Tri AC

Atlantic City’s neon skyline lights up the predawn sky across the back bay. The buoys are out for the swim course on the black water. There was no need for headlamps with the the huge spotlights flooding Bader Field. I easily found my racked bike and started setting up transition, keeping an eye on the time so I could check on my athletes racing today as well. Phil’s bike was next to mine on the rack as he set up for his first Olympic distance event.

At 6am, I met up with my athletes at the bike out for a quick picture, but one of them wasn’t there after waiting for a bit. I hoped he would make it in time for the race (he did, I checked his bike before leaving transition). Even though I’ve done many of these events, I’m always nervous before the swim start: I want to see what’s below, and I don’t want to see what’s in the water, all at the same time, so I tend to focus on eating my pre-race bagel with jelly and chatting with my athletes to see how they’re doing.

I timed the line for the port-o-potty to fill up the last thirty minutes prior to swimming. John Kenny of French Creek Racing was there with Christina, whom I met for the first time. We discussed the swim and the incoming tide, the water temp, the usual swim stuff. Soon, I went back to where Phil was waiting, gave Kathy a big hug before her swim start for the sprint race, and went to find Jamie and Margaret again so we can start swimming at the same time. Megan spotted me, and we talked for a bit before she went to find the rest of her Philadelphia Triathlon Club teammates. It was then that Geoff stopped by to stretch and warm up for the swim. The triathlon community is one big family, which is why I love the sport so much.

It was time to line up for the swim; Phil went to his swim wave and put on his cap and goggles. Jamie and Margaret were there as we made the slow walk to the swim start. Five athletes went into the water at a time off the boat launch to spread out the swim and bike course. Our turn came quickly, but we let the other two athletes in our group of five go ahead, and the three of us entered the water and started the swim. With a temperature at 81.5 degrees F, no wetsuit was needed. The saltwater instantly pickled my mouth, but it was smooth and calm. I passed lots of swimmers, and a few passed me, but I found my rhythm and had space to settle in.

Out of the water, I ran to my bike, quickly donning my gear. The wind was strong on the way out of Bader Field and on the Atlantic City Expressway to exit 5, but I hunkered down in aero and kept going. I got off at exit 5 and flew down the Expressway back to Atlantic City with the tailwind pushing me along. I kept up the pace for the second loop, trading places with Anne Marie from time to time. Christina passed by me and cheered me on. I kept waiting for Phil to pass me on the bike, but he didn’t catch me, and I didn’t see him until the run.

Into T2, I flew off the bike, racked it, and was on my way on the run. Police held back traffic for athletes on the way to the Boardwalk for the 10K. The boards were soft and springy on the run, until I hit the sand. Then, my legs felt like lead. There is always sand on the run at a DelMo Event. I ran with a few other athletes on course, one who was doing his first Olympic distance race.

I enjoyed every moment of the race, and I know my athletes did too. One got 2nd place in his division, another conquered fears of the swim, and others did their first tri ever. Phil isn’t new to the sport, but he did his first Olympic distance race! All of them finished strong, and I couldn’t be happier. I was on my way to getting a PR at that race, but with the shortened swim, it doesn’t count as a PR even though my pace per 100 was seven seconds faster than the last time I swam it. My bike time was three minutes faster too. I would love to do this race again, maybe next year?

Jaws Can Bite Me

This starts with a weird dream and a confession. The night after I swam in Marsh Creek Lake for a training swim I had dream about a mechanical shark in a large tank the size of a baseball stadium. The water filled all of the space from the ground, where I stood and watched, to the top of the bleachers. A diver swam in the tank with the shark, attempting to feed it a mechanical dolphin because robot sharks gotta eat. When the shark missed the dolphin, it broke the glass. Water flooded the observation room, but I wasn’t scared because I could swim. That’s just what I did at the training swim and at Tri AC last weekend: I owned the swim. The robotic shark of my nightmares from the movie, Jaws, no longer held me in its, well, jaws.

At the beginning of Tri AC, rain pelted the bikes in transition, dousing the dry towels and running shoes. Triathletes topped with cap and goggles shivered while waiting for the swim start, delayed fifteen minutes due to the storm overhead. I looked down at my watch and ran it through a practice triathlon by hitting the interval button. Cathy looked at me and asked if I was nervous. Nope. Not this time.

When it was my turn, I jumped off the dock like a lifeguard going to rescue a drowning swimmer, keeping my head above water to prevent my cap and goggles from flying off at the swim start. As my feet left the platform, I heard Cathy say, “I have to turn on my watch!”

I looked back at the dock and said, “I gotta go! Mine is on.” And then I swam. I swam so fast that I passed four or five groups of swimmers rounding the buoys during the .9 miles. I flew through that swim, relaxed and confident for the first time ever. Salt water waves had no affect on me; I coughed out any water that I accidentally swallowed and pressed on. I got this.

I hit my watch in transition and hopped on my bike. Last year’s pace was too easy, so I went two miles an hour faster on average just to see how I felt. That felt good, so then I bumped it up another mile per hour and held it. I actually passed some people on the bike, and I could have gone faster–this was all new territory for me.

During the run, I ran a bit quicker than I usually do in training, but I wanted to enjoy the run and the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which is exactly what I did. Could I have pushed it harder? Sure. But, I didn’t. I now know that I can do the Atlantic City Half Ironman in September after this race.

And best of all? I left my fears of Jaws in my wake.