by Morgan “Moose” Wright
OK let’s go ahead and air this out – I’m terrible at biking, and maybe average at swimming. I actually have a pretty decent road bike and a great public pool not even a mile from my house so you’d think I’d have spent some time on either…or even both. I *am* a firm believer that even as “mud runners” we should look for ways to challenge ourselves and support local events – even if there isn’t a spear to throw. It introduces us to a new community, keeps fitness fresh and keeps us well rounded. With these reasons in mind, I decided three days before the race to give it a try; comfort zone be damned!
The race itself is considered a “sprint” level triathlon, which is synonymous with “entry level”. A normal triathlon begins with a quarter-mile swim, 10-12 mile bike ride and ends with a 5k run. The benefit to a “reverse” is the swim and run are flipped – this way you aren’t starting with 500 of your new-found friends kicking you as everyone jumps into the swim right away. The competitors are spread out and there is significantly less mayhem in the water. However, you aren’t as fresh so the swim becomes significantly more challenging!
The location was set in Naples, which is a beautiful, upscale southern Florida town. The drive was painless though since the lights weren’t on at the front of the park, myself and another competitor initially found ourselves at the local Pickleball championship courts. After a quick chat with the guards we left behind what was the promising start to a great side story and managed to arrive in the correct location.
Unlike some venues (cough*Warrior Dash*cough) parking was a breeze and relatively close to the central transition point. Packet pick up was well-staffed and polite. The area to rack my bike was reasonably roomy and the racks themselves were sturdy – I’ve had Tri’s where the whole rack collapsed due to a fatigued racer yanking too hard on their bike! There were snack tents already set up, and the area itself was well-lit and had some energizing music pumping up the spirits.
The starting line was well-marked as we lined up for the 5k run portion. Rules were disseminated quickly and efficiently, and then we were off! The 5k path was a double loop which I was not expecting. The scenery for the run was pleasant and the signage and water stations were on point. I kept some gas in the tank and coasted to a 22:10 finish and transitioned to my bike.
The cycling portion was the best I’ve seen in a tri to date. Every turn had an officer or volunteer to give directions as well as many colored signs to keep the cyclists on point. The course itself did not loop and was filled with many straights so we could pack on some speed. My own personal lack of time spent in the saddle showed, and even though I averaged 18mph I may as well have been standing still as some of the other competitors blew past me. This was definitely a humbling ten miles!
As this was a reverse, the final transition to the swimming portion was appreciably streamlined with no jostling for position. I actually had a good twenty feet or so of space between the person in front of me as well as the person behind. Also, HOLY MOLY a lake swim beats the stuffing out of an ocean swim ANY day ALL day! No salt water to sting the eyes if it seeps into the goggles, no burning sinuses in the event of accidental snorting. Three canoes with two lifeguards per were present as well as the marker bouys…one of which I had to shamelessly cling to for a rest. Upon exiting the water we rounded through to an area that had nice stadium seating where friends and family were able to watch the swim as well as the dramatic finish; definitely a nice touch!
The real reason we all race: The bling. I have to say the medals were well designed and had a nice heft to them. Further, the lanyard was bright and had the event listed on it – such a nice change from the flat single color ones some other venues have used. The placement awards had a great breakdown: male and female overall, masters and grandmasters male and female over all, and Clydesdale (200+lbs)/Athena (160+lbs) divisions. This was followed by the usual age group awards in five-year increments. I managed to get 5th place in the old guy’s division despite my dramatic baby giraffe-esque swim attempt, which netted me a pretty sweet mason jar with the race logo on it. I’m normally a bling guy, so something out of the ordinary was pretty fun to see. The race shirt was a dri-fit and carried the logo for the run in a nice design – triple win on the bling scale here, folks!
Overall I have to hand it to www.eliteevents.org – they put on smooth event, fed me before and after the race, kept me from getting lost and even had some great tunes to keep us going. I’ll never be nearly as competitive at a triathlon as I would be at an obstacle course race…and I realized I’m OK with that. I had a phenomenal time, met some great people and even scored some bling. We all have our passions, and I encourage you to get out there and…
wait for it…
there’s a pun coming…
tri something new!