View from the Rear Part Two

This is a continuation of this post, which you really should read first if you want to make any sense of what follows.

Thanks to the kind efforts of a lady called Nuala, who calmed me and assured me it was fine, I managed to overcome my ego and do my thing.  I didn’t finish the race – having only trained three weeks at that point, I hadn’t intended to, I wanted to get a feel for what it would be like – and copped out after the bike leg.  And even though it was part of the plan, falling out felt like a betrayal, like a slunking off.  I was starving, so I went into the pub for tea and sandwiches.  I got a few looks from the hard men at the tables, and they all said to me: you didn’t finish*.  You don’t deserve these sandwhiches, that cup of tea.  I would finish the next one, I vowed.  And so, I did.

I finished it so long after everyone else, that the long horizontal poles on which the bikes are hung in the transition area, were all packed away.  Not another bicycle was in sight – well, except for the mountain bike with which the only person slower than me had tackled the race.

Let me tell you, there is no feeling as awful as the one of crossing the finish line to no other sound than that of your own laboured breathing, getting handed a slip of paper with your time on by a guy of few words who you can almost hear thinking: ‘finally’, scraping together your gear in an abandoned, quiet parking lot, then slinking to your car to pack it away.   Continue reading

View from the Rear Part One

This all started with a bread board.  I stood behind a group of exceptional humans as I contemplated the fact.  They were special because they were all made from bone, sinew, and muscle.  Especially muscle.  Fat?  Nah.  Fat cells disintegrated on contact with these people.  I got thinner just standing near them.  My cycling shorts and running shoes were little more than a disguise: I was an impostor here.  My cotton tee shirt came closer to the truth, bearing the legend: “Pete Puma’s Super Intelligence Serum – favoured by morons everywhere”.

I can’t say for sure what went through their heads as we waited for the ‘start’ signal that would mark the beginning of the race, but I can guess.  I’m sure it was serious stuff, like a mental visualisation of them running the 3.2km course through the rural paths near Dundalk where the race took place, making a smooth change from runners to cycling shoes, pedalling hard and efficiently through the 17km cycling leg, then repeating the 3.2km run and finishing strong.  Maybe some were thinking of the person they wanted to beat this time, pictured themselves passing him or her and crossing that magic finish line first.

I’m not entirely sure if anyone else was pondering the profound influence of bread boards.

Continue reading

My thoughts are well fed now

I participated in my first race today.  A duathlon.  That means run 3km, bike 17km, run another 3km.  I didn’t do the second run leg, only the first, and the bike section.

When I arrived at the parking lot of the pub where the race started (yes, the pub, this is Ireland after all), my nerve failed me completely.  I wasn’t worried about not doing well on the race itself: I’ve only been training three weeks, the idea of participating was more to familiarise myself with the thing than to achieve any notable time.  What intimidated me was the equipment.

I was there with my little hybrid, Ronan, and I had been unable to get the carrier off.  We drove past these absolutely fantastic high-end racing bikes, being taken off these nifty bike racks by people who clearly spent a very large amount of their time training, and have done so for a number of years.  That wasn’t the worst of it, though.  They all wore really fantastic clothes.  Wonderful athlete-type clothes.  I did not.  My cycling shorts and leg warmers were in my rucsack.  But surely you don’t run in cycling shorts?  Surely everything I had there was wrong?

A very wonderful and kind ahtlete there convinced me to participate anyway, as there were many other beginners, and she’d seen a girl do a tri once on a BMX.  Now, if someone had the balls to do that, then I could find enough brass for a pair so I could do this thing with Ronan.

I changed into my cycling shorts and leg warmers.  But it was really cold, and I still felt odd and silly and wrong.  I wore my Eskimo mittens, because I knew I’d either do that or have painfully cold hands during the race.  But oh, gods, I didn’t wear a…

“Well.”

That’s a Dundalk thing.  ‘Well’ means ‘hello, how are you?’ especially if it’s followed by ‘How’s tings?’ (Irish people don’t do TH, they say T, it’s really sweet).

The speaker was my landlord, who also happens to be the chairman of the local triathlon club, and also happens to have among other things at least one Iron Man under his belt.

“Hi, I’m grand, I’m just… I have these… I…”  I waved my fat hands around.

He gestured to my gloves.  “Where did you get those then?”

“Outdoor Exchange in town.  I know they look ridiculous, but my hands get really cold and it’s very sore then, so I have to… I’ve been laughed at sometimes [this is true, not on the day today but in the past] but if I don’t wear them I…”

“Do they work?”

“What?”

“Are your hands cold now?”

“No.”

“Well?”  He shrugged.

And it dawned on me.  Here is Mister Ultra Cool, a triathlete who’s achieved things I can only hope to one day do.  And what does he think of my Eskimo gloves?  All he’s concerned with is, do they work?  And if they do, what’s the problem?

I really have to overcome my ego.  Because my worry this morning was primarily making a fool out of myself in terms of what I looked like, what I wore, what bike I rode.  But all that counts really is: Does it work?

Thanks for the lesson, Alan.  I won’t forget it anytime soon.