I just completed my first triathlon the other weekend. I’m not trying to brag. I’m actually bragging. Successfully. Almost as successfully as I finished a triathlon the other weekend. Which I did. Did I mention that?
I guess I should clarify this was a “sprint” triathlon. Otherwise known in professional triathlon circles as “seriously, stop calling that a triathlon.” But still. I swam (600 meters), biked (20K) and ran (5K). I did not do all these things particularly well or fast, but I did all three things and that is the definition of “tri.” (“Athlon” is Latin for “insisting on using the metric system in the United States.”)
I have been a casual jogger for most of my adult life. But I have never been too big into organized racing events. It’s one thing to walk out your front door and start running. It’s quite another to pay to register, sit in traffic, look for a parking space, get stabbed with safety pins while putting on your number and then run. It normally just didn’t seem worth the effort. Until I had kids. Then getting the chance to spend a morning at a park getting stabbed with safety pins was a welcome reprieve.
I also found 5Ks a great way to explore the city when we first moved to Pittsburgh. So I started seeking them out. It turns out 5Ks aren’t hard to find. Apparently people who don’t normally give to charity will happily pay to run 3.1 miles for charity. I’m guessing because there is usually a cookie at the end. Also, you can’t eat a huge pasta dinner before writing out a check and call it “carbo loading.” (It’s quite possible I gain weight doing 5Ks.)
Then, in much the same way the one ear-piercing I got in high school turned into five by college, a few 5Ks eventually led to the sprint triathlon.
What worried me most leading up the triathlon was the biking segment. Which is unfortunate given that is the bulk of the race. I am not a biker. I am a man who occasionally takes his “hybrid cruiser” bike to the trails and tows his kids behind him in a trailer while they scream at each other, “Stop touching me!” This is its own kind of endurance event, but I don’t see Komen’s “drag-your-kids-around-in-a-toddler-cage-match for a cure” catching on anytime soon.
Given the importance of biking in a triathlon, most triathletes have real bikes with grown-up handlebars that curve down. Biking is like reverse evolution as far as being upright is concerned. I may as well have put my energy goo and Gatorade in a little flower basket on the front of my bike and flown my race number from a flag coming out of my banana seat. “Ding, Ding, triathlete coming.”
So I was shocked when the biking portion was not even my slowest time in the race. They break down your times for each event, as well as your transition time between events, to let you know where you ranked. Very thoughtful. My worst ranking in the entire race was in the transition between swimming and biking where I simply had to rack my bike and put on shoes and a shirt. I came in 423 out of 487 in this grueling event. Even accounting for the awkwardness of racking a bike with a banana seat and kickstand, there is no excuse. I might as well have taken a quick shvitz in the steam room.
My favorite portion of the race? The water stations. There is a thrill only available in organized races: grabbing a cup of water from a cheering stranger, chugging it with wanton disregard for how much actually makes it into your mouth and then recklessly tossing it aside when you’re done. Littering for sport. I never get the chance to do anything with such machismo anywhere else in my life.
And given what awaited me when I came home from the race, a little taste of machismo was a welcome friend. The triathlon happened to fall on the same day we had decided to potty train our kids with a “potty party.” The term alone can almost make your balls retract. TB and TG were spending the weekend getting standing ovations *and* candy every time they went to the bathroom. What do I need to do to get some accolades around this house? A triathlon? Well, it was worth a shot.