Lessons in Humiliation...errr.... Humility

My best friend Chris and I competed in our first triathlon last week.  While we have finished six marathons together, nothing could prepare us for the mental and emotional beat down handed out by an Olympic length tri.  Yes, we could swim the 1500 meters it required to finish.  Yes, 25 miles on a bike will make you feel like you spent the night sitting on top of a spiked flag pole, but we could do it.  And 6.2 miles running?  Please.  We do that before breakfast.  Although we'd never done these feats back to back to back, and although a heat wave caused morning temperatures to top 100 degrees, we were ready to swim, bike, and run!!!

But we weren't quite ready for the emasculation that we would suffer.  First, when we arrived at the starting line, volunteers with Sharpies scribed our bib numbers on each arm.  When we asked why that was necessary, a volunteer responded "It's so we can identify the body should you drown or get run over."  Mmmm-kay.  Maybe he was kidding.  Then, our age was written on each calf.  I can't think of any explanation other than sheer humiliation for this data bit being permanently marked upon my leg.  Words cannot properly express the depth of one's embarrassment of having a 60 year old woman (it's written right there on her calf in case you wondered how old she was) run past you like you are standing still.

But before I could experience having someone older than my mother leave me in the dust, I had to get through the swim.  It's a swimming start, which means your age group is herded into mile-deep water and you are instructed to tread water for approximately twelve hours while they let the previous group clear the area.  Once that happens, a horn is sounded and a stampede of arms and legs thrashes all about until you figure out that it's safer to swim behind the pack than in it and start to fall back.  Safer, that is, until the next group to start catches up to you and then the whole mosh-pit-in-the-water thing begins anew.  At least I think it was the next group of swimmers.  With water too murky to see for than 3 inches in front of you, it's impossible to tell who is kicking and punching you.  For all I know, Chris was taking out some long-held aggressions on me and blaming it on mud weasels.

Getting out of the water, we run to our bikes.  After jumping on, we are guided out to the street and pointed in the proper direction.  For the next two hours, the only sound I hear is "On your left!!!" as bike after bike flies past me like I am parked.  Maybe it's the fact that I am a runner and not a biker.  Maybe it's the heat - 102 degrees is freakin' hot, no matter how you slice it.  Maybe it's because my $200 Scwhinn I got at Wal-Mart isn't the finely-crafted racing machine that these other riders have (I did have one rider laugh and say to me "You're riding that in a race?  You are a super-stud!" as he breezed past me).  Whatever the reason, after 25 miles I was ready to get off my steed, and I am sure it was more than happy to be rid of me.

By the time Grandma zipped past me, I had banished all hope of finishing with any dignity and resigned myself to being happy just to finish.  "Why are all these old people in so much better shape than I am?"  I kept asking myself.  "Steroids" is the only answer that made sense to me.

As we turned the corner and headed for the finish line, there was Stephanie, camera phone in hand to record the event. "Boy that bike shirt makes your gut look big" she remarked while reviewing the photos.  "Do you think those extra 25 pounds slowed you down?"  What a ridiculous thought.  It was obviously my choice to live steroid-free that cost me this race.

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This page contains a single entry by Louis Core published on May 27, 2009 9:19 PM.

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