Will Neary of Warren finished eighth in the Sandy Beach Triathlon.
Below, he describes the experience. BZ photo
The Sandy Beach Triathlon saw half of last year’s turnout splash into the water on July 27 as dark clouds filled the sky.
The forecast had called for heavy rain, perhaps even lightning and thunder, which seemed to discourage many from participating. Despite this, the dedicated handful who found themselves with numbers inked onto their arms and trackers wrapped around their ankles were graced with unexpected sunshine. So, with bike shorts, swim cap, and goggles all on, I stepped onto the beach with about 30 other athletes, ready to compete. The lake was calm compared to last year, and the smaller numbers meant less kicking in the first minutes of the swim. In fact, all in all, the swim itself was relatively calm.
This being my third time doing the Sandy Beach Triathlon, I had anticipated that I would be much more poised and prepared for the swim. I had swum this same distance – a half-mile – just a few days before, so, theoretically, this should be no different. Yet, somehow, when I was staring at a bright orange buoy sitting a quarter of a mile into an open lake, poise is not exactly what I felt. “Man, that is far” would probably be a more accurate description of what was going through my head. Once in the water, you never quite know how far you’ve gone, or how long you’ve been there. You don’t want to turn around to check on the distance you’ve covered, and the only clock to rely on is a mental one. So, the fifteen minutes it took to swim a half-mile around two buoys in Bantam Lake felt much closer to half an hour. Once you find yourself around the last buoy and heading back towards the shore, however, and the crowd is cheering you out of the water and towards the bike racks, the last stretch seems easier than the rest.
The first transition – the one between swim and bike – was a scramble. Feet become caked with sand in the brief, wet jog into the lines of bikes, making yanking on your socks and shoes all the more difficult. Once you’ve managed to pull your shirt over your head and strap your helmet on, you can walk your bike out of the corral and begin the second leg of the race.
This year I found the bike to be much more enjoyable than strenuous. Last year, due to road maintenance, the course had taken bikers through the woods over gravel and rocks which, since we were using road bikes, added just a bit of stress and anticipation to the bike, as I was unsure of how well I would fare. I had trained some in anticipation of this year’s race, though, and the smaller number of competitors made it so that we were all much more spread out than usual. I spent much of the bike not being able to see those who were in front of me or behind me, which made it feel much less like a race and more like I was just going for a bike ride. And, although I may have taken a brief spill in the first few minutes of the bike ride while adjusting my water bottle in its holder, the bike ride was enjoyable. The course features some rolling hills and, being on a new bike with gears I felt uncertain with at best, I struggled up a few of them. But, thankfully, the course ends on a steady, steep downhill back into the corral.
The transition from bike into run is much smoother and much simpler than the first. All it really involves is removing your helmet, and you’re ready to go. Others may have to switch from bike shoes into running shoes, but, because I do not own bike shoes, I was quickly on my way back out of the gate and into the run. I mentioned this in my report last year, and I will say it again right now: there is no feeling more bizarre then attempting to run on legs that have just biked a significant distance. Biking and running, for the most part, use different muscle groups in your legs, so one might think that a run shouldn’t be made any more difficult if preceded by a bike. But your legs are still exhausted, and the first few steps feel as if weights are tied around your ankles. The first half of the 3.1 mile run is almost exclusively uphill, and also happens to be the time where it feels as if your legs just do not work. Last year I had a lot of difficulty putting in the run, but this year, with the experience under my belt, I was able to convince myself that I could do it, and did not stop to walk once. The final downhill sprint into the finish corral is one of the more satisfying feelings I may ever have. It’s a rush of utter relief.
I could not be more happier about finishing the race. Though the preparation can be grueling, and the race itself takes a toll on your body, knowing that you’ve done it – that you’ve finished the Sandy Beach Triathlon – is really a very satisfying feeling. I would recommend this race to anyone who asked. Whether you compete as a team with friends or family, or you choose to take on the race by yourself, it is an experience worth having.