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09/08/2008: "Sport Futility"
So we got up a little after 4AM and rode through a soft, gray night to Venice Beach, to ride in the bike-only wave of the Los Angeles Triathlon.

The multidimensional bureaucratic chaos continued at the staging area, where we could not find a single person amongst wearers of official event shirts who could tell us where the particular staging area was for our bunch. We did note a particularly well-developed skill at shrugging shoulders, though, leading me to believe that all event assistants were former swimmers, no doubt triathletes themselves. We walked the entire expanse of the staging area before finding the corner designated for the bike-only riders. Oddly, it was the only section that included no bike stands....

After sticking, pinning, and scrawling various numbers on our persons, garments, and bikes, we made a run for the Porta-Potty stations, for time was short and lines were long. Fortunately we had but standing duty to fulfill, as toilet paper had long since run out. We were back at our bikes with four or five minutes to spare.

The metallic voice of the announcer rang out regularly over the P.A., and finally the bike-only wave was released--with the severe admonition not to mount our bikes till we had crossed the blue line--an admonition repeated so often and so vigorously by both the amplifier and the yellowshirts on the ground that it began to feel like the section in Pink Floyd's "The Wall" where the headmaster screams repeatedly, "How can y' have any pudding if y' don't eat yer meat?"

The blessed blue line crossed at last, we could fit toes to pedals and begin riding. Back, in fact, precisely the way we had come, since the course ran not only back to our neighborhood but passed within two hundred feet of our bedroom. I looked wistfully down our street as we whizzed by, passed at close quarters by the serious triathletes, who seem to take more pleasure in buzzing us than benighted SUV drivers do in cutting off bike commuters.... Of course, I was on my fendered fixie, and Gina was riding her nickel-plated randonneuse, and we were not trying to win anything.

Just west of downtown the course met some serious hills, where I could at last pass everyone in sight...after which I had to wait for Gina, since I was there to be by her side. Bless her, rather than cutting over to the shorter Sprint course, she elected to stay on the Olympic route, which she finished at an average speed of 15.2mph--not at all bad for someone whose training consisted of rides to the mall two miles off, and one 25-mile beach run last week.

The end of the course entered LA Live, a sort of mall crossbred out of "Blade Runner" and Times Square, replete with LED signs and kiosks everywhere. The promised free beer was not in sight, but cookies and fruit were, and I did my best to minimize waste of resources by eating as much of same as I could.

Then, as it was close to ten o' clock, and I didn't want to miss Chuck Schmidt's monthly Rose Bowl ride, I rode to Union Station to catch a Gold Line metro to Pasadena. Gina rode with me as far as the café next door to Pete's, a charming little place whose name neither of us can ever remember, and I went on to catch my train.

Safe until next year!

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