Tony's triathlon times:
Day #2: Report from France- Day 2
Monday, July 16, 2007
LíOrient World Triathlon Championships- LíOrient/Bourdeaux
Sunday, race day, came none too early for Monsieur Pendergrass and his fellow U.S. Triathlon teammates, (of which I am constantly reminded that I am not one ofÖ). By the day of the race yesterday, the vaunted U.S. team was bouncing with stored up energy off the uncomfortable small and stuffy hotelís walls. With such athletes sans exercise for several days before such an event, tempers were on the short side.
I had posted a note yesterday on the bulletin board, the one where important messages are offered between the team coach/director and the members, between one message that stated that a bicycle had been lost in Paris and the person wanted to know if anyone had an extra, and another offering massages and chiropractic treatment in a private room upstairs. My note, which was promptly taken down within an hour of me placing it there, simply stated the following:
One U.S. Team biking jersey to loan for the race.
Want to be IDíd with U.S. but have no uniform.
Contact Tony, Room 408
It soon became obvious that I offended most of the "team" by asking to be identified with them since even later when I resorted to flat-out asking to borrow a jersey, the main excuse was that "uh, mine all have my name on the backÖ", or "uh, it wouldnít fit you anyway", as they looked at my torso/gutÖ It also became apparent within a few hours of getting to know the U.S. Team members that the fact that they earned their way onto the "team" made them reluctant to accept anyone competing in the open division. However, after they questioned me about my career P.R.ís, the threat was removed and they became more charitable toward me. The charity did not go so far that either of them would lend me a jersey, though!
My partner "007" Pendergrass, (so named for the fact that everyone was enamored with the fact that he was the only one of them who could speak French), finally felt sorry for me and gave me a white cap to wear for the run portion of the race, which featured a 1" logo of the U.S. Triathlon Association.
Under overcast skies on a cool day, we assembled at the starting line, nearly a thousand world class triathletes and a few worn out old clowns like me. What I was thinking when I signed up for the event I donít know, but I will say that one doesnít need to do such a thing in the shape Iím in at this point in my life, that is if he or she takes themselves too seriously. For a guy who canít even place in his age group in a local triathlon, to compete against the best in the world is humbling to say the least. Alas, but not for Docteur Pendergrass, as they call him at team meetings.
The event was advertised as featuring a flat course and fair weather, and neither was even remotely true. If you can, picture the cliffs of Dover or Utah beach at Normandy, under weather conditions reminiscent of D-Day, (which occurred just up the coast a half- century ago). My trepidation increased on the run after a 1.8 mile swim in frigid waters, (where I was mauled by the most aggressive of European age-groupers), and after we rode our bicycles past bombed-out German bunkers, attractive open-door pubs, and sunbathers and surfers on the sand at the bottom of the cliffs. Along the Atlantic coast we went back and forth to the village of Guidel le Plage, completing the bike course by braving crosswinds that confounded this writer as to how that one could ride out and back and into the wind, and the wind blow both ways.
The run portion consisted of three laps of a four-mile loop, with three giant hills making up the loop, which only served to demoralize one such as I who only hoped to finish the race. In other words, I was passed by some of the same folks at least twice and donít recall passing anyone at all. I tried to bribe the ladies that were passing out laced necklaces after each lap which denoted how many times that the checkpoint had been passed, but all that I could hear was a stern, "Allez-Allez-Allez", as they failed to see my sense of humor. All I could think about was that "Le Taureau", (the Bull), would have had a field day here, seeing as how he has become famous for such slogans as "focusing" and "his old Achilles".
Having not checked the results at the hour of this posting, I cannot say but am quite sure that I received at least one penalty, if not more. For instance, I was greeted in the completely abandoned transition area after I finished the bike course to a considerably unattractive and unfriendly woman in my face with a whistle, blowing it and holding up a big red plastic card. After a couple of minutes of trying to figure out what I had done to offend her or the rules, I realized that I had taken off my helmet too soon, even though;
every other contestant was already out on the run course;
I wasnít on my bike but was walking the half-mile or so to my rack at the end of the line next to the porta-john;
and, I had no team nor even a country to represent.
But I prefer to reflect on the positive, and am proud to have finished the race. I was even more proud as I watched "le docteur" mix and mingle at the post-race party for the "team" that evening at the hotel, that is until I realized that he was commiserating with them about my poor performance.
The positives that I choose to take from the race are these:
I discovered a new gel, named Red Tonic, which is outlawed in the U.S. and tastes like a cross between Dr. Tischnerís mouthwash, gasoline, and Power Gel, but enabled me to finish the triathlon, though I didnít sleep at all last night;
I now understand why the French arenít crazy about Americans, since there were several instances involving the U.S. team which I canít write about in a family column read by millions that were indeed embarrassing;
The northwest coast of France is an undiscovered treasure, with villages and people not spoiled by tourism;
Our bicycle cases actually fit into the back of the rental van;
I am glad that no one loaned me a jersey since not many fans yelled "Go U.S.A.", if you get my drift.
After a fine meal last evening and a totally sleepless night, (see above), we struck out this morning south toward Bordeaux for a night of transition into the melee that is the Tour de France. Presently, I am hurdling down the highway through fields of giant sunflowers and wheat, as "007" interprets the road signs and gives history lectures each time we pass into a new area.
Reporting from somewhere just north of the wine country en France, this is "le Bear Junior", signing off.
VIVA LE BUSH!