Being a Minnesotan and primarily a swimmer, you may be surprised when you find out that being cold and wet are my least favorite things to be. The Iron Bruin swim was not so hot for me last year. In fact, I was so cold that I could not feel my extremities until the second mile of the run. When I got the registration email about a month ago, I knew this was my opportunity for redemption. There’s no need to go into details about how the rest of the race unfolded, but the stars were aligning for this opening race of the season. Moving the race up to October meant that the shallow lake would be like bathwater and by actually training for triathlon I would definitely have a leg up on my performance from last year. Needless to say, when my alarm when off at 4:30, I was ready to rock and roll. I had packed my bag and laid out the clothes I would wear to the race out of paranoia from other race day debacles we also don’t need to revisit I rode over in the cool darkness to the ARC to meet up with the rest of the crew to drive up to LA. Lucas immediately offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, demonstrating that he is now the most thoughtful member on the team and that I am not to be trusted with my own race day preparation. I proudly, yet politely declined the offer as I motioned to two bagel sandwiches I had stashed in my transition bag. The ride to the race went without a hitch, beside the one holding Mark’s bike, and we rolled up to the race with over an hour and a half to spare. From my experience with our team, this is unprecedented. I would be able to warm up, set up transition, and triple check that my timing chip was indeed on my ankle prior to the race start. Mark and I tested the water, and it was in fact as warm as I had suspected. Knowing that the water would emulate the swims of my nascent triathlon days over the summer in Minnesota filled me with a sense of preparation I do not normally feel before my races.
Heading back to transition to check on my gear, I saw Jesse watching over our rack with a mother bear level of ferocity. Apparently other teams had been poaching our rack, but you better bet your bottom dollar that nothing of the sort was going to happen on his watch. Unfortunately, pre-race didn’t go completely without hiccups. Wilfred’s tire blew, which took him out of the race, but he soldiered on and took the opportunity for some open water practice and ran twice as far as everyone else. With the start time approaching, we went for a wam-up run and put our kits on. With the big UCI on my chest, I felt like Anteater Man. Ready to mash zotts and slurp some exoskeletons. Between Jesse, Wilfred, Mark, Summer and I racing, the support of Lucas and fans of UCI tri, and the race preparedness, the new face of UCI tri is looking fresh.
After a quick dip, we headed over to the swim start. I positioned myself on the outside, hoping to get in front of the larger pack before the first buoy, and we were off! The left side proved to be a good choice, since I didn’t run into anyone until about ten meters from the first buoy, where the guy next to me decided sighting was for chumps and kept crossing me as if he wanted to go straight into the buoy. He got caught up in the string and I hurdled myself over his back. I kept to the left side just behind the front pack to keep my stroke long and avoid unnecessary obstacles. The final part of the swim was around a peninsula. In the pre-race meeting we were instructed to swim tight to it and finish at lifeguard stand 3. I pulled in about as close as I could and scraped some moss from a boulder, which was stuck under my fingernail for the remainder of the race. Counting is not my forte, but also the front swimmers got out at lifeguard station 4. The lifeguards yelled at me to swim to the other station, but in my confusion, I just followed the swimmers in front of me. Transition is my least favorite event of the triathlon, but I suppose biking in my wetsuit would be nothing short of ridiculous. The bike was flat extremely flat and in view of the San Gabriel mountains and the Miller-Coors sign for 90% of the bike leg, so both my body and short attention span were satisfied on the race course. I was mostly alone for the bike, which was nice to focus on my form, but the two loop out and back format made me well aware of where the people behind me were at.
I pulled into transition two feeling surprisingly fresh. I bolted out of the run exit and took off. Until a race marshal yelled at me to run on the course, which went the opposite way. With an embarrassed “thank you”, I was actually off this time. I settled into a comfortable pace, but ghosts of swimming coaches past and Jesse’s instructions to play to my strengths encouraged me to consider kicking into gear a little more. The second mile felt fine, and I thought I was keeping my pace, but my watch notified me I had just gone 40 seconds slower on this mile compared to my first. Thankfully, other racers experienced the same effect from the sandy terrain. Coming around the lake in the final half mile, I was overtaken. I tried to hold on, but eventually yielded my position. I picked it up in the shoot for my final kick, and ran straight to the snacks table. A cup of water and the sourest orange I’ve ever met I was feeling pretty accomplished for 9:30 on a Saturday morning. Kudos to Jesse for smashing the course and taking top 5, Wilfred for making the best of any situation, Summer for making a strong showing for our women’s team, Mark for his first triathlon and the most inspiring kick I’ve ever seen, and Lucas for being the best team caretaker and cheerleader, couldn’t have done that run without his encouragement.
With one race under my belt, I can’t wait for the rest of the season. Stay tuned for Cove Skipper next weekend, where you’ll meet more of the team. That’s all I got. Signing off