||Mission Bay Triathlon
Tri Force Waning
Since San Diego is a military town, I'm going to write this review in the style of Tom Clancy. To keep true to the style, I will refer to myself in the third person. Specifically, “Ryan.”
It was quite dark when Ryan left his motel room, a seedy joint on Pacific Highway located below two freeway overpasses. He had stayed at the house of hospitality before, and remembered it as a fairly pleasant place. He realized in his half-asleep state that the previous visit has been almost 20 years previous. The EZ8 had deteriorated in quality and Ryan had gotten older. At 0300 he had been awakened by a meth-head couple arguing at full voice in the parking lot. He had set his alarm for 0445, but was had been unable to return to his slumber after the fracas in the lot.
He pulled his efficacious Honda CRV into the parking area. Ryan liked to arrive early, for he could not fathom beginning his race day by struggling to look for a parking space or a place on the bike rack. He found a good spot and unloaded his gear, most of which was stuffed into a DeSoto Triathlon backpack. The bicycle was in the back of his sports activity vehicle, which was large enough to render the Thule Space Station he had in a storage unit back in Canyon Country unnecessary. He took his bike out and attached the front wheel. He also carried a helmet; it was not much, but it was more than he had when he went down in a CH-46 Sea Knight. Before heading to the transition area, he paused to finish his breakfast of PowerBar Energy Bites, chocolate flavor (the store he had gone to did not have his preferred oatmail-raisin incarnation), and lemon-lime Gatorade. Every season, the company that invented the sports drink came out some some new flavor or formula, but Ryan always preferred the original potion.
The pre-race literature said the Transition area would open at 0545, but it was accepting competitors when he arrived 15 minutes early, having walked his bike half a klick from his parking space. He picked up his timing chip at the booth and went to rack his bike. After setting up the area, he paused to admire the self-propelled machine. A Quintana Roo Kilo, built in 1999. It earned the name Kilo from it's 2.2 pound frame weight. It has dual 26 inch wheels and a 78 degree angle, which allowed for conducive, untroubled riding. It featured standard Syntace aero bars, and Ryan hoped to someday master their usage.
The swim started at 0635 for some racers, but Ryan had to wait until almost 0800. The fortune of the swimmers was good and the water was warm. The triathletes had to enter the water from a boat launch and begin the race while treading water. As he walked across the rough grooved pavement of the launch, he thought of the very first triathlon, held on these same hallowed grounds on a Wednesday night in 1974. They did things a bit differently back then, racing the course as a run-bike-swim-run event. They had no time to organize the perfect triathlon. They were too busy inventing it. As Ryan tread water, waiting for the horn to start, one of the marines from MCB Camp Pendleton commented that the water he was swimming in was deep enough for a submarine.
“Submarine...” Ryan just smiled to himself.
15 minutes, 53 seconds later, he exited the water, having felt this to be a good swim. He hadn't swallowed any water, no one had kicked him in the head, and the lack of waves meant it was a quick in and out through still water. Some swimmers needed swim buddies in blue caps to guide them through. He wasn‘t sure that was true to the integrity of the sport, but it was probably better than drowning. Clark would have called it “thinning the herd.”
The bike ride had a hurdy-gurdy start through the Sea World parking lot, with constant sharp turns before finally settling on to Sea World Drive. After a few miles, there was a left onto the serenity of Fiesta Island. This tranquility was interrupted when he made the turn on the north end of the island, heading south into a strong headwind. It may have only been a force 3 or 4 on the Admiral Beautfort scale, but when bicycling straight in on an otherwise calm day, it became a formidable foe. He passed a racer on a mountain bike, less aero than Ryan and his Kilo. He was soon back on Sea World Drive, returning the way he came.
He dismounted his bike and set out on the last part of the athletic trinity. It was a jog over an automobile bridge, through a park on the other side of the thoroughfare. He looked back and saw a red-headed women, being accompanied by a man he knew simply as John. He rode a bike and accompanied the final runner on the course. Through his rehab from a variety of injuries suffered in service to country, Ryan himself had been that last, lone runner... Today the honor belonged to someone else. He felt good about that, up until she past him at about mile two. Briefly, his competitive spirit was aroused, until he remembered that he has started at least 10 minutes after the redhead, probably more. He looked at John, and remembered his story... Once, a special forces operative in Vietnam, Cambodia and a few places nobody was allowed to remember. Now, he was a volunteer at triathlons and a lighthouse.
Ryan completed his run and crossed the finished line. He claimed his t-shirt, his orange slices, drank his water and went to pack his gear. He took out his cell phone and checked his calls. There was a message from Admiral Greer. Greer never called him on a Sunday...