Bravado, a beer, and a bullet to bin laden’s face

For fear of VH1 invading my house with there “where are they now” cameras, I dedicated half the day to completing this post.  I’d like to apologize for the week-long absence — many of you have expressed your displeasure at being left in the dark about the race.  The race itself, and the end of my booze hiatus, was an exhausting finish to a long sought personal goal. Last Sunday, after finishing, I was too overcome to recount my experience. Then, the work week busied and I could not find the time to do this post justice.  Finally today, as I awoke to an empty house and overcast day, I lit my fireplace and wrote.

The weekend of the race was hectic.  With stress levels at maximum capacity, we drove down the coast in near silence; I was worried about physical readiness.  My ankles were and still are very sore and I was unsure of how I would do.  I had eight other guys doing it with me and, by Saturday night, they and their families had arrived.  Armando, who has been my training partner all along, shared a room with Katherine and I.  It would work perfectly as he and I could drive over together at the ungodly check-in hour the next morning and K could follow a half hour or so later.  Katherine fell soundly asleep before we had even finished watching Sports Center. Four minutes after lights out, a heavy Jabba the Hut breathing came from Armando’s side of the room.  Great, I thought, as I tried to will myself to sleep.  The small queen-sized bed (we have an East Coast king at home,) Armando’s obnoxious breathing and the fact that we had fucking Rosemary’s baby crying all night through the other side of the paper-thin wall did not make for a good night’s sleep.  I woke up every hour. At one point, I even hopped out of bed and shook Armando to turn over.

We were up really early the next morning.  My wife, because she is wonderful, made us makeshift bowls of oatmeal to fill our nervous stomachs.  My friends have always been a major support system for me and this morning was no different.  Any anxiety or uncertainty was cut in half as I shared it with Armando.  We joked as we drove down the dark highway to our trial.  I was nervous but knew Mando and the other guys were too.  This made it easier.  We arrived and were met by some of the other guys.  We were now an entourage and that made me feel good.

Setting up was a blur.  Holy shit, what the hell was I about to do?  Wetsuits were zipping up, numbers being drawn on our arms and our legs, gear checked and re-checked.  It all felt very militaristic. Waves of age groups were starting to line up, Armando gave me a last fist pound, and I went to join my group.  My brother-in-law was with me which was nice as we would be the first of our friends to go, and would get to go together.

No turning back

Now by this point I was on emotional egg shells.  Your adrenaline is out of fucking control, I couldn’t even smile correctly.  The National Anthem was sung by a beautiful brunette and then the waves of participants started.  Wave one, enter the water…start.  Wave two, enter the water…start.  At five-minute intervals groups of 75-100 were being sent into the water.  With the Anthem still dripping in my mind and the groups ahead of me being sent into the water, I felt a small connection to the feelings of our boys on D-day, minus those dirty Nazi’s and the bullets of course.  As wave five, we were up right away.  Michael and I shook hands and said we’d see each other on the other side.  We moved into position and were off.

this shit was brutal

taking position

The swim was horrible, 75 other guys grabbing, pushing, holding, swimming on top of me.  It was hard to get any kind of stroke going and the sun was rising right behind our first marker so I couldn’t see anything.  My form was nothing to be proud of, but out of fear for my life and my will to accomplish this I just swam.  I was the Forest Gump of swimming.  Unfortunately, I was mid-pack the whole time so I was getting the shit pulled and held out of me for the full ten minutes. When my feet felt that earth, there was pure relief.  I stumbled out of the water and up the ramp.  My head span — I was already exhausted.  I didn’t know where I was.  I was walking, trying to make sense of it all.  What the fuck was going on?  A few racers ran by me, already halfway out of their wet suits.  Just then I saw some of my teammates, standing a the top of the ramp, cheering me on.  Their wave was to start in another 20 minutes so there they stood: Allen, Dave, Eric and Armando.  Come on Crowley, keep going dude, hardest part is over.  They’ve all told me how my face lit up when I saw them, woke me from my watery coma.  I smiled at them and ran to the transition zone.

The bike ride was uneventful and actually quite lovely despite the heaviness of my hybrid. I took a wrong turn at one point and had to double back costing me about two minutes — nothing big.  By this time, the waves had intermixed so everyone was just out there competing against themselves.  I finished the bike and began my run.

Feet fail me not

Here I was, the last leg and all I needed to complete it was me.  I started off with some speed but was immediately told by my ankles that no records would be broken this day.  They were really sore. As I was lacing up, I noticed a little swelling.  Okay, just get through these three miles and we will relax, I promised them.  Those last three miles were like a dream. I don’t remember what I exactly thought about but I know my emotions were high.  I was doing this.  About 15 people from work and my team members’ families had made the trip, so there were sporadic cheers throughout: Crowley, MC, Michael, all my different identities that make up who I am.  On the final stretch my ankles were the only ones who wanted it to end. Although tired, I was nervous for the finish line.  This has all been such a wonderful experience.I had finished and as I passed over the finish line my pride exploded.  I thought of how far I have come, from the uncertain days in Valleybrook to California, from day one of not drinking to this finish line.  I spent a few minutes by myself until Katherine found me and smothered me with kisses.  Although I was done, my day was not.  I still had men out on that field.  Katherine and I raced back to where she had set up a cheering section, towards the end of the run.  We waited there, waited for my brothers, so we could cheer them on as they completed their goals, beat back their fears.



Ken Dunn


Mike, Mando and me

some of the boys

When we finished I timidly headed over to the beer garden.  I was poured a cold one of some rich hippie beer in a red cup.  I had a swig or two but this is not how I wanted to enjoy my first beer in 120 days.  We said our goodbyes and headed home.

The rest of the day was spent with ice on my ankles and wrestling with my adrenaline.  My family in the East called and many love letters and well wishes were sent to my phone and Facebook page.  I treated myself to a massage before we packed up to head to Katherine’s parents for dinner and the world famous Philadelphia Phillies 5 p.m. ESPN game.  Before leaving I grabbed those Negro Modelo’s from my refrigerator.  They had been icing for four months and now were ready for my lips.  We arrived at her parents house and shit, it was like I had balanced the budget.  Can I get you this?  Are you feeling okay for that?  I was being treated like I had just fought in a war, maybe I had.  Maybe I have always been fighting a war within myself, one of a sentimentalist verses cynic, of anger verses tenderness, past verses present, poet verses madman.

My father-in-law, who is an engineer and not really a huge baseball fan was excited to watch the game with me.  We sat there, two American men, a long day, a long life.  He was a Leuitenant Commander in the United States Navy for many years and has all kind of cool amphibious mission stories from Vietnam.  Not tonight though, tonight was about relaxing with some steaks, cold beer and baseball.  Americana.  I cracked my first beer a gulped it down with the first inning.  We yelled and cringed as the tight game went on.  Mrs. D, Katherine’s mom, had put the game on in two rooms so anywhere I went I would not miss a pitch.  We ate our feast and returned to our lounge chairs to see if the fightins could break this 1-1 tie.  There would be nothing better to end this day than a Phillies win, or so I thought.  All of the sudden, my hometown started to chant.  The birthplace of Freedom, Philadelphia, began to sing in the spring night; USA,USA,USA!!  It was announced that the dirt bag fucker Bin Laden had been killed by us, by the U.S. Navy.  My emotional intake was overwhelmed and tears formed in the corners of my eyes.  My father-in-law and I grasped hands. We got you, you piece of shit.  I thought of all the men and women, all the sacrafices made for this douche bag.  I thought about our country and how much I love her.  I thought about home, both east and west, and how proud I was to be a Phialdelphian, a Pennsylvanian, as they all stood and chanted in support of our country.  Triathlon or not, I would sleep soundly tonight.

Many of you have asked if this post will stop now that I have finished my 120 days.  There has been a public outcry if you will, to continue this blog and letters from across the globe have been pouring in to keep it alive.  In fact, it is rumored that on Kate and William’s wedding night, the English Prince was little perturbed when his new bride would not come to bed until after she finished catching up on the life of MC.  In response to this, and for the sake of my own vanity, “A Season in Hell” will continue as long as you continue to read.  I have to say, the responses and views I recieved over four months is more than I ever imagined and I want to thank you all for your support.  I have begun some new endeavors, such as my piano lessons with my cute little blond ultra-Christian neighbor, and have signed up for another triathlon on July 24th.  Africa is on the horizon and I am planning on writing a novel this summer.  What about?  About me of course.  As my cousin Sean Furber will tell you, “Crowley loves himself some Crowley.”

So you can see we will have some stuff to talk about.


1 Response to “Bravado, a beer, and a bullet to bin laden’s face”

  1. 1 Krissy
    May 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I am so proud of you! And I’m and glad you will continue to write this blog.
    I will be sure to buy the first printing of your novel!

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