I don’t think in my life I have often come across a situation where I felt the statement “far greater than the sum of its parts” was especially applicable, with perhaps the exception of team sports but that is sort of a gimme (regardless of the talents of each individual, the team that fails to play well holistically will never achieve success.
I found one such experience on Sunday. The Buffalo Triathlon.
Pre-race: I had to leave the house at 5:30 AM. On my weekend. It was raining. And unseasonably cold. We got sort of lost on the way– not really, but a little. Check-in went off with out a hitch until around 7 when I had to get close to naked (in the freezing cold) so they could mark me (race number on all four limbs and age and gender on one leg). They used magic marker. That still hasn’t washed off. Muscles were absolutely locked with nerves and fighting the cold.
The swim: 70 degree water is in no way, shape, or form a comfortable swimming experience. Especially with a 50 degree air temperature. To say that first leap under water was a shock is a bit of an understatement. And while the wetsuit rental may be the best investment I have made in a long time, it sorta seemed like putting a band-aid over a severed limb. I have no idea what that water would have felt like sans wetsuit, and I never never want to know. And now, I am not a real strong swimmer, so I knew this was likely to be a weak event, but it would have been nice if Flounder McCan’t-Swim would have thrashed wildly in HIS OWN part of the lake while I tried to race, instead of stopping right in front of me all the time. Bonus points for the swim: no one kicked me in the face, or anywhere else for that matter.
Transition 1: Not bad, but slow. I needed to take some time and orient myself to the bike and put the swim behind me. But almost five minutes to put on shoes and socks is kind of ridiculous.
The Bike: I dropped the F-bomb on the course. I will admit, I occasionally swear to add effect to a story or as a more intense expressions of some emotion, but I rarely swear amongst strangers at a family-friendly sporting event. However, facing the SEVENTH mega-hill on the course, I let her slip. Some other interesting things happened during the bike: my left butt cheek cramped, but only the left and then I developed a cramp so severe in my right calf that a baseball-sized lump of muscle was bulging out of my lower leg for a solid 6 miles. I really love my pink and purple bike, and I am glad we finished my first tri together, but she can never be in another race. Never. Consider the ’93 Specialized formally retired from sport. Also noted: being wet from the swim and then biking makes me doubly cold.
Transition 2: Erik reminded me to drink on my way into the second transition. So I downed some of the drink I made from a ziploc baggy of white powder he gave me. I am sure it is drugs and the doping authorities are after me, but it tastes like oranges and cream. Discovered that one of my earbuds was broken, but I could still pump some run-your-face-off music in one ear.
The Run: Rubber chicken legs for at least 1 mile. The desire to puke also happened right around Mi. 1.5. Luckily, this never came to fruition. Spilled fruit drink down my front on approximately 3 occasions. Discovered it is surprisingly difficult to run, grab a cup, bring it to your lips, and swallow gracefully. By drink station 4 I just opened my mouth wide and tossed the contents of the cup in the general direction of my face. The run was surprisingly good. I actually tied my best 5K time, so that was pretty darn cool.
Post-race: The moment movement ceased, every muscle locked. 3 hot showers and an hour in the hot tub only relieved this slightly. The following is a list of things that are extremely difficult to do in my current physical condition: get in and out of bed, sleep, sit still for more than 20 minutes, step over the bathtub ledge into the shower, put on my shirt, lift a half-gallon of milk, grip things tightly, bend over or squat (basically the only way to get low to the ground is to simply fall there), and even looking at a staircase makes my eye twitch. I didn’t feel warm again for a sold six hours after leaving the race. With every new activity a new soreness, stiffness, or pain is discovered.
So, given all of this information, the summary of the triathlon? It was amazing! Incredible! A huge rush and major accomplishment! Truly an experience greater than the sum of its parts. It was great to run with my sister, the fans and volunteers were incredible, the other athletes were supportive and excited to have first-timers out there, and the post-race meal was hot. I had the time of my life and I can’t wait to run another one. Maybe not until Buffalo 2010 though, as I feel like it might take 365 days to recover.