When I was younger, oh, alright, an awful lot younger, I was quite fit, sublimating my libido with long runs and longer bike rides. This was the time when triathlons were all the rage, and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism thought it would be a good idea to sponsor one. Naturally, they had to hire someone from outside the country with connections to the sport to organize it.
I came across this gentleman several times in the casino where I worked, and, as I later found out, he patronized our opposition as well. I always assumed that he was the man responsible for christening the competition as, “The Bahamas Diamond Triathlon of the Stars.”
This was not my only connection to this sterling event, as several of my friends (?) who knew about my recreational habits thought it would be cool for me to enter, especially as the Ministry was keen for as many locals to participate as possible, and created a separate, resident category for this purpose.
At that time my swimming competencies were limited to breaststroke, backstroke, and floating. I was understandably reluctant to put myself forward, as, although I knew I could make the mile and a half swim, I also knew that my time would be both laughable and embarassing. For some reason I now cannot remember – youthful stupidity most likely – I succumbed to the exhortations of my colleagues, bit the bullet, and entered.
I will always remember the mile and a half swim. The seas were choppy inshore with four foot swells, and a vicious current worked against us on the leg home. It was so strong, and I was so wiped towards the end, that some guy pulled up alongside me in a small boat, and shouted words I will never forget, “Ay mon”, he told me in his strong island accent, “yer need ter go faster, as you’se goin’ backwards.” I didn’t notice his expression at the time, but imagined him to be grinning wildly. It was exactly what I didn’t need to hear.
Those wonderful words of encouragement depressed me rather than uplifting me, but I soldiered on, as my only real alternative was drowning. Things then managed to get even worse, as, by the time I somehow dragged myself onto dry land, the changing tent had been dismantled. The only thing that kept me going was that I wasn’t last.
Since this was before the time when triathletes – of which I clearly wasn’t one anyway – wore costumes designed not to be changed between events, I had to do my best not to expose myself publicly while I dressed for the bike. Not that after two hours in cold water that there was much to expose.
The bike ride was over fifty miles long, and way before I got near the transition zone for the run, I had decided, “Fuck this. I’m totally whacked, and completely done. I’m going to quit.”
Unfortunately for me, as soon as I slowed my bike approaching the end of the bike leg, one of my friends saw me, and took control. “Well done James,” he told me, full of enthusiasm. “Just relax now, everything’s going fine and you’re doing great.” His voice oozed sincerity and encouragement. “Now just take a break before you start the run.” He fussed over me like a mother hen. “You can take as long as you want.”
Before I could croak out a reply, the bastard thrust a drink bottle of some energy and electrolyte concoction at me, urging me to drink. As I reflexively swilled the stuff, I thought, “What the fuck is this dickhead doing? I want to lie down, pass out, and forget the whole day!” At this point another of my friends showed up, uttering similar blandishments and exhortations. I sat down on the grass, and wished they would disappear. They didn’t. Instead some sort of high energy food bar got thrust into my flaccid hands, and I couldn’t stop myself from dutifully nibbling at it while I seethed inwardly. “Why don’t they leave me alone?” I asked myself. Could it be they actually believed I could finish the twelve plus miles of the run as well as what I had already somehow managed? More to the point, after being on the receiving end of all this encouragement and assistance, did I really have the balls to tell them. “Shit boys, I’m pooped. Where’s the bar ‘cos I’m outta here?”
I didn’t, and after chilling for as long as I thought I could, and being shamed into continuing, I limped painfully forward and jogged away. Calling it running would have been a misnomer; however I somehow eventually crawled across the line after a total of seven hours and seven minutes of self inflicted agony.
The awards ceremony was thankfully still hours away, and I somehow found the energy to attend it, although I certainly wasn’t in line for anything. I remember two things about that event, the first was that Linda Blair of Exorcist fame appeared to warm up the audience wearing slutty fishnet stockings, although in my overly enervated state I certainly couldn’t respond to her, or even recall anything she said. The other was that the prizes – this was, after all, a professional event – included diamonds, hence the name.
Each winner had their name called, and each prize included “a diamond worth $…..” I later discovered that valuing diamonds is a very subjective process. In fact, since the retail, or insurance, value of these sparklers is subject to a huge mark up from cost, there was scope for a lot of money to sort of trickle away into welcoming fingers.
I guess that’s how the main man found the wherewithall to spend so much time in the casinos, and, notwithstanding the very visible success of the event, it will come as no surprise to any of you readers that it was never held again.