Weather to Tri

author : Scott Tinley
comments : 1

by Scott Tinley

  
Ironman World Champion, 1982 & 1985
Ironman Hall of Famer; Triathlon Hall of Famer

                  There was a threat of rain and nobody wanted to ride with me. C’mon, you wimps. What’s a little moisture on your salted brow? A few essential elements on your greasy chain? Flesh can’t rust - only fade away from non-use. A San Diego rain storm is like a momentary May shower anywhere east of the Continental Divide.

                  No takers. Some of my friends were weak.

                  But I don’t blame them. Exercising in inclement weather is a lot like getting a flu shot or going to your in-laws for the holidays—you know that it’s probably good for you but still isn’t something that thrills you to death. So, I went for my ride-in-the-rain and it was miserable. And I was glad that I did.

                  Athletes who are committed to performance often have to practice that skill set when the stage lights are broken and the audience chooses to stay inside, warmed by the fire. There are no hard and fast rules about when it’s okay to go outside and when you’re better off in some dank basement running on a creaky treadmill or riding an exer-cycle that goes very fast to nowhere. On the handful of days I would ride an indoor trainer, I’d watch this pool of sweat build up on the garage floor. When it was the size of a basketball I knew it was time to quit. I suppose that if your alternative is frostbite or being tossed by a category four tornado, sitting on a fixed bike watching re-runs of the 1986 Muncie Endurathon for the 27th time doesn’t seem so bad.

                  The most hazardous weather we see in my hometown of Del Mar, California includes enough rain to suggest a sunglass lens change. The worst I ever saw as an athlete was in the winter of 1983 when a series of El Nino-catalyzed storms smashed the West Coast. While the surf was heavy, we were also forced to carry lightweight rain jackets in our jersey pockets. You know…just in case.

                  My hair was a mess all of January and into the first part of February. There was nothing I could do with it. Oh, the horror. I can remember one long ride when we were still fifty miles from home and a rain squall seemed to follow us the entire way home. Blue skies ahead and behind but dark angry clouds above us, matching pace, taunting…ugly. I was riding with 1984 Olympic gold medal cyclist, Steve Hegg. When our fate became apparent he turned to me and said there is only one way to ride in the rain—fast. “Get on my wheel, ST, and don’t let go.” For the next two hours I sat on Hegg’s wheel as he averaged 25 mph, eating road grime from his back tire but not daring to open up more than a few inches between us. I still have scars on my teeth from that ride.

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                  During the summer months it gets hot out here on the SoCal coast; sometimes as high as 80* Fahrenheit. (Enter collective “oh, please” here). The price of sunscreen escalates and skin cancer screenings sore. But in the service of winning races, we do what we can. For many years I swam with a mid-day, university-based, master’s swim team. Between 1983 and the year 2000, I reckon I spent well over 7500 hours under a high-noon sun with most of my 80 proof sunscreen stuck in the pool filters along with body hair, tree leaves, and used condoms. The commitment to that iconic workout at UCSD cost me four skin cancer surgeries and a modeling career. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

                  Besides the polar disparity of hotness/coldness, endurance sport athletes have to deal with wind, dust, water temperatures, and the vagaries of political climates. During the mid-90s I lived with my family in Boulder, Colorado during the summers. It was a cornucopia of athletic talent. You could choose from the athlete a la carte menu on a daily basis. When I felt like a non-confrontational ride into the Great Western Plains, I often ordered up my pal, Kenny Souza. We’d ride long and smooth into the dust bowls of east of town, never knowing whether we’d find fifty mph headwinds, VW sized hail chunks, or Dorothy’s Kansas. We carried three spare tubes, a pocket full of Power Bars, and enough money to buy six beers at a roadside pub if we had to call our mamas for a ride home. We felt exposed.

                  But the worst of those half dozen Boulder summers never came out in the farmlands with the eastern sky pulling you toward Omaha. The real shit came up high when we went West over the Continental Divide. Those were the days when Scott Molina was KOM and many found themselves privileged to have him drop them on the way to 12,000 feet. Boulder stands at 5,100 feet above sea level. But on a sixty mile ride you can find yourself at 10,000 feet with lightening stabbing and dodging at your real derailleur. Loud, heavy shit that can chase you into a roadside forest where you pray and hide from the bolts and wonder why you never took up chess or table tennis. The trick was to get your ride done before noon when the micro-fronts compressed as they came up hard and quick against the Flat Irons. If you had been up early, snuck in a swim and a few bagels with cream cheese and on your trusty steed by 8AM, then you had a fighting chance of not getting fried by sun, wind, and afternoon lightening. Lunch and a nap while it rained and then an early evening run as the steam rose from the trials. A perfectly exposed Boulder day.

                  And while the Rocky Mountains can expose more than the human form, so can the Pacific Ocean. There are a handful of elite triathletes who choose to live and train in Boulder, Colorado because, technically-speaking, there are no sharks that inhabit Boulder Reservoir. Not the Jaws kind anyway. Out here on the Left Coast, while the lightning strikes and tornados are tame and the avalanches come in slides of sand castles falling, we still have to deal with legitimate man-eaters. White sharks. Beastly mammals that had will shred you like a cheese grater quite by accident.

                  At approximately 7:10 AM PST on April 25, 2008, a friend of mine who was swimming in the ocean with a handful of other triathletes was subjected to serious natural elements—he was attacked by a white shark. And died from his wounds. This would not have happened in an open water swim at Boulder Reservoir even though bacteria levels from fecal matter might kill you in another way. In nature and in life, shit happens. The victim, Dave Martin, was a good guy, a veterinarian of some repute, and a strong age group athlete. He knew the risks of exposure and calculated them well. There hadn’t been a documented shark attack in Southern California in over fifty years. Wrong place, wrong time. Fate. Who knows? He had a good life.

                  The level that endurance athletes go in search of greatness can and will place them in the path of nature’s elements. It’s what we do. Sometimes it’s an asset and sometimes a liability. Yesterday I rode a 25 knot tailwind for way too long, feeling as if I was twenty five again. I knew the return trip back down the coast would be a heavy payment for my free ride north. But I couldn’t help it, thinking that if could ride this sucker all the way around the globe I’d just get off the train when it circled back near my garage. And when rational thought did resurface, I pulled that U-turn and saw my speed cut in half with twice the effort.

                  There is something quite demoralizing about a head wind; something about standing on your pedals in an effort to go downhill. But the fates were good to me and the wind clocked around. Tailwinds up and back. Damn, who’d a thunk it? Not that one day makes up for the many headwinds up and back. As Woody Guthrie once said, “You take it easy. But take it.” And I took that sweet lottery wind all the way home.

By Scott Tinley, Springtime, 2014

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date: March 13, 2014

Author


Scott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

Author

avatarScott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

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