the triathlon world championship week in cleveland was a lot of
fun. in fact, it was excellent fun. what made it so enjoyable was the
people involved. this was my second world's, the first being n.z. in
1994, and the pleasant news is that the reaching out to get to know
others and promotion of friendship seems to be a staple. this goes for
between u.s. team members, and with athletes from other countries.
world's pretty much started on wednesday, 21 august, with people
arriving in cleveland, getting into hotels & connecting with friends they
already had. and then putting their bikes together. the race HQ was a
hotel in the city's center/public square, so all athletes were usually in
& out every day for the expo, team meetings, etc.
thursday morning there was the annual master women's breakfast, to
which you under-40s can only aspire . it was funded this year by some
generous donations, so it was free for the women. it's just a very nice
time to get to know others, and ones from other countries, in particular.
there was a short program, which included prayer during the invocation
for the family of the late joanne cummings, followed by a brief memorial
by her to-be roommate at world's, paula larsen (who swept her age group in
the race). the end of the breakfast is the scramble to photograph the
superannuated by age groups.
from the breakfast it was out into the public square to line up by
country for the parade of nations. this is where i hooked up with my old
friend and schoolmate from sweden, orjan sandler, back to defend his world
champ title for the ???th time. we all parade around said public square
amid rather olympian & stirring music, then end up back in a big area to
have a short program, begun with the natinal anthem. this ends up being a
rather grand, emotional moment. and the chat is brief (it's hot &
humid), so it's not bad. at the end the race director said that the
american flag was missing from a triad of poles by us, but would be on its
way------looked skyward, as did we-----& there was a speck which soon
became a jumper with a parachute with the flag waving off of his leg.
they let off some smoke where we were (amidst skyscrapers) & he zigged &
zagged & finally alit right in the street behind us. not without a sense
of the moment, the jumper strode through us all, halted before the flag
pole before hoisting the newly-grounded flag, & raised his arm in
victory?--in something, anyway, as if he'd just been first over the line
for the race. it was a kick.
the expo wasn't actually overwhelmingly large, so it proved to be a
place to run into all & sundry. the hottest item going was probably pedal
power's aero drink system. i think it was selling briskly, but after our
team meeting that afternoon, i think they must have all sold: we were told
that the fairing-type hed water bottle systems were ruled out for this
race. the oddest thing for sale was cigars. i still don't have a read on
that one, why or how.
that evening there was a mrs. t"s dinner for all competitors at
a nearby mall, replete with an oompa-pa band. socializing was great, if
difficult to do over the music (talk fast during the breaks), but you have
to love mashed potatoes in pasta to make this a great dinner.
friday morning it looked like all
competitors were out biking: throngs of us were on a road beside the
freeway, doing our last little spin, making sure our reassembled bikes
actually worked again. that afternoon the u.s. team zipped over to the
indians' baseball field for our team picture. at 5pm there was a worship
service at the church on public square, by & for athletes. that turned
out to be an event with a terrific band, full of people & spiced up
greatly by a wad of the south african team.
saturday most of us went out to watch the pro race, of course. i'd
gotten in a short training jog beforehand, which turned into another
social event: met teammate paul reback (florida) at the elevator headed
for the same destination, & in the elevator linked up with pippa michaels
(UK), an old friend from my swim team here. so the 3 of us toured the
downtown streets together for our jog. this is sort of typical of the how
and why of world's socializing.
alas & alak, i find that i was standing right next to tri-dork &
not only didn't know it (this means i was behind his sign), but never did
meet him. ruth kazez finally ran into him, so she gave me a full report.
he charmed the enamel right off her very teeth. the women's pro swim was
pretty hairy: my friend, joy leutner, got boxed in & one of the boxers
hooked her arm & it was forced back & semi-dislocated---enough to have her
be taken out. another pro friend from s.africa had her head forced under
& opined that it was rather ragged out there. i watched all of the
women's race, but only some of the men's bike leg, for the very reasons
stated before on rst: it was a little low on compelling action.
sunday is a bevy of action. we'd been told ALL had to be out of
the TA by 6:30am, so we dutifully plied our respective ways over to the
lake, set up shop, and began the job of filling in the time. i live by
the motto, "you can never go too often", so i availed myself of the
nearest relief booth from time to time. we were set up in racks by age
group, with absolute places, so i knew most of those around me & even was
right across the rack from orjan, previously named swedish school friend.
that was a kick. this stretch of time is busy with picture taking,
socializing, checking gear, etc. the pictures include several people like
katie & ralph perry in garbage bag uniforms, trying to keep warm. they
have an effect all their own. during the whole pre-race time there was
rock music on. there was a french fellow in my same row who was
watching me sort of semi-dance at one particular juncture, jumped out, &
the 2 of us had at it , dancing up a pre-dawn storm. there is no WAY
they could have had as much fun down in the 20-24 racks! as it tuned
out, the out-by-6:30 thing was junked, so most of us kept our clothes on &
stayed warm (as opposed to the awaited 65 minutes in swimsuit only-no
the start stank, but it probably didn't make too much difference.
by the time they got through some waves of not staying behind the line,
they told us to get on the ledge, get in & there was a minute to go, but
there really wasn't & they immediately sounded the start. in any event,
i'd gotten fully in & snagged a desired position that i was able to keep.
the water was great: perfect temperature. it was a long swim, but a
long swim's just some more of the same stroke, stroke, stroke, & you
don't know it until it's over. the get-out situation was a bit
contrived: somewhere between getting on a raft & climing out on a pool
ladder. fortunately, i hit it when there was a clear shot at one of
these ladders, so i can't complain.
T1 was ok----i'm usually very quick & try to make time here
(because i'm going to lose it on the last leg). however, they changed
(then didn't back up) the rule about a number on you during the bike, so i
wrestled with my singlet for a while before i got it down over my wet
being. the rest went fine----i'm a shoes-on-the-bike person, so i ran as
fast as i could down the fake-lawn matting down the middle, hit the yellow
line surrounded by a zillion functionaries, toe in left shoe, on the bike
& i'm off. the whole ride went pretty well, although i thought i'd maybe
do it 7 minutes faster. there were several long inclines i'd thought to
be flatter, & the freeway part was sort of washboardy. i was
particularly careful during the downtown portion since race management
hadn't put up any signs for the citizenry about the race----which tends
toward the don't-know, don't care situation that actually happened: a n.z.
woman was hit on the course by a car which simply chose to go through an
intersection blocked off by a policeman with his back turned.
there was a good deal of yelling encouragement to one another on
the bike, especially as people you knew---or semi-knew, for that
matter---passed or were passed. this changed a bit when the first waves
of the citizen's race started coming through: not at all the same tone.
nor the same skills, i hasten to add. it got tricky sometimes to get out
of drafting positions when someone right ahead was weaving. i didn't see
any blatant drafting, but i'm also back in the old bag wave & i never do
see much in races. it's usually pretty civilized up in the age
i loved coming in from the bike: screech up to the yellow line,
velcro already undone, hop off & start running down that mat. toss the
bike up, helmet off, shoes on & off! too bad the rest of the run isn't
so swift. the crowds were all over & as i turned right at the rock &
roll hall of fame, right before a cop holding people back, 3-4 rushed
across the path anyway. i couldn't believe my eyes. i let out a wail
of despair & asked why they had to do something like that when i was
coming-------& did that ever get action from the cop! the run wasn't
bad because it still wasn't humid. hot, but not bad. and i just
watched the people stream by, looking at their legs for their ages. a
couple in my group did the deed. there was great encouragement,
especially on the loop-back part where you could see runners returning/see
your friends. some over-enthusiastic volunteers at one point told me
there were only 2 miles to go. this was even beyond the lies you love
to hear ("looking good; looking strong). i could tell by my trusty
chronograph that either he was off by more than a mile, or i had been
amazingly translated into mary decker ...
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