This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
cOnfessiOns Of an age-grOuper
by holly bennett
triathletes are an uncommon bunch.
We push our bodies through extreme pain and embrace bizarre nutritional practices. We pee (or worse) in our shorts and we’re not afraid to talk about this heinous habit with anyone who will listen. We’re innately adventurous—pretty much prerequisite for jumping into a swim full of flailing arms and legs ready to drag us under, or for riding in an aggressive aero position, perched atop two lightweight wheels and a carbon frame, 40 mph wind gusts be damned. I share this on-course courage with my multisport comrades. Yet outside of the swim, bike and run routine, there’s little rhyme or reason to the things that incite my angst. I once traveled through Central America for four months, my only transport a mountain bike and my only itinerary a plane ticket for the return journey home. My sole companion was my then-boyfriend, and our combined bike mechanic skills amounted to fixing a flat tire faster than we could finish a cerveza. Our Spanish couldn’t get us much further than ordering that beer. We dealt with a cracked headset, a snapped skewer, a stolen passport and water bottle-chewing, thirst-starved raccoons. More than once we flushed stowaway scorpions from our bike shoes or awoke in a tent covered with tarantulas. We weathered the rumored threat of guerilla rebels, questioning by machinegun-toting policia and multiple bouts of El Gripe. Despite the scary bits and blunders, we returned fit, tan, dignity intact and smiling. That was in 1992, 13 years before Mike Reilly ever screamed my name before a momentous midnight deadline. Five
Ironmans later, raced in disparate corners of the globe, I should surely be more stalwart. Yet recently, I rented an SUV at Newark Liberty International Airport and maneuvered the behemoth through the streets of Manhattan. The stress alone nearly killed me. I felt perfectly confident at the outset, the hotel address where I would collect a group of girlfriends securely programmed in my GPS. Then I hit the Lincoln Tunnel and all hell broke loose. The GPS lost its satellite feed. The monster truck and I were spewed from the tunnel directly into Manhattan with no idea what to do next. Pulling over to ask for directions was not an option (curbside
“I like to think of myself as Ironman tough. ... But at times, that tough-as-nails ability to tackle anything fades to total wimpiness.”
parking is nonexistent), nor was phoning a friend (white-knuckling precluded dialing). I dodged daredevil taxi drivers, inspired the wrath of a hundred blaring horns and cursed at the GPS, which now insisted that I turn into oncoming traffic—a command I fortunately followed just once. How I longed to be busted by a beat cop, bringing an end to the madness. I was drunk on anxiety, drenched in sweat and praying to anyone who would listen to help me find my way. Oh Mike Reilly, how I needed you then! Finally, a blue beacon of hope beckoned through the chaos. “Hilton,” it read, accompanied by an arrow pointing to the parking garage. Tears of relief flowed freely as I tossed the keys to the bemused valet. I like to think of myself as Ironman tough, the mantra, “You’ve done 140.6, you can do anything!” getting me through many of life’s treacherous moments. But at times, that tough-asnails ability to tackle anything fades to total wimpiness. I’m not sure why I can eagerly traipse from Antigua to Arenal with only the contents of my panniers for comfort, yet I can barely switch lanes on the Avenue of the Americas without having a full-blown panic attack. But I do know this: The next time I visit New York, I will without question choose the subway.
triathlete.com | October 2011