Thursday, October 06, 2022

Part IV

With my phone battery dying it looked like we were going to spend the night in Paddington Cemetery. Then magically, a silver haired woman appeared in the distance.

(An aparition?)

No, she was a real person...and she admonished us for our disregard of the cemetery sign.

“Do you know how many people I have to come out here to rescue?”

(Quite a few I suspect.)

“We are terribly sorry for causing you to rescue us.”

“Please don’t do this again.”

“Oh no, we are on our way to see the Queen tomorrow.”

(Was she relieved or horrified?)

I’m not quite sure.

By Thursday we were three days before the Ironman triathlon, so I decided to just walk the last day of run workouts. In 72 hours, I was going to (hopefully) swim, bike and run a combined 140.6 miles.

(You’ve earned a day off from training.)

Yeah, but I hadn’t missed a workout in over 550 days, so I just downgraded the workout to a walk.

Taking the London tube is different from the NYC subway. The tube is considerably farther down underground than the NYC subway. The Times Square Station in NYC is 50 feet below the street level. The London tube ranges from 75 to 175 feet below, which is why during World War Two residents of London hid there during the Blitz. Exiting the tube is like taking an elevator to the top of the World Trade Center or the Freedom Tower for those too young to remember the Twin Towers.

Instead of tokens, you wave your credit card over the toll booth sensor, but you need a card for each person and you need the same card to exit at the stop of your choice.

Our first stop was the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I was surprised to learn that the royal family had only resided here since 1837 with the accession of Queen Victoria. I was also surprised to encounter huge crowds, with bodies three deep, lined up against the fences to watch, but we got to see everything. The guards dressed in their red coats and those 18-inch high hats called bearskin caps marched out, arms and legs swaying like marionettes from the Nutcracker.

(Two houses of monarchy in 24 hours.)

And this one still has her head...even if she wasn’t in town at the time.

(You didn’t see the Queen?)

Sadly, she had not been apprised of my visit across the pond.

The.8 mile walk from the Queen’s residence to Big Ben was like walking the tree lined cobblestone path along Central Park on Fifth Avenue in NYC. The sky was overcast and the air had a chill to it. This felt very England in summer to me. Living on the East Coast of the U.S. it is easy to forget that our summer is not exactly the same everywhere else. This would come back to bite me on the Ironman bike course.

Friday morning, we picked up Shabbos food in Manchester and drove the 20 minutes to Bolton.

(You drove … in England???)

Well, no. My friend and athlete Steve Morris AKA “Scottish Steve” drove down from Scotland to help us out.

As Scottish Steve pointed out to me months ago,

“Listen, mate, you can take a train from London to Manchester, but it’s a 30 minute drive from Manni to Bolton.” Scottish Steve’s voice sounded like a cross between Sean Connery and the Simpsons’ groundskeeper Willie.


“Yeah, you’re in a pickle. I’ll take ye ‘round in me truck.”

(You really do need adult supervision at all times, don’t you?)

We arrived at our hotel just before 11 a.m. with bags of food that needed to be refrigerated.

(Here’s hoping your rooms were ready.)

Not only were they ready, but there was a bike mechanic to reassemble my bike.

I videotaped the disassembling of my bike at the shop. This was a step-by-step process of removing wheels.

(Not difficult. Triathletes have to be able to change their own flat tires.)

This was more than a simple changing of a flat.

To get my bike “Friday” to England we needed to...

(Wait, why did you name your bike “Friday”?)

When I bought my first triathlon bike, I named it “Jarvis” because...

(That was Tony Stark’s original artificial intelligence.)

So, when my wife bought me this bike...

(The upgraded bike got Tony Stark’s upgraded A.I.)

As I was saying … we needed to dismantle the handlebars and remove the rear derailleur shifter, while protecting all the different sections from possible damage while in transit. We are talking about a carbon framed, two wheeled machine that must support my body at speeds upwards of 45 miles per hour. I was concerned that a tiny crack at those speeds would result in the whole bike coming apart and me tumbling down some English country road like a bag of trash making similar noises on impact as my bones crack upon contact with the road. Nothing about this trip created more agita than the safe arrival of my bike to the start of the race.

(You weren’t concerned for the safety of your children?)

My wife Janet can watch each child with one eye while using her sixth sense to keep an eye on me.

In 15 years of triathlon racing, Janet has never failed to meet me at the finish with kids in tow.

I was more worried for the fool who got in her way.

Thankfully for me, there was bike mechanic Gordon Green to assemble my girl “Friday” from what appeared to be a bike case of spare parts.

David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6.

By David Roher

 He can be reached at [email protected]

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