Its All About the Bike
And so ends my 2006 Triathlon season
A year ago, I was excited, I was happy, I was victorious. It was moments after the 2005 New York City Olympic Triathlon, and I crossed the finish line 2:30:51 after I started and I was screaming with joy.
Not only was I a finisher, I was faster than I ever imagined, and I came in several minutes in front of my most dogged competitor, my cousin George. He beat me in the swim but then I took him on the bike and the run.
Fast forward a year and oh how times have changed.
This year, Cousin George upgraded his equipment, starting with his bicycle. He didn’t just any bicycle; he bought a all-carbon fiber Quantana Roo – a state in Mexico, a state of speed, a state of $3,000 dollars to improve his bike time.
This year we also changed the race venue. New York City was out, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania was in. The Pittsburgh Triathlon and Adventure Race to be exact, and it was another Olympic distance race.
It was not my finest hour, standing there at the start line. I was out of shape, having spent June wandering through Taiwan, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. July was something like training, but not really, and here it was Sunday, August 6, 2006 and time to race.
Waiting for the start gun, I was also out of mental shape. Triathlon training for the second year in a row had taken its toll. The thrill of 2005 was gone. The challenge of an Olympic distance was out. Even Pittsburgh was not exotic; I’ve spent my time in Squirrel Hills before.
Nevertheless, into the Alleghany River I dove, and upstream(!) I swam to the bridge that marked the turnaround. Back downstream, or was it upstream? It sure felt dogged no matter which way I swam. Exiting the river, I was exhausted, and even worse, bored.
I knew what lay ahead, I knew I wasn’t ready, and yet onward I went. Onto the bike, out on I-279 I went. Pedaling uphill towards the Perrysville Park-and-Ride turnaround, I ground my gears burned my thighs, and mainly just endured. This course was not as populated as New York City, not a curvy, not as fun.
It did have a crazy course captain in a bright red devils outfit and more DC Tri Club teammates that I’d seen before, but they helped little in my mental and physical drain. I just hoped for the pain to end.
Eventually the bike did end and I was in the run. Feeling good, I started strong and passed many. My euphoria was high, my speed good, my pleasure deep for the first half of the run. Once at the turnaround, everything went pear shaped in warp speed. Reaching for the Gatorade at the 6km water station, my had went numb, my sweat stopped, my core temperature shot up.
This was my body’s oh-so-subtle way of telling me to walk, of saying I was out of energy, that my race was done. Humbled, and then belittled by those that passed me, I walked the next mile. A walk of pain, a walk of shame, a walk of bonk.
I did run again, but not like before. Gone was fun, gone was pleasure, gone was even care. This was my Pittsburgh slog and all I wanted was the finish line. Even there I was denied, second to the runner pacing behind me most of the run.
Second also to Cousin George. He beat me, he trounced me, he won by a full minute and change. 64 seconds, 64 lifetimes, he finished the Pittsburgh Triathlon and Adventure race before me. Cousin George, fourteen years my senior, schooling my punk-ass in the art of endurance.
Yeah, that’s it, I love triathlons no more. Second – that’s first of the losers. First to know how close the loss, first to repeat that time for another year, first to look to another sport.