Life and death are hard things to discover for the first time- You prepare for either one as much as you can, and in the end, preparation does little to affect an undeniable post-experience enlightening. With life and birth, you prepare to welcome a new spirit into the world- you prepare to harness your prayers and wishes and hopes (fears, too) into a newborn’s body that seemingly comes from nowhere, out-of-the-blue (Yes, I know where babies come from- roll with it). With a minute’s difference an individual goes from being a “person”, to a “parent +1″, or a “grandparent + 1″, or an “uncle + 1″, and in that “+1″, we gain a life, we gain love, and we gain energy.
In the most fortunate instance, I feel that we lose something, too. We lose a vessel for our wishes, because it has already arrived, and with it, new hopes and thoughts for safety and love. It’s, invincibly, the greatest fortune to have. But it’s one that always comes with the inevitable moment of death, and another exchange- a loss of a “+ 1″ on this Earth, with the retrieval and gaining of a similar empty vessel containing a new spirit. It’s a new vessel to hope to, to dream to, and to allow to watch over you.
The world lost a very sweet and sincere man last night in my Pop-Pop (Grandfather), Walter Bertges. When I was a kid, he was this grand & plump man, who always had the head-hair and facial-hair of Santa Claus, as well as the chuckle and bright red nose. Health issues didn’t allow him to keep the plumpness later in his years, but he never lost the hair or the chuckle. He loved meeting people, traveling, reading, and being sweet to my Oma. He had a great wink for anyone (one that I stole when I first started dating, but will probably never master like him), and he was always incredibly supportive of my music, and Opus Fit, and athletic endeavors.
I’m lucky to be able to recall one last conversation with him before any of us knew that he would need to go to the hospital a couple days later. I had originally called to wish my Oma a happy birthday, but she was out shopping. We had a 10 or 15 minute conversation about most of life’s events, that started off with me asking him how he was feeling these days, to he replied “Ohhhhhh you know we’re still here!”. He didn’t sound exclamatory to our normal hearing range standards, but anyone would be able to hear the light-heartedness in his voice. He asked about other normal things first- possible girlfriends, my coaching business, and if I’d been playing any music lately. He then asked if I signed up for any more Ironman races.
I said, “Yup! Going to France in June!”
“What!? France? That’s great- Oh boy, that’s long way…”
“Yeah!” I said, “I need to go get some plates like you and Oma”…
With being physically unable to come to my IMCanada race, I could hear in his voice how excited he was for me to compete abroad, and I think a little surprised that I would even reference his plate collection- he loved to travel with my Oma, and every time they visited a new place, they bought a dinner plate with a picture and the name of the town on it. They hung the plate in their home on a wall that was maybe 5 feet wide and 20 feet tall, and within who-knows-how-many-years, the wall was covered from the floor to the ceiling. Zero room for new town plates- (and I think they may have had more plates that wouldn’t fit on the wall, too). Until he was unable to in the last couple of years, they traveled everywhere together, and I love that about them.
I’ll always be sad to miss him and his physical presence. But, with his passing, I realized something today in what we gain with death, and the addition of a new vessel for thoughts and prayers and hopes for our family. I no longer have to pick up a phone to tell him I love and miss him, and I don’t have to wonder if he feels better today. I just need to believe and have faith to know he’s somewhere where he already knows and is always reminded, and someplace where he can hear and feel everything. He no longer has to wait to hear about my life events, or concerts or ironman races- he gets to see and hear and BE part of every bit of it from the very best seat in the house.
It’s been a long time since my last post (March), and man, a lot has happened and a lot has changed for me. I’m a little less than 7 weeks from Ironman Canada, and it seems like every day is a battle, every day is a breakthrough, and every day is a blessing. Highs and lows- I’m both excited for the big day, and a little bit scared for it to be over with. In trying to determine what challenges I can admit on here, I decided to show my trepidation & internal debate like so:
I’m on a mission,
but I’ve made some sacrifices.
I’m on a mission, and something is always hurting.
I’m on a mission,
and I hate flying solo.
The past month, really, has been a battle with the above
strike-through points. My training mileage has increased, wake up times have gotten earlier, and dismissing late night invites for the sake or “riding early” has become more frequent. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve made attempts to to exist with people my age outside of my training plan, and the only thing I got in return was a broken pinky finger while playing beach volleyball. That, coupled with a back injury and nervous system issues, can make things more challenging and less fun than I thought this journey would ever be. I’ve had to pass on hiking trips, Frisbee golf outings, 4th of July fun-ness, anything involving alcohol, or that has hidden potential for messing up tomorrow’s training day.
In all reality, maybe I don’t have to admit any more challenges on here at all. Because it doesn’t really matter, right? That’s what a breakthrough is, I hope. Overcoming the challenge, whether it be mental and emotional, or physical and painful, or psychological and physiological (yeah- I said physiological, I know I’m a nerd!). I think I have challenges in front of me, because I’ve made the challenges for myself, because I don’t want to be the person in society, or to my family, or in a relationship, that settles with being less than BETTER for myself. Without a desire to want to be better on ANY kind of emotional, spiritual, physical level, one has no [I don't have a] reason to change, or reasons to seek out challenges.
How’s that for a breakthrough?
Hell. Yes. Sonofabitch, That’s what I’m doing.
And now without taking a pause, I’m going to tell you that that’s how every day goes for me. I start off a thought, an entry, writing a song, a workout, a conversation that starts in some sort of worry or concern, and within moments, some thought or event will happen that will change it all within seconds. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s my brain trying to release the right neurotransmitters to not reach a level of concern that could plague the rest of the day. Or maybe it’s a sign that I’m learning, or maybe it’s brain strengthening for the battles I’ll have come race-day. Or maybe it’s just God or Patman just giving me a slap in the face.
(I was actually just talking about Pat this morning, too, while running with one of my training partners, Jim Adams- I happily explained the origins and meanings of “Beasting” and WWPD. While explaining, we decided there was an odd similarity to an event that Jim and I did yesterday- Steve’s Tri, which is an informal triathlon dedicated in memory of one of Jim’s closest training partners from 2002. It sounds like Jim and Steve had a friendship much like Pat and I had, and I think the trip down memory lane for us helped out with 9 mile run we beasted.)
So, what’s left to let out on here? Shoot, nothing now. I know I’m swimming well, I can bike 100 miles without dying, I have great friends in my clients, physical therapists, and training partners that will keep me company on the rest of this journey. In a little over 6 weeks, I’ll be in Canada, making a dream (or two, right, Dad?) come true, in front of my amazing family, while absorbing the good energy and vibes that I know my true friends around the world will be creating for me.
I’m on a mission, and it’s going to be amazing. No s
I had an awesome day yesterday at the UCSB Sprint Triathlon. The weather ended up being nearly perfect after some minor predictions of rain for the previous two days, and, as always, I learned a few things from the experience.
The UCSB Sprint Tri, aka Kendra’s Race, is a 1/2 mile swim, 16 mile bike, and 3 mile run. The most unique part of this race, in my opinion, was the swim. The bike and run routes were great- fast and mostly flat. But the swim start from Campus Point had three unique elements that some may not normally think about- 1) it has about 50-60 yards of 3 feet deep water to run through before you can actually start swimming, 2) It was high-tide with noticeably big waves coming in (the volunteer paddle boarders were surfing in-between wave starts), 3) Kelp, kelp, and more kelp.
It’s the final race of the collegiate season, so naturally, there were a lot of “kids” there from all over California; UCSB, USC, CAL, Cal Poly, etc. In addition, it’s one of the few races that you’ll see a large group of high school athletes. Hell, there was an even an 8 year old racing that day- very, very cool.
What’s also cool is that I figured that 1) with the amount of training time I have, 2) the fact I don’t have to sit in class from 8:00 am – 2:45 pm, and 3) that my only time to run isn’t called “recess” or “P.E.”, that I’d have the upper hand on 100% of all triathlon elements. Probably a fair assumption, right? *****
Nope! I got smoked at the sprint start of the swim. Unofficially official- they were the fastest kids on the planet. They were fearless of rolling their ankles or twisting their knees- almost a reckless abandon. I’m not even sure they were dealing with the same current, water conditions, and beach holes that I was. In fact, now that I think about it, they might have been running on top of the water like one of these:
30 yards into the 60 yards of knee-high water sprinting, it was clear that the high school athletes had divided my wave start into two groups, with myself leading the slower one- “Damn, I need to go back to playing kickball, packing Luncheables, and playing video games”, I thought.
The kelp played an interesting role for the swim, too. Every once in a while, you’ll get an element of the sport that you’re only going to learn to overcome by doing it. It’s not like I’m going to say to a client, “Hey, today for your workout, we’re going to go swim in kelp”. Now, one may experience kelp in more ocean practice- I get that, but yesterday’s kelp-ness is significant for one simple lesson:
In a triathlon race, you either learn to adapt, orrr… you learn to adapt.
You tell yourself that it’s not a problem, just like you would tell yourself when you were a kid that there are no monsters hiding under your bed. Luckily, it was high-tide, so the kelp was just beneath the surface, and not in your face enough to make one panic. There are worse things that can happen during a swim start! Grab a hold, pull through, and relax- it will all be over in 12 minutes.
The rest of the race went great- as for all of the greyhounds that bolted on the start? I got them on the bike and the run. Maybe when they have another growth spurt and get some longer legs, they’ll be able to hold their lead!
Now- who wants to go play some kickball?
*****Like you may notice from some of my previous posts, these events that I write about usually contain lessons I learned from being wrong, and this case is not any different. After all, I started this site to spread positive information that I learned the easy AND the hard way. If a coach doesn’t do anything to teach you lessons learned the hard way, they don’t have any business trying to relate to your beginnings in any sport.
It’s not often that I get caught off-guard by a client. But, it happens! One of my favorite clients asked me during his workout yesterday, “What inspires you to train and do races?”, and I have to honestly say now, it was as if someone turned off my cruise control in the car when I wasn’t looking. It’s something that I haven’t had to vocalize in a while, because, not to be cliche, it’s how I roll. At this point in my life, the family and relationships I have, plus the episodes of training, exercising, and racing compose my existence, as if there could be no other way to live! In addition, after a couple of years of being involved in several different sports (outrigging, rugby, running, triathlon), my entrance into all of them were on completely different inspirational levels, and so having one answer ready for my client seemed almost unworthy against the others.
So, I thought about it and I made a list last night, and I got goosebumps because it’s an awesome list. It’s sooo great, that it deserves it’s own post, which I’ll be writing as Happy Beasting, Part 2.
But, Part 1? Well, below is Part 1, and it’s about my very first solo race that I competed in as an adult. It is a re-post of a blog that I wrote for a different site on September 9, 2009, however the meaning of it, the feelings that I felt that day, and the spiritual connection that I gained will never fade. Like the tattoos on my rib-cage, it’s meaning for my life is permanent.
This is how it all began…….
One of my best friends, Patrick Rappleye, passed away on August 31 from a combination of stomach flu symptoms and a congenital condition called Chiari Malformation. He was also a Type 1 Diabetic, which though may not have been the cause of his death, didn’t have a positive effect in the end. He was the most loyal and funny of friends, an incredible horn player, my OpusFit business partner, and a superhero.
The Pier to Peak Half-Marathon is a grueling 13.1 mile endurance race from Stearns Wharf of downtown Santa Barbara, to La Cumbre Peak- 3,996 feet above sea level. It is uphill the entire race. I had been training and planning on running this race for the previous 7 weeks, but during that time I did not once expect to be running the race in memory of a dear friend. It was a challenging and emotional day, and this is how it went:
Sunday, September 6- Race Day
I was lucky enough to have another one of my best friends drive down from Northern California to run the P2P race- his name is Andrew Cross, and he’s a stud. He has completed numerous endurance races with his dad, including a race called the Quad-dipsea Challenge, which is a 28 mile trail-running race in Marin County. We’ve known eachother since the first day of college 7 years ago and we used to trail-run Inspiration Point what seemed like every other weekend.
That morning was typical for any type of race-day. Pre-race morning jitters while trying to eat a small breakfast at 5:30 am isn’t always easy, but knowing before that that meal is part of the race, and part of the plan, makes things a lot easier. In fact, I would go as far as saying that ‘The Plan’ is one of the largest parts of the race, and the rest is a mix of heart, faith, motivation from the crowds, and what Pat taught me as ‘beastly-ness’ (Though one doesn’t need to know the meaning of Beastly-ness, let me assure you that Pat could beast anything). The Plan is what you set before the race and use once you reach that moment during competition where you’re thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?”. Call it your corner safety, your goalie, your secret weapon, your ace-in-the-hole, or your Chuck Norris roundhouse kick- it doesn’t matter. Just have something.
The race start itself was great- good vibes from all who participated, good organization at the start, and great weather. Andrew and I had guessed that it would take about 45 minutes to run from Stearns Wharf to Gibraltar Road, where the term ‘endurance’ takes on an entirely different meaning. We had planned all along to seperate at that point, just to make sure we could make our individual mark on the race. Running with Andrew up until the Gibraltar split was great- we talked about his dad’s races, my dad’s Last Man Standing Ironman Finish, and how life is too short to not being doing something you love. That’s how Pat rolled, too- he would set his goals, decide what would make him happy and go DO it- never a single excuse, and never a single moment that he wouldn’t use to better himself and make friends and family proud. I’ll never forget this about him, and I’ll never let go in trying to become the same way.
At the 40 minute mark, we hit Gibraltar Road’s beginning. “See ya later Andrew, Happy Beasting”.
We split up and I push forward on what ends up being what I’m going to call a ‘Mini-chataqua’ with Pat. Chataqua is a word that I first heard about when reading the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It’s a book about a man and his son riding a motorcycle from Montana to California. As the trip progresses, the father/driver of the bike becomes enveloped by a demon that challenges his life within a pursuit to define Quality, and the ‘Chataqua’ is the man’s journey to discover his own reflections. Though I don’t need to give you any more detail about the book’s contents, I mention this because without Pat, I never would have read it. I had had some hardships while finishing UCSB- lost my car, couldn’t find a job to support myself, yada yada yada. But, on the easiest and most trusting of financial transactions, Pat sold me his motorcycle and taught me how to ride. Where moments before I didn’t how to start or live my life, now I had a beginning for a career and a beginning for a life full of long, incredible motorcycle rides with friends and family. Pat’s act changed everything.
Gibraltar Road has been used by Lance Armstrong and other professional cyclists as a road to train and shape their hill-climbing skills. I’ve always thought, if Lance has ever even looked at it, it is going to try and kick my butt. It goes up, and up, and up, and just until you think it can’t go any higher, it goes up some more. It’s ok, though- I have my plan, I have my buddy, and the support of everyone I care about to beast this road. That morning, I had Andrew’s girlfriend, Sasha, write Pat’s initials and dates in a black sharpie marker on my left bicep/tricep area- PDR – 10.21.83 – 8.31.09. The only thing I cared about that entire race didn’t revolve about getting tired or getting hurt or not finishing- the only thing I cared about and hoped for was that the marker wouldn’t wash out with the sunscreen and sweat and water I was pouring on myself during the race. I don’t know why- I know he’ll always be with me- but that day if I had smudged his initials on my arm…well I probably would have finished the race feeling like I had failed- it was that important to me. In addition, I had gone to Kinkos the day before and printed out and laminated a picture of him and I together drinking beers, and I clothes-pinned it to my running shorts. That way every time a bystander or photographer saw me run by, he would be seeing us run by.
Back to the next stages of my plan: run…run hard and run smart. If you don’t do either, then you probably never wanted to really do this race. I kept my running intervals as high of a ratio to my hard-walking intervals as possible- I stuck to 10 minutes running followed by 2-3 minutes speed walking for almost an hour after starting the road. Of course, there were minor variations to this time-set to synchronize with aide stations and groups of women cheering you on. (You can never go past a group of people who are telling you, “keep it up! you look great!”, and not be running. It’s just not possible.) When I realized that I just couldn’t keep up a the 10-3 pace, I slimmed it down: 9-3, 8-2, 7-3, holding onto each phase as long as I could.
I didn’t think about it the pace time, though- that’s what watches are for. And it worked for the most part. All I thought about were the ridiculous and awesome memories with Pat- whiskey & cigar night, Tigger halloween costumes, and animal impressions. It’s amazing how thinking about someone can focus your mind away from pain, and sweat, and what other runners were calling “Hell”. Yes, someone actually ran by me and said, “We’re almost through Hell”, to which my response was, while laughing at them, “What if I want to stay?”- I was having a great time with these memories. The guy didn’t say anything, he just gave me this look of complexity/concern, to which I smiled and thought to myself, ‘Man, you just got beasted and you don’t even know it’.
I literally thought I was around the corner of the race finish when a bystander pointed out the actual finish line another 2 miles up the hill on what was now East Camino Cielo Road. ‘Oops’ I thought, ‘I wish I had tried harder in…map-reading class…’. It’s alright though- I had a plan…?
‘A plan? You didn’t plan this part of the course, idiot- your corner back just slipped and tore his ACL, your goalie is tired from drinking last night, your secret weapon is a smoke bomb, your ace-in-the-hole was paired with a 7 of opposite suits, and Chuck Norris is too busy galavanting with women to be assisting you with roundhouse kicks- your plan is useless. Your. plan. sucks’. Alright then, no more plan.
I’m down to 2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking fast. It’s not the most graceful way of finishing a race, but grace shouldn’t be a concern when you feel like “a clump of grass, eaten by a cow, digested, and then shot out the back end” (Steve Bertges, Ironman Canada 1999- Thanks, Pop). Grace doesn’t need to exist at the end of an endurance race, only heart and soul, and nearing the top of the finish, I was smiling to still be looking at PDR written nice and clearly on my arm.
I finished in 2 hours and 26 minutes- I know he’s proud of me, and I couldn’t have had that race, like that, without him. At the end of the taped-off finish line they had a bin full of cold waters, a bin full of energy drinks, and a bin full of beer. ‘What would Pat do?’ I grabbed two beers, found a rock, and poured out one for my homie.
Though, now that I think about it, he probably would have yelled at me, “That’s alcohol abuse!”.
I’ll get it right next time, buddy. ~