Friday, 13 February 2009

Scorching Bay Triathlon - Workplace Challenge

As the alarm goes off at 6am on Sunday after four hours of sleep and three heavy nights (it was the Sevens after all) my thoughts are less than charitable – ‘whose stupid idea was it to enter the workplace challenge triathlon?’ I grumble. The fact that it was my suggestion doesn’t make it any more palatable.

I eat my two slices of toast and honey (which is a bit of a ritual before a race) and wait for another of my team member to arrive while blearily watching the football. Liverpool are 0-0 with Portsmouth at half-time. (They go on to a thrilling 3-2 victory away from home, so that cheers me up when I watch the second half later.)

When I start to wonder why she hasn’t arrived, I check my cell phone which bleeps jauntily that she will meet me at transition – I must have got my wires crossed, or definitely blurred!

I cram on my helmet and shoes (my feet are swollen from dancing all night in high heeled boots – well, England won the Sevens!) and leap onto my bike to pedal to the start. What a day! The wind barely ruffles the harbour, although it is steadily building, and the sun is out strong already. Today will certainly be a day to slip, slop, slap, and wrap, or whatever other non-alliterative words have been added to the slogan.

My team are there at the start as I rack my bike among the other trusty steeds waiting patiently for the long course – sorry, I get a bit carried away when talking about my bike. I love my bike. We have team photos. There are two of our workplace teams – a girl team (called ‘Don’t Give Up Your Day Job’)

and a boy team (called ‘The Fit, the Fat, and the Frog).

Our fearless swimmer is clad merely in togs. She is nuts. Or maybe, just German. Last night as I partied hard in Courtenay Place with some Morris Dancers and the Cookie Monster, a tiny voice in the back of my mind was telling me to go home and get some rest. A couple of pints of Epic silenced it without too many problems, but I knew our fearless swimmer would be safely tucked up in bed. She was.

Their fearless swimmer is not looking too keen. He too was at the Sevens, and he too thinks this is a ridiculous idea, but at least he is wearing a wetsuit. There is some nervous standing about at the water’s edge, and then they’re off, splashing about in the water and hunting down those orange buoys. The wind is picking up and things start bobbing in the water.

Our fearless swimmer does a great time and she sprints dripping up into the transition where she hands over to me and I set out on my trip around the bays. Their fearless swimmer emerges from the water a short while later so I have to try and maintain the gap between us.

Of course, the wind is strong now – particularly heading past the airport at Lyall Bay – and I know this will be even worse on my return. People come whistling past me and the medium course turn around (at 10km) looks very tempting. I briefly consider whether anyone would notice if I didn’t plough on up the hill and stopped for a coffee instead. But this would be cheating, and even if I feel terrible, I do not cheat.

I start grinding up the hill and my mind wonders off somewhere, only to be startled and alarmed when I find I have fallen into the gutter by the side of the road and can’t get back out. Ouch. I bump to a standstill. Bumping and grinding, but it’s not that much fun and I have knocked the speed and distance counter doodacky out of kilter. I’m embarrassed more than hurt as I dust myself off and try to get going again – uphill into a headwind – and find it’s hard to get enough pressure to clip into my pedals.

I concentrate for the rest of the way round and although people hurtle past on the way down as well (I am such a womble going downhill) and the wind is buffeting me off my bike on the way back, I make it to the transition in one piece. I hand over to our fearless runner and she skips off looking fresh and sprightly and not at all as though she was sinking pints in the pub last night.

Crazy frog is right behind and his fearless runner sets off in hot (and I do mean hot – that wind is doing nothing to reduce the temperature) pursuit. Their team is the fit, the fat and the frog – and as he is French, I’m guessing that he is the latter of the trio. His first words on dismount are, ‘My bottom is sore!’ but he has done a great job.

He hands over to their fearless runner, who (as an ex-army dude) is racing in tracksters. It is so hot that he will come to regret that later. The run is two laps, so we see them both come and go out and back and out and then back again – hurrah! Our team wins so there are even more hurrahs, but we can afford to be gracious in victory.

I realise that our teams combined comprise Team Europe. Of the six people from our workplace who accepted this challenge, not a one is a Kiwi – aren’t they meant to be a healthy sporting nation? There is a coffee queue for miles at the cafĂ© on the front, and not a single one of our sextet collects a spot prize, but we go back to mine where Him Outdoors has cooked a massive fry-up so we all feel like winners.

The wind is now more than a stiff breeze and the sailboats are zipping across the bay. As we stretch out on the sofas and drink cups of tea we congratulate ourselves on our efforts. We are saying nicer things about the race now than we did this morning, but everyone is still wary about committing to the next one!

If you're interested in things like results, check them out here.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Wellington Sevens Dress-Ups

What to wear to the Wellington Sevens? Believe me, it’s a big issue. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I like more than seeing a few people dressed up in ridiculous costumes at a sporting event. Scooby Doo often turns up to the cricket and it’s very amusing to see him talking to Marilyn Monroe or Gene Simmons in the pub later on. Shrek, stromtroopers, legomen and traffic cones all stand out for various reasons.

But for some reason, everyone (well, about 90%) in Wellington who goes to the Sevens feels the need to dress up. A friend reckons New Zealanders are so repressed that they can only be ‘whacky’ when dressed as someone else. Him Outdoors reckons it’s a personality substitute (which he says is why Kiwis hold more dress-up theme parties than anyone else) but let’s save that nugget for another day…

I was going with a group of girls, and trying to get them to formulate a plan on which they can all agree and then put it into action is like herding kittens. You see, in general, women also want to look good. And they will invariably have different body shapes and comfort zones, so what looks good on one will not suit another.

You could all go as variations on a theme, but a simple costume repeated on a large number of people has dramatic impact, as evinced by the monks and the Flash Gordons.

There are actually rules as to what you can and can’t wear. Let’s start with the revealing. Certain costumes – such as the Borat-thong – have been banned for showing too much flesh. This smacks of double standards as women are allowed to (and frequently do) wear the shortest skirts and lowest tops. This is deemed acceptable as most of the photographers and cameramen are male, and most of the females want to get in the papers or on television. Apparently the way to do this is to thrust your cleavage at a lens and you’ll get all the attention you can handle.

60+ years of feminism fighting for equal rights and to be taken seriously, so that teenage girls can flaunt their sluttishness in public – their parents must be so proud. Perhaps they are; their offspring are ‘famous’ for five seconds, until the next piece of meat comes along. There are skanky cheerleaders; sluttish schoolgirls; tarty nurses; lewd airhostesses; indecent policewomen; vulgar prison officers – do you see the pattern emerging? Incidentally, the most stylish group of women I saw were the Spitfire Girls dressed stunningly in 1940s glamour.

Another taboo is the too-large-for-the-seat category. Sumo suits and people dressed as sofas are out (although these are amusing). The wheelchair-bound bloke dressed as Thomas the Tank engine, however, was a star! Some people were dressed as Barbie dolls in boxes (their aspirations couldn’t be clearer) or cardboard i-pods. These people are actually very annoying to sit behind if you are – heaven forbid – actually trying to watch any rugby, or to stand behind if (as is more likely) you are in the beer queue.

For hours. Buying warm Speights with a 15% sur-charge. Come on Westpac Stadium, as if you weren’t creaming it anyway – I’m certain you could afford to pay your staff without ripping off your patrons. If, as reports showed, people stayed in town for longer drinking at bars with big screens, decent beer and no sur-charge (not a bar that I went into on Friday had one) it serves you right for your shameless exploitation of the people you claim to cater for.

And then there are the weapons. Anything that looks like it could cause bodily harm is unacceptable – and rightly so. It is somewhat disturbing to see the SWAT team casually swigging beer while holding semi-automatic guns, but they were denuded of these (the guns, not the beer) and then must have felt vulnerable – not to mention hot.

There were heaps of Spartans and gladiators – all with bendy swords. Friends of ours went as droogs from A Clockwork Orange, and had their canes examined. They were permitted, after they promised not to indulge in any ultraviolence.

There are no rules about bad taste – as one man’s offence is another one’s humour. Hence people blackened their skin to appear as belly dancers, snake charmers and Arabs. A line of black-hooded, orange-jumpsuited Guantanamo Bay inmates (not folk from Guatemala, as my dad referred to them) may be considered tasteless, but what about the black-and-white-striped chain gang?

Adam and Eve wearing not much more than their fig-leaves were allowed in, but a bloke wearing a full-length fully-flesh-concealing penis costume was not.

By the end of the weekend (or even half-way through the first day) several costumes – and bodies – were severely worse for wear. Some had neglected to slip, slop, slap and there were acres of flesh, usually hidden but for some reason exposed, that was now bright red. The Mexicans with their giant sombreros had the right idea – there was no excuse for them to get sunburned.

We saw a bee with crushed wings and antenna, separated from her swarm and bringing a new interpretation to bumbling at 1pm on the first day. We saw brides vomiting rather than blushing in the seats behind us – although the ‘soldier’ she had picked up didn’t even seem to care, or even to notice. A match made in heaven. I’m sure everyone had a good time. Later they will dress in their civvies and resume their normal bland personas, but for this weekend they came; they drank; they dressed up.

For the record, we went as 60s throw-backs. We could choose our own skirt length and neckline, although the high-heeled boots were not a good idea in hindsight. My dad said I looked like my mother from yesteryear.

The boys went as Morris Dancers. When England won they waved their hankies and jingled their bells – even though some of them were Irish. Seeing them dance with Oscar the Grouch in the street at 1am was one of those surreal moments that make up major sporting tournaments.