Sunday, April 26, 2009


I was pumped for the Tagaman yesterday. My alarm was set for 4 AM so that I could get out of bed and be ready in time for the 6 AM start. 2 K swim, 60 K bike, and then a 15 K run. I was ready.

I got to the Pacific Islands Club with plenty of time to set up my bike in the transition area. Brad really helped me out. He gave me a helmet and glasses. He and Janet gave me bike snacks, too.

With my bike ready to go, I went to the check-in table and turned in my bag for the running transition area. It had my shoes, a dry shirt, and some Powerade in it. They also wrote two big 58s on each of my shoulders.

Then it was time to go to the starting line.

I did some stretching and went for a short jog and then I put on my red Tagaman swim cap and my brand new swim goggles. Then I jumped in the water to test it out. Not too cold. Not a lot of rocks.  Let's do this thing.

As it got close to 6 AM all the competitors started to congregate near the start line, about 60 of us. This being my first competitive swim ever, I told myself to treat this like a long run. Just fall into the pack and pace yourself.

Yeah, right.

When the whistle blew I crashed into the water along with everyone else. I wasn't pushing it, just kept up a steady rhythm.

That lasted all of two minutes.  Please keep all two minute man jokes to yourself.  Thank you.

50 meters into the race I was ready to stand up and walk back to the beach and call it quits. There was no way I was going to be able to swim 2000 meters. Impossible. Never gonna happen. I was going to kill myself.

I told myself to at least give it a try. I couldn't quit two minutes into the race...or could I? No, I couldn't. I stopped using a crawl and tried a breast stroke. I wasn't moving fast, but I was at least moving.

When I caught my breathe I saw that I was still with a few swimmers. Alright, let's do this. Just keep moving.

The Tagaman swim consists of two 1000 meter laps around two buoys in the Saipan lagoon. The course is in the shape of a triangle. I managed to finish the first lap in under 30 minutes.

I finished the second lap in 56 minutes. Holy crap.  That was the toughest part of the race, or so I thought.

I jogged over to the transition area and got ready for the bike.

As I pedaled out to start the 60 K bike I was practically delirious from the swim.  I thought the bike was going to be easy.  I never really considered biking difficult, probably because my biking has been limited to going down the street for some ice cream.

Oh My God.

The first hill right outside of PIC almost did me in. It's not that big, but after the swim it felt like I was riding up Mount Tapachou.

So I made it up and made my way into Koblerville and then past Coral Ocean Point and up towards the airport. By then I was settling into the bike that Dr. Dan Lamar let me borrow, but as I took on that second hill I swore at myself for not taking the bike out for a few practice runs earlier in the week. @#%&*!!!

Then it is mostly downhill back towards PIC and then a long flat ride from PIC, up to Garapan and then on to Marpi. I wasn't pedaling at an Olympic pace, but like the swim, at least I was moving.

To make a long story short, I'll spare you the Brad Ruszala-esque play-by-play of my bike ride, two hours into the bike (plus 56 minutes for the swim), as I was climbing the final hill between the Grotto and Bonzai cliff, I had a race ending equipment malfunction.

The sole of my left bicycle cleat came completely detached from my shoe. I tried to peddle without the cleat, but it wasn't working, especially going up hill. Then I tried to tie the sole back onto my shoe using a plastic bag. That didn't work either.

So that's when I started pushing. There were some race officials at the top of the hill and I thought they might have some duck tape. If I could just reach them...

Now before the shoe broke I was about 1/2 mile ahead of the last competitor. As I was pushing my bike up the hill she passed me. There was a race official following her in a truck.

He asked me if I was alright and I told him what had happened. He didn't have any duck tape. He asked me if I wanted to continue.  I pondered it for about 10 seconds and then threw in the towel.

DNF. Did Not Finish.


Oh well, there's always next year.

Back at the finish line I told my story about 25 times, holding up the shoe every time. Team Manatee gave me two beers as a consolation prize, so the day wasn't a total loss.

yumiI got my picture taken with the last biker, Yumi.  Her English was about as good as my Japanese, so our conversation was limited to, "Me Saipan first time."  To which I responded, "Wow, you're hot." 

Yumi was competing with two other Japanese girls.  I didn't get the whole story, but they're magazine or TV personalities or something.   And if you were wondering, Yes, the girl in the small orange dress wore the dress when she did the run.

So I didn't technically lose to Brad Ruszala since I didn't finish the race, but I plan on honoring the bet with a case of beer. I hope he'll share it with me.


Road-Block Blogger said...

Nice post, I am sure the experience is something you will never forget. At least now, you would not have to tell the story over and over, just tell them to see your post!

bradinthesand said...

Share it? Absolutely! But let's get the first one in tonight at Godfather's Bar. I've got something for you from the Tagaman committee.

Winter Park Fords said...

I think you should write a book. Very funny stuff. Love, mom

Rick said...

Sounds like you were too distracted by all the hot Japanese chicks to concentrate fully on the race....

Mikey-tee-toos said...

Nice! Good job brotha! Too bad you were not able to finish...but hey, at least you were surrounded by beautiful Japanese women :) I can't wait to get to Saipan!!! By the way, thank you for putting together that list of all the Saipan has really helped me learn a lot about the island before I even get there. PeAcE!!!

SteeleOnSaipan said...

Fun read, loved your reply to "me first time Saipan." Impressive that you swam 2k meters despite the time. You were smiling when you came out, I couldn't tell that you were close to death. And it's duct tape Angelo, not duck tape. Quack quack!