Author Biff Mitchell Survives Olympic Level Triathlon to Research Novel
Summary: On July 10, Biff Mitchell completed the Olympic level event in the Duncan Hadley Triathlon at Killarney Lake, New Brunswick. Mitchell entered the event to research the sequel to his novel “The War Bug,” which will be released across North America this October.
“There were times when I was sure that I was going to die,” said author Biff Mitchell. “The 40 kilometer bike leg was especially grueling, but somehow I finished the entire triathlon and I got plenty of research for my novel.”
Mitchell entered the triathlon to research a chapter in the sequel to his best-selling cyber thriller ebook “The War Bug,” which will be released in paperback at bookstores across North America this October. “The sequel contains a virtual triathlon that pits human athletes against virtual athletes,” said Mitchell. “Because multi-sport events force you to push the boundaries of your mind, body and spirit over an extended period of time and under varying circumstances, I see them as the perfect way to test the differences between natural and artificially engineered life forms.”
To make his research as thorough as possible, Mitchell, who swims and runs regularly for fitness, began training on a daily basis six weeks before the event. Up at 6AM most mornings, he was in the pool or the lake for two to three kilometer swims three times a week, followed by long runs and bike rides.
“This was my first triathlon,” said Mitchell. “I learned a lot. For instance, I should have entered the less demanding sprint event, which is half the Olympic event. I should also have paid more attention to things like eating and drinking properly during training and the triathlon itself. Most important though, I should have trained more sensibly. I over-trained and showed up at Killarney Lake with my legs already burnt out. I didn’t do nearly as good in the actual event as I did in my training sessions.”
During training, Mitchell used a digital recorder to make notes that could be used in his novel. “I recorded things like being chased by horse flies,” said Mitchell. “I recorded the sounds and smells and sights. One day, I came across bear tracks while I was running around the lake. This gave me an idea for the novel. Another day, a wasp that had flown into my shirt while I was biking stung my back repeatedly. This happened during my speed burst at the end of the bike route. I had to stop the bike safely, remove my helmet and then my shirt while the wasp stung away. I’ll be including this, but in the novel, the wasp won’t get away.”
“I didn’t have my recorder during the actual triathlon,” said Mitchell. “But I made notes afterward, especially about the beginning of the swim in open water. I’d heard it could be scary, but I’ve been swimming at Killarney Lake for years and, being a swimmer, I was cocky about this event. The cockiness disappeared quickly when I was suddenly surrounded by nearly a hundred seasoned tri-athletes – some of them professional – and the water transformed into a roiling mass of legs, arms and muscle. I was kicked and punched and almost swum over. I felt intimidated on my home ground, but it was great inspiration for the novel.”
In spite of the preparation, things didn’t go as smoothly for Mitchell as he had planned. His goggles broke just before the swim began. “I fixed them seconds before the starting siren sounded,” he said. “At one point in the swim, I felt sand as I stroked through the water. I looked up and realized that I was swimming into the beach. I was in water that was less than waist high. I lost a minute or two swimming around the buoys to get back on track. I made too much conversation on the path from the swim to the transition area, where I suddenly had two left-handed gloves. After pondering this mystery for a few minutes, I just pulled the second glove onto my right hand. During the bike leg, I realized that it was in fact a right-handed glove, but it was inside out.”
One thing that impressed Mitchell about the triathlon was the encouragement from the experienced tri-athletes. “Just about everybody passed me on the bike leg,” said Mitchell. “But most of them, especially the ones who were obviously experienced, yelled out encouragement, things like, ‘You’re doing great!’ and ‘You’re almost there!’ I’ve always thought of tri-athletes as standoffish jocks who are too much into themselves, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The really exceptional ones made everyone else feel like they belonged in the event.”
“One thing I’ll have to admit,” said Mitchell,” is that the only two things that kept me going during the run were thoughts of glasses full of cold frothy beer and my daughter, Cassie – who is the character in the novel who will actually be doing the virtual triathlon – cheering me on just after the water stand with wonderful words like, ‘I’m so proud of you, Dad.’”
“The last time she said that,” said Mitchell, “was half a year ago on the fifth anniversary of my quitting smoking after 39 years of puffing cigarettes.”
The research for the triathlon section of the novel is done, but Mitchell plans to keep up his training and make triathlons a regular part of his life. “I lost 10 pounds during the training,” said Mitchell. “I’m 58, but I feel more fit than I have in my entire life, and the exhilaration of crossing that finish line and getting a medal for surviving something I never dreamed I could achieve – especially after all those years of smoking – is something I want to experience again and again.”
“I’m going to let my body rest for a couple of weeks,” said Mitchell. “Then I’m going to start training the right way. And I’ll be back at the Duncan Hadley Triathlon next year – the Olympic Level event – and I will be a force to be reckoned with.”
For more on Biff Mitchell’s triathlon experience, visit his web site at: http://www.biffmitchell.com/Triathlon/triathlon.html and his blog at http://biffmitchelldotblog.blogspot.com.
This October, the trade paperback version of “The War Bug” will premiere throughout North America. In the United States, bookstores and libraries can order the title from Ingram or Baker & Taylor, or in Canada from Double Dragon Publishing. Mitchell plans to finish the sequel sometime in 2006.
The Duncan Hadley Triathlon and Duathlon is held at Killarney Lake, New Brunswick, every July. The Olympic level tri event consists of a 1.5 K open water swim, a 40 K bike leg on a closed circuit, and a 10 K run around the lake. The event, which has gained a reputation for its beautiful scenery and for being well organized, attracts tri-athletes from across North American
About Biff Mitchell
Biff Mitchell is the author of the world’s first laundromance, “Heavy Load” (soon to be released at Fictionwise.com). His second novel, “Team Player” (coming from Double Dragon Publishing in 2006), is a spoof on the IT industry, based largely on his own work experience. He has two novellas, “The Baton” and “Smoke Break,” published as Dollar Downloads by Echelon Press. The free version of his book “eMarketing Tools for Writers” was download over 10,000 times from his web site. An expanded second edition will be available soon at Fictionwise.com.
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