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Soma Half Ironman Relay (October 20, 2013)

October 26, 2013

Although my knee surgery in July went quite well, I’m still not sure if doing any serious running is a good idea.  I’ve read a variety of studies that support both sides of the argument, but it just seems logical that with 30% of my meniscus removed, I shouldn’t be running.  So with that logic, I’ve been mostly focused on swimming.  I was back to racing in open water in August, but my training and racing was sporadic as I worked my way into better shape after surgery.  During the past month my travel schedule lightened up and my training intensified, so I was feeling good in the water.  My timing was apparently good because last week I got invited to join a relay team for the Soma Half Ironman.  I’ve never been on a relay team before, so I was looking forward to a new experience.

In general, relay teams have a casual atmosphere, and that was certainly the case with my team.  Well, that was sort of the case, except for the personal pressure that I put on myself.  I met the other two guys on the team the day before the race, and although this was the first time I had met them, I already knew their abilities in their respective disciplines.  Our cyclist had recently won a couple of local time trials, so I knew he was good for a solid race.  Similarly, our runner had posted some impressive times at various distances, so he had a solid history as well.  Our swimmer (me) was suddenly feeling an impressive swim was necessary for a significant contribution to the team.

Race morning started early as most races do.  The sun was rising and I had already been up for a couple of hours.  Bouncing up and down in my wetsuit and swim cap, I tried to get my heart rate up as best I could.  I knew a fast start was necessary to get good position ahead of the hundred plus people in my starting wave.  Because of race logistics, I wasn’t going to get a proper warm-up in the water, so bouncing up and down in the starting corral was going to have to suffice.  The national anthem was sung, we hoped in the water, lined up, and off went the air horn.  The start was the usual max heart rate effort, but as I race more and more in open water, I’m getting a lot more comfortable with my surroundings and actually using strategies instead of just swimming as fast as possible.  Two packs of three swimmers formed in the lead so I jumped into the pack on the right.  After about 30 seconds, I knew I picked the wrong pack, so I took the chance and bridged over to the other pack who was now further in the lead.  My strategy worked well because I got to draft for most of the race.  A couple of people fell off the pace, so it was just me coming out of the water with the lead swimmer.  I sprinted to the transition area (I guess I can run when necessary) and handed off the timing chip to our cyclist.  I was satisfied that I had done my part to set my team up for a good day.

Our cyclist had an amazing ride, posting the fastest bike split of the day, so our runner had a solid time cushion that he didn’t really need.  We ended up taking 1st out of 84 relay teams.  Of course, winning was fun, but the swim is the shortest leg of the race, so I can’t really take much credit for the win.  But just being a part of fun team was the real victory of the day.  Triathlon is basically an individual sport, but being part of a relay team added a new dimension that I really enjoyed.  And although my new triathlon friends are probably too fast for me to run or ride with in training, it’s always nice to have more friends with which I can share the racing experience.

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