One of the advantages of doing your “hometown race” is the chance to sleep in! By “sleeping in”, I mean that we headed to the park at 6 AM this morning, instead of having to get up at three or four in the morning to drive to the race site. There was a certain calm about this morning: no wondering if the race would be “wet suit legal” (our first intermediate tri two weeks ago was on the brink of not wetsuit legal—but a cold evening fixed that quickly!) Scott and I run at Taughannock Falls a lot in summer, and have trained on the nasty bike course a little this summer, so we knew what to expect. There’s a comfort in knowing the course! But some of the “unexpecteds” made for a slightly more challenging day:
- Wind kicked up on the swim, and made me nervous about Victoria’s upcoming sprint experience. We haven’t had many wavy training swims this summer.
- The wind didn’t seem to be helpful on the bike ride either. Scott and I thought, “Well, when we turn around, we should have the wind helping us at our backs!” Nice thought.
- Not sure why, but I think the State Park staff thought they were somehow improving the gorge trail by covering it in a thick layer of crushed rock. Not really: it became more like a shifting beach sand experience, and I don’t have the body to rock a Bay Watch bathing suit on the run.
But something seemed to make up for all those little things that were thrown our way, and that something was PEOPLE!
Another advantage to being on our “home turf” if knowing lots of encouraging people. Right from the moment we entered the park and started making our way to the transition area, we saw lots of folks we know: fellow athletes, friends, colleagues, current and former students, and family—lots of family!
When my swim wave finally went off on the canon, I knew somewhere out there was Louise Adie patrolling in a kayak. I took a quick glance at each kayaker, but in the first half, did not spot her. I was happy to keep up with speedy Brenda Michaud. She was doing the breaststroke and I tried to steer clear of her kicking froggy-legs, but I got nailed a couple of times. I stuck to my crawl stroke, since that’s what I’ve practiced the most, but the wind pushed a wave or two into my face, resulting in a small gulp of water. Well—gotta look on the bright side—it solved hydration problems! Once I made the swim turn around, the waves picked up even more, and I worried about what Victoria’s (age 16) sprint swim would be like. I knew she would be wearing her wetsuit, so that calmed my fears, but it’s a mother’s job to worry at least a LITTLE! A little further, and after lots of cross current and wave nudging, I zig zagged my way to where Louise was stationed. I shouted out, “Louise!” She scooted a little closer to me, and I waved at her with one of my strokes, then assured her, “I’m ok!” I could feel my pace pick up from the happiness in seeing her!
I worked my way towards the beach, and headed into the transition chute. I heard a few people say “go Laura!” But had a hard time picking out individuals among the mass of people lining the chute. I did manage to see one of my middle school students, who shouted “Go Mrs. Voorhees!” and then my heart smiled when I then saw right near her Victoria, cheering for me. She tried to give me a hand slap, but I think I gave her my standard sign language “I love you” hand. I’m such a geek. I can’t even get a handslap right!
I headed into transition, and managed everything reasonably smoothly, including downing a Gu packet. In years past, I’ve had trouble with orientation in the transition corrals, but I think I am getting the hang of it. I ran out with my bike and headed out onto the course—ick. That uphill is such a bear!
As I headed out, I began to get passed by women I had bested in the swim. All through the bike and run, I end up looking at calves: ones with “S” for “sprint” I thought, “Well, they’re only doing half as much –it makes sense if s/he passes me.” Then it hurts a little more when someone in your age group passes you. I decided that I would compete with MYSELF instead—aim for a 15 miles per hour pace. I trudged along, and after just a few miles, I came upon my brother and sister-in-law Peter and Amy, who are both Ironmen. They knew exactly what I was going through. I made sure I waved to them early, because I know from volunteering at their races that it is really difficult to identify people on a bike—even if they are your family! Again, that awesome surge from seeing loved ones on the course. I sure needed a boost after tackling the uphill! As I passed the sprint turn around, I thought, “Wow. That doesn’t seem so long anymore!” and I continued on to the Sheldrake Descent. As I neared the bottom of the hill (thankful for no rain), I saw Gary McCheyne and Maria Costanzo, friends through music and running. I shouted out to them, “Hi Gary! Hi Maria!” and they responded with shouts of encouragement.
All along Sheldrake, people on their porches and in their yards kept cheering for me as I passed. I responded to each one with a “WOO HOO!” and an occasional, “Sheldrake, you ROCK!” As I neared the four-way stop to head back uphill (UHG!) I made sure I downshifted a little, so that the sudden climb wouldn’t kill all my momentum.
Back up on Route 89, I saw a dead deer to the side of the road—still with its spotty dots, and then a little later—a dead BAT. That is the closest I ever care to get to a bat. As I headed further into the course, I saw a canopy over two spectators in their front yard. Yup! There was Cheryl, who was one of the custodians at South Seneca when I was teaching there. I shouted out to her as I approached, “Hi Cheryl! It’s me—Laura!” Cheryl and her husband bounced in their seats a bit and cheered!
Awhile later, it was time to start the awesome descent to the park. As I neared the left turn, a car got in the way—the car owner kept moving forward, and thankfully a volunteer directed him to STAY and let me by. I flew into the transition, and made sure my feet weren’t cemented in my shoe cages. I think I tend to scare people in the transition chute. I’m pretty good at stopping fast and dismounting successfully. Unfortunately, several women I had caught up to in the transition were at the dismount line, and one simply fell over. Good grief. I jumped off my bike and started hauling it to my transition spot. Bike up, helmet off, glasses off, head out. I managed to do it in :45, which was the fastest in my age group, third fastest woman, and 9th fastest if you included the guys.
I was happy that my legs didn’t feel TOO much like lead, and my feet weren’t terribly numb. As I headed out on the run, I took water from the first aid station “Hawaiian theme”, and cheerfully said, “Aloha!” I worked on finding a pace—as usual for me, it was a fairly slow one. As I went along, I started thinking about how I would soon see more family out on the run course. My mother and father-in-law Carol and Bob, sister-in-law Connie and her eldest daughter Courtney, brother-in-law Rob and my son Austin were all at the water station by the route 89 bridge. With so many family members on hand, which hand do I take a cup from? As is turned out, they were on the return side of the run course, so I would look forward to seeing them a total of four times during my run, and I enjoyed their enthusiasm each time. They always spotted me when I was a distance away, so I could feel their energy pulling me in. I also had runner friends Jenny Henion, Bob Talda, Karen and Tim Ingall, Becky Harmon, Shelley Marino, and the super energetic Joel Cisne out there cheering me on. It seemed that I really didn’t have far to go before I came along someone else to perk me up! On a few of my passes by the family assisted water stop, my son Austin splashed me with a cupful of water—once by surprise just as a photographer captured the moment. I was so happy to see Scott out on the run course, and relieved when I finally saw Victoria as well. I could see our calculations coming to fruition: it looked like Scott and Victoria would cross the finish line at about the same time. (As it turns out, they worked it out so they DID cross together!)
One trip out on the Gorge Trail, I noticed that one woman passed m with SR on her calk (sprint relay)—so that likely meant that she was just running the run portion, 3.1 miles. Then I saw that she had earphones in (couldn’t she run that far without music?) which is against the race rules, which were even spoken at the pre-race directions by the triathlon director. I said to her, “Headphones are not allowed!” and she replied, “No, I’m only doing this for my own time.” I interpreted her response to mean that she thought she would not be in competition for awards. I said to her, “It’s a RULE, not a SUGGESTION.” It frustrates me when people think the rules don’t apply to them. I noticed that her earphones were hanging down after she crossed the timing mat out at the Falls—I suspect the official there said something to her too. FYI: her bib number was 513, and her team didn’t receive any penalties. Good thing she didn’t do the bike course, because perhaps she would think that wearing a helmet is just a suggestion too.
OK—enough on the rule-breaker. Back to finish line….it finally came, and friends near the finish encouraged me to find that sprint gear. I was happy to find it, and had a good strong finish.
Now as Scott and I look back over our results, I’m pretty pleased with what I find—I’m doing pretty much the same paces (and in some cases better) than my sprint triathlon times, and this is with extending to the intermediate distance, which doubles most of the legs’ distances. We still have one more triathlon coming up in September, but I know we have something special in what we experienced at our Cayuga Lake Triathlon—nothing can replace the energy you get from pinballing from person to person; each one giving you the gift of their encouragement