FROM THE WILDS OF MANHATTAN
Er, What’s a Duathon?
As we rapidly approach winter, Desk Jockey muses on a busy year: Marathons. 400-mile bicycle vacations. What sport can an obsessive-compulsive New York City resident master next? A duathlon. Duatha-whaaat?
New York City is inhabited by 8 million people who know everything about the important things in life. These include the subtle differences between Spence, Chapin, and Nightingale Bamford (private schools in Manhattan with $40,000-a-year tuition). Then there are the fine points of hailing a cab during the morning rush hour. Or what to order at Vico, a middle-brow Italian joint on the Upper East Side.
Tell them something you think they won’t know, and some frowning smarty-pants will invariably snap back, “I knew that.” Remind them Christmas falls on a Friday this year, and they’ll roll their eyes, let out a long sigh, and sneer, “How fascinating.”
Similarly, in a town where hedge fund managers still have $100 million paydays, it’s hard to impress anybody with any sort of achievement, even if that achievement is a victory at a duathlon. That’s because that same smarty pants will stare at you, smile cruelly, and ask, “So. What’s a duathlon?”
A duathlon, for those of you more comfortable with reading Web content than running marathons, is an ultra-sport that is not unlike a triathlon—which everybody in New York knows about (or knows someone who’s done one.) The difference is, as the prefix implies, “du” means two sports—running and biking—whereas “tri” means three sports: running, biking, and swimming.
Participating in a duathlon is a safe way to dip into one of New Yorkers’ newest sports crazes—ultra-sports—literally without getting your feet wet (i.e., there’s no swimming.) For Desk Jockey, who flunked his adult swimming course 10 years ago at an indoor municipal pool, that’s just fine.
Ultra-competition in an ultra-competitive city
This fascination with plunging into another outrageous sport began when Desk Jockey returned from his mega-masochistic bicycle vacation this August (see “Go West, Young Desk Jockey” in the September Wild River Review.)
Desk Jockey, who dwells in bike shops like certain New Yorkers inhabit OTB parlors, noticed a sign posted at his bike shop that he had been staring at, without really reading, for months. “Duathlon! October 18. 5K Run, 25K Bike, and 5K Run.”
Having just biked 370 miles in six days on vacation, and over the course of his adult life competed in 3 marathons, 8 half-marathons, but 0 duathlons, Desk Jockey saw the duathlon as a chance to explore his inner mad man and expand his sporting repertoire. It would all depend, of course, on whether his trusty companion C would agree to drive him to the start, 40 miles north of New York City. Like many New Yorkers, Desk Jockey doesn’t own a car, but knows somebody who does.
C, who is accustomed to Desk Jockey’s craving for T.N.T (short for “The Next Thing”) was quickly apprised of the details of the event, thought about it for a moment, and quietly said, “You could do this.” Desk Jockey, dumbfounded by C’s quick agreement, later chalked it up to the fact that C figured it would not cost either him nor Desk Jockey a great deal of money—unlike Desk Jockey’s previous obsessions, which included buying used Prada loafers on eBay or purchasing 12,000 iTunes.
With that, Desk Jockey was off and training. Or, should he say, training, training, and then training some more.
New York City training conditions in August: 80-degree temperatures, accompanied by 90 percent humidity
As people may surmise, a city with 8 million inhabitants is the last place anyone with an ounce of sense wants to be in the middle of August. (Desk Jockey has never been to Botswana, but he believes weather conditions there might not be dissimilar to ours in summer.)
The usual smells of garbage in New York are even more pungent in August. New Yorkers who have the misfortune to be stuck in town at that time are truly perplexed by the massive influx of tourists. We basically shrug and mutter to ourselves, “Schmucks! They probably don’t know any better.”
It was against this backdrop that Desk Jockey, not known for pursuing anything with less than 1,000 percent enthusiasm, began training for his duathlon. And the way Desk Jockey trained was not to do part of the race (i.e. just run the 5K part) or just two legs of the race (a 5K run, followed by a 25K bike ride.)
No, during those lazy, hazy, absolutely miserable days of summer, Desk Jockey began his training, by literally running and biking the entire length of the upcoming duathlon, right from his Upper East Side apartment, once a week, and continuing right up to the day of the race.
An early morning training regimen (don’t try this at home)
Training for a duathlon in Desk Jockey’s world meant rising at 5 a.m., lacing up his running shoes while still half-asleep, and slogging toward Central Park to then run the lower loop at full speed, stopping only for a gulp of water at a small fountain near Sheep Meadow.
After running the first 5K leg, Desk Jockey dashed back to his building and changed quickly into his biking shoes. Dragging his bike kicking and groaning into the elevator, Desk Jockey then simulated the 15-mile bike “leg” of the duathlon. After biking, Desk Jockey ran another 5K, returned to his apartment, swallowed several powerful painkillers, and then as New Yorkers are wont to say, “plotzed” (translation: collapsed in a heap.)
This behavior seemed to impress Desk Jockey’s grouchy 80-year-old doorman, who was a three-pack-a-day smoker until about five years ago.
“Boy….you got some insides,” he muttered gruffly in his New York accent, shaking his head and doddering back to his easy chair and the sports section of the News.
Training 24/7/365, including Labor Day
Desk Jockey took every opportunity to train for his duathlon, including days most rational New Yorkers would consider sacred. This included Labor Day—a time usually reserved for rest and quiet contemplation of the events of the past summer. Desk Jockey also trained for the duathlon on his birthday at the end of September.
While training, Desk Jockey also experimented with different layers of clothing, socks, etc., especially how and when to change from one set of clothing to another. Little did he anticipate—or allow himself to consider—that it might be cold and rainy on Duathlon Sunday.
The forecast for Duathlon Sunday: cold and rainy
When Desk Jockey watches the Weather Channel’s “Local on the 8s” forecast every morning, he does so with the same intensity that his Roman Catholic parents watch the Pope’s sermon on Easter Sunday. But when the forecast for Duathlon Sunday called for drenching rain and cold winds, Desk Jockey yelled at the TV screen, “You lie!”
Unfortunately, such Joe-Wilson-like behavior would prove no match for the reality of that cold, dreary Sunday morning in October. Duathlon Sunday began with the alarm sounding at 540 a.m., followed by a chain of events that included a) dragging the bike once more into the elevator, b) removing the front tire in a pouring rain storm so that the bike could be loaded, ever so gingerly, into C’s new Volvo without scratching his leather seats, and c) C driving Desk Jockey to the race start, silently wondering why he had ever befriended such a maniac like Desk Jockey in the first place.
Upon arriving at the Duathlon grounds (a local state park about 40 miles north of New York), Desk Jockey felt somewhat mollified. Instead of the muscular behemoths Desk Jockey was accustomed to seeing in triathlon photography, Desk Jockey noted that most of the other competitors looked, well…normal. The exception was a large contingent of young, very fit West Point cadets, however, who dressed as if it were 81 degrees instead of 41 degrees. Desk Jockey, who frequently says he would never want to be 21 again, hoped that a genie might suddenly appear from behind a state park bramble to grant him a twenty-something body, if only for the morning.
And they’re off!
Most New York City competitions are started with an air gun and the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The start of Desk Jockey’s duathlon consisted of a man standing at the starting line yelling, “Go!”
Once underway, Desk Jockey felt relieved: he could sense a number of contestants still behind him. This dispelled his dread of coming in last, or being “pulled” from the race. (The duathlon organizer specified he would do this to anyone still on the course after two-and-a-half hours.)
While preparing for the race, Desk Jockey read that he should expect things to “go wrong.” These misfortunes started happening almost immediately. Because he insisted on wearing his cycling goggles while running (to save time transitioning from running gear into biking bear), his goggles fogged up considerably from the rain, preventing him from seeing where he was going. Fortunately, Desk Jockey was a bit more careful than usual, and Did. Not. Stumble.
As Desk Jockey finished the first 5K run, and was changing into his biking gear, he misplaced the goggles he specifically need to bike–which increased the possibility that he would a) not be able to see, fall off his bike, and dislocate his shoulder, or b) risk a piece of piece of glass or small stone flying into his unprotected eyeballs. Again, keeping his head, Desk Jockey Did. Not. Choke.
Where is everybody?
As Desk Jockey proceeded to the final 5K run, he glanced around him and was amazed to see—nobody. He wondered, was this a phenomenon of ultra-sports? Was he…last? Finally, a few runners caught up to him and passed him, which caused Desk Jockey even more consternation.
Plowing toward the finishing line, his arms held high in a victory salute, not unlike his erstwhile nightmare president, Richard Nixon, Desk Jockey was greeted with a congratulatory hug from C, who then barked, “Let’s get out of here. I’m freezing.”
First, though, Desk Jockey limped over to race check-in to see his results. Next to his name and age, he saw two numbers: 1/1. When Desk Jockey asked the race director what that meant, the race director replied, “It means you’ve won your age group.”
Well, thought Desk Jockey. Well, well, well.
Desk Jockey has participated in dozens of competitive races over the past 30 years, and has trained for the shortest 5K race with decathlon-like effort—only to come in minutes, or even hours off his predicted finishing time. This win was a sign that even among the most competitive people in the world—New Yorkers—it was sometimes possible to emerge victorious.
Of course, it also reinforced his suspicion that the way to win was to keep on competing until everybody else quits or dies.
Desk Jockey made sure C took plenty of photos of the event, which he immediately posted on his Facebook page once he returned home (and even before he showered.) The congratulations began pouring in from his Facebook friends quickly—and later, in person, when Desk Jockey attended a family event in Connecticut.
Would he “du” it again?
As loyal readers of Wild River Review know, Desk Jockey is a great fan of President Obama (see the story “No-Drama Obama? Your Mama” which appeared earlier this year on the Wild River Review Web site). He appreciates the fact that the President is taking his time with issues, rather than rushing to judgment as his predecessor was wont.
Therefore, when someone asked Desk Jockey if he would do another duathlon, before his tongue could meet the roof of his mouth and utter “no,” Desk Jockey decided to respond with Obama-like caution, and said, simply, “Not sure.” The reason?
Next time, he’d like to compete in an ultra-sport New Yorkers have actually heard of.
August Cosentino is a professional writer who cycles passionately, eats discriminately, attends theatre religiously, Facebooks constantly, and as the photo indicates, is as good to his mother as he was to his father who passed away in 2012. He lives in Manhattan with his two carbon-fiber bicycles, and G.
ARTICLES BY AUGUST COSENTINO
AIRMAIL – From the Wilds of Manhattan
The End of the Bucket List
Fifty Shades of Pain: Cycling the Pyrenees, One Mountain Pass at a Time
Go West Young Desk Jockey
Greece: It’s a Riot
How Many Facebook Friends Are Too Many?
Marylebone and Me
The Sandwich Generation: Eldercare and Me
Scandinavia, The Great Escape
Welcome to the Jungle: Is Mad Men Really About Advertising
Work Like Wall Street: Earn Like Main Street