CLIFFS: Were the Torn Shirt Triathlon a meal, the appetizer would be fritos and spam washed down with ipecac, a steak and mashed potatoes with wine for the main course, followed by freezer burnt edy's icecream and rootbeer.
Woke up at five, packed the car, and took off (the race started at 8:00 AM!). Listened to Jimi Hendrix the whole way, and the day felt good as I navigated an hour of empty roads to Brighton.
I arrived at 7:15, checked in and got the little electric chip they strap to your leg to record split times as you go through each checkpoint. Then I set up my bike and running shoes in the transition area, put on my cap and goggles, and headed to the swim area, which was full of hundreds of wetsuited supermen, and me.
The race started at exactly 8, and the hundred of us began swimming. They all knew freestyle-Poof! went my hopes for an outright victory. I did backstroke for the entire half-mile (my swim training had consisted of a couple bubble baths and 10 minutes in a pool). I felt like I had been shipwrecked, and just stared into the sun and clouds through my tinted goggles, at one point churning through hundreds of feet of thick seaweed, while my legs sank and water rushed into my nose. Ten minutes after the men left, the women set off. A ton of them caught me. The mens winner in my age division took 10 minutes less than me in the swim--I was the last dude to drag my body onto the beach, but I had a bigger smile at this point than anybody else, the smile of a father who has just had a child. (0.5 miles, 27 mins)
Then it was to T1- I traded my cap for a helmet, covered my hoofs and zipped up my jersey. The bike felt great, but from the waist up my I was (tasty) jelly. The first 2 miles were on dirt roads, and I railed around loose downhill corners eating up lots of slow guys and some of the fast girl swimmers. When it came time to turn into the trail, I came in way too hot and remembered that I had switched the brake levers last night as well (right was now rear). The bike skittered sideways and I disappeared in a cloud of dust--I looked an absolute hoon. After a couple of corners on the trail I got the brakes straight in my head, and got to work on passing more of the dudes, of which there were many. My arms had recovered, my legs were golden, but there were just so many people.
When I really got some rhythm, I came upon a caravan of 5 riders in tight singletrack, and something popped into my head--I imagined that there was a legendary mountain biker who would pass people on the sides of the trail so effortlessly that they didn't even know he went by. Legendary mountain biker would pass these 5 without problem, I thought, and I decided to have a go as well. Rather than saying "passing on your left," I just swerved off the trail and dodged left of a tree and through the foot-high undergrowth, came out of the saddle and alongside the lady. FUKWOP! My face was on the ground before I could get my hands off the handlebars. My helmet cracked in two places (since its a helmet, I guess everything went according to plan!), my lips had been smashed, and my right eye was bruised and cut. What had I hit? an invisible stump.
Then it was an hour of fury though the tight but predictable, heavily wooded rolling singletrack as I overtook 40+ people with the polite "could I please rock by when you get a moment, sir?" It also dawned on me that everyone had their ages written on the back of their calves, so I could be extra happy when I passed other 21-24 year olds. (15 miles, 1:12 min)
T2 - just get rid of the bike and helmet and put on running shoes. Wash down a powerbar with gatorade.
Running will always be running. I held the ground I had made up on the bike, wasn't passed by anyone my age. Probably passed 10 people and got passed by 4. My heart rate was between 170 and 180 the entire time. Lots of loose hills and suffering. By now I was beginning to wear out, had only the water at the helper stations, and choked down little tiny pieces of powerbar every five minutes. I took pride in my downhills, sailing over roots and rocks while flailing my limbs to balance. (5 miles, 50 minutes)
I wound up second out of five in my age group. The dude had beaten me by 6 minutes.