This is the story of my participation in the Racing For Recovery Sprint Triathlon at Sterling State Park in Monroe, MI on Sunday June 7,2009.
The day started for me when my Alarm went off at 3:45. I rolled out of bed and began getting myself ready. I ate a bowl of cereal and then drove through McDonald’s for a cup of coffee (and a Cina-melt but that doesn’t really count). The drive to Monroe was pretty easy because there were practically no other cars on the road. I was early enough that I drove most of the course I would be riding on my bike just to see if there were any surprises. Thankfully there were no surprises. I then went to the State Park and found the site where I would be setting up. I got a great parking space.
Upon arriving, the first thing I did was go to the registration tent and pick up my race number and event T-shirt. I was a little offended when the person who was checking me in asked for my 2X shirt and the person retrieving the shirts said “I didn’t know we had that size”. I then went over to pick up my timing chip and get body marked. I am not sure of the point of body marking when the clothing I was planning on wearing for the race would cover almost all of the markings. Except the race type and age they marked on my calves. Body Marking may sound sophisticated, but really someone with sloppy handwriting uses a Sharpie to write the race number on both upper arms and both quads. I suppose it is to prove that the race number hasn’t been swapped and prevent cheating, but it did seem and feel kinda silly.
The next step was setting up my transition area, this would be where I would make necessary equipment changes for each part of the race. The first step was to place my bike on a rack. I notice most people hung their bikes up by the saddle, but when I tried this, by bike seemed like it was going to fall off so I put my handlebars on the rack and it was nice and stable. I then had a bag with cycling shoes, gloves, helmet, sunglasses, socks, running shoes and a hat that was placed under my bike. Of course just as I am getting this set up, the announcement comes that there were thunderstorms in the area and we should take shelter in our cars until the storm passes. 20 minutes later the all-clear was announced. Because of the storm, the race start was delayed by 30 minutes.
Now it was time for the pre-race meeting which was held by the swim start. Since my race was starting 25 minutes after the Half-Ironman race started, I went to the meeting and left my wetsuit in the car. The pre-race meeting went over all the rules, blah, blah blah, then the microphone was handed over to Todd Crandell. Todd is the founder of Racing for Recovery. The mission of Racing for Recover is “preventing substance abuse in adolescents and individuals and offering a positive alternative to those currently battling addiction.” Todd’s personal story is quite compelling too. You can read about it at the Racing for Recovery Website. Todd then introduced someone who’s name escapes me but also had a compelling story. He had a point of very profound wisdom that really struck me. The race itself was not the hard part, it was the victory lap for all the hard work put in the training for the event. He then lead the group in a very touching prayer.
Fast forward to the race start. We walked out to the first bouy in about 5 feet of water. We would swim north 750 meters parallel to the beach then turn around the last bouy and swim back 250 meters to the swim finish. I was reminded of a scene from Finding Nemo. Not the one where the sea turtle says to Marlin “Don’t hurl on the shell, I just had it waxed.” The one where the Salmon are caught in the net and in order to escape Marlin urges them to “Just Keep Swimming”. That was my plan, to “just keep swimming”. It almost went like that. I had purchased a book and DVD about Triathlon swimming and one of the big recommendations was to learn to breath on both sides. This was a lesson I wish I had taken more time to practice. The water was rather choppy and my natural breathing pattern had be breathing with my face towards the oncoming waves and the occasional mouth full of water. Once I made the turn around bouy, these problems went away as I floated up the waves instead of having them crash into my open mouth when I was trying to breathe. Much to my relief, my hand finally hit the bottom as I was headed towards the beach and I could stand up and start taking the wet suit off.
I peeled back the wetsuit to my waist and ran up the beach towards the transition area. My family was there cheering me on. Stephanie even ran with me to the transition. I managed to peel wetsuit the rest of the way off and put on my cycling gear. Then I was off to my most comfortable and strongest event, the bike. I then just started riding as hard as I could. I had forgotten to put my heart rate monitor strap on under my wetsuit, so it was now locked in my car. I felt a little nervous not having my pacing tool, but decided it would probably hold me back. I did have my gps and it was giving my my 1 mile splits. I was riding at about 3:03 per mile which put me just under 20 miles per hour. I was feeling good and strong at this point. All too soon, I was back at transition.
This transition was much simpler. Take off the cycling shoes and put on running shoes and start running. Oh wait, take the pump out of the jersey pocket, It is hard to get a flat tire in running shoes. About a half mile out, I realized the other thing I forgot. I really did not have a need for cycling gloves either. So I ran 3.7 miles looking like a dork with my gloves on. Really my gloves had nothing to do with me looking like a dork, I do that pretty well on my own. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, I could see the finish line and ran across to be greeted by Todd Crandell. He shook every finishers hand, which was very cool.
I found the results online after I got home. I had completed the race in 1:47:48 which was better than my goal of 2:00:00. I completed the swim in 28:00 then took 4:42 to transition to the bike. The bike was complete in 39:04 which was a 18.4 mph average. The transition to the run was 2:02 and I finished the 3.7 mile run in 34:01 which was an average mile pace of 9:12. I placed 68th overall out of 110 and 5th out of 10 in the Clydesdale class (200 + pounds).
I am very pleased with my performance and am ready to set my sights on my next goal, the Detroit Free Press Marathon.