While my job is my #1 hobby, I also find it relaxing to suffer through endurance events. Take the 2005 Western Australia Ironman, for example. If you have not heard of such events, Ironman races are triathlons – long ones – consisting of a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride and wrapped up with a 26.2 mile marathon run. The pros do it in just over 8 hours and if you take longer than 16 hours they pluck you off the race course.
Generally I worry about just finishing these events, the risk being I never have the time to train like the rest of the real athletes. But with this event came an additional point of tension. Sharks.
Sharks didn’t even really enter my mind until I chatted with a real Ironman athlete who was sitting next to me on my flight to Australia. He said they use sonic buoys in the water on the swim course as they are proven to drive the sharks away – he added that the Western Australia Ironman is the only such triathlon in the world that uses such devices. This came about the prior year after there was a shark attack up the coast a few weeks before last year’s race. Comforting.
On Saturday, November 26th, the day before the race I was required to attend a mandatory race briefing. The swim director basically announces the following: "About the "S" word, we are aware of the recent report from the attack up the coast. To address this concern we are going to have a plane circling to look for the "S" word. If the safety team in kayaks on the race course begin to blow their whistles continuously, this means the race has been canceled for some reason. In which case, you are to swim to the wooden Bussleton jetty and fashion yourselves onto the wooden cross beams. Do not, I repeat do not attempt to swim back to the shore. You must wait for a motorized vehicle to pluck you from the jetty. The pre-race briefing continued by saying the good news is there are more deaths from lightning than the "S" word. The bad news is that a thunder and lightning storm is in the weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning." Comforting.
It was hard to sleep the night before the race and the thunder and lightning just added to the suspense.
The next morning the race was postponed by 30 minutes due to lingering lightning in the area. There were no sonic buoys that I know of and due to the weather conditions it appeared there were no "S" word spotting planes. My last coherent thought before swimming straight out to sea for over a mile then back was that I might be thrashing in the water like an injured seal more so than the rest of the athletes because the last time I had been swimming was on July 17th when I competed in the 2005 Zurich Ironman. Comforting.
Needless to say I lived. I also achieved my most fundamental goal … not to be last and to beat at least one chick. My time was 12 hour and 55 minutes and as usual there was nothing comfortable about it. I think I will do three Ironman races this year.