Every year around this time, as the clocks spring forward and the temperature begins to rise, I become especially eager and excited to start my race season. Over the years, my season-opening triathlon has taken me up and down the East coast, serving as a testament to my offseason training and a litmus test for the season to come.
This year, my season opener takes me to the beautiful Tradition Village in Biloxi, MS to race the 8th running of Tradition’s Triathlon presented by Run-N-Tri Company, a sprint-distance race featuring a 1/3 mile swim, 17-mile out-and-back bike ride over rolling hills, and a 3.1 mile run through the quaint Tradition neighborhoods and over some hard-packed trail. But there is something different about this year from those of the past. This year I am pleased and grateful to be racing as a member, or “link”, of the CHAIN Triathlon Team!
My alarm starts shrieking at 4:00 AM, a nagging reminder to get up and get ready. I head to the car with my arms filled with race gear, and am met by a heavy, unrelenting rain. When a quick check of my email confirms “the race is on as scheduled,” it’s time to go! The rain begins to lighten during my drive, and just as I announced my observation, the sky illuminates with lightning, followed by more heavy rain.
I arrive to the Village to see racers sitting in their cars taking shelter from the elements, while the intrepid event staff and volunteers fill an otherwise scarce venue ensuring the race goes on as scheduled. Transition showcases the choreatic movement of a single racked bike as it sways in the wind. The race director delays the start by thirty minutes as more lightning fills the dark sky.
Dawn breaks. The lightning stops. The heavy rain turns to a faint sprinkle leaving a cool chill in the air. Racers swarm into transition searching for the perfect spot to rack their bike. After a quick double-check of my equipment, it is now time to don the wetsuit and head to the swim start.
The water is calm and cool, a refreshing 70-degrees. A self-seeded time-trial swim allows for spectators and fellow racers send cheers and encouragement all the way to the first turn buoy. After two quick left turns, I row of bright orange buoys guide me back to shore.
With a short run and smooth transition, it’s time to ride. Fumbling to get my wet feet into my wet shoes made for a slow start, but quickly found my rhythm to take on the rolling hills. To my delight, and I’m sure to the delight of many others, aside from the occasional stream crossing the road (as a reminder of the heavy morning rain), the roads are surprisingly dry!
The sun begins to break through the clouds as I head back into transition to swap my bike for a pair of running shoes. 3.1 miles to go. I have little experience running on trails. The first time was during a cross-country Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in which my mother had mistakenly registered me for, and the other about a month ago. During those races, the ground was frozen (I was living in Massachusetts) and dry, respectively. With that said, I am underprepared for the trail portion of this run. The once hard-packed clay is soft under my feet and large puddles span across the trail. My feet are swishing around inside of my shoes with every step. I hop over puddles, pretending I am a steeplechaser. To my fortune, the footsteps left behind by front-runners provide a perfect route to follow. The music and cheers surrounding the finish line swiftly draw me in with teammates waiting, offering high-fives for a job well done.
While the racing community is large, it is quite small at the same time. This race kicked off the start of my ninth season of racing and over those years, many of my competitors have become good friends. Meeting up with them at races often feels like a family reunion. This was my first race as part of a team and in turn, the first time meeting many of my teammates. I look forward to a great season and many more races as the unconditional support and encouragement of my teammates immediately made me feel welcome!
Despite the rainy start, the day wound up being quite beautiful. I would like to thank all of the volunteers, Host, and Sponsors (team and race) that made for a great experience!