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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just Tri It: Stamford Olympic Relay

Frances and Ursula were great support!
Looking back at this weekend’s events, I can’t help but think of the Beatles “I get by with a little help from my friends”.  Being part of a relay team added a whole new dimension to my triathlon endeavors.
Back in January I convinced my husband Mike and friend Allison that we should do a relay at our hometown Stamford Olympic distance triathlon hosted by the local charity Kids in Crisis.  Mike wasn’t ready to sign up for a triathlon since he hadn’t yet mastered swimming and I thought I could use the summer to train for my first Olympic distance.  Over drinks, I had convinced Allison to join me for our first Olympic distance in September so we thought this would be a good “training tri”.  Hence Team “Just Tri It” was born.
After having done full Sprint distance triathlons, I wasn’t sure if I would find doing a relay fulfilling but it was in different ways.  First, it gave me the opportunity to do my first 10K run.  Secondly, it allowed us all to do a hometown tri that we wouldn’t have otherwise been ready to take on.  And, it was super fun to experience team camaraderie in an otherwise individual sport.  We were also able to host our friends and have local spectators.  It was the first time I had the opportunity to be more of a race spectator even as I still participated – I was in awe watching the elite athletes not just survive but thrive in their swim (especially the woman who beat many of the guys out of the water) and maneuver their bike transitions with shoes in their pedals.
After a nice Italian dinner at our favorite local restaurant, we along with our guests – Antoine, Ursula and Allison – settled in for as early a bedtime as we could manage.  Mike and I were already awake when the alarm went off at 4:15am.  Thirty minutes later, we were out the door.  While on one hand, it was our home turf, the logistics were extra tricky with two transition areas over one mile apart.
Allison was our team swimmer
Upon picking up our timing chip, we did a quick team practice how we would “pass the baton”.  We decided our strategy would be for a single person to both take it off and to put it on the other person.
The race kicked off at 6:30am with Antoine seeded in the Elite and first wave.  Allison went 15 minutes later in the fifth wave.  As I looked out at the nearly mile long swim course, I thought “wow, that looks long!”  But I just told Allison “it just looks long – you do it in the pool all the time!”  
 As we waited for Antoine and Allison to emerge, I came to realize how nerve wracking it is as a spectator to be wondering where your swimmer is as you just see a sea of caps – both out of desire to see them do well and for their safety (I got more nervous as I overheard the organizers on the shore saying there was one person being pulled out). 
Mike was our relay team cyclist

Our friend Frances along with her 10 week daughter (Mike’s Goddaughter) arrived at the beach in time to help us cheer on Allison as she completed the course.  I was so happy I had convinced Allison to buy swim booties as people were cutting their feet on the shells.  As Allison approached the transition area, I didn’t see Mike in his designated spot but he came running from the bathroom (the Italian meal wasn’t sitting well) to successfully receive the chip and proceed on the bike.
Antoine is - just awesome!
After waiting for the shuttle, Ursula and I arrived at T2 just in time to see Antoine zoom in on his Scott triathlon bike.  Being the elite triathlete he is, he gracefully had his feet out of his shoes before he ever touched the ground.  Allison and Frances caught up to us as I watched the clock and the stream of cyclists coming in.  I knew the fastest possible pace would probably be 25 mph but with hills, Mike would do something less than that and come in somewhere more than 1 hour and likely less than 1 ½ hours.  So at the 1 hour 15 min market, I went to the transition area and sure enough, he appeared at 1 hour 20 minutes and 11 seconds.  As I took his timing chip off and put it on me, I fumbled a bit and almost lost my water.  As I hit the hot pavement minutes later, I was glad to have retrieved it.
It was HOT!  We were in the midst of a heat wave and by 8:45 we were in full sun.  The first two miles went ok and then I really started feeling the heat as I ran through a particularly sunny section of the course.  Halfway through my fan club kept me going and Ursula’s “Cathy placard” (she had one for each of us as she was forced to the sidelines with an ear infection) made me smile.
On the second loop, the Stamford fire engine’s water spray felt really good.  As I – wearing my Army shorts – passed a 61 year old with an Army jersey on, I encouraged him with an Army Strong greeting, the campaign created by my former company.  “You Betcha!” he said proudly.
For a short time I befriended a fellow mid-forties woman as we kept relatively the same pace.  “My friends think I’m crazy,” she said.  “One third of mine think it’s cool, one third think it’s crazy, and I’ve recruited the other one third,” I replied.  It was her first Olympic distance and somehow she mustered the strength to pull ahead of me at the end.
I was happy as the finish line approached.  A young 24 year old male passed me, high fived me and encouraged me to keep going strong as I looked like I was wilting.  And, I did just that, exerting my last bit of speed at the end and passing him right at the finish line.  He was very cool and gracious and high fived me again!
I was the team runner
We finished 27th out of 49 relay teams at 3:01:19.  I accomplished my goal to finish the 10K run in less than 1 hour at 58:16.  Allison achieved her goal with a strong swim at 40:51.  Mike placed 10 out of 49 amongst the relay bike participants with an average speed of over 18 mph on some hilly terrain.  And Antoine placed 8th overall amongst all race participants!!!
Now we’re already planning how Team Just Tri It will shave off 1 minute 20 seconds to finish in under 3 hours.   I think we can…”I get by with a little help from my friends…”
Team Just Tri It

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