Some races are so huge, so intense, so incredibly epic they require time to absorb what you have have just done. To think about what you have just accomplished. These races change who you are, how you perceive the world. From the moment you cross that finish line, you know that from that point forward, you will divide your life into everything that happened before the race, and everything that happens since.
The Telos Turkey Tri — which The Hammer, The Swimmer, and I did last Saturday — is not one of those races.
But it was a strange race.
- The Hammer: a very strong runner and strong cyclist, but not fast in the pool.
- The Swimmer: The Hammer’s daughter, a very fast runner and varsity team swimmer, who doesn’t really ride
- Me: Fast on the bike, not so fast on the run, and slightly slower than the Hammer in the pool.
Before the Race
In the days leading up to it, The Hammer and I obsessed way too much over this race. Not really so much about race tactics, but about who would win. We just didn’t know.
And then, as the race got closer, our obsession turned toward the weather. It looked like it was going to be bad. As in, ice-on-the-ground-and-snow-in-the-air bad. The race organizers confirmed as much, letting us know by email that the bike part of the race might be canceled.
Still, the night before the race I went ahead and put all the bikes in The BikeMobile, just in case the weather turned out to work in our favor.
But when we woke up on the morning of the race, things did not look good. A look out the window confirmed my fears: It was snowing in Alpine, with wet — and probably icy — roads.
I left the bikes in the truck, though, hoping against hope that the race venue would be dry.
We arrived at the venue (Mountain View High School, right by the Orem Rec Center for the locals reading this) and I started to have hope. Apparently being ten miles further south, a couple hundred feet lower and not bumping right up against a mountain makes a difference: it was not snowing and the roads were dry.
But it was definitely windy and cold.
Others were setting up their bikes in the transition area, so we went and set ours up too. One transition area would be used for both transitions, so the setup took only a few minutes.
I was feeling chipper. The harder the bike portion of the race, the better for me.
Then, just a few minutes before it was time to start, the race director made a crazy announcement: “We’re concerned enough about wet roads on part of the course, as well as the probability of snow falling during the race, so we’re shortening the bike portion of the race,” he said.
“Shortening it,” he concluded, “to one lap around the high school parking lot.”
Whhhaaaaa? That’s less than a quarter mile!
I walked up to the race director to make sure I had understood him correctly. He explained that for safety reasons they didn’t want to have the bike race, but they still wanted people who had been working on their transitions to get to do those.
“OK,” I said, “Fair enough.” This didn’t make sense to me at all, but the fact is I’m too much of a lazy coward to ever be a race director and so have made a pact to myself to never ever hassle or otherwise give a hard time to people who are willing to go through the massive effort (including making the hard-to-call last minute decisions) it takes to put on a race.
“So,” I thought to myself, as The Hammer, The Swimmer and I walked to the starting line of the run (the events are would be in Run – “Bike” – Swim order for this event, which makes sense since the swim is in an indoor pool), “This changes things for me.”
And I started to think.
The first wave went — Kids (but The Swimmer stayed with us because chip timing meant that it doesn’t really matter when anyone starts and we wanted to all start together). A few minutes elapsed, and the second wave went. Ours was next.
Then it occurred to me.
“Don’t change into your biking shoes for the biking leg,” I quickly told The Hammer. “It’s not worth it for that short of a ride. Just leave your running shoes on, put your helmet on and go.”
And then we were off. The Swimmer took off at what would be, for me, a sprint. Indeed, she was hanging with the fast guys.
“Well, that’s it for me,” I thought. “Best thing I can do is try to limit the damage.” So I ran hard, doing my best to at least stay with The Hammer.
“I can’t believe The Swimmer is running so fast,” I said to The Hammer. “I could never hold that pace over 5K.”
“Neither can she,” replied The Hammer, as she eased in front of me.
And so, for the entirety of the run, I thought of one thing: try not to let The Hammer get too far ahead. Before long, though, she was fifty feet, then a hundred feet ahead of me. Then fifty yards. Then 75.
The road turned downhill, and I could see that The Hammer was catching The Swimmer. They were now running together. Then I started catching up a little, too. Maybe I got to within fifty yards.
The road turned uphill.
The Hammer passed The Swimmer and started putting distance on me. I resolved not to let her out of my sight, no matter how badly it hurt.
The Swimmer pulled off to the side and started walking, gasping for air.
The Hammer had been right.
I passed The Swimmer and gave a little wave, but didn’t say anything. I had no air for words — I was genuinely at my aerobic max.
For the rest of the run, I kept my eyes locked on The Hammer, trying to give up no more time than I already had.
I didn’t look back, but expected that at any moment The Swimmer would re-pass me.
Somehow I stayed ahead of The Swimmer and ran into the transition area in second place — not for the whole event, but for our little family competition, which is the one that matters.
I got to our stuff, right as The Hammer was pulling out. “So,” I thought, “She’s exactly one transition ahead of me.”
I put on my helmet and otherwise made no other changes. I grabbed my bike, then stumbled the first time I tried to swing a leg over; my legs weren’t used to trying to get on a bike after a run.
Then I managed to get on the bike and rode around the parking lot, feeling a little bit foolish and not knowing whether I should pour on the gas or just parade around. I went with something in-between.
I noticed the rider in front of me was wearing his bike shoes. I allowed myself a moment of smugness.
I pulled back into the bike corral, ready to transition for the swim.
The Bike-to-Swim Transition
Ordinarily I wouldn’t give a transition a lot of time in a race report, but in this case I have to, because it’s pivotal.
I got to where our stuff was set up…and The Hammer was still there, changing. “I can’t get this stupid stuff off!” she yelled.
“Sorry,” I said, as I began stripping down as fast as I could. Helmet and cap came off in one motion. I pulled the first glove off with my teeth and the second using my hands.
I tugged down on my jersey zipper while simultaneously kicking off my shoes.
And this is where the crucial, race-changing moment happens: the removal of the tights.
Here, you should take a quick look at the photo I put at the beginning of this story. Pay close attention to the tights that The Hammer and I are wearing:
The difference? Hers are tight, mine are loose. Really, mine are closer to track pants than tights.
And they come off a lot faster and easier than tights, which have to be peeled.
And in short (in a swimsuit, actually), I got out of the bike-to-swim transition while The Hammer was still there.
As I ran toward the pool, I saw The Swimmer pull in to the transition area, just finishing her run.
Suddenly, I had a prayer of winning again.
As I got about to the midway point between the transition area and the pool, I realized I had forgotten my goggles. I stopped short, thinking of returning to get them.
“And give up this tiny advantage I just picked up? No way. I’ll deal without goggles,” I thought.
The way the swim works is you’re supposed to swim a length of the pool, duck into the next lane, and swim back. So you’re “snaking” your way across the pool, keeping the traffic to a minimum, and keeping track of how many lengths you’ve swum.
My illustration abilities are really quite spectacular, don’t you think?
Anyway, the swim itself. It was a 350-meter madhouse. A fistfight disguised as a swim race. And it was compounded by the fact that we had caught up with a lot of the people who had left in the two waves ahead of us, some of whom were wading instead of swimming.
At one point, I was completely boxed in, unable to move, because the person I was behind had stopped and was standing still in the pool, while others swam around us, not leaving me an opening to get back in.
Eventually, though, I finished the first six lengths of the pool (300 meters), and ducked under the last lane marker, ready to do the final 50 meters of the race.
Then, for some reason, after I ducked under the lane marker and came up, I looked over at the person to my side.
It was The Hammer. She had caught me.
Here we were, at the final 50 meters of the race. At the exact same place.
I smiled. She smiled.
And then I kicked off the wall as hard as I possibly could and swam as if my life depended on it.
For once, there weren’t a lot of obstacles in front of me; I was able to swim unobstructed.
I got to the end of the pool, pulled myself out, and stepped across the finish line, not knowing whether I had just beaten — or been beaten by — The Hammer.
Two seconds later, The Hammer stepped across the line.
Thanks to a pair of loose-fitting tights, I had just won the Turkey Tri.
The Hammer and I laughed, we hugged, and then we immediately started speculating on how long it would be until The Swimmer would be finishing.
We didn’t have long to speculate, though, because — in what I am pretty sure was less than a minute — The Swimmer joined us.
Incredibly, she had done all of the bike ride, the transition, and the swim in the same amount of time it took me to do the swim.
My guess is she probably did all seven lengths of the pool in the time it took me to do two lengths.
That girl is an animal in the pool. I’ll be very interested to see what her final split times look like.
We all were curious how we did in our respective age groups, so we hung around for the awards. While we did, I suggested we climb on the podium to get a photo of how the most important division had worked out.
The Swimmer did not want to.
“That’s OK,” I said, “I’ve got your homecoming pictures and Photoshop.”
Eventually, though, we harangued her into joining us on the podium for a real photo:
Gee, I wonder why teenagers don’t like to hang around with grownups.
Anyway, it was a good thing we stuck around, because look who took first in her age division (15 and under women):
Such a nice smile, when she wants to.
And her mom didn’t do half-bad, either: second in her division!
And me? Well, I took third in my division:
Oh, wait, I didn’t do a very good job with the cropping there, did I? Let me try that again:
The whole rest of the day, I’d pay the price for my forgetting-the-goggles mistake:
But it was worth it. I got on the podium for my age group — a rare thing for me, especially considering I didn’t get to do the event I’m good at.
And even more importantly, I now have Turkey Tri bragging rights for a whole year.