Los Angeles Triathlon Club
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Club Member: Susan Morgenstern
Race: Race Report From a Newbie: Hansen Dam
Distance: Sprint
Race Date: 01/01/02
Submit Date: 08/16/06

Clubbers --

Inspired to write by Ian Murray, here goes. I'm not only a first timer, I am a lifelong non-athlete: the girl everybody made fun of all through school, the one you didn't want on your team, 'she may try hard, she's pretty dang funny, but she is always last.' Way last.

A little over a year ago, my husband, LA Tri Clubber, Jerry Prendergast, said he was getting 'a little lonely on the bike,' and suggested I might join him for an occasional ride, maybe 10-20 miles. So we bought a bike. It was hard at first, and I cried and laughed a lot, but somehow, four months later, we did my first 50-mile ride, Rosarito-Ensenada. Next up, last April, came the Tour de Sewer, where I was plagued at mile 42 by agonizing scream-like-I'm-giving-birth cramps. Fuel change. Last May we had a great Wine Country Century (metric century) up in Sonoma.

Before I joined the club this year, at my first Griffith Park brick last year, I optimistically started the ride with the gang who assured me there were plenty of slow folks, and was left in the dust where I couldn't even see anybody's rear tires on the horizon. More tears, but I kept going. (That tormented little girl who survived by making fun of how non-athletic she is keeps surfacing and making me ridiculously emotional.)

I kept at the Brick, and made a few pals who at least appreciated my humor and laughed at my jokes (right before leaving me in the dust), and found myself able to at least keep some people's rear wheels in view a little bit more. I started tagging along with Jerry at some swims at the Culver Plunge, and when the first emails about Hansen Dam came along, I thought, 'Hmmm.'

So, after a total meltdown two weeks ago at the Acme Clinic, where I couldn't stop crying (soooo humiliating) and Coach Carlyn absolutely said all the right things to allow for the possibility that I could somehow do this... unbelievably, I had a great 'wet brick workout' at Culver City Plunge led by the mellow and completely positive Ciro, where I made a few more pals who I saw today. And Megan Samuels from the Acme Clinic took me under her wing, too, with lots of positive advice. I toyed with trying a wetsuit in the last two weeks, and while I didn't end up with one, meeting Allyson Thurber, who didn't treat me like I was a hopeless case but cheered me on today was a great turn of events.

And there I was among the 480 today, in my purple cap. I've never met Ian Murray, but Jerry pointed out the Great One himself, dashing in his kilt. So many people I've met over the last year said so many positive things. I made all my usual jokes about everyone being home in the shower when I crossed the finish line (and honestly, many were, trust me!), and then Rosalind Jarrett said words I will never forget: 'You know what they call the person who comes in last at a triathlon? A triathlete.'

As for the race: Ian's 'clean clear lake' felt to me like swimming in a big, warm green screen. I was never really sure where I was, but somehow kept stroking along at my snail's pace. Some of those orange cap folks swam over me. Only got kicked a little bit, not too bad, and I think I managed to stay out of Peggy's way, gods be praised. Also got passed by relayers and kids, but I was beaming as I got out of the water, as I now knew I would finish -- and my biggest LA Tri Club mentor/supporter (besides Jerry) was there -- Riptide Ray -- to give me the high five.

The bike was great fun. I passed a few folks! And it was really, really well marked -- thanks, volunteers. Indeed, the view from the dam with the golf course on the left and the -- ahem -- Tujunga Wash on the right was swell. One of the gazillion photos Jerry took of me shows me arriving at the dismount alone on the bike -- no one in front of me and no one behind... And, of course, people were already celebrating their finishes by now...

On to the run -- which for me is about the pace of most of your fast walks. But so what? There I was! And I only slowed to a walk a minute or two. I thought of all those kids who laughed at me, and how they weren't there -- I was. And even though most of you were long gone, at the finish line, (1:54 for me) some of my recent club pals were there to give high fives and hugs, like Cheryl from the brick. And best of all, there was Ray, who made me feel like such a winner as he gave me my medal.

I'm amazed anyone would read this far, but since you have, thanks. LA Tri Club is filled with amazing athletes who accomplish incredible things. And although my name will be around 472 on the finishers list, for me it is a huge victory. I may never be an Ironman, but nobody can take away the fact that at 52 years of age, the kid who everybody laughed at is a triathlete.

Susan Morgenstern

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