People have been stopping me in the street lately, asking me if I shut my blog down because I never made it past the Finish line in the triathlon and couldn’t take the cybershame. It’s a fair question, especially since the only thing my mum repeatedly asked me about the whole event was, “Will there be ambulances there?” The truth of the matter is that ever since making it across the finish line of the triathlon, I have been studiously lazy. I’ve been lounging, safe in the knowledge that with two labours and a triathlon under my belt, I never have to exercise again.
For those of you who followed this blog through its days of rigorous triathlon training, it must have been like the time Frank read a 500 page novel whilst backpacking with his friends, oblivious to the fact that they had long ago ripped out the final 4 pages. I can now reveal the missing ending of my triathlon saga, a story that begins 48 hours before the race, with an unexpectedly professional phonecall from my good friend, Rohan. “Right, what are you eating?” she opened with, before I could get a hello in, a question which implied she’d had some kind of futuristic video messaging app installed her end which I hadn’t been made privy to. “What?” I replied, playing for time, and trying to sound like I wasn’t chewing. “Everything you eat from now until the race has to include carbs. You have to carb load,” she said, with an air of Jillian Michaels that I was finding exciting. I promised to carb load at every opportunity for the next 48 hours, only to find out that I already do that anyway. My diet didn’t change one iota. Jillian Michaels and/or Rohan will have a field day when they find that out.
I showed up to the pre-race meeting to listen to an hour’s worth of course information and event rules. I felt a bit like I’d wandered into the Olympic Village without a security pass, but nobody had noticed yet. I felt like that, I should say, until I glanced to my right during the speeches, and saw my neighbour. She was staring the course organiser right in the eye, listening intently, as she shovelled handful after handful of Miss Vickie’s chips into her mouth. It was an hour-long production line – she never faltered – and the chip packet she’d brought along for the meeting was the size of a small sleeping bag. I absolutely loved sitting next to her: she was so confidently non-triathletey. Her incongruity reminded me of that Farside cartoon of the Positive Self-Image Seminar, where the speaker is taking questions from the crowd, and saying, “Let’s hear from that fat guy at the back with the thick glasses.” Whether or not she was taking carb loading to a whole new level, there was something very calming about sitting next to that woman.
My calm didn’t last. By 6am on race day my adrenalin was flowing like a fast-paced river. That might account for why I managed to swim like a rocket in the first leg: I think it was nerves. I took off at a cracking pace, which is an interesting decision when you can’t see anything. On lap 1 I swam right up onto the stomach of a large lady doing a slow backstroke. I was like a seal, beaching.
Having made it out of the water, I ran far too fast up the beach and into the transition zone, where I grappled for about 15 minutes with clothes that wouldn’t go onto wet skin, all the while breathing like a hoover. I definitely used up vital glycaemic stores trying to get my sports bra to unroll out of its tight, wet line of cloth and get into position, so that I could actually consider getting onto my bike. I also remember being gutted that my felt tip number on my arm had rubbed off on my wetsuit – I only entered the triathlon to get the felt tip numbers. I would later draw it on again in a black felt-tip from Olive’s colouring bag.
I had a good lead on the pack after my uncharacteristically dynamite swim, a lead I held onto for about 7 minutes until 55 people overtook me on their bikes. The only person I managed to pass on the bike leg had a puncture and was limping it home. As the 38th person blazed past me with a demoralisingly cheery, “On your left!”, I started to check for rocket fuel coming off the back of them because seriously, my car doesn’t go the speed of most of those cyclists.
There was a moment of horror for me when I jumped off my bike and began running, where I realised that actually my legs weren’t moving, only my arms were. I was toast. My calf muscles were cramping up, and I had to keep stopping near bins to stretch my feet upwards against them. They were the kind of stretches that meant I had to put my face almost into the bin while I took big, deep breaths. That didn’t help. As I rounded the corner towards Safeways, I was overtaken by a family of 4 walking their Yorkshire terrier. The father glanced back, probably to double check that I actually had a number on my chest, and was a registered racer. He looked sympathetic, and confused. My own family were loyally cheering me on from the bridge, and must have seen me coming 15 minutes before I actually reached them. I’m pretty sure neither of my children have seen the movie ‘Dawn of the Dead’ yet, but I think the sight of me lurching towards them at zombie pace, gritting my teeth, might have been quite the preview. As I passed my son, he stuck his little hand out for a high five which caused me to do a massive sheep-bray-sob-heave, which I’m really thankful the photographer didn’t capture. From that point, though, I have to say I rallied, and I finished the race looking deceptively at ease. And that, after all, is the main thing.
The day after the triathlon I went wakeboarding. Didn’t everyone? I’ve never been wakeboarding before, but apparently I am Olympic and not a day past 19, so being pulled at 500,000 horsepower, face-down, holding a rope shouldn’t really be a problem. The day after the wakeboarding, I found I couldn’t walk, and that lasted for 7 days. From triathlon to unable to move in 24 hours. Who else of my felt-tipped brethren can say they did that? See, I knew I was a record-breaker.