Friday, May 27, 2011

10 Years Since Ironman

I can't believe it has been almost exactly TEN years since I ran with watched Mark in the Ironman Triathlon. I remember because I had just turned thirty.  No kids yet, no house, Shaq & Kobe were still collecting rings together and I still had only one chin.
In honor of that anniversary, I threw together a little video footage that I had never done anything with before and pulled out the old email I had written recapping the event.  That certainly was a hell of a day.

Date: Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 12:10 AM

Mark & the crew,
If I may, I'd like to chime in with an as yet untold perspective on the Ironman Triathlon I witnessed on Saturday.  The perspective of the out-of-shape underachieving spectator (A.K.A. Mark's bro-in-law).
5:30AM - Mission Valley:  I am awakened by my wife Heather after a restless night on the much smaller guest bed (Mom Vargas gets the King-Size this weekend).  I've done all my sleep training on the big bed, so my neck and lower back are already stiffening up.  It's going to be a long day.

7:00AM - Camp Pendleton:  Why am I here?  Oh yeah, my younger, smarter, more in-shape brother-in-law and a couple of his punk friends are about to make me feel older, lazier, and more out-of-shape by embarking on yet another adventure that I don't have the sack to take on myself.  

The cannon sounds and the swimmers bring the noise.  I fire up the camcorder and join the action.  I'm really getting some good footage boy, but my shoulder starts to tighten so I lower it down to waist level.  I can't find Mark anywhere, so I start looking for swimmers who look like they've got a busted wing.  I zoom in on one, but who knows who the fuck I'm filming.  To top it off, in the rush to make the start, I left my sunglasses in the truck.  All this squinting is really starting to put a strain on my eyes.

8:15AM: Mark has finished the swim!  Sweet.  I jockey for a good position to film him as he flies by towards the bikes sporting a Speedo I wouldn't be caught dead in.  I have to get on tiptoes and crane my neck to get a shot.  My calf cramps on me and I only get the back of him.  Damn!  Man, I'm getting hungry...

We start walking toward the Ironman Village and I discover that if I would have walked 30 yards up the path, I could have had a perfectly unobstructed view of him as he streaked by.  Damn!  Can a brother get a break up in here?  At least they're playing some cool music...

9:20AM: Energy levels are dangerously low as we await another Latka sighting.  The family unit starts to show signs of breaking down as we fail to decide on a breakfast destination.  We agree to divide ranks and reconvene at 10:00.  Rebecca, MDub (Latka's other bro-in-law) and I decide to tempt fate and opt for the Hot Dog Stand.  Ah yes, nothing like a Jumbo Dog and Pepsi at 9:30AM to revitalize the spirit and provide that boost of energy I so desperately needed.  Unfortunately, I got some ketchup in a hangnail on my recording thumb and that sucker really started to sting.  Hey, Mark should be coming by in about another 2 hours...

11:25AM:  Here he comes!  At the halfway point of the bike leg, Rebecca and I set up a sweet system for her to signal me when he is coming around the corner so I can get a good shot.  In the excitement, we fail to remember that we are humans possessing highly evolved communication skills.  I miss the shot and get some more footage of his ass.  I yell my guts out as he sweeps by (I think I pulled a vocal chord), but he scoots by without a glance.  Son of a...

12:00PM:  When I signed on for this, I was told we were going to watch him start, maybe catch him on the transition, then bail.  We'd probably come back for the finish (IF he finished).  I'm now starting to wonder what I've gotten myself into.  We know he isn't going to be by for another 2 and a half hours, and the Vargas sisters and Mom are just getting warmed up.  I'm starting to doubt if I've got the stamina to make it.  I also realize that they don't have enough "cool music" to last all day.  I start hearing repeats.  I start to focus on 15 minute increments. 15 more minutes, 15 more minutes.  I can do this shit.

2:00PM:  We've relocated to a strategic spot where we can catch Mark finishing up the bike leg and head back out for the...ahem... MARATHON (you guys are fucking crazy).  We had to walk about half a mile to get that spot and my feet were starting to get sore.  But with perseverance and a couple swigs of water, I made it.  Mark should be by soon and that will get me pumped up again...

2:30PM:  I'm really in my groove now.  More specifically, the groove my butt cheeks have carved in the lawn chair I've been napping in.  But knowing that Mark is soon to show, I start scouting out the bikers.  We think we've got a bead on him, and the family starts shouting words of encouragement as he rounds the corner.  The girls are really wailing man, I mean LOUD!  So loud that they can't hear me yelling "That's not Mark!" over and over.   You can bet that kid got a nice boost from the cheers of that strange family on the last turn.  He DID look like you Mark...only faster. :-)

2:40PM:  The real Mark cruises by this time and we cut loose on him.  I finally get a decent shot of my boy with a big smile on his mug.  I am really feeling proud to be there, proud to be in this family, proud of my brother.  Just 26.2 miles to go, but the Laker game is fast approaching.

3:10PM:  The sisters are dug in like an Alabama tick on a hound dog.  They are not going anywhere.  Carrie and Doug join the fray and I start wondering if I'm going to make the tip-off.  At 3:35, MDub, Doug, and I muster up the resolve to head for the shuttle back to our car.  I break into a jog to make the shuttle and get a nasty stitch in my side.  Will this hell ever end?  We're off to meet Pop Vargas for pizza and beer.

5:25PM:  Kobe Bryant is a madman.  The Lakers have taken care of business, my belly is full on pizza and brew and we're headed back for the finish.  I reflect on how shitty a chunk of salted potato and a swallow of Powerade would taste right now and pause to marvel at the fact that those dudes have been RUNNING (ok, and a little walking) all this time.  I am simply not worthy.

7:00PM:  We're back and have staked out a nice spot at the finish line to capture the magic.  Based on his first lap, we were expecting him at around 6:45, but he is nowhere in sight.  The loudspeaker is right in my lap and my ears are starting to ache, I am literally on fumes.  I glance over at MDub and we make eye contact.  No words are spoken, none are needed.  We are going to see this through.  

The atmosphere is really starting to get electric.  Finishers are coming across with their kids and loved ones.  I see Mark's boys up in the bleachers.  I hear "Come On Eileen" for the sixth time.  It's go time.

7:20PM:  Mark is in the home stretch.  We go apeshit and cheer him down the line.  I fight the spasm in my camera shoulder and get a nice shot of him breaking the tape.  We did it.

As for future Ironman's, I fear it may be too late for me.  I'm turning 30 tomorrow (and nowhere near "retired") and can think of 1,001 excuses for not entering (#1 Speedo, #2 Hangnail, #3...).  Maybe someday.  Big props to the Vargas women for sticking out ALL 12+ hours and doing it with style.

Mark, Neal, Steve, & John;  All kidding aside, I hope you guys are as proud of yourselves as your friends and family are of you.  That was an amazing, inspirational, and humbling day that I won't soon forget.  And Mark, since I don't have any blood brothers of my own, I hope you know that I'm so glad I got to be there to cheer you on.  You 'da Ironman.

Most of Mark's boys probably barely know me or don't know me at all, but he is always forwarding your crazy emails to Heather and I.  We laugh our asses off at your creative recaps and jabs at each other.  I'm sometimes envious of the bonds you guys have even over long distances.  I'm sure you guys already know, but don't forget what you've got with each other is pretty damn cool.    

I've got guys that I go way back with, but I'm lucky to get more than a paragraph on email from any of them.  And when we do get together, 90 minutes of basketball has us gasping for air like we're about to give birth.  After Saturday though, I've been inspired to get me some new running shoes.  My feet need more cushioning when I stand around for that long.


No comments:

Post a Comment