Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Righteous Richland

I've been nostalgic for my first season doing triathlons lately. I was home from New Zealand for a month, it was July, and I saw an advertisement for the Tiger Tri in Colville. It was a quarter-ironman and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I seriously underestimated how long it would take to drive to Colville, how much air to put in my bike tires (I figured that 40 psi was about right), and how capable I was of swimming the front crawl. I backstroked about 70% of the swim, I hammered away on my over sized cross bike, and I ran WAY off course on the run, but when I crossed the finish line I was completely hooked.

I did 3 more triathlons during the next 3 consecutive weekends - a sprint, an olympic, and then finally a 1/2 ironman. I didn't really know what I was getting into with that last one, but I bluffed my way through it and thought that I had just accomplished one of the most incredible feats known to mankind. I signed up for all 4 of those races on race day or the day before. Now most of them sell out well in advance (and some within hours of registration opening). That summer was exceptionally hot and I met many of my now best friends while sitting in the shade eating post-race feeds and awaiting age-group awards. Remembering it all still gives me the warm fuzzies.

For the last couple of years, the majority of my races have been a lot more organized, official, and ceremonious. Bikes get checked in a day in advance, and pro meetings are mandatory. Security bracelets are worn. Awards happen in a banquet tent, and spectators aren't allowed in the finishing area. It's exciting to be able to participate in such world class events, but sometimes I miss just showing up on race day, having a blowout, and sitting in the shade waiting for awards.

When Robin (boss extraordinaire) mentioned the Righteous Richland mtn bike sprint triathlon happening on the 4th of July, my interest was piqued, and it had nothing to do with my awesome mtn biking skills. I tossed the idea around that afternoon (it was July 2) and wrote a quick e-mail to Coach pleading my case. I was pretty skeptical that he would give me the okay, even though I promised to take it easy. Surprisingly, he not only said it would be fine to do, but also encouraged me to "have fun with it," rather than to take it easy. Yay! Then, it was just a matter of coercing a friend or two into coming, and Manny was easy bait at work the next morning. The exchange went something like this:

"Hey Manny, do you want to do a mtn bike sprint triathlon in Richland tomorrow?"
"Sure, that sounds fun. I just need to find a mtn bike."
"I have one you can use."
"Really? Cool."

And so we proceeded to plot our 2 hour road trip to Richland. The only catch was the wake up time. 3:45 am. The last time I had set my alarm at all was 2 weeks prior, for IM Cd'A, and it was set for the exact same time. I guess some triathlon inconveniences are unavoidable, big race or not. Race day registration was a breeze, and due to the unexpected number of participants, the race started 15 minutes late. I love that. "Hey folks, we had a few more people register than expected, so we'll be starting about 15 minutes late."

The swim was downstream in the Columbia River. There wasn't a noticeable current, but given that I swam 800m in eight-odd minutes, I'm guessing that we were indeed getting a push. I had a blast in the swim and actually led my group. We cut back to shore a little bit sooner than the 1st pack and ended up coming in just behind them. You're not likely to ever hear me say this again, but I do wish that the swim had been a little longer. It was fun.

The mountain bike was a slightly different story. I ride my mountain bike about, oh, once or twice a year. I'm not exactly tuned into it the way I am my tri and road bikes. If my seat on my tri bike is a fraction of a mm too high or low, it drives me nuts. I just guessed my seat height on the mtn bike for the day, and it wasn't exactly comfortable, but hey, it's what I deserved. What was a little more uncomfortable was when the nose of the saddle bent sideways after my wipeout. Yeah, I ate a lot of dirt. Just when I started to think that I should start trusting the bike a little more instead of slowing way down for each turn (there were lots of them) I paid the price. In the end though, it was just a lot of dirt, a few scrapes and bruises, and a touch of embarrassment.

Running. Lets just say that I didn't do a whole lot of it in the two weeks between IM Cd'A and Righeous Richland. My legs felt like two noodles dissociated from my body and my turnover was pretty slow. It felt like I hadn't done any running at that intensity for a long time. The more interesting phenomenon was all of the dust and dirt on my legs and torso turning to mud as I got progressively sweatier. Still, I moved up 5 or 6 places in the field to finish 4th overall and 1st woman. I really wasn't in this race to win, I just wanted to have fun and to push my body again (Coeur d'Alene feels like ages ago).

Afterwards, it was a dip in the Columbia to rinse my wounds (probably not the greatest idea) and to cool down. It hit 100 degrees in Richland that day, and there was nothing better than sitting in the shade, meeting new people and waiting for awards. I felt a little bit like I was crashing a party, with the majority of the 200-something participants being from the tri city area, but there were actually a lot of people there that I knew from other races, and even more new people to meet. The best part is that the awards came from the Ice Harbor Brewery - beer glasses and harvest pale ale! Beer, a well-organized race, and good people - all for the amazing price of $18 (plus $5 late registration fee). Does anyone still put on a triathlon this cheaply anymore?! Except, I suppose, for the San Diego Tri Club's free club races. Huge kudos are in order to race director Eric Greager and the 3 Rivers Road Runners for putting on such an awesome, inexpensive, well run event. It was everything I wanted minus a bit of skin.