The Staten Island Runner

View previous articles | Return to Homepage

November 16, 1999

The San Diego Triathlon benefiting the Challenged Athletes Foundation
By Ron Gardner

Nov. 7th 1999
La Jolla Cove, San Diego

The start and transition area for the race were located at La Jolla cove. This has to be one of the most scenic spots in California. The 1.2 mile swim was beautiful. The mass start went into the 65 degree water and started doing their thing. There were all types of athletes. Professional, advanced, challenged, and novices (I will put myself into the later category.) Crystal blue water, colorful fish, and huge kelp beds, made the swim great. There was no room for error in the swim. Surfers and kayakers covered the field and cheered us on along the triangular course.

Going into the swim-bike transition I had to sit down. My head cold must have affected my inner ear and I was a bit wobbly out of the water. Getting started on the bike was easy. The wet suit and salt water really saved a lot of energy in my legs, as I found out, I needed all the energy I could get. Right from the start there were hills, and traffic, two MAJOR obstacles to be faced for the day. The bike course was open to traffic, and unlike riding in New York City, people are serious about everyone obeying traffic laws. Granted this was a minor benefit, with forced recoveries at the top of a hills, but the added time on the ride, exposure to the sun, and mental drain watching traffic really taxed me. As drained as I was, the end of the bike course was not marked properly and I took a wrong turn, and ended up doing an extra 2 miles (Cursing the whole way.) Two miles might not seem like a lot, but man was it a lot. Transitioning to the run was painful. I had suffered from some really bad leg and gut cramps through the ride. I could have stopped right there, I was fried mentally. But I got on the road. Seeing some of the runners along the last bit of the bike course I knew what to expect, what I did not expect was running a first mile split of TWELVE minutes, and a second mile split of 9 minutes. Granted may pace was improving but the pain and cramps would not stop. Just past the two mile station I called it quits. The lady said it was the three mile mark, it was not. I ripped my number off and started walking back. Not being able to quit like that I put my number back on and started the shuffle again. I made it to the bottom of a 1/2 mile hill, a serious hill. I fell to my knees, I was done, I cried. Someone named Mitch came up to me on a bike. I didn't look at him, I couldn't, I was down. I just didn't know how I was going to get up the hill. He gave me a boost, "...head up and work the hill." I prayed, and thought about everyone praying for me and I made it to the top, three miles down. Now my mind really did me in. I couldn't focus. I saw Charlie, my Son, back at the transition area, crying, tired and hot. I thought about Dina, my Wife, worrying about me because she didn't see me come in from the bike and there was a lot of time gone by. I though about the drive back to my Grandma's and the flight home. I was every place but right there at the 3 mile mark.

I had to turn back. The plan was to make it back under my own power. I would have 6 miles on the run. Considering how far I went, not a bad day I thought. If I would have stopped earlier I would have been disappointed, but I had a lot to be happy about. I was sick, I over trained and peaked a month ago, and damn this was a tough course. I know I raised at least $800.00 for the C.A.F., there was more money sent in, maybe not under my name, but there were a lot of people that did donate money and I really felt a strong sense of accomplishment.

That night I crashed hard. Sunstroke, dehydration, whatever it was that took over my body was bad. For two days my heart rate didn't go under 80 bpm at rest. Surprisingly I didn't have any pain, except for my gut. Thank God.

I learned a lot about myself that day. Thank you everyone for your support and believing I could do this triathlon. One of these years I will go back, until then I will continue donating money for this cause, and pray for those competing. Until then I am looking forward to the next road racing season and the triple crown. See you on the road.

47:45 1.2 mile swim
3:32:00 58 mile bike (time rolling, my computer shuts off at stops)
Don't ask about the six mile run
total time 6:01:30

Ron Gardner