I do not know what is happening.
About a month ago at dinner The Yankee says “I have a crazy idea for you.” This turned out to be “Let’s run a reverse triathlon.”
She’s a good swimmer. We’re both middlingly average cyclists. Neither is much of a runner. So that’s why we’ve recently been running. The trail near us, I mentioned, is safely removed from the road and conveniently measured at 5K. She did four installments on the Couch to 5K plan. I did three. We realized the kinds of in-shape we are does not fall under the “running” category. I also learned this same lesson over my three recent swimming adventures. On the basis of three runs and three swims, and not really knowing how my shoulder would feel about the whole thing anyway, I decided last night to run a triathlon.
We load up the bikes at about 4:45 this morning and head to the nearby Army installation where this will be held. We’ve read that it is a good race for beginners and for people just starting their training for the year. It is mostly flat and typically casual. Those were good things, both in our rationalization and in practice.
A reverse tri, as you might imagine, is done in the opposite order — running, then cycling, then swimming. She thought this would be good because we could get the worst part out of the way. So we start the run at 8:01 — which is a time I’d forgotten occurs on a Saturday. All of the military members, who run everywhere constantly, and the serious athletes take off at an inspirational clip. There’s one small hill to climb on the run, and that’s only a block into the thing.
I make it about a mile before my legs started to bother me. Told you I wasn’t much of a runner. Cramps in the calves tend to slow anyone down, though, so I took it in a limping stride through the rest of the 5K. The running-shuffling-fast walking thing was no fun, but I focused on the upcoming bike leg and before long there we were, changing shoes and chasing people down on wheels.
Which we did. I was happy to pass a lot of people on the bike. My calf complaints disappeared. I couldn’t figure out why my left hip felt numb. But the first half of the route I had a personal best pace. This without trying overly hard because after a 5K run-shuffle and a 20K ride I still had the matter of swimming to do. And I’ve never done all of these things before in one day, so I was consciously trying to save a little bit of energy.
Here was the bike route, which featured one section that made me feel like an actual, competent cyclist:
Got off the bike and realized I couldn’t put any weight on my right foot. I am standing there with one sock on. If I sit down I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand up. I contemplate swimming in a sock. But somehow, I forget already how, the problem was resolved and I made my way to the pool. This transition was long enough for someone who I caught on the first leg of the bike route to catch me again. I was nominated as the inaugural president of the “Runs like garbage but can ride a bike” club.
I take it as a high honor.
The pool was cold. The Yankee — who was also competing in her first triathlon and nursing some aches and pains herself — said it felt great, like an ice bath. The last part was true.
She got in the ice bath and had a fine swim. No one passed her. No one passed her on the bike, either, except me, and we just took turns going by one another. In the pool, though, I just scooted along with a breast stroke and a side stroke since I can’t freestyle very well with my shoulder, which felt good throughout the day.
We didn’t win any prizes — this time — but she was awesome. And we each achieved our individual goals.
I wanted to finish the triathlon and physically feel decent when I did. That was the real one. The silly, made-up-this morning ones included not being the last guy to finish. I also didn’t want to be the last guy in my age group. I didn’t want all of the girls to beat me. And I achieved all of those things. The other important goal was to establish a baseline. Now I have a number to improve upon, should I ever do this again.
The run was terrible, and something to work on, but everything else was pretty decent, considering.
The volunteers were all nice and encouraging. This sort of thing actually helped: “Go anonymous person I’ll never see or think about after finishing this sentence; you are doing a great job, which is to say we haven’t called the ambulance on you thus far, despite your inherent struggles as reflected in how many people are in front of you and your overall pace!”
I was surprised.
And by this, too: I think I want to do another triathlon.
Now we have this open question: How many triathlons must one complete to be considered a triathlete?