A Great Day to Race!
As I stood on the beach surrounded by nearly two thousand of my fellow triathletes, I was enjoying the feel of sand under my bare feet. As usual, I was looking around the crowd for familiar faces. It wasn’t too hard to find them – the Experience Triathlon uniforms were out in force, with ET being the presenting sponsor and official coaching partner of The Naperville Sprint Triathlon. The famous ET Cheer Crew was already in place well before ET athlete Anthony C’s stirring rendition of the national anthem, and we were ready to go!
It seems like it wasn’t all that long ago that I was lining up for the swim in my first ever triathlon. That moment was five years ago, in the 2007 Naperville Sprint Triathlon. Has it been that long? I guess I’ve come a long way in that time. Back then, I was so nervous about the swim it’s hard to describe. Wait, it’s not so hard – I already described it way back then! But on this particular day, I was much more relaxed. In the years since that first tri, I have done a lot of races, but more importantly I’ve done a lot of training with Coach Joe. My swim may not be as fast as I’d like it (yet), but it’s a lot stronger, as are my biking and running. All of the training has helped my confidence to the point where swimming is no longer a terrifying experience for me, and I can relax and trust in my training.
All of those Monday nights with the ET team at our open water swim clinics at Centennial Beach came in handy on this day. A record field for the race meant a very crowded swim! I found myself wondering at times if this is how the chubby slow fish feels when the school makes a quick turn that he didn’t see coming. Except fish don’t have hands to grab you or elbows to poke you with! I definitely got bounced around out there a bit, but thanks to my work in the pool it didn’t freak me out, and I managed to just shrug off the contact and keep on trucking. It wasn’t my fastest swim, but that just meant I could get out of the water with enough energy to run through the gauntlet of T1.
Once I got to my bike, it was time for my favorite part of any triathlon – I love going fast on the bike. And we had a perfect day for a ride, with cooler temperatures and not very much wind. Of course, the double loop 22K course we rode on was just a bit crowded. I think my fellow ET athlete Marc put it best – it was like riding in a parade! Except no bagpipes. Still, it was very entertaining seeing and passing quite an assortment of bikes. From tricked out time trial speed machines with disc wheels to tank-like mountain bikes to upright cruisers with baskets on the handlebars, you see it all at this race. Despite the crowds, though, I didn’t see any bad accidents, and everyone seemed to be riding with smiles on their faces. I even managed to greet a few fellow ET riders out on the course.
Before I knew it, the second loop was done, and it was time to head back to transition. I had a smooth dismount (i.e., I did not crash or take out any spectators) and it was back to the rack for my running shoes. I was running without a watch today – doing the entire race by feel, due mainly to the fact that both my watch and my bike computer stopped working shortly before the race! – so I knew it was important to pay attention to how I felt at the start of the run. With all of the work at the track, I had a pretty good feel for the pace I wanted. With the weather cooperating, I was actually able to hold a pretty decent approximation of that pace, too. It was a bit warm out there at this point, but not too bad compared to what we’ve seen this summer. All of the volunteers and spectators along the route made it easy to keep my feet moving. And of course I knew that there was going to be a big cheering section right before the finish line! That always helps motivate me to push hard on the home stretch, and it’s hard not to have a big smile when you see them and know that you are almost done!
With my race over, it was time to head back to the cheering section and add my voice to theirs for the remaining ET racers. This is always the best part for me – the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve had a strong race, as well as the excitement of seeing my friends achieving their own goals. I didn’t even know at that point that I had set a new PR on the bike, and that my run was much faster than I thought. It didn’t matter – I knew I’d put in a good race effort, and that was my goal for the day, so I felt fantastic. As I looked around at the team I’ve been training with for the past five years or more, there were smiles on every face. We all agreed that it really was a great day for a race, and great days like this deserve to be shared.
Enjoy all the photos from our amazing day at the Naperville Sprint Triathlon presented by Experience Triathlon on the ET Photo Gallery!