by Sara Lucero and Michael Chen
I don’t know why I signed myself up for the Irvine race, the first triathlon of the season. I didn’t have a race kit. Or clip in pedals. Or any sort of real training for the last couple of months.
Perhaps I was compelled by the amount of money I spent already in becoming a triathlete and needed to make it worthwhile, or felt ashamed for making rare (very rare almost non-existent) appearances at practices and needed to forcefully reinsert myself into the team, or maybe I am subconsciously a masochist and enjoy sabotaging myself. Whatever the reason, I soon found myself in a car, with B and Emily, heading up to Irvine–the Land of Zots.
The trip up to Irvine was uneventful and sleepy. After grabbing race packets, I joined in an (intense) game of frisbee full of professionals like Sofia, who integrated Frisbee with interpretive dancing or B who revved up the torque in her hips to throw the frisbee like a discus Olympian or like Torin and Michael who fiercely competed to catch the frisbee even though Torin had about 12 inches of an advantage. I got bonked on the head after a particularly fierce grapple for the frisbee. After working up an appetite, we caravaned over to get food. I opted for Veggie Grill, along with about half the group, and the other half opted for not one, but two, massive Chipotle burritos, and Jasmine and Leisel took the road less traveled and ordered yummy bibimbap bowls.
Full, with extra pastas and carbs taken to-go, we finally headed off to our respective overnight locations. B and Ella’s car both stayed at Jason’s house, where we met this weekend’s team mascot–Sadie, a dog of unknown heritage with unworldly soft hair. After ooh-ing and aah-ing at the talent of the winter olympic figure skaters–we all drifted off to sleep.
4:20 AM and we are groggily moving ourselves out of bed, slipping into race suits, eating our breakfasts and chugging our caffeine before filing into cars to try and get the best transition spots.
I am nervous. I don’t know how I got here. I’m scared I won’t be in shape to complete the race. I can feel my bowels tightening. I’m nervous they will get looser in the middle of the race. I have no idea what to do. Joanna and Emily are explaining transition to me. I don’t even know how to put my numbers on. I don’t know the course. How did I get here. I am anticipating pain and lots of ragged breathing and just weak limbs. It’s cold. I just want to survive. I hate running.
BAM. Off goes that little gun for the collegiate boys. My heart is racing so fast anticipating my impending doom and panicking in disbelief that I??? Signed myself up for this?? Am I crazy? Do I need help? BAM. Off goes the gun for collegiate girls and I just start running.
First my breath comes in tight gasps, loud and like I need to hold onto oxygen for dear life because who knows if I’ll be getting enough of it. My nose is snotty. My legs stretch and thud like dead weight on the wet grass–my socks are soaked. And then something changed and my breath came smoother–I could breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth–my legs fell into a rhythm, I could feel that brisk sting of cold air on your skin while your body is warm.
“Wow” I thought, “Am I actually enjoying running?”
Finally I’m on that last mile, a downhill stretch and I extend my legs and my feet thud on the ground with greater frequency and purpose.
The run is over?? I’m alive?? I rush to grab my bike. Running it over to the mount line I’m intensely aware of how numb my legs are–again, anxiety grips me.
I hop on my bike and am THRILLED to be moving so much faster than when I was running. I quickly get into a rhythm. My butt hurts a lot but I am unfazed. I see so many speedy people!! People with loud whirring race wheels, people with aerodynamic helmets, UCSD people cheering me on and who I cheered for. Amazing. Four laps of the same track never got to be boring for me because I was engaged watching amazing people whir past me. I kept track of my laps by how many times I pounded my way up the hill, dropping halfway into my middle chain-ring, and how many times I bumped up to the highest gear in my large chain-ring, scrunched up really small, and zoomed down the hill screaming “On your left!”, or just simply screaming.
By the end of the bike, I dropped off my bike, stripped off my shoes and then sprinted to the pool–the leg I was anticipating the most for its refreshing qualities–only to find that the pool was warm! Matched my body temperature! I was sweating! Sloppily turning at each wall, fumbling for nonexistent gutters, pushing off on top of people and tickling the feet of people who didn’t understand passing, I finally finished the swim leg. Disoriented and slippery, I clambered out of the pool and across the final timing maps.
“Huh. That was actually fun.”
I accidentally said out loud as I became reunited with the team. After pictures, I learned that Sofia had crashed on the course and had been rushed to urgent care–the circumstances of which would not be clear until later. During awards, we sampled pressed juices, contemplated the aesthetics of balance with Imran, took shots of Kombucha with Evo and hoarded free boxes of this drink that sacrifices taste for health benefits. I know there are some who would contest this fact–Fight me. B and Joanna are called up to be awarded for 1st and 3rd place respectively–the team goes wild congratulating them. Meanwhile, I–concerned that I might have broken my butt only to realize that that’s what happens when you do a triathlon without training–marveled at their athleticism and accomplishments.
After awards, we pack up and out to grab food. Something elusive and unknown to me. A “Waffle Sandwich.” We show up and lo-and-behold, it’s Fried Chicken in an equally Fried Waffle. Mouths watering, anxiously waiting for food, Sofia breaks the tension with a surprise visit. Relieved that she is alright, Sofia maintains her eccentric humor as the team crowds around to actually discern the circumstances that led to her crash. She was going too fast, and turning too wide since the course was unclear, and with nowhere else to go, she decided to bike through the caution tape, thinking she could break through it but alas–these events are never like the movies. Fifteen stitches later and more than a few bumps and scrapes, she came back to complete the group at lunch, her quirky energy and positive attitude brightening our moods.
After lunch, we all went our separate ways. In the car, I couldn’t stop smiling, reflecting back on my anxieties before the race. Yeah, I might be crazy. But I sure am glad I’ve got a whole team of people who are just as crazy as me.
The team had a great weekend at the UCI Zot Trot! Most of us arrived on Saturday afternoon to preview the race course and UCI’s campus—which looks more like a big hotel in the middle of nowhere than a college. After this preview Imran and I went for a short swim in UCI’s hotel-sized pool. When we returned, we discovered that none of the UCSD Triathlon team would make it through frisbee team tryouts, except for Liezl. Beril is afraid of frisbees, Sofia slaps the frisbee instead of catching it, and I’m pretty sure Jasmine’s hands repel catchable objects. Afterwards we went to dinner, where the Chipotle gods blessed me with a buy-one-get-one-free. I also discovered that veggie grill makes meat substitutes that actually taste like meat. This entire
time, my vehicle, which consisted of of Ella, Liezl, Sofia and myself, listened only to pop songs from the year 2004, courtesy of Sofia. We also came up with a name for my bike, who will henceforth be known as Soulja Boy.
Later on some of us stayed with Jason, a recent graduate, and his lovely family, as well as his dog Sadie, who is an angel. When it came time for race day, we awoke promptly at 4:30am (except for Christian, Evo and Henry, who got there 20 minutes before the race started). The actual race was pretty fun, except for Sofia’s crash. Luckily, she and Glenn (her bike) did not sustain major injuries. As for myself, this was my first official college triathlon, although admittedly this one was a reverse triathlon. I have to say I was not prepared for how much pain I was going to be in. Transitions made my inexperience very apparent; I was so wobbly I almost fell a few times trying to balance on one leg and put on my bike shoes, and when I jumped into the pool and pushed off for the first lap of the swim, both of my calves seized up. I spent the first two laps flexing my feet like drag flaps to try and stretch out my calves. The swim was disappointingly short compared to the other two phases. Another 500 and I might have had some real fun, but unfortunately 10 laps wasn’t enough to make up the run-bike deficit I had accumulated. Overall, a great start to race season and a great race for me and few other first-timers.