Last Sunday, I interviewed a runner who had just won the woman's
division of a 10-mile road race. She told me she would've had a
better time except that she "made a wrong turn and went out of
(my) way a bit." I chuckled to myself and wondered how anyone
could make a wrong turn on a course that is marked with other runners
ahead of you.
Three hours later, I wasn't laughing. I had gone down to the site
of the triathlon I will be competing in on September 11th. I wanted
to test the bike course and get my "strategery" down, as George
Bush famously said. I wanted to know where I could cruise down
hills, the pot holes to avoid, and locate the best fast food joints
in case I get famished, which there is a good chance I will. Extra
value meal to go, please.
As I followed the directions on my printout of the course which
were barely visible to this 47-year old dude, I came to a turn I wasn't
sure of. I stopped a motorist as he was coming out of a 7-Eleven
and he told me there were two ways to get to where I wanted to go.
I, of course, took the wrong route. I went two miles out of the way,
which meant I had to come back two miles to return to the course.
A great way to start a 56-mile journey.
Pounding my way through the rolling hills of Hudson Valley, New
York, I was on a pretty good pace, or so I thought. Another cyclist
blew past me as if I was standing still. Getting passed like that is
demoralizing, but when I noticed the perfectly-defined diamond
shaped calves of the rider, I didn't feel so bad. That guy rides his
bike as often as Bruce Pearl lies, a lot. Last summer, during a
triathlon I was competing in, I was climbing a steep hill when this
woman on a pink bike peddled furiously by me. The big numbers
stained on her arm gave her age away and when I noticed a 6
and a 2 side-by-side, I almost quit right there. Big guys aren't
built for speed on a bike. I sometimes think the department of
transportation is going to tag me with a red flag and put a sign
on my back that reads, "Over size load".
There was no quiting on my Sunday ride which got supersized
to 60-miles after my earlier mistake. It was a pretty comfortable
ride until I got to the 58-mile mark. I had cotton mouth and was out
of water. I thought for sure I'd pass a convenient store, but there
were none, making them not so convenient. I spotted a pizza
joint who's name I could not pronounce or even understand.
But I'm smart enough to know when that neon sign is glowing
and says "open", that's the only thing that really matters. I
dismounted my bike and the pain strangled my body like G.I
Joe's Kung Fu grip. I let out a primal scream as if an alien was
stapled to the bottom of my stomach while pumping napalm through
my intestines. Yeah, I know. Don't tell you about the pain, just show
you the baby. This is the second consecutive week that I stopped for
a slice. It's become a tradition unlike any other for me. When I got
my slice of Sicilian pizza and 32 ounces of Gatorade, I was relieved
and in heaven.
I still had a few miles to go, but after completing the required
56 that I'll need for the race, I put it on cruise control. With the
finish to the ride in a park by the Hudson River, I envisioned
what I was going to do when I was done. Strip down to my biking
shorts and sprint for that big body of water and take the Nestea
When I got there, it sure seemed like a Cinco de mayo after, after
party. I was in the minority and when I approached the water
I could of sworn I heard people saying, "El pez grande! El pez
grande!" Interesting. When I got home I went on to Google translate
to figure out what they were saying. "The Big Fish, The Big Fish!"
is what they were saying.
Less than 21 days to go. I'm down to 234lbs and feeling a bit better
about my chances of finishing the half-ironman