Finishing a Triathlon
Yes, I've done it, once. I have a photo (see right) and a tee-shirt to prove it!
Let me give a little back story here. Several A few years ago I worked for a corporation that was big on achievement and teambuilding. When it was announced that we would be participating in this event, I really could not say no. (I mean if I valued my job I couldn’t say no.).The people who know me know that I have a physique that would make the Pillsbury dough boy jealous. My fine, honed body was the result of a lifetime of eating bread, pizza, pasta and drinking beer. Together with a sedentary job and being a dedicated couch potato, I was a dubious candidate for this event. But I decided to try it anyway.
The particular triathlon I was to compete in consisted of swimming a mile and a half, biking 12 miles, and then running 3 miles. There was about three months between the time I signed up for this event and the actual event. I thought it might be a good idea to train for it. My training consisted of occasionally walking around the neighborhood and lightly jogging on the treadmill while I was watching Red Sox games.
As the day of the event approached, I felt confident about my chances. Since several coworkers were also to participate in this, I was not alone.
Wait, I’m being a little disingenuous here. It’s time I told the truth. I didn’t do the entire triathlon. I teamed up with two coworkers and it was agreed that they be responsible for the swimming and biking legs of the event, and I would take the three-mile run. Since the three-mile run is the final leg of the event, I’m not lying (technically) when I say I finished a triathlon!
The event took place at Fort Devens, MA in August 2006. The first event was the mile and a half swim. The person who did this was not exactly Mark Spitz!. We could tell right when he jumped in the water that he was going to have a hard time. He was near last place toward the end of the race. He apparently told the people in the rescue boats that he could not continue. They laughed and told him to stand up and walk the rest of the way. He was in 3 feet of water. At its deepest point, the lake was four a half feet deep. Since he was 6 feet tall, he was in no danger at all. But by the time he got out of the water and passed the baton to the bike rider, we were running near last place. She had mentioned to me previously that since it was such a nice day she was going to just take a “leisurely” bike ride, not push to the finish. I did not think this is such a great idea since we were so far behind. I told her this, but my suggestion fell on deaf ears.
As she left the parking lot that was adjacent to the beach. I could not help but think that we were a lot of trouble. I sat there and watched as, one by one, the individual competitors and other teams arrived on their bikes and began their three-mile run. After a while, there was only a few people left in the parking lot waiting to start the next leg. They were the most motley collection of couch potatoes and out of shape people I’ve ever seen. (Truth be told, they were probably thinking the same thing about me!) I spotted one person and thought “there was no way I was going to lose to him.” But his teammate arrived on his bike and off he went.
Finally, my teammate arrived and I sprinted off to catch the person who was my target and had left several minutes earlier. I was to find out just how long 3 miles could be if I wasn’t driving in a car.
I had gone about a half-mile and hit the wall. Experienced runners talk about breaking through this wall and experiencing the runner’s high. I did not have this sensation. I just wanted to run into the woods and lie down. Just as I was contemplating sitting down on the curb, I went over a crest and saw that person in front of me. He looked like he was having a worse time with the run than me. I had a slight adrenaline rush and increase my speed to catch him. I finally caught up with him about a mile later and passed him. He sneered at me as I ran by. A few hundred yards after I passed him, I saw another person having a hard time. And as with the last person, I made it my intention to pass her. She made it very easy for me. A short distance later she sat down on the curb and I passed her with ease.
After what seemed like several hours of hell, I entered the final leg of the run. I was surprised to see several coworkers cheering me on from the side, and three or four who were going to run the final distance with me. At the time, I thought it was a nice gesture, but when I thought about it afterwards it occurred to me that I was the last person in our group and they wanted to finish it and get to the cookout another coworker was having.
Knowing that the end was in sight and bolstered by the support I was getting, I got another adrenaline rush. My ego would not let me just limp across the finish line. My supporters stopped running about 50 yards from the finish to allow me to cross the line myself, I broke into a near sprint for the finish line. I crossed the line into huge sense of relief hit me. Someone gave me a bottle of water and a T-shirt. Despite several warnings to stay up and walk, I decided to lie down and close my eyes for a minute. In what could’ve been a minute, 15 minutes or an hour, I rested. I awoke to the most horrible smell I have ever experienced. Someone was in my face and asking me if I wanted a piece of pizza. I could not refuse fast enough. My stomach felt worse than it had a long, long time. It occurred to me that they were dozens of pizzas at the finish line and the aroma was making me sicker. Real athletes were eating them and socializing with each other. I wanted no part of this. I just wanted to get out. I looked around for my teammates and friends, and could not find them. I later learned they had left as soon as I crossed the finish line and thought I was following them. I decided to get my car and go home. And then the horror hit me: I was parked in lot at least a mile away!
I started to walk (slowly) to my car. Then, just as I was contemplating getting down on all fours and crawling the rest of the way, a coworker (who had done the entire triathlon by himself with a respectable time ) drove by, picked me up and dropped me off at my car.
As I drove home, I felt slightly better, and I decided to go to the cookout. It was a nice party. I think I had four waters, half a beer, and half a hotdog. Food and me were not getting along well that afternoon. When I got home I took a shower, lay on the couch for a while and went to bed. I woke up the next morning, stiff, and in pain.
The discomfort went away after a few days. When I went back to work on Monday morning I found out we did not finished dead last. Close but not dead last. My time in the run however was in the middle of the pack. Not bad for a non athlete. However, most of the people I competed against had already swan 1 ½ and biked 12 miles. People had a sense of accomplishment to what they had done on Saturday and I shared in it. It taught me I could do anything I put my mind to. It also reminded me that real hard physical activity could hurt. I hadn’t done anything like this since I was 17. Because of the pain. I got out of the habit of exercising for several months and it was harder to get back into it.
I still have the T-shirt and I wear it occasionally around the house and to bed. When my son saw it, he was astonished that I had finished a triathlon. I haven’t told him the whole story but I didn't lie about it to him either.