June 27, 2010
Treasure State Championships Tri
Chris joined me for this Olympic distance triathlon in Montana. We flew straight into Bozeman out of O’Hare and arrived at lunch time. We ate, checked in the hotel to retrieve my bike and put it together for the next day’s race. Unfortunately, there was no bike waiting at the hotel. Turned out the bike box sat in Connecticut until Monday. Then it gingerly made its way across the Appalachian Mountains, into the Midwest, and across the Great Plains for the next few days. Its ETA was now Tuesday, 11 days after I turned it over to the carrier. Some racers say always fly with your bike. Others recommend to ship it with a different carrier. I stayed loyal to the local guy who coordinated arrangements for me. Though this time I incurred the transportation costs with nothing to show for it or ride on. Also in the bike box were my wetsuit, racing flats, helmet, and race day sweats. This meant only minimal race stuff on hand for a triathlon that started in 16 hours. I improvised doing whatever it took to persevere under adverse conditions. Think of it this way, I had three hours of shopping time to rent a race bike and wetsuit in a town of 35,000 people at 4pm on the late afternoon before race day. Some triathletes take weeks to decide the equipment they will use for a race. I chose not to be too picky.
We started the scavenger hunt at Fleet Feet Sports. The first item picked up was my race packet. We caught our first break there too as the store rented wetsuits to triathletes. Unfortunately, everything in my size was either already rented or reserved. They did give me a recommendation of where to rent a bike. We jumped in the car and drove a short distance to Roundhouse Bikes. One great thing about Bozeman was the ease of getting around town quickly. Tommy at Roundhouse Bikes rented me a solid Cannondale road bike with blue graphics and clip-in pedals. I did need to buy a $150 pair of new bike shoes and a bike helmet. I passed on gloves, glasses, and gels.
Seeing snow in the mountains convinced me the water temps would be chilly, if not cold and I would incur hypothermia in the swim and become incapacitated before finishing a 1500 meter swim in Glenn Lake. We went back to Fleet Feet and again pleaded our case about the need for a wetsuit. Being friendly and flexible earlier helped me. Although mentally accepted I would rent an oversize wetsuit to at least do the race, the store employee decided the pick-up time for the reserved, right sized wetsuit expired so he rented it to me. The wetsuit was a two piece design and fit fine. Everything else was either was too big or too small. Bought some Clif Bars and socks but passed on racing flats. Race in my back-up trainers. I also brought a set of workout jammers, tri top, goggles and hat that converted into race gear for the Treasure State Championship race. In a couple of hours I secured everything needed for a triathlon race thanks to personnel from Fleet Feet and Roundhouse Bikes. Amazing how few items are needed compared to all the stuff triathletes use in races and in training. Sometimes we do make our lives too complicated if fun is the ultimate goal.
Sunday morning came quickly and early with sunrise at 5:30am. The race started and finished at Gallatin Park, less than a mile north of the city. The park was named after Jean Gallatin, the longest-serving United States Secretary of the Treasury. He also planned the Lewis & Clark Exhibition to include the mapping of the expanded US with the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the US in the early 1800’s.
The overnight low was 47°F but temps came up with the sun. We arrived right at 6am for the 7:15am race start. The air was cold but the sun warm so I stayed in the sun to keep warm without a sweatshirt and pants. The Big Sky state rocked with clear blue skies. Bozeman is located in an absolutely beautiful area with snowcapped mountains in the Bridger Mountain Range nearby. Sacagawea Peak stood as the highest point. The race was held on a table top flat area a few miles from the foothills.
I took in the views and watched the other competitors, 81 in total, rack bikes and stage race equipment. Almost everyone knew everyone else. I didn’t recognize anyone immediately but felt welcomed. All of the competitors were friendly. The race director talked to everyone as they walked into the transition area. He introduced himself since he didn’t recognize me and quickly sized me up as a welcomed visitor.
Meanwhile, I sized up the competition based on the almost exclusively high end race tri bikes and road bikes racked in the transition area. And a 100 or so nice vehicles in the parking lot. A cross sample included some rugged but elegant Jeeps, a few sports cars, and some new and well-loved off-road ridden SUV’s. The latter being symbols of modern day top tier riding horses. I expected more mountain bikes at the race though. Then realized everyone probably had mountain bikes, they were another adult toy in everyone’s garage at their houses. I envied every last driver for their vehicles, bikes, and that they lived there to enjoy the great outdoors on any day they chose.
The race started on time and was dominated by 54 year-old John Weston from start to finish. He put four minutes on me during the swim leg and I was the second quickest out of the water. Somewhere on the second lap of the swim realized John was the same guy from Montana who swam the quickest leg at the 2003 Ironman CDA, including the pros.
On the bike leg dropped further behind for a few reasons. First, left the transition area with the new bike shoes on the pedals and my feet on top of the shoes. I couldn’t get my feet past the ratchet clips on the shoes and stopped within the first mile to put on shoes and clip-in. The legs cramped up a few more miles down the road due to a low seat. I stopped a second time and stretched to work out the cramps. Unfortunately lost a few more positions and a few more minutes on the course.
The run course was mostly off-road around the grasslands of the park and along the nearby farm land, a cross country course set up like a fall maze in a cornfield or patch of native prairie grass. The multiple turns and not clear lines of sight caused me to pass the same guy twice. I’m still not sure if he cut the course or I took a wrong turn and went too long down one of the shoots. The course was difficult to navigate with limited sight lines. Didn’t know how far I was behind another runner or how near someone else was closing in behind me. In the final couple of miles someone 20 years my junior closed in quickly. I ran hard to the finish and stayed him off but he all but eliminated a two minute gap on the run.
Not a great race but swam and ran well. The bike leg was slow being unfamiliar with the new equipment which prompted a couple of stops. I rode uptight, out of my comfort zone, and unable to use my own equipment. Competed strong with what I had to work with for the day. Not everything goes as planned in life. We learn to be flexible to make the most of a situation. I improvised with the help of personnel at Fleet Feet Sports and Roundhouse Bikes.
Overall the race experience was fantastic. Friendly participants. Helpful volunteers. Wonderful weather and the scenery out of a Rocky Mountain fairy tale storybook. We headed back to the hotel, showered, returned the wetsuit, and headed for a rented cabin in the Yellowstone River Valley near Emigrant. Our backyard included the Yellowstone River. On Sunday we went hiking and became tourist in Yellowstone National Park. We covered more distance there than in the race on Saturday. That evening we returned to Emigrant and spent the night in a local Bed & Breakfast operated by a retired attorney and his wife. Turned out he was a pilot in World War II. We talked about The Wild Blue, book written by Stephen E. Ambrose which included stories about B-24 pilots and crews. I shared with him my father served in the infantry in Germany and Hungary near the end of the war.
On Monday we enjoyed some whitewater rafting on the Gallatin River. The trip started in calm waters with some easy floats to relax and enjoy the valley and the lulling of water until we entered into small rapids that escalated into big, class III & IV rapids through places called the House Rock and the Mad Mile. We also jumped off a bridge into the river 15 feet below during lunch.
We flew out Tuesday mid-morning back to Chicago. The bike arrived at the hotel a few hours after we left. I now needed to coordinate with the local package carrier franchise to retrieve the bike from Montana with the hope to see it arrive in time to fly with me to a race in Rhode Island the following weekend.
The Treasure State Championships Triathlon was a great experience as was the rest of our vacation. The entire trip was improvised. Other than the hotel stays and the race we had no reservations or plans. We were walk-ins at the cabin on the Yellowstone River and across the way at the Bed & Breakfast. We decided on the hikes in Yellowstone NP the night before and the same on what raft trip we did Monday. Sometimes the best trips and races were the ones carried out with flexible planning and adventurous soulmates.
Results: 4th overall. 1st in age group