I am a Triathlete!

Last week I did my second sprint triathlon (yes! it wasn’t just a fluke! I really am a triathlete!). The Parker Fall Frenzy is similar to the Longmont Triathlon, with a 500 yard pool swim, 11 mile bike and 5k run. It’s in Parker, just south of Denver (which seems way too far away when you’re looking at the prospect of being there at 6:00 in the morning).

This time, I was the only one competing, which made the pre-race prep easier. My Beloved was determined to get everything into one vehicle, so we took his truck, but he still had to pretty much completely dismantle the handcycle. We set the alarm for 4:30 am, and thanks to years of practice getting kids out of the house at the crack of dawn for swim meets, we were prepared, with the coffee already ground and table set for breakfast, etc.

The dog was surprised to be woken, sent outside and fed at that hour, but she survived.

We got there, and we starting putting the stuff back together. As he was messing with one of the cranks on the handcycle, my Beloved said, “Oh, no!” (it was probably actually “Oh, shit!”). Next thing I know he’s in the bed of the truck with a flashlight – the bearing has fallen out somewhere.

No need to panic, he finds it, but as he’s dumping out the washers so he can re-insert the bearing he says, “You are so lucky that I am a mechanic,” which is undeniably true.

I leave him with all the mechanical things and bump over the grass to where they’re doing the body marking. Taking my warm jacket off at 6:00 to reveal my goose-pimpled flesh to the marker is probably the toughest thing I had to do besides get up that early. The referee (nice guy) tells the body marker to make sure she marks my number nice and large so he can find me later. They are crazy about marking at this race: race number on both arms, both legs, and age on your calf. I’m thinking I’m not sure what I’m going to wear to work tomorrow to cover all this ink.

Back at the truck, everything’s put together (hooray!). Our friends Denny and Kate are also there putting Denny’s equipment together, too. Denny and I have been training and competing together all year (Longmont Triathlon, Bolder Boulder). The race director is kind enough to let Denny and me have our own lane in the first heat of the swim—this way we can race against each other and to heck with all those other people.

The swimming pool is way warm. Too warm. Bathtub warm. But then the start is delayed because the cops are not all stationed on the course, and after hanging out in the water for an extra 25 minutes, it doesn’t seem so warm after all. Cops come, moment of silence, national anthem, and we’re off. Swimming is good—pretty soon it’s too warm again, but that’s ok, I’m done!

I’m the first swimmer out of the pool (thanks to the fact that we are in the first heat, with the s-l-o-w swimmers), so that’s a brief thrill. It’s a long, long trip back to the transition over grass. I haul my shorts on (this time without getting dumped out of my chair), get my bicycle helmet, mirror, gloves, and I’m ready to go. My Beloved tells me I’ll warm up in no time, but wet swimsuit and whatever temperature it was at 7:45 am do not add up to warm.

By mile 5, I’m dry. I’ve been passed by maybe half a dozen people. I’m wondering where Denny is (I’m a faster swimmer, but he’s a much faster biker). I keep looking in my mirror, but I don’t see him. He doesn’t catch up to me until mile 9, and then only because it’s a long uphill. We chat for a minute or two, then he pulls ahead of me and he’s gone.

Back to transition. My Beloved has already rounded up a couple of other guys to lift me and the handcycle over the curb—who has a curb in a bicycle race, I ask you? He plies me with more water and Larabars, biking gloves off, a nice lady helps him pry me out of the handcycle and into the racing chair, liners on, gloves on, wow it’s hard to push this thing over grass. There’s Denny, a couple of yards ahead of me.

The run course is on a concrete bike trail, 1.5 miles out, turn and come back. Denny is 4 to 6 yards ahead of me the whole time. I catch him at the turn around, but the trail really isn’t wide enough for me to pass him. I bump the back of his chair about half a dozen times (“bump drafting”, Denny says). He pulls away at the final hill, especially after I misjudge and let my back wheel fall off the sidewalk.

The nice announcer says, “And here’s another triathlete in her canary yellow chair” as I cross the finish about 30 seconds behind Denny, and behind some able-bodied guy who immediately slows to a walk (racing wheelchairs do not stop on a dime) causing me to plow my front wheel into his calves. My Beloved is there at the finish with both our day chairs (what a nice guy).

Denny is starting to get worried that I might actually beat him one of these years, so I tell him he’d better start coming to Masters Swimming practice, because if he can take a couple of minutes off his swim, I’m doomed. Or he can hope that I get trapped in a port-a-potty again.

On the drive home, Denny calls me with the preliminary results:

Me: 1:53.46
Denny 1:53.21

That was the wheelchair division, folks – a good time was had by all, and yes, I am a triathlete!



  1. debe

    this is just terrific!

    I love following your athletic triumphs!

  2. Ruth

    I am thrilled for you!Congratulations :)

  3. che koala

    Congrat’s Katja – hope you are still proudly flashing inked limbs!!
    great reading – would love to have been able to spectate on the event.
    Any pics?

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  6. Andrew C

    Watch Joni Eareckson Tada on PBS Recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Joni is one of longest living quadriplegics, best-selling author, acclaimed artist and advocate for people with disabilities.


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