Monday, August 18, 2008


Like everyone else, I cannot understand why NBC is showing endless rounds of beach volleyball. I was hoping that we might get to see women's triathlon in prime time, but no dice. I watched the replay online, and it's kind of good that way, actually, complete and uninterrupted. You can see the 2 minute highlight reel here. It's a beautiful venue at the Ming Tomb Reservoir, with the temple in the middle of the water. I couldn't help but think how lovely it would be to do a triathlon there. Isn't it gorgeous? Wouldn't you love to swim in that water?

It's strange to watch triathlons now that I have done them. I know what it feels like to get your number marked on your arms and legs. I noticed the time chip on their ankles and didn't need to ask what that black strap was. I thought how easy that transition ramp from the water would be, with that smooth blue ramp out of the water (rocks under bare feet were my bete noir; I would take forever at the first transition, making my way gingerly out of the water). I thought the bike transition stations were wonderful with their bins for their stuff. I knew why they didn't put their feet in the bike shoes until they were up to speed before the commentator said so. I know what your legs feel like when you go from the bike to the run (jelly-like comes to mind).

I actually know a sport, know it intimately from the inside out, and it's a strange feeling.

Growing up, I was lousy at every sport I tried. I'm not particularly coordinated or fast or agile or strong or flexible, which knocks out a lot of possibilities, as you can imagine. I don't have a big competetive drive. I'm not very aggressive and shy away from physical contact. I hate falling.

The thing I found when I was in my mid-thirties is that my athletic gift is endurance. I may not be fast, but I can keep going. And the more I worked at it, the further I could go.

I did my first triathlon in May of 2003. And here's a little secret that triathletes who want to impress you are not going to admit: it was fun. I had lunch with a friend of mind a couple of weeks ago who also did his first triathlon recently. I told him that the reason I enjoyed triathlons is that first you take a little swim, then when you're tired of that, you take a little bike ride, and when you're tired of that, you go for a little run. It's actually very pleasant. Or at least it is for me, because endurance is the physical ability I can build on. For someone whose gift is strength, triathlon may be torture.

I'm grateful to the triathlon for showing me that I am an athlete. Watching that Olympic event reminded me of that.

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