O Canada! Part I
6:45 am. Sunday, August 24th, on the south shore of Lake Okanagan in Penticton, British Columbia. A mass of agitated humanity mills about at the edge of the lake. Overhead, a flock of Canada Geese in perfect formation wings its way placidly southward against the grey, overcast sky. Ah, a benison! That's got to be good luck.
Accompanied by fellow Iron-virgin David Barclay, TriBaby takes a leisurely stroll down to the beach. As we approach the water, thunderous drums and portentous trumpets blare forth from the race loudspeakers. "Wow!" I laugh, "I feel like I'm in 'Ben Hur' or something." I strut comically through the sand in time with the music. A fellow athlete joins in the fun, remarking, "Yeah, isn't that from the scene when they're about to throw the Christians to the lions?" Ah ha! That's it!
David and I splash around a bit and try to find Jason, whom we had somehow lost on the way down to the beach. "Just look for the guy in the black wetsuit," quips David. "And the yellow swim cap," adds TriBaby. Of course, even if Jason hasn't donned his cap yet, we would still be looking for a yellow head. Although it would be more precise to look for an orange head; that first bleach job never quite gets all the color out of one's hair, unless you leave the stuff in for over an hour. Jason actually turned out looking more like Danny Elfman than Peter Reid, but it was the spirit of the thing that mattered, after all. ;-)
The dramatic music eventually fades away and before we know it, "O Canada" wafts through the brisk morning air. "Take your hat off!" teases Canadian David. "Oh, yes, sorry 'bout that, old man!" I pluck ineffectually at my swim cap. The vocalist completes a lovely performance to thunderous applause.
"Well, I guess this is it. Ready to rock and roll, my fellow tri-poser?" David replies with a rather timid affirmative, then inquires, "Don't you think we should move back a little? We're kinda far up in the pack here." "Naw, this is perfect. No crowding, we've got some open water right in front of us. If we back up any farther we'll get caught behind the really slow swimmers." David doesn't seem too convinced, but there's no time for him to think it over---the countdown has begun, and in a few seconds KABOOM!! The cannon propels 1,651 eager, hyper-energized athletes forward on their long journey.
Skippy and I had arrived at the Spanish Villa in Penticton just 3 1/2 days earlier. We left a rainy San Francisco and an overcast Spokane in our wake, only to discover similar weather in Penticton. Not at all cold, but certainly not sun-drenched. "Hmmm. Well, I just hope it doesn't rain on Sunday, that's all I ask," I observed calmly. We hollered greetings across the courtyard to the two fellows across the way who turned out to be Iron Pete and Rolf. "I'll see you guys at the 7am swim. Maybe!" If there is one thing I am not, it is a morning person; I make no promises regarding my attendance at optional early morning functions.
Despite my self-proclaimed doubts, Thursday morning found me strolling along the promenade on the south shore at 6:55 am, heading for the Sycamous. Pete was right; I was so excited just to BE there that sleep didn't seem that important. I trundled past a fellow athlete, smiling shyly and mumbling "Good Morning" a little uncertainly. He responded in kind, but didn't seem to be heading for the Sycamous, so I reckoned he wasn't an RSTer. I continued on my merry way and was the first to arrive at the designated meeting place.
Off went the t-shirt and shorts, into the water went TriBaby. Heck, this isn't cold at all! Glad I brought the longjohn up here, it will definitely be a longjohn swim on Sunday. Athletes were gradually arriving in ones and twos, so I returned to the shore and was promptly engulfed in RSTdom. Rolf and Pete, and there's Ray Britt. Hi, Bruce, good to meet you! Jeff Pearson, and my old buddy from Wildflower, George Ball. And here's the fella I'd passed on my way down here---turns out to be none other than Jason Mayfield himself! Cool! Susan Hall approaches and introduces herself as "just a lurker" (yeah, just a lurker who can swim 2.4 miles in 56 minutes). And lo and behold, here's the one and only Augie Calabrese, wearing the famous "Dear Less" TAD t-shirt.
Yeehaw!!! What a blast!
We talked up a storm while everyone pulled on their wetsuits. I wasn't bothering with one for these little morning dips, and both Rolf and Jason quipped that "Tim would be proud" of me. Heh! Yeah, I'm a REAL (TM) swimmer! I ain't no wetsuit wussy like you poor saps. ;-)
Eventually the group migrated waterward. Some were obviously taking this seriously, and proceeded to stroke purposefully eastward, following the buoy line toward the Peach. That left us more mirthful types splashing playfully along in their wake, engaged in anything but productive behavior.
The core group of slackers consisted of Jason, David Barclay, and TriBaby. David proved particularly amusing in that he was sporting a brand spanking new QR Fullsuit for the very first time, and was clearly enchanted by it. "Wow! This is GREAT!" he enthused, floating along on his back with just his head and feet breaking the surface. I couldn't help but laugh at his excitement, he was a kid on Christmas morning. Add to that the fact that he's funny as hell anyway, and you had one of the best moments of the entire Canada experience. We derived particular merriment from the words painted on the the floats about 40 yards off shore: SAFETY FLOAT - USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
We laughed and joked and splashed our silly way half-way to the Peach, and sometimes we even swam a little bit. Then we decided that at the rate we were going, we'd better head back to the Sycamous or risk getting run over by the freight train of genuine RST swimmers earnestly engaged in their workout. Jason headed back a little ahead of us, and David and I coninued our conversation.
"I said this in my Vineman report, and it's particularly true at a race of this caliber: You come to these races and you're surrounded by these incredible bodies and these incredible bikes, and you just feel like such a bleeping POSER!"
David agreed vociferously. "God, I'm so glad you said that! I'm not the only one, whew! I show up with my beat up old piece of shit Specialized road bike and I feel like, 'What the hell am I doing here??'"
We agreed that we were both way out of our league but what the hell! We're gonna have fun! Right then and there we dubbed ourselves the official IMC "Tri Posers". Later that day, when we were out biking the marathon course, I informed David that I had chosen our official theme song: Madonna's "Vogue". Vogue! Vogue! Strike a pose!
Continue the race....