With the commencement of my Non Training Training (NTT) I've used some down time to think through this Ironman endevour. In my pre- holiday/prep to hibernate- funk I bought the book "Becoming an Ironman" which I began to read and then promptly dropped myself from the Florida race. The stories in the first half of that book were simply not me-too much thought, too much technical, too much not Trimama. Understandably each race is individual, but for me triathlon is about this
and a little of this
It's about training hard when I train, and racing hard when I race. But not taking myself or the sport so seriously that I can't pause mid race to kiss an owie for my support team.
There was a day when I was a ultra competitive athlete, and those days have gone the way of this.
After the rush of Christmas subsided, I picked up "Becoming an Ironman" and began reading from the back of the book-which I should have done to begin with. That is where I found the story of Bob Babbitt who ran the third Ironman in Hawaii in 1980. His story was a delight, and enlightened my soul, put me right where I want to be for Florida and beyond, so I thought I'd share a few exerpts.
Thanks in advance for indulging me in a slightly longer post.
"In 1979 I read an article in Sports Illustrated about this thing called the Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon. At the time I was rooming with Ned Overrend, who would eventually become the world mountain biking champion...We both thought the race sounded pretty cool and decided we were going to train for and attempt the event in 1980."
"Ned and I trained in the pool in our condo...it was maybe 12 yards long...the pool was 120 lengths to a mile, so we did 240 lengths...We would get dizzy. We would get out of the water and stagger on the deck."
That year of the race the swim was moved to the Ala Moana Channel so as to keep the race from being cancelled or moved a day. ABC offered to film the race but it had to go on schedule, so it was moved from the Waikiki Rough Water course to the channel because the surf was breaking at 7-9 feet. One participant by the name of John Huckaby, or "Huck" could run ultra marathons but couldn't swim a stroke.
"I was swimming in a shallow section [of the channel] because I wasn't very confident. On my way back on my first lap, I almost ran head-on into this guy's knees. John Huckaby was walking the swim. He walked 2.4 miles-the only guy ever to do the swim and get blisters on his feet!"
Huck was later lost in the middle of the night, and race officials didn't know where he went. There was no time limit on the race.
"he decided to stop in a diner for breakfast. They spotted him coming out wiping his face...so it was a little different crowd than you see nowadays."
"I bought a bike from a police station auction. It had been in a fire and cost me sixty dollars. The whole back end was burned and I immediately bought a fuzzy raccoon seat cover, added padded handlebars, and had a Radio Shack radio mounted on top. I didn't know how to change a tire, so I bought solid rubber tires. I actually waxed the tire rims to get them on. And my training rides were never more than 30 miles."
Bob goes on to explain how a group of Navy SEALS had him confused with Gordon Haller, and were admiring his bike set up as the bike that had won the inaugural event.
"After my swim I met up with my support crew. One of the kids I taught, her dad lived in Honolulu adn volunteered for the job. He had a little Fiat convertible, and he and his two girlfriends decided it would be fun. First job was to get me ready for the ride. I had socks that came up to my knees and my Jack Purcell tennis shoes and my wool cycling jersy. I didn't know what to eat during something like this, so I had given them 20 loaves of Hawaiian sweet bread. I got on my bike and tuned my radio as I rode through Waikiki. The station played back a Rolling Stones concert from Maui. I was so jazzed...I rode thinking 'what a great experience".
"Twenty-five miles into the ride, I saw my support crew...I rode along and reached out and they handed me a Big Mac, fries and a coke. At mile 75 they got me a snow cone, a rainbow snow cone."
"The ride ended at Ala Moana Tower and as I pulled into the little transition area, I heard this touchy feeling music coming from a boom box. I looked over and saw bamboo mats laid out and there was my support crew. I got off my bike and put the kickstand down. 'We think you should have a good massage.' Sounds good to me. So I lay down and got a forty-five minute massage before starting the marathon."
In the early years of the race they weighed you and if you lost a certain percentage of your body weight they pulled you from the race. Bob continued on the race eating his Hawaiian sweet bread and drinking water and gatorade. His weigh in's were humourous.
"154 pounds?" "Can you repeat that?" "At the last weigh station he was 151."
"This guy's gained 3 pounds in five miles. How can you gain weight? You can't gain weight during this race!"
"I felt pregnant with all that Hawaiian sweet bread and water and Gatorade and my rainbow snow cone. Oh, and my Big Mac and fries."
Bob's Fiat support crew followed him through the final 6.2 miles of the run leading the way with the headlights on, as there was no one else on the course.
"I came into town and saw a little line across the road with a wire overhead and a lightbulb hanging from it. I slowed down and stopped at the line."
"Hey you," I heard this voice in the dark and looked over.
Yeah, I said
"You in the race?"
"Where was the brass band? Where were the big crowds? Where was the big ironman hoopla?...This is the stupidest thing I've ever done, I thought"
Bob Babbit went on to complete six more Ironman races. "The first one was an adventure because we didn't know what we could do."
"That's what I like so much about the wheelchair athletes. It brought ironman back to the roots of 'can I finish?" One of the funniest things I hear now is, 'I had a bad race. I had a bad day'. Maybe they finished 20 minutes off their time....none of us ever had target times. John Collins started this event and his son, Michael, did the race in 1979. Michael was out there more than 24 hours doing the race....[he said] "You know what a bad day is? A bad day is when you are walking in the marathon and you're walking through the town, and you see the paperboy and he's delivering the paper with results of an event that you are still in. That's when you know you are having a bad day."
That's food for thought.
For my own sanity I have to remind myself that all of my races are not about competition, but about adventure.
What can I do?
In balance with "what should I do?"
Thanks you Mr. Babbit for the dose of humor and perspective.