September 5, 2009
Around the turn of the 21st century 1 in 9 US citizens claimed to be a descendant of someone who came over to the continent on the Mayflower boat. That compares with McDonalds who claims 1 in 8 Americans worked in one of their restaurant (up from 1 in 7 back in the early 1990’s). For comparative purposes about 4 in 100 Americans claim to of competed in a triathlon in their lifetime, 14 in 100 Americans spent time in all 50 states, and an estimated one in a million Americans were diagnosed with Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood (AHC).
As a family we headed out to a third triathlon in three weekends. We flew into Boston on Friday and hung out with Chris’ brother, Steve, and his wife, Gina, for five days. The week before I competed my sixth Chicago Triathlon, the Olympic distance race, as one of the 9,000+ competitors. After the Chicago race my family played tourist for the day as we rode on the Double Decker sightseeing bus under a beautiful blue late summer sky along the Lakefront. We learned more about Chicago history during the two hour jump on, jump off tour than I did while working in downtown Chicago for four years in the early 1990’s.
In Boston I re-assembled the Kestrel Airfoil that arrived via ground carrier from Tuscaloosa the previous day. On Saturday morning Chris and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary with a kiss then parted ways. The kids wanted to spend the day with their aunt and uncle since they watched the race in Chicago the weekend before. Chris and crew headed off to the beach. I drove off towards Plymouth to compete in the Mayflower Tri Olympic distance race.
On arrival I stepped into the one of the earliest starts of American history: the Pilgrims, the Puritans, the site of America’s first Thanksgiving, the site of the oldest continually inhabited English settlement, and more. Learned there really is a Plymouth Rock. It’s inscribed with a date of 1620, behind a fence, and under a nice Greek like limestone structure. Everyone who competed in the Mayflower Tri ran past one of America’s most historic landmark on a beautiful cloudless day in late summer along Massachusetts’ Atlantic coast.
Check-in was the morning of the race. The volunteers were well organized and efficient. Being a low key race non-participants were allowed in the transition area. A dad with some triathlon experience took his young teenage son on a walk around the bikes. He pointed out to his son my bikes shoes were already attached to the pedals. The dad shared how and why competitors did this in triathlons. Good to see coaching start early with others. If interested, eight out of ten fathers coach their kids in sports.
The smell of saltwater filled the air in the transition area. We swam in the Atlantic Ocean in the Plymouth Harbor behind a protective seawall. Beyond the seawall to the east the water arced away with the curvature of the Earth. The seawater offered some extra buoyancy for a quicker swim. And the low 60’s temperatures encouraged us to get through the swim as quick as possible. The layout of the swim course was shaped as a square bracket that paralleled the coast line. We jumped in from a dock at the Village Landing and treaded water. At the start of the race we swam away from the shoreline 300 meters along some of the moored fishing and sailboats towards the breakwater. We turned right, swam south towards the transition zone and swam 800 meters to the next right hand turn. From there we swam straight towards the Mayflower II boat, our exit point to the bikes. Volunteers manned three ladders to part pull us up and part for us to climb up on the dock. Waiting queues formed at the first two ladders as swimmers treaded water waiting to get out of the water. I swam an additional five strokes to the third ladder with no waiting and climbed out of the water and started running 400 meters to the bike.
The bike course offered everything over the 24.9 miles on its out and back course. We biked south out of the park and angled right through some quintessential New England houses and well shaded streets. The neighborhood rough roads gave way to county roads where we were treated to newly paved blacktop that offered the smoothest ride ever raced on in the Mayflower triathlon. Riding in a Cadillac could not have felt smoother. During the change from neighborhood to countryside we started a climb that morphed into a contentious set of rollers on Seven Hills Road to the turnaround point some ten miles away near Myles Standish Monument State Reservation. I was amazed to experience how quickly the landscaped changed from historic town to farmland to open spaces. If someone blindfolded me and drove me to the turnaround point, I would never have suspected the Atlantic Ocean was so close. The return trip to the transition area provided for some exciting moments as the descent back into Plymouth happened quickly. The roads turned challenging as we dodged some bumps, bounced over raised sewer covers, and rolled unsteadily beside the curbs. Windblown sand from the beach created small, temporary, and scary sand dunes on the street caused havoc with a bike traveling 30 mph. By the time we realized the danger I was slowing down for the dismount line.
During the bike to run transition we lost the cooling wind from the bike speed and felt hot from the direct sun. I looked down at the racing shorts covered with streaks of salt. I briefly thought this was brought on by heavy sweating but quickly realized the ocean water evaporated on my jammers leaving the salt marks. The run course took us south out of the transition area from the Pilgrim Memorial State Park. We headed out for a short loop into Old Town Plymouth and slingshot our way back north. As we rounded the corner an energetic, female teenage volunteer pointed us left to ensure we stayed on the course. She said, “This way ‘Sir’” when I strode by. My ego was more deflated than my lungs as I realized staying healthy did not prevent me from growing older.
The course took us north on Water Street towards the Village Landing. The race organizers fenced off a portion of the street for the runners while leaving the sidewalk open for the tourists. However two of tourists unexpectedly stepped off the sidewalk and directly into my path a couple of strides in front of me. I quickly did a ‘Time Warp” dance move from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, “a jump to the left and a step to the right” as I ran around and by them and continued north.
I trained for this maneuver back in the late 60’s when I belonged to the YMCA in my hometown. Halfway between my house and “Y” I ran a human made obstacle course of a small town design layout. Long jumped over the 7 foot wide cement pathway from the sidewalk to the street to allow access for pedestrians from home to cars parked on the street. High jumped/hurdled over a tree stump still sticking up from the ground at least a foot. Went to the left side of the stop sign as I ran away from the intersection to the next corner where the “Y” was located. Within a few feet I side stepped to the right of the historical marker informing tourist where the first public school in New Castle once stood. Then to the left side again at the no parking sign informing drivers not to park between the sign and the intersection. Then ran full sprint crossing the 4-way stop sign finish line before reaching the corner to cross the street and check into the “Y”. I did the course hundreds of times. Now in Plymouth, did a similar course in a different venue with moving human obstacles. Maybe there should be an obstacle race series set-up sometime. Maybe there already is like American Ninja Warrior. Evidently other adult kids re-enacted what they did as pre-teen kids too with some adult additions thrown in. Though I learned on a much tamer course. That’s probably what Warrior’s think of triathletes: easy obstacles, lame challenges, and no fun. It would be interesting to see how long the Warriors would last for a 2-hour Olympic distance triathlon.
Back on the course in Plymouth and beyond the Village Landing area, we angled onto a dirt path closer to the beach than the streets. The Atlantic Ocean provided beautiful views for the entire run portion of the race. We reached the turnaround point and headed back to the American icon of the Plymouth Rock at the finish line.
After the race I enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder and headed back to rendezvous with my family at Steve’s. We traded beach stories for race stories. We appropriately celebrated our anniversary with family. And later I packed up the bike to ship it down to Washington DC for the fourth race in four consecutive weekends.
Just for the record neither Chris nor I are Mayflower descendants. Neither one of us worked at Mickey D’s. Both of us belong in the 4% of Americans who competed in a triathlon. We both coached our kids in a sport. I’m a fifty stater. Chris belongs to the other 86% of Americans who have yet to visit all 50 states. And we’re both 1 in a few million being proud parents of two kids diagnosed with AHC.
Results: 7th overall. 1st in age group.