By Gordon Towne
7th M20-24, 30th OA
After spending the past semester training with the BU Triathlon Team, I finally got the opportunity to compete in my first sprint triathlon at the 2011 New England Season Opener in Hopkinton, MA. Having only taken my first strokes in the pool nine months before race day, and with a forecast for cool water temperatures, my goals were mainly to get my feet wet and put in a respectable showing where I could. As it turned out, the race was a great experience and left me looking forward with anticipation to those to come.
As might be expected, I was fairly anxious to get the ball rolling on my first race, and beat my 5AM alarm on race morning by a considerable margin. I took the opportunity to go through all of the gear I had meticulously laid out the night before, and make sure I had included everything from my transition checklist. Confident that I was ready, I scarfed down two bananas before heading out to meet the rest of the team at the cars. Getting from Boston to the start in Hopkinton went smoothly, as all 16 BU triathletes competing appeared, loaded into cars, and were on their way.
After everyone arrived at the transition area and picked up their race packets, we were excited to find that based on our numbers, our group had been placed together in transition. This was great for me as a novice, as it gave me a chance to get some pointers on optimal transition setup from some more experienced racers. With about an hour to go before race start, we stared the process of warming up all three sports.
Colin and I started out riding a section of the course. Mentally, I found it refreshing to get out on the bike and I was appreciating how scenic the park was with the new leaves having just emerged on the trees. My legs were feeling fresh and turning over well. More practically, some of the road surfaces we would be riding had really suffered after the cold winter, and getting to scope out some of the descents pre-race would give me more confidence to take them aggressively later on.
After the warm up ride and a quick jog, the transition area was starting to bustle, and it was time to don the wetsuits and get in the water for a warm up swim. For all of my apprehension, I found that I was surprisingly comfortable in the water. In the 59 degree water, I was certainly appreciating the wetsuit and double swim caps I was wearing, but didn’t get hit with any feeling of shock as people had warned me of. Buoyed by this injection of confidence (and all that wonderful rubber) I was ready to race.
The swim would be a point-to-point 400m course paralleling the shoreline and returning to the transition area. Treading water at the swim start, I made my way to the right side of the pack, wanting to stay out of the fray as much as possible. Finally, the gun went off and we were off. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to hang with the leaders on the swim, so focused on my form and conserving energy for the bike leg. Without a set of feet to follow, I soon found that I was cutting too aggressive a line back toward shore, as the orange of the first buoy that had started to my left suddenly filled my vision. I corrected my line, and reminded myself that I wasn’t in a pool anymore. There was no convenient black line on the bottom of the lake pointing the way. The remainder of the swim was fairly uneventful as I settled into a rhythm and ticked off the distance.
Emerging from the water, I started stripping my wetsuit off as I ran up the beach. After passing a small BU cheering section on the run up to transition, I noticed a few fellow BU triathletes getting ready to head out on the bike. Not knowing where my swim had put me, I was happy to see that I hadn’t lost too much time to the others in my weaker discipline. I dropped the wetsuit, donned the shoes and helmet and ran out toward the mount line.
I was finally glad to be out on the bike. The bike started out up a fairly sizable hill. I got out of the saddle and powered up this first climb. The course was fairly crowded with the tail end of the duathlete start wave mixed in with the first wave of triathletes. Admittedly, I was probably getting a little too much pointless pleasure out of picking off some of the other riders. As the ride progressed and the field thinned somewhat, I focused on settling in to a high cadence and carrying as much speed as I could over the rolling hills. The bike course encircled the reservoir where we had just swum and I took note of the scenery as the sun came out.
The bike went by quickly, and soon I was making my way through the park gates and toward the last climb before transition. On the ascent, I noticed Chris ahead and gave him some words of encouragement as we both grinded up the hill. I rode past him, but presumably not wanting to be beaten by the newbie, he picked up the pace and pulled ahead of me as we crested the top. Coming down the final descent into transition behind Chris and remembering horror stories of his previous adventures on that hill, I jokingly shouted that I would give him a wide berth.
Entering transition feeling like a pro, I quickly racked my bike, slipped into my running shoes, and started toward the run out. Five strides later, I realized I was still wearing my helmet. Swallowing a bit of that pride, I ran back, threw it on the ground next to my bike, and took off.
The first section of the run course follows the same route as the bike. Starting out, I was painfully reminded of Nick’s advice that that first hill would be tough off of the bike. Soon enough I was over it, trying to keep my legs under me and make up some time for the descent down the back side. Approaching the first turn around, I saw Nick blazing out the other side. We shouted words of encouragement at each other. Following right behind him were David, Colin and Chris, and I was happy to see that the BU contingent was putting in such a strong showing. I tried to match their pace as much as I could over the coming hills.
The final portion of the run cuts across the top of the dam that maintains the reservoir. My legs were starting to feel it as I emerged from the trees onto the dam. Then I noticed something up ahead. I soon realized it was some strange man in a gingerbread-man costume! To my surprise, the gingerbread man started cheering for me as I ran past. Getting closer, I recognized it was our president, Max, giving me a helpful reminder to run as fast as I could!
Coming down the final straight across the line was a great feeling as the announcer called my name and I was greeted by a group of celebrating teammates. I was happy with the showing I had put in, and that I was able to celebrate it with a great group of people.
FINAL 1:01:38Read More