2009.08.30 – Penticton, BC
“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” – The King
Give the choice between bed and race, I am never really sure why I decide on race when the alarm goes off at 4:16 (I’ll leave it to the fellow nerds to understand that one) the morning of a race. Really, what is the use of getting up early? To quote the inimitable Olaf Sabatschus, “Morning is too early,” and never is this more true than getting up to race. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be too much guesswork with regard to “this will make you fast,” and “this will make you slow,” since it’s always the same. Eat me. Drink me. Go race.
Chapter 1 – The Swim – 51:20 & T1 – 1:47
“We’re all mad here.” – The Chesire Cat
One side or the other shouldn’t really make you faster or slower, but if you tend to pull to port, as some of us are wont to do, it’s best to start to the right to give yourself a bit of runway. It’s also nice to start next to someone who swims well and doesn’t hit. That’s manners you know. No bothering with how-do-you-do-and-shake-hands, just pick a road and follow. It’s all madness at the start anyway. If you are going to pick someone to follow, best not crash into them too much. Manners. And not touch their feet too much. More manners. And so it went. Jordan and Tereza, swimming stem to stern. And Tereza did her best, to drop him round ever turn. Not too hard, and not slow, just fast enough, to give a good tow. I suppose there’s probably a very good moral in all of that, at least if you’re a triathlete, which I am, at least I was, but I’m not really myself anymore having not really exercised in so long. You’ll have to forgive me. Anyhow, you can learn a lot from a previous Ironman winner.
With a brief, “Ahoy, and other nautical expressions,” to the wonderful helpers in the volunteer tent, who reminded me I’d never get dry sitting in transition, I had to get out and bike with the others. Thank you very much. Despite being mad, everyone is very helpful. I suppose that’s manners.
Chapter 2 – The Bike – 4:34:47 & T2 – 1:47
“Oh my ears and whiskers how late it’s getting.” – The White Rabbit
Following the next path, I got a couple splits. Five minutes down? That can’t be right. Whoever was timing that must have a watch that was two days slow. It seemed a bit of a tea party out on McLean Creek Rd. Clean cup? No thank you, I already have a cup of tea. I mean a water bottle. I must try not to lose my head here. Anyway, there was much passing back and forth. Stand up. Sit down. Try not land on your head. All in all, it did at times get a bit rather argumentative, but tempers flare on the race course, and as we’ve already established, we’re all mad here, so I suppose there is nothing that can be done about. Of course, right around the Richter it seemed that there was indeed a moral to be learned, the more there was for them, the less there was for me. I’m talking about space on the road. I never liked the stagger rule very much, but occasionally, such as w
hen being overtaken on a hill, I can see how being forced to softpedal is not really the best option since you go backwards, and they go forwards, and it’s quite a mess. So with everyone seeming to go up the road, and up the Richter, and myself being forced to obey the rules (manners…), it seemed as if everything was nonsense. I pass people on the bike, not the other way around. Read the directions and rightly you will be directed in the right direction
, which is a fancy way of saying, “Stick to the plan.”
Down onto the rollers, the wind started to pick up. Up a roller. Down the backside. Again. And again. And again. And again. The arrows on the road seemed to be continually moving ahead. Tucked down out of the wind, I thought I glanced a sign reading, “Don’t Step On The Momeraths,” but at that point it could have been the delerium of eating this and drinking that. I suppose it’s inevitable, for if one drinks much from a bottle marked “Gatorade,” it’s almost certain to disagree with one sooner or later. But I swear I saw the mile marker on the road moving further and further ahead.
Eventually though, I turned myself directly around and started right back the way that I came. Of course, that’s what everyone else had to do as well. Out and backs are madness. It’s like undoing everything you’ve just spent a lot of time and effort doing. In my world, courses would only go forwards, never backwards. At that point, the Cheshire Coach in his orange shirt appeared. “You’re two minutes down!” Off to the special needs. About face! “You’re two-fifteen down!” Time was running backwards again. I supposed before long it would be time to do the swim all over again. Backstroke. Though I guess it was logical since we were, at that time, progressing backwards on the course.
But things righted themselves once again as I went up and up and up and up Yellow Lake. Fortunately, my back wheel was coming with me, and it was not just my head that was going towards the top of the climb. And just as we’d gone up, it was time to go down again. This was good because my legs had started to pipe up that of all the work they’d done this year, with all this nonsensical hard work, this was the stupidest thing they’d had to do all year. Of course, I kept quiet, since the madness was only just beginning.
Grab the T2 bag. A quick how-do-you-and-change-shoes. And we’re off.
Chapter 3 – The Run – 2:55:33
“Curiouser and curiouser…” – Alice
Well, then, what an odd place to find myself. In what seemed to be a running theme (apologies on that one), it was indeed a most peculiar circumstance. At least it seems to be since I wasn’t really supposed to be leading the race, but I suppose when you follow the plan, the race moves along a good deal faster. Of course, I didn’t know how fast because at this point, as the car with the watch on top read 5:61:32. Seriously. I didn’t know how to interpret that. But after a quick buttering up, the time was back to normal. And I could set about making my way down the road, only to inevitably turn around and come right back to where I’d started. It all seemed very foolish. Tut, tut, everything has a moral if you can find it, though the only moral I could think of was, “Don’t run a marathon after riding 112mile or your legs will hurt.”
Truthfully, I was supposed to wear a red suit. But I was in a black suit. So I did my best to change the color. Or at least it probably seemed that way to onlookers. Gatorade on the head. Pepsi down the front. Sponge in the mouth. Oops. That’s not quite right. I can’t really remember how it goes. It was as if it was all just a dream.
Coming towards the finish chute, I saw the Queen of my heart, Jill, and stopped for a brief hug. “Never mind all that! Get to the part where you win the race,” she said. “Victory first, then the hug.” As I crossed the finish line, time seemed stuck for a moment. It was like the clocked stop and the finish just kept happening.
“Speak English! I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and I don’t believe you do either!” – The Eaglet
I do wish I’d paid more attention to everything that happened, since it was rather difficult to recollect
exaketededly what I’d just done. After last year, I wondered at time, “Shall I never get any faster than I am now? That’ll be a comfort, one way — never to have that pressure — but then — always to be striving and never having ‘achieved.'” Well, I didn’t think exactly in those words, but I suppose I’ve had to make some concessions to my normal vokabulalary. It was quite surreal, as if I really had fallen down a hole and woken up in some magical land where Americans can still win Ironmans, something that hadn’t happened in quite some time. During the race, I kept trying to do the math as people went by me, and I went by people. Four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is — oh dear! I shall never get to first place at that rate!
I suppose your mind does indeed play tricks on you out there.
Ultimately, I simply followed what was written on the little piece of paper from Coach Kruger, which said (paraphrasing and modifying), “Take care of the sense, and the sounds [of victory] will take care of themselves.” I hope that all of you have had equal success in trying to navigate this story. I’ll understand if it’s the most confusing thing you’ve ever read. At least that what the Mock Turtle said when he read it. Of course, it’s truly possible that there’s not an atom of meaning in it and that I’ve simply lost my head.