Los Angeles Triathlon Club
Race Report
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Club Member: David Wachtel
Race: A View from the Bridge - A Spectator's Race Report
Distance: Half - Ironman
Race Date: 04/02/11
Submit Date: 04/04/11

A race report is a common thing to read. An athlete does a race, decompresses, thinks through and then sits down to rehash and create a commentary on his/her experience in that particular event. They write of their ups, downs, victories, setbacks, things they may have done different, and things that made their day simply and undeniably kick ass. This is NOT that race report. Rather, this is a look back at the race from the spectator’s point of view. Well, from my point of view to be specific. Saturday, April 2, 2011 found me waking up inexcusably early for a race in which I was not competing. After a drive down to San Diego county with fellow athlete, and burgeoning Fortius superstar, Ariel Aboody, and a quick night’s sleep in the most comfortable hotel bed ever, the familiar feeling of waking up early, to mozy down to transition, was upon me. The room light was on, but the sunlight was not. Cold bagels and cream cheese, beside a mug full of Wheaties, blueberry Greek yogurt, and some peanut butter bread with bananas was the menu. Instant gourmet Starbucks coffee diligently being consumed prior to setting out into the chilly Carlsbad morning. This was not my race. We came to spectate. And spectate we did. As proud members of Fortius Racing, Ariel and I came down to support the team. The master plan, cozily formulated in my head, included having a home base set up near the finish line for the Fortius Team, and so I decided it would be a good idea to bring the canopy tent along with us, hang the Fortius banner, and create a charming place where the team could gather before and after the event. My fantasy included chafing dishes with delectable piping hot food, mounds of fresh fruit, tables with cloth and sparkling silver utensils, but alas, what we got was shelter and sand...almost as good. But talk about location, location, location...despite the mile plus walk with a gazillion pound foldable canopy on our shoulders, home base was planted in a perfect spot along the finishing chute about 100 yards from the finish line. Only prime real estate for this team! With a quick pop up of the tent, Ariel and I proceeded to the transition area to look for the Fortius athletes and begin our exuberantly vocal support. The transition area at Ironman California 70.3 seriously needs its own zip code. Perhaps even its own shopping mall and Starbucks coffee shop too. An endless sea of shiny gear and shiny, happy people, it stretches on for what seems like an eternity. The air was rife with excitement, nerves, anticipation, and the faint odor of a of urine and neoprene cocktail. Chalk lines with “Turn HERE!” scribbled on the pavement, ribbons and balloons tied to bike racks, running shoes and vanilla gu’s piled in easy to grab stacks of semi organizational chaos, reminding me of the plaque my father used to have on his desk, reading, “messiness is the sign of genius”. (a motto I’ve chosen to live by...thanks dad) Set up and ready to go, athletes began working their way to the corrals, neatly organized by the color of their swim cap laden heads. A full 23 waves of athletes were to set off on this 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run, giving the spectator the inkling that this Saturday morning race start may still be going well into the following Tuesday. The pros were the first to go. Leading the charge at MACH speed, the pro men’s wave cut the water like a motor boat, and scared every single sea lion out of the harbor within minutes. The female pros were next, followed by the challenged athletes wave with rock star athlete Karen Aydelott representing Fortius, and then the first of the male age groupers including our fearless Coach Gerardo, and fellow LA Tri Clubber Ian “Hollywood” Gonzales. Group after group began this epic race and Ariel and I took pictures and graciously heckled our fellow Fortius and LA Tri Club compadres. The Nguyen brothers (I know, they’re not really brothers...move on), like a pair of Asian harbor seals in their neoprene, started the race together and the epic battle of Nguyen vs. Nguyen began...Truly mesmerizing throughout this event. DeRonde, with mean streaks of blue in her wetsuit was fully focused and charged. San Fran Derek Steer, almost oblivious to the fact that he was about to compete in a triathlon took to the swim having almost forgotten what the feeling of being in water was like. All were brimming with excitement. Olson, Chavez, Lea, Haile, Lubinski, Wills, Bell, Dennis, and on and on and on. Even before the entirety of the waves started out, the first of the pro men were exiting the water. Andy Potts emerged a full lunar cycle before the rest of the pro men field and was on his bike faster than a junkie to a half-off crack sale. At this point it was hard to imagine anyone catching this dude...and it seems that no one, in fact, did. It wasn’t long before Hollywood emerged with a lighting fast swim split, followed closely by Coach Gerardo, wet suit down to the waist already, diligently attending to his Garmin in full stride. The Nguyen battle took an interesting turn here. Mike emerged first, and Richard, a full TWO VNSO lanes faster than Mike was not yet to be seen. It wasn’t long, however, and I couldn’t help but amuse myself with the thought, “may the best man, Nguyen” Pause... wait for it.... crickets... moving on... All athletes on the bike, the wind started to pick up, and our band of spectators, Aboody, Sidi, Velarde, R. Barrios, Jason James (or Canete...what is that guy’s last name anyway?), and myself all set out onto the local bike path for our scheduled run workouts. I won’t bore you with the details of our Saturday run, but suffice it to say that as I was running, everyone with whom I started out, slowly got smaller and farther ahead of me, leaving me to conclude that I was the only one actually following my workout plan. :-) Unfortunately, my Garmin was deader than a possum on the belly of an 18 wheeler, so there’s no actual proof. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one...mm’kay? By the time we finished our own workout, the pros, god bless em, were already on the run course. Andy Potts was averaging a 5:30 pace. (This supports my theory of the existence of fair skinned Kenyans.) At this ridiculous speed, there was no chance of him being passed and he went on to win. The trite news of epic victory aside, Ariel and I, workout completed, made our way down to the beach path to spectate the run, and snap off endless photos. I was allowed to be photographer for a few minutes and managed to pop off some of the most dramatic photos of the day. :-) But then my job as spotter, cheerleader, and all around crazy person resumed and consumed me for the rest of the event. I might add that it’s of crucial importance to really throw yourself into these roles without abandon. With no particular encampment at this time, we wandered the stretch of landscape from mile 6 (or 12, depending on your current loop) to the finish and were able to catch all of our fellow Fortius and Tri Club athletes kicking it hard on the run. Strangely enough, no one looked either tired or fatigued, rather everyone had that look of determination that defines the blissful joy we get from being IN THE RACE... Here!...Now! “This is what we train for, this is what we LIVE for!” I could see that intense focus and pure exhilaration on the faces of everyone wrapped up in the colors of Fortius Racing and the LA Tri Club. On the run, Coach Gerardo had great focus, a contemplative look on his face, as if he were counting his strides per minute, or some other ridiculous, yet measurable triathlon statistic. Hollywood, sporting frogs on the shoulders, covered the asphalt like it paid by the foot. DeRonde, in the zone, threw down some big smiles when she passed us by, telepathically communicating that she was right where she wanted to be. San Fran Steer, his manly Austin Powers chest hair billowing from his kit, and still possibly oblivious to the fact that he was racing a triathlon, was out in front of the whole pack throwing down some truly unbelievable splits. The Nguyen brothers almost neck in neck, each with an amazing vibe, scraping the sky with a fist of victory as they conquered yet another brutal stretch of concrete. Aydelott not missing a stride as she cruised the slight downhill of pavement on the chicane to the beach path. Olson flying by at some ridiculous pace with a thumbs up that seemed to say, “all is well in my super fast-ishness”. Chavez flying out of T2 in a way that only the MOST fashionable triathletes can, cruising into the 13.1. Sheer genius all around. I went to get sandwiches. All this excitement was making Ariel and I extremely hungry. And let me just say this out loud (but typewritten) to Mister Very Large Man at the unnamed restaurant... When I ask you if you can make a sandwich really fast, I’m talking 2 minutes, mm’Kay? When you answer that you absolutely can, and you’re thinking 10-15, then, well... Houston, we have a problem. Suffice it to say that by the time sandwiches were ready, it was time to head back to the tent, home base, and watch the finish. I made my way through the crowd much like I usually do...as if I’m way more important than you, and you need to get out of my way immediately! Crossing over the run course to the beach side of the chute I found that our tent had been taken down, presumably by race officials that feel the need to take down tents for some unexplained reason...go figure. Ariel and I rebuilt the Garage Majal, and began to scour the race for signs of our peeps. I had been making use of my pirate telescope, or monocular to the more mechanically inclined reader, which in the past had proven to be a relatively useless purchase. However, for this application, the device worked nicely. Hanging my head over the side of the fence I peered through my glass trying to identify people as they came round the last turn. One by one I spotted them, relayed my discovery to Ariel in his photo sniper’s bird’s nest perch, and we hooted and hollered as our teammates plowed the last stretch of pavement to the finish line. (Side note - the arrival of Bill, and my two favorite Blondie DeRondes, Alex and Corey, along with the surprise arrival of Cox N Sox teammate Karen Robison, made the cheering at this point exponentially more enjoyable) When most of our team had crossed the finish, we began making our way over to transition to offer up our congrats, our support, and our open ears to be regaled with the stories of the racers' experiences. Donning my LA Body Mechanics hat, as I’m always ready to do, I busted out some massage protocols for a couple of our team with minor issues that had come up. (I was disappointed that logistics of the race didn’t allow me to bring the massage table down to our home base, but for next time, I’ll be sure to scope that out initially, so LA Body Mechanics can be fully on site and ready to do some post race work). Stories shared, photos snapped, gear packed up, gazillion pound tent back on our shoulders, we were very soon on our way back to our vehicles and to a well earned microbrew for all. Ironman California 70.3, 2011 was over. Before I conclude I want to share this... Being IN a race, and being AT a race are two very different, yet very similar experiences. Both have their trials, their challenges, their set backs, and their victories. You can hope for the best, while planning for the worst, and you can be guaranteed that at the end of the day, you’ll most likely be pretty goddamn exhausted. I know what it’s like to cross a finish line...the thrill of completing an epic task of endurance, that rush of endorphins that fills your body with a bliss truly beyond compare. And now, I know the joy that comes from being on the other side of the fence. The joy of sharing the victory of those most dear to you, those with whom you have suffered blood, sweat, tears... Those without whom this pursuit would be just slightly removed from meaningless. So, thank you my friends. Thank you for blessing me with the gift of witnessing your truly amazing performances. I used to think of triathlon as a solo endeavor. Boy, was I wrong. David Wachtel

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