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…
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?”
“Are your hands cold now?”
“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.