlon.  My goal was sub 1:30 hours and my final time was 1:18:23.  I have so many people to thank and I’m going to try it now and I know I’m going to miss someone.  Track Master Frank, thank you for training me and being there for me week in and week out, month in and month out, listening to my fears, encouraging me when I felt sorry for myself.  There is no fucking way I could have done this without you.  I told you yesterday I didn’t care if you weren’t at the actual Tri, you were responsible for my performance for the thing.  Jess and Mary, thank you for braving the Ocean Swims with me and paving the way for me with your own Tris and races.  You ladies inspire me.  That, and you’re just 100% Naturally Awesome.  Charlie, thank you for trusting me with your bike.  I told you I would bring it honor and hopefully I did.  With your permission, I should like to request it’s use for another time!  Jesse Shapiro, dude I’m so sorry I could not bring honor to the wetsuit THIS TIME!  I’ll explain in a bit.  Thank you for being my Track Night goat.  You inspire me too brother.  Eric Schwartz, your daily support at the gym was huge for me.  I never told you but you were one of the people I used to keep my shit together and not fall apart with fear.  Must have been your unflappable demeanor, or ineffable calm, or 5:07 Mile time.  You were always giving me tips and tricks.  Thank you again man.  Cara Cooney, Doom of my Life, haha what can I say.  We both were in a situation where we had to face our fears, and we both came out of it relatively unscathed.  Thank you so much for doing your part and omg being there for my entire freakin’ Sprint Tri and after brunch!  You’re the best.  And yes, my new proposal stands!  Graeme, brother thank you for supporting me on the day of and making it all the way out there.  I look up to your discipline and running ability and work ethic.  I should someday like to run with the likes of you and the Hero Flores and Jordan and Tibor and Ariel, etc. Special thanks to Zak and Scott of the gym who also did the Sprint Tri.  Zak, thanks for sending me all those links for Tri Gear stuff.  I didn’t use any of it, but I kind of enjoyed this one and may need stuff in the future . . . Jan Bustamonster!  Thank you for coming out and being my beach and dessert buddy for the umpteenth time.  Finally and of course, my dear ‘Badger’ Jamie Murphy.  I don’t know what to say.  Hi.  You’re the best, what would I do without you?, I want a hug, and I heart You.  You’re always there, thank you for being there again.  I loved hearing your and Graeme’s story of how you woke up to come out.  haha.  Barf.  To everyone in the box who knew and supported me in this.  Thank you so much.  Man has never had friends such as you and I treasure each and every one of you.  If I missed anyone, I’m a jerk and I’m sorry.  It’s 9:30 in the morning and I’m still writing this thing. 

Whether I end up doing another Sprint Tri or not, I will continue to train as if I will do one again.  Training my weaknesses has only done great, not just good things for my progress.  Friends, there is nothing so shriving and exhilarating and worth it as facing your fears on a daily basis and seeing it come to fruition in an event that is the epitome of those fears.  Life is worth living for the events such as these, and friends such as you.  Post thoughts to comments.


Triathlon RunTraithlon Team



You might also like