Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Cowbell!

Or: Erica's First Triathlon

For starters, I still struggle to say tri-ATH-lon and not tri-ath-A-lon.  

But this morning, after a 4:15am alarm and only two cups of coffee (!), I was there to play my small supporting role as my lovely wife embarked on her first triathlon.  I was there as bike technician (which never extended beyond ensuring proper tire inflation - a good thing since my bike technician skills extend only a hair's breadth beyond this basic task), wetsuit tugger (they never showed that part in the old Jacues Cousteau specials on PBS), photographer, and 50% of her cheering section.  

I'll skip the race details.  For that, read Erica's blog.  She was the one doing it, after all.  I just got to watch.

But I'll tell you one thing: it was fun.  Way more fun than I expected.  Something was always going on - someone was hitting their T1 or T2 or else crossing the finishing line.  And everyone was there to support and cheer.  Triathlon, except for the very most elite levels, is a sport of the PB's: Personal Bests.  

Well, as an aside, this is my first triathlon as technician/tugger/photographer/fan so I have no idea how things will get at higher profile or co-ed events.  Something tells me that the guys will manage to make it a whole lot more, well, manly and competitive.  

But, back to the happy joy of Five Mile Lake.  Here it seemed that everyone knew that supporting another participant wasn't going to hurt their own performance.  Triathlon isn't zero-sum.  You don't do better by out-gaming your opponent, trash talking their equipment ("Titanium, huh?  You don't think that's kind of 90's do you?"), talking up your game ("So Lance and I were having some beers the other day..."), or any of the first-tee crap that seems to infest some other sports.  The net result was 300-some happy women all out to push their bodies and their hearts as far as they could.  Women with the easy physicality of those still in high-school.  Women who were in their 70's.  Women wearing oversized wetsuits and women with bodyfat levels hovering just above (or perhaps below) the danger line.  Women riding $6,000 Cervelo's and women riding comfort cruisers with platform pedals and sprung seats.

Just about the only drawback was a tedious DJ spinning an endless series of what I presume he thought were women-friendly triathlon songs.  You know, up-tempo big band stuff with a bit of 70's diva thrown in for fun.  Uh-huh.  Erica works out to Pink, Black Eyed Peas, and the like.  I prefer Guns'n'Roses, AC/DC, and that whole 1980's metal scene.  But at no point have either of us ever thought "Hey, let's put on the Charlie's Angels theme for that final push to the finish line!"  He overlaid this with an almost patronizingly hyper-empowering stream of patter that ranged from the repetitive ("You're all goddesses today!") to the frankly bizarre ("Nice purple there, number 829.  Did you know purple is a very high vibrating color associated with the 7th Chakra?").

Eh?  Perhaps its because my approach to workout motivation leans more to visualizing scenes from Band of Brothers than to thinking about the planar elevation of my inner being, but this just kept coming at me from some other place.  

But put that aside, don't mind my carping, and just remember this: never forget the value of giving some of your time to help a love one chase down a dream of a goal.

Now like I said - if you want the grueling details, read Erica's blog.  But I'll tell you this - she kicked ass.  Well inside her target time, even inside the time I thought she'd post.  And she came across the finish line glowing and delighted.

And I felt as proud of her as I ever have.  So this one's for you, my love. 

And the cowbell reference?  Its a cycling thing.  People lining the course at the great European races (by which I pretty much mean the Tour de France) ring cowbells as riders come by -- warning the next group of fans to be alert and showing support for the riders.  There were a couple of cowbell ringers on the course today, even at this small event, and besides creating a nice Continental atmosphere, it had that whole "More Cowbell" sketch from Saturday Night stuck in my head.

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