Through a series of unfortunate events, which I had nothing to do with, I was signed up to be the second leg on a team triathlon. The team triathlon featured three events — swimming, kayaking and running. I am a couch potato who ran my last competitive race in high school track, where I came in dead last.

Many decades later I was standing around before the race still wondering why I was here. My wife and friends knew a team who needed a kayaker. I normally kayak leisurely around Fairfield area marshes. If I get tired I stop put down my paddle and since I have a large open kayak, I have been known to even take a nap on the water. The gentle waves in the Sound lull me to sleep.

In the starting area I start to panic. This is a race. Not a nap. My oldest daughter, who is a college rower, sensing my discomfort, puts her arm around me and said, “Whatever you do dad, don’t DL”

DL — what is that? I guess she means “disabled list.” I guess she wants me to take it easy and not get injured. She is the compassionate one. We raised her right. “I will take it easy, I won’t hurt myself. I won’t get on the disabled list. “

“No dad, DL is not disabled list, it’s dead last. Don’t come in dead last. Anything else, you can hold your head up. Just not DL.”

“OK, I had never heard of DL. I don’t know if I can avoid it, but it will be my goal.”

“Also dad in rowing there is another letter, another word in the middle, I think you can guess it”

“Is it the word Grandma washed your Uncle Patrick’s mouth out with soap about?” I asked.

“That’s the word, dad. Go out there and make us proud.”

My other daughter came up to me at this point. (Why was everyone down here watching me? Can’t a man DL in private.) “Dad, did you notice that every kayaker is at least 20 years younger than you?”

“Now I have, thanks.” “Also did you notice that that team over there? Those middle and high school girls, if you added their ages together you are older than their combined ages. And there are three of them.” “Yes, I am noticing now.”

“I wonder if you are heavier than all three of them combined?” At this point I cut her off. My confidence was not very high.

When the race started, I walked over to my transfer point. I started swinging my arms, and hopping up and down like I had seen my competitors do. I waited for my swimmer to come out of the water. As each swimmer exited and tagged their kayaker, I got more nervous. Most of the swimmers had already come out. My swimmer was close to DL. I was counting on her to be at the head of the pack. Then I could slip down a bit in the pack and not be DL. Where was she?

Finally she emerged with only two swimmers behind her. Crap! Come on! She exited the water and tagged me. I started with another kayaker and in my nervousness I collided into him. Not a great start. He passed me. Crap! Only one away from DL. The only thing that was going through my mind is the middle word from DL. I repeat it over and over as a chant. After a while I work it into a type of mantra to keep my rhythm. Eventually the searing pain travels from my arms traveled to my back, and I add more obscenities to my chant. My shoulders burn. The obscenity chant was all that keeps me going.

I look over my shoulder, where is the that damn DL? Did they drop out, leaving me as the DL participant? Is that fair? I would be last if they quit. Can I still claim no DL, if I am DL? Who is the governing body? Who can I appeal to? I hate triathlons. I hate small skinny people who are in shape and who trained for more than 15 minutes. I hate people who hop around and shake their arms.

Eventually I pass someone and ensure my non-Dead Last spot. I feel like a Olympic gold medal winner. I get out of the kayak, run (hobble) up the bank and tag the runner. He does very well and puts us squarely in the middle of the pack. As a triathlete, I can hold my head up high, now if I could move my freak’n arms.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. Email him at