After a long drive to DC and getting through our mandatory briefing, it was off to game day prep. Lots of last minute checks and hydration preparation and proper (are quesadillas proper?) fueling...
Saturday was our day to rack our bikes in transition - by far the biggest transition I have ever seen with room for 6000 triathletes. Followed by some team information, a pre race talk by Dave Scott and a practice swim in the Potomac river. No trees or massive detritus in the river as we practices - but I was glad to have my wetsuit...it was CHILLY
Sheila arrived Saturday - after classes - and was awakened by my 3:30 wake up on Sunday AM to get some breakfast in me and gather up my gear for the race. Didn't get a whole heck of a lot of sleep Saturday night - no matter what 3:30 AM is early...
Met the team in the lobby and we got on the bus. Arrived at the race sight in darkness and did final set up in transition, laying out gear for each stage of the race, filling tires, checking water bottles, bio breaks, etc.
Even with 2 hours before the race started - the time flew by as the sun began to rise over the Nation's Capital....
So - with 6000 registered athletes, there were 30+ waves - which is how they start the race. Wave by category (elite, para-athletes, military (special to this event), then age groups...men first then women) - every 3 - 4 minutes.
They get us in the water around 7:20...the horn sounds and we're off. My swim is not bad at first - but I soon realize - there are few buoys to sight off of - sighting is where you make sure you're going the right way, in a "relatively" straight line to minimize your time swimming...."shortest distance between two points". As I get to the first turn, I look over my right shoulder taking a breath and there is the Lincoln Memorial....I make the turn and straight ahead is Arlington National Cemetery....next buoy, turn and head downstream - so far - besides the two clowns who grabbed my feet and pulled me backwards - not too bad...those two clowns received a swift kick to the noggin by the way...hey all is fair in love and triathlon
As I turn downstream - I don't see a buoy - so I follow the leaders - or the folks in front of me - and then get out from under the Arlington Memorial bridge and still - no buoy....so I pull up and flip up my fogged up goggles....oh - THERE it is....wow - that's a long ways off...hmmm
get back to swimming and finally make the next to last turn - one more stretch then in to "home" and I can get out of the water. Make the last turn and promptly (although unknown to me) start heading more towards shore than the finish...a nice kayaker comes along and yells "LEFT, LEFT"...I look up and am like - " Oh - yeah - thanks....phooey"
Pull myself out of the water after what seemed like an interminably long swim - a bit more tired than I expected to be...and start peeling off the wetsuit and head towards T1 - Swim to Bike...after wrestling with my wetsuit - a lot harder to get off over ones ankles than you might imagine - and get my bike gear on - I head out to ride.
Bike is a couple of loops, one about 5 miles, one about 20...the 5 mile loop allows me to get me breathing down and start to take in some fluids - slowly.
See coming out of the water - especially on longer swims - your blood is mostly in your upper body, you get out and get upright and it "rebalances" itself...often making you disoriented, nauseous, etc. So you need to take in fluids and calories slowly at first - otherwise - you may share your breakfast with the other riders. While sharing is usually a good thing...doing so all over them, their bikes, etc is not so popular.
Head out on the 20 mile section and it is a long, slow gradual climb - with some moderate downhills - but mostly up. Also - with this many riders out there on a relatively narrow course - it is IMPOSSIBLE - not to draft or block - both of which are infractions in triathlon. Drafting - like in NASCAR - is where you get into the "slipstream" of a rider in front of you and let them block the wind and pull you along - blocking is when you are alongside a rider, not allowing them to pass or move out to pass...but try as I might - as well as the thousands of others - it can't be avoided.
Make the 180 degree turn to head back into town - up over one hill and pop into the big ring and get moving...20 mph, 21 mph...25 mph...miles spin off and we're almost into town...I hear a wreck behind me - didn't sound good - and head into the final mile.
As I start to go under an overpass, I notice - water bottles....lots of them - everywhere...a water bottle lawn sale - and I wonder what the....then I hit the same pothole everyone else hit and lose my gel flask - lawn sale...yikes - no popped tire though.
Make it to the dismount line and into T2 - Bike to Run.
As I head out - my back is a bit tight - and someone passes me saying "you were my motivation on the ride"...as he passed me....great - I motivated you to kick my butt...oh well - off he went and off we went - 6 miles - nice and flat - mostly shaded, and well supported with lots of spectators...awesome.
Mile 1, 2 and 3...chugging along, not my fastest - but one foot in front of the other. I see a lot - and I MEAN A LOT - of TnT folks along the way. Great to see everyone out there.
As I make it to mile 6, I am happy that I will soon be done. It has been a challenging race - not overly taxing - but admittedly, I am getting tired. That fatigue though - is minor compared to what we are working towards eradicating.
Also - as a side bar - there was a man - who in the vein and spirit of "Team Hoyt" did the race with his child.
For those of you who don't know of Team Hoyt, Dick Hoyt has completed numerous marathons (Boston included - as a qualified racer) and competed in the Hawaii IronMan - with his son Rick. Rick was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, limiting oxygen flow to his brain, debilitating him. The Hoyt's continue to work towards Rick's inclusion in everyday life (http://www.teamhoyt.com/) and are an inspiration for everyone....
I saw them at the start, the father attaching a raft to himself to swim with his child in tow, on the ride - with a bike carrier/wagon attached to the bike, and in the run - finishing with a smile on their faces...
That and the fact that one of my teammates, Marty Pittman was diagnosed with CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) in April and the unending work to be done for the LLS, made me make 110% certain I crossed that line. Marty - whom I met for the first time this weekend - is a great guy full of energy and determination, with a wife and two young boys (7 and 5). His energy, his fight, his power - and the need to continue to raise the awareness of the LLS and their work - made me damn sure I kept going. This event is dedicated in honor of Marty and his fire - his fight, and my ability to try and make a difference for him and countless others. Marty - and the rest of the team rocked the course...and everyone finished.
Now - I don't know this for certain - but while there were 4300 who toed the line at the start on Sunday and about 3900 who finished...I can almost guarantee that all 585 of the TnT athletes out there Sunday finished....because we're not out there racing to win for ourselves, we're out there racing to win against blood cancer.
As was noted from the inspiration dinner, in the average time it took for folks to complete the race, 48 people were diagnosed with a blood cancer...48 people in 3 hours...
Thanks you, Marty, Wendy, Pam, Maggie and Juliene for racing with me this weekend and being so much fun. Thanks a MILLION Tricia and Lynn for keeping us focused and on track and getting us across the line - both at the start and the finish.
Thank you all for your support and kind words. Go TEAM!!!