Nashville, TN. This was SUCH a fun race because it was like a big reunion. I had my father and my husband racing with me - as well as a number of friends. Some doing their first triathlon, some doing their 100+ race. True to form, it was HOT.
So - this race epitomized many of the things I love about triathlon. First - having my family racing.
Second - seeing so many of my friends racing, and having so many other friends cheering. And third - well that is a longer story...
The swim portion of the race is in the Cumberland River. After some past 'current issues' the race organizers changed the sprint distance race to a 300 meter downstream swim this year, which (in my humble opinion) was perfect. The racers line up on a concrete dock and jump in one by one every 2-3 seconds and start swimming. While the last of the sprint distance racers were starting off, the Olympic distance racers were lined up waiting to start - all lining this dock. I was watching the last few swimmers, and noticed one was definitely struggling. She managed to take about 5 strokes, and then started looking around wildly for a kayak, who appeared right on cue.
She held on, (and although I could not hear any of these conversations, I am pretty sure this is how they went) and the kayaker gave her some encouraging words. She nodded, then started swimming again - made it about three strokes and was grabbing the kayak again. Again the kayaker offered her encouragement, but this time she was shaking her head no. Another boat was being summoned to come pick her up. At this point the two swimmers who started behind her came up, encouraged her, and offered to swim along beside her. OK, that might work, so she started off again. Made it about 5 strokes, stopped, shook her head, and grabbed the kayak. Suddenly, from the crowd lining the overhang above the river, there were cheers and shouts of encouragement. One of the other swimmers said, 'Look, you have a cheering section'. The cheers spread like wildfire, through the crowd, and every single racer on that dock waiting to start began clapping and cheering. It was like a switch was flipped. "Am I?" became "I AM!!!!", this huge grin came across her face, she nodded to her companions, and off she went. Still stopping every few strokes, but making definite forward progress. And - she did it. I don't know how the rest of her race went, but she made it through that swim; and no matter what her time was at the end of the day - she was a winner.
That's pretty cool.
The other thing I just love is to see the variety of people that race. Everyone from aero helmets and disc wheels, to mountain bikes with running shoes. Each with their own goals, and each out there trying to race to the best of their abilities. One of my friends was the 'designated last finisher' - so she swam, biked, and ran with the last person so no one was actually 'last'. She had so much fun - and I'm sure was a great support to whomever she was accompanying.
So - swim in the Cumberland River (mostly downstream for the Olympic Distance), bike on a closed-to-traffic Parkway, and finish it off with a scorching hot run. Surrounded by a bunch of crazy people (most of whom I know) doing the same. It was great fun!
I think I'll do it again next year....