O Canada! Part III


Dozens of athletes stream from Lake Okanagan like so many penguins rushing ashore for breeding season. I waddle through the shallows with the rest of the flock, remembering to fumble for the velcro timing strip on my wrist. No wonder I had so much trouble getting my wetsuit sleeve off; I'm surprised I wasn't swimming in circles out there! There's so much crap dangling from my right wrist it's practically dragging: heart rate monitor, orange race ID bracelet, velcro timing bracelet, and the tiny silver chain bracelet I always wear. Now just make sure you're ripping the right thing off to hand to the timing folks....

Through the timing chute, gleefully hollering my number, "1228!" Next stop, wetsuit strip. I've been looking forward to this, having observed on television the supreme efficiency of the volunteers in this department in '96. But wait, everybody's busy! Everybody already seems to have an athlete. Hey, what about me?

Before I even have time to pout a volunteer pounces upon me with remarkable zeal. The next thing I know, I'm on the ground, my wetsuit shucked clean off, and strong hands are pulling me back to my feet. They send me and my wetsuit on our way with a cheerful push and a jolly, "Have a great day out there!"

Wow! Wha' happen'?? I haven't even caught my breath yet, and it's all over. Shoot, where was I, I missed it!

Well, never mind now, just try to remember where your bike bag rack is. Let's see, down near the fence, and toward the end---ah, thar she blows! OK, grab it and run; which way to the changing tent? Oh, yeah, that's right, ok; jog, jog, jog, jog.

The commotion and tumult in this little acre of British Columbia at this moment defies description, but imagine, if you will, every transition area you've ever been in crammed into one place, but ten times more organized. Get the idea? 'Nuff said.

Into the changing tent I chug. I have no intention of hurrying; when you're going to be racing for another 13 hours or so, why rush? Relax, make yourself comfortable, take your time.

Upon entering the changing tent I am greeted by a marvellous volunteer who attaches herself to me for the purpose of anticipating and fulfilling my every need in transition. Pretty cool, huh? Rather dumbfounding, actually, but I think I can handle this. ;-) I plop my wetsuit in one chair and myself in another while she opens my bike bag and begins handing me my gear. I take the time to towel off and get somewhat dry; the sky's looking pretty threatening, and it's likely to be a bit chilly out on the bike---might as well get as dry and warm as possible.

Pull shorts and jersey on over the swim suit, pockets stuffed full of all the things I carry on every long training ride---windbreaker, Gu, bandanna, PowerBar, Oakleys with amber lenses. After all, it's just a long training ride, right? Yank on socks and cleats. I waste an inordinate amount of time trying to dry the dark lenses on my regular Oakleys; they've misted over in the damp air and refuse to dry clear. Oh, to heck with it, get outta here!

My volunteer stuffs my swim gear into my bag and receives profuse thanks as I clop my way out of the tent. Once outside my brain suddenly goes blank---Which way to the bikes?? Which way to the bikes?? Oh, yeah, back behind the men's tent, get going! Clop, clop, clop....well, it's really more of a Clud, clud, clud, clud over the grass, but then through the narrow gate into the rack area, and Clop, clop, clop, clop, head for your rack!

Let's see, 900's, 1000's, 1100's, ah! Here we go, just where I left it about 90 minutes ago, safe and sound. Wait, though, something's funny here, what is it? Why does this feel so strange? I'm halfway out of the row with my bike by the time I realize what was so strange back there: The entire rack was still completely full; I was the first out of there.

(As it turned out, my swim was, comically, my fastest split of the day. I emerged from the water in 905th place overall, and even with my geologic-time 7-minute transition, still scooted out on the bike ahead of everyone else in my rack. All I have to say about this is, Triathletes really can't swim! I beat over 700 of 'em outta the water, and that *just ain't right*!!)

Clop, clop, clop, gotta run the bike all the way out of the rack area, clop, clop, clop, there's the mounting line. "Do not get on the bike 'til you're out of the racks! Do not get on yet!" holler the volunteers. A woman ahead of me sees fit to ignore them and I can't help hoping she gets penalized for being such a bozo, but there's no time to waste worrying about her---you've reached the line, hop on! Click in...click, slip, click,...DAMMIT, get IN there! One stubborn cleat refuses to cooperate....CLICK! Whew, about time; now GO!

Continue the race....