by Jason Stofleth
The 8th annual Tritonman, presented by Spy Optic, kicked off this weekend with the shrill ringing of my alarm clock at 3 am on Saturday. After a few strong cups of coffee, I was coherent enough to grumpily grab my headlamp light, and carpool down to Mission Bay in the dark with Kent Kubo and his bike in tow. Once there, I immediately headed over to the truck to lend a hand with setup and to help the race director, Dave Berry keep things on the rails. A snag in the operability of our generator forced us to inflate the swim course buoys with hand-pumps, and left us with only megaphone rather than a P.A. system to direct volunteers and racers. Everything got done in time and the race was about to start as participants began congregating down by the water.
I got excited to see the start of the race, since I had heard we had drawn in a high number of talented professional and collegiate athletes for Saturday’s draft-legal race. I haven’t seen very many races with more than talented age groupers present, so this was a quite a spectacle… quite humbling really, as a novice triathlete myself. With a fast & flat course for the bike and run segments, we would surely see some great times!
“There are so many jellyfish!” I heard from someone in the water. True enough, as I noticed a large number of slimy, round blobs had washed up onto the sand. Luckily, they seemed to be the harmless type. “Good,” I thought nervously, “I don’t want to have to swim through a mass of stinging tentacles tomorrow in the Classic race.” Moments later, the race had started and all that could be seen was a mass of flying arms and turbulent water. Then I remembered that the Classic would have many magnitudes more participants. “What have I gotten myself into?” I thought as I headed over to run the penalty box with Kat Ellis.
A short time later I saw athletes on their bikes crossing the bridge to Fiesta Island, fighting to stay in groups and take advantage of the normally taboo practice of drafting. It was quite a sight to see lines of bikes circling Fiesta from across the bay, led by coach Chris Burnham and Joey Clingerman, pacing on the motorcycle. Probably the fastest Joey has ever gone on two wheels (zinger!). In the time it takes me to do two laps around the island (they did 3) the lead athletes were back in transition and were setting off on the run at paces that I’d need a car to pull off.
I got to cheer on participants as they ran by, and occasionally count off a penalty time for an athlete whose number Kat had deciphered from the referee’s garble over our hand-held radio. Seriously- how can we get internet from the sky, but clear UHF communication is still a hurdle? After sending our penalized and often confused athletes back on their way, the draft-legal race was over and everyone was happily milling about near the food and figuring out which waste container into which they should discard their banana peels and Emerald wrappers. There were great labels with pictures to help out those with oxygen-starved, post-race brains. It’s all part of being a certified sustainable race, thanks to Joanna Coker.
The race results were tallied shortly thereafter and winners in various categories were determined. What great prizes they got! I saw a few people get new wetsuits from Xterra, some got sweet sunglasses from Spy, a helmet from Specialized, as well huge boxes of Emerald Nuts (what I refer to as a light snack).
A huge congrats to UCSD’s Gina Horath for dominating the women’s race as the overall winner! Gretchen Stumhofer (finally not in a damn Stanford kit) and Kaitlyn Van Peursem (a talented swimmer and first-year triathlete) had great race times with a 6th and 17th overall finishes respectively. On the men’s side, Bill Jones put in a strong race with a 4th place finish for UCSD Triathlon, in a very fast field. Special congrats to Ethan Veitch, a former UCSB guy who got his priorities straight, and to Kent Kubo, who I’d swear was a fish if his run time wasn’t fast too. We all went home to get humorously little sleep and be back at Mission Bay on Sunday at some ungodly hour.
After slapping the snooze button a few times and questioning my life choices, I was out of bed again at 3 am and drinking coffee thick enough to leave lesser men with stomach ulcers and worse jitters than being hypothermic. Hoping I didn’t look too much like a sausage in my new UCSD team tri-suit from Champion Systems; I donned it, zipped up, and put on some warm-ups. I shoveled down a couple choice flavored Clif bars as a prerace meal, grabbed my sweet new Shiv TT-bike for her second race ever, and hurried out the door. After meeting up with Marcel Aguilar to carpool down to the race, we were off through the darkness and fog.
“Argo f— yourself Dave!” I heard Bryce Zaffarano shout from over by the transition area as I got out of the car (a favorite movie quote of late). I giggled and hurried my race gear and bike into transition and went about helping setup for day two, the Tritonman Classic race. I managed to get in a short warm-up run and awkwardly squeeze on my new Xterra wetsuit. I hadn’t yet taken a swim in it, so I was curious as to how this would play out. I made sure to liberally apply body-glide for T1 and to keep from getting chafed raw. I made it down to the water with feet now numb from the cold, wet grass and waded into the bay as the first paratriathlete ever at Tritonman, Mary Kate Callahan, started her wave of the swim.
“Oh Em Gee, they’re literally everywhere!” I heard a concerned swimmer scream. Sure enough, I started feeling slimy blobs slide past my hands… the bay was brimming with jellyfish. I took a few cautious strokes into my warm-up swim and felt more like I was parting jellyfish rather than water. Since I had no stings from the first couple hundred I hit, I figured I’d stop worrying about them and focus on my race. And then Ben Rubin coasted by me on a stand-up-paddle board dressed as Kesha (blonde wig, eye-shadow, and glittery top), and laughed so hard that I almost swallowed a lethal dose of Mission Bay water. I contemplating throwing jellyfish at the constantly screaming women’s wave lining up behind us. “Seriously, it’s Mission Bay, just be happy they aren’t turds.” Minutes later, the men’s collegiate wave lined up and was off in a thrashing tangle of arms, elbows, and kicking feet. I put my head down and followed the bubble trails in front of me.
I made it back to the beach some 10 minutes later started pulling off my wetsuit as I tried to run with my numb feet over to transition. After getting my suit down to my ankles, my attempts to step on the suit to free my legs resulted in a near face-plant as my generous application of body-glide made the inside of my suit slippery as… a jellyfish. I finally got it off with some more yanking and hustled over to the mount line with my bike. After a decent flying mount and dodging swerving people around me, I tried awkwardly to shove my useless numb feet into my shoes. I managed to get up to speed and weave through the riders that had no sense of which side to pass on or what constitutes drafting. I put in three excitingly fast laps and rolled back to the transition area. Fiesta Island is a really fast course!
“How the hell are my feet still numb?!” The bike had done nothing to warm them and now I had to squeeze into my shoes and start the run. I learned that you can still hold a decent pace and not feel your feet while running, but at least by my 2nd lap around Tecolote Shores Park all felt normal. I was really excited to be cheered on at nearly every turn of the course, both from the Kesha aid station and other teammates, who were also directing racers. It went by fast and in no time I was sucking in air like a dying fish at the end of the finish chute.
Laurence Delisle of UCLA took 1st in the women’s race and Bill Jones (of UCSD) won the overall men’s race. Esther Walker pulled off an impressive 4th place finish, followed soon after by Jenny Kaehms, Joanna Coker, and Megan Cross. Daniel Heineck clocked the fastest bike split of the day and managed a 14th place finish. Joey Clingerman, Bryce Zaffarano, and Dan Gonzalez all put in some fast times for the day as well. The sponsors came through again for our Classic race athletes, with new Xterra wetsuits and transition bags, Spy sunglasses, a Specialized bike helmet, and more Emerald Nuts. One of these days, I’d like to get a cool prize for being fast. Maybe I can shoot for the best transition times.
I ran into our paratriathlete, Mary Kate Callahan, and we congratulated each other on our races, shared a laugh about jellyfish, and both agreed we had fun racing. It would be awesome to see her with a full, competitive paratriathlete wave next year…
- There is a fine line between not enough body-glide, and ridiculously too much.
- The music you kids listen to these days is crap.
- Practice getting your feet into your shoes on the bike, it is much more challenging with ice cube feet on race day.
- The amount of guys on the UCSD triathlon team willing to put on drag and dress like Kesha is slightly alarming.
- Emerald Nuts make a great post race snack, I think I had a few (dozen) bags once I finished.
- My Xterra wetsuit is awesome in the water, and I’ve never felt so buoyant (and I’m a fat kid). Now I really need to master taking it off fast for the next race.
We all packed up and headed home after a successful weekend of Tritonman and watching Dave Berry frantically run around the race site with his magnificent afro tied up in a bandana (probably featuring a few new grey hairs). Quite a grand couple of days, maybe next year will be even bigger and better. Hope to see everyone back in 2015, and special thanks to all the UCSD kids who cheerily worked their butts off all weekend amidst sleep deprivation that only people at SERE school experience.