January 29th, 2017
Tritonman (2017)

by Joana Coker and Barry Weickert

 

Joana:

A race report about Tritonman is always bigger than just the race. Because this is my account of the race, I can only talk about the work I did and people I interacted with. And I don’t have space to mention even all of those. Although I’m going to miss many people’s contributions to this awesome event, thank you everyone for your hard work.

On Friday, the day before the race, I spent the afternoon with the registration crew at Moment Bicycles in Point Loma, helping to check racers in and distribute timing chips. I was also attempting to put new tires on my TT bike. With the rain pouring down Friday and a wind advisory in effect, aero wheels were sounding worse and worse for Saturday. I needed some new tires on my bike’s regular wheels if they were going to be ride-able for the race. Putting brand-new tires on a bike wheel is a test of patience and mental stability, and I was fast heading towards instability at Moment. I had given up on the back wheel – after getting the tire on but producing a pinch flat in the process – and was struggling with the front when a Good Samaritan offered to help. He got the front tire on successfully, and then introduced himself as the coach of WeTri, a triathlon team for teenagers. They had come all the way from Sacramento for this race, a testament to how much Tritonman has grown and become respected in the tri community.

Fast-forward to Saturday morning. The race was officially called as a duathlon due to the horrendous water quality of Mission Bay. We had only checked in about 150 racers on Friday, meaning the 350-odd remaining ones had to be checked in on race morning. We set up registration in the Uhaul to prevent a blizzard of USAT waivers, as palm fronds were strewn across the park and the trees seemed to bend in half with the wind. Dustin was pulling his hair out as the line for check-in stretched all the way past transition, and everyone not on registration gave the Uhaul a wide berth. Zack and I borrowed Dustin’s truck and placed cones and traffic barricades along Mission Bay, resisting the temptation to head for the border.

Conditions got better as the sun rose. The wind lessened, the check-in line slowly dwindled, and people stopped blinding each other with headlamps as light appeared in the sky. Although we had a 20-minute registration delay, Katie sent the race off to a cheering start with the Paralympic wave. I watched a man with one arm sprint off the start line for the first run and reflected that with that speed, he was almost certain to beat my run splits. I then hustled to take a last drink of water, strip off my warm clothes, and stand shivering at the starting line for my wave.

Collegiate women’s wave A took off with me towards the back of the pack, both to let other people break the headwind for me and to prevent me from pushing too hard on the first run. I’ve done a few duathlons before, and for me one of the keys is to keep it controlled on the first run. Letting adrenaline fly would gain me about 30 seconds in time, but would destroy me for the second run. I kept my pace within my limits and controlled my anxiety about being at the back. I was rewarded for this towards the end of the run, when I passed at least seven women who had taken out too fast.

Small sheets of sand danced across the road where dry enough, making you almost believe San Diego is a desert.

T1 was a breeze because I didn’t have a wetsuit to strip off. Just run shoes off, helmet on, grab my bike and go. It took a small eternity to get my feet in my cycling shoes after mounting (need more practice there), but then I could settle in to my favorite leg of the race. The headwind was brutal on the east side of the island, with a challenging crosswind and a mini-lake thrown in on the north side for variety. The south side was actually easier than usual, because its normal headwind had been replaced with a tailwind by the storm. Small sheets of sand danced across the road where dry enough, making you almost believe San Diego is a desert. I passed many women on the island, but had no way to tell if they were in the women’s A or B waves. I resigned myself to uncertainty and tried to bike as fast and smart as possible through the wind.

Into T2 and then back out for the second run. As I passed the aid station at the beginning of the lap, Ali let out a cheer that showed he was far more enthusiastic about this run than I was. My legs hurt, and I just wanted to push through to the end. I tried to pick it up each lap, but I ended up with three laps of exactly the same time. Many women passed me in the run, but I again had no idea if they were in the women’s A or B wave. I watched Barry sprint to the finish as I came through on my second lap, then heard him cheer for me as I did my own (much slower) sprint a lap later. Finally, the race was over.

The post-race work began. Awards were set out, queries about results were deflected so Dustin and Steve could keep some of their hair, and general clean-up began. As the very last racers were finishing, we got word that someone at the finish line wasn’t feeling well. Safety Officer Ali and I ran over and found a girl sitting on the ground, obviously having just finished the race. As our assigned ambulance had already left, Ali and I did a brief assessment, called for another ambulance, and waited with the girl and her mother until it arrived. Later, her coach came up to me and thanked us for assisting at the finish line. It was the same man who had replaced my tire at Moment. He smiled and said she was feeling much better. I smiled too because this is my favorite part of triathlon. We all help each other out.

Even with the water quality, the wind, the registration problems, I feel confident in saying it was another successful Tritonman.

 

Barry:

TRITONMAN!! The first official triathlon of the season and personally, my first collegiate triathlon ever. I was excited to get the news that I would be racing it. I had received new gear from the team including the new (and incredibly sexy) race kit and was ready to break it all in on this much anticipated race.

I woke up at 3:15am wide eyed and ready to go like a Chihuahua on caffeine. I ate a quick breakfast, grabbed my pre-packed bag, and was out of the door by 3:45am to get to Fiesta Island by 4:00am for set up. One of the first pieces of information I got to hear that morning was that the swim would be cancelled due to the rain from the previous day that made Mission Bay dirtier than a porta-potty at the end of Coachella. This really sucked for me, not just because I was itching to break in my new wetsuit, but because one of the reasons the other two male competitors and I were chosen was due to our Aquaman-esque physique and swimming ability. It was at this moment that Murphey’s Law began to take full effect for my race day.

I say this because shortly after that I got registered and went to gather my things from the car that I carpooled to the race in and found out that the car was locked and no one knew where the key was! T-minus 2 hours until the race and here are me and my teammates looking with flashlights (since the sun still isn’t even out) for car keys on the ground while everything except my bike is sitting within arms-reach inside the car but might as well be at the bottom of Mission Bay! After about half an hour of my anxiety levels rapidly increasing, the keys were miraculously found and I was able to retrieve my beloved kit and everything else I needed to race… or so I thought.

As I continued into my pre-race preparations (including a multitude of trips to the heavenly-smelling light blue cubicles where my solo pre-race “meetings” are held), I realized that I did NOT have everything I needed to race. Yes, I had my wetsuit and even cooking spray (aka wetsuit lube) for the non-existent swim, but I somehow managed to forget my biking shoes at home! It was at that moment I could have sworn I knew what my heart tasted like as it leapt out of my throat. After cursing myself out so fiercely a sailor would have blushed, I pulled it together and decided to see if by some miracle my roommate was awake at 6am (an HOUR before the race was supposed to start) on a Saturday. As luck would have it, he wasn’t. BUT, he did wake up after I continued to call him and text him (this was no time for politeness, don’t judge) and he was able to bring me my cycling shoes in record time. Now I had everything I needed to race.

After having two adrenaline infused bouts of anxiety, I felt sufficiently warmed up despite the increasing wind conditions at the Bay. As the race start drew closer, the other racers and I warmed up our legs for this triathlon turned run-bike-run while listening to news of a 10ft long, 3in deep puddle on the 3x repeated loop for the bike portion of the race (guess we’ll end up getting a bit of swim in after all). But alas, this was no time to be overthinking the unavoidable so I continued getting into race mode and approached the start line.

The siren sounded as the first wave of men were sent off, my feet were frozen in place and I didn’t move an inch! But that was fine since I was wave two, so I steadily made my way to the start. Before I knew it, my wave was sent off and I was surging with the pack dogging for position as the trail tapered and the race was underway.  I saw my teammate Zack just ahead and we ended up matching pace and finishing the first run portion together. The run was feeling good and I was ready to pick up my energy for the bike portion (with my cycling shoes) after a decent enough transition.

The second we got onto the island I could feel the wind pushing against me from all directions as I circled around the island. The wind was so wild that my wheels began to whistle as it blew through them; but hey, at least this gave me some music to jam to as I hammered around the track. As I cycled around my first lap, I enjoyed seeing the not-so-smiley faces of my teammates who were holding up signs on the course, because even though they seemed cold and tired, they managed a cheer for me as I went by which kept me pushing the pace as much as I could.  I then came upon a sign that had a skull and cross-bones in place of the arrow that the other signs had. After laughing for a minute I realized this was where that mini-lake on the course would be. A brief moment of self-deliberation gave me the idea to just go as fast as I could through it… and it worked! The tactic actually made that the best place on the track to pass people since most slowed down for it (score one for the swimmer!). As I pumped on through the rest of the laps, dodging people being blown around the course by the winds, I continued to feel strong through to the transition area.

I just went with it, if my shoe fell off and I became a tri-cinderella then so be it, I was going to run.

It was here that Murphey decided to strike once more since that morning had apparently not been eventful enough. Even though Zack had gained a solid lead from the bike portion, I knew there was a chance I could gain back the lost time on the run so I rushed straight through transition to the final run… with one and a half shoes on. My right foot never got fully past the heel of my shoe, so I only had half of my foot in! I thought this would fix itself in the first tenth of a mile, but sadly it didn’t. By the time I stopped to try to fix it, the heel was smashed down and wouldn’t stay up when I tried to put my foot back in. So I did what any competitive person would do in the heat of the moment and I just went with it, if my shoe fell off and I became a tri-cinderella then so be it, I was going to run. After about a mile I had all but forgotten about it and just kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to gain as much ground as I could.

Since it was a staggered race, there were a lot of people to have to maneuver around, but eventually I saw my competitor in the distance on my final lap of the run. With about a half mile left, I yelled out to let Zack know I was coming and picked up for my final kick of the race. I was gaining, but not fast enough, and although I had closed the gap and there were no competitors between us, the Zack Attack clinched the W with about 100 meters to spare. Regardless, I had one of my strongest finishes and my shoe stayed on so I definitely counted it as a win for me too.

After the hard fought finish, it was great being able to cheer on our other teammates who were still racing and see just how many people were at the race having a great time. Although it wasn’t quite the traditional triathlon I was expecting, it was one of the best races of my life and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. Shout out to the senior members of the team for organizing and coordinating it, as well as the team as a whole for volunteering, cheering, and making the event possible. Can’t wait until next year!!

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