One of the things I love about doing triathlons is that you never can tell who is going to kick your butt or whose butt you are going to be able to kick. Sure, the guy who wins the thing is gonna be your stereotypical super lean, super fit, triathlete. But, for those of us hanging in the middle to back of the pack, we get to enjoy some surprising versions of "looks can be deceiving" as a kid in a T-shirt and cargo pants on a mountain bike blows by someone on a pricey tri bike with all kinds of gear, or a really old man out runs a group of fit looking guys half his age.
Being an underdog myself (which is my euphemism for being fat and slow), I love this kind of stuff. I experienced it for the first time at my first triathlon. When I was in line to get my race number marked all over my body, I took note of the girl in front of me. She was tall, lean, tanned, and blonde. You know, everything I'm not and Barbie is. As an adult, I know I should no longer care, but the truth is that Barbie intimidates me. Huge chunks of my adolescent years were wasted either trying to be Barbie or being depressed that I wasn't Barbie. I would like to think that I've matured a bit since then, but let's face it: I have no love for Barbie and I'm sick of her always being better than me.
So we get into the race and I survive the swim and make it to the bike. This is when I see Barbie again and surprisingly blow right past her on the bike. Just as I'm thinking that that was really weird, I meet a new woman. This woman is definately not Barbie. If fact, her butt is so big I can't believe she can sit comfortably on her bike seat. She had to be at least 50 pounds heavier than me. But she is pumping it. Fast. Up a hill. As I shift into an easier gear, she plows right past me and keeps on going. I try to follow her, but have to drop back. I can't keep that pace. She then disappears into the distance.
As I finish the bike, I find myself thinking about this woman and how she can just power up a hill like that and leave Barbie spinning miles behind her. As I transition into the run, I start to hurt. I know I must look bad because people in the crowd are starting to shout to me "Keep going, you can do it, looking strong, etc". I know I don't look strong, I look like I'm ready to keal over. I start progressing towards the turn around and who do I see? The lady who passed me on the bike. But she is not running the same direction as me. She's running towards the finish line. She's already been to the turn around. Phenomonal. I pick up my pace a little to meet her and give her a thumbs up as I pass her and yell "You're awesome, you're almost there!" I push myself up the hill knowing that I've really got no excuse if this lady can do it.
So, Barbie didn't beat me. But, I've long since stopped thinking about Barbie. I've got a new hero. A real woman. An inspiration.