Sometimes I talk to the weather. I realise this makes me sound as sane as the secret lovechild of Kerry Katona and Glenn Hoddle. While cycling I regularly shout at the wind, bellowing, “Is that all you’ve got?!”, or stare up at the rainclouds saying, “You just couldn’t hold off for half a f*****g hour could you?!”, while barely suppressing an all-encompassing rage equal to football’s greatest nark merchants.
I’ve always assumed this was just my steady descent into bumbling senility, but no. It seems I’m not alone, and you lot are a bunch of weather-talkers, too. In fact m’lud, I put it to you that triathletes not only talk to the elements but they also talk to their bikes, to cars, to potholes, to junctions, to their legs and to themselves.
I make this bold claim after a recent spell of marshalling at the first-ever Coventry Triathlon, a sprint-distance jaunt past the very best prefab houses and firebombed pubs that this fair city has to offer. My particular job on this day was to stand on a traffic island in a rectangular yellow bib that made me look like Spongebob Squarepants, pointing at approaching cyclists and shouting, “TURN LEFT!” This gave me an excellent vantage point to secretly sneer at people’s cornering skills and to clearly hear what they were muttering to themselves as they rode past.
I should point out that the weather was about as pleasant as being kicked in the shin by David Nalbandian; the poor people racing had to negotiate puddles you could breaststroke in and rain so heavy I was contemplating building an ark. As a result, people had plenty to moan about and I was delighted to hear triathletes chuntering away to themselves.
The most popular mutters appeared to be “Come on legs” when people stood up on the pedals to ride away from the roundabout; “P*ss off rain” as they approached the roundabout; and “Oh, for f***’s sake” when they had to stop for a car coming round the roundabout. The immediate reaction to any clunking of gears was for the rider to look down at their bike and say, “Get in you b*****d”, while any cars that were slowly driving just ahead of the riders were treated to a strange Buddhist-like incantation that grew progressively in volume and went “Go-on-go-on-go-ON-GO-ON!”
This was my first experience of being a marshal, and it mostly involved a fair bit of sitting around doing nothing – and, in my case, the devil making work for idle hands. Some of my mates were racing, so I thought I’d lift their spirits by holding up a large card with a certain four-letter word scrawled on it as they rode by. I’m pleased to say that it did the trick, and not only distracted them from the rain but almost caused them to crash.
As well as abusing triathletes, my duties involved justifying my presence to passing motorists and explaining the legalities of racing on roads to outraged hypocrites and the exceptionally slow-witted. Mostly I had drivers shaking their head at me if they were delayed by a nano-second by a rider at the roundabout – handily I had my hand-drawn sign to hold up to them.
One lady wound down her window to demand, “Who gave you permission for this?” to which I replied, “My mum, I’ve got a note.” While one male-scrotum-alike complained bitterly about people using the roads for sporting events and said, “Someone could get killed”, to which I answered, “Yes, just by your breath.” A career in the diplomatic service awaits methinks.
Although many riders were busy chatting to themselves, quite a few did shout a “thanks marshal” as they went by. This was genuinely lovely because sitting on a roundabout in the pouring rain watching melanin-deprived triathletes wearing expressions that made them look like a face trapped in a haunted mirror is slightly less pleasant than a p*ss-bomb exploding in a skip full of rusty forks.
I have huge respect for all those people who give up their time to marshal so the rest of us can do something we love, and I now know how far a simple ‘thanks’ can go.
So congratulations to everyone who did the race, and also to Coventry Triathletes for putting on an excellent race on a really nice course – which came as a surprise to me, because I’m from Coventry and it’s mostly a craphole. I’ve already been asked if I will marshal again next year, but I’ve just realised the date clashes with the opportunity to go to Twycross Zoo, coat my clinkers in honey and dangle them over the bear enclosure.