Last weekend’s Black Bear Triathlon provided a great opportunity to get back to my roots and support the Mid-Atlantic triathlon community. While my ambitions as a triathlete necessitate a nomadic lifestyle, I still like to think of myself as a hometown-kind of guy. No amount of travel or experience can replace the feelings of being surrounded by family and friends.
I flew from San Diego to Philadelphia on Wednesday–you can’t beat the cheap mid-week airfares!–and stayed in Philadelphia with some of my closest friends. With pre-race preparation including a pilgrimage to the “Rocky” statue and a homecoming tour through many of my favorite Manayunk stomping grounds, I was excited for the Sunday morning race.
The car ride to the race was interesting, to say the least. I was traveling with my brother and my dad, two bikes, three sets of wheels, clothing for three, and a trash bag full of drinks and pb&js (duh, you can’t have a proper road trip with out gas for both car and passengers). We stuffed ALL of this into a Toyota Corolla.
While I cursed our situation and dreamt of a U-Haul sponsorship, my brother John was determined to make everything work. Somehow, he managed to fit the three of us, along with most of our essential gear, into the car. (Jack, Jeff, Alyssa, and Pete–whats left is still at the 305. One of these days I’ll actually move all my stuff out of that place.) A U-Haul may have made for a more comfortable ride, but we did end up getting better gas mileage in the Corolla.
Race morning served a dose of typical spring weather in the mountains–high fifties with a sky that couldn’t decide whether it wanted to spit rain or just be foggy. We ended up with a chilly combination of the two. After spending the preceding 5 months in Southern California, I told my brother and dad on the ride to the race, “I forgot weather even did this.”
John and I went through our pre-race preparations together– it’s become a ritual for us. We’ve been warming up and racing together for as long as I can remember. First as age-group swimmers, then through high school in both cross country and swimming meets, in the Plex at Boston College, on the Jersey Shore for lifeguard races, and now for triathlons. Wile the actual routines for the different races were all a bit different (with the lifeguard races maybe including sips from a certain tupperware jug), the magic is in the preparation. There is something about those moments I can’t quite put into words–something that says, “Hey, I’m in this with you. We’re going to do this together.” I’m not sure how you warm-up for being a lawyer in a courtroom, but when the time comes I’ll find a way to do that with John, too.
The race setting was stunning–a cool (but not frigid) lake tucked between green mountains, a hilly bike through country roads, and a trail run. Team Philly Pro Tri director Brett Jenner, who seems to have a solutions to every problem I throw his way, lent me a jacket to keep warm in the conditions.
I raced hard from the start and opened a pretty large gap on the field through the 1500m swim. I was racing for the win, and I did not want to beat myself by doing anything stupid. I was conservative on the bike with the slick roads, and then I used my running strength to hold off the rest of the field.
It felt great to give Brett a high-five as I headed down the finish chute, pick-up 100 points for Team Philly Pro Tri in the Team Challenge, and celebrate with my family that evening back in Wildwood Crest.