Inside the mind of this triathlete
“What do you think about for 112 miles if you can’t carry on a conversation with anyone?”
I’ve been asked this question a few times. The answer is, “whatever thoughts care to entertain me.”
One of the things I’ve discovered about triathlon competition is that you have to be mentally tough. That’s been the hardest part for me. For several years I focused on the physical training, but now it’s more balanced between the physical strength and the mental focus. Boredom can pull an athlete down into a very dark hole especially when the pain begins. Even though I’m supposed to focus on my form and pace and all that, I have to have some good thoughts to keep me out of those dark places.
When I was younger and living in Tucson, AZ, I was in the national guard. I was in the 2nd Batallion of the 153rd Field Artillery. My friend, Jeff, recruited me and I thank him for it. It was a great experience. My job was “computer” in the fire direction control. I guess in those days real computers were so expensive that they’d take a soldier and call him a computer and make him do lots of calculations with a slide rule. There were two others I worked with that had a profound impact on my life. Actually, there were many, but I always looked forward to Guard weekends with Don and Sam. We laughed a lot. For all the war training we did, I mostly remember the laughter. After all, that’s far more important. If we had run into Soviet soldiers, we would have told them jokes.
Don was an interesting fellow. He was an avid cycling fan and competitor when not in his Guard uniform. His brother ran a bike shop in town (and probably still does) where you could buy a very high quality custom made racing bike frame. I admired Don for his knowledge of life: I was 20, he was almost 30. In my eyes, he was wise. I lived two blocks from him on University. His apartment was across from the Time Market and sometimes during the week, I’d buy a couple of Pepsi bottles then cross the street to Don’s apartment. I remember walking up to his second floor apartment where we’d have a drink while I listened to him talk about some race far away called the Tour de France or maybe his own cycling adventures. Good memories.
Sam was the son and grandson of very celebrated silversmiths and was very handy himself with jewelry: still is -> http://www.spatania.com/. Sam’s sense of humor was amazing, because in the worst situations he’d make us laugh. There was one time our Guard unit was training in this little building in the middle of the dessert. It was the field artillery’s most high tech training device for us fire direction control geeks: a series of slide projectors used to simulate artillery shells landing in an impact area. I wonder what junk pile that’s in today. Because fire direction control is normally far away from the impact area, the commanders in charge put me, Sam, Don and our 3rd lieutenant in the bathroom to simulate us being far away. I just remember Sam making us laugh with jokes about our predicament. By the way, our officer was a 2nd lieutenant, but we didn’t care for him much and I’d rather not write what we used to call him. It was spanish. It wasn’t nice.
At about mile 83, I might go back 30 years and visit Don and Sam, but not for too long, because eventually my mind snaps back to the present where I have to get back into the “feel” of the race.
(l-r). Sam Patania, Donald Gilmour, LG