Wow! What a day! Today was the inaugural Half-Full Triathlon to benefit the Ulman Young Adult Cancer Foundation. Half -Full was a 70 mile race. A Half-Ironman is a 70.3mile race. This one cut the swim short. I think this was partly because our lake doesn't have the room and also because they wanted to focus on the 70 because 70000 young adults are diagnosed each year with cancer. While I understand their desire to have the race be about 70 and not 70.3 for us it was a deterrent for this to not be our first race of that distance. For me if I am doing that much work I want it to be a true 70.3 but that is a personal preference although I think many Type-A triathletes could think along the same lines. That is probably my only huge criticism of the race (and the 1/4 mile run from the swim to transition that counted as part of the swim time.) But alas on to the positive aspects.
The event was held in Centennial Park where many of our other local triathlons take place. Most of our local triathlons are put on by CTA. CTA does an amazing job but did not put on this event. The Half-Full had a decidedly different feel from the usual races which was an interesting change. The transition area was in a different spot and used a completely different kind of bike rack, one that stays low to ground where only your tire goes in. I liked this and felt it provided a more uniformed amount of space. The swim was also quite different. The course was the reverse of our normal events and there was no usual mass start of groups. You went two by two a few seconds apart and your time started when you went over the timing mat. Interesting idea. The bike course was different but still involved the hilliness that is Howard County and the run from what my hubby said was the worst run course ever. Worst as in "damn that was hard."
Let's back up, so now that we have established this as a different event let's take a look at it. We went to the packet pick-up and expo on Saturday. There were no lines but it also didn't feel deserted, there were tons of people directing you where to go and a small expo. I liked it. They sent you an email with your "Virtual Race Bag" a few days before with the advertisements that you would normally get in your schwag bag and then promptly recycle. This bag had the was not stuff with all that paper fluff. We got a nice reuseable REI bag, a set of Lock Laces in Livestrong yellow, Rocktape, Competitor magazine, last minute instructions, and a water bottle. So really good stuff! It is pretty standard in races around here to get a waterbottle but this one was different, this one is worth like $15 or $20 and doesn't go on a normal bike cage. It comes with its own bike cage to mount to your bike which is much smaller than normal and there is a magnet on the bottle which is how it attaches. It is a really strong magnet and I feel like I would fall off my bike pulling out the bottle! Additionally, while a totally nice bottle you wouldn't want to just toss it which is common in races. I could see that proposing a problem with longer races that have waterbottle exchange points. Still a really nice bottle and a cool idea and great marketing. They have a new product, give it to 1000 competitors for free and let the word spread! Here are the relays getting ready. See if you can figure out which one is the Olympic swimmer!
We decided for this event to do a relay. It was the first year, we knew tons of people doing it so we wanted to be able to cheer, and well we already knew the course would be hard. The Columbia Tri is hard enough and now we are doubling it?! Ummm yea so relay. So naturally I was the swimmer, our friend Suz was the biker, and the hubby was the runner. Suz had originally signed on to do the whole thing but she is competing in the Ironman World Championships next weekend in Kona, Hawaii so doing the whole thing would not have been good for her. Suz is an awesome athlete! For the first time I felt relays got respect! The hubby and I plus one more, which always seems to rotate, enjoy the relays but always feel like less of a competitor. Relays don't get much coverage, except here! The announcer was totally tuned into relays! He really made us feel like worthy and deserving athletes too. I am sure it helped that an Olympic swimmer and pro triathletes were doing relays too but still it was nice to be recognized. We also got our own section to hang out in. I have never seen that before. We got to chat with other relay teams and ge to know people that I had only normally just seen around these events. It was really nice. Relays got finisher shirts and medals too. I have mixed feelings about this. The shirts are nice and I hate it when relays get nothing. I would have loved the exact same shirt as everyone else just add the word relay by the word finisher. That way you don't the awkwardness when you wear the shirt and someone else comes up and is like "yea I did that too...what did you think about...." and then you have to sink your head and say you did the relay or proudly say it and the other person doesn't like your excitement when they did the whole thing. You get the point. So just give us the word relay so we don't feel like a fake wearing it out. The medals were nice and as a relay I can take it or leave it. I don't like it when they only give one medal to the relay. Then who gets it? More awkwardness. So happy we got recognized and happy we got finisher gear just note that we were a relay please. We aren't afraid to show it. It's better to proudly wear the relay shirt than pretend you did the whole thing. The announcer in general did a great job. He did the Alcatraz tri and said it was awesome. It's on our list!
So if you have never done a triathlon or have any inclination about participating a relay is totally the way to go. You get to do your strength and learn the ropes. In our case we got to do our strength, be part of the action, and cheer on our friends doing the whole thing. This worked really well in documenting the day of the Reeces. These events go on for several hours and there are plenty of times you don't get to see your friends racing. Lucky for us there was a steady stream and the excitement of our own relay to keep us busy. By being on a relay you get the wristband access to everything with less stress. Totally the way to go if you are considering.
While waiting for my fellow relayers to do their parts I of course wanted to change out of my bathing suit and wet suit. The temp was in the 50s. So I go to the bathroom and some lady asks me about what I did and seemed so impressed. We chatted about how to train and she was thinking about getting involved so I suggested relaying and starting with a sprint. I also happened to mention an event that a friend is going to be putting on in Aug 2011. It's called Du the 2 and is geared towards folks who aren't big on the swimming aspect, how you could not love swimming and why you would want to put on event that didn't involve swimming is beyond me. :) So I gave her the website (its www.duthe2.com in case you needed it) and really felt like I sold it. Then another woman overheard and took notes too! Wow I actually sold something! So the first lady was quite funny and she said she felt like she was Oprah interviewing me. The way she was asking questions I felt like some high class athlete being interviewed, you'd thought I just won the whole race but really I was just chillin while others raced and sweated. After a long conversation we parted ways, wonder if she ended up signing up.
Again as a result of being on a relay I got to part-take in many activities while waiting for my friends to transition or finish. I also got to see many of them mid-race. One such friend nicknamed Hammer was particularly funny. He came back into transition after the bike ride and held his hands up looking around with a "where is everyone look." For Hammer cycling is definitely his strength. I went over and confirmed with him that he did indeed do two laps of the course and he said he did. He was definitely on of the first 25 or so into T2. I wish I had my camera ready for his facial expression coming in. He went on to come in first in his age group. Good Job!
In between parts of the race I decided to partake in the "Celebration Village." Some races just have some snacks at the end and some really do things up. This was a middle one but done up for just right for the size of the race. There was an athlete area with coffee and that area would be having Chipotle later on. There was a massage tent, again opening later on. There were tented areas for various groups such as Team Fight and Mid MD Tri Club. Vendors such as Rocktape, Rev 3, Oakley, Army, and more had area. It was nice to walk around with not too many people. Rev 3 was doing the timing for the event, they had some nice screens and you could go up and find out your split times or where people were on the course by where their chip had checked in. That was pretty nifty. Oakley had a raffel going on for sunglasses with the money going to the Ulman Fund. The Rocktape tent was staffed by Nic Ebright who was doing massages and taping up athletes as needed. I went over to see him as my back had been seized up since the previous day. He taped my back and it helped to temporarily relieve some of the pressure. It was great to have that service available to athletes. Thanks Nic!
The finishline area was really nice. There was the normal chute but there was a blue carpeting leading to the finish. It looked nice, I did hear some comments that it was deceiving as you think it will be flat but there is still grass underneath. That makes sense. There were pretty yellow potted flowers lining the chute. Since there was a very staggered finish due to the length of the event there were plenty of volunteers available. Each finisher got their own volunteer who assessed they were ok, gave them juice, water, a shining blanket, their medal, and sat them down. It was really great that everyone got some personal attention at the end.
The only downfall the flowery-chuted-finish were the bees. Actually there were bees everywhere! They were in transition, Celebration Village, when you walk along the path, everywhere. And they were agressive. They had no problem just coming up and landing on someone's shirt. They also must have know winter was coming and they were going to die because they were also stinging! I haven't been stung since I was like 10. I was standing by the finish chute with my arm on the fence, minding my own business when my arm began to hurt. Sure enough I had been stung! I didn't even know a bee was on my arm. I didn't do anything to provoke it, it just stung me! At least I know it is now going to die!!
I saw a bunch of really inspiring stuff at Half Full. For starters there was a guy who took, I believe his child, through the entire race. His child, who I believe was an adult, was clearly severely disabled. This father swum the child (I didn't actually see how this was done) then had a special bike where the kid sat at the front and then ran with him in an adult type of stroller. Seeing them cross the finish line was absolutely amazing. Talk about the power of love and devotion. Definitely made me a bit misty eyed. They were racing for the group ASA Athletes Serving Athletes. See the link and hopefully you can support their mission to allow everyone to feel the thrill of competition even if your body doesn't allow it. How awesome is that?!
The next cool part was that Cancer Survivors had a different color bib. Their bib was yellow and it made watching those finishes that much more special. They rightfully got some extra cheering and there was even an awards category for them. That was wonderful to watch. Here is the first female cancer survivor being interviewed.
Finally I want to spotlight two awesome people. The whole event had awesome people participating, volunteering, spectating but these two were some of the awesomest! The Reeces are a husband and wife with two adorable kids. Their kids are young so naturally their training time is limited. They went to the Duzy couple for help in training and scheduling. They trained together and they did the whole race together! That is not an easy feat at all. Its one thing to run a race with someone it's another to swim with them amongst hundreds of people and then bike together making sure to stay 3 bike lengths apart so there are no drafting penalties. While I was swimming I turned my head to breathe and heard someone yell out "J" and I see a pink cap amongst all the men and there was G making sure she was with her hubby even though he had swum the wrong way. I gave her a quick shout out and swam along. These two spent over 7 hours and 70 miles together and crossed the finishline with each other. They are both members of Team Fight. They were truly amazing to watch all day. They kept each other in check and never left without the other person. They are a testament that working parents can train and get the job done. The hubby and I will be looking to them as models for how we can do the same in the future. Well Done Reeces, Well Done!
This event had the perfect number of people. A big event stardom and fanfare without the big event crowds and lines. It had a comfortably intimate feel. I am sure they will increase the number of participants for next year but I really feel that it was just right this year.
Thanks for a great event, next year we are thinking the relay again or maybe the Aquavelo...we'll see what happens!