I Got Faster Again–but So did Everybody Else

Yesterday was my annual attempt to complete the Delaware Diamondman Triathlon hosted by Piranha Sports. It’s the most challenging triathlon that I do every year, with a 0.6-mile swim, a 16-mile bike, and a 2-mile run.  Last year at the Diamondman, I finally managed to beat my younger sister for the first time ever. This year was the rematch, and we both wanted to win—badly.

I went into the morning absolutely spent. My new book “Little Boy Blue” came out about a month ago, and it has been far more successful than I ever imagined. This weekend alone I had a book signing on Friday night, an appearance on CNN in New York City on Saturday morning, and another book signing near Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. I learned around 6 o’clock Saturday night that I had the No. 1 dog book in the country. The triathlon started about 12 hours later, and I was so exhausted and excited that I hardly slept a wink the night before stepping into my sneakers.

But my adrenaline was pumping as we started the race. Usually in these events, I am one of the slower swimmers and my sister is one of the fastest. She always gets out of the water with a few minutes’ lead, and then I try to catch up to her on the bike and pass her on the run. This year, she had one of her best swim times ever, and she actually caught up to quite a few of the men who started swimming before us with a five-minute head start. I, on the other hand, had what seemed like my worst swim ever. Though I felt fine in the water, I was the next-to-last person out of the pond, out of everybody in the whole triathlon. The lifeguards on kayaks were right behind me, just in case I pooped out. That’s never happened to me before, and I figured I just was so tired that I wasn’t competing at my normal pace even though I felt fine.

Then I got on the bike, and there was nobody around me at all. I felt like everyone else had such a huge head start from the swim that I’d never catch up. I also couldn’t concentrate, because as I was out there on the roads alone on a beautiful, sunny morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about “Little Boy Blue” making it to No. 1 the night before. I actually caught myself smiling and laughing a few times when I should have been pumping my legs and increasing my speed. Again, I figured, who cares? I felt awesome and I just kept going. I pretty much looked like Pee Wee Herman out there singing, “La la la la la…”

Around mile 10 on the bike, I saw my sister walking along the side of the road. I slowed down to make sure she was okay, and she told me that her front tire had gone flat, been fixed, and gone flat again. She was fine, but incredibly upset—first because she wouldn’t be able to finish the race, and second because she’d had such a huge lead coming out of the water that she managed to get a flat, fix it, and then walk a half-mile with another flat before I even caught up to her. She was crushing me out there and most certainly would have won our rematch.

I continued at her urging and finished the race, but remained one of the stragglers at the end. When all was said and done, I finished dead last in my division, and in 138th place out of all 143 competitors. When I logged onto the race website this morning, I expected to see a horrific overall time and just be proud that I’d gotten to the finish line.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that I was actually faster than last year—by a whole minute and a half. It turned out to be one of my best finishes ever in this race, and a massive improvement on my swim time in particular. I had worse times than last year on the bike and the run, but my swim that looked so sickly in person was actually superb. Somehow the entire field of competitors had just gotten wildly better in the face of my incremental progress. So while I was indeed faster than last year, I also somehow got slower than just about everybody else who was out there competing yesterday.

I’ll take that. And I’m calling it a win—including at Thanksgiving dinner while sitting across from my sister later this year.


Yesterday’s race by the numbers:

Overall time: 2:13:29, improving on last year’s 2:14:57

Time it took me to complete the 0.6-mile swim: 32:12, a huge improvement over last year’s 37:39

Number of times I saw the same guy as last year in nothing but a Captain America Speedo: 2

My overall finish: Dead-last place among Athenas in my division, and No. 138 out of 143 competitors overall

Number of times my sister has cussed about failing to finish because she would’ve beaten me: At least seven

Number of days until we can go out and try for a rematch again: 364

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