Society & Culture & Entertainment sports & Match

What"s Your Excuse?

So, you are wondering what to do in the summer fitness-wise.
You've tried yoga, boxing, rowing, rock-climbing, salsa dancing, spinning, the list goes on...
if you really want a challenge try doing a triathlon.
Admittedly, I have not been brave (and by brave I used to mean fit, I'll explain this shortly) enough yet to do one, but last weekend a friend of mine who raced last year did manage to sucker me into volunteering for the New York City triathlon.
Race day started for me at 3.
30am (I use the term 'day' here quite loosely, its meaning to include parts of the night when one should really be sleeping).
After the first hour or so the shock had worn off and I was happy to see the athletes starting to arrive at the swim start at 96th street on the west side - I was relieved to see them as it meant I had not been duped into walking around speechless in a bright yellow bib in the middle of the night like a crazy person, you know, for nothing.
Up until then I had only seen press vans exploding with cameras and dishes and race marshals growling by on their motorbikes.
The anticipation level escalated though as each minute went by and pretty soon the grassy knoll above the swim start was a hive of activity.
The athletes had arrived en masse.
The sun had just come up behind the trees and the river was an inviting hue of rare blue.
I had succumbed to the feeling and started thinking to myself: what would be better in the circumstances than a refreshing early morning swim down the Hudson River at 6am followed by a nice and easy bike ride up the Henry Hudson Parkway, and then a cool comfortable run in the park to top it all off? I snapped out of it when hooter went off and the crowd gave off a collective whoop.
Most of the screams were shrieks of excitement, some were blood curdling.
The professional athletes were all business though as they silently dove into the water in one large simultaneous wave.
These pros were just the first of many waves to start the race.
They swam by us at a rate of knots and were long gone before the next group of elite triathletes were off.
The current was carrying them swiftly to the boat basin on 79th street one mile away.
In about ten minutes the first guys were out of the water and running over to their bikes to start the next leg.
And before you know it the first group were whizzing by on the freeway above us.
Damn they got dressed quick.
No transitions in squash, I thought to myself.
An hour later the first rider came flying back down the west side highway, all alone.
After 26 miles of cycling he was out of his seat and grinding as hard as he could, with a grimace on his face, just like Lance Armstrong at the end of a time trial.
He flew by us like a speeding car.
I am sure he was over the speed limit.
The next rider was the ultimate race winner, the Czech Ospaly, he was seated and looked more in control.
It's better to be the lion than the zebra.
Many waves of amateur athletes followed the pros.
They were broken down into age groups by gender.
Eventually gender and age seemed less of an issue and the starting groups were bonded by other mutual characteristics.
e.
g.
profession or fund raising groups.
The handicapped athletes were particularly impressive.
It takes some guts to do a triathlon with all your limbs, just imagine doing it without the use of all of them? I was moved by this.
Everyone was.
The camaraderie and admiration and pride were tangible.
After well over 2 hours the last groups were lining up for the start.
By this stage the pros were already done and getting their free massages.
The heat must become a factor for these final groups of athletes.
They kept the younger men until the end.
I am sure they are least likely to notice how hot it really is, as they all went flying off in a rush to finish.
No doubt some of them were looking to qualify for spots in the elite field next time around - then they could do the race in the cool of the morning rather than the searing heat, if they cared.
After my duties at the swim start were done I went up and watched parts of the final stage - the six-mile run up to and around the outer loop of Central Park.
Obviously by the end of the triathlon every runner was exhausted.
But they all came across the finish line with smiles on their faces.
I am pretty sure that the hardest part of the run was the first mile from the river up to the park.
I didn't see anyone smiling at this stage.
It is quite an incline that seems to go on forever when you are on foot.
In the heat of the day there were many athletes struggling at this point.
I remember thinking that if I ever did this race, this part would kill me.
Then I saw a man go by in a half walk half run mode who must have been over eighty years of age.
The crowd appreciatively applauded his efforts.
Then a string of heavy Clydesdales ran slowly by.
And then I saw a blind man get escorted by..
Agasp, I turned to look at my friend, he was already staring straight at me with a knowing smile on his face that very clearly said "What's Your Excuse?" I had no response.

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