Ahh triathlon. The newest stupid way for ordinary North Americans to wear masochism and under-achievement on their arm like a Powerbar sponsorship. For some reason, record numbers of people are dragging their asses out of bed at ungodly hours, six days a week, twelve months a year in order to swim, bike or run, just for the opportunity to drag their asses out of bed at ungodly hours three or four times a summer to swim, bike and run all in succession. Make sense? Yeah, it doesn’t to me either, so I had a hard time explaining my presence at a starting line this past weekend among the Subaru-driving, spandex-wearing, gel-eating masses.
There I was, though, reluctantly crouched in the seasonably crisp (read: damn cold) waters of Shawnigan Lake, BC yesterday A.M. with smile on my face, ready to start my second season of thigh-burning mediocrity. Here’s a blow-by-blow account:
Swim – 500 Meters
Remember that time in gym class when the awkward kid with the head gear accidentally kicked you in the face during dodge ball? Imagine being thrown off a dock with anywhere from a few dozen to a couple of thousand awkward kids and then being told to swim to the middle of the lake and back while they all seemingly kick you in the face at once. This is kind of what mass starts in triathlons are like.
My swim this time around went relatively well, considering I added at least an extra fifty meters on because of poor aquatic orienteering skills. There was no shortage of full-on body contact, but I managed to keep a pretty good focus throughout. I had a couple of moments of struggle, but told myself that I’d be damned if I was going to put to waste all of those 6 A.M. walks to the pool in forty-below Yellowknife I undertook over the past winter, so I powered on through and emerged cold, dizzy and disoriented after ten minutes and change.
Bike – 22 Kilometers
The bike is probably my favourite of the three events (read: the one that I am the least bad at), so after a brief fight with my wetsuit in transition I was psyched to get out onto the road. There is a loose washer on my bike which jingles as I ride, ringing like a dainty tea-service bell and making it tough to sneak up on anybody. Within the first kilometer of the ride, a woman many embarrassing years my senior (embarrassing for me, not for her) commented on this warning system and nicknamed me Tinkerbell. The moderate annoyance of this baptism was only aggravated by the fact that I could not shake this woman - #1715 - for the life of me. For the whole ride I would ditch her on the uphills, and she would be right back beside me during a straightaway.
“Jesus lady, what did you have for breakfast?” I asked as she blew by me at one point.
“I don’t know, but it sure isn’t working on hills,” she responded as I cruised by in vertical retaliation a few minutes later.
At first our banter was fairly good-natured, but the more she called me Tinkerbell and the more I passed her on hills, it became clear that we were both becoming thoroughly annoyed by the other. Round about kilometer 13 I cruised past her on the toughest hill of the course. Thinking I had sufficiently put the hammer down and lost her, I celebrated with a feast of Gatorade and chocolate-flavoured GU (this is an “energy gel” that I’m convinced is simply the left-overs from the Betty Crocker factory). No sooner had I thrown down the GU when I heard “Boy, you really thought you lost me there, didn’t you?” in surround-sound fashion coming from behind me, beside me and then in front of me.
Back I went to playing catch-up, until the final hill of the ride. Now it was my turn to be the smart-ass: “Don’t you think this is getting boring?” I asked as we assumed our routine positions.
This time I resolved to be done with number 1715 for good and started pedaling like I did the time Chris Markle and I were playing at the park as ten year-olds and he concussed himself on the maple tree on top of the hill (read: like a kid who thought big trouble was on the horizon and didn’t want any part of it). I gunned ‘er until the end of the ride with my new arch nemesis (you are now exonerated, tort law final exam from last year) nowhere in sight, and celebrated this micro-victory with a few fist pumps as I cruised into transition, having averaged a little more than 30 kilometers an hour.
Run – 5 kilometers
This is a sprinter’s run course, straight and flat. This was slightly problematic for me in that my particular build is great for activities like, say, not sprinting, but isn’t ideal for endeavours such as, well, sprinting. I left transition with a spring in my step and kept up as good a pace as I thought I could. I passed one runner, was passed by a couple myself, and finished the run a little bit slower than I had wanted to. I probably paced myself a little too well and didn’t empty the tank enough, but was psyched to cross the line feeling good. After eating a couple of bananas I made sure to stick around to give 1715 a high-five as she came across. I would have gloated, but I’m sure her grandkids were somewhere waiting for her and I didn’t want to cause her any delays.
All in all, this was a great start to the year at a really professionally put-together race (read: hearing my name announced as I crossed the finish-line made me feel cool). I ran with my good friend Max, who predictably gave me a whooping and finished in 1:12 to my 1:26. He and I have been training for a half-ironman (2k/90k/20k) coming up in a few weeks, which will be a completely different ball game than anything either of us has done to this point. I figure the big race should go alright, but if 1715 shows up things could get messy. I just have to hope that there’s a sale on prunes at the Safeway that day that will keep her away. I’ll keep you posted.