Staring Down the Barrel of the WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am

A new race is about to take place: The WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am.

One of the exciting things about triathlon is that age-groupers can compete on the same field and at the same time as the professionals. Well, not exactly at the same time, but a few minutes difference. Actually, I remember racing at Chicago in 2009 when the professional wave started AFTER the age-group waves. If I remember correctly, that’s the year that both Andy Potts and Julie Dibens went down on the bike trying to navigate the course through the age-group novices. Just another obstacle like potholes and roadkill, right? Maybe not.

Anyway, on October 17, 2020 AC (Anno Covidi), 55 athletes are going to gather in the little burg of White Lake, North Carolina for 70.3 miles of fun. It will be a mix of professionals, amateurs and one clueless blogger.

Sunrise over White Lake
Sunrise at White Lake, NC.

I think the race was intended primarily for professionals by invitation only, but for some reason it opened up and this age-grouper snuck in. Professional races are about finding the outliers. Observers and sponsors aren’t concerned about average athletes, because they are not notable. Actually, that’s BS because everyone has an interesting story, but our heroes (athletic and otherwise) are not average people. If they were, no one would look up to them or strive to be like them. Would you call Michael Jordan average? Neither would I even though his ghosts hang out near one of my training grounds (Laney High School in Wilmington, NC).

And Gordon Ramsey, the foul mouthed celebrity chef who completed the IRONMAN World Championship, was not lauded for his athletic performance. He was interviewed and photographed and put on display because he was already a celebrity. It just so happens that he can survive the 140.6 AND make a killer creme broule. I’d like to see him do both at the same time.

The key to all this is how you measure your outliers. If it’s race time that we are measuring, then I suspect Tim O’Donnell and Meredith Kessler will be our champion outliers at The WithoutLimits┬« Half Pro-Am. Or maybe not. While they will likely finish the race in four hours and change, perhaps a six hour swim bike and run will be a greater outlier given this field of professionals. I will try to explain this without mathematical equations so hang with me here.

Most races for age-groupers are… well, full of age-groupers. When you add a high performing (I almost wrote functioning) professional to a race of 500 age-groupers, what is going to happen to the average finish time? The answer is, not much. The average will still reflect the average ability of the age-groupers. That professional, however, will undoubtedly be an outlier.

Let’s flip this scenario and add a couple of average age-groupers to a professional field. Those age-groupers are likely to be the outliers in that race. They’ll be on the wrong end of the distribution, but they’ll be outliers. See my logic? I expect to be an outlier by the time I cross the finish line at The WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am race… that is, if Tom and his crew haven’t dismantled the finish line and gone home before I get there.

OK. So I’m being facetious. I’m going out there and giving it my best performance. My father was a runner and his philosophy was based on running for fun and fitness. And if others ranked higher in a race because of his participation, he felt good for helping them. The whole outlier argument, however, breaks down when you actually have two different populations competing in the same field. But that’s getting into statistics more than I wanted for this post.

I will also be an outlier in another way. At 56 years old, I’ll be the oldest male out there. There is a 58 year old woman in the participant list so I guess I have to take second place in the age competition. My only hope for notoriety at this race is to get hit by a deer on the bike course.

Oh wait. That already happened to my friend, Marty, in 2008. But that’s a story for another day.

Until next time…

“How it was” And “How I did” @ The Wrightsville Beach Triathlon

We actually had a commercially produced race! The Wrightsville Beach Triathlon.

Wrightsville Beach

This race has been held almost every year since 1979. I say “almost” because some years, the race had to be canceled or altered due to hurricanes. But COVID-19 didn’t stop it this year. It was a huge success.

Two hundred and ninety four finishers experienced the first big race of the season in our area. In a normal year that race would attract three times the number of athletes we had this year. I am proud to say that I was one of those 294 finishers.

Friends and family have asked me one of two questions about the race:

“How was it?”

or

“How did you do?”

For the first time that I can recall, those two are completely different. In other words, I’ve separated my feelings about the event from my performance in that event. This is a good thing.

How Was It?

The race was fantastic. It was fun, exciting. It felt great to be racing with others and to be a part of something. Procedures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were well understood and, to me, it looked like most people adhered to them. Only four bikes on a bike rack. No buses to swim start. No spectators. Temperature readings at transition entry. Half mile long line of athletes spaced 10 feet apart for the time trial start.

All bikes were racked the night before the race and then overnight our timing chips were stapled to the bike numbers. No waiting in line for a timing chip. Can this be a regular thing from now on?

I did miss the before and after socializing. After crossing the finish line all athletes were encouraged to grab their gear and go home. And that’s exactly what I did.

To make this race even more challenging, the race crew had to deal with an emergency run course change minutes before the first athlete came off the bike. I’m told that either a power pole or live power lines fell across the run course. Cars and runners had to be diverted. However, it was handled so well that I hardly noticed (either that or I’m just oblivious).

How Did You Do?

I don’t want to talk about it.

Actually, I did quite well. I was planning on 2nd place in my AG, but I’ll take the 5th… place that is.

Swimming was rough. The incoming tide and outblowing wind created white caps. Also, the long sleeve wetsuit was a pain. I wasn’t used to it. The bike was fast, but the run was like one of those nightmares where you are trying to get away from someone(thing) chasing you and the legs just won’t move any faster than a cow slogging through a mud hole (you dairy farmers will know exactly what I mean).

OK. So my pace was around 9min/mile. By itself, that’s no reason to complain, but the previous week I rode the bike hard for 90 minutes and then ran six miles at a faster pace. I think it’s a mental thing, because I was quite fresh for this race.

What Does It All Mean

In conclusion, the Wrightsville Beach Triathlon was fun and I need therapy or psychoanalysis. That could be fun too, depending on the therapist.

I’m just glad to be in a sport where I can do worse than I expected and still love doing it. Imagine how I would feel if I actually performed better than expected? Is there anything higher than first place?

Until next time …

Pier 2 Pier

Ryan Young was only 21 years old.

It was a single vehicle car accident that brought her life to a tragic end. I never knew her, but I image a young women full of potential ready to take on the world. She was a Communications senior at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. She was also a member of that school’s swim team.

As a parent myself, I can’t imagine the grief of losing a child. Ryan’s parents must have been absolutely devastated. To keep Ryan’s memory alive in the community, there is a special event held each fall called Pier 2 Pier. It is a 1.7 mile swim between the only two piers on Wrightsville Beach. Neither wind, rough waters nor our COVID-19 pandemic could stop this community from gathering for the swim this year.

The race director asked that I create a video to capture the event. Enjoy!

Until next time…