1 Day to Havasu
The moment is almost here for athletes of all ages to gather at the starting line for the Havasu Triathlon in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Tomorrow, ordinary people will show their friends and families how extraordinary they are.
Triathlons are special events. Every race, from the local sprint to the USAT Nationals, carries an energy and atmosphere that is fundamentally different than running races or other events that I’ve attended. I am confident that the Havasu Triathlon is no different in that respect.
The people are not so different: maybe they are a bit more driven to push their limits, but there are all kinds of personalities in triathlons and marathons and 5k. The finish lines are similar too. Different types of events have loud music and announcers at their finish lines. What sets triathlon apart is the transition area which is the hub of all activity.
Rack Your Bike
One of the first things you do at a triathlon is rack your bike in transition. This is usually like a small scavenger hunt as you search for the rack with your race number and when you do arrive at your number, conversation with other athletes is inevitable: “Good morning”, “Are you ready?”, “Have you done this race before?”
There’s a feeling of
competition, but there’s also a feeling of camaraderie, because we are all in this sufferfest together.
Of course, not all conversations are friendly. I saw what almost became a fight at the Chicago Triahtlon. The bike racks were numbered by group, not individual numbers, so as long as your number was in the group, you could place your bike anywhere along the rack. It was a double race and everyone in my group had already picked their spots before the first race. Between races, however, someone had encroached into my friend’s area. He asked her to move her stuff and she got belligerent. It all went downhill from there. I think when she realized that Grant had a lot of friends watching the altercation, she backed off.
In a marathon, you don’t have too many pieces of equipment to worry about. You just show up and run. I suppose you might carry a few things with you like energy supplements or a sweatshirt that gets thrown away at mile 2.
In a triathlon, every athlete has a long list of items, including:
- bike shoes
- run shoes
- Body Glide
- water bottles
- spare tire or tube
- race belt
The atmosphere in the transition area is such that athletes will ask each other questions which sometimes ends up with one athlete loaning another athlete a minor piece of equipment. The most common thing I’ve lent out over the years is an extra race belt which I usually carry for just that purpose. It’s a great way to meet people too.
Another thing the transition area can do is benchmark the competition. As I enter transition after the swim, I look for my friends’ bikes to see if they’ve already beat me. I do the same thing between the bike and the run. There was one race in Miami where I never made it to the bike, because I secured my DNF during the swim and my friend Mike knew when he saw my bike and run shoes that something was wrong.
In the smaller races, friends and family can use the transition area as a gathering spot to see their athlete in action. A lot of pictures and videos are taken there.
After the Race
It’s a bit sad for me to see the transition area being dismantled and packed up. It means the race is over. It also means I’ve stayed around too long and should have left for home hours ago. The transition area holds they key to triathlon’s appeal over other endurance events. It doesn’t make the entire difference, but it does account for a big part of it. If you ever see me in the transition area, be sure to come say hi.
Good luck to all the athletes at Lake Havasu City tomorrow.