Bag Bitch?

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Actually, I prefer the term Logistic Support Engineer.* But,
for sake of clarification, a bag bitch is a friend and/or loved one who
accompanies a runner or multi-sport athlete to events and keeps stuff
organized. Knights had their squires. Golfers have their caddies. Triathletes
have their bag bitches…. If they’re lucky.

The undisputed king of the bag bitches is Chad Gertken. He
gets the title partly because he’s so thorough and so well prepared … and
partly just for sheer time served. Jodi does a lot of events. And, as far as I
know, Chad’s always there. But Corinne has to be in that bag bitch all-star

At your service

This weekend though, it was my turn. This weekend was the 8th
running of the Blomington Iron Girl Duathlon. It was a celebration of
womanly spirit and a raw testament to the power of the sacred feminine, and
among the fine-lookin’ honeys prancing around that course were Gina Nacey, Corinne Skoog, Jodi Gertken, Janet Skoog and Tammy Moore (not pictured).

First up, let me just acknowledge what I had long suspected.
Being a bag bitch kinda sucks. It’s harder than it looks and – on the whole –
it’s just as boring as you’d imagine. I got to drive down to Bloomington at
4:30 in the morning and then drive home after a nice, filling meal at Big Bowl
in Edina. (Thank God there was a good Vikings game on the radio on that drive
home.) I got to operate a camera that was clearly 2-3 levels above my pay
grade. I got to cheer for a few seconds at a time and shuffle around looking
for warm sunshine the rest of the time. After the experience, it’s important
that I reaffirm my love for Corinne, my respect for Chad and my admiration for
bag bitches everywhere. Believe me – you are appreciated.

But enough of my
bitching – what about the racers?

More important than my pathetic bitching about bag bitching,
however, were the racers themselves. They were amazing. The “watching them
compete” part was really a blast. The course included a 2-mile run around Mt.
Normandale Lake, 22 miles of (debatably) flat biking, and another 2-mile loop
around that lake. (The image below shows two things — the top part is the elevation diagram I got when I plotted the course on MapMyRide before the race. The bottom part is what the GPS on Corinne’s heart rate monitor showed after the race. Nice sandbagging, MapMyRide.)

And all of our participants rocked it. I was extremely
proud. Jodi showed us she really can ride a bike. Gina clearly remembers more
about high school cross country than the fact that she used to date a
three-time state champion (he was kind of a big deal). Corinne has made a joke
of her old racing goal: “I just don’t want to finish last.” Of the 1,064
finishers, about 700 of them got to fight it out for “last”, because they were
all behind my wife. Tammy kept Corinne company for most of the morning (which
was nice, because we just don’t see enough of Tammy these days) till Corinne
started cramping up on that last run and Tammy passed her by. And Mom? At 70
years old, Mom not only beat everyone in the 70-74 age group (granted, there
were only 3 of them), she beat over 350 people. She was clearly not just a
bucket lister. She was a competitor.

Shut up and get out
of my way!

And make no mistake about it, there were plenty of those
bucket listers on the course yesterday. I’m not sure what my opinion of that
was. I think there are real advantages to a woman-only event like Iron Girl. I
asked Corinne the biggest advantage she saw and she agreed: “There aren’t guys
whizzing past you constantly. It’s less intimidating.” And if that’s the case
and that freedom enables a few women who wouldn’t otherwise feel confident
enough to run a race like this to step up and take part, that’s a good thing.
There’s no arguing that.

And it is a legitimate event. That’s four miles of running
and 22 miles on a bike. This isn’t one of the little “mini triathlons
with their 300-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 2-mile run or some such nonsense.
This is a true physical test.

But the thing is, that warm, enabling environment enables a
whole lot of people who just want to take part in an event like this to prove
they can go the distance and to “cross it off their bucket list.” That’s great.
I love to see people getting active and testing themselves. Multi-sport in
general is just such a welcoming and encouraging culture and that’s always been
one of my very favorite things about every race I’ve attended. It’s just
that…well…a lot of these women weren’t racing. They were just out there going
the distance.

With over a thousand bodies on the course, the challenge
there is congestion. For every “competitor” who would come flying out of
transition to hop into the saddle and crank down aggressively, there were a
couple of lollygaggers climbing on carefully and wobbling back and forth across
the narrow chute heading out onto the bike course. (It didn’t exactly look safe.)
And on a bike course filled with turns and intersections, the side-by-side,
chit-chatting comfort bikers get to be an obstacle and a safety hazard.

When it comes right down to it, I guess I’m in favor of Iron
Girl and its power to draw all kinds of participants – especially when I think
of how much I love the Apple and how many times I’ve tried to convince people
that they can do it. This is a comparable event, without the stigma of
intimidation. I think there’s probably some special value for women in getting
out there on a course filled with that many other women. And if you’re looking
for that kind of camaraderie, this is a good event for you. But, if you’re
looking for a fast track on which to set some kind of personal best, mark your
calendar for Saturday, May 25, 2013 – Apple Duathlon!

*Actually, Eric and I originally planned on getting together
and making some Bag Bitch t-shirts for he and I and Chad and Brent. But we
never got around to it. Good thing – it was so cold all day I never took my fleece
off. Would have been a total waste of effort. Score one for procrastination!

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