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A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.


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July 28, 2015

Her Eighth Triathlon

The Wife competes in what might be the last Pine Bush Triathlon, but she did not compete barefooted like some

*UPDATE* The Wife gets her medal!

Every year starting in the year 2000 the Capital District YMCA has put on the Pine Bush Triathlon, an event where participants swim, bicycle and run for, well. for the hell of it. They do this for health, to get outdoors and do something physical in the summer, to have a training goal to work towards, to find out what they are capable of. But maybe the biggest reason is to say, hey, I did it.

Sadly, there are signs that the Capital District YMCA wants to put an end to this event. The event has a limit of 400 participants and usually is forced to turn away last minute registrants, but this year there was almost no advertising and more ominously, apparently no email notices were sent out. As a result of this notification neglect, this year’s event had only about 240 participants signed up, and perhaps because of dicey looking weather earlier in the morning only 197 actually showed.

Lifeguards Head Out On Kayaks And Paddle Boards To Man Their Positions On Rensselaer Lake Before The Pine Bush Triathlon Begins
Lifeguards Head Out On Kayaks And Paddle Boards To Man Their Positions On Rensselaer Lake Before The Pine Bush Triathlon Begins

But The Wife showed up. Believe it or not this is the eighth time she has “run” this triathlon and completed the entire course. Her stated goal has always been to not come in last, and this year thanks to someone 20 years younger than her who was apparently in worse shape than her, she managed second to last place. She wasn’t included in the earliest of the nine “heats” going into the water at the start of the race, these groups were full of young healthy people wearing body suits and looking buff.

Healthy Young People Get Ready To Jump In The Water
Healthy Young People Get Ready To Jump In The Water

She had no doubt that she could finish the course this year, thanks to living in the South End of Albany she had plenty of opportunity to prepare. Lincoln Park is right outside our door, so she can always run on a smooth pavement in a green park without fear of cars. She prefers to haul her bicycle by car the eight tenths of a mile down to the Corning Preserve which is stretched out along the Hudson River, and there she can have a healthy scenic bike drive without cars.

Lincoln Park Pool Before Opening Day, Great For Training When It’s Open
Lincoln Park Pool Before Opening Day,
Great For Training When It’s Open

Unfortunately it’s become hard for her to train for the swimming. The previous mayor of Albany closed down Bathhouse #2 for no reason other than sheer spite, and Capital District YMCA CEO David Brown shut down our local YMCA because he personally hates swimming pools and because he happily relishes that typical suburbanite disdain for the City of Albany. So for all practical purposes The Wife can’t do much if any swim training in cold weather.

Fortunately she does have Lincoln Park Pool practically outside our door, which opens near the end of June when the public schools let out. She tells me that one and a half times around the circumference of the enormous pool is about equivalent to the 325 yard swim in Rensselaer Lake, and that she can do four times around without stopping. So she has the endurance, but because of the lack of winter training she slurps through the water at a painfully slow pace.

Early Heat Of Healthy Young People Rounding The First Big Orange Ball
Early Heat Of Healthy Young People
Rounding The First Big Orange Ball

One problem we didn’t have this year was a long line of women waiting to use the one available toilet before the start of the race, in past years I’ve counted as many as 50 women nervously clenching their thighs. This year there was no line, no waiting. Partly this was from the low attendance to the event, but mostly this was because I badgered The Wife into writing a letter to the mayor.

City of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, you might recall, is female. Through one of her staff she wrote back to The Wife that she was “very sympathetic” to her complaint but that the City could only ask the Capital District YMCA for relief in this matter. Well it looks like a request from the mayor’s office worked wonders, this year we had no less than four porta-potties set up in the nearby parking lot.

The Ninth And Last Heat Waits For The Starting Horn
The Ninth And Last Heat Waits For The Starting Horn

So with everyone else long gone into the water and beyond, the eight old people in the ninth and last heat got ready to take off. For The Wife this is the toughest moment of the event, she has to wrestle with irrational fears as she is about to plunge into the water. I suggested to her that she immerse herself in the water while waiting to start, she reports that this helped her a great deal.

The Geese Did Not Compete
The Geese Did Not Compete

Yeah, she’s a slow swimmer but she this year she didn’t stop and hang on a kayak, and thanks to the big orange balls she didn’t stray too far off the course. I had plenty of time to stroll around to the other side of the lake carrying her abandoned flip-flops. I even had time to watch the geese that were surely befuddled by all this early morning activity.

The Wife Staggers Ashore Trailed By Someone Slower And All The Lifeguards
The Wife Staggers Ashore Trailed By Someone Slower
And All The Lifeguards

Eventually she staggered ashore much more solidly than other years, and amazingly there was a guy who trailed behind her. Right behind that guy all the floating lifeguards followed ever so slowly, their job was done. And The Wife waddled dripping wet to The Transition Area.

The Wife Struggles With A T-Shirt At The Transition Area
The Wife Struggles With A T-Shirt At The Transition Area

The time it takes to change clothes and grab the bicycle is counted in the overall time. When she’s transitioning I swear The Wife forgets that she’s in a race and believes that she’s at home on a Monday morning selecting her underwear for the day. I acted like a tough coach and hollered at her to get moving, but instead of dressing faster she waved her socks furiously at me and hollered back. Meanwhile, the guy who swam slower than her arrived, jumped on his bike and took off leaving her all alone in last place.

After a while she stopped fussing around with her clothes and started fussing with her bike, and eventually she actually got on the bike and took off as that part of the event shut down behind her. Realizing that I had all the time in the world I strolled back across Fuller Road to where my vehicle was parked. I then navigated all those stupid unnecessary pedestrian unfriendly roundabouts that kill bicyclists and increase auto fender-benders out to the YMCA that is located on route 20 in the western end of Guilderland.

Claire Nolan Arriving In Guilderland, She Did The Entire Triathlon Barefooted
Claire Nolan Arriving In Guilderland, She Did The Entire Triathlon Barefooted

The bicycle drive to Guilderland was a mere 11.5 miles. When we were driving our car to the event The Wife noted that the road was divided with orange cones, because of this she was worried that during the event she would have to drive her bike through road construction. She is terrified of biking in auto traffic which slows her down considerably. But someone explained to her that the cones were put there for the triathletes so they would be safe from the cars and she felt much better.

I arrived at the Gulderland YMCA bicycle abandonment corral in time to see her friend Claire Nolan pass the gate to start the 3.25 mile run in suburban traffic. Claire has won category prizes in this event in past years, but a few years ago because of arthritis she was told by her doctor that she would never compete like this again. But after a hip replacement here she is, not winning any awards but not doing too badly either.

Barefoot Weddings Have Become The Thing: Showing Off Foot Adornments
Barefoot Weddings Have Become The Thing: Showing Off Foot Adornments

Claire did the entire event barefoot, swimming, driving her bike and running on the suburban pavements. She’s always had a predilection for minimal footwear, wearing flip-flops outdoors when snow is on the ground, etc. Lately she has become an advocate of this decade’s Going Barefoot movement, displaying below the ankle nudity outdoors as much as possible and regularly competing in physical competitions like this one without shoes.

Reportedly her feet are healthier than ever and have not had any mishaps. There’s a bestseller book out about Going Barefoot and there are, inevitably, accouterments for sale such as foot adornments for barefoot weddings, and henna tattoos. But officially bare feet are considered unhealthy (“No Shirt No Shoes No Service”) and eventually if the movement gets popular there will be a pushback and undoubtedly Bare Feet will morph into a civil rights movement.

The Wife Arrives In Guilderland
The Wife Arrives In Guilderland

At the bike drop-off area in Guilderland I waited near the YMCA with the other husbands who had slow pokey wives. After some ridiculously interminable amount of time The Wife came staggering out of the bicycle parking corral and started the run, a loop that came back to the YMCA. I knew I had plenty of time to wait. While I was waiting for her to complete the run the organizers held the award ceremony without waiting for all the competitors to finish. I didn’t think that was fair.

There was one other husband still waiting after The Wife dropped off her bicycle and streaked through the checkpoint, he was very worried. This was his wife’s first triathlon and he asked several volunteers if there was any way of checking to see if she was alright, if she had been hit by car or something. They assured him that there were plenty of EMTs and ambulances and cops out there watching for that sort of thing along with a sweep car that followed behind the last straggler.

The Wife Plods Uphill As Barefoot Claire, Who Finished A Long Time Ago, Encourages
The Wife Plods Uphill As Barefoot Claire,
Who Finished A Long Time Ago, Encourages

The number one reason why I accompany The Wife on these Pine Bush triathlons is so I can eat free hotdogs. But this year The Wife was so damn slow that by the time I went over to the YMCA building to collect my pink slime prizes, I was informed that the hotdogs were already finished. All they had left was bananas, like meh, and they had little pots of yogurt, an unappetizing substance which I only grudgingly concede is food.

So I grumped a bit and went over to wait with the guy with the extremely slow wife for our respective spouses to trudge into view. Eventually The Wife appeared at the bottom of the hill, walking, mind you, not running. I hollered at her to Go Go Go For The Gold Turn On The Juice and halfway up the hill she did indeed break into a slow trot.

The Wife Streaks To The Finish
The Wife Streaks To The Finish

I strolled behind The Wife as she ripped up the pavement in the home stretch. There was discussion all around about whether anybody else was still out there after The Wife, so I pointed out the fellow who was still over by the road staring intently down the hill for signs of his wife. After a while he lay down in the grass, when he suddenly stood up and looked alert I knew that she had finally appeared.

The Winner Gets Her Reward
The Winner Gets Her Reward

Every year the Guilderland Fire Department sets up a firehose on a crane to spray water over a corner of the parking lot. Standing under this spray is what The Wife looks forward to as she runs through the suburban roads, remember that this is July and it is freaking hot even in the morning. I made a point of thanking the FD guys for doing this for the competitors.

The wife with First Place Winner (Women 60 - 69) Theresa Portelli [Photo: John Portelli]
The wife with First Place Winner (Women 60 - 69) Theresa Portelli [Photo: John Portelli]

But wait. Despite being slower than a slug in a bucket of molasses, The Wife actually came in second place in her category, Women 60 - 69 years old. Okay, there were only two women in that category, and she even passed the first place winner Theresa Portelli on her bicycle. But as can be seen in the photo, Ms. Portelli wore a triathlon friendly outfit and did not waste time fooling around in the transition area. In the clothes-changing competition The Wife could not compete with the winner.

They Sent The Winner Her Medal
They Sent The Winner Her Medal

Earlier I mentioned that the awards ceremony was held before all the runners finished, and the winners of the latter heats didn’t get to participate and be honored. Well, the next day Ms. Portelli complained bitterly and her first place medal was delivered to her promptly. But what about The Wife who technically came in second? Where’s her medal?

She also complained, but I don’t think the Female Older Baby Boomer category had a second place. They said they’d get back to her, but I’m not holding my breath. But what the hell, give her a medal. She finished the event, didn’t she?

*UPDATE* So The Wife called the YMCA on Monday and they said they would get back to her. She called again Wednesday afternoon and they said Yes! They had a Second Place medal for her! She jumped in the car and drove all the way out there. She told me she "got there so fast the guy hadn’t brought down the medal yet.”

2nd Place Medal for 60-69 Women in the Pine Bush Tri

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