The Onset of a Triathlon

I’m pretty ignorant of the world of running and endurance athletics.  I have seen the occasional running and triathlon event on the teevee. But I don’t watch much teevee these days. If, like me,  you’re from New England, you do know about the Boston Marathon.

One August a few years ago, my wife and I walked down to the end of the road to watch the Falmouth Road Race go by. The Falmouth Road Race is a pretty big deal. The sort of big deal where media coverage involves helicopters clacketing overhead. At the head of the pack were some of those world-class Kenyan runners. They were so far ahead, and running so fast, that after they had passed I wondered, had I really seen them?

This year, the world of The Triathlon had beckoned to a family member.  The Onset triathlon, an event branded as the “Escape the Cape”, was the soonest and nearest chance available. The day had come, and she was participating in her very first “tri”. She wanted some support.

So I attended a triathlon. In roles such as spectator, as representative of the Wishetwurra Farm Board of Directors, as tompostpile reporter and photographer, and as chauffeur to fellow members of the Family Cheering Squad (FCS).

The morning of the event I got up early, went to Woods Hole and picked up four members of the FCS Motivational Unit at the ferry, and drove us north on Route 28. Travel was gray, in wind and rain. We drove through Buzzard’s Bay, went around the rotary on the west side of town, and took a left at the first set of lights after the Buttermilk Bay Bridge. The strip  development of route 6 suddenly gives way to rurality, and then appears Onset, a slightly shabby resort town. Onset is a village of not inconsiderable charm.

Participants were gathering, and getting ready.

You’ve got to admire people who really reach for things.

The work that goes into a race of this sort is extraordinary. Preparations are extensive.  Large amounts of time and money are required of the organizers.  Directions. Parking. Traffic Control. Contingencies. Communicating with participants and spectators. Public address systems and a DJ for music. Prizes. Supplying food and drink for multitudes. There’s a big tent, with massage people, to tend to the racers, pre-and-post event. In this tent here will be no charge for those with race numbers. Chartreuse-vested policemen, EMTs, and ambulances are omnipresent and ready in case of accidents or emergencies.

Rules and instructions for participants are numerous. They include details such as how and where to park your bicycle, and how to find your bicycle when you’re looking for it. There are elastic black anklets that carry your timing chip. No, you can’t use your own chip, should you happen to have one.  Forget to turn your chip in at the end of the race and you’ll have to pay fifty bucks to replace it. There are carful directions about where, when and how ID numbers are to be displayed. You have ID numbers to get and to keep track of. Your helmet has your ID number. So does your bicycle. You have a big number to pin on your front. On your arm is written your number. In the photos to come, you will see numbers on the backs of peoples’ calfs What number is that? It’s how old you are.

So many details.

In spite of a gale of wind and considerable rain, hundreds of people came to run, and hundreds more people came to watch and to cheer for friends and loved ones. We talked to one man who came to cheer for total strangers, especially for the stragglers at the tail end of the bicycle pack.

The next-youngest of the Family Cheering Squad gives the Participant some last-moment encouragement.

Due to the day’s wind and poor water conditions, the race began with a one mile run instead of the usual swim. Buzzards Bay water is still so cold that for fear of hypothermia, wet suits would have been a necessity. This first mile of running passed by the impeccably groomed seaside estates of Onset. A bicycle leg and another running leg would follow.

Runners started in groups, organized and prioritized by the color of the swim caps they would have worn had they gone swimming. Here, seconds before the start, many are getting ready to start their personal timers. I hesitate to call them “watches”.

Ten seconds to go………….

They’re off.

A gaggle of geese. An exultation of larks. Is the correct plural term for these folks a “blur”?

At the completion of leg number one, competitors arrive at the bicycle staging area.

The Sea of Bicycles

The Family Member begins the bicycle leg.

Despite wet conditions, there were few wipeouts.

A hard right, into the last leg of the biking component of the race.

After bikes are stowed, there are more miles to run.

She’s off on the last leg.

The finish line appears at last.

It’s called a race, but for most of the participants we saw, and whose conversations we overheard, competition was secondary. Participation for its own sake seemed the primary motivation.

At the finish line, we felt special respect for large-of-body runners.

This finisher is in his mid-seventies. His sprint to the finish line was tempo de tearass.
We later saw him wearing a jacket that said “Rio de Janeiro Marathon”.

Number 515.

Our very own Number 515!


The Family Member lifts her foot in a dance of delight.

Upper left: the foot of five-fifteen.

The single foot belongs to number 515.

Her foot was in the air.

And she was on cloud nine.

2 responses to “The Onset of a Triathlon

  1. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to a triathlon, and it felt pretty close! Love the guy who shows up to cheer for people he doesn’t know. And FCS Motivational Units are great things to have, no matter what you’re doing.

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