Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Triathlon's Little Surprises

It should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of triathlon. There are lots of reasons. To name a few:

  • It keeps me healthy
  • It's 200% more fun than it's single sport constituents
  • It allows me to wear skintight clothing in public

And every once in a while, triathlon tosses me a surprise which boosts my admiration for sport. One recent such surprise happened this weekend at a tiny, local Olympic distance race affectionately called "A Tri in the Buff".

To be honest, the day didn't start off as pleasantly as I'd have wished. The park manager had cancelled the swim (more on this in a future post) so I walked into transition in a foul mood. ATITB and I do not have a good history together. If there's any race that I've flubbed up something, it typically happens here. I don't do it on purpose and I can't explain why. For instance, I've gone awry on the swim course. I've missed my turn on the bike course. I've actually ran on the run course. All of these were freak accidents. Right after they cancelled the swim, the name of the race magically transformed to "Du-ing It In The Buff" which sounds fun until you realize that they replaced the swim with yet another run. I had, at this moment, considered getting in my van and brooding all the way back home. But that was about a 2 hour drive and they promised hot dogs later. Sigh. I went searching for a spot to rack my bike.

So while I begrudgingly hunted for a place to set my wheels, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the incompetence of my fellow competitors who didn't understand that you are supposed to stagger on the racks. On one slot goes a bike facing east. The very next slot is now available for a bike pointed west. Continue ad infinitum or until the end of the rack. If you rack 3 slots away, you've messed up the system and made it nearly impossible for the late risers, such as myself, to get a spot on the rack. Sure, I could try and get there earlier but, since I'm an American, I'd prefer to blame everyone else and not myself. Regardless, my point still stands.

Luckily for me, one of the guys on the east side was a friend of mine. I was able to persuade him to move his bike over 1 slot, thus allowing me to finally place my bike and get set up for (crap, that's right) a run. In the slot immediately next to me was that of this cute unknown Asian woman. I had absolutely no idea how old this person was. Nor am I competent in my Asian identifying skills to pinpoint which region of Asia supplied the DNA she's inherited. (Note: I originally thought that she was Hawaiian. I learned differently later and had to project back to re-write my memory history. /End note) According to the stereotype meme, she could have been anywhere between 18 and 50. Granted, I could have just looked at her calf to see the number printed there but I didn't want my gaze direction to be mistaken, then to be labeled any more of a creep than what an overweight, middle-aged male with a penchant for wearing spandex in public already bears.

After setting up, I do what I typically do, ogle the ladies start talking to the people in my near vicinity to pass the time. See, they force you to get on race site ridiculously early then make you stand around and wait. Triathlon is many things awesome, time efficient is not one of them. (Also not on the list is triathlon's lack of ability to have a decent backup plan should the park manager cancel the swim.) Remember that friend who moved his bike? Well, we started chatting about the course and what to expect where. Since I've made pretty much every mistake in the book, most of them here, I was able to answer questions with utmost confidence. My rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman of indeterminate age was listening in with much attention.

Since I was the local expert, she gathered up the courage to even asked a few questions of her own. Most of her concerns were of the bike course, understandably since they took away the swim. (<-- okay, that might have been my last snipe on this topic, at least for this post. Might.) I laid out the route and included a couple of the tougher spots. When she asked if one of the turns was difficult to find, I simply told her that it all depended on how good of a runner she is. <Awkward silence in the conversation, which was a lot more apparent when reflecting on the talk.> Finally I added that her running prowess was probably moot since she's in the second wave of runners and there's bound to be at least 3 or 4 people who could out run her by 5 minutes over a 1.8 mile run 1. <Second awkward silence in as many minutes.>

The race got started, boys before girls, separated by 5 minutes. The turn around was about 0.9 miles away in an out-and-back format. I was plodding around in the 2nd group of plodders. About the 1.2 mile mark, the men were on their way back while the women were on their way out. And, really, it was just one woman. Yup, it was my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman runner of indeterminate age. At the half-mile mark, she was almost 2 minutes up on the field. I wasn't even that far behind the male run leaders. Yes, my ego started to kick in and I sped up in fear that I would be caught by this badass of a female specimen on the first leg. (Spoiler alert- at least that didn't happen.)

We went out onto the bike course, which was a slower day for the field compared to years past. I got passed by exactly zero people on the bike and passed several. By the time I started my official run, I estimated that I was in 8th place. We had a 2-loop run which started with that same out-and-back we did on the swim portion of the run. That portion of the course gave me an opportunity to try and validate my standing, which ultimately failed since there was more than one race happening and we had intermingled by this point. Of note, my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass runner of indeterminate age was roughly that same distance behind me as she was during the first leg of the trip. And she was gaining quickly. No ego surge would have saved me from that reality. She went by at about mile 2.5. I cheered for her in the form of, "Go rackmate," which actually came out less awkward than the silences back in transition would have led me to believe. She thanked me for the attention (which is also weird for me) and ran on.

After  I finished the run, I was hobbled up in the finish area coral attempting to breathe and suck down some water. Here comes my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass runner of indeterminate age looking as fresh as could be, wheeling her bike out of transition. I asked her how things went. She said that even after all those awkward silences, she still biffed the bike course. The bike course is a lasso with a really short handle. You ride up the handle, turn left, do the lasso-loop twice, and return to the transition area via the handle. She came down the handle after the first lap. Apparently, she had a gut feeling that something wasn't right, turned around and headed back onto the lasso. She reported that she'd lost about 30-40 seconds.

Since I was apparently the resident area guru on all things Du-ing It In the Buff, she was curious about the awards and if the prize was anything worth waiting around for. Her reasoning- she had a long drive ahead. Understandable, at least from my perspective. Typically, ATITB offered your run of the mill medal or trophy or trinket coupled with a little bit of swag. At some races by the same race company, they give away bottles of wine, but not at this venue. "I'm allergic to alcohol," she responds. <Third awkward silence of the day.>

While she was busy finding out about the awards and making a decision on her appearance at the ceremony, they posted the preliminary results. I went and searched for my name. The Banter=7th place overall and 6th amongst men. Not bad. My rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass alcohol-allergic runner of indeterminate age= 2nd place overall.

I told her of her placement and there was an immediate dismay in her eyes, which (I'm assuming) had nothing to do with my spandex. She asked by how much she lost. Luckily, I did look this up. Mostly because I wanted to see by how much I lost and by how much I got chicked. A brief mental math moment later told her about 2 minutes. She relaxed. "Phew, I thought that bike blunder cost me the win."

Later on, while perusing the internets, searching for something to keep me occupied, I looked up the race results. I do this after every race and scrutinize the performance. Then, I did something I have never done in the past. I searched for one of my competitors. Guess who? Sure enough, and I'm at least 58% sure of this, my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass alcohol-allergic runner of indeterminate age is a professional triathlete. Here's a link to her website, from which I usurped her picture. I'll be rooting for her in the future.

Let's add this to the reasons I love triathlon. No other sport on the planet allows for a rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass alcohol-allergic runner turned professional triathlete of indeterminate age to commingle, ask questions, and embarrass on the course with riffraff like me in a podunk local race in the middle of nowhere NY. I'm only left wondering if she can swim...

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