Sunday, June 15, 2008

And the race is on.....

After standing around for hours, now all of a sudden it’s chop-chop, get moving, ándale. Since I’m not a duathlete myself, all of this has a rather Mickey-Mouse quality to it, whereby we line up rather haphazardly by our waves, and the time-person just tells us when to go. One good thing is that since there’s no swim, I now get to wear my glittery Birthday Girl sash for the whole race; one bad thing is that when our wave starts, I’m still fiddling with the sash, which starts to fall off after I start running so I have to slow to an even more glacial pace to tuck it into my tri-top. Note to self: next year, practice running with birthday sash.

I quickly start to feel even more lumpen and plodding than usual, since I had lined up at the very back of our pack, and did NOT, as a matter of fact, start passing people, picking them off one by one. Surprise that. I get quite a few “happy birthdays!”, which is always fun, and an offer of a shot of alcohol from 3 spectators, which I decline only because they look like errant fishermen who might have wandered over and might very well be offering a shot of cheap rotgut whiskey. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In any case, I soon have bigger fish to fry......or rather, bigger geese. Yes, as the race goes through the state park, out of the corner of my eye I see Goose Family, rather determinedly bulldozing their way right towards me. I do a quick calculation and predict that with the way I’m running and the way they’re waddling, their trajectory will put them smack my path. Somehow I don’t calculate quickly enough to avoid this, and lo and behold, suddenly I’m stopped in my tracks as Papa Goose is shepherding his band of merry adolescent goslings, and Mama Goose stops right in front of me in the middle of the path, ruffles her wings at me, and hisses. Yes, hisses. It’s like the Aflac duck come to life, if the Aflac duck were a goose. A big huge hissing goose.

I stop and look at this spectacle with something akin to astonishment, and when I dare to take a step forward, Killer Mama Goose also takes a step towards me, flaps those wings, and hisses again. Now, I’m certainly not scared of a goose, but the amusement factor is pretty high here, and far be it from me to traumatize the goslings for life by, say, encouraging them to hustle along. Still, this is a bit much.

“Oh come now,” I proclaim to MG. “This is a bit much, don’t you think?”


Unfortunately, as determined as MG is to keep me in check, that’s how determined her family is to lollygag. In fact, they’re kind of the avian version of, well, me on a long bike ride. Easily distracted: “oh look, a butterfly! Oh look, a dandelion puff on the wind!” You get the idea.

Finally the gosling parade has passed, and now that I’ve TOTALLY lost my rhythm, I finish the first run, which, quite frankly, sucks. How am I supposed to run quickly without the swim and bike as a warmup? I’m just sayin’.

On to the bike, which is uneventful except for the fact that I could have walked my bike around the corners more quickly, compared to how slowly I went around them because of the wet road and gravel. I finally started to pick up decent speed at about mile 11, but then slowed when I saw a CTCer by the side of the road with a technical problem. The motorcycle helper person was already there so I’m not sure why I practically came to a complete stop, but the duathlon thing was still fooling me into thinking this wasn’t a “real” race. Clearly, between the corners, the slowing down, and of course the wind drag from the sash, that right there added a good 20 minutes or so to what would have been my bike time, I’m sure.

Finally, the “real” run. I believe most of the club had already finished, changed, gone to Steak ‘N Shake and made it back to the course for the award ceremony by the time I started my run, but I’m used to this. While I greatly appreciated the people who spontaneously broke out into the Happy Birthday song, I was also rather appalled to see so many people drafting on the run. I tried yelling at them, to let them know that their grievous offense wasn’t going unnoticed, but they either ignored me or just looked puzzled at my call of “Hey, no drafting!” After stopping to pet a spectator’s cute little dog (note to self: FOCUS!), I then decided it was time to up my game, so to speak, and as part of that, if it meant joining the ranks of the cheaters, then so be it. So in the final stretch of the course right before the run to the finish line, I tucked in behind a group of 4 guys, Tri-Sharkers I believe, and told them about my newfound keen drafting abilities. When I mentioned that I had learned this technique from watching the “Race for the Rabid” episode of The Office, one of them got it and laughed uproariously, though of course he didn’t realize that I was using this technique in earnest. This advantage was soon snatched away from me, however, when at the final stretch they all stopped briefly and waved me on – “After you, Birthday Girl!” Curses! Foiled again! Nevertheless, I thanked them and finished strong as always, coming in last out of my age group but winning the moral victory.

Later during the award ceremony, Colleen and Bridget and I were standing by and chatting with a woman whose bike we held when she went up to pick up her award in the 45-49 age group, and when she got back, she asked us what we do “with all your trophies, where do you put them?” Colleen noted that this was generally not a problem for us, but for some reason, when I noted that this was a constant dilemma of mine, what to do with MY trophies, the woman started laughing. A bit too hard. And when I tell her that no, really, she doesn't have to laugh THAT hard, she almost falls over from the subsequent paroxysms of laughter, clutching her side helplessly. I hope she doesn’t mind that when she wasn’t looking, I snuck a dead minnow into her Bento box. Oops, hate it when that accidentally happens.

The aftermath – the next day

So after getting back to Chicago, I call Colleen to chat about something or other, important issues like the plight of the endangered snapping turtle and its shrinking habitat. Colleen clearly has other things on her mind.

Colleen: “So, how crappy do you feel about your race? Not that you should,” she adds. “Technically. We all have crappy race days. Some of us more than others. In fact, for some of us, meaning you, not “us” actually, life is made up of one crappy race day after another, so you reall....”
Me: “STOP!”
Colleen: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you had a crappy race or anything, just that, you know, how’s that training coming along, anyway? Hey, how ‘bout them Blackhawks? Kane, the Calder Cup and all tha.....”
Me: “My training is FINE, just fine, thankyouverymuch. And my race wasn’t crappy, I just don’t get warmed up on the bike until miles 10-12, so doing a sprint with a 13-mile bike ride probably isn’t the biggest confidence-booster for me. I’m thinking I need to just start doing more speedwork or somethi....”
Colleen, interrupting: “Oh nooo, you don’t want to do any speedwork. No no no. I think you should just concentrate on those base miles, the long rides, putting in lots and lots of more miles, LOTS of miles, miles upon miles, base stuff, you know, time in the saddle, TITS...”
Me, trying to get a word in edgewise: “Well, I don’t mean speedwork per se, but more like interval traini....”
Colleen, continuing unabated like a steam locomotive barreling through a small Wisconsin mining town: “....yep, that’s what I see for you, just getting out there for many hours at a time, get going on the training, putting in the long miles....”
Me: “But I think tha....”
Colleen, Rainman-like in her persistence: “...nope, no speedwork, not necessary at all, just the loooong....”
Me: “But I....”
Colleen: “...rides and many miles and I probably can’t emphasize this enough, that the really long rides, the base stuff is......”
Me: “But....”
Colleen: “.....what you need now, you’re not getting any younger and you really need to get used to those long rides and...”
Me: “Bu...”
Colleen: “....just keep riding and building that base, yep, that’s....”
Me: “B....”
Colleen: “ I see things unfolding. Oh, were you trying to say something?”
Me, sighing: “Nooo.....”

Then, to top things off, I get a call from Deanna.

Deanna: “Hey, how was your birthday? It wasn’t windy, was it? Windy like it was for me, biking as I did those grueling 108 miles yesterday and 99 miles today, all uphill, but of course I spun up the hills because I’m tiny in spite of the howling winds and torrential downpour and I think even locusts. But none of that stopped me, no way. Anyway, your birthday, did you have fun?”
Me: “Well, I’d say it.....”
Deanna: “I mean of course it couldn’t be as much fun as my weekend of hardcore biking, naturally, but fun in your “little people” kind of way. Didn’t you have a little sprint race or something? (giggling) Like 13 miles on the bike or something? Are you hurting today?”
Me: “I have to go – my bulk shipment of compression socks just came in. Make sure you stop by my place on your way back into the city, okay?”

Then that night, I go out with my mom and grandmother to dinner out in Huntley, and on the way back to her place, I’m idly looking out the car window when I start to see little signs on the road in rapid succession. As I start reading them, I presume that someone has put them up for a friend, for some kind of celebration.

Quite a gal
And very sporty

Today that ends

When she turns 40


Burma-shave? BURMA-SHAVE??! Now, YOU tell me that there isn’t some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy, with someone out there putting signs for a company that went out of business long ago on some wee dark country road that just happens to be my mom’s new shortcut route from Huntley to The Hell That is Randall Road and back. Little signs that mock my age and lack of sportiness in one fell swoop. And no, I am not MSUing.

And the final insult – I get home, and get the Facebook email from the “Compare People” application, which yet again, throws this in my face - that every single fricking time I get it it tells me the same thing – I’m consistently voted as “least tech-savvy” and “least athletic.” Will the humiliation ever end?

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