Friday, July 25, 2008

The Mountain Man Triathlon Relay--How Big Are Your Lungs?

Flagstaff is up there. Really high. Like high enough to make training in the city of Boulder look like the sissiest thing to do as a triathlete just after drafting. So what better place to have a triathlon?

Mountain Man Triathlon logo

Mountain Man Events had that idea 24 years ago when they held the first Mountain Man triathlon at Lake Mary, just south-east of Flagstaff, at a whopping 6, 910 feet. If you've ever felt breathless during the swim, try racing in Lake Mary. Its calm waters and absolutely gorgeous, pristine (minus the fire that must've burned across the lake recently) surroundings will make you forget there is no air to breathe. Well, there is some, you just have to have lungs the size of Macca's to get enough in. That's why my dad and I made coachubby swim.

Waiting in T1

I hung around with my bike sitting pretty in the grass, chatting with my dad while waiting for coachubby to run up to me and transfer the timing chip. There was absolutely no rack space for Stealth Pinky (my bike). This triathlon seems to have exploded a bit more than the friendly race director imagined it would.

Suddenly, coachubby came running up right beside another relay swimmer. He executed the timing chip ankle-off and I charged up the hill out of the parking lot to begin the 40K time trial.

The Mountain Man bike course is probably one of the most gorgeous in existence. There is nothing out there. Just forest, a few camp grounds, and miles of relatively traffic-free road. Going out is mostly uphill, though you may not realize it, so coming back is quite a treat--until the last 4 miles heading west around Lake Mary. A killer headwind will fry your quads if the absence of oxygen hasn't already.

Volunteers and cheer squads are scarce; everyone who makes it that far down the two-lane road to Lake Mary is probably there to be in the race. It is a pure endurance race situation--just you vs. yourself vs. the people around you. Grandma and your neighbors probably haven't parked themselves along the highway to cheer.

I made the return of the out-and-back Olympic distance ride about 8 minutes faster than the ride out, dumping myself into transition, unaware of any dismount line that might have been in place (I don't think they remembered one.). Padre took the chip off of my ankle, slapped it on his, then took off through transition--but not before noting that he had to run half a mile farther than planned because had I entered on the east side of the long and skinny transition area and he had to run all the way out the west side.

Lake mary sign

Coachubby and I felt confident padre could hold off the other rabid relay members. We walked down the road, hoping to catch him at the bottom of the killer 1.5ish mile uphill switchback that makes the run most painful. (Thanks for doing it, dad!)

Then...there he was! Padre was still running! And at a most excellent pace. He couldn't talk, though, so I wasn't sure if he'd mind my running the last mile with him. So I did, because he couldn't tell me otherwise. When we got close, I ran behind, screaming as he crossed the finish line and received his first triathlon medal. It was awesome.

Winning Legs

We changed clothes then eagerly checked out the results...WE WON! WOO HOO! Co-ed relay #1! Shortly thereafter, padre received his 1st place triathlon plaque. Not bad for his first race.

The moral of this story? DO A RELAY! They are awesome, and totally revamp your view of triathlon...should you have needed some revamping...what, with Ironman entry fees making women consider selling their eggs, and total burnout from months of non-stop training encouraged by living in a place with eternal spring.

We win!

Plus, it's a killer way to get friends and family involved who otherwise couldn't, if they don't swim, for instance, or can't run because of an injury. It was way more gratifying to watch my dad cross the finish line at Mountain Man than do it myself. And more fun to make him run up the gigantor hill at killer altitude than do it myself. :)

Happy relay racing!


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