Avoid other swimmers grabbing your ankles by putting Vaseline on them before the race starts.

This was one of the swimming tips on the Windsor Triathlon website.

I’ve seen Breaking Away, so I know that pro cyclists are competitive and dirty enough to stick a pump into the spokes of a geeky teenager from Indiana. But only the most pathetic amateur athlete would grab the ankles of a competitor and pull him or her underwater in order to swim over them. Right? And certainly there was no chance that I’d be in the water with these losers (or winners?). Right?

My friend Elaine convinced me to sign up for the Windsor Triathlon on June 14, 2009 in celebration of her 40th birthday. I know a lot of people who did marathons or climbed mountains when they turned 30, or 50, so I figured it would be my turning-40 accomplishment as well. This was in December or so. In March, I met a number of women who were very inexperienced cyclists and they were doing triathlons, which I found inspiring. I heard about this triathlon on May 30 in Athy with a “downhill swim”, which was supposed to be a good first triathlon, and I figured if I was going to put in all the training to get ready for one triathlon, and invest in a wetsuit, I might as well do a couple. So I signed up. It would be fun, they said.

Okay, there is fun and there is fun. I am all for putting yourself into situations of suffering or discomfort or pain, and think that can make you a better person. But I don’t confuse that with “fun”. Fun is playing in the waves wearing only a bathing suit, in a place with warm air and warm water, where you get out and lie on your towel to dry off in the sun and maybe eat an ice cream. Stuffing yourself into a second skin of neoprene, putting an extra swimming cap on over your goggles so that no one knocks them off, and then swimming half a mile with 150 other people through an icy brown river is… something else.


Someone hauling you out of the water when you get to the end of the swim—now that is fun.

For about 15 seconds while you try not to fall over on the floating dock. Then you run to your bike, if you can find it, and try to peel your wetsuit off, which is harder than you might think. In the franticness of it all, you forget you have a towel to dry your legs so getting neoprene knee braces on is a bit challenging. You remember the towel for your feet and brush off the gravel before putting on socks (yes, a real triathlete does not wear socks) and shoes. A real triathlete also wears a form-fitting lycra one-piece racing suit, but aside from my body image issues, I can think of nothing more unpleasant than cycling and then running in soggy bike shorts. (Okay, I can think of many things more unpleasant, like this: http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/discussion/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=150441&start=1 but I prefer not to.)  So I also had to pull on loose running shorts and tank top, and sunglasses (because it was SUNNY and WARM, and of this I am thankful), and fix my hair, and stuff a snack in my pocket, and put on my helmet, and then run to the bike mount line. All this took me nearly 4 minutes, which is a pretty slow transition in TriWorld, but I did enjoy and appreciate my socks and clothes in the bike and the run, and it was really the wetsuit that slowed me down.

I thought I was a rock star on the bike, cruising past cyclist after cyclist (or perhaps more accurately, person on borrowed hybrid after person on road bike who couldn’t figure out how to use toe clips). No one passed me for the first 10km and then about 4 or 5 people did in the last 10km, but my post-race theory is that all the fast people were already ahead of me, and the folks who were passing me were the ones who started 15 minutes later.  Anyway, I did 20km in 43 minutes, which was about what I’d hoped to.

Bike to run transition was fine (thanks in part to my special new laces!), until I couldn’t remember where to exit the transition area to start the run. After a bit of confusion and running around in circles, someone pointed me in the right direction. So I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran—somewhat slowly, I admit—and I thought I just might make it to the finish, when I saw the sign that said “1km done, 4 to go!” I think that was the low point. The high point was watching everyone roasting in their form-fitting black lycra while I breezed along in my loose, cool, not-very-tri clothing.  And I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran (then they handed out water), and I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran, and I ran and I ran (somewhere around here there was more water) and I ran and I ran, (1km to go!) and I ran and I ran (there was Eoghan ready to take a photo! then some children jumped in front of me so he only got me running away, but at least I didn’t fall)

and I ran and finally finally I ran across the finish line into a crush of people, one of whom thankfully gave me a bottle of water. 

Drinking the water was pretty fun.

Published in: on June 6, 2009 at 2:53 PM  Comments (1)  

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  1. I’m in awe that you did that. The swimming alone would kill me. And if someone grabbed my ankle to swim over me, I would bite them.

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