Oregon #9 Father's Day Special
June 18, 1995
Blue Lake Triathlon
We ventured out in the great northwest to visit Seattle’s smaller counterpart, Portland on our first ever all family vacation for a triathlon race. We left Saturday after Hayes’ end of school year celebration held in a beautiful Seattle south suburban city park. Sunshine was everywhere. We drove south on Interstate 5 for three hours and crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. The next day we arrived early at the Blue Lake race site. Yesterday’s sunshine was now replaced with the Northwest’s more routine weather, grey skies and cool temperatures. We were chilled when standing in line to get checked-in and pick-up the race packet. This included showing a TriFed membership card, signing a legal liability waiver, and receiving a swag bag. Inside the swag bag were race numbers for their running top, their bike, and their bike helmet.
On a race morning with cool temperatures, a welcome sign at the swim site is a low layer of fog drifting slightly above the water line. This means the lake water is warmer than the air. Blue Lake didn’t have a light layer of fog which meant we were in for a head freeze of a swim. At my second triathlon in Iowa, the air temperature was 47°F and the sun had breached the tree tops on the east side of Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids. The fog was so thick it looked like swirled cotton candy. A foggy scene is Mother Nature’s way of beckoning you into her water to get warm and enjoy. The triathletes wanted to jump in Cedar Lake to get warm. In Portland, Mother Nature didn’t woo us with a friendly puffy blanket on the water. She beckoned only with a grey steel color on the flat water surface. No blue to be seen by anyone in Blue Lake on this race morning.
Unfortunately, I continued to swim in a Baltimore oriole motif, a long john style wetsuit in the northwest where the water is cold in the winter and stays cold into the next winter. Never saw a frozen lake during our two winters in western Washington but swam all the tris in water cooler than 65°F temperatures in the northwest. Triathletes should be required to compete in a full wetsuit. Never figured out the requirement while living there. Of course, being cheap and not investing in a long sleeve full body wetsuit didn’t help my core body temperature on race days.
Portland has its version of a backyard volcano named Mt. Hood. It’s less in height and stature than Mt. Rainer but in some ways more attractive in its slimmer profile. This commentary was shared by a local triathlete on race morning since their Mountain was not out. (Nor was it the following year when racing there.)
Mother Nature added more cold water for the Blue Lake bike leg as rain started 15 minutes after the swim to bike transition. When dismounting into T2 my shoes were soaked and toes numb.
As in training, Caroline teamed up with me on the run. After almost a mile of swimming, biking just shy of 25 miles, and running with frozen toes for a good portion of six miles, we crossed the finish line together. She didn’t have a choice. Running towards the banner marking the finish, I spotted her, Chris and Hayes and heard them loudly cheering me and the other triathletes 50 meters from the finish line. I reached out to give a high five to Hayes and snatched the 14 month-old Caroline up into my arms and we sprinted towards the end of the race. From there we circled back to join Hayes and Chris for a trip to the post-race food tent.
Triathlon training can unknowingly take many forms for a triathlete dad. For example, we did some training for Blue Lake post-race activities by eating strawberries two weeks before race day. I took the kids, plus a neighbor’s son, to a strawberry field ten miles from our house near Seattle. The farmer gave each of us an empty box and instructions in how to pick strawberries to our desired weight. The kids proved to be much better at picking and eating than picking and packing. The four of us laughed and smiled as we picked and packed, and popped strawberries into our mouths. I will forever remember how sweet and true to flavor those strawberries were straight from the farmer’s field. At the make shift checkout between the farmer’s field and the parking area, told the farmer to push his thumb down hard on weighing scales to get a more realistic measure of our take of his crop. He smiled and laughed. We parted thinking both of us had the best deal of the day. And both of us probably did.
At the post race food tent we found the biggest, the reddest, and the most desirable looking chocolate dipped strawberries that ever existed. These egg sized beauties drizzled juice and cracked off their chocolate coatings with each mouthful crunch. The powerful true flavors of fresh strawberry and dark chocolate were much better for some post-race celebration than the Gatorade taste still hanging on in my mouth. An experience like this would never occur if not racing in a different state. Oregon is the third largest strawberry producer state and Washington is number five. And Hayes and Caroline were the number one happiest consumers of strawberries for the day.
After the race, we packed up and drove north towards home. In Olympia, we pulled off I-5 to tour the Washington State Capital building and its grounds. Another benefit of getting out and taking the opportunity to learn more history of our adopted home state. Caroline pulled herself up on one of the cement benches and took a flying superman pose. She looked like a natural in her image of internal strength, something that would suit her well in facing the same challenges of her sister in overcoming the symptoms of AHC she too had recently been diagnosed with.
Triathletes always look forward. On the swim we follow air bubbles or the feet of a fellow competitor but we also sight for objects further ahead to straighten our course. On the bike leg, we key in on the rider in front of us to gain an advantage. We also look out for cars that may cross our path and slow down our progress. On the run, triathletes look to walk someone down, for aid stations, for loved ones, and finally for a welcomed finish banner. For Chris and me, we looked ahead for the girls. Not to protect them but to ensure we give them opportunities to grow, gain knowledge through experiences, learn life skills, and at some point to thrive on their own without us. Including how to finish what is started. Today’s example was in the sport of triathloning. We wanted our special needs kids to watch me in sports to spur an interest at some point in their future. Kind of like an early intervention program or role playing for the newly enlightened. Monkey see, monkey do.
I cherished this first family race destination triathlon the most because Caroline crossed the finish line in my arms. She provided a memorable Father’s Day in Oregon at the Blue Lake triathlon. This race provided my favorite run into any finishing chute.
Results: 49th overall. 6th in age group.