||Angels Race Sprint Triathlon
||Sunday, April 10, 2005
||Triathlon - Sprint
||Male 35 - 39
||4 / 280
|Age Group Place:
||2 / 26
||We can only become our best with the inspiration and strength of others
ANGELS RACE TRIATHLON
Lynchburg, Va. – Sunny, 54F, calm wind
Swim: 300-meter indoor pool swim consisting of 12 lengths of a six-lane pool (down-back each lane, then shift to next lane). Sendoffs at 15-second intervals.
Bike: 25k out-back course with some significant hills and rollers. Most of course on a narrow country road. One at-grade railroad crossing.
Run: 5k out-back through downtown streets and paved bike trail. One steep descent and climb.
Entry Fee: $45; One-night lodging in Lynchburg: $59 + tax; Cheapest mid-grade gas: $2.199 (Lynchburg)
Benefits (participation): White t-shirt, two water bottles, sample of Hammer-Gel and Endurolytes
Benefits (awards): Missed the awards ceremony…had to leave early to reach Martinsville in time for the NASCAR race
Charity tie-in: Race benefits two memorial funds that provide grants to elementary school teachers, scholarships to graduating high school students, and support for church and community based youth-oriented camps and conferences.
This was the third annual installment of The Angels Race, an event conceived “as an opportunity to honor an angel in one’s life, past or present.” It is hosted by The Angels Foundation, which “recognizes that we can only become our best with the inspiration and strength of others - angels who see more in us than we see in ourselves. These angels often impact our lives in ways that are difficult to describe, and impossible to repay. The sport of triathlon, like life, is as much a competition with self as it is with other athletes. The Angels Race is an opportunity to challenge yourself to give it all you've got, and to honor those who inspired you to become who you are, and who you seek to be.”
Thus, in many ways, this is more than just a triathlon event. Many of the participants in the triathlon carry the spirit of someone significant to them during their race. In the case of Len Geiger, he couldn’t help but carry a piece of someone else along. Over two years ago, Geiger, a man in his mid-40s from Georgia, received a double-lung transplant. The donor was a 14-year-old girl from Lynchburg who had died from a head injury. Since the transplant, Geiger has improved his fitness to the point where he has been able to complete a marathon. At The Angels Race, Geiger competed alongside the father of the girl whose lungs now give him life.
Yet, the mere triathlon part of the event has grown quickly. The race had around 80 finishers in its initial incarnation, and slightly over 200 the following year. This year, helped by the production of Set Up Inc. and promotion as part of the new Virginia Triathlon Series, registration approached the 400-entry limit. A second Angels Race is planned for later this year in North Carolina.
I was thankful to simply have an opportunity to do a triathlon as a prelude to St. Anthony’s, now but two weeks away. Going through the routine of packing, setting up, and racing again was good for the soul and mind. (I had remembered to pack everything, except towels.) I had some pre-race knowledge of the course and some of the competitors, and had thoughts that I could win this race…but only with a flawless effort. I also thought that my age group was stacked with talent, to the point where I knew that I’d have to work hard just to place. Nonetheless, the goal for this race was to have a solid effort and to learn something that I can use to my benefit in Florida.
SWIM and T1 (5:05)
For once, I was actually “concerned” about the swim. When I registered, I put down a swim time (3:45, based on 3x100 yds. of 1:15) that I figured I could achieve in a pool without a warm-up. Only after I had registered did I discover that the pool was a metric pool, thus my time estimate might be significantly off of what I could do, and more importantly, what the swimmers before and after me could do. For a while, I considered sending an e-mail to change my swim time, but instead decided to leave it alone and train towards swimming at least better than 4:00. That proved to be an achievable goal, and by race week I had been swimming 1:10s per 100 yards with regularity.
Nonetheless, I was surprised at packet pickup (day before the race) that my overestimated 3:45 swim time yielded bib number 17. We didn’t get our swim times until arriving at the pool. Once there, we all (or at least almost all) discovered that the start order didn’t match the bib number sequence. I’d be the 11th person to push off. Preceding just in front of me was a young girl, wearing bib #13, and before her was Michael Harlow, last year’s runner up at this race, wearing bib #10.
The pool had been open for warm-up, so I was ready to go at go time, or so I thought. When I entered the water after the preceding triathlete started swimming, the starter asked me “Who are you racing for”? I didn’t have a prepared answer in mind at that moment, and the first thing that came to my mind, but not my mouth, was somewhat self-centered. I suppose I could have come up with a myriad of answers and dropped a bunch of names or groups of inspiring people upon whom I could honor on the journey to come, but none of those answers would take less than my allotted 15 seconds.
I tried to swim a fast cruise and not an all-out sprint. I caught up to the young girl just beyond the 100-meter part, and made an alongside pass heading up the third lane. After that, it was clear water in front of me and behind for the rest of the swim.
Aside from a little work to get my bike off the rack, it was a quick and flawless T1.
Lynchburg’s geography makes this bike course about as challenging as it gets for a sprint. The James River flows through a steep gorge here, with the city rising up one bank. The bike course descends steeply from downtown across the James to the opposite bank, parallels the river for a couple miles and then rises steeply away from the river. After crossing the at-grade railroad crossing, there’s one steep climb, after which the road becomes narrow, winding, and continually rolling. After three miles of tight rollers, you turn around and come back the same way.
I was concerned about my bike set-up. I elected to use my St. Anthony’s package that included a rear disc wheel with an 11-23 cassette. The set-up was definitely not the type of thing to use for the steep climbs, but I might be able to make that up on the flats and rollers. Plus, I hadn’t brought the disc wheel up to racing speed since September, so this was just as much of a test flight as anything.
I had great success early picking off some of the nine participants who had been in front of me. I did close in on one cyclist more slowly than the others, and it wasn’t until the railroad crossing that I caught up to the disk-wheeled machine piloted by Harlow. I passed him, and dismissed him, just like any other rider while continuing to concentrate on the effort.
Only, Michael wasn’t going to be left behind. He re-passed me on the final steep climb and once we were cruising on top, we were inseparable. In large measure, this was likely due to having very similar cycling talent. Yet, the nature of the course combined with the rules of triathlon cycling contributed to close riding and frequent leapfrogging. Curves and undulations were so frequent that once a rider makes a pass and moves over to the right, the passed rider of equal ability can quickly counter on the next curve or hill. Over the course of about 30 minutes, Michael and I swapped positions at least a dozen times, pushing each other to maintain ludicrous speed.
We reached the turnaround together, having passed all but the leading bicyclist who was a mere few yards in front. The final pass was made as the leapfrogging continued. We saw a fair number of cars and large trucks on the one-and-a-half lane road, but fortunately for us they were all heading in the opposite direction of travel. The volunteers did a great job on the bike and run courses controlling traffic, as best as I could tell…yet, I was happy to escape the bike ride unscathed given the vehicle traffic, narrow course, and threat of a train interrupting the race.
Michael and I sped down the final street together. I was too late in deciding for the dismount whether to take the feet out of the clipped shoes or to unclip. I had started to slip a foot out but changed my mind at the last moment before the final steep rise in front of the dismount line. The result: One bare foot, one foot still in a shoe, and one final pass by Michael running across the timing mat.
T2 and RUN (21:12)
T2 was quick…as quick as Michael’s, and we set out as the first runners. It was immediately apparent that my 28 seconds of virtual lead would not be close to being enough. Michael drew away gradually, looking strong. I poured a ton of wattage into the bike ride and the run didn’t start off very fresh for me. I had been working very hard in the off-season to improve my run efficiency…particularly in converting from heel-striking to forefoot-striking. Yet, it took no time at all to come out of T2 (on a downslope) to return to old habits. I felt that I was going as fast as I could, but it wasn’t great speed and it didn’t feel anything like what I had been doing for months. Now I know how Tiger Woods feels whenever he tries to change his swing.
The run course mirrors the bike course in topography with a steep descent to the riverside and a gentle incline up the river to a turnaround. The course also includes an interesting journey though a damp, narrow, abandoned railroad tunnel.
By the time I made it to the finish, two other competitors passed me on the course. One was very helpful in providing encouragement and urged me to run with him. “Thanks. You got a rope?” “Can I borrow your shoes, too?”
The other runner to pass me did so in the first mile and was catching Michael by the railroad tunnel. Just like on the bike, Michael decided that he didn’t want to be left behind, and when I saw him coming back from the turnaround he was paired up with his new running partner.
Personally, it was a good race, and a good omen for St. Anthony’s.
The great weather and the tough competition made for a speedy race. Harlow lowered the course record was lowered by more than two minutes and beat the two-time defending champ, who started later, by eight seconds. All of the top five men went under the old record. It was also a banner day for the 35-39 men, who took third, fourth and fifth overall, four of the top 10 overall, and six of the top 15 overall.
As always, it was a sweep for the cyclists at the top of the results page. Four of the top five cyclists finished in the top five overall for the race, nine of the top 10 cyclists finished in the top 10, and 16 of the top 17 cyclists finished in the top 17.
I didn’t stick around for the awards ceremony, for I was to attend the NASCAR race in Martinsville a few hours later. The preliminary results came out at the time I had predetermined that I needed to leave to catch the green flag, and figured that I wouldn’t have been missed too much since I was listed outside the top three.
But, I did stay long enough to watch Len Geiger, the double-lung transplant recipient, come across the finish line. He did very well in the swim and bike, though when it comes to running, his body can only give him 14-minute miles. Nonetheless, he arrived at the finish in pleasant spirits, wearing a photo button of the young girl whose lungs got him there.
I guess we proved the point. “We can only become our best with the inspiration and strength of others.”