Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Family Y Triathlon

Let me correct your first possible misapprehension.

I did not participate in the triathlon. That is not to say that I have anything against triathlons in general. I just hate running unless I’m being chased by a bear. My job was directing traffic.

I was originally going to call this event The Y Tri, but then I realized that sounded a bit negative. After all, why not try, right?

My usual post is at an intersection where the riders have to make a left turn. A short distance down the road is the turn-around point, then they come back through the intersection again.

I got there a bit early, parked and pulled out a book to read. (In case you’re wondering, it was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – the Jane Austen classic updated to include zombies and martial arts mayhem. I recommend it, if you like that sort of thing.)

Suddenly, an unmarked police car driven by a highway patrol officer pulls up. Okay. Then, suddenly, three highway patrol cars rush in and pull up, all of them pointing at me. It was like a scene from a movie, except that it wasn’t followed by the officers leaping out, pointing their weapons at me and arresting me. It was still a little unnerving, though.

It turns out that, unlike previous years, we were to have a fairly heavy police presence on the bike route of the triathlon. I was, of course, wondering why. Had something unusual and violent happened the previous year? Well, no. When asked directly, one of the officers explained: “They asked for help and it was a slow day.”

My partner at the intersection was Jörg, and he is ideal company for an event like this. His running commentary ranged from the ribald to the profane but was uniformly entertaining. There was a case of mistaken identity that was nearly hysterical but probably not suitable for this particular page.

The riders ranged from the intensely competitive (aerobars, disk rear wheel, aero helmet)
to those who were just hoping to survive to the end (mountain bike, no shirt, tattoos, beer belly). They were young and old, focused and not so focused at all. There were several Seyboros in the bunch, too. Jorg seemed to know most of the competitors. He called out to one rider that she should be able to catch the guy ahead of her because he was so slow, and she came out of the saddle and had a go. She didn’t catch him.

We saw a truck from the volunteer fire department, lights going, edging down the street toward us, following that last rider. Now, I don’t know about you, but an emergency vehicle with lights flashing and riding my rear wheel wouldn’t make me particularly comfortable. We watched them make the turn and waited for them to come back, ready to pack up and leave. Then a highway patrol officer pulled up and told us that there was, in fact, another rider still out on the course. When the volunteer fire fighters came back, he told them, too.

We all waited, and there she came, pushing gamely along. She made the turn and came back, and everyone followed her out. First her, then the fire fighters, then a string of cars from each location on the course where someone had been directing traffic, then the highway patrol. It was quite a parade, really.

Jörg had ridden in, and I watched him make his way through the caravan of cars. As he rode past, I asked him if he wanted to take my traffic cone and vest for me, but, surprisingly, he didn’t. He rode up to the last rider and stayed beside her, keeping her company and giving her encouragement. Eventually, they turned off. I dropped off my gear and headed home with my pay beside me – a snazzy new T-shirt.

I have never competed in a triathlon, and, to be honest, I never expect to – it involves running, after all – but congratulations to all the competitors.

See you on the road.

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