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An offbeat celebration, 500 days in the making

By JIM BUSEK • Aug 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM

500 days ago I was nursing a seven inch opening in my chest.

It was put there by a skilled woman who needed room to do a valve job on my heart. She installed a new ascending aorta while she was in there.

485 days ago I was able to walk outdoors. But only with a cane. And only a couple of blocks at a time.

440 days ago I started cardiac rehab at Fisher-Titus. Simple walking on a treadmill and pumping my arms on an exercise bike left me winded.

407 days ago I tried a 5K footrace while on a Disney cruise. “Race” is an overstatement; I walked one out of every three minutes on the course.

393 days ago I tried to swim. No luck. Apparently it takes quite a while for a separated breastbone to grow back together.

Call me crazy, but 219 days ago I resolved to compete in the 2017 Maple City Triathlon.

I became interested after watching the competition nine years ago. That August day, more than 100 people went running into the lower reservoir at Memorial Lake Park, swam 800 yards, jogged to their waiting bicycles, pedaled frantically around a 16 mile road course and finally ran a 3.1 mile footrace around the reservoir and through the woods to the finish line.

I entered the next seven years, through 2015.

Last year I just wasn’t up to it. But, I figured, with 219 days to prepare, maybe I can do it again.

108 days ago I finally swam the triathlon swim distance, 800 yards. My excitement was tempered because a) 800 yards had kind of kicked my butt and b) the two other triathlon events are even more tiring than the swim.

77 days ago I started swimming three days a week and jogging three days a week.

52 days ago—much later in the process than usual—I added in some fast bike rides; 10 to 20 miles five days a week.

42 days ago I began doing the occasional dreaded “brick”—bike hard for 10 miles or so then jump off and run a mile or two.

11 days ago I did a solo mini-triathlon in the New London reservoir: swim 30 minutes, bike nine miles and run two miles. Not quite two-thirds of the real thing but enough to boost my confidence.

Three days ago I did the familiar Maple City Triathlon packet pickup routine: go to the clubhouse at Memorial Lake Park late Friday afternoon, get my number and t-shirt and other race stuff, ask who is over 70 (me and one other guy), walk nervously to the water’s edge where the course markers seem impossibly far away, go home and wonder what I have gotten myself into.

Two days ago, Saturday morning, race day, I am up at 5:30 a.m., nervous as a cat. It is 59 degrees outdoors.

At 8:00 a.m. we are called to the starting line, water’s edge on the makeshift beach where swimmers are allowed just this one day each year. Every couple of minutes a new age group of competitors is dispatched into the water.

About 8:15, my group—second to last—is called. I swim pretty well this year. Slow, of course, but not panicky or exhausted at the finish.

As usual, I do best on the bike. Best for me, that is. The young studs are coming down the last two miles of the 16 mile course while I am still going out. Of course they also started a few minutes before my group, too.

Again, as usual, the concluding run is murder. Just imagine doing something where your heart is pounding its maximum for an hour-and-a-half and then you START on a three mile run.

But I did it. And I meet my goal which has been the same all eight times I have done the Maple City Triathlon: just finish. As a bonus, I also beat the other old timer to win the unofficial “Over 70” division.

One day ago I slept in an extra hour and did not worry about beating anybody at anything.

Today I am telling you this story which almost certainly looks like bragging but which is, in fact, celebrating. It’s like a party that has been 500 days in the making.


Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at jimbusek@ hotmail.com.

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