Marathon Disasters – Chapter 4
February 15, 2012
Not all marathon disasters are created equal. So far the hero of these epic tales, me, Eric Rutin, has not died, though there were a couple of times I certainly felt like I was knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door. But at least I could have died in my previous mishaps. Sometimes however death is a considerably the better alternative than complete and utter humiliation. And please forgive me if my marathon disaster doesn’t actually directly involve a marathon or training for a marathon. Pardonnez-moi de plier les règles.
When 26.2 isn’t enough
I had knocked out a couple of marathons and several half marathons when I decided I needed a greater challenge. At this point in my life just running simply wasn’t enough, so I decided I would try a tri. I thought I would start more modestly than an Ironman wiih just a sprint distance triathlon. 400 meters of swimming. 15,000 meters of cycling. 5,00o meters of running. Easy peasey. I grew up on a lake, riding a bike you can coast and, well, I was almost an Olympian runner with two marathons under my belt.
I went to the Y and hopped in the pool. I figured 200 meters would be a good distance for the first swim of my training I knew a lap was 50 meters. However I didn’t know what a lap actually was in my pool. Was it down or down and back? Didn’t matter, I would just swim down and back 8 times, worst case 200 meters, best case 400 meters. Looking at the pool, 8 whatever they were seemed pretty reasonable for a naturally aquatic fellow like myself. Hell, I even bought some fancy goggles.
I pushed off from the wall and started my smooth stroke. I was going old school free style. I made it down and half way back and realized it seemed silly to actually pay to drown. On to the duathalon
So now it was 3.1 miles of running, 20 miles of cycling, another 3.1 miles of running and completely no risk of downing. I had the option of 12 miles of mountain biking, but the only bike I could borrow was Jeff’s old road bike.
The training was pretty easy. At first it was a little weird to run after biking, but that quickly passed. I was excited and eager for the big race. When race day finally arrived I loaded up my bike by cramming it in the back of my Explorer and headed up to McDowell Mountain Park. I pulled into the parking lot and quickly realized this was a whole different crowd than my running mates. I am not sure if I had ever seen that much spandex in one location before and I know I haven’t since. Everyone looked at me with a sense of disdain as I lifted my back door and pulled out a 10 year old bike with toe clips. I didn’t have a fancy bike rack, I was wearing 9″ running shorts, sporting running shoes without a spare pair of biking shoes and no special staging area dressing.
The race started and I was in my element, passing spandex-clad runner after spandex-clad runner. I was showing them that running was not about who had the fanciest equipment, but instead who trained the hardest and was willing to endure the most discomfort. I was all Pre, they were all Al Czervicks. I finished the run in the top 1/3 and hit the staging area feeling good. I pulled out the bike and put on my helmet and grabbed for the strap.
First for those of you that don’t know me, I have to be careful around Halloween for fear of my roundish head being confused for a ruggedly George Clooneyesque Jack-o-Lateran. As I tried securing the helmet, the strap became twisted and contorted in a way that didn’t allow me properly latch the clasp. I was losing time so I just did a little knotish thing and off I went. At the second mile of the bike portion the course started uphill. I was giving it my best shot but was being passed with too much frequency. As I shifted gears up and down in hope of somehow increasing my speed, my helmet started sliding forward. Before I knew it my right eye was completely covered by helmet. If it was a fedora, I would look full of cool attitude, but unfortunately this was more of a half egg and I looked special. My pace slowed to a crawl. Why the hell was it so hard to pedal? Yea, I didn’t train on any hills but come on, it really couldn’t be this hard, could it? Somewhere after mile 3 I realized the cause of my strain. The back tire was almost totally flat. Hmm, Jeff had given me a tire changing kit that I decided was both too complicated and unnecessary. At that point I decided there was no way I was going to make it and sadly admitted defeat. I turned around to return to the staging area.
I discovered that with gravity helping, you can actually go at a pretty good clip even with basically a flat tire. As I approached the staging area, I heard cheering. I thought I had better get over as surely the leaders were about to barrel down over me. Or so I thought. I then realized people were actually yelling “you have the lead” and “way to go” at me! Some how, some way these people thought the guy with the 10 year old bike, sans spandex, and helmet askew was actually leading, and leading by a margin so great you couldn’t even see second place.
I didn’t know what to do. I suddenly knew the sorority girl walking home on Sunday morning down Fraternity Row still in her formal dress felt. I sheepishly waved and nodded. The slight nod was too much for the precariously balanced helmet and it tumbled off my noggin into the desert. I had to stop pedaling, get off my bike and retrieve it. The cheers turned to murmurs as I am sure at this point the crowd collectively realized their mistake. My embarrassment was trumped by theirs.
I arrived to the staging area where I dismounted and hoisted the bike on my shoulder to make my way back to my truck. One of the officials that had yet been let in on the joke graciously warmed me I needed to leave my bike or risk being DQ’ed. I told him it was OK and continued my exit.
I got my bike loaded before the actual leader arrived, at which time I endured my final humiliation of the day. The parking lot was closed and I couldn’t leave until the race completed. So I sat in my truck and waited and waited and waited, watching rider after rider after rider pull into the staging area before I could finally end this misadventure.
I decided that day I would stick to running and running only. Some are just net meant to multitask.