Saturday, April 06, 2013

Tradition Triathlon 2013

The third annual Tradition Triathlon officially kicked off triathlon season, today. Two hundred and ninety nine other crazy folks drive out into some Mississippi backwoods to test their mettle against each other, against nature, and against themselves.

In 2010, I set out on my current journey. My first stop was an "Intro To Triathlons" with Jim Bourque. There I was "the second worst swimmer" he had ever trained. These days, we go to many of the same races, often setup in transition next to each other, and I always try to get a picture of him to remind me of my humble, pitiful roots.

One of the things that made this event quickly stand out for me was the massive number of volunteers. They were EVERYWHERE. So helpful, and so awesome. Cool that I knew several of them from training, too. Gina & the Vegan Mary (pictured,) John H & Shental, Nancy, and Bob Clarke. They kept all of us going, gave wonderful directions, cheered, directed traffic, and plucked off the pesky timing chip at the end.

The event was really well organized and supported. I liked that the transition had reserved spaces based on our numbers. I was able to get 30min of extra sleep knowing that I didn't have to fight for a rack. Bit crowed between racks, though.

Unfortunately, it was crrrrrazy cold this morning. My phone showed 45 degrees when I woke up. So many folks without wet suits. So many who hand't tried the water ahead of time. I waded in the shallows, acclimatizing. Watching them shiver. Their lips trembling. Uncontrollably. I offered tips. But they should have planned ahead.

We could see our breath as we waited in line for the swim. I was number sixty. There was no official USAT and we entered the water maybe two seconds apart. The line moving at a near-jog. Waded up to my chest. Then took the plunge.

Spotted the trouble quickly. Several people flipping over. Onto their back. Not even a third the way into it. One guy doing an odd combination of backstroke and butterfly. "Stand up!" I shout. He looks at me like I'm the one freaking out. Then he stands. Because it is shallow. And he can catch his breath while I swim on. Passed several other folks on their backs. One lady to my left yelling, "Help me!" and reaching for a kayak. Threading my way through a cluster of bad/scared swimmers. I'm worried about getting smacked or dragged down. My technique was shit, though. Too cold to focus on rhythm or form. Created drag with a bad stroke. Didn't reach far enough. Could have done better. Didn't. But I didn't stop to catch my breath. Didn't have to stand up. Felt strong coming out and jogged to the transition.

Bike started great. Powered up the first hill, passing several folks who were NOT ready for it to hit them so soon. Caught Jim during the first mile. Passed him for a little bit. Then he found his legs. By the third mile I couldn't easily pace him. Thankfully no wind. All the awesome thirtysomething women passing me: Jackie, Megan, Kat. I passed a couple of folks. But mostly it was familiar faces passing me. Eddie. JG. Allan. I really need a better bike one of these days. Mine just doesn't slice through the air enough. Or maybe it is my angle of attack. Or, most likely, I'm just not good enough to compete with these folks. But I finished pretty strong. Lost my bearings briefly in transition. But thought I did a great job of getting in and out pretty quickly.

The run was good, for me. Passed Jim and a couple of unfamiliar faces. Didn't get passed too much, which made me happy. Finally settled in behind Crystal. Shouldn't have gotten so comfortable, but her pace was close to mine. Told myself, "If she doesn't stop, I'm not stopping." And tailed her for the better part of two miles. Later, she'd tell me that she heard me behind her and it helped push her. (And she'd finish first in her age group.)

I finished in 1:38:27. A new personal record for me. 60th place out of 300. But only 15th out of 21 in my age group. I didn't get any medals. No awards. Just a bottle of cider from Nancy and some other dull loot. But, I beat all my previous attempts. And I felt good at the end. That's enough for me. It has to be.

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