Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Triathlon Club Nationals

“Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…” Ah, the song was sung (or shouted) many times as our tri club traveled to the Club Nationals in Oklahoma City.

I was the Sherpa—that’s the support person who helps the racers perform their best. We had 10 competitors: Rosie Lee, Greg Bodeker, Roy & Deb Gaddis, Belinda Gee, Brita Loynachan, Ron &Dottie Gierut, Dennis Baier and Diane Cisewski. Bob Gee was our other support person.

I was so proud of our club! We kicked butt at our Club Nationals debut, finishing third in our division.

I had wanted to compete, but two things held me back. I envisioned that Oklahoma City would be hot and I wouldn’t be able to wear my wetsuit. I also thought that “Club Nationals” meant it would be the best-of-the-best and I would be out of my league. Basically, I was scared. As it turned out, the race was wetsuit legal and there were a wide variety of skill levels competing. I was disappointed that, as a song says, I had “let the fear take the wheel and steer.” I would have to be content being the top photographer and cow bell ringer.

Our caravan of cars left early on Sept. 18, stopping in Kansas City to eat at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ. I had to admit it was nice to just relax and not be stressing about an upcoming race. By late afternoon we had arrived.

Saturday was spent preparing the bikes and visiting the Oklahoma City Memorial. It’s a memorial to the Oklahoma City bombing. If you ever get a chance to see it, especially at night, check it out.

Saturday night it was off to the race site, where I first experienced the big, red, mucky mess. Two straight weeks of rain had turned the grounds into something resembling a cow yard. There were even people walking around in rubber boots.

It also was my first glimpse of a real, live Ironman-distance race. It was at the 12-hour mark and these athletes were out running in the dark, fighting exhaustion and mental fatigue. I knew by midnight some of them would still be here, trying to beat that 17-hour time limit. I couldn’t even imagine.

Rosie hosted a “Touching Party” in her hotel room. Actually it was a “Tattoo Party” where everyone received their MWX temporary tattoos, but some people misheard the name and it became a running joke for our group.

Sunday was race day! Seeing our three Sprint distance athletes (Brita, Dottie and Diane) in their wetsuits I could feel their nervous energy. I SO wanted to be out there! I grabbed my camera and headed to the beach, walking on rocks so I would not sink in the mud, which was now like quicksand. The weather had moved the buoys overnight so they had to re-do the race course. The swimmers would swim out-and-back, parallel to the beach. The water was so shallow many of them walked a long distance in the water.

This is the part where “Lori fought the law and the law won.” I was trying to get into position for photo-taking so I was walking on the sidewalk to avoid the mud. I suddenly noticed that there was red fencing on either side of me. A voice came over the loudspeaker telling the person on the run course to get off! Yes, that would be me. All of the people in the grandstands turned and looked at me. I lifted up the fence, but it would only go up a foot so I was going to walk back the way I came. Too late…the first finisher was racing towards me! All I could do was dive under the fence and into the mud.

I set up to photograph the finish, but I could hear that the Olympic swim was starting. This would be tricky trying to capture two races. They announced that they needed “wetsuit strippers”—volunteers to help the athletes out of their wetsuits. I was tempted…but knew I had made other commitments.

I photographed our Sprint finishers, then headed to transition to catch the Olympic bikers, then off to the bike course and then hustled over to the run course. This was hard work! It was great seeing Ron beat all the younger athletes or Belinda fight through pain or Deb light up the run course. I rang my bell, while trying to take photos and yell out words of encouragement. I had to stop myself from running along side them, because the adrenaline was definitely pumping!

We were competing in Division II (130-249 members). Points were awarded in descending order from first to 10th place with all finishers past 10 receiving one point. We had 6 of our 10 competitors place in the top 3 of their age group. Amazing! I couldn’t believe we came all this way and took third place as a club!! Imagine what we could do with more participants. MWX had not been defeated by the Red Muck! Go Green Team!!

Keep Tri-ing……..