On July 24th, I participated in the Rolf Prima Tri at the Grove in Cottage Grove Oregon. Although this was the first running of this event, the organizers did an amazing job putting together a top rate race that I am sure will explode in popularity in the years to come. Dark30 Sports did several things very well that gave this intimate event a big race feel.
They did an excellent job choosing sponsors that are passionate about the sport. This was very evident from the impressive swag bags that the participants received that included a tech shirt, race socks, water bottle, hammer gel, and a coupon for an Oakshire beer just for starters. Then when you follow this with a post race raffle that included several Garmin GPS units, tons of gear from Eugene Multisport Advantage, and a sweet set of Rolf Prima race wheels, well lets just say that a lot of people walked away from this race like they took it to the bank.
The next thing that really set this race apart was the addition of an amazing slate of professional athletes in attendance. It was great to see Jesse Thomas and Grahm Ogrady race, and to watch Mackenzie Madison and Kate Bevilaqua Slug it out at the finish of an Olympic distance race was a treat beyond description. To see these great triathletes up close and personal is kind of like going to a quiet Bistro for dinner to find out that your meal was prepared by Wolfgang Puck, and then having Jack Johnson and Ben Harper ask you if you wouldn’t mind if they played a few songs.
But the real thing that made an Impression on me was the hands on approach that the Race organizers Dark30 Sports took in making sure that every detail was taken care of. When I tried to register online, I found that the event was already full. Not as willing to take no for an answer as I was, Rachel Basolo sent some messages out, and within minutes had the cell number of Steve from Dark30 in my hands. I made some calls and was delighted to find out that I could race under one condition: I had to find a volunteer that could help at the event. Ultimately the days biggest blessing came when my son Robert came to my aid and offered to volunteer. Dark30 worked late into the night with me emailing forms in order to get me registered. Organizer Annie Loe was actually still working on my paperwork close to Midnight on the deadline in order to get me in. I am very that these amazing people were so willing to go to such great lengths to help me out.
After Camping at Dorena Lake the night before, I followed my typical pre-race routine. I slammed some ensures and ate a Picky Bar and a banana. I got to the race plenty early and set up transition and then took time for a nice warmup. Robert got a sweet volunteer spot right at the finish line with my friend Morgan. Conditions were absolutely perfect for a race as I lined up with the starting wave for the sprint.
After the usual mess of flying arms, I found myself toward the front of the pack about a 100 yards into the race. The conditions were perfect for a lake swim as the water was clear and glassy smooth. I got into a groove focusing on maintaining proper form and long even strokes. By the time I hit the first Buoy, I realized that I was out in the lead. This was kind of a thrilling moment for me as this was the first time that I had ever had any degree of lead in a triathlon. Determined to hold it as long as I could, I dug in and pushed through the rest of the course. Paddling up to the finish of the swim was awesome because all the spectators and olympic racers were lined up along the ramp. As I crawled out of the water I was greeted by an energetic cheering crowd on all sides. Over the clapping and yelling I could hear one of my team mates from Multisport Advantage scream out, “Oh My God! that’s John!” I raced towards transition only to get stopped at the timing tent by someone asking for my race number. For what seemed like an eternity, I just fumbled there foolishly trying to look across transition to see the number on my bike. Eventually I blurted out a guess that turned out to be correct as I bolted into transition.
Transition 1- 1:13, Place -2nd
The week before the race, I cut the legs down on my wetsuit and it really paid off in this transition. My suit popped off easily and In no time I was on my bike and flying out of transition. I could hear the announcer from Eclectic Edge calling out that the first racer was starting the bike course.
As I climbed out of Transition and onto the bike course, I was greeted by a sight that I had never seen before. A motorcycle pulled out in front of me and began to escort me along the road. While I was thrilled to get this kind of attention, I was also relieved that I wasn’t going to take a wrong turn and get lost out on the course. Feeling a growing exhiliration over the fact that I was still holding the lead, I focused on riding smoothly through the first couple of miles of the bike course. When I took the turn on the out and back portion of the loop I realized that I had almost a mile lead on the pack. It was at this point that I began to realize that I might just have a chance of winning this thing. It took a bit of focus to keep myself from getting to fired up and burning through the rest of the bike, So I kept my mind on riding smoothly and running my race. The bike was over in no time, and quickly I found myself screaming hot into the dismount line.
Transition 2- :58, Place -17th
I had to brake hard to avoid passing the dismount line, I stopped so fast in fact, my bike pitched forward with my back wheel jumping up off the road. Doing everything I could to keep from wiping out, I unclipped my shoes as my legs went flying over the handle bars. Somehow I managed to hang onto my bike as I went flying and landed squarely on my feet running. I heard the crowd around the dismount line break into a chorus of “aaaahs” as I accidentally pulled off one of the most agile and acrobatic feats of my life. After the race, a spectator told me it was one of the most impressive dismounts she had ever seen. Unfortunately the rest of my transition didn’t go as smoothly as I got a little hung up getting my Garmin and race belt on. As I started exiting transition, I again heard the announcer from Eclectic Edge calling out my name as the race leader. “John Howe entering the run course with a huge lead! No other cyclists in sight yet!”
As I turned out of transition, I was greeted by my son Robert along the run course. This is the first time that he has gotten to see me race a triathlon, and the look on his face as he gave me a high 5 was priceless.
“Cmon Dad! You’ve got this!”
You know what? He was right. After leading the entire way I hung on through the run. And although It was tough to fight the feeling that the rest of the field was gaining on me with break neck speed, I found myself alone as I approached the finish line. The moment was one of the most beautifully surreal moments of my life. The crowd cheering, the cameras snapping pictures, the announcer calling out my name all became a blur however.
I could feel the familiar tears begin to well up in my eyes as I reflected on the moment. If these people only knew just how far I had run to reach this finish line. If they were there the night my son saved my life. They might just understand what was going through my heart as I swooped up my cheering boy to celebrate our victory.
I think It was probably one of the most perfect moments of my life.