This is the last in a six-part series of stories chronicling the adventures of a 57-year-old sportswriter as he trains for his first triathlon.
Part six: Reaching the finish line…
The crowd was cheering as I emerged from the water last weekend in my first triathlon.
Why, thanks, folks! I guess all that hard work had finally paid off.
The cheers got louder. Then it hit me: They weren’t for me – I was being passed by several women who had started the swim 3 minutes after I did. Then something else hit me: dizziness.
I staggered and almost fell into the muck at Medical Lake. The crowd quieted, except for the little girl who asked, “Is that man OK?”
That man was me. Weak-kneed and lightheaded after only a quarter-mile, I stumbled like a drunk onto the sand, wondering why I had trained for months … for this.
• • •
Then I realized something else: The Troika Triathlon wasn’t about me. It was about people who were pursuing a lot more than material for a newspaper column.
While I stumbled, Diana Janachek of Spokane was running out of the water. A 36-year-old mother of two in her first tri, Janachek used the Troika Sprint as a goal to pursue fitness and unburden her emotions.
After her husband was laid off, Janachek has worked hard to find a full-time job. No luck so far.
“I had a lot to think about, and I got pretty emotional during the run,” said Janachek, who was greeted at the finish line by the cheers of family and friends.
“I was really happy with the way it turned out, I came in faster than I thought,” said Janachek, who finished the race in 1 hour, 19 minutes and 35 seconds. And she’s not done.
“I’m going to keep on trucking,” Janachek said.
• • •
On Saturday, Brandon Rapez- Betty turned rejection into triumph.
Ten years ago, the former high school football player applied to the Peace Corps, but was rejected because he weighed 350 pounds. Less than 18 months ago, he still tipped the scales at 300.
“I told myself I’m not going to let my weight prevent me from doing what I want to do,” said Rapez-Betty, a 34-year-old who works as a communications specialist for Spokane Transit Authority.
Rapez-Betty began training in November, but until Saturday his only competitive events were a couple of sprints in the swimming pool. Last weekend he competed in the “Clydesdale” division for men weighing more than 200 pounds, sprinting home in 1:07.50 to finish second in his group.
“It really was not that tough,” Rapez-Betty said. “The challenge is more mental than physical. … If I keep my heart and respiration under control, my body can take it.”
Rapez-Better figures his body can take more. He’s planning to compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon near Portland in July.
• • •
For me, the race got better after my 10-minute swim. After a long struggle to shed my wetsuit, I shook off my dizziness, jumped on my trusty old bike and passed about 20 other racers on the 10-mile course. I still had enough gas to outsprint another competitor to the finish line in the 3-mile run.
Me, competitive? Never.
My time was 1:21.38, good enough for 78th place overall out of 108 – not too bad for a first-timer who also was the ninth-oldest person in the field.
As I reached the finish line, I thought of the people who helped get me there. There was Nicole Lund at Fleet Feet, who made sure I had the perfect pair of running shoes; Robin DeRuwe, the owner of Fitness Fanatics, who made sure my tri-gear was just right; and Jim Breidenbach, a remodeling contractor by trade who probably missed his calling as a teacher. Those hours in the pool really paid off – thanks Jim, and all the folks at Team Blaze.
And above all, thanks to Dannette, my wife, training partner and personal shopper. Five months ago she got me to the starting line for this five-month adventure, and she was there for me at the finish line.
So, will I do this again? Heck, yeah: I’m already registered for the Hayden Triathlon on July 11.
I can’t wait.
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