Tritonman Race Report by Tyler Bird
The age old saying “rise and shine” was appropriately altered to “rise and shiver” Saturday morning as I got out of bed at 3:00am. But despite the dark, cold conditions a smile was already plastered across my face – I was racing Tritonman! Not only was this going to be my first competitive triathlon, but I was going to be racing against over 400 hundred collegiate and age group athletes at the largest collegiate triathlon in the country! To say I was pumped on adrenaline is an understatement. Even 2 hours before sunrise, there was a bubbling energy to our team as we set up the registration, aid stations and transition areas. I remarked to myself that to an outside perspective, a group of 40 college kids running around at 4:00am in the morning with headlamps and blasting Despacito would appear very cult-like. Except no radical brain washing here, just an avid love for competition and a healthy addiction to adrenaline. The emotions I felt during my race hit about every point on a wide spectrum. I felt anxious and out of control during the mass swim start when the water turned to chaos on all sides. I was so indecisive about whether I should work hard to close the gap to find someone ahead of me to draft, or settle into my own rhythm I actually missed the first turn buoy by about 15 yards. With my shoulders on fire, and my ragged breath fogging gup the early morning air, I was relieved to find my feet on solid ground at the end of the swim and take off on the next two legs of the race. Sporting team racing wheels and a borrowed aero-helmet I truly felt like a fighter jet pilot careening around Fiesta Island. Posting a personal best pace for the bike leg left me feeling overjoyed and optimistic at an overall finish heading into the run… until I got off the bike and immediately cramped in the first hundred yards out of transition. My rookie exuberance suddenly turned into fear. While trying to stretch out my contracting quads with some altered strides, my hamstring started tightening up. For the next two-and- a-half miles I balanced precariously on the edge of cramping while still trying to salvage as much of my overall position as I could. I was most disheartened because the run section is what I consider myself the most competitive at, and really wish I was in better shape to push myself to a strong finish. However the enthusiastic cheers of my teammates and all of the spectators made me determined to put a grimace on my face and tough it out. In the end, it was the epitome of a rookie race – lots of lessons learned, but just as much fuel added to my burning desire to get out to practice and prepare for the rest of the season.