I TRI'd - An Unusual Race Report

author : Team BT
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The toll of fate strikes as those with orange swim caps are beckoned to begin the journey. Ahhh, nothing like the feel of ice cold water seeping in your wetsuit to wake you up. GO!

By Ron Cohn

I never felt a particular kinship with Martha Stewart until Sunday morning when I strapped a chip around my ankle that would track my every move. At that moment I heard words urging Skippy on to victory (or maybe that was my clock/radio letting me know it was four-fifty AM and my day of destiny had arrived).

What was once months to go (“I’ve got plenty of time to train”), then weeks away (“You don’t want to overdo it and injure yourself”), had become only days to go, (”Phew, time to taper”), is now just hours away (“Holy crap, Batman!”).

So what is the breakfast of champions? Okay, avoid the leftover pizza, and get the heck out of the house. Besides you don’t want to get filled up when a menu of nicely chilled lake water, generously salted sweat, the ever flowing drip of nose, and the always enticing tar baked road awaits.

Wow, it’s amazing how little traffic there is this time of night/morning. Lost in a thought of trying to decide if Skippy is feeling happiness or dread at reaching the venue with time to spare, my attention is diverted by a scene from Night of the Living Dead as scores of similar looking souls march in a hush to get marked so next of kin won’t have to make identification (shouldn’t that be a hint?).

The scene at the transition area is a temporary encampment of body fat-deprived inhabitants toiling away. If Kofi Annan happened upon the panorama, he would clearly call for immediate international aid to help the poor waifs. It is a wonder helicopters didn’t start dropping emergency supplies.

(Pardon the interruption for a brief rant…It is a TRIATHLON not a marathon! Friends, family come on; really, it can’t be that hard to remember. There truly can be more than one large scale athletic event in which average people participate. If Skippy can remember to call your third wife by her correct name and be interested in your son’s soccer game, why can’t you say triathlon instead of marathon? I’ve tried to correct you with the direct approach – that just got me a look like I was an ungrateful boob. I’ve tried the subtle approach – of course completely ignored as you continue to say marathon. Finally, I’ve gone the Zen path – ohmm – no more successful than the rest.)

Now I see the other members of my cult. We wear the same uniform. We spend hours each week engaged in the same activity, and when we speak, our own unique language of reps, pace, cadence and heart rate is exchanged. We talk of injuries and next races, we thank coaches when they cause us pain, and we high-five after running up a hill for the sixth time. For four years I belonged to a gym and got by with grunting hello when I showed my ID. Now Skippy’s having conversations about the better Gu in the shower. What have I done?

The toll of fate strikes as those with orange swim caps are beckoned to begin the journey. Ahhh, nothing like the feel of ice cold water seeping in your wetsuit to wake you up. GO! What am I doing, why am I doing this, Skippy can’t breathe. Remember what you learned, get to work, stroke. Oh, screw it, there’s nothing wrong with the breast stroke. Okay, okay just ten strokes and then you can look up. Where’d everyone go, how did they get over there? Crap, this is going to be a long day. An eternity passes, and I’ve yet to reach the turn around. My only comfort is having obsessed over the “key race facts” the night before. I know all I have to do is take off my swim cap and wave it over my head, and someone will swoop in and save me. True or not, the thought drives me on. As I begin to get in a tentative groove the yellow capped dudes move in. Their plan of divide, kick, swim over—and yes, conquer—is working. At last the balloons of the transition area are in sight. Triumph is far from my mind, crowded out by being glad to survive.

The transition is a swirl of stripping, tugging, pulling, strapping, and hopping on my new bike. I love my old bike. The ole cycle-cross is solid and dependable, never complaining, never breaking down. But here Skippy is clipped into a new death machine. The nervous cougar responds too quickly to my movement and magnifies even the minor bumps in the road. I just hang on for my life and remember four and a half miles into the ride I’m supposed to be taking fluids. Mmm, a few sips of my sports drink and in a flash Skippy’s dropped his bottle – why me?! I pedal away and my wandering mind wonders…if what is done as sport is also done in the workplace, is it termed repetitive stress disorder? A van stops, the bike in front slams on the brakes, and the cougar pulls to a halt – Skippy’s going down, all within sight of the transition area. The fall wasn’t so bad. The gasp of the crowd and yelling that my seat was turned was to say the least, exasperating.

Skippy’s gotta new pair of shoes and is ready to run. Maybe if I had studied the map a little closer I would have been better prepared. Coming out of the transition there was a sharp turn onto Burning Shin Pain Lane, followed by Mountain Climb Walk, and then a jog thru Stomach Ache Gulch (a look down Wisteria Lane exposed some desperate folks). Things looked up a little passing Praise The Lord Six Mile Run Tabernacle Church.
You can pick a lot of things for a triathlon. You can pick your bike, shoes, clothing, even your nose. But the one thing you can’t pick is the song that plays in your head. As a cruel twist Skippy’s brain chooses “Another One Bites the Dust” as the anthem for the race.

Finally, mercifully, not a moment too soon, I hear Skippy’s name announced as I cross the finish. Exhilaration? Sure. Sore? You bet. In the end, it was a good thing. Thanks, Martha.

--Ron Cohn
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date: November 27, 2005

Team BT