Michael De Santa has stuffed his wardrobe with Hawaiian shirts, bought a loud car, and rather fancies getting his ear pierced. Middle-age has this 45-year-old floundering so wildly he’s even taking up triathlons. A boozy retirement spent doing little more than bickering with his family might show on the tubby waist of this former career criminal, but at least when Michael’s legs give out he’s got a bottomless well of rage to draw from.
I enter the Vespucci Beach triathlon (a swim, a run, and a bike ride) using a bold tactic: zero training of any kind. Thankfully it doesn’t look like my opponents have practised much either, gathered as they are around a Chihuahua Hotdogs cart, one or two puffing on cigarettes. Triathlons are mind games, albeit manifested physically, and that’s why I’ve showed up overweight and wearing a full suit, sizing up opponents who use the all-too-obvious ploy of looking much younger and fitter by walking through the middle of their conversations and silently staring at each amateur athlete from a distance of several inches.
Chest pounding, I take to the starting grid and change instantly from creased blazer to ill-fitting bodysuit. My competition sprints into the sea and kicks up waves of froth that I’ll probably need an injection for. A minute later we burst onto land like creatures emerging from the primordial ooze, only fully evolved, like ape-seals or something, and make a beeline for the bikes. I send the nearest competitor sprawling over the handlebars with a clever knock and peel away. In this world of sponsored sporting events run by strict governing bodies, the rules are there are no rules.
Here’s where I ascend the leaderboard, letting the machine do the work while Mike sits down, which he’s good at. He took up BMX-ing recently in order to add more evidence to his ongoing argument that 40 is the new 30, and give or take trying to slam into other riders, the general principle remains the same. Now it’s onto the sprint, where Michael’s paunch betrays him, although he gives it a fair go by deliberately running behind them and tangling their legs up. It’s a risky manoeuvre that leads to me falling down half the time—a bit like shooting fish in a barrel with a 50 percent chance of the fish shooting back. I come sixth, but as a first go I can’t ask for more (except maybe first, second, third, fourth, or fifth place).
The next triathlon takes place in Grapeseed. My stamina’s increased as a result of the last one, so there are longer windows between me doubling over. CNT has sent a news chopper to film it. “Burger Shot joins triathlon sponsorship with new four-decker-patty,” reads a scrolling feed along the bottom of the screen, over which the circling anchor wonders aloud, “How many of these guys do you think are trapped in a joyless marriage?” That’s a little unfair – it’s mostly my kids I hate. I come an impressive second because I’m getting better at barging into people.
The last triathlon, at Sandy Shores, lasts a whopping 30 minutes. Which, admittedly, I discover by staying home and looking online. Yeah, no thanks. Like experimenting with yoga and growing out his hair, triathlon just isn’t for Michael, a massive time sink that costs a fortune in lycra and leads to a mysterious grimacing problem. Perhaps it’s the constant pain.