|Prior to race day, Wolf Lake looks inviting to triathletes-in-training.|
This is what was blasting through my head as I sat on a grassy field in Hammond, Indiana this morning trying to use my fingers for an array of activities required to finish Leon's "World's Fastest" Triathlon. This race is hosted in what can only be described as a post-industrial wasteland landscape of oil refineries, blocked-off highways, and low slung bungalows originally built to be inhabited by the employees of steel mills and the like.
|Kim and me, pre-race.|
When I was almost half way through the ride and I felt pretty good. Nothing amazing, but fast and strong for an old broad. As these races tend to be, lots of men, with a smattering of younger women and us hardy old souls, the tough older women. The older I get, the faster these other older women get. Amazing. Rolling up and down with major wind I was truly awe-struck by the scenery. What I would do to have my camera on this surreal route.
|Phot. Gary Cialdella (web images)|
|Michael and Jack, pre-race.|
By the time I got off my bike I was feeling fine. It wasn't until I got to the transition area that I realized that I couldn't do anything with my fingers and I couldn't feel my toes. I was freezing. Should I stop? I seriously considered this, after about three minutes fiddling with my shoes, helmet, etc., but I also realized that I had nowhere to go. Somebody else had driven us and there was no indoor space available. I would freeze, left alone with no run. So after what is considered a "pitifully long transition" I hobbled over to some folks standing around talking. I begged, "I know that this can disqualify me, but will you help me with my shoes/jacket?" As they obliged, insisting that "It's the hard days that we remember," I noticed that they were USA Triathlon Referees. Sort of funny. Actually, mostly an indicator that I was far enough behind the contenders that I would be able to accept any sort of simple help. Thus fortified with shoes, and jacket, I gave to padding along the road, wondering If the stubs that were my feet would ever turn into something worth running on. It took the better part of three miles, but I finally gained sensitivity in both my hands and feet, enabling me to actually quicken to a jog/run gait, rather than whatever soft step I had been doing for the first half of the run. I saw friend Matt first, coming in. He was having a good day, as he is poised for a great season. Matt is focused, calm, enthused.
|Matt and I, pre-race. Haggard triathletes? perhaps. Most definitely lifers.|
Instead, the three of us opted for a burger joint (chain) and we ate a little grub before heading home. Michael and Jack were discussing the logistical failings of the race, and that Leon himself was most likely out there the night before repairing weed-strewn and potholed roadways. Michael, a true-blue Chicagoan, turned to me and said, "I think it's great. This is our back yard. You saw what this place is like. It's hard times. Refineries and little houses that were built for factory workers. There's nothing going on here. But Leon gets the whole town out, cheering people on and working aid stations. These triathletes from Northside Chicago and the suburbs, this is their home, too, but they never see it. And here they are!" Yes, me too. Here I was. Another sad little town on the outskirts of the American Dream. For one day populated by five thousand dollar bikes and SUV's and Audis. As Michael said, "At least he's trying."
|Triathlete Magazine: Leon|
If there were a theme of this year, it might certainly be to put training and triathlon in the back seat. Certainly a by-product of getting older, there seems to be less and less available time, less and less energy, and, after so many years, lack of the burning desire to train at high intensities with the sort of focus that eludes me most days. I'm just happy to get out there, feel good, get it done, especially if I can keep my sense of humor, and squeeze into my try-outfit and wetsuit. So did I quit? Of course not. I muddled through, and had what I truly believe was a great race. This isn't easy, man!!! When Michael joined me to run the last mile in I didn't even realize it was him. I had seen him pacing Kim earlier and assumed he was finished. Little did I know, that our hero, the Kona Qualifier and Mench and king of cycling, had looped around and run with all of us for some time. He was in his glory. Proud of his sport, proud to be competing in a race that he completed in 1994 (wearing just a speedo), and happy to see his friends embracing a thrilling race. We are our own best friends. And we're so gifted when we are surrounded by love, courage, passion, and wit. On this crappy grey, noxious polluted day, it was all I could hope for, and I got so much more.