Tom Hoskins is a sprint tri put on by Erin Roof and the Northwest YMCA in Irmo, which serves to memorialize a man killed in a car-on-bike accident during a charity ride in 2007. The tri is a 350 yard pool swim, 14 mile bike and 5k run.
This is triathlon number four for me. Although my ineptitude in this sport has been thoroughly documented, somehow I keep coming back for more. Last year I was challenged (shamed?) into doing the duathlon at this event by Jennifer “Tenacious J” Hill. I endured weeks of online verbal abuse, which only served to motivate me to get my ass on the bike and train like a madman. It wasn’t pretty, but my 4 second edge over the J on the bike will be a virtual trophy I will cherish for years.
Fast forward a year, and I decided to take the plunge (literally) and go for the whole tri. I signed up like 3 months ago and said I’d train hard. I usually say/think things like this while drinking a beer in front of a computer.
So let’s examine my training. I did swim like a maniac. The reason for this? Pure, unadulterated, fear. The trauma wreaked upon me by the 2012 downtown tri still haunts my soul. 196th in the pool out of 200. I can’t imagine what those 4 pitiful souls did because I swam 75 meters and mostly pool walked the rest…while making swim-like motions with my arms for fear of being DQ’d. Not a proud moment. This summer I swam about 3 times a week for most of the summer, topping out at a mile. This is probably what Wes Spratt does as a warmup, but for me its like the Western States of swimming. I figured I’d be OK in the water.
The bike, not so much. The key thing for me was finally getting a bike that fit (thanks Henry at Summit cycles), so I no longer had to pedal furiously like an overgrown circus monkey every time I went out for a ride. Going out for a ride, unfortunately, was basically about 10 weekend excursions, most of which were in the 20 mile range. I was aided by the fact I had to chase Ken “The Pale Beast” Vowles most of those times. The dude has been run-injured for months so he’s fashioned himself into a steroid-free Lance Armstrong in the interim. He literally would have to loop back to allow me to catch up. Trophy joined us a few times so we could at least be slow together.
Oh, and the run. After training like crazy in the spring, my legs decided to veto the summer. Plantar, shin splints and other fun stuff. Sarah Allers helped sort out my wrecked muscles though, and I’ve been back doing around 25-30 miles per week (well off my 40-45 for much of the last year). So not in the best run shape, but obviously my strength over the other two disciplines. The key would be to not destroy my self in the swim-bike (i.e. Tri the Midlands) so I could unleash the secret power on the 5k course.
I got there super early to the Northewest Y in Irmo. Super scared. Just the sight of the pool makes my stomach churn. Did I mention my new pearl izumi tri suit? It was awesome. Because what’s better than being an Albino Sasquatch than an Albino Sasquatch covered in spandex. Elephant seal-esque. But hopefully it would speed up my woefully slow transition times, which I had dutifully practiced…1 time at Tri the Midlands. Lots of familiar faces. Jess Maki got the unenviable job of marking up the paleness. Fellow Strictly peeps Jordan Lybrand and Ryan Plexico were doing the duathlon. Brian Clyburn was also on board to do the du again – he crushed me last year when I had no idea what a beast he is on the bike. Jennifer Reeves also was trying the duathlon again after some less than confidence building pool walksies in her tri training. Ken Lowden was there to volunteer with wife Patti doing the tri. Alan Humphries, Pam Inman, Randy Hrechko, April Hutto, Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell, Liz Locke, Pam and Mike Griffin, Brie McGrievy, Ray Renner, Paul Laymon, Lisa Smarr, Missy Caughman, Sharon Sherbourne, Chad Shivar, May Vokaty and Hou-Yin Chang were there. Tenacious J brought husband Jeff along this time. She was doing the tri also, but swore she was just doing it for fun. Fun? There is no “fun” in triathlon! Robbie “the OG” McLendon was also on board – it was great seeing him after way too long.
When we lined up for the swim, I was in a mild panic. Number 38 out of almost 200? Surely I must have miscalculated my swim seed time. Damn that beer. Oh well, too late now. The swim looked frighteningly like the 2012 downtown tri, which was my only other pool “swim”. 350 meters, six of the lanes with 2 way traffic. At least it was going to be short. April and Randy were right ahead of me. They were letting people go every 5-10 seconds, thankfully from a point already in the pool. As a swim team parent, I had seen too many kids dive in off the starting boards and lose their goggles, slowing them down and causing some to cry. At least being a tearful, red-eyed mess wouldn’t shame me any more than my previous tri performances.
The starter tells me to go and I start motoring like Sister Christian. I hit the first wall like an olympic 50 meter freestyle, though a lot slower and less graceful. I can’t flip turn to save my life ( I literally asked my 9 and 11 year old to teach me yesterday), so I opt for the touch, duck under the lane line and kick off the wall approach. Enter the washing machine on spin cycle. I power through the next few laps, freaking out with each near miss of the swimmer coming at me just inches away. I actually pass a couple of people. Things start to calm down a bit towards the latter half and I sneak a look behind me and see nobody. A second later I get a wicked punch to the chest which sends me reeling to the side. Apparently I had drifted to the left and that was April’s only defense against the ocean liner headed straight toward her. She packs a mean right hook, FYI. I then make a point to hug the lane line. I’m on April’s heels by the end but she kicks it in and I suddenly realize we have broken free into the last lane, which is one-way. I see April exit and I look up and see Ken Lowden encircled in light, like an angel from above, guiding me out of the darkness. I’m half delirious from swimming so hard (I did all my training at medium effort) and jog towards the transition area. Can’t believe I didn’t get passed. Swim split: 6:30.
My kick-drum heart and oxygen-deprived brain make my usual transition clumsiness even worse. Thankfully my Albino elephant seal tri suit means I don’t have to struggle with a shirt. Helmet on, bike shoes strapped, a painfully long pause to make sure I haven’t forgot anything, and I’m off. (T1 =1:23)
The bike is a simple 6+ mile out and back on Kennerly road, totaling close to 14 miles. It feels great to be out of the water, but its at least a mile before I can get the whole lungs/heart combo from beating out of my chest. I rode the course exactly zero times this year, so I’m trying to recall everything from 2014. All I remember are hills, lots of them. Sure enough, the course is rocking and rolling right away. I pass Randy and a handful of others in the first 3 miles. Things feel pretty good. I start struggling a bit in mile 5 and 6 as the fatigue starts and I’m still headed away from the finish. It doesn’t help that a 50 year old Clydesdale blows by me right before the turnaround. On my out, I see Plexico, Jordan and Clyburn in a tight race for the du. It’s a nice psychological boost to hit the turnaround at Freshly Mill, and I start picking up the pace after negotiating the still awkward dance of using my water bottle. The way back has some tough climbs, but its so much easier than the circus monkey bike from last year. With about 3 miles to go , I actually feel better and enter a strange zone where everything seems to flow smoothly. I want to really crush it towards the finish but I lay off, remembering how fried I was on the Tri the Midlands run. I cruise into T2, somehow only getting passed by the one guy. Bike Split: 42:39
I power fumble through T2 as WLTX’s camera sits right there capturing the whole thing. I try to look like I know what I’m doing, but I keep having to do mental checks that I’m forgetting something. I notice its getting brutally hot and sunny (80’s) so I remember to put on my sunglasses this time (totally forgot in T1) and hat. (T2=1:06)
The run is a shortish 5k through an adjacent neighborhood, changed from previous years due to construction. I hadn’t checked it out before, but I was just hoping it was nicer than the mountain climb of the Pumpkin Run course they usually use. About a half mile in I realize I don’t have my bib belt on, but I’m hoping they are OK with the 38 written all over my body. The run course is full of twists and turns. Plenty of hills, to be sure, but at least they are broken up. I am actually able to run a decent pace this time, which is a refreshing change from my satan’s anus slog from hell at Tri the midlands. I’m passing people left and right and feeling generally good about myself until I hear footsteps. Damn – I know its gotta be Randy. Sure enough he passes me and I try to latch on behind him. Not really working – he’s going too fast and I’m too afraid to push it. Just too hot and without my Garmin (left on bike) I’m flying blind as far as distance. They did have mile markers, which was nice. I keep Randy in sight and start trying to kick it in after the 2 mile mark. I make up some ground, but he’s sniffing the finish too and hold me off. Finally, I break into the oven of the YMCA parking lot and go full headless chicken into the finish area. Thankfully guardian angel Ken is there to tell me not to trip over the speed bump, which I probably would have done in my delirium. I’m thrilled to see 1:16 on the clock and I sprint to make sure I get in under 1:17. (run split 20:04)
After some serious rehydration and trying to cool down I go and check the results. I have no idea how I did. I figured significantly better than Tri the midlands, which I did in 1:26 with a longer swim (open water 500 vs pool 350) but similar bike and run. I can’t find myself on the results initially but suddenly I stop and just stare. 8th overall?? I’ve never been in the top 30 much less the top 10 – but sure enough it all matches up. Actual time was 1:11:44. Holy crap. 2nd in age group, too. Never been close before. I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Nice coffee cup bling and I go home a very happy man.
In the tri overall, 17 year old Miles Fowler crushed the field in 58 minutes for the win. Paul Laymon blazed on the bike and run to take 2nd. Tim Scott took third. Among the women, Jen Kryzanowski took home the win, with SR’s Liz Locke in second and Lisa Powell third.
In the age groups, Randy took 2nd in the 45-49, 11th overall with a 19:41 run split. Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell finished 3rd in the 50-54 and 28th overall. Sandra Ricciuto took 2nd in the 45-49. Mike Griffin placed 3rd in the 55-59. The OG rocked a 20:24 run and placed 1st in the 60-64. Lisa Smarr took 3rd in the 55-59. Patti Lowden finished 2nd in the 65-69.
Clydesdale was won by Marty Baltzegar, who I believe was the guy who took me down on the bike. Parker Roof anchored the winning relay team, who eked out a win by 20 minutes. Ryan Plexico raced a very nice 41 minute bike split on virtually no training and won the duathlon. I have to give major props to my Palmetto 200 captain Brian Clyburn. His blazing 40 minute bike split enabled him to edge Jordan Lybrand (who absolutely crushed the run segments) for 3rd.