Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The triathlon [Ryan, with Connor's observations]

Here’s my take on our recent triathlon. Connor’s observations are in bold.

Three months ago, my aunt Jessica approached me with a proposition. There was a triathlon coming up, she said, and she wanted me to do it with her, Connor, and my cousin Zack.

You know that feeling that comes when someone asks you if you want to ride a pterodactyl through a ring of fire? No? I’m surprised. But it felt a bit like that — you just want to laugh at their nerve.

A triathlon? Me? You’re dreaming. Besides, I never give into peer pressure.

Good thing she didn’t offer me crack or something.

Three days a week, I ran. My training regimen was fairly consistent. Unfortunately, I never swam. I never biked until the night before the triathlon.

That night, my brother and the rest of my family brought our rented racing bikes from Idaho. I couldn’t immediately tell what set them apart from normal racing bikes. Apparently, they had skinnier tires, which reduced the risk of hazards like staying balanced during turns.

Triathlon bikes are basically cars without the safety features. Almost as fast, but without the seat belts, air bags, padded seats, and the actual car, which is your main line of defense when running into, for example, a brick wall. In a car, you at least have several feet of metal, engine, dashboard, and airbag to cushion you. In a bike, you have . . . nothing! This isn’t really a problem with regular bikes, but triathlon bikes are deadly. These bikes are built for speed, weighing about the same as a half-drank can of Sprite and sporting tires sold in sizes almost as small as bullet diameters.

I strapped on my helmet and took the bike for a test spin. Five minutes later, I limped into the house with a throbbing hand, a jagged tear in my jeans, and pride that couldn’t have been more injured if I had been mugged by one of the costumed Disney Princesses at Disneyland.

Who injures himself the night before the triathlon? I put ice on my swelling hand, scraped my mutilated pride off the asphalt, and prepared for the morrow.

The next morning, we gazed around at the masses of people, who ranged from inexplicably fit — these are the spandex-clad android replicants making their way among humankind in preparation for the final invasion — to people I was sure I could beat.*

Triathlon people (or “triathletes,” as they’re called) believe spandex is a reasonable substitute for actual clothing. Let me be frank: that is incorrect. I do not wish to elaborate anymore on this topic. Suffice to say that when the biker in front of you is leaned forward to be aerodynamic, exposing only one part of their anatomy to your view, you will agree with me.

When the gun went off, 500 triathletes ran toward destiny, or at least the general direction of the finish line. My injured hand wasn’t yet bothering me, so I took it as a good omen. When the run ended, my spirits were still high.

Those high spirits dissipated some time in the middle of the bike segment, when I realized that with my injured hand, I couldn’t use my back brakes or half my shifting capabilities. This proved particularly terrifying when descending and climbing hills. During the former, I nursed my front brakes gingerly; during the latter, I was forced to climb without my gears.

At one point, the race required us to ride in one lane on a public street in downtown Orem, while traffic traveling the same direction would use the adjacent lane. During this part of the race, I looked to my side and noticed two things: first, I was racing a Chevy truck.** And second, I was winning. During the downhill parts, we were expected to ride at approximately 175 miles per hour, or at least fast enough to make our handlebar-mounted speedometers catch fire. The experienced bikers were doing about twice that speed.

It sounds more fun than it was.

The swimming part was the hardest. Though the swim was less than a mile, my one-armed stroke left something to be desired. Imagine a mentally-challenged dolphin with one good fin trying to flop through the water, and then throw in dozens of other dolphins crowding the lane, their churning fins hammering the poor retarded dolphin as if it was all some lawless water polo tournament. Then the handicapped dolphin is eaten by sharks. That’s only a slight exaggeration. (There were no sharks.)

All triathlons have raffles for free equipment at the end, and it seems that longer the triathlon, the better the prizes. Ours was called a “splash” triathlon, and is the shortest form of triathlon I’m aware of outside the 5 and Under division. Just a 5k run, 10 mile bike ride, and a quarter mile swim. Apparently, at the end of some triathlons, they raffle off expensive running shoes, bike helmets, and even actual $1000+ racing bikes. Not so at our triathlon. The announcer would say, “And for number 399, we have here a brand-new pair of shoelaces!” and some spandex-clad person would wander up to the front and accept the gracious gift with a confused smile. Then the announcer would proceed to raffle off some other potentially useless item, like a water-bottle holder, a bike-helmet chin strap, or something called “yanks,” whose nature we never figured out. When they’re short on funding, they probably raffle off whatever stuff has gone unclaimed for six months in the fitness center Lost and Found box. (“And for number 256, we have this nice pair of like-new men’s briefs!”)

It was actually kind of fun. My hand injury complicated things somewhat, but I still wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.*** Next year, more of the family, inspired by our pioneering examples, plans to join in.

But I’ve written long enough. After all, it’s hard to type with a sprained thumb.

* During the bike phase, half of these people passed me. Nothing is more humbling that getting overtaken by a fifty-year-old woman with thighs the size of dinosaur bones.

** No, this isn't a shot at Chevy, although, for the record, I bet a Toyota would have beaten me.

*** Except maybe gold, jewels, a nicer car, the ability to fly, an authentic Boba Fett costume, or an iPhone.


  1. sweet!!! maybe i'll do it next year. also i clicked on 2 can thank me later :)

  2. Oh boys- first of all, thank you for finding the words to describe how I STILL feel in the water. I've been searching and searching for a way to explain it, and you explained it beautifully.

    Secondly, your spandex observations- spot on. Ask Tammy, myself, or any one of our crew about the large hairy man in just a speedo (who was juuuussst enough taller than any of us...) who passed us on the bike at Spudman. We are still recovering.

    And lastly- good job! Connor- since I train my tail off all year and you can run circles around me, I'm sure you did pretty dang well!