Back in the old country, I lost my way. Starting a career and a family pushed the bike out of my life for a while. Things became scrambled, so that when eventually it found its way back in it did so sandwiched between a swim and a run.
For a long time, I was in denial. A new challenge, and all that. But the truth is, deep down, I knew I’d never be able to be as good as I was before. Pounds had been piled on, and with swimming in the mix I could kid myself that gee, all those laps were really piling on the muscle.
But there was, really, no getting away from it.
I flat out suck at running, very nearly as much as I find it hatefully boring.
Surfing since forever means I’m comfortable in the water and a fair swimmer: it also means that if I’m in the water, I’d rather there be a board involved. Swimming is for rehabilitation. (Besides, they shave their chests, and that’s just weird.)
Whenever I staggered in, mid-pack fodder, my thoughts turned to the results sheet. And I knew that on that results sheet I’d see a story that no-one else would: passed you in the first transition. Passed you after a k or two on the bike. Passed the next ten on the first hill. I’d check my bike split. The other two – meh. I was racing a bike, in disguise.
I thought of my short and unstoried triathlon history today, because I set out for a training session and then glanced over my shoulder to see, bearing down on me, a cloud that not only housed the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but more than likely their stables too. Being a gentleman of mostly sound mind and judgement, I pussied out on the spot, although not before the fucker hit me like a lorry load of de-icing freezers, slamming me into the verge. I picked my way home via braille, sheets of freezing sleet keeping me virtually blind.
(I should mention here that I live on the west coast of New Zealand, and a quick glance at any map will reveal the absence of anything except a large expanse of watery bugger-all between here, Antarctica, or Chile – squalls have room to build up steam, is all I’m saying.)
One of the things that Triathlon does terrifically is act as a confessional for the be-problemed, There are reams of stuff online about how Joe or Cynthia finally came out of a loveless marriage or had a leg removed from their other leg, or recovered from years of bad haircuts, and kinda thought they might try this triathlon thing, and how they nervously went along to a swimming pool and lost nine hundred pounds and one day looked in a mirror and you know what? They didn’t know the guy who was there but they kinda liked him. Which is brilliant and all that stuff. Way better than cycling does it, but then cycling is filled with people like me.
Anyway, one of the articles I read was some aspiring ironman who hunkered away from the weather on his turbo trainer, and how his daughter came into the garage or the cellar or wherever he was doing it, and asked him if the weather was bad on race day would they let him ride his bike indoors, and lo and behold our hero…yadayadaya. You know how it finishes. Headwind heroics. Snow conquered. Frost fought.
And so today as I rode home, chilled face as red as a prostitute’s back door, wrestling with the wind, canted over to silly angles just to ride straight, I thought of this hero, and wondered what he was up to now. I wondered if he’d have turned around. What the story of his ride would have been.
Then I remembered.
Triathlete. He’d have fallen off ages ago.
I took my clothes off in the hall, let them lie in a puddle, and then settled down to a second breakfast involving croissants, milky coffee, and a large helping of self-satisfaction. And I resolved to get up later tomorrow, and spend an hour on the trainer instead.