Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The First Triathlon - Part I
I'm not the cute #273, she's "Hot Lips". I'm the one 5" taller than everyone else who looks like a dude.
My car pulls up and stops on my driveway and waits for the garage door to open. I flop out like a flaccid penis from a pair of briefs. I’m dirty, hungry, and so tired that I cannot imagine anything but laying on the couch and watching Abbott and Costello for the next 24 hours. My family gleefully bounds from the house to greet me and hear all about Mom’s first real triathlon.
I hold up my Super Jane medal strung on the red ribbon around my neck and smile. My 7-year old looks impressed and asks if I was first, second, or third. I was 642nd, no lie. There were 785 participants, so that puts me pretty low. Even though this is exactly what I would have expected, there was a secret little voice in my head the whole time I trained. It said “Hey, what if you got first place?” I know that’s completely impossible considering there are real, live athletes competing, but I just couldn’t help it.
I always believe I can do anything. This mentality is described as Optimistic or Stupid, depending on what kind of person is doing the evaluation. That’s why I almost died in the first leg.
We were to swim 400 yards in open water which is pretty scary. You might be surprised at how many people asked if I’d be able to touch the bottom. So I trained more on my swimming than my bike or run. By the triathlon, I was swimming well beyond 400 yards without resting (or touching) and this led me to believe that not only could I do it, but that it would be easy for me.
Prior to the triathlon, experienced triathletes warned me to swim behind the pack and to the outside and I heard them. I believed them. Until I got in the water and said to myself “shit, this is no sweat.” The horn blew and we all started running through the gushy mucky lake bed until we were deep enough to start swimming. I was with all the T.W.A.Ts “Tough Women Are Triathletes” except for some of the youngsters (under 40) who decided to go in the previous wave.
By the time we were one-fourth through the water course, I was in what has been referred to as “the washing machine.” This is when you’re getting kicked in the face, squished on both sides, and run over from behind. There was nowhere to go and I lost my stroke and thereby lost my breath. I could not tread water, float on my back, or side stroke to rest, as I had previously planned on doing. I was being pulled down into the abyss. That’s when I spotted the lifeguard on the surfboard floating on the sidelines. She had four swimmers hanging from her board. I needed desperately to reach her, but it was like trying to swim though an elevator full of people; they just wouldn’t move. That’s when I started shouting “I’VE GOT TO GET TO THE OUTSIDE! I’VE GOT TO GET TO THE OUTSIDE” and I just plowed through the bunch of them like a lawnmower. What could I do?
I felt like giving up. I didn’t think I could finish and I was going to ask one of the lifeguards to disqualify me. That’s when I remembered how much money I sank into this. How much work I put into this. And, most importantly, how many people I talked into doing this. I couldn’t let down the T.W.A.T.s. So, after resting, then swimming, then resting again, then swimming some more, I approached the beach. I kept lowering my legs to, please God, touch the bottom. Finally I felt the familiar soft gush wrapping around my toes and I started to walk to the beach. Then I remembered that my next leg was the bike ride, but I needed to pee first. I continued to walk toward the shore and pee as fast as I could. But before I new it I looked like a Russian dancer all squatted down and stepping forward. So, to use a manly reference, I pinched it off.
I found my “Transition Area.” This is where my bike, helmet, towel, and rubber poop is. I brought my rubber poop in order to mark my territory. I guess it worked because nobody took anything. I had two transition neighbors; one of them thought it was pointless and stupid. The other one laughed and said “good one”. I think these two women accurately represent most people’s opinion of me. As I slopped up like the creature from the black lagoon on heroine, I see Nellie standing there waiting and smiling. I wasn’t sure if she was waiting for me, but we got on our gear and our bikes and headed out.
I start off on the road, Nellie in front as usual, but then we heard a weird clicking from her bike and she had to pull over. I rode right past her and shouted “good luck!” It did not take me but about four pedals to realize some things. This is the order in which I realized them:
1. I should stop and help her
2. I am no help, because I’m bike-stupid
3. She was waiting for me in the transition area so we could ride together
4. This is a race, not a day at the park
5. I am a selfish bitch and very competitive, too
By the time I’ve processed these five facts, I’ve rode too far past her and its impossible to turn around. Luckily before too long she comes clicking up behind me and happily passes me. So does everyone else in my wave. Then comes the next wave and they pass me too. Because they’ve written our ages on the backs of our calves I’m fully aware that 60 year-old women are passing me now. This was probably karma for leaving Nellie on the side of the road like a bad date. Between the swim/drown and my biking skills, I’m officially getting my ass kicked.
We started up a really steep hill and I had to stand up on my pedals and grunt out the last few yards. A woman approximately 250 pounds passes me and declares “I’m sure glad I trained for this!” and I wanted to reply “Oh, well I’m really fucking glad too then!” but I didn’t have the breath.
Along the course, there were volunteers to motivate us. Now, while this kind of cheery backslapping happiness would normally make me want to roll my eyes and walk right past, I was so needy of the nourishing support, that I totally bought it. They were mostly college age kids, clapping and yelling “keep going, you’re doing great!” I loved each and every one of them and while most people just passed them by, I said "thank you" to every single one of them. They were like the people I keep in my head that tell me “I can totally do this!” except they weren’t imaginary.
After 11 miles on the bike, I had a full-on bicycle seat episiotomy. It was so sore down there that I’d lost all feeling. I rode the streets wondering if all the other women felt the same way or if, perhaps, I was special. Maybe my vagina was more fragile and bony. I would like to think of myself as very delicate down there, so I imagined that I was in more pain than anyone else.
When I got off the bike, my legs stopped working and I shouted to the cheering crowd around the gate “Where’s my legs? My legs are gone!?” I hobbled like a 10-month old baby toward the Transition Area for the last leg of the race.
…. Tomorrow I’ll continue with THE RUN and THE FINISH and supply pictures of the T.W.A.T.s with some of our favorite T.W.A.T. supporters. You’ll also learn about this marvelous event that, in the end, changed my life and the lives of all the T.W.A.T.s and how you can become a T.W.A.T. too!