Thursday, April 03, 2008
Lonestar Sprint Triathlon
In some ways, I felt like I was going back in time about fifteen or sixteen years. I was traveling across the large state of Texas, en route to a sprint triathlon; my bike was on the roof, collecting bugs; and I was enjoying the company of a good friend, as we admired the wildflowers on the sides of the highway. It was just awesome.
Almost a week ago (I'm slow to update, as usual), Amanda and I headed down to Galveston Island for the Lonestar Tri. I was planning to do the sprint on Saturday, and Amanda was set for the Quarter on Sunday (1/4 of an Iroman). We left the dogs with Uncle Fred, so it was just the two of us, our bikes, and a lot of gear... and food.
What it reminded me of was my first full season of racing triathlons back in 1993. I had just discovered the sport; I had just met a bunch of great folks; and I was driving all over the place to do every race I could fit in my schedule: Athens, Corpus Christi, Del Rio, Jefferson, Grand Prairie and Canyon Lake. We went everywhere.
On Saturday morning, when I strolled out of my hotel room and down into transition to pick up my packet, a flood of memories overtook me. I was seeing some of the same faces from way back in the early nineties: Dave Sing, Carl Stewart. I was anticipating a brand new event. I was unsure of how I would feel racing. Somehow the newness of the venue, coupled with the sameness in my mind's eye made me feel strangely nervous, excited, comfortable, and relaxed. I loved it.
Amanda showed up to see me off in the swim. It was somewhere between 500 and 600 meters (or was it yards). I do not know, and it does not matter. I was in the second wave (how long has it been since the last time I did not get the first wave!?!), and I was ready to swim flat out for the duration. It was truly a refreshing break from the strategy-laden, pace-oriented swim of an Ironman. I swam until I blew up. Then I just swam a few more meters and got out. How cool.
Next up was a FAST transition. Fortunately, I got my helmet positioned and strapped in no time. My flying mount was flawless, and I was on the way.
Just as I was starting to get a bit uncomfortable with the intensity of the bike ride, I realized I was at the turnaround. Whoa. The 12.5 mile bike ride was over before I knew it.
Coming into T2, I was so excited for the run. Of all three sports, my run training has been the best. Not unlike that first season, when my run was my only fighting chance, I was about to make my move.
I slipped into my shoes without socks. This is something I have gone away from as an Ironman and 70.3 athlete. It just seems so fun to be carefree and fast and sock-less. I was off to run a 5k. I figured that was not the time to worry about blowing up. Again, how bad would it be if I blew up for the second half. I could always make 1.5 miles.
The pain I felt for that 55 minutes (plus or minus) was awesome. No matter how much my legs or lungs or arms hurt, I was almost done. I felt I was almost done when the gun went off!
After the race I stood at the finish line for probably 45 minutes. I shook hands of random finishers; I talked splits and data; I admired those who won their sprint finishes; and I reveled in the return to my roots.
I reflected on how far I have come in the sport. After racing my first triathlon on a mountain bike, wearing soccer shorts, and struggling to finish the sprint, I have made my way back to my roots. Sure, I've won a few races between then and now, but in the end, I'm still right where I started: having fun sharing a great sport with great people.
I am grateful to have shared in many others' experience at their first triathlon. Thank you for sharing it with me, and I urge you to enjoy the journey the sport will present to you. I remember vividly (now even more so) how much that first race impacted my life. Many moons ago I got hooked, and I am as hooked now as I was then!