I'm currently in the process of rehabbing a torn achilles tendon in my left leg. The ankle was immobilized for three months, during which it evolved, tadpole like, from a plaster cast to a walking boot to, finally, just the other day, a normal pair of shoes.
If you keep up with this triathlon thing long enough, sooner or later you are going to have to go through this process. And this is going to bring you face-to-face with one of the more mysterious and feared creatures on the athletic landscape. I refer, of course, to the physical therapist. During this same period of time, I moved from Connecticut to California. I moved all of my stuff into storage, except for a couple suitcases that I was going to live out of for the next few months. I was determined to limit to essentials. This has inflicted a number of important consequences. For example, somehow during the three months it took for my leg to evolve from plaster cast to walking boot or I suppose it was pretty much inevitable, but my life has become an obscure cable TV show. Ever since my recent move from Connecticut to San Francisco, my life has become an episode of "Leib Dodell, Triathlete Hunter."
From the moment I arrived here, I have been on a mission to unearth the local triathlon community. I wanted to learn where they swam, where they did their track workouts, where they went for the cheapest all-you-can-eat buffets, etc. So, like Charles Darwin, Jacques Cousteau and other naturalists before me, I set off on a journey into the unknown, to locate and catalogue the native triathlon population.
Legend had it that San Francisco was a land rich in triathletes. And it wasn’t long before my trained eye picked up some telltale signs. Three Treks with aero bars and Gu stickers locked in front of a GNC. Two guys with shaved legs and tattoos on the subway (granted, this was San Francisco, so that last clue wasn't exactly dispositive). A sporting goods store selling nothing but wetsuits. Yes, there were triathletes here all right. Plenty of them. But so far, I had yet to spot any of the elusive creatures.
I thought about setting a trap to lure some of them out into the open. It was well established in the scientific literature that triathletes are notoriously ravenous and cheap animals. So I figured all I had to do was put an open box of Powerbars on a park bench in the middle of the city, then hide behind a tree and wait. It was a brilliant plan, but unfortunately, I was too cheap to buy a whole box of Powerbars. And even if I had, I would've been too hungry not to eat them all myself. So that idea went nowhere.
But then I had a breakthrough. Like most great scientific achievements, luck played a major role. I was on a city bus one afternoon, when I overheard two people behind talking about going on a training ride. Suddenly, all my senses came alive. I knew this was my big chance. If this had been Wild Kingdom, I would've pinned one of them to the ground, clipped a homing device to his ear, and then released him back into the wild, so I could track them to their natural training grounds.
Luckily, that proved unnecessary. I tuned into their conversation, and sure enough they made plans to meet for a ride the next morning. I woke up early, filled with a sense of excitement and anticipation. I grabbed my bike and staked out a position near the meeting place. I waited for what seemed like an eternity. Triathlete hunting can be a lonely, solitary business. I started to worry that maybe their keen senses had picked up the presence of an outsider and scared them off.
Then suddenly I saw them come around a corner. There must have been a dozen of them, an entire herd of triathletes, cycling beautifully before my eyes. It unfolded in slow motion, like those scenes of giraffes galloping across the Serengeti that you see on nature shows. A chill ran up my spine as they rode by. Cautiously, I started to ride toward them. I knew that packs of triathletes could be hostile to intruders. Would they accept me into their pack, or shun me as an outsider?
The triathletes were wary of me at first. Clearly, they were confused by my presence, and worried that I wouldn’t understand their rules and customs and cause a major pile-up. But after a short time, they came to realize that I meant them no harm, and they accepted me among their numbers. Like Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees, I have been living among the San Francisco triathletes for several weeks now. I am pleased to report that rumors of the near extinction of the California triathlete are totally unfounded. The indigenous triathlon population is healthy, thriving . . . and maybe just a little bit intense.
Tune in next week, when we will go in search of the mysterious and dangerous triple ironman triathlete.