A chance reunion Saturday night brought back memories of one of the greatest sports triumphs in recent history.
Our story offered pathos, triumph, blood, sweat and muscles cramps.
Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is …the 2003 Ripon Triathlon.
We arrived promptly with our small support team, confident, well-rested, primed for victory. The air crackled with excitement as we stood on the edge of Green Lake and waited for our ace in the hole to complete the 1.5K swim. He gave us a wave as he took off and we gave him a little cheer.
Then, we waited.
“Is that him?” we asked, as the first swimmers came sprinting out of the water.
“I think he’s over there,” someone said.
But, it turned out our swimmer had underestimated the difference between pool lap swimming and lake racing. He took a foot to the chin, gulped a little too much water, and up chucked before the turnaround.
Eventually, he dragged his poor, beat-up self from the water and raised his exhausted arm for some limp high fives.
We lagged a little as our biker took the chip for his 24-mile ride. We had driven the course the day before and our biker had trained hard all summer. He took off confidently, aiming to make up ground.
Meanwhile our team hustled over to the transition area, where we waited and waited. We heard sirens in the distance and joked about a potential police escort for our missing teammate.
But, it turns out the sirens were for our biking friend who had cramped up and landed in a ditch along the road. He waved off the ambulance and carried on but, by the time he handed off the chip to our runner, me, the course officials were heading toward the finish line for the medal ceremony.
I set off and almost immediately veered off course. Sadly, a few fellow straggling runners followed me up a steep hill.
“Are you with the triathlon?” someone yelled.
I nodded. I mean, obviously.
“You’re going to wrong way?” they yelled.
“What?” I said as I chugged along what turned out to be some random street, all dressed up in my runner’s bib with a sharpie tattoo of my number on my leg.
“You’re going to wrong way. Turn around!”
“I’m so sorry,” I huffed as I turned around and passed the poor runners who had followed me up the hill. “Apparently the course is over there.”
I wanted to cry. I set no speed records as I made my way along the 10K route and hardly anyone was even still at the finish line when my teammates spotted me rounding a corner and joined me to cross it.
Faintly, we heard our names announced and we stumbled toward the medal stand.
Want to know who won the co-ed division of the 2003 team triathlon? That’s right, baby. We did.
Humbly, we bent our heads and accepted the medals. We immediately made plans to wear our medals to a celebration dinner that night and, if you’d have been walking along College Avenue on Saturday, August 2, 2003, you’d have seen my teammates and me, proudly sporting our championship medals.
It’s very possible we were the only co-ed team registered for the 2003 Ripon Triathlon, but time and celebratory beverages have rendered that likelihood insignificant.
The fact is, we three comprised a championship team and, Saturday night, we took a moment to celebrate that triumph one more time.