Call Me Aluminum Foil Man
Last Saturday, I did a triathlon. No, not the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, nor the Music City Triathlon, or the Memphis in May Triathlon.
The triathlon I competed in was the Mighty Mite Triathlon in beautiful Forrest City, Arkansas!
The Ironman Triathlon consists of three gargantuan events: a 2.4 mile swim in shark-infested waters, followed by a 112 mile bike ride through either a burning forest or an active volcano, and then, to top it off, a 26.2 mile marathon run!
The Music City Triathlon and the Memphis in May Triathlon feature more reasonable distances—a mere 1 mile swim followed by a 25 mile bike ride followed by a 6 mile run.
But the Mighty Mite Triathlon is a “sprint triathlon”, featuring a fairly manageable event, specifically a 1/3 mile swim followed by a 13 mile bike ride followed by a 3 mile run.
Survivors of an Ironman are, appropriately enough, given the title of “Ironman” or “Ironwoman.” Finishers of a half-Iron Man (covering a mere 70.3 miles in 3 events) are sometimes called “Tin Man” or “Tin Woman.”
And having now completed the Mighty Mite Triathlon, I guess you could call me “Aluminum Foil Man.”
I had two goals for the Mighty Mite Triathlon.
First, not drown.
I am very proud of the fact that I achieved both goals.
Before my triathlon even began, I suffered a humiliating experience. Since the first event in the triathlon is the swim, I had to stand in a long line wearing nothing but a pair of baggy swim trunks.
There were 300 other participants in the Mighty Mite Triathlon, and as we lined up for the race, they all looked like they were from the cast of a remake of Baywatch. They looked like models for Michelangelo, only the women had arms.
We all had to stand around nearly naked for almost a half hour waiting for the swim event to begin. Have you ever spent 30 minutes sucking your gut in?
This totally exhausted me even before the triathlon began.
And then, at long last, I got to the front of the line and dove into the snake-infested Lake Gitchemaguma.
Now swimming 1/3 of a mile is enough of a challenge in and of itself. But I was swimming with 300 sculpted people who glided through the waters as if they were Michael Phelps. I on the other hand, thrashed around as if I was the Titanic and had just struck an Arkansas iceberg.
Fortunately, the crowded lake soon became very uncrowded as the rest of the field swam off and left me. I did not miss their company. I then spent the next half hour or so doing my own version of a freestyle medley consisting of the back stroke, the dog paddle, and the butterfly, although in my case, the butterfly was still in its cocoon.
The official rules of triathlon do not allow participants to wear inflatable rubber ducks around their waist or “swimmies” around their elbows. Consequently, I had to swim 1/3 of a mile with absolutely no floatation devise.
I regarded this as very unfair, particularly given the fact that I was apparently competing against a fleet of aqua men.
But somehow I managed to get to the shore on the other side of the lake. I literally crawled out of the water, and for a few moments, remained on my hands and knees.
Race officials advised me that the triathlon was only 1/3 over, and that I needed to get up and head to the bicycle transition area.
I explained to them that I needed a few moments to pray. It was a prayer of thanksgiving. After all, I had already accomplished my first goal for the triathlon. I had not drowned.
I then managed to crawl my way to the “transition area”, where my bicycle and helmet were awaiting me.
I quickly strapped on the helmet . . . backwards.
I’m not making this up. I was so disoriented after my swim, that I literally put my helmet on backwards.
At first I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I assumed I had lost my vision during the swim. Then I realized I was peering through the holes in the back of my helmet.
I quickly spun the helmet around, climbed on my bike, and headed to the second phase of the triathlon experience.
My bike is pretty old. How old, you ask? Well, let’s put it this way. I had the only bike in the competition that featured a kickstand, a bell, and a basket attached to the front.
I once used it on my paper route.
Once I was on my bike, I had the road all to myself. All of my fellow triathletes with their sculpted bodies had completed the swim and headed off on their bicycles long before I had gotten out of the water. And I’ll bet you not one of them put their bike helmet on backwards.
I had a nice, leisurely bike ride for the next 13 miles. I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to live in the moment, grateful that I had not drowned.
I finally arrived at the second transition area, where I hopped off my bike, threw off my helmet, and headed for a 3 mile run.
At this point, I was home free. I can hardly swim, and when I bike, I need training wheels. But I do know how to run.
I’ve been running now for nearly 50 years. Not at one time, mind you. I’m not Forest Gump. Over the past half century, I have stopped running from time to time do go to the bathroom or get something to eat or get married or have children. Otherwise, I’ve been running.
I’m pretty slow these days. They should time me with a calendar. But I can put one foot in front of the other in succession for fairly long periods of time.
And so, after 3 miles through the streets of Forrest Gump, Arkansas (which, by the way, bares no resemblance to the New York City Marathon course), I finished the triathlon.
There was a huge crowd waiting for me at the finish line. The crowd consisted of all the other beautifully-sculpted people who had finished the triathlon long before my arrival at the finish line and were enjoying music, good food, refreshments, and relaxation. It was nice of them to wait on me.
I was not the last place finisher. There were a few stragglers who crawled in behind me, but it wouldn’t have bothered me if I had been the last place finisher. After all, you know what they call the person who finishes last in a triathlon? They call him or her a triathlete.
And I’m proud to be one too. But you can call me Aluminum Foil Man!