Try This Triathlon and the 2004 Lilac Festival

When spring is in full-swing in Calgary, there are always fun things to do. The only problem, though, is having to choose which ones — once the warm weather hits, there can sometimes be a few too many things to do all at the same time.

The last Sunday in May is the Calgary Lilac Festival. This is essentially a long market-cum-showcase that runs along 4th St. SW, from 13th Ave. all the way down to the Elbow River (about 25th Ave., I think). The only road that cuts across is 17th Ave. — you can’t really stop that traffic during the day. This is a chance for a lot of vendors to showcase wares that might not normally get the exposure, for the Kettle Korn vendors to come out of the woodwork (as they so rarely do outside of the Calgary Stampede), and for a tens of thousands of people to cram into small spaces to do strange things.

But first, we went to a triathlon.

The Try This Try-athlon is not a full triathlon. It follows the same basic pattern (swim, bike, run), but with considerably shorter distances. The swimming leg is 500 metres (full triathlon swimming courses are over three and a half kilometres), the biking leg is 15 km or three laps of the university (full courses are just over 180 km), and the running is a mere three kilometres (the full courses are full marathon length — 42.4 kilometres).

Unlike other larger-scale triathlons (such as the world-famous Ironman races), the Try This is run in waves. This is mostly because Calgary has no sufficiently large “natural” body of water to accomodate so many racers and provide a sufficient distance. (The Glenmore Reservoir could, but you’re not allowed to swim in it.) So the Foothills Pool had to provide swimming space. Hence, the waves. There were about 230 racers in total, and waves that ran until about 10:30 or so.

We arrived just after 9:45, hoping to find Alex’s two friends, Randy and Yolanda. We found out almost right away that the times had been bumped up to try and get people through even quicker than scheduled. Randy was literally getting out of the pool as we entered the viewing area, so we missed him until he was well into his biking run. Yolanda was still there, but we would catch her on the way out to her bike, and out onto the bike course.

The day was starting off to be absolutely gorgeous, with bright, warm sun and only a few clouds in the sky. The temperature was a little coolish, but not so much that we were shivering without jackets. (Well, when we were in the sun, anyway.) As the race came towards a close, with Randy’s crossing of the finish line in just over an hour, to Yolanda’s finish minutes later, we were also met with a sad fact of living in Calgary…

The weather here is most unpredictable.

Clouds started rolling in, and our glorious sunshine became dreary gray. Alex and I headed down to a side street just west of 4th St. (I can’t remember the name for the life of me, or exactly how we got there), and walked over to 4th St. and 25th Ave. So began our three-odd-hour tour of the Lilac Festival.

The street, as in years past, was lined with all sorts of foods, curios, clothes, and performers of all kinds. If you wanted it, chances are that it was there, somewhere, on 4th St. A new addition this year, with the on-coming Federal election, were representatives of the Liberal, Conservative, and Green parties. There were also a couple of other political groups, advocating full democracy (majority wins) vs. the “first in the door” system we currently have. Not sure if there’s any particular advantage to one over the other, except that “first in the door” usually allows the elections to end sooner. The NDP were also out, though more as activists who roamed the street.

We were starving, barely four blocks into the tour. A large slice of pizza and a Coke kept us going for a while. We looped at the top and worked our way down, periodically getting sprayed by the occasional burst of rain. When we reached 17th Ave. on the way back down, I suggested we duck down 17th. to check out a couple of stores. Most notably, Gravity Pope. I need new sandals. My current ones are shot. They’re seven years old and barely holding together. But I was denied of the ones I wanted.

Alex suggested we also check out Reid’s while we were there, so continued west. At the Ship and Anchor, we ran into Jensenne, Doug, and Jordon. They hadn’t been particularly thrilled with the festival thus far, and were taking a break. After a quick chat, we headed to Reid’s, only to find it closed on the Sunday. So back to 4th St.

We stopped a few times at stores and kiosks — Alex found the coolest pair of … well, not capri pants, but let’s call them long beach shorts. Or something like that. Either way, they looked good, even if they did bulge a bit at the front. But we could barely get back to our starting point. The throngs of people (including one guy who decided to take his 10-foot python for a walk) were a bit much, and it was time to head out. We were a little tired, and a bit of a break sounded like a good idea.

We passed out for an hour and a half. But it was much deserved. We’d done a lot of walking. And despite the turn in the weather, it had still been a good day.