One Last Tuneup May Not Have Been A Tuneup
So with ITU Paratriathlon World Championships coming up I wanted to do one last short tuneup race. I hadn't done a race since July 13th and didn't want to get rusty. I wanted to keep my mind thinking in race mode and do all three disciplines together at race speed. This looks as though it could be a great idea but when I was doing the Lake Sammamish Sprint Triathlon (400m Swim, 14mile Bike, 3.2 mile Run) yesterday my brain was telling me I had made a mistake. I had heard the run was primarily off road but wasn't too narrow and I had thought the bike was purely an out and back after you get out of the park. Although this was all fairly true, it wasn't exactly what I expected. Here's how the race went "Through My Eyes."
My guide was Kyle Hooker who was yet another military guy that has stepped up to help and guide me. We arrived at the park plenty early so we could pick up our packet and get all set up. It all was such a shocker to me since I have not done a local Ma & Pa race in forever. To me it seemed triathlon had just been invented. Packet pick up the morning of the race? Who does that anymore? (Lol). There were no crazy balloon arches and sponsor flooded fencing defining the transition zone nor were there wristbands and number checks. The race staff was friendly and none of the spectators had any idea why someone would have a tandem bike and be tied together during the swim and run. It was a free for all. Awesome :)
Since Kyle and I hadn't had a chance to scope out the entire run, I wanted to do at least the first mile of it so we wouldn't totally be lost from the get go. We found out the general direction of the run and found out very soon that it would be a guessing game for Kyle on the correct path. We also found out that the trail would be a land field for bumps, ruts and potholes. There would be no way kyle could tell me about all of these things. I felt kind of lie it feels when a school bus drives down a old dirt road. We hoped we were in fact scoping out the correct run course. After a mile we turned around and headed back. We grabbed our swim stuff from transition and made our way to the lake, where we could be confident that at least we would start the race in the correct location.
Our first collision of the day occurred before the race even began. As Kyle and I swam back from the first buoy in our warm up swim, all of a sudden "Bam," my head nailed into something hard and I thought I had rammed into a pole sticking out of the water. In reality, it was another guy swimming out that I had nailed head on. Kyle had been sighting a lot but this guy popped out of the water like a Navy Seal I guess. I told Kyle that now that my bell was rung I was all ready to race. There was evidently a little blood and a small cut but that's just a battle wound.
Five minutes later the gun went off and Kyle and I went out hard towards the first buoy. I was quite surprised that as we got to the first buoy there was still a large crowd right with us. It got a little rough and I had to dunk a few people (lol) but Kyle kept me on the right line and when we got to the next buoy Iit seemed as though all those swimmer that were with us must have gotten pulled under by the Lock Nest Monster because they were gone. There was only one person right next to us as we rounded the second buoy. We picked it up towards the finish and as we exited the swim Kyle told me we were in second. It was hilarious because as we ran into transition, I heard one of the volunteers say, "Are they done with the swim?" which totally reminded me of the Ma & Pa nature of the race.
We had quick transitions and jumped on the bike. The first mile of the bike turned out to be a near death experience. As we turned out of the park there were cones all over the road making it unclear where to be. The cops at the corner yelled to stay to the left but as we headed over to the left lane there was a car in that lane heading straight at us. Kyle saw the car and waited to get over after the car. Once we got to the far left, we realized that we only had about half a bike lane width to ride and this included three to four hard turns. Needless to say this was not easy when your trying to drive a bus. Kyle did an amazing job navigating that first section until we got out onto East Lake Sammamish Parkway and had more open road.
Once we got to the open road, we still had one stray fish we had to catch. I told Kyle we needed to lay the hammer down and that's what we did. Before we knew it were in the lead and now had the lead motorcycle to direct and clear the way. Light rain began coming down but this didn't stop us. We made the turn around and kept the hammer down until we got back to the return section where Kyle and I began saying the Lords Prayer to help us get through safely. Now there were bikes coming straight at us in that small little bike lane section. The motor cycle driver slowed down and waved people aside but Kyle yelled back at me, "dude, there are people coming straight at us." Thank God for the motor cyclist and I hope everyone got through this section safely.
We entered the park and headed into T2 for the run. As we exited the transition and I could tell all of the spectators were in total confusion why two men in spandex are running tied together. Luckily, they got a lead cyclist for the run course so now all we would have to do is keep ourselves upright and not worry about going off course. The first quarter mile was paved and we hit that pretty hard. When we got off road it was like being tossed around in a mosh pit. Every step was not at the same ground level as the one before and some steps I would fall into a dip and some steps my hips would jam up due to a mound. With around a quarter mile to go Kyle told me there was a 90 degree left turn around a tree. We made the left turn and all I remember hearing was Kyle yell "pole." As I was just about to nail my male components into the pole, I instinctively jumped and avoided that disaster but did land on my left hip and braced my fall with my hands to the cement. Kyle immediately made sure I was ok but I had already gotten up and kept running. The mission was not over and we had a race to finish. Just minutes later we came down the finishing chute and the MC was not sure what to say about the two men tied together. I don't think he had fully grasped the concept of what was going on but everyone was very friendly and we hung out to congratulate the finishers coming in.
Kyle did an amazing job on a very tough course to do your first guiding adventure. I was just glad to get out without any severe injury. Later in the day and still to this moment as I write this blog my left hip is still not happy with me and my left foot at the 1st MTP joint I believe is mildly sprained. Not exactly what I wanted to come away with from the tuneup race but I was able to get back into race mode and we found out later that we won the overall race with a time of 1:01:29 just 30 seconds of a young gun 15- year old named Michael Millic who is going to be a star soon if he keeps improving.
The one last thing we had to do as part of the race festivities was to promote the movement towards getting more blind/VI individuals into an active lifestyle. We set up a tent to sell CDWA apparel and inform those that stopped by about my mission of ensuring that every blind/VI individual out there knows that the opportunity to live an active lifestyle and compete in athletics is out there. A portion of all the proceeds of the sales of my CDWA apparel go to the C Different Foundation which is non-profit that shares this same mission as me. If you want to learn more about the mission of the C Different Foundation or the CDifferentwithAaron movement click on the hyperlink associated with these groups. The more people that get involved with the C Different Foundation the more blind/VI individuals we can help.
Also, i want to thank the people from BuDu Racing for being so helpful and accommodating. This was not my first race by BuDu racing and they do a great job at serving the sport of triathlon with great events. Thanks again :)