Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Glimpse into the Sport of Triathlon

By Bill Langstaff

Last weekend was the National Championship for Sprint Triathlon---half mile swim, 20K bike, 5K run---should take about 1 hour 15 minutes. The event took place on Sunday last. About 1200 participants of all age groups competed at Pelican Cove State Park across from El Moro School. Triathlons are all about planning and preparing for the transitions from one sport to another so the set up early before the race is important. There were about 35- 60+ participants from all over the US trying to qualify for the World Championships in Australia in August. The first 12 qualify. Usually there are 10-15 participants at this age group so this was an unusual number.The set up are on racks lined up by wave number---each wave represents age groups. Usually the swim is first, bike, then the run...but on Sunday the waves were too dangerous to swim safely so instead of the swim a run was substituted. The start was on the far end of the beach, up the ramp(about a 12-14% grade)to the bike. The competition was really stiff---Peter Hoyt is known as the fastest 60+ much like Kenny Fuller for cycling---the hard part is many of the competitors were from out of state so for many the competition level was unknown. So let me paint the picture of what the day is like..... The transition area is open at 5AM for bike and run set up.There were 1200 competitors setting up at once in a small area at the end of the parking lot..what a mess!! The earlier you set up the better position for the bike transition. Transition area closed at 6:30---first wave goes off at 7:05---there were 12 waves going off 10 minutes apart.Our group was wave #10 and started at 8:05--but the race was delayed so we didn't start until 8:20. The run was on sand so the closer to the water the easier it is to run on hard sand....we went with the "Clydesdales" the over 200 lbs group so we had about 60 in our wave. The start with a run is difficult because of the lack of warm up...so off we went down the beach about a half mile to the ramp---up the ramp to the bikes....by that time you are wondering why you are doing this when you could be watching Lance drink champagne in Paris..... yet you have a chance to go to Australia so on to the bike....which is quite an art to shed the running shoes, put on the helmet, run the bike to the mount area (shoes are already on the pedals held by rubber bands to keep them straight) on the bike you go to PCH. They gave up half of PCH for both directions---the route was from the parking lot towards Laguna Beach...up the hill make a 90% turn back down the hill towards Coronal Del Mar---not an easy bike because most of the road is uphill until Newport Coast...past NC to the next light turn around back towards Laguna to do it again---two loops.... My run is average for my age group but my bike is usually much faster than the majority so I was smoking on the bike until the 2nd loop where my chain got stuck between the frame and the 11 tooth cog....had to cross the lane, get off the bike,put the chain back on the cog then by the time I got back on the bike many in my group caught me--advantage over! After the 2nd loop its back to the transition area. Shedding the cycling shoes is quite and art----just before the dismount you peel out of the shoes and ride with your feet on top of the shoes---you slow down and dismount running with the bike....to your place in the bike rack---which I of coarse got lost---finally found it---put the running shoes on, and off I went ahead of most of my group.....until about half way into the run where I was caught and passed by 6 guys---very frustrating no gear to shift into!! So I wound up 11th out of 35 good enough to qualify for Worlds but not what I wanted....The time difference between 4th place and 11th place was 1.5 minutes. My time was 1 hour 6 minutes and 29 seconds. The winning time was Peter Hoyt at 1 hour and 3 minutes and 15 seconds...What a hoot!! The most fun is the friendly and encouraging folks that you compete with. Whether you are new or have done the sport for a while most of the guys that you rack your bike with are helpful and encouraging---I was beaten by 10 guys yet I am happy they qualify for Worlds----it was a fair competition and fun as well. It is all good.

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