Saturday, November 18, 2006
NEW JERSEY TINMAN
Scanned this photo from a 1984 edition of the Hunderton County Democrat, a Central New Jersey paper. Why? Well, because it documents that I, at one time, actually led a race. (Note how they spell the word 'triathlon.')
"Garden State Tinman", as the race was called, implies that it boasted some tough competition, a race you had to earn your way into, qualify for, maybe. Hardly. Held the same day as big races in New York and Philadelphia that drew most of the hard-core racers, it was quite small.
The swim was a quarter-mile in Round Valley Reservoir near Flemington, famous for its circles (known elsewhere as rotaries) and outlet malls. (Famous to me, too, for the time when I was a kid and threw up in the movie theater there during "Planet of the Apes". I remember saying, "Dad, I don't feel so good," and then threw up all over him. Even then, I was aware of the importance of not just telling, but also, showing.)
Back to the race. Back in '84, before triathlon wet-suits were commonplace, I had a tendency to wimp out in cold water. So just to be safe, I rented the upper half of a scuba diving wet-suit for this early June race. Thing is, the water was knee-high at the deepest so we just ran the entire swim. I bet I looked pretty cool running in knee-deep water wearing a wet-suit for my upper body.
A couple miles into the 20-mile bike ride, it was me and the other guy in the picture at the front. We took turns drafting off each other. (Drafting was legal in the old New Jersey Tinman; the guy without a helmet is a race official, I think.) At some point, I asked the other lead guy what his 10K time was and he said 34-something. Rats! Mine was close to 39 minutes so I knew I had no chance of winning. But I still wanted to enter the bike-run transition with the lead so that my girlfriend at the time could at least see me in front. Which I did and that was quite thrilling for both of us. I started the run with a little lead and over the first couple miles, I kept turning and looking for the other lead guy, practically slowing to a stop and waiting for him: "Come on, when are you going to pass me, let's get it over with." (How's that for a killer competitive instinct?)
At some point he did run past me, as did one other guy, so I ended up getting third which was beyond anything I could've hoped for. The next day there was a little story about the race in the local paper and the guy who won (sorry I don't remember his name) said something to the effect that he knew he'd win because he was a much stronger runner than everyone else out there. (Actually, it wasn't even that arrogant sounding, he was just confident in his abilities; he wasn't, for instance, turning around looking for, and practically begging people to hurry up and pass him.)
My aforementioned girlfriend was really rankled by the story and called him up semi-anonymously to give him a hard time: "I guess you think you're some pretty hot stuff, fastest man in the world, huh? If you're so fast why aren't you in the Olympics?" that kind of thing.
Wonder where he is now.