Elite Athletes, Underwater Burps, and Peeing in Front of Strangers- The REAL Tri Story

Ok, I already wrote the feel good, Rocky-style version of the triathlon.  Now, on to the gory details.

The triathlon was more of an elite event than any other race I have done.  My chiropractor was inquiring about attempting a tri, even though he is not a strong runner.  I gave him the details of what a sprint triathlon entails, and then cracked wise that there is always someone there who is older and fatter than I am when I go to races.

Older, yes.  Fatter- well, I did eventually spot some fellow athletes who looked like they shared my affinity for finishing workouts with cupcakes and beer, but it was a lengthy search.  Most of the athletes were not just in good shape- they looked to be in peak form.  As we entered the transition area, staffers marked our arms with our competitor numbers.  They also marked the backs of our calves with our ages.  It was not unusual to visually judge someone as being in her thirties only to glance at her calf and realize she was old enough to be your grandmother.

I have no doubt the concept of engaging in three disciplines encourages serious athletes to participate.  A 5k can be done with a pair of running shoes and a few weeks of exercise.  A triathlon requires more commitment, both in terms of time and gear.  I took the bare bones approach.

The only bike I have is a twenty year old mountain bike that I affectionately refer to as “The Whiz Kid.” The Whiz Kid may not be the prettiest gal on the block.  I should probably refer to her as the “Whiz Senior Citizen”  or maybe “Bruiser” but she has always gotten the job done.  Looking out at the sea of bikes, my husband remarked that the average cost had to be at least a couple of thousand dollars per bike.  I imagine my bike is probably worth two cases of Natural Ice and perhaps a can of Pringles.  I may not have won the grand prize for oldest, heaviest bike but I was on the podium.

It’s not just the bikes that pack a hefty price tag.  Most of the competitors were in tri suits, many showing the insignias of tri clubs.  And why not- those clubs provide fantastic training and encouragement to their members.  But it almost came across like the athletic version of a beauty pageant.  Instead of rhinestones and sequins, participants had sleek helmets and neon racing suits.  Very few people sported looks similar to my $20 Costco Speedo swimsuit, thrift store sport skirt, and a single pair of shoes for the entire event.

You might think that these elite athletes would snub wannabes like me, but I found the exact opposite to be true.  Of course the weight of my bike made it tough for me to get up to super speeds.  Ok, not just the weight of the bike- maybe the weight of the Kat as well.  But as athletes zoomed past me, they shouted words of encouragement, “Keep it up” or “you’re doing great.”  I got the sense that they remembered what it was like to be the new kid and wanted to make the experience a good one for me.  Or maybe they were just nice people.

The triathlon was a fantastic experience for my esteem, but at the cost of a few small humiliations.  First off, do not eat a fiber rich diet the day before your event.  My son’s third birthday was the day before the race.  I asked what he wanted for dinner and he said blackberries and kale chips.  Throw in a few handfuls of crunchy chick peas, some black beans and whole wheat bread and my system was ready for a self cleaning.  I spent the morning making trips to the bathroom attempting to clear the pipes before having to put on the dreaded wet suit.  Luckily, I was successful.

The wet suit.  There is no graceful way to put it on.  I felt like I resembled a marshmallow being jammed into a straw- which is not the greatest for your self confidence, especially when you are among a crowd that could walk on set for a cover shoot of Self magazine.

But I did manage to jam my rolls in there, and headed to the water.  The combination of the physical exertion and tight fit of the suit caused me to belch frequently and without control.  At one point, the burping took place under water as I was clearing the air from my lungs.  I took in a huge gulp of water and began choking.  A kayaker asked if I was ok, and I gave a thumbs up.  Don’t mind me, I’m just belching like a frat boy and swallowing half of the lake.

I finished the swim and walked over to the transition area.  After the excitement of finishing the swim washed over me, I was left with another feeling- I REALLY had to pee.  I told Ben this, and asked if it would mess up my timing chip if I ran to the restroom.  He thought it might.

“Why didn’t you just pee in the lake?”

I had been too focused to go then.  What was I going to do?

The transition area was set up on a grassy lot.  My swimming suit was already wet.  I could just pee.  Unfortunately, my bike rack was set up by a fence.  A lady was leaning on the fence and watching me.  I put my wet suit down and grabbed my skirt and shoes, contemplating what to do.  She continued to watch.  I picked up my sunglasses and drank some water.  Still watching.

Fuck it.  I sat down and put on my shoes, simultaneously letting it fly.  I have no idea if she noticed the puddle growing underneath me, but she did walk away from the fence.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because, it just goes to show, if I can do it, anyone can.  I have the oldest, cheapest gear possible.  I’m a chubby girl, not a fitness model.  I peed in front of a complete stranger, and still came away with an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.  If you’ve ever had the urge to try a tri, go for it.  You too can belch, grunt, and publicly pee your way to victory.

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