A few months into my first big boy job, I was getting frustrated I was still an unpaid intern. I was commuting a little over an hour each way to work. Traffic was stupid and gas was exhausting my bank account. I felt I was helping the company out a lot but I couldn’t get the nerve to ask my boss for a paying position, for some reason. Every morning before I got busy working, I would pop in his office to chat for a minute. You never would have guessed his age. Super cool guy. He dressed like a hipster but with a professional twist. Him and I listened to the same kind of music and talked about running and working out a lot. So our morning talks were always on the friendly level. The day I finally built up the nerve to ask about getting paid, he told me they were putting me on payroll. My hard work and patience paid off and I was slowly getting myself settled in with the job I was working so hard to get.
I started that Summer taking my first class back in school. The class was the first intermediate accounting class beyond the two beginner courses all business majors have to take. This class was just twice a week. So on those days, I would work for a few hours then go to class then back to work. Seems hectic but getting out of the office for a few hours was nice. But it felt weird going back to school. Even though it had only been two years since I graduated, I felt so old compared to everyone. I remember the first day of class I felt like I just walked onto one of those shitty college movies that goes straight to DVD. Almost like I was one of those washed up people that had to go back because the real world was too much to handle.
But the class I loved. The teacher engaged us and really cared in everyone’s learning abilities. She made sure everyone completely understood concepts which made my first class back enjoyable. It was easy to fall back into study habits. As you get older, you appreciate education and realize it’s a privilege. Most people take it for granted and never really try at all. I was that way in high school but when I entered college I was eager to soak in as much as possible…well for most classes.
Mid way through the Summer, the job and school were going well, I did my first triathlon. It was a sprint distance. The swim was 400 meters, 12 mile bike ride and then a 5k run. I didn’t know what to expect going into it. I bought triathlon shorts and top for the race because I didn’t want to look like it was my first rodeo. I felt like my training had been going well up until that point. But I had no way to base that on anything since it was my first race.
After I had my bike stationed and all my gear laid out in the transition area, I waited around with everyone on the beach of the lake we were about to swim in. I was warned about the start of a tri, but words don’t mean much until you experience it. Before my wave went off, they had us wade in the water until the gun went off. I was tired just staying afloat!
The gun goes off and all hell breaks loose! The best way to describe the scene is that it looks like a pool of piranhas going insane. Everyone is fighting for a spot. Your getting kicked in the head and hands are hitting you all over. You can’t get any range of motion because you’re hitting everyone else too. Probably within 10 seconds I was out of breath. I freaked out mentally. You can’t see with the dark water and it felt like I had just sprinted a mile. I had to resort to doing the breast stroke already. It took me a while to catch my breath so I could go back to freestyle. And it’s really hard keeping a straight line swimming in open water. It took me longer than I expected to finish the swim. I was one of the last people in my wave to finish.
When I got out of the water, I jogged to the transition area. Threw on my shoes, grabbed my bike and headed out. A half a mile into the ride my chain slipped off. What the fuck! I pulled off to the side and got it back on as quick as possible. Hopped back on and peddled hard. I was passing a ton of people. A lot of people slowed on the up hills, some were even walking their bikes up! I was gaining ground on the field after such a bad swim. It was an out and back ride. For some reason the course wasn’t closed to cars. Going out I didn’t see any, but close to the end of the ride we had to weave in and out of traffic. It didn’t slow us down that much though.
I couldn’t wait to get to the run. A lot of people that do tris hate the run part for some reason. Maybe because most people come from having a swim or cycling background. I jumped off the bike and ran it to my area in transition. I took off once it was racked and got my helmet off. It took a minute to get the legs use to the feeling of not being on the bike. My mind was revved up and ready to go, but my body was sluggish. It was really hot outside and I wasn’t use to running this fast after doing two other sports.
I was still passing people even in the run. I was really surprised how hard the run was. The beginning of the run felt like I was at mile 10 of a half marathon already. I pushed as hard as I could in the heat. Some of the hills were tough but I didn’t want them to slow me down. I ran into the finish completely worn out. My time was 1:21:11.
I hung around and changed my clothes. We couldn’t get our bikes out of the transition area until most of the racers have left to go on the run, so we didn’t get in anyone’s way. While I was hanging out, people kept coming up to me and telling me I was “flying” on the run. I didn’t feel like I had a fast run, but in the triathlon world your running times will be slower. I ended up placing second in my age group that day. The race was promoted as a race for first timers or for people doing their second sprint. So it wasn’t like I did well with a very competitive field, but it still was great doing that decent on my first one. This race was a test to see how my progress was going toward training for my first half Ironman. Other than the freak out in the water and my chain falling off at the start of the ride, I felt like I had a solid first experience.
With the race behind me, I slowly continued to build up my training. I aced my first exam in school and getting my first pay checks were rewarding. Things were finally coming together for me. Soon after this I found myself celebrating my cousin’s birthday and a bunch of friends one evening. That night I would meet someone who was going to make such a huge impact on my life…