New Jersey #48
July 22, 2012
New Jersey State Championship – Olympic
I drove home to the Chicago area late evening Thursday from work in Twin cities. Early Friday morning Hayes and I flew out to Newark for the New Jersey State Championship Olympic distance race in Princeton. An unexpected necessity also joined us, my back-up race bike. The night before I barrowed a bike travel case from a triathlete neighbor. I dissembled my back-up race bike and stuffed the parts into the barrowed bike case. My bike case, with my primary race bike inside it, sat unexpectedly at a Marriott Hotel outside of Louisville. The freight carrier told me the bike and case were lost. The hotel personnel told me otherwise. It sat in their storage room ready and waiting for pick-up. The carrier told me they picked it up on Monday, the scheduled pick-up day, but now on Thursday they cannot locate it. They don’t believe me that it was still at the Marriott where I left it last Saturday. Meanwhile, the carrier charged my credit card for a service not performed and affirmed they lost the bike. A double whammy.
I woke up early on Friday for a five mile run and an easy 500 meter swim at the health club a 15 minute drive from our neighborhood. I swung back by the house and picked up Hayes and we headed to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at 5:30 am. With the late night Thursday, I was working on less than five hours of sleep.
Traveling with a bike can be a hassle. I prepaid to fly the barrowed bike case as luggage for the bike when checking in on-line the night before our flight. Fortunately, I had the foresight to print off my receipt with the boarding passes at home. When we checked our luggage at O’Hare, the airlines did not have a record the bike case was paid for when I did the initial self check-in. The machine prompted me to pay again for the special bag. Cancelled out and went to a real person check-in. The person behind the ticket counter could not locate the bike was already paid for. I pulled out my printed receipt. She looked again and found nothing. A supervisor, or at least a more experienced worker, dug deeper and saw the payment. Why can golf clubs weighing as much as a bike and taking up almost the same storage space be checked as luggage for no extra fees, while bike cases cost $100 and more to fly one-way? What an airline rip-off. Finally, we were fully checked-in and on our way to New Jersey.
When I picked up the bike case at the Newark Airport I felt some metal rattling around and heard it clanking into a carbon fiber bike frame. Inside the bike case were an unsecured 5/8” bolt wrench and a couple of hex wrenches. I also found the inspection slip from the TSA authorities. Someone forgot to put the tools back where they found them in a padded bag under the foam rubber liners. I had mellowed over the years as I did not get too excited about a couple of new paint chips on the bike frame. Nothing a little bit of bright red nail polish and clear coat couldn’t touch up on a 17 year-old race bike. But TSA guys, use some common sense. Passengers who look like athletes and pay outrageous transportation fees for their high priced race bikes are not going to plant a bomb alongside their prized bikes only to blow them up 35,000 feet in the sky.
That evening I dreamed I brought my 17 year-old red Trek hybrid bike to the race instead of my red Kestrel 200 SCi race bike. Amazing how the mind messes with you when experiencing pre-race jitters. At this this point of the 50 state journey, with two states left, I would have raced on any bike, at any race, to not miss a milestone. Luckily, when we pulled up to the race site and opened the trunk, the Kestrel was there and roaring to roll.
The swim leg was held in the clean waters of Lake Mercer at Mercer County Park. The overnight air was chilly but the lake water was much warmer, above 78°F so wetsuits were not allowed for award eligibility. Steam fog rose off the water when we arrived at the race site early on Sunday. The swim course was laid out in the shape of a hockey stick. The swim started at the bottom end of its blade. We swam straight out into the lake for 300 meters then turned left and swam 500 meters to the next buoy. Another left hand turn at the top of the stick followed by the last left turn after a 100 meters. We swam 500 meters down the shaft almost on the shoreline where it bulged into the lake. We returned to the blade and turned right with a final 100 meter dash towards the swim exit and into the transition above the tennis courts.
The race announcer peppered spectators and anxious racers with interesting factoids between the wave starts and acknowledging competitors as they started exiting the water. Two of my favorites were:1) Triathlete’s are the 1% of people who care enough about their bodies to physically take care of them; and 2) women in the 40-55 age groups make the majority of decisions in family life.
Just before the male 50 –54 age group took to the water the announcer shared with the crowd the lead woman exited the water with the 4th fastest swim leg of all competitors. Less than 20 seconds from the best overall! After the race we learned she continued her speed and finished as top overall woman as New Jersey State Champion triathlete.
The swim exit was to the left of where we entered the water when looking at the lake. We only needed to run a short 50 meter incline up into the transition area. We rode our bikes less than a mile to exit Mercer Park onto the county roads. We were separated by orange traffic cones over the entire bike course. The pavement was new, smooth and great. Also flat and fast with minimal wind to content with on the bike. The course took us along county roads and through quiet neighborhoods on the edge of Princeton. We rode two laps of 12 miles each on the bike leg.
The run course remained within the boundaries of Mercer Count Park. We ran on paved and packed dirt paths through mostly wooded areas. Shade from the trees helped keep our core body temperatures down on the run. Though temperatures increased as the morning went on with more direct sunlight on the competitors. The first three miles of the run course was shaped like a cursive written letter “U”. We ran up and down along the left side of the “U”, across its bottom, then up and down on the right hand side of the letter. After completing the first half of the run course we ran between the transition area and the swim start then continued out on a snaking but relatively straight line for another mile and half. At the far end of the snake tail we did 360 degree loop and returned to complete the 10K distance at the finish line located right beside the transition area and swim start. The full course was slightly rolling the entire time.
Few real hills and few real flat areas. The three out and back designs provided an easy to know where your friends or any competitors were in relationship to you on the course. The multiple looks also allowed an opportunity to determine if losing ground to others, gaining on them, or holding our own.
Near the end of my run leg heard the race announcer encourage male competitors to do the “right thing” and let the females out sprint any males trying to pass them at the finish. I was passed by a younger woman at the five mile marker. I committed to hang with her though I had 4-5 minutes on her because of the staggered heat starts. As we came out of the final turn with a 150 meter sprint to the finish line, I pumped my arms up to full speed and lengthened my stride. I should have been thinking, “why am I doing this?” but in the heat of the moment and with the finish line in sight, my primordial racing instincts surfaced. It forced me to beat anyone in sight to earn bragging rights. A competitive racer never wants to be walked down in the final meters. May be in the future I will commit to do a better job of checking my ego at the transition area but today, it did a hockey check on my body and took out the competition.
What a difference a week makes in race results. I went from experiencing tunnel vision eyesight and having buzzards circling over me the previous weekend to feeling strong the entire race with a strong kick sprint finish in the last 150 meters of a two hour plus race.
Hayes handed me a finisher’s medal when crossing the line. I found an empty spot on a small hill above the area to cheer for other racers as they ran across it. From there too, I watched as a proud parent observing Hayes. She was back in volunteer mode for this race season. She cheerfully placed a cool looking New Jersey State Championship specific themed ribbon with a finisher’s medal around the racers’ necks. She handed out positive energy. In return she received a big smile and greeting of thanks from the now spent but celebrating finishers. She was all smiles the whole time. She liked congratulating the racers as they crossed the line. So many happy people for her to be a part of their initial race celebration. This was one race where she was in no hurry to leave her race duties. The more positive she was with the racers’ on their performances, the more positive they were in return. She thought the finish line was the best place to be for this race. And while she liked handing out water bottles at other races, she thought handing out medals was the pinnacle of a volunteer’s assignment at any triathlon race event.
Michele Redrow, a principle of CGI Racing, served as Race Director (RD) and put on a top notch weekend of flawless racing that included over 3,000 triathletes and over 1,000 volunteers. One for every three racers which was a crazy unbelievable ratio. Michele provided excellent leadership for the whole weekend of race activities including a Sprint Distance Triathlon on Saturday followed by the Olympic Distance tri on Sunday. Tom, who oversaw the volunteers at the finish line, did an excellent job of directing them in how to celebrate with the finishers and keep them moving through the finishing area to keep it safe for everyone. Hayes thought Tom and the whole crew she worked with at the finish line were great. A few of her “New best friends,” she would tell me at dinner.
(No subject)Overall the race was well run. Easy check-in. An informative race guide with the e-mails leading up to the race. Lots of knowledgeable and hard-working volunteers. Live bands played music both mornings. Premier age-group race talent. Great assortment of quality refreshments after the race. From a racers point of view, simply and superbly seamless.
Triathlete do care about what type of safe, fair, and wonderful race experience we receive for our entry fees. Few entrants meet the RD, our perceptions of the person is that of the race. With varied needs to be met, it’s a minor miracle RD’s put on a race that satisfies different peoples’ needs. Michelle and the team she assembled in Princeton did a vastly superior job over many other race events. Definitely in the same grouping as races in the Ironman series, USAT Nationals, Lifetime, Musselman, Maryland and Philadelphia.
After the race we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed an early afternoon swim. We then visited a Revolutionary War battlefield at Battlefield Park a mile from Princeton University. US General George Washington lead his troops into their first victory over the Redcoats there in what became known as the Battle of Princeton. Another US General, Hugh Mercer, was mortally wounded in the fighting that took place there in January 1777, a year before the army was encamped up at Valley Forge. This battle took place days after Washington and his army of solders famously crossed the icy waters of the Delaware River. The County and the Park served as race central was named in honor of the brave general who lost his life in fighting for our new country’s freedom. From this historic site we drove on to tour the streets of Princeton to enjoy the wide variety of older style homes and buildings and trees lining the avenues of the Ivy League College. I also tried to absorb any free radical knowledge I could but seemed to have a mental block.
On Monday ran down along the Delaware & Raritan Canal. Another bit of preserved Americana from a different transportation era. We then headed north to Newark and boarded a jet plane to Chicago. At the house I grabbed my normal race bike that finally arrived from Louisville earlier in the morning and continued driving another six hours to Twin Cities for work the following day. I was already resting up for race state #49 to be held in the desert in six days in another “New” state.
Results: 26th overall. 1st in age group.