Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | May 21, 2010

The Tri-ing Game

I have really done it this time.  Granted, I have suffered post-sign-up regret in the past. The running relay across Florida, the Chicago Marathon, every race that started before 9 AM, the Tyranena Beer Run (which required us to drive to the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, just for a half marathon).  These are all things that I signed up for and then thought “Why the hell am I doing this to myself? Why don’t I just stay home, sleep in and go for a little bike ride when I wake up?”  But in the end, they all worked out fine, and they were, for the most part, very fun.  (Although some of those early race starts are truly awful.)  But this, well this is different.  This is a triathlon. An early-season triathlon.  Which means the weather could be absolutely horrendous.  It is Chicago. Heck, it could even snow. Stranger things have happened.

It could be pouring rain. It could be as low as the 40s for air temps, pretty darn cold for a bike ride.  And then there is the swim.  The lovely swim. If I am lucky, the water temp will be 60.  Yes, I can wear a wetsuit, but feet, hands, and face are still exposed. What’s more, that chilly water will find every available entry point and slowly run its frigid bony hand down my back.

I feel a little bit like Stephen Rea’s character regarding his relationship with Jaye Davidson’s character in The Crying Game: I thought I knew what I was getting into, but it turns out I was wrong.  Very wrong. I pictured a warm summer afternoon, taking a little swim, then a quick bike ride and a short run. Easy.  Sort of like a relaxing vacation day at a nice resort.  Maybe a guy would even bring me a drink with an umbrella when I was done.  Perhaps a massage afterwards.

As it turns out, it is cloudy, rainy, foggy, and the lake has been hovering at 58 degrees (current reading says 60, but I am skeptical).  What’s more, this whole triathlon thing is very complicated. The equipment alone is almost too much to think about.  Wetsuit, cap, goggles, bike, helmet, jacket, biking shoes, socks, running shoes, race belt, hat, timing chip, race number, Gatorade, Cliff Shots, Nuun.  And that is just the basic stuff, not the back up stuff.  I spent much of yesterday transforming the living room into a pile of athletic equipment, which I then divided and packed. I am exhausted already.  It would be so much easier to throw in the towel, stay home, make a pot of coffee and read the paper.

But just like Rea’s character stayed with Davidson’s character, I am going to stick it out. Let’s hope it is worth it. (NB: Rea’s character ended up in jail. Just sayin’.)


  1. Hi Sue,
    Loved the Tri post. I can completely identify with the “this is a bad idea” morning jitters. I did my first Triathlon this Spring in Florida (you know, that place you thought you should have visited when you went to Vietnam instead…think of the missed opportunities to super size your fries but that’s another story). My head was spinning with all of the advice I got on my “transitions” (isn’t it enough just to swim, bike and run?). Advice ranged from a water tray to wash feet (helpful) to elaborate schemes for mounting/dismounting that would make a NASCAR pit crew proud (not helpful). We were at the site before dawn–howling wind, trying to organize equipment in the dark (that part wasn’t in “Triathlons for Dummies”). Water temps warmer than Chicago (70) but the locals were zipped up head to toe in their best Jacques Cousteau attire. Organizers screaming at us to get “marked” and warning of the imminent shutdown of the “transition area”. Definitely the “this is a bad idea” part of the sequence. I was with another first-timer. We agreed that it was possible to die during the swim and solemnly bid each other “good luck” as we set off to our different “waves” (we might not see each other again, after all). Ok–I survived, thanks to the fact that they don’t dock you points for doing the breast stroke while you are trying to get out from under the person who just swam over you and they don’t laugh when you swim right into one of the marker buoys. Great experience–hope your race went well.

  2. Hey Jim, Glad I am not the only one who feels like this! I finally decided just to go with simple, obtainable goals, like “don’t drown,” “just try to cross the finish line – at some point – preferably the day of the race.” So what if my transition times take longer than a rerun episode of Gilligan’s Island?

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