South Bound Part 1: Swim. Bike. Mullet.
Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Before Saturday I had never witnessed a triathlon in person, but I had a firm vision of what one would be like. Guts, sweat and glory would be played out by a cast of Daniel Craig and Jennifer Garner look-a-likes, in slow motion and soft-focus effect over a sweeping John Williams score. It turns out that It wasn’t quite that dramatic, BUT at the Flora Bama Mullet Man Triathlon this past Saturday there was plenty of gut (mostly figuratively, but a few quite literally); there was a lot of glory (a 16 year-old won second place overall); and there was plenty of sweat (both from the athletes and from me, once I fully sank into the sandy realization that it will be me out there soon. ) I don’t think I realized that being a spectator at a triathlon would be such a big part of my mental preparation. But after witnessing one in person, the triathlon is no longer a mythical entity conjured up in full cinematic effect by my overdeveloped imagination. It’s real. And I’m gonna do it.
The triathletes, although plenty of them did look like action stars, were a mixture of ages, fitness levels and experience. Cheering on both total strangers and friends as they crossed the finish line was the pinnacle moment of inspiration I’ve had since I started my training. Watching the winner of the Mullet Man come in at 1:17:26 and the first place woman come in at 1:28:35 gave me a dose of both inspiration and reality. Those two people finished the triathlon in the time it takes me to finish the bike ride. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but an equal measure of motivation to make it happen. (Note: My amazing brother-in-law rallied after a rough swim to win 2nd place in his division. So proud of him!)
There were other less emotionally oriented things that I was able to observe and learn from on Saturday; things that I hadn’t thought of up until now. The first was the swim to bike transition. My only thought until now about this transition is how uncomfortable it was going to be to bike with sand in my shoes. Making my way from the beach to the transition area, I observed that many of the triathletes had some sort of bucket to rinse their feet off in before putting on their shoes. Mental note: must get myself a bucket.
Another observation I made involved the lack of any iPods or mp3 players on the arms of the triathletes. I asked my sister, “Why isn’t anyone using an iPod? Oh, my God! Are they illegal? I won’t be able to use one in Santa Rosa?” As someone who has competed in that particular triathlon, she was able to confirm that I would in fact be disqualified if I slapped on a techo-filled iPod and went fist-pumping down the race course. Which, if you know anything about me, is in the realm of possibility. That, my friends, is a big fat bummer. However, in a moment of God doing for me what I could not do for myself, I lost my iShuffle during the trip and had to muddle through my workouts sans J.Lo introducing me to her all her party people. To my surprise, I had two of my better bike rides since the start of my training. It was a good lesson in focus, which is unfortunately not the particular F-word I’m usually throwing around.
And now for one of the most compelling lessons I took away from this weekend: I am now completely certain that I will not be clipping my shoes onto the pedals of my bike. I don’t even think that’s an option on my current bike, but even if it were, I’ll take a pass for now. How did I come to this conclusion? While watching the first wave of bikers come in, I noticed that one of them was barefoot and his shoe was dangling from his pedal. Here is the breakdown of the conversation that followed:
Me: “Look, look, look! That poor guy lost his shoe!”
Me: “Oh, my God! Those two guys lost theirs, too!”
Me: “Y’all, WHAT is happening??!?!?!!?”
The Nice Spectator Next To Me: “Honey, they meant to do that. They’re getting ready for the transition.”
Me: “Oh… Good job guys!”
My Sister: “Did you really just say that out loud?”
Me: “Have you not known me all your life?”
I know for a fact that I would cause serious injury to myself and those around me if I tried to unclip from my bike while it was still moving. Or while trying to clip myself in while not moving. In any given pedal-clipping scenario, there is a high statistical probability that points to me being on the ground and bleeding, so for my first triathlon, I will be staying firmly unclipped.
To Be Continued……
Next: South Bound Part 2: An Epic Flail
Wouldn’t be the Mullet Man Triathlon without a man. Or his mullet.
Great job, brother