Yesterday morning, I did something I never thought I’d do (and that’s not going out of bed, thank you): I ran a triathlon. Granted, it was an extra short one (300m swimming, 6km cycling, 2,5km running) but still: same time last year, I would have drowned. Then fallen off the bike. Then crawled on the not-so-clean Parisian pavement. In other words, it was a good thing I waited 37 years to do this.
That said, I very nearly died out there. First off, I barely know how to swim. Before this year, the last time I’d ever crawled was in my 20’s and that lasted 5 minutes (I was tired afterwards, and that was then). This summer, I spent an hour with my girlfriend in a pool mostly doing stupid how-long-can-you-swim-under-water-type contests, and then maybe 2 laps crawling. Far enough for that. As for biking, I did some when I was a teenager. In short, the only thing I’d been remotely training for was running, and that came last in the race, after you were all burnt up from the swimming and cycling. Easy like Sunday morning.
The triathlon started and I bolted off crawling. I didn’t know it then, but I was actually going faster than my girlfriend, who was a) also competing, b) actually knows how to crawl, c) is an all-around much better athlete than I am (if you’re reading this, hi sweetie!). Obviously, that didn’t last long: by the second lap, I was back to breast strokes and gasping for air like a newborn baby in a nuclear holocaust. I finished second to last (by some miracle, some guy was even worse at floating this than I was) and then proceeded to waste more time forgetting to pick up my shoes before cycling.
That part was sort of alright - turns out you really don’t forget how to ride a bike - but, besides tying my shoes, I’d also forgotten my water bottle. The realization slowly dawned on me as I was going up a pretty steep hill and felt all the water leave my body by every pore. When I was finally done, I climbed back down with the grace of a 58-year old with early onset arthritis, grabbed my bottle and started running off for the last stretch of the race.
Stretching being the key word here: I immediately felt that I was one wrong step away from a massive cramp - in both legs. Must have been the dehydration, or my very poor swimming technique, or the weather, but my body was telling me that it was very close to a complete emergency shutdown. So I did the only thing I could reasonably do in this situation: I slowed down. Which was brilliant anyway, since I was already fighting for the last spot (I beat one or two guys with my biking time, but my swimming made sure I had little to no chances to ever outrun them). When my girlfriend ran a full lap ahead of me, I knew I’d have to suffer some jokes. That’s OK: I love humor.
When the ordeal was finally over and I had finished catching my breath - a good 15 minutes - I checked the scoreboard:
Me: Wait… I’m not last!
Girlfriend: But you are…
Me: Look, there’s a guy who’s behind me in this wave! I race in 35’, he raced in 59’…
Girlfriend: 59’? That’s not possible. My grandmother would do better than that, and she’s in a wheelchair. With arthritis.
Me: I don’t know what to tell you…
Girlfriend: I do, actually - that guy didn’t show up.
Girlfriend: So the only person you beat didn’t actually compete.
Me: Still, I’m not last!
Always focus on the upside.