Two hours into our drive home I am questioning my sanity while Amanda is asking me if I need a sprite to settle my stomach.
I am in the backseat of our vehicle, headphones on listening to Dave all the while doing my best to keep from going into what I have defined as the praying mantis. For those Kung Fu aficionados, I am not referring to the deadly fighting style used by Yu Son Lee Poc, in the classic, Dueling Dragons and fighting cheetah.
My particular “praying mantis” would be when I am sitting, quietly in my assigned spot, causing no problems, staring off into the pines that line the side of I-59 South. As I am sitting, smartly, I begin to posture and skillfully take shape into THE PRAYING MANTIS!
You should not, I repeat, NOT attempt this feat, unless like me, you are a professional at the extremely perplexing and contortionistic act. However I understand that many will want to understand HOW the praying mantis came to be.
Here are the prerequisites: Number one you must be in top shape, as I am, round. Two, keep yourself, improperly hydrated. Three and possibly most important, choose an activity that will use every ounce of energy to the point where your body practically collapses, such as a marathon, the Tour De France, or like this most current activity, a teeny tiny sprint triathlon. Four, do not prepare for your activity properly with training, stretching, or proper hydration leading up to your chosen event.
It is not necessary to complete your event, however somehow I was able to flail my body across the finish line today, but if you can’t you simply need to follow the practically collapsing portion of part three.
Once you have reached that point you need only wait.
The power of the praying mantis will take you over mind and spirit. Oh I almost forgot to mention, physically, it will take you over physically as well.
The praying mantis is extremely successful if you can put your aching, deprive, beaten body into an area that has limited moving space. For example the backseat of your vehicle. That one works beautifully! Once you are in that confined space . . . just wait with patience, the mantis will come.
I won’t make you wait until you try this on your own to understand how it works, so, how about I share with you my most recent experience!!!! 15 minutes ago!!!
As I was staring out of the window, thinking about holding down the lunch we had after my tri, I began to slip off into a gentle sleep. How soothing. I was calm and relaxed for the first time all day. My head leaned slightly to the right as my sleep began to deepen. Heaven! I needed this after the night I had before the race. Heaven . . .
“AH AH, oh crap, oh oh, ah!” The mantis had arrived. At the back of my left knee a slight cramp that strengthened and ripped me out of my sleep. The band that runs on the outside, back part of your knee felt as though it were on fire! I threw my leg over to the other seat across from me and rushed to it with both hands. I began to try and straighten it while rubbing, no luck. Amanda is looking at me in the rearview mirror. Her look is inquisitive but, not the concerned inquisitive . . . The, “what the heck are you doing?” inquisitive.
I am doing everything I can do, rubbing it, trying to straighten it, hitting it, yelling at it, and begging it. My last resort was going to be cry at it.
But the power of the mantis is much stronger than me. I warn you. It only takes seconds for the praying mantis to take control. For me, today, it was mini-seconds.
As I continued to respond to my knee area, suddenly the muscle that goes from your hip to your knee began to cramp aggressively. “OH!!!!!” I rush to it like the paramedic did to me, with his defibrillator as I crossed the finish line!
Just as I reached it and began to rub, my knee gave me a painful reminder that my assistance was needed there. Back to the knee, but the hip cramp pain began to increase! BACK to the hip! But, as I was in mid transition, my hamstring of my left leg roared with pain! By now my father in law, he is giving me that same look as my wife. I lean my body over the leg trying to stretch out the cramp, but alas, I couldn’t defeat the mantis. I knew it was only a matter of time.
As I leaned and prayed, my right forearm took shape. The mantis was almost complete! The muscle reeled in my hand beginning with my little finger until it was practically touching the muscle that was pulling it in.
I grabbed it with my other hand and tried to force it back to shape! In a panic I cried out as the warrior that I am! As defeat was imminent my face became stern, lips clenched together is defiance, I focused. Poising for one last charge! “RAAAAHHHHH!”
“OO, OOOO, owe, ouch, ooo!”
The transformation was complete. You may wonder how I know this? It’s not difficult, really.
As I lay half across the captain chairs and clutter strewn about the floor. One leg cocked back the other almost under me. One hand in front of my chest bent down in horror, the other trying not to succumb to the same peril. Amanda asks, “Are you O.K.?” It’s not as much what she asked, more the look on her face as she asked it. “Yea, honey, fine.” My teeth gritted together. “It’s just the . . . praying mantis”. She understood.
My body continued to give into the power of the mantis for another 10 minutes before it was released from its grips.
Now the remaining question. 6 hours there, 6 hours back. 3hr 11min 12 sec for a 600y open lake swim, 15 miles hilly bike, and 3 mile run. Was it worth it?
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT!
My swim went great. I ran in the water in my signature, neon blue Bermuda trunks. I began slow building up at each buoy. I wasn’t passed and passed several participants, knowing I would soon see their backs as they flew by me on the bike. I was full of wind at the end, ready to embrace the biggest challenge of this tri, the bike.
I started strong, I was surprised considering I spent the night losing my cookies and no sleep. I think it was nerves? I flew by several people while riding at a moderate pace and on the first downhill, I probably flew by 15 riders, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before the mountains took me over. Did I mention this race was at Oak MOUNTAIN State Park?
Again, I had to walk a few hills. But I rode my older bike with some good response, but a few were way too much for this fat boy! I questioned myself quite a few times on the bike, wondering if I really want to become a triathlete. Maybe I should get a trainer, not sports, just exercise? But I wasn’t allowed to think that way for long periods because some one would yell motivation to me. When someone tells you “You’re the man for just being here! Get going!’ How can you stop? Over and over again the motivation poured in overwhelming me.
As I hit mile 12 I suddenly gain a second breeze, not a wind, but at that point it was very welcomed. I surprised myself. I impressed myself. I churned out rotation after rotation, huffing along, head up, and determined. This last loop turn around was at the entrance of the park. As I made the loop heading to the transition most people were done and leaving. They would stop their vehicles and cheer me on and push me. They will never know how emotional that kindness at a much needed time meant to me. Thank you.
The hill in the last mile was killer. It became so difficult that as I was walking up it I decided to throw my bike on my back. IT WAS EASIER! I’m 390 pounds, what are 9 pounds going to matter?! I reached the peak, stumbled on my bike and road into the transition area about ¼ mile down.
Amanda, and Terry were running and screaming! I love my wife like nothing else. Her support in this endeavor is unmatched. To my wife, “you’re the best. Period.”
Let me tell you how disheartening it is when you ride in and they are breaking down the transition area! Woo! Man! But, I’m not about competing right now, come on, I am 390 lbs. I outweighed the CLOSEST person by an easy 175 pounds. Complete, not compete.
I got both of my transitions done much faster than my first tri. Just takes time and experiences.
Here was where I had my largest problem. My running shoes are on, helmet off, I begin to run. Holly cow! Both legs began to cramp. The large muscle to the inside of your knee cap that runs all the way up to you pelvis area. Both of those burned each time my feet hit the ground. At this point I was truly unsure whether or not I could finish. It wasn’t a matter of mental fatigue. I wasn’t being a wuss. I was in massive pain. They handed me two cups and I chugged down the liquids, it was powerade. It was amazing; the cramps went away right then.
I walked a lot on the run. An about mile 2 the cramps came back again with a vengeance. I would stop and stretch, rub but, no use. I said to myself, “just gotta go big boy. Just gotta go.” I did. One foot at a time and then I saw it. There was the lake! I knew the finish line was on the beach where we started the swim. I dug deep, took a long breath and pushed my pace literally as high as I could. My legs were on fire. My neck began to cramp and my eyes began to glaze. I slipped in and out of the moment. Some times I was in my own head in that last 100 yards and other times I took in the cheers from those left, which later I found out several people stayed to see me finish.
I crossed the finish in a flail as I said in the previous diatribe. About 200 yards out my racing belt fell down around my ankles. At this point all I could remember was the race leader banishing anyone who didn’t have on their race numbers. I ran with the belt around my ankles for about 40 yards and gave up on it. The cramps in my legs made me hobble run and twist. The cramp in my neck caused me to lean my head hard to the right and the look on my face I’m sure told my story. I got about 15 feet past the finish and the paramedic rushed over with the freaking defibrillator!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
When I caught a glimpse of him and figured out he was coming to check on me, I jumped up with my hands raised high and let out my warrior cry!!!!! “RAAAAAAAAAHH!” He backed off and smiled at me.
I am a fat man. I want to change my life. I am doing it. But, the beauty is, I am doing it and having fun. The power of the praying mantis is strong, but he doesn’t last for long and the strength this sport is giving me will one day, defeat the mantis.
Thank you to my new friends in the sport. You inspire me to “be great”. You help me when you don’t have to and you give without knowing.
Fat Man tri-ing