Sunday, December 04, 2005

My Rookie Year, By Tim Marr

My Rookie Year

The adventure, the glory, the desperate lows and the surreal highs, the extreme pain, the ease of doing something physically magnificent, all these emotions filled my rookie season as a pro. My name is Tim Marr and I am a 26 year old first year professional triathlete from the North Shore of Hawaii. I was born and raised in Hawaii which gives the obvious love for the outdoor lifestyle. I grew up on the amazing north shore surfing Pipeline, Waimea, and all the world-famous breaks. I also ran in high school and then college, and naturally I fell in love with triathlon.

I finished college in 2004 with a degree in Business Management; I then went out and got a real job from 9-5 in the city. I fought hellish traffic, dressed nicely, pretended to look up to my bosses, I worked hard for about three whole weeks until I cracked. I just couldn’t face that this was going to be my life, and next thing I knew I stood up from my desk after doing my very last balance sheet and announced my dislike for the lifestyle that the job created. I yelled out “How could anyone be happy with this, this can’t be the rest of our lives.” I then proceeded to push my cubicle over and asked the other employees if they wanted to join me (naturally no one did) and I stormed out.

Now I was unemployed and confused, I just so happened to run into a triathlon coach and store owner. I told him about my problems, he just gave out a big laugh and proceeded to say “I’ll turn you into a professional triathlete.” Raul had an ability to make the bleakest outlook become comfortable, I left that conversation confident and ready to give it a try. A week later we started our mission, I had taken quite a bit of time off and there was a long way to go to find some fitness.

A few weeks after training I received a phone call from the Honolulu World Cup race director asking me to be a wildcard entry to the event. At first I thought it was one of my tri buddies and I told him to quit giving me shit, I also gave him a fu*k off. He didn’t appreciate my comments and so I realized the phone call was for real. “Hell yeah!” I replied when realizing it wasn’t a prank. I watched the Olympics I knew what a world cup was all about. Yeah right, when I looked further into what world cups were all about I realized I might be in way over my head. These guys swim like sharks, bike like a tour de France racer, then run like Kenyans. I remember my reaction to my brother “Seriously a 29min 10k after a swim and bike are you kidding me, what the hell.” But why not, all I thought was, "Let's rock and roll!"

Three months later with a ton of hard workouts, I received another fantastic phone call, this one was about training with some of the Canadian National Team. The camp was held in Kona on the Big Island, I headed over there for a week of good training, rooming with none other than the 2000 gold medalist Simon Whitfield. This guy was great fun, just a total prankster, but when it came time to train things were very serious. The Canadians were just a great group to train with.

World Cup race day came and I was completely full of nerves. There had been 3 articles in newspapers, 2 local news interviews, articles in local sports publications, and all this before the race even started. I was the local boy in the World Cup Triathlon. Just before the race I had decided to go for a quick warm up on the bike, while out there I saw massive posters that read “Go Hawaii Triathlete TIM MARR.” I even saw two nice looking girls in matching bikinis holding up a sign with my name on it. “Holy Sh*t” I shouted. The pressure was now truly setting in! I headed back to the race site and began setting up my transition area. I witnessed more and more spectators holding paper signs with my name on them--I was now petrified. While in transition I looked over and saw the likes of Bevan Dougherty, Hunter Kemper, and Greg Bennett--all were setting their gear up looking fierce and strong. I have never done a draft-legal triathlon in my life and now I was in one of the strongest World Cup fields in history. Now it was time for the introduction onto the pontoon. Because of the fact that I wasn’t representing a country and that I had no World Cup points, I was honored with the number 60, which was the very last number. This number made me the last person to get introduced onto the pontoon; unfortunately there were only 59 spots on the pontoon so I had to start behind another athlete. The gun went off and the mass of fast swimmers all pilled onto each other like possessed zombies with one thing in mind--the buoy that was 400 meters away. Kicking, punching, all the good stuff that the triathlon swim is so well known for, the next 18 minutes were pure fighting we were all just trying to find some open water for a proper stroke. I exited the water and sprinted to my bike, but everything was happening so fast and the excitement got to me--my transition was terrible. While exiting T1, I ran and jumped straight up and landed smack on my seat, going absolutely nowhere in pain. Finally I got moving; the bike course consisted of five loops around Diamond Head with an 18% climb that was just vicious, a very painful quarter mile. I slipped into a bike pack of about 20 riders, they were yelling and swearing at each other throughout the bike--it was classic. After some tough climbing and wild descending the bike finally came to an end. I led my group into transition. Mentally I knew that the run would be the toughest discipline of the day for me, but I gave it my all. It was midday, hot and humid, and I was smoked. I ran strong but just couldn’t keep up with the best. I finished 39th of 60 on the day, not bad for my first ITU event. After a few nights of celebration and a small new relationship with one of the hot race organizers it was time to train again for my next big event, the Wildflower Half Ironman.

A couple of my young fellow tri buddies and I were off to California late Thursday night before the Saturday race. We arrived at the San Fran airport at about 2 am; we rented our car and headed out for a massive omelet/pancake breakfast before hitting our hotel. We had a late wake up and headed down to Lake San Antonio at about 1 pm. We had no idea that the drive would take so long, arriving at race site at about 5:50pm, just in time for the Pro-pre race meeting. According to the day’s schedule we were supposed to pick up our packets earlier in the day, but seeing how we where driving all day we were unable to do so. I had never seen the Ironman greats in person so the meeting was a real treat for me. I was fully intimidated when I read the start list--Peter Reid, Normann Stadler, Simon Lessing, Chris Leigh were just a few of the greats ready for race day. Wildflower was going to be my first long distance race, hell it was my first race longer than an olympic distance, and I was entered as a professional. What on earth was I thinking? The best pros in the world were there and I had no experience with anything like this race. Oh well, it was too late to pull out.

It was mandatory to be at the pre race meeting so they ended it with a classic high school role call. Greg Welch started going through the names, Peter Reid, Luke Bell, Norman Stadler, Tornborn Sinballe, then Tim Marr, I felt like such a wannabe. Good old Greg Welch then went on to lecture me in front of everyone for not picking up my race packet. I felt all eyes at the meeting staring at me- I wanted to just disappear. After the humiliation I got my race packet and it was time to set up my bike and camp before darkness would set in. I had been in contact with a friend who lived in the area who was to supply the camping gear for our trip, but naturally plans changed and he was nowhere to be found. Finally I had finished the pre race prep and got some dinner quite late, at about 11:30pm I just decided to sleep in the dirt “Why not” I thought. By 2:00am I was still wide awake because of the time difference, and the fact that it was freezing cold--my Wal-Mart cheapie sleeping bag just wasn’t making the cut.

Finally morning came and the race was upon us. I had to have a monster cup of coffee to wake me up from my thirty minute nap the night before, but I was now ready to go. I had never seen so many people in a race before; transition was a sea of people, just massive. I got my wetsuit on and headed down to the swim for a quick warm up. I had gotten a sweet spot on the boat ramp just before the start, but Simon Lessing and Chris Leigh stepped in front of me, letting me know who was boss. The gun blasted and I swam like hell, (being from Hawaii I am not used to swimming in a wetsuit) we finished the swim in the high 23 min. range. I was in the top ten getting onto the bikes, and things looked very good. Now it was time for the extremely tough bike course that Wildflower is famous for. The first hills are tough, around 10 miles into the bike a small group formed it involved Norman Stadler, Chris Leigh, Peter Reid and me. I had goose bumps; I couldn’t believe I was riding with the best. This small group lasted to about mile 40 when Borjn Anderson came blasting by pushing a massive gear at a very low cadence, he broke our group up. I decided to try and stay with Peter, I followed his every move, and if he drank fluids I did, if he ate a gel I did. Naturally there is no drafting so I had to do all this without being on his wheel, to my surprise just before nasty grade Peter called it a day. A few miles later while climbing nasty grade Cameron Widdoff rode up next to me. “Yes Cam Widoff he is the man, past Wildflower champion and very good company.” But he was climbing like his nickname, Wildman, and dropped me. The last few miles were some fun descending. I hit transition--I was number 65, the only bikes that were now in transition were numbers 1-20 so I had a ton of space. I couldn’t believe it; I was in the top 15 off of the bike with such a massive strong field. I started the run scared; I have barely run 13 miles in my life much less in a triathlon. But the first few miles went by very smoothly. I now started to see a runner up ahead. Here we go, I thought, one down---it was the triathlete from the famous Alp Duez. I had heard about this guy the day before the race. Then there were a few other guys up the trail, it was Bjorn Anderson, then James Booney.

Before I left on my trip I asked one of my training partners what the run was like on a half Ironman. He replied the it was fine for him till he hit mile 10, then he lost his hearing and went deaf, got dizzy and had to walk. “Great, thanks a lot” I replied after his motivating story. When I hit mile 10 the memory of his story hit me, “Here we go I’m about to deaf,” but nothing happened--I was fine. We now ran down a long road to a turn around and headed back up. First I saw Simon Lessing, then Tornborn Sinballe, then it was Normann Stadler, I couldn’t believe I was within a few minutes of the best. I started catching the guy in front of me at about mile 12, then I realized the guy I was catching was the Wildman Cam Widoff, we were now at the bottom of the the deadly pounding long downhill and entering the finish chute. I ran my hardest to catch up to an athlete that I have admired for years but just couldn’t do it. I finished 11th Overall in my first long distance race with the best. At the finish I will honestly admit that I shed a tear it was such a great day, just an awesome adventure. I was filled with emotion. Later that night we had a few beers at the pro dinner. We didn’t have a cooler with ice so we stashed our beers in one of the coolers set up for the dinner to get them cold. The cooler was a little hidden so no one would find out our scheme. I watched Peter Reid digging through the coolers looking for something other than Gatorade or soda. He discovered our buried treasure and his eyes light up like he had discovered gold. I just had to laugh and give out a “Heh, that’s our beer.” Like a deer in headlights he froze and started to laugh when he realized what me and the boys were up to. Of course I gave him the beer, he sat and we had a beer together, in the end the trip was just amazing, full of good times and great experiences, I wouldn’t trade that weekend for the world.

I am now back home reflecting on my season and preparing for the coming 2006 season. I can’t wait to start the hard base training, my first year was just a dream come true and I am ready to hit it again. This time I hope to even take another step up and race the big boys. I thank everyone involved in the triathlon community, those who set up the races, the age groupers who race, the store owners and companies, everyone involved keeps the sport going and growing. I know that I am prolonging the inevitable of having a “real job,” but for now I am having the time of my life.

Thank You,

Tim Marr