I've twice now bragged on myself under the guise of being surprised at how the bike leg of a triathlon went. Needing a new excuse, here's braggadocio disguised as a confession of d*ckiness.
Nation's Triathlon is a huge olympic-distance race held entirely in the urban core of DC. As many as 4000 participants all find themselves riding their bikes over a 40K course at roughly the same time. The number was closer to 3000 this year, but the course had two loops -- thus, there could have been as many as 1500 per loop, or 100+ cyclists per mile of road. The numbers don't stack up that badly, because there is a drawn out time trial start. Although I did not start until 90 minutes after the first wave, some swimmers did not exit the water until I had finished riding. Nonetheless, it's a crowded mess. Most of the participants are just out to have a good time -- riding along, chatting with friends, sitting up straight and enjoying the sun, what-have-you.
Even worse, each loop had two stretches of no-pass-zone that ran for ~1/4 mile. For a mile or better in total I cruised in a line behind whoever decided "no pass" meant "no exertion" and held the rest of us up.
Combine that with my newfound taste for treating the crank-arms on my ride as if they had kicked my cat and you have a recipe for unpleasantness. Riding a triathlon bike leg has become an exercise in seeing pavement ahead of me and being really, really pissed that it isn't yet behind me.
The good is that with one exception, a really nice guy from Alexandria who finished one place ahead of me in the 40-44 age group, nobody passed me. I've been running triathlon since 1986 and that's never happened. The bad is that nearly everybody I passed, which seemingly amounted to most of the 3000 strong race field, suffered verbal abuse I'd like to think one might reserve for Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, or Kim Jong Il. And the ugly: "Get the f*ck out out of the left lane" might have been one of my gentler warnings.
I'd like to be of two minds about this. On the one hand, we frequently celebrate competitors who are so vigorous that they are perceived as jerks by the competition. Trash talk has its place and can be effective. So I'm vaguely pleased that I can get over the inclination to be laid back and supportive in order to be competitive. It is a new thing for me.
But the justification doesn't work. The victims ended up being Joe and Sally who were out enjoying their day in the sun. My competition, it turned out, was comprised primarily of participants in the elite wave who were off the bike and running before I even entered the water. The one guy in my age group who passed me? When I got him back on the run, we chatted amiably before he fell off pace. Trash talk isn't helping my competitive circumstance. It's just unloading my suffering on the world.
I'm enjoying kicking a little a*s in this year's races. But I'm not sure it's worth the cost.