Saturday, February 19, 2011

Triathlon

Yes - voluntarily.

In September, 2010 I competed in the Las Vegas triathlon.

Yeah – that was the first thought I had too: Where is the swimming part? The pool at Caesar’s Palace?

Turns out the “Las Vegas” triathlon takes place at Lake Mead, which is like saying the San Francisco Triathlon takes place in Redding.

The next question I am asked is “Were you raising money for a worthy cause?”
NO. I was not raising money for anything – everyone can die as far as I am concerned. I mean, we’re all going to anyway, right? Why delay the inevitable?

And the third question is: did I complete an Iron Man triathlon. No, I did NOT complete an Iron Man triathlon. But I did see some of the folks who did, and frankly, I don’t wanna end up like them. 

Fine physical specimens to be sure, but with a sort of single-minded focus – much like my roomba – that made them hard to talk to.  “Outta my way sprinter! I’ve got to run to Arkansas now. Be right back!”

Yes, I competed in the “sprint” category, which is a nice, marketing department way of saying I was in the wimpy, T-ball, junior, wussy, flaccid, “Fiesta menu” category for beginners, oldsters, and folks who have just awoken from suspended animation.

Sprint distance is: .75K of swimming, 20K of cycling, and 5K of running. Which, translated for us firstworlders, works out to be half-a-mile of drowning, 12 miles of crashing and 3 miles of crawling on the bloody stumps of my hands and knees.

Here's the deal about triathlons: When you fall off your bike, they come get you. When you fall off your running shoes, they come get you. But when you fall off the lake, they hold a memorial service for you. That’s why the swimming leg is always first – they want you fresh and lively for the “Where’d He go?” part of the race.

In the immortal words of George Carlin, “Swimming is not a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning.” To that I will add that running is also not a sport – it’s a way of escaping from something that is chasing you. Cycling? Nope. Riding a bike is a way of not starving until your car is fixed.
Quarry Lakes, Fremont, Ca. A/K/A "Goose Poop Lake". Note activity in foreground.
The swimming though was a real eye opener. Or not. Some courses you don’t want to open your eyes during the swim at all. At the Disneyland Triathlon for example you swim across the lagoon in the California Adventure – which is home to about a million ducks. And their poop. A lot of personal best swim times for that one.

Training

Triathlon training is weird because you are not after speed; You are after efficiency. Your goal for your first Tri is not to finish by a certain time; Your goal is to finish, breathing. So I had a lot to learn about technique.

When I started training I thought I knew how to swim. Nope. Kirsten, my coach informed me that “You swim like a guy”. What she meant by that is men swim like they just jumped off a capsizing aircraft carrier and they’re afraid of being sucked down. Guys swim like they think the starter’s pistol is pointed at the back of their head.

Likewise I thought I knew how to run. I did play soccer after all. But I was wrong. Running has evolved since “Ancient Times” when I did it for fun. Now it is a Science. I used to jog along happily. Now I look like a cross between Chuck Berry duckwalking and Groucho Marx leaving a scene. But it’s efficient.

Havin' breakfast. No hurry.
Cycling was the easiest for me since I was already desperately slow to begin with. 90% of my cycling is commuting anyway. Which means I am going to work. Not a huge inducement for speed. When I bicycle everything passes me: Cars, other cyclists, kids pulling other kids in little red wagons, the sun, glaciers, time itself. I’ll start a ride and it’ll be yesterday before I am through. Then I gotta do it all over again.

Equipment

And the equipment! Geezooks. The Normandy Invasion didn’t involve as much crap as what I lugged around on my workouts.

My favorite toy was the Nike Plus Run System: A sensor in my right shoe measures foot falls, speed and intensity. This info is relayed to the iPhone app which catalogs this along with heart rate, blood pressure, songs played, Beats per minute, pulse quickening when thinking about the singers, and amount of genital stimulation upon thinking about the video of each song.

This is in turn sent to the GPS monitor which charts the path of the run, The direction of my thoughts, makes Facebook status updates at 10 minute intervals and prints out a map when I’m done.

Unless I go under a tree, wherein it assumes that Scotty has beamed me off the planets surface, or if I go across a bridge, where it assumes I have drowned. Then it sends memorial service reminders to everyone in my address book, along with coupons for floral arrangements.

Most days though, I got by with my $20.00 Lego watch, which tells me “Gee, that was a half-hour run. That’s enough. And hey, I can make it home in time for Star Trek.”

I also broke down and bought a Lap counter for the pool. Remember swimming is not a sport. Swimming is not interesting. The only excitement at a swim meet is when the swimmers enter and exit the pool. So my mind would wander as I swam and I would forget what number lap I was on.

I consulted the Intertubes and bought a lap counter online. Fits over your finger, push the button each lap – simple. The package stated “Waterproof to 50 meters”. I swam up, swam back and the thing died on me.

Now I assumed that when they said “50 meters” they meant VERTICALLY.
Apparently not. Apparently this is a disposable model: one lap and you need a new one. But that was my budget for lap counters so the next time I swam I posed 30 army men on the side of the pool.

Each lap I finished I just reached out and knocked one over. The bazooka guy, the radio guy, the standing rifle guy, the kneeling rifle guy, the guy pointing, the captain with the pistol and then it was time to breaststroke for a lap and start over on the next squad. Pro-tip: weed out all of the prone rifle guys. Too hard to tell if you’ve knocked them over.
Coach Kirsten, ever Fabulous.

Big thanks to my Coach, Kirsten. If any of you ever get the chance to wear swim goggles and follow this woman around in a pool, I recommend the experience. Inspiring. I often had to follow her because the pool was popular, and the lanes would fill up fast.

In fact the only time the pool was uncrowded was when it was sprinkling out. I mean, NOBODY wants to get wet while they’re swimming.

Ocean Swim

The pool was nice, especially voyeuristically, but the actual race would take place in a lake, and so I had to get some experience with open water swimming. And because Lake Mead was going to be 75 degrees on race day that meant no wetsuits, which, in turn, meant that I had to train in board shorts. And, logically, since I live in Santa Cruz, that meant the ocean.

So there I was on July 3rd, standing on the beach next to the Wharf on a dreary, foggy, slate gray dawn, squinting into the distance at some alleged buoy that Coach K was trying to point out to me. I was having trouble focusing properly because I was shivering in the 60 degree air in just my little shorts.

But, as always, my game plan is always just to follow her around. So I put on my goggles and waded into the surf after her. And my first shock was that 60 degrees was positively tropical compared to the 52 degree water temperature. Plucking up my courage (the term “Sack Up” has never been more appropriate) I dove into the surf.

And found myself standing back on the beach. I waded in again, got waist deep, dove in again, and was once again back on the sand. And here my brain pulled me aside and had a conversation with me.

“Yo – Fuckhead” my brain addressed me. “Let’s do the math: That’s 52 degrees. I need 98.6 to run your decrepit carcass properly. The Pacific Ocean contains 748 Quintillion quarts of frigid water. You have 8 quarts of blood in you. The Ocean WINS.

You put your face in there and you will quickly find yourself at a mean average between these two temperatures. And 75.3 degrees is optimal only when you’re in suspended animation. So unless your destination today is Alpha Centauri and not that stupid buoy – I aint going in there!”
Dawn at Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz. Note the complete lack of other swimmers.
So we compromised. I went in but kept my head out. This reduced my carefully honed and crafted Australian Crawl to a pathetic dog paddle.

I also discovered that I had several more octaves to my voice than I had thought. And not only can I indeed scream like a little girl, I am evidently capable of doing so about 4,000 times in a row – one for every breath. And my breaths were coming about 4 times a second. I sounded like The Vienna Boys Choir imitating a toy poodle that had just been thrown out of an airplane.  “HiHiHiHiHiHi…..”

I made it to the buoy and then Kirsten points out the NEXT buoy that we have to get to. I consulted my brain about this new development, but it had been apparently been switched off as part of some sort of Ecology Awareness Energy Saving Program. “Remember! It’s grayout Saturday!”

I treaded water and attempted a reboot from my Installation CD. Kirsten, who is equally at home with Polar Bears and those Masochist clubs in San Francisco, swam bored circles around me in the frigid water. Eventually I told her that I was heading back to the beach. Well that’s what I think I told her. I’m afraid what I actually said was “HiHiHiHiHiHiHi!!!” But she got the message anyway.

Back on the beach the air on my face felt balmy, but that was the only part of me that was feeling anything. Let me tell you, drying off when your whole body is numb is a TRIP. It was like toweling off lawn furniture. And of course you have to hurry because this is the transition to the bicycling stage. So I’m struggling out of my frozen swim trunks and into my biking shorts – and I might as well be dressing Buster from Mythbusters for all of the success I am having.

A couple of miles into the ride I gradually became aware that I had not toweled off every part of me. But you can’t tell when your numb, so I forgave myself. What was not forgiving me was my balls.

They had been subjected to freezing temperatures, jumped back inside me faster than a rocket headed for Alpha Centauri, and then thawed and descended again only to find themselves squashed inside a skintight pair of lycra shorts and then jostled and pummeled for 10 more miles of cycling. NOT HAPPY.

Tri-Shorts

A week later they were further abused, as the costume changes were taken out of the equation. See, in an actual triathlon you can’t change your shorts between sports. What you swim in is what you bike in is what you run in. You can add to your outfit, but you can’t subtract from your swimsuit.

Nudity is strictly forbidden – even in Vegas! Which is a shame: hundreds of athletes peeling out of their swim togs would no doubt boost attendance and coverage of the race.

The Tri-shorts.
Anyhoo, for the last 3 months of training it was just the tri-shorts, which are made of lycra and tight enough to let you know exactly how David Lee Roth hit all of those high notes.

I once farted while swimming and my tri shorts were so tight they trapped the fart. As I swam, twisting from side to side, I could feel the fart traveling back and forth across my ass, acting very much like a carpenters level. At the end of a mile I stopped and let it out, half expecting it to make a fart noise upon exiting.

Instead of the soft, cooshy cotton chamois of my bike shorts, trishorts instead gave me a rubber kotex pad my your junk to imprint with. Not much as cushions go but it did have the unintended benefit of being quite the prostate massage. I would hit a rough section of road and start spontaneously quoting from the karma sutra.

Injuries

Injuries? Sure. Here’s a sampler:

- Diaper rash. 60 miles a week of swimming, running and cycling in tight wet underwear means a lot of friction around your naughty bits. The answer, as it is to many things, is lube.

- On one good downhill I hit a gust of wind so fierce it lifted my bike helmet off of my head and choked me with my chinstrap. It left a great red mark across my neck, like I had just come from the one of those S/M clubs in San Francisco.

- On one early morning trail run I ran headlong into a gigantic spider web. The owner was home, and was very unhappy with me. Luckily no one was around to see me stumbling drunkenly along the path covered in spider web, wailing like a three year old, and frantically shaking my hand to get this gigantic arachnid to stop trying to bite my pinkie off.

- On one frustrated day I could not get my goggles to stop leaking chlorine water into my eyes. I finally jammed them against my face so hard I bruised my left eye socket and blinded myself in that eye for a few seconds. And the next week at work I had to make up a story so I wouldn’t have to tell my co-workers that I got a black eye from punching myself in the face.

Transitions

Luckily my Tri was held in warm water. No wetsuit needed. Although I observed the Sandman Triathlon in Santa Cruz, and I gotta say: hundreds of beginners all frantically struggling to get out of their wetsuits is YouTube GOLD.

The experienced athletes on the other hand had taken care of that problem before the swim, by greasing themselves up with Pam. This lead to an interesting phenomenon later on when they all returned from an hour long bike ride in the sun and they all smelled like French fries.

The second transition, from cycling to running would seem to be pretty straightforward: Park the bike, lose the helmet, grab a hat and your gone. But looks can be deceiving. You finish a hour of smooth, rounded, low-impact cycling and suddenly start slamming your body weight into asphalt and you get this message from your quads:

“Hello. You’ve reached your quadriceps muscles. We’re sorry, but we’re either away from our desks, or on another line. Please leave a message, and we’ll get back to you, just as soon as you pick one goddamn sport, and stick the fuck with it.”

So after 5 months of training, I had lost 25 pounds, done 4700 pushups, 9500 crunches and swum the equivalent distance of my house in Santa Cruz to the Doubletree, ran from the Doubletree to Fisherman’s Wharf, and bicycled from Fisherman’s Wharf to Salt Lake City.

I thought I was ready.

Roadtrip

Now. How to get from Santa Cruz to Vegas? Fly? Not with a bike. The fee for that piece of luggage is the same as if the airline came to your house, knocked on your door and then stabbed you in the face with a pitchfork.

So, drive it is! And we wanted to take that New Interstate that tunnels under Yosemite and then bridges across Death Valley for the straight shot into Sin City – but they haven’t built that one yet. And that meant we had to go AROUND the Sierra Nevadas, on the little connect the dots highways that take you from Bakersfield to Mordor to Barstow.
Admiral Karen and Coach Kirsten at Hoover Dam.

First off: Bakersfield. I mean, seriously, What the Hell? If I want a city this size, I’ll go with Anaheim. If I want smog this bad I’ll move back to L.A., if I want temperatures this high I’ll move to Vulcan, and if I want squalor this rancid I’ll watch some old reruns of Sanford & Son. I mean, at least Fresno has raisins.

And after Bakersfield you get……..nothing. Miles and miles, of miles and miles. You get cities like Mojave, that have city limits the size of France but the population density of Alpha Centauri. You get sad little towns that the highway passed by, except it didn’t – the highway goes right through the center of town, and the town is too depressed to care.

We saw a bumper sticker on a local truck that read “Jesus would not Tap Out”. And it was meant with no irony.

10 hours and 600 miles later Admiral Karen, Coach Kirsten and I reach Las Vegas. We can see it before us, glittering, shining, beckoning us with promises of free drinks and rentable bosoms.

But alas, we must turn away and head for Hoover Dam and the Hacienda more-or-less Hotel and yea, sure Casino which is the closest thing with a bed to the Triathlon. This hotel is made of cardboard. Luckily it never rains around there, or the whole hotel would crumple and wash away.

Buffet

Having not eaten since a regrettable Jack-in-the-box experience in Mojave we head for the buffet. And end up longing for the Kangaroo meat Jumbo Jacks that had been weighing us down for 300 miles. We were offered Asian Chicken Salad where the chicken was breaded, plates of jell-o that were dusty and Crab Legs that had seen better weeks.

The next morning, trapped, we went there again for the breakfast buffet and saw many of the same dishes that we had shudderingly passed by the night before. Same fused together mass of fried chicken, same breaded veal cutlets. Same stuffed breaded pork chops. Stuffed with Dark Matter, it looked like.
And you don't wanna know what's off to the left there.

For the morning menu though they had brought out steaming mounds of breaded eggs and breaded bacon. For 99 cents you could even get a breaded shrimp cocktail. But hey you order seafood in a cardboard casino in a landlocked state, you take your chances. And breading can extend a filet for a good ten days or more.

So we were revolted, but also just downright confused. It was morning but we were seeing dinner items that had apparently had a little overnight campout on the steam table. But even the breakfast items still had the metal name tags from the night before. I got a nice picture of cobblestone biscuits and 30 weight gravy that was blithely calling itself “Vegetables”.

Athletes from many lands were staring at this buffet, at their plates, at their mates and at the cardboard walls in equal, if polite confusion. This was not the Las Vegas they had imagined. We, of course, knew better, and so we took off for the REAL Vegas and had a great day at the fake Venice.

Race Day

Sunday morning, up at 5am. Breakfasted on a Clifbar – I aint about to trust my race day nutrition to a buffet that can’t tell dinner from breakfast. 5:30: Load up the car. Hundreds of bicycles being wheeled through the deserted casino. 6:00am: arrive at the Lake Mead shoreline.

First order of business: attaching my number, so they can identify my corpse later on. By sheer randomness I was assigned #69 and then I had to sharpie this on every square inch of exposed skin. But I was too focused on the race to be amused.
Dawn at Lake Mead. Note buoys that mark the swimming course.

A combination of a sleepless night and adrenalin had me operating with blinders on. I was focused. I was so focused in fact that I missed several important facts:

- It was already t-shirt warm, and dawn had not yet broken.

- The place where the swim would be held is called “Boulder Point” as in thousands of sharp rocks have all tumbled into this valley and are now covered by a thin layer of water.

- There was a bathtub ring 100 feet high around the entire lake, as the water level had dropped considerably. And the water that left was from the top: The clean part.

- And there was a steep, two mile grade coming down to the lake. Wonder where the bike course is?

Swim

But as I said, I was focused, so thankfully I missed all of these important points. Like when my wave was supposed to start the swim. I was still strolling across an enormous beach (low tide?) trying to figure out a swim cap that was obviously meant for an infant’s head, when I casually asked the announcer when the Sprint wave began.

He looked at me blankly for a long moment and then pointed out to two hundred people already standing in the water.  “That’s you. You go in 2 minutes.”

And I quickly realized why they were starting the waves standing, instead of having everybody run into the water: The water level was so low that the big, nasty rocks that normally were safely under 100 feet of water were hungrily waiting for us. And they were hiding under two feet of thick catfish mud.

Oh boy! I hurried out to the back of my group, slipping and sliding and cutting both my feet on the sharp rocks. It was like standing in two feet of nacho cheese on top of a gigantic cheese grater. All of us guys were looking around at each other with identical expressions: a combination of “EW!” and “OW!”

I looked back to the shore and saw the last wave, the sprint women, assembling on the shore. Should I warn ‘em? Naaaah.
Heading out to the start. Note big, sharp rock.

The gun sounded and we took off, frantically trying to suck our legs out of the mud and get horizontal.  There was ZERO grace on display.

And I realized how different competitive open-water swimming is from my neighborhood pool:

There’s no lanes. There’s no sides. There’s no dotted stripe on the bottom. There’s no bottom. And 200 men, of every type of ability, in no particular order, are all blindly flailing away towards one point: A distant buoy where we will all turn right. And between here and that funnel point, it’s human bumper cars out there.

By the time I reached the first buoy and made it to the back stretch the pack was well out ahead of me and I had some space to myself and I was able to think. Bad idea. Thinking is not your friend when you are out in the middle of a lake with no flotation device.

I vividly recalled every World War II book I had ever read about sailors drowning. I had “Jaws” playing in High-Definition behind my eyelids. And when a piece of water-logged sticker bush brushed up against my leg I knew the zombie elf-king from the Dead Marshes had come for me at last.

Luckily at that moment the first female swimmers caught up to me. And they RAN ME OVER. I was too busy actually drowning to be scared of drowning. Once I had recovered physically though I found that I had also recovered psychologically and I could get on with the race.

I rounded the second buoy and now it was just head in to shore. But the shore was doing one of the Hitchcock pull back special effects. Every 10 yards I advanced the shore retreated 20.

After an endless 25 minutes though I felt the disgusting nacho cheese mud and knew that I could touch bottom. And I was grateful. That is, until I actually touched the bottom and hit the cheese grater rocks again.

We had to be the lamest water exit ever. People were slipping and sliding and faceplanting all over the place. We looked like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.

No time to rest, no time to shower.
Still, I was happy. 5 months of 7am swims, 30 miles of laps in crowded pools, filthy lakes and the iceberg-laden ocean had not been in vain: I was standing at the swim exit. I was standing, and not hurrying to the transition area, because I was waiting for Admiral Karen to take my picture.

Transition 1

And I was having to wait because my wife was crying all over the camera. And right then I realized just how much of a sacrifice all of this had been on her. 6 mornings a week for 5 months I had been gone with the sunrise, off on another run, another ride, another swim.

And when I WAS home I was busy buying techy toys online, packing and re-packing my gear bags, eating carbs by the pound, and sleeping the sleep of the dead. Complaints? Nope. Just neckrubs, pep talks and enough compassion, patience and love to fill that lake to the top.

I was happy about the swim for about 5 minutes. The time it took for me to hobble on my scraped-up feet to my spot in the transition area. My feeling of awesomeness was then tempered by the fact that Coach Kirsten met me there.

She, who had started the swim 7 minutes behind me, had finished right on my bloody heels. Apparently the only things that drift slower than me in the water are the freakin’ continents.

And I was still trying to figure out which end of my bike was which when she pedaled off, quickly disappearing up the long hill away from the lake. I eventually snapped out of my funk, snapped into my helmet and finally completed T1.

Happy on my bike.
And here I had another revelation: All my life I have pursued sports that I am singularly unsuited for. I was too slow to score any goals in soccer, too wide to be an aerodynamic cyclist and just plain too large to be a decent rock climber. Basically I am built to be a designated hitter. But out there in the blazing sunshine I found my true calling: I apparently have the perfect body for bicycling up long, ugly hills.

Bike

If the Olympics ever have a sport in which you ride up the hypotenuse of a triangle, I am so there. A half mile of 30% grade and I was right behind Kirsten at the top of the hill. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was pleasantly surprised that I had reeled her in that quick.

The race course then turned right, onto a long flat section. And here I had an unexpected opportunity. I was right behind my friend, my mentor, my coach, who had patiently taught me how to swim and run properly and had guided me along every step of the way.

Along with a few other folks we had trained together all Spring and Summer and become fast friends in the process. And here was my chance to share the rest of this crazy race with the person who had made it possible for me.

Naaaah. “On your left!” I bellowed and left her in my dust. “Thanks for everything, Coach! I’ll take it from here!”

And the course, billed quite prominently on the website as “The flattest in Vegas” was anything but. (But then, what IS flat in Sin City? Not the odds, not the rates, and certainly not the boobies.) And with each one of those increasingly long hills I found that I was passing people. People that had swam away from me. People that had swam OVER me.

After a few miles we reached a turnaround point. From here we would ride all the way back the way we had come, pass by the road down to the lake and continue on this long back stretch for many miles.

The last part of this backstretch was one long, ugly-ass hill that rose, slowly and majestically, over two full miles. It was glorious. I smiled. And I passed people. I passed them walking their bikes. And I passed them sitting down on mine.

The last 200 yards of this hill though was back on the hypotenuse. 30% grade straight up to the turnaround, after biking hard for almost an hour.
And then the reward: three miles of high speed downhill.

I finished off one of my water bottles. I watched the scenery. I stretched my arms and legs. I ate a banana. And all at 30 miles an hour. Divine. The right turn back to the water and then it was serious white-knuckle braking back down to the transition area.

Um..........Errr.......<times out>
Run

And this time Coach K was nowhere in sight. T2 was pretty straightforward, and that’s good, because I could feel my brain slowly unraveling. Karen took a picture of me staring at my shoes, like I had just discovered that I had feet. Sad, really. That one did not make the Facebook album.

I eventually figured out what I needed to do, and I set off for the final leg: A three mile run. And right away I found that without the artificial breeze of the bike, the sun was going to pan fry me in no time.

But I had another secret weapon: Cheating. See, the swim is pretty hard to fudge. You stop swimming, you drown, you don’t get a medal. Biking, likewise: You stop pedaling, you fall over, you look like an idiot. But running? Aha! Just stop running and WALK the goddamn 3 miles.

This does mean that you’ll be spending considerably more time in the blinding sun, but really by that time I didn’t have much of a choice. I had shot my bolt in the biking stage, and my cut up feet from the swim pretty much sealed the deal. But I found there was no shame in walking, because I was far from alone in this activity. That little side road to nowhere looked like the Macy’s Parade, after the zombie apocalypse.

SCORCH.
There were still runners of course, but many of them also held more than a passing resemblance to extras from The Walking Dead. Arms flailing, hips wobbling, legs of various lengths, faces like the approach to orgasm, hair like someone had just beat out a fire on their head.

Not pretty, but interesting. And interest was what I needed. Because I found that I was drifting. I couldn’t keep any thoughts in my head. I couldn’t keep any hats on my head either. I was sweating so much my baseball cap was sliding around on my skull.

Near the turnaround point I passed by the helicopter landing pad, and it was doing brisk business in Medi-Vaccing racers to hospitals. Looked like mostly lacerations from the swim and collapsing from the heat. I shrugged and kept trudging.

The day reached 105 degrees. Inside, my brain was cooking, slowly and evenly. It was like trying to remember a dream you had forgotten, while you were having it. I was still walking, but I had only a passing interest in why I was doing such a thing.

Eventually, after an hour, I saw, off to my right, a huge rainbow arch and a lot of cheering people. But it might as well have been a mural I passed by, or a postcard I saw once. I thought I could walk over in this other direction for awhile. I thought I could stop and just lie down on the asphalt for a bit.
Fighting hard for the Finish.

Finish

And then I had one of most sudden and complete frights of my life as I came back into focus and realized that I was about to pass out from heat stroke. That rainbow arch was the finish line, and I suddenly wanted to get there with unseemly haste.

That last half mile I was Steve Prefontaine, Wilma Rudolph and Jerry Rice all rolled into one. Karen got off one blurry photo of me as I ran right by her without a glance, across the line, got the medal, hand off the timing chip, start drinking and eating and let’s get the hell out of here. 

An hour later I was back in the hotel room, showered, fed and watered, air conditioned, and asleep. 3 hours after that I was on the Strip tucking into a steak the size of my bike tire. The next morning I felt like I had been drawn and quartered. And I still had a 10 hour drive ahead of me.

I had registered without having the slightest idea what I was doing. Go triple air signs! I trained faithfully and diligently and enjoyed every single day that I was sweating as the sun rose. But the Tri itself was not fun. It’s an endurance contest. And you endure it. There is a tremendous sense of satisfaction in finishing. But it’s a grim satisfaction.


But as we passed through Mordor on the road that goes on Ever Onward, I had plenty of time to stare at my medal and consider. All of these months I had been focusing on the race during my training.

But now that I was on the other side, the Tri wasn’t the big deal. That was just the Victory Lap. The big deal was all of the training and the discipline, fun and excitement I had gleaned from all of the exertion I had done.

As a wise Jedi once said, “There is no Tri – there is only Do.”

So that’s my triathlon. In my distance I finished 285th out of 303. But in my new demographic age group I finished 12th – out of a dozen.

Angus McMahan
angusmcmahan@gmail.com
#AngusMcMahan


1 comment:

  1. You have amazing stories my friend! Lets get lost in the world of OZ!

    ReplyDelete