I should have spent last week training for one of my favorite Podunkian events — the 12 Hours of Disco mountain bike race. Instead, hockey reared its head again and I found myself taking Her Royal Highness to a player development camp in Salt Lake City. So while my teammates, the Lost Riders, were pedaling away, I was doing a little cross-training as a triathlete in Utah.
When you live in Podunk, finding one’s way in a metropolis is a challenge to say the least. It’s true I used a performance enhancing GPS (complete with Homer Simpson voice), but HRH added layers of complexity to our daily sojourn to the Utah Olympic Oval. She signed up for an AP English test at a Salt Lake City high school, for example, and only wanted to eat at restaurants where a left-hand turn was required. Then, Iron Chef joined us, and assuming I’d memorized the route from hotel to Oval, he “borrowed” Homer. People say Salt Lake was designed on a grid so there’s no way you can get lost. They fail to mention that the interstate system was designed not on a grid, but on a Spirograph. Needless to say, I considered Orienteering as the first event of my triathlon.
Then, there was the driving portion of the competition. I went from “watch for deer” to “holy shit I need to cross 5 lanes of traffic and could someone please ask all these semis and minivans to get out of my way!” I’ve never really considered NASCAR a sport, but I think I do now. The mental agility and the constant physical puckering required to motor amongst the masses qualified Driving as Event #2.
The third and most difficult leg of my urban triathlon was IKEA. My mom, the Notorious Babs, joined us for our Salt Lake outing, and we discovered that she had been to Tahiti, Peru, Austria … but never IKEA. “How hard could going into a furniture store be?” I applied my podunk logic. It turns out IKEA is swedish for “I KANT EXIT ATALL.” The IKEA concept, as best I can tell, is to fill a massive 2-story warehouse with futons and book shelves, and then create a funhouse-type path through every square inch of the store. Walking from end-to-end would be athletic, but do-able. But the IKEA maze helped me visualize how a human small intestine can actually be 27 miles long. By the time we got to the drawer pull part of the store’s intestinal tract, HRH had a racehorse-going-into-the-chutes crazy eye and Babs was limping. Unfortunately for all of us, our progress was impeded by the multitude of strollers in our way. IKEA had obviously advertised “Bring your unchanged baby to store day,” and not being locals, we came to the store unaware of this promotional. It was harrowing — I won’t lie — but I do feel somehow a little more prepared for my mountain bike race. The Lost Riders might not take the trophy, but I’ll always have the satisfaction of knowing I got out of that damned store.