So with that in mind I’d like to point out a few true-life examples of stuff…That can’t be good.
So what possible horrible circumstances would cause a person to drop out of a race they’ve presumably spent months or perhaps years training for? Would it be the heat, or perhaps mechanical problems on the bike, or perhaps dehydration on the run?
If you guessed any of these, you would be wrong.
This is now the second year in a row that I’ve seen several competitors drop out of the Disney Half IM in about 23 seconds and/or 31 feet into the race. It’s actually pretty amazing thing to witness up close and personal.
The wave of some 300 ferocious competitors strains at the starting line to hit the water. You can actually feel the nervous tension and pent up energy about to explode. The racers have trained long and hard for this moment which they know will include a running start through the shallow part of the water before the 1.2-mile swim.
The starting gun fires (or horns sounds in Disney as they prefer not to startle the kiddies) and the wave of race-ready athletes explodes into the water with a mad dash for the deep stuff.
About 20 seconds into the race something odd appears at the rear of the pack. The gathered crowd voices a collective “OH OWE” as the fans notice two racers splashing around like the agitator in a Maytag washing machine. With a sudden flurry of activity the waiting rescue paddlers take flight to aid the distressed competitors.
Three seconds later they pull the struggling swimmers to safety (which would be about 2 feet back to the shallow water) as the rest of the pack begins the long race day. Twenty-three seconds into the race, their day is now officially over.
“So Jim,” asks a curious co-worker, “how did you do in Disney?”
Jim looks down, scratches his head and says in a low voice, “I had a bit of an issue on the swim.”
That can’t be good.
The place that I always see the most problems is on the bike. And after my eight flat ride at last year’s Great Floridian Triathlon I have more than just a bit of empathy for any racer with a flat tire.
But I’m also a bit amazed that some folks actually have a rather unique bike race strategy, which seems to consist of never-ever, ever and I mean ever, getting a flat tire.
This might actually be a workable solution if today’s wheels were still made of older types of materials like in the olden days. You know, wood or perhaps stone. But today’s “modern” wheels and tires do have the one disadvantage, that being that they occasionally get a flat.
Last year I was helping out at the Peak 5430 half IM on my motorcycle. My well defined job was to provide “any and all assistance” to bike riders as long as “any and all assistance” only meant giving them a ride to the next aid station. In other words, I was sweeping the course for any competitors that dropped out the race. I was specifically not allowed to render any sort of race assistance.
This was my typical conversation when coming upon a stopped racer.
Me: “Are you all right, can I give a ride to the aid station?”
Twenty something Hottie in a tight race suit: “Do you know how to change a tire?”
Hottie: “Can you please change my tire?” said with a semi-pouting smile and big round eyes on the verge of tears.
Me: “I’m sorry but I can’t do that, it against the rules for me to help you…but I’ll try to tell you how to change it yoursef.”
Hottie: “F…it! I’ll take the ride!” she said with an angry kick at the bike.
“That can’t be good,” I thought to myself as we roared off to the nearest aid station.
I’ve seen lots of very serious problems on the run. Most of them have to do with the leg muscles. It is certainly not uncommon to see racers squatting on the ground, or leaning against tree trying to stretch-out seized thigh or calves.
But by far the worst problems tend to be gastrointestinal. A good friend of mine, who for my own self-preservation (as you shall soon see) shall forever remain nameless, had such a problem on the run.
It was about mile 10 that I noticed a certain and distinct odor coming from somewhere on or near me. I could not place it, but it certainly didn’t smell like a field of fresh cut wild flowers.
At first I thought that perhaps my body had over-powered any deodorant I might still be wearing. I smelled and I sniffed the air, but it wasn’t until I noticed the distressed look on my friend’s face that I had a hint of what might be wrong.
As we just happened to be running together, I asked my friend if all was right. The clenched-cheek running style, along with the look on my friend’s face said it all. The look was indeed a very interesting mixture of rage, pain and shame.
“No I sorry but I do not have an extra pair of shorts,” I said to my friend as my friend dashed to the nearest bathroom.
As I watched my friend slam the port-at-potty door, I whispered, “That’s can’t be good, but at least my friend can finish the race…unlike the Maytag impersonators,” and ran on.