Monday, July 21, 2008

Spirit of Racine: From the other side...

...that's kind of an ominous title, no?

My cousin Erin - CznE - commented yesterday with her own "race report", and I deleted it so I could make it its own post because I thought it was interesting. CznE is the consummate professional support crew member. It has become family lore how she handled a Hummer H2 - at times offroad - during IMWI '06 to secure the next vantage point on the bike course. She doesn't just show up to watch her cousin goof around for a few hours, she gets really, really into it. Her cheers are the loudest when I cruise by. Even right now as I write this, in my head, I can hear her trademark "Yeah!" while I fly by. I can always see the blue shirts before they see me, and often while others are milling about or chatting, CznE is always eyes-on-the-road, waiting for that glimpse, for my fist in the air, or that signal that I am
picking it up and setting it down. More than that, I can always count on her. She's a logistical jedi. She's about as true and loyal a human being as I've ever known, and that she's my cousin makes it extra cool.

Her friend Jimmy - and by "friend" I mean imagine-me-making-quote-marks-with-my-fingers-and-italicizing-the-word-
friend with-my-voice, was at his first triathlon Sunday - which I'm sure is a little nuts. He also shared his perspective, and it's cool to see what this game is like from the other side of Transition, especially from somebody who's never seen it. Thought you'd enjoy it, too.

Might be a shade confusing with all the Erins present, but you'll catch on, I'm sure.

Oh, and Jimmy - if you thought this was cool, just wait'll Ironman. ;)

CznE: From the Other Side:
So, I'm no a tri- athlete or anything, but I'm one helluva a supporter. Chris invited my friends and I to the OG so I tagged along. Even for me, it was fun to put faces with the Super Hero name. I had met Erin and CoS before, so there were familiar faces. Chris called me on the way there.

Chris: We're like 15 minutes away.
Me: We're like 4 miles.
Chris: Cool- can you just look around for people who look like they might be meeting up with people they don't know? Guys with shaved legs... Will you add the reservation under a few names, I just don't know how people will find me.

So I did- I immediateily found Alili and her husband.

You'd think dinner with a bunch of tri-crazies would be like sitting with a bunch of finance guys talking about hedge funds or something. So not the case. Even the non- tri-athletes with me found the conversation interesting and engaging. Just unable to contribute most of the time. All cool people in this blogsphere.

Thomps had some good tips and suggestions for us spectators, tips and suggestions which all rang true the following morning. My gang left the OG to play Rockband on Wii while drinking some brews.

5am and the alarm goes off. 545 and we're in the car and on the way- perfect according to schedule.

Jimmy Brooks and I found parking easily and had some extra time so decided to drive closer to to the venue. We spotted Alili's hubby crossing the bridge and said good morning, maybe we'd link up later on. Right when we entered the race venue, we saw him again. Chris had just left the area.

We headed out into the fog to find where the athletes entered into the water. Who knew we'd be walking a mile in the sand to get there. But we couldn't tell! We couldn't see through the damn fog. Finally, we see a group of wet suits. After looking around for Chris for a while, I decided to climb up on the rocks. I was wearing the Team Bintliff shirt and I knew Chris would be able to spot the blue. He always does. Not too long after we were up there, sure enough, Chris and Erin see us. Just before that, I'm convinced I saw Megan for a split second but then lost her. I tried to spot her again to link Chris and Erin up with her, but couldn't.

Just as Chris and Erin get into the water to get used to it, Amy, CoS and Mike arrive at the beach. I know the delay sucks for a lot of the competitors, but for these 3, it meant they got to see their loved ones before the big day started. And that's important. Chris could keep an eye on me and my blue shirt. I grabbed D and raised my "international sign for pick it up and set it down." Then I held D in the air so Chris knew they were there. Very cool that Chris could see D before the race.

Ok, they're in the water, so we (Team Bintliff now because we'd grown to what our group would be for the day) started our mile journey back so we could catch Chris start the bike. Our walk back included singing songs for D so she'd have a joyous ride back. And it kept her content, so it worked. (I'll admit- I totally threw a little Baby Got Back in there for her.)

We find our spot right where the bike began. Maybe 15 feet ahead of the red line. Seriously- it's a mess watching all of you get going. Clipping in looks like a bitch. I saw countless people falling as they were trying to get started- which meant their water bottles went rolling away from them, so they were dodging riders. Shoes falling off. Sort of a cluster. Is it always like that? Jimmy Brooks went to watch for Chris coming out of Transition closer to the red line. Chris spotted us right away. Super pumped up. Ready to kick ass and take names. "It's On! The Game Is On! A little earlier, someone said, "Hi Mike!" Thomps recognized Mike so we got to root him on as he got started. We tried really hard to spot Erin, but I missed her. CoS said she went by already.

We trek up the hill trying to figure out what we do next. CoS said he was off for an adventure. "Erin gave me the keys to her car." My eye brows raised. "Want company?" And he did, so CoS, Jimmy Brooks and me were off to spot them on the bikes.

We parked, and I ran up to where the bikers were coming across. This is where it's so fun. It's always a gamble! You never really know if you'll see your tri-athlete. If you were too late or if you'll have to wait for a really long time. I started talking with one of the women there and she said that her son had passed already- he entered the water 12 after. Crap! Deflated, I thought we missed him. But it was ok- we'd wait for Erin to go by. CoS had times for both Chris and Erin down really well.

Suprised, Chris comes by us! We saw him! I turned to Jimmy Brooks. "See- this is why it's so fun! You never know if you'll see them and when you do it's a huge adreneline rush!" Jimmy went down the hill about a hundred feet. The plan was that he'd spot Erin and ring my celly so that I could be ready with the camera and CoS and I would know when she was close. Erin spotted Jimmy first and the idea worked according to plan. Erin passed us with a smile on her face. She's always smiling.

We decide to stay put, they'd be coming by in an hour or so. We pass the time cheering on the riders in front of them. Those pros are ridiculous! "Nice job, speedy!" and "Dang!" would come out of our mouths as they raced by. No smiles on their faces. All serious.

For the other athletes it's a sing songy "Strong and steady! Looking Good! Keep it up! Nice Job, Blue! Nice job, Pink! Team In Training!!!! Go Badgers! En-Er GY" Jimmy Brooks got some smiles out of the bikers with "Happy Faces! Let's see some smiles!" Reactions are mixed. When we'd get a smile we'd all cheer like we'd gotten a point or something. We like reactions from you! We're out there for you and sometimes we just want a little back. Is that selfish?

We see Chris and Erin on the return route. Both looking strong and steady. Both with happy faces. The sun is starting to come out now. Finally.

We were on our way back to watch the run. We missed Chris coming out of Transition. CoS saw Erin. CoS had their times mapped out pretty well, so he helped us know when we could expect to see them next.

First we saw Chris on his way in the first time. I ran across so I could catch him again. He slowed down while he grabbed some water and squeezed the sponge over his head to cool off. He said the race was going really well, asked how D, Amy and Mike were doing and he was off again.

The next time we saw Chris he was on his way to the finish line, busting PRs. F-ing Right!

It took us a while to find him after the race, we need to find a better plan.

Watched Erin come through finish next.

Good job to the two of you! 2 events now where I've been able to cheer on the 2 of you. Strong work. Always a good time.


Jimmy Brooks:

I witnessed one of the most amazing feats of humankind this weekend. On Sunday July 20, 2008 I was invited to attend a triathlon in Racine Wisconsin. The agenda for the day was watch Chris swim, bike and run to complete this race. Upon arriving, I was immediately in awe of the magnificence of the athleticism from these athletes. Chris especially was inspiring with his form, posture and stance toward this event. The night before was entertaining with Chris being the host of other athletes whom will participate in this event. Immediately, I felt welcomed and warm to people who were seemingly strangers. The comrades sat, laughed, joked, feasted and discussed particulars in a jargon unfamiliar to my realm of vocabulary knowledge. The long and short of it is simply this: they enjoyed each other's companionship. However unfamiliar this sport is to me, I grew an appreciation for the followers because of the human-ness I witnessed in their actions, their kindness and their generosity toward one another. Tri-Athletes, at least from my encounter, seem to be some of the most jolly and opportunistic fellows and ladies I have had the pleasure to surround myself with. What a great dinner that was.

Day 2: You know how when you are a kid and Christmas is the next day and you just can't sleep. Well....yeah! That's how I felt. The next morning there was no grumbling, fidgeting, sloshing around. It was zip, zip, to the action. I was excited to see this event for the first time. My confusion about this event was materialized by the fog and haze surrounding the course. Perhaps the fog and haze was an unintended side effect of my thoughts. I really don't have that much power, but the similarity is worth noting. Now, I could go on and on with every single detail surrounding the first few moments, but I'd rather not talk about Erin dragged me through the wet sand 1.2 miles down the beach. Gotta love her for that. Moving on...Chris, joined our presence with others in tow and began discussing particulars, which once clue. I even was allowed to touch the wet suit. Now I know every sport has particular gear, but this was cool stuff. Moving on...once in the water, we trekked back toward the damn something or other spot, oh the transition area, yeah that's it. Witnessing the fellows and ladies mounting their bikes was somewhat eye opening. Knowing the exhaustion from the swim, I couldn't help but notice quivering thighs and shaky, unsteady mounts. I thought to myself, "how hard is it to get on a bike?" Hmmm...but I've never swam over 6000 feet and tried to do it. So that's when I appreciated it more. I moved away from Amy and Erin to be a spotter for Chris. When I noticed him coming out, I almost began tearing up. Aww heck, I'm a real guy, I can cry if I want to. It was so inspirational to see someone so intent upon performing something so difficult to the remainder humans who dare not! With my chin quivering, I shouted to Amy and Erin..."Here he comes, here comes Chris!" I hope they got a good picture. Before I returned to them, I composed my chin, dried my eyes and fell in love again, not with Chris, but with determination. Determination....

Next, the biking. Erin, CoS and I drove to the spot to see the bikers come along. 56 miles, you've got to be kidding me! Erin wore her Bintliff shirt and I just kinda stood there in stripes, longing for Bintliff to materialize. 4 minutes later, boom!! There he was trucking along at breakneck speed. I didn't know someone could look so happy doing this. But, he did. After seeing Chris once more and the other Erin ride past, we ventured back toward the home base.

Running after that....are you serious?
We, Erin and I, arrived back in home base and hurredly wolfed down some food and water. The number one priority was seeing cousin Chris, which is respectable. Hunkered down on the race running course we waited for Bintliff, so we could chant B I N T L I F F! Such a highlight moment. Surprisingly, the first time around he looked amazingly fresh. What an athlete! So, Erin and I hunkered down again and waited for Erin to come through. Amazingly, both racers were all smiles. Well we spent the next hour or so hanging out on the run course for the comrades to finish. Chris came in soon and commented on his time. From what I gather, he did well and was pleased with himself.

Sum of it all....
I've quoted myself here in a short excerpt from a speech I wrote for an athletic banquet to summarize my feelings and experiences on this event.
"Oh, but this year we have grown wise. We've learned to improvise. We sustain, we maintain, we retain, and at the right moment we strain and gain and regain. Despite the snags and drags, we've learned bold lessons, lessons of character, we have learned about ourselves, others and oh how we have changed. Possibilities for your future are broad, your energy is high, your endurance is long and your focus is deep."
From the inspired, hoping to inspire.....
Jimmy Brooks


Alili said...

Too cool. Support teams are SO important and it looks like you two went above and beyond.

It was great meeting you!

TKS said...

Well stated!

CznE, as short as it was, great to see you again and Jimmy, so nice to have met you. I look forward to another encounter.

Pharmie said...

Just got back from vacation and needed to catch up! First off, congrats on a MASSIVE PR!!! You totally killed it out there! Second, thanks for the view from the other side. You've sure got a great team :)

RBR said...

ok, seriously about the coolest race reports I have ever read. I was so amazed that my two buddies came out to watch my marathons (about as exciting as watching paint dry I would imagine) very cool to hear your Team's perspective.

Thank you! Congratulations on a great race under tough conditions! Wow!

-from random internet stalker in her very nervous, pre-first half IM state

Amy said...

Very cool, CZNE and Jimmy! I know that my view from the other side has really changed, as I now have a nine month old beside me. I'm always amazed and still get choked up when I see parents and kiddos supporting their athlete. The amount of energy put into just entertaining the kiddos during the race, hauling all their gear, walking back and forth, is astounding. I've missed three glances at Chris this year, just because I'm reaching for a sippy cup, bent over finding a dropped piece of cereal, or singing the Itsy, Bitsy Spider. Despite the small stressers, I'm so glad that our daughter will grow up seeing such strong, determined, dedicated athletes. Though the races seem a bit longer with a little one in tow, one can't beat the smile of a nine month old when she recognizes her Daddy after a race. And the smile on her Daddy's face...really worth it all.