Friday, January 21, 2011

2010 in Review Part II The Triathlon

Beautiful Summit Lake
We had so much fun doing the Dirty Dog we decided our next race would be another big challenge: The Scenic Mountain Triathlon.  As a former high school swimmer and track team member, signing up for my first triathlon seemed logical, doing it, however, proved to be quite an exercise in mental and physical toughness.

We embarked on a triple threat training regime, which was a refreshing change from all the pavement pounding we'd been doing.  We scheduled time in the pool to swim the tri's 1/2 mile distance.  Summer was heating up, and the pool felt great.  Our first open-water swim attempt in Summersville Lake was not so hot, however, reminding us how difficult and mentally challenging open-water swims can be.  My dad, convinced we would slip beneath the surface never to be seen again, tooled closely next to us in the pontoon boat, lifeguarding us and filling our lungs with marine motor exhaust.

We also invested in road bikes, after an exhaustive analysis as to whether or not we could do the race on our mountain bikes.  The bike portion, 17 miles of uphill mountain climbing (hence the name Scenic MOUNTAIN Triathlon), was daunting, so we decided to go for it.  I'm so glad we did!  I got a beautiful Trek, and Jay got a Gary Fisher.  Vance borrowed a Fuji and we set out on some group rides.  Vance's girlfriend Lindsey showed us all up, riding her 25 year-old 10 speed, and beating the pants off us gear geeks.  The hardest part of a triathlon for me is the bike ride.  I have a long way to go to overcome my terror of riding in traffic and to build up my biking muscles.  Transitioning from a mountain bike to a road bike is not easy.  Road bikes are fast and jumpy, and are very delicate, requiring you to constantly scan the road for debris and pot holes.  It's like the difference between riding a farm pack horse and a sleek thoroughbred.

Speaking of bikes, we are lucky to know our friend Tom who is a former professional biker.  It was his cousin's Fuji that Vance was able to borrow for the triathlon.  Tom was very helpful in riding with us and giving us some sage advice that we desperately needed.  He also crashed the Scenic Mountain Triathlon with us, and despite a much quieter training regimen and only a Mountain Dew for hydration, he still whupped us all.  His athletic dominance is humbling and inspiring at the same time.

The run part was relatively easy to train for.  We had just completed a 15K trail run, so the 10K run was not all that intimidating.  We continued to rotate through the three sports, gaining confidence and impressing ourselves every day.  Lindsey and Vance did several of their own "homemade" triathlons.  The biggest challenge for Jay and me was (and still is) finding the time to train while working full time and raising two small children.  We have to work together, usually with me heading out the door as soon as he's home from work.  He is ready to go when I get back.  Mutual support is essential in making this work for our family.

Race weekend was finally upon us.  We decided to spend the weekend at our family's camp, near the race site.  We arrived on Saturday with time to hit the spaghetti dinner and drive the race route.  The spaghetti dinner was somewhat intimidating, filled with extremely fit people sporting 26.2 tattoos, Oakleys and ripped calves.  My dad observed, a little too loudly, that he saw Lance Armstrong.  But that intimidation was nothing compared to the bike route.  We drove the route from beautiful Summit Lake to the Cranberry Visitor's center.  It was literally 16.9 miles of undulating uphill, with a gigantic Kennison (3763 ft) mountain climb at the end.  Steep hairpin turns spiraled towards the heavens, seemingly forever.  We finally crested the summit in our vehicle and coasted the remaining .1 of the ride towards the Visitors Center.  At the Center, we got out and looked back up the mountain in terrified silence.  Back at the camp, I announced that my goal was to finish, and to not have to get off and walk my bike up that mountain.  We spent hours preparing our transition gear, going over every detail.  We slept fitfully that night, with kids in our bed, and every creak, bodily noise and breath of our cabinmates (my mom and dad, brother Vance, and Lindsey) magnified by the cathedral ceilings.  I watched the window for the blackness to turn to gray morning.  We all got up and milled around, getting breakfast.  Dad proclaimed, "Well guys, just think, this is the best you're gonna feel all day." Lindsey replied, "I think crossing that finish line will feel pretty good." Exactly!  Race jitters had long set in, so we gathered our gear and headed to the race site.

Team Lima Green ready to race
On the way to the lake, our conversation was light and funny.  Joking about dry heaving as a warm-up and questioning our common sense in signing up for a MOUNTAIN triathlon seemed to ease the nerves.  I could barely sit still, though, excited for the day's events.  The folks running the event were extremely nice and helpful, and calmed us as we set up our swim to bike transition area.  Soon we were gathering at the lake side, waiting for the race director's instructions.  We planned to wear matching lime green (jokingly dubbed lima green by our son) so we could spot each other throughout the race.  Coincidentally, the race sponsors were handing out free lime green t-shirts to participants, staff and fans.  So much for being easily spotted!  Our support team arrived, kids in tow, and wished us luck as we headed toward the starting line.

Swim start in Summit Lake

And we were off!  The swim was a jumbled mess of kicking feet and body parts.  My swim was a combination of all-out sprint freestyle and breaststroke, which allowed me to get a look at my surroundings and pick my way through the mass of bodies.  Of our group, I was the first out of the water, followed by Vance, who declared as he ran by me that he had swallowed a bunch of water.  I didn't think much of his statement then, except that he wouldn't have to worry about hydrating later, but I would soon find out that this was a major setback for him.  Tom, Lindsey and Jay came quickly behind, and the terrifying bike ride was underway.  I pumped my bike along the baby hills leading up to Kennison mountain with a calm steady pace.  Knowing that the giant was waiting for me, I saved some energy to climb the beast.  I finally came to the base of the mountain and trudged up, pumping my legs and counting my cranks to distract myself from what was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  When my counting reached into the 700s, I could finally see the top of the mountain.  I crossed it with relief that it was over, and that I didn't have to get off and push.  I coasted to the Visitor's Center and gave my bike to the handler, got a shot of water, threw on my run pack, and took off.  I waved to my family, and was so relieved to have the bike ride over, the run would be a breeze.  I soon caught up with Vance, who was walking.  His diaphragm was strained from aspirating water, and was having trouble getting a full breath.  He was in agony, but he did not let that stop him from finishing.  A few miles later, I finally crossed the finish line, third in our group of four, with Lindsey finishing first, followed by Jay then me, and then an exhausted and hurting Vance.  Tom finished well ahead of everyone, and calmly watched the rest of us finish from his spot on the picnic blanket.
Lindsey's bike to run transition

Tom's big finish
The girls ended up with some hardware, with Lindsey winning her age group and I placed third in my age group.  We munched on the outstanding post-race food.  The wonderful people of Richwood put on a full spread, with hot dogs, hamburgers, beans, potato salad and all the fixins.  Food never tasted so good.  I drank a full test Mountain Dew to celebrate.

We survived!
Doing this race was an absolute blast.  Lindsey was right about the feeling of crossing the finish line and knowing that you did it.  Aside from Vance and his diaphragm injury, it was amazing to me how quickly all the pain and hurt went away the moment the race was over and you could just sit in awe of your body for bringing you the distance.  I am so proud of everyone for doing it.  I cannot wait to do it again.

Lindsey wins 1st place!

Third in my age group!  

1 comment:

  1. Love having a wonderful review of the fun year we have had as part of the Support team of Team Lima Green. We are proud of everyone's accomplishments. You all are an inspiration.
    Mom McCracken