Australian Triathlon Police
The police lights went on, reflecting in my rear-view mirror with all the unwanted lumens of a fireworks display after a grumpy pensioner’s bedtime. I was instantly riddled with guilt, like when you smash the last Tim Tam, even though you’re over quota. I eased my Fiesta to the side of the road, envisaging a Shawshank Redemption-esque future in the slammer. However, the guilt soon gave way to a more quizzical line of inquiry. As I ran the last few minutes of activity through my head – I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d done wrong! I’d been stopped at the lights, so I could comfortably rule out exceeding the conventional velocity as my infringement. Hell, in the Fiesta, I’m not even sure that’s possible, save for a school zone or car park. The Fiesta, although lacking flash, was certainly roadworthy, I hadn’t rolled a stop sign, and I clearly wasn’t drink driving – it was 6am in the morning, and I was on my way to training!
“The officers sized me up. I must have resembled an aerobics instructor from the 80s.” – Dan Wilson
With this last thought, the penny started to drop, and as the officers walked from their car to mine, I began to take stock of my situation, as it might be viewed from an impartial observer. For starters, I was dressed for function, not form. It was the middle of winter, and I was driving to running training, and had clearly not anticipated anyone laying witness to my attire. I had running tights on, not conventional attire for a male unless said male is actually running, and even then some may see them as a flagrant fashion faux pas. I wore a fluoro running jacket (also a tight fit, I must admit), a headband to keep my ears warm (also fluoro – seriously running companies, think of how we look to non-runners!), and a pair of gloves (thankfully, not fluoro). Clearly, I was cruising for a fashion bruising. However, the icing on the cake was the nasal dilator shoved fair up my olfactory orifice. It was a sample gifted to me to trial with the assurance of amplified oxygen uptake amid a litany of other promises and had lain dormant, untested in my car for a month or so. Moments before the fuzz descended on me in a fury of flashing lights and sirens – I had decided that this morn was the time to finally test this glorified schnozzle extender, and had taken it from the passenger seat and tested its fit in my nose. I had to assume that the officers thought that I had been texting on my phone, rather than attempting to manipulate my oxygen uptake. As I wound down my window, I was well aware of just how ridiculous my explanation was about to be…
It wasn’t the first encounter with the law I’ve had during my triathlon career, most of which have come while clad in Lycra and on two wheels. I’ll come clean, I’ve been stopped a couple of times for rolling a red light. Once, as I blindly rolled through a sign to merge onto a main road at 40km/hour in a delirious state at the end of a five-hour bludgeoning – I escaped the fine I deserved – the officer took pity on me this time, saying that I looked like I’d been through hell, and recommended I get some food into me ASAP. However, when I rolled at 10km/hour through a deserted street at 5am in the morning, I encountered a sterner constable, who gave me both a stern lecture and a $120 fine. It hasn’t all been castigation from the law though, I once had a cop-car shout encouragement from their megaphone while track-standing at a red light, and received a rousing applause once the light turned green and I took off, pedals unclicked!
There’s also been the occasional police escort, at times to make sure we didn’t encounter any trouble, and at times to make sure we didn’t cause any more trouble. The former came before the Yokohama WTS while attempting to navigate the Japanese road system, where a few piloting issues led a group of us on a highway clearly not intended for man-powered transport. A flash of lights, some stern, yet incomprehensible words was followed by a close escort back to our hotel, where a comprehensive team guarded us back to our rooms, not content until we’d removed helmets and given our word not to try to find the ‘back way’ to the pool again. The later came before the Hy Vee World Cup in the US, where the local cops kindly gave us an escort down to the race site, apologising that they weren’t permitted by law to actually stop the traffic, but could certainly encourage other vehicles to give way to us. That was certainly an understatement, as the vigour with which they escorted us to the race led me to believe they would have pulled a gun on anyone with the gall to drive within 100 feet of us!
Back to my current predicament.
The officers sized me up. I must have resembled an aerobics instructor from the 80s, with the addition of a paperclip stuck up his nose. The first officer rather smartly decided it was too early in the morning to investigate nasal lunacy, and quickly volunteered to check my license against the computer, cunningly leaving his mate to inquire as to what the hell I was doing, and if I had been on my phone while driving or not. I fumbled through the ostensible benefits of nasal dilation, becoming increasingly aware that I didn’t appear to be answering his questions at all, while he appeared to grow more confused and irritated by the minute. “Look mate”, he said, “If I can check your phone, and there are no recent messages sent, I’ll leave you and the nose piece to get on with it.” I handed over my phone to him, and once satisfied, he sent me on my way as quickly as possible, no doubt to have a good laugh back at the station. Fortunately, I was still the first one to arrive at running training, and I threw the nasal clip in the first bin I saw. Marginal gains are one thing, but not if the cost is going to jail. I’m not sure I could survive on the inside, certainly not wearing tights and a headband anyway…