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A novel by Len Joy

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Monday, July 13, 2015

The Shoehorn Made the Difference



A shoehorn cost me third place (for my age group) in the Lake Zurich Triathlon yesterday.

On June 25th, in a freak accident, which I am not going to blame on my coach even though it happened because I was waiting for her to catch up to me, I fell off my bike and cracked a back rib.

The injury, while minor, made it difficult to maintain a normal training program.  It hurt to run and I couldn’t swim because I couldn’t raise my arm over my head, but ironically, I could still bike without difficulty. However to be prudent and avoid the possibility of another freak accident I trained on the computrainer (pretty hard to fall off a stationary bike).  J.P. Bordeleau of Precision Multisport set me up on a series of rides called “Sufferlandia”.  Those training rides hurt more than falling off the bike.

So I was able to maintain a fitness level, but it was still doubtful I would be ready to race on July 12. 

A week ago, I went back to the pool to see if I could swim.  I could dog paddle, but it would have taken me an hour to finish the course.  I also tried to run, and I was fine for the first ten yards, then not so fine. 

But as they say, time heals all wounds.  Last week I was feeling much improved. I still couldn’t roll over, but I could tie my shoes and feed the cat and do other important household chores. Wednesday I went for a slow jog and it didn’t hurt.  So the Saturday before the race I went to Lake Michigan with my wetsuit – which is like wearing a life raft on your body. Lots of buoyancy which I figured might make it easier to swim. My theory was correct and once I took a few strokes my back loosened up and I could extend my arm so that my stroke was almost normal. It was a little hard to lift my head to spot for buoys but I thought I could manage it and decided to go ahead with the race.  By the way – Lake Michigan is still really cold.

It was perfect weather for the race: cloudy and cool. And Lake Zurich was 75 degrees – wetsuit legal, but comfortable.  This is a small race (about 500 competitors) and the waves were only about 60 swimmers at a time so I wasn’t too worried about getting kicked or mauled during the swim.  I didn’t quite have my normal stroke – but I just took it easy and completed the swim without incident in about 35 minutes.  In my last race I covered that distance in 32 minutes.

I had an easy transition. I had decided not to wear socks so I didn’t have to bend over and struggle to put them on. I had no problem on the bike, although as a concession to the injury I didn’t ride in aero position– as I promised my wife I would be careful. I also slowed down a lot on the corners.  Even with all the caution I averaged over 20 mph (it’s a pretty flat course). I had a good ride and it was way easier than the computrainer rides.

It was on the transition to the run that the shoehorn did me in.  I had a two part plan for managing the transitions with my limited mobility and that was to 1) skip the socks (which worked fine except that I ended up with blisters on the tops of my toes); and 2) use a long shoehorn to get my quick-tied running shoes on.  

It almost worked great.
The problem was that my sweaty sockless feet stuck to the tongue of the shoe and when I pried it on with the shoehorn – the tongue got all wrinkled. I couldn’t fix it so I had to take the shoe off and put it on the way I always do.  That escapade with the shoehorn, cost me at least twenty seconds.

Full disclosure requires that I point out that my coach (the one who IS NOT IN ANYWAY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACCIDENT EVEN THOUGH IT HAPPENED WHILE I WAS WAITING FOR HER) has always suggested I not try anything during a race that I have not practiced beforehand (like using a shoehorn).  I almost always follow her suggestions because
1) she tends to be right MOST of the time and
2) her suggestions don’t really sound like suggestions;

I had a great run. Maybe because my legs were fresh from not running at all for two weeks.  I did the 10K at a 8:10 pace which is better than my other two races this year.

I finished in 2:45 and thought I had really good chance to make it to the podium. But I finished fourth – just .93 of a second out of 3rd place. 

I blame the shoehorn. 

Next race:  The USAT Age Group Championships  August 8, 2015 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin