My alarm went off at 4:40am last Sunday, and as is typical for me, I practically jumped out of bed and started moving. After getting all of my gear into my roommate’s car, I was on the road by 5:00am. The first song I hear on any given morning tends to stay in my head for the rest of the day, and on Sunday morning it was “Tear-Stained Letter” by Johnny Cash.
After about an hour and 45 minutes of driving (the last hour of which consisted of approximately 600 hairpin turns), I arrived at the Lake Berryessa race site. For those of you on the East Coast, Lake Berryessa is unlike any body of water you’ll see east of the Mississip. Although I was disappointed to learn that it’s actually a man-made lake, it was no less spectacular to look at from the road.
I was greeted by familiar faces almost immediately. The Haas Triathlon Team has probably existed in other forms in the school’s history, but this year, two of my classmates (and me to a lesser extent) revived it into its present-day incarnation. Since the beginning of 2007, a group of about 10-15 of us have been training together regularly in preparation for the Napa Triathlon (0.5 mile swim-15 mile bike-4 mile run). We’ve done open water swims, track workouts, trail runs, spin classes and core (abdominal) workouts. It worked out well, and on race day, I think about 15 of us (classmates and partners) were representing Haas. Matt, one of the founding partners, had already put blue and yellow balloons in the transition area so that we could all put our bikes near one another. (Ken, the other founding partner, was at a wedding in New York. He was there in spirit.)
We cavorted in the transition area, putting on sunscreen (hi Mom!) and placing our bike and run gear in just the right position next to our bikes. At 7:45, we headed down to the water’s edge for the start of the swim. There were six “waves” of participants, and we each self-selected into a wave depending on our swimming ability. Matt started in the first wave (he and I actually swam together at Princeton), and Kathy and I followed behind in the second wave. The others left in later waves. Kathy took off on me almost immediately (she swam at Texas A&M which, unlike Princeton, is a “real” Division I school…just kidding, Teeter!), but I didn’t care because I felt great. Johnny: “I’m gonna write a tear-stained letter, I’m gonna tell you one more time.” I saw Kathy again in the transition area before the bike. We exchanged a few words, and then she was out on the bike. I need to stop talking during transitions, because it took me an abysmal 3:30 to get out of the water and on the bike – ridiculously slow!
A couple of miles into the bike, I caught up to Kathy. The bike course was an out-and-back format, and the headwind on the way out was pretty fierce. Matt passed me going the other direction, and I noticed that he was winning the whole thing by about 4 minutes or so at that point. At the turn-around, I was hoping that the wind hadn’t switched directions so that I could have a tailwind on the way back. It hadn’t, and the wind helped a lot on the back half. I passed some of my teammates who were headed out on the bike (they were in later waves of the swim, so they were behind by 5-6 minutes). Johnny: “I can see you sittin’ and readin’ it while you hang your head and cry.”
Finally back at the transition area, I racked my bike and headed out on the run. It was a hot day, and once I started running, I began to feel the heat on my face. I drank water at all three of the aid stations, and my mouth still felt dry. The first half of the run was uphill, and I kept telling myself that the second half would be much easier. It was, and Johnny returned: “It’ll be about the saddest thing your mailman ever did bring around.” I finished in a little over one hour and 38 minutes, which is acceptable but not stellar. I could have worked the second half of the bike – and the first half of the run – harder than I did. Next time.
After I crossed the finish line, I cheered on my teammates as they finished, and everyone was in great spirits afterwards. For more than half of the group, the Napa Tri was their first triathlon, and I heard many of them talking about “the next one.” That made me so happy! It was so fun training with everyone, and it seemed like everyone was sufficiently prepared for race day.
We’re already planning the next triathlon we’re going to do as a team. The group is looking at Treasure Island and/or Pacific Grove. Stay tuned!