Written by: Jennifer Caponi
The Tri-City Challenge may not have been my brightest idea. I registered Heather Kluch (aka Chuck Norris or she is compared to Chuck Norris, or can kick his butt...whatever...you get the point Heather Kluch=badass) and I in the competitive doubles division.
The race consisted of:
1) a 5 mile kayak (thanks Chuck White) paddle on the Fox River from Yorkville to Silver Springs State Park in Plano. What?? I paddle a boat on average of once every 8 years? No problem! How hard can it be? Keep in mind that in the 8 hour adventure race that I did with Rich McCaleb in May, he had to inform me that I was holding my paddle upside down. D'oh!
2) a 13.5 mile bike ride (we were on mountain bikes) from Plano to Sandwich. No problem. I have been riding hard 1-2x per week for a few months, the last few weeks with some roadies, so I am feeling pretty strong and confident.
3) a 5k run in Sandwich which ended at the YMCA. 3.1 miles, not bad. Oh wait, I only run 1-2x per week at a 9-10 minute pace and feel like I am sprinting, as I am recovering from an achilles tendon injury. So, now I am going to really "sprint"? No problem.
When we signed up I told Heather I wasnt sure how the achilles would hold up, especially during the run. She says "no worries, we will have fun with it" Well, game day came and I caught her putting war paint on her face....Well, not really, but I knew this would be no "fun run". Oh, did I mention I have never done a race with fast transitions? I have only done one race ever that consisted of multiple events....Who's idea was this?
So lets start with the paddle. First of all, the kayak had no desire to take part in this race. It tried to fall off Heather's car like 10x before the race even started. Hmm. They release 6 kayaks/canoes every 3 minutes. We have a rushed start, but we get going. We try to stay on the south side of the river, as it is very low, and we had gotten pre-race intel that the south side of the river was a little more deep. Heather is in front, I am in the back. Apparently not only do I paddle, but I steer. Sweet! Whatever that means....
So Heather is great about instructing when to paddle right, left, etc to navigate us through the shallow waters. We get caught up on the river bottom a few times. We employ several methods to free ourselves...one being the patented Eyes To The World Adventure Racing Team humping technique. Just imagine two cute girls in a kayak thrusting our bodies in unison while making grunting noises and laughing. Hey...it worked! I cant say I have ever humped in a kayak...there was that rowboat on Maple Lake that one time...but that is a story for a different time. Sometimes it was just too shallow so Heather had to jump out (hey, she is the one that picked the front seat!) and pull us. I took this opportunity to crack open a beer from the cooler that I smuggled on. Hey, most times I have ever been paddling have been with beer, canoes and quarter sticks....just sayin'!
We quickly realized that Chuck's kayak is defective...or there is a weird current...or there is a strong cross breeze (definitely NOT user error!) as the kayak keeps steering to one side. Then we would paddle paddle paddle to correct it. Then we were over corrected and then have to paddle paddle paddle on the other side. Plus the water was shallow, so our paddling was kinda lame. We both were working pretty hard and it was 90 degrees out. Heather keeps yelling "f@ck me in the a$$!" I kept thinking "I didn't bring that piece of equipment. Was it on the gear list?" Oh, and I definitely bashed Heather in her back at least once with my paddle. She said it was ok. At least I wasnt like Chuck White at adventure camp and bashing her in the head!
Despite all the comical moments and all our fishtailing of the boat, we had caught up to and passed most of the boats that were in the 3 minute wave before us. I only saw one boat pass us and it was some super kayak man who looked all professional and crap. We get to the boat launch and have to get that stupid kayak that hates us up the boat ramp and to our bikes. As Heather says, my legs felt like baby giraffe legs. WTF! I guess I didnt realize that you use your legs so much in kayaking. Like I said, most of my paddling experiences have been floating down a river with a beer and dynamite.
Well now it's bike time, and I have been doing killer workouts on the bike this past few weeks with the roadies and the wind, so this will be good. Fast transition, get on the bike. First 2 minutes, awesome. Then begins the long, sweeping ascent to get out of the state park. My legs are now noodles. My lungs feel like a pack a day smoker. All I keep thinking is that Heather is going to literally kill me for sucking so bad. I'm going to be on the "B" team of adventure racing. Fortunately the legs loosened, the hill stopped, my breath evened out...and then came the rolling hills into the headwind. Heather is yelling back to me to get on her back tire. For those who are unfamiliar with biking, this is so that I can be in her "draft", thus making the biking easier for both her and I (but mostly for me). The problem is that she is just that much faster than I where we are about 4-5 feet apart, and I am having a hard time making up that distance. Just when I would catch up and start to draft, she would pull away again! I was silently crying inside for my mommy.
We did pretty well on the bikes. We passed 3-4 people. We got passed by 3 guys on separate occasions, but they were all on road bikes, and it wasn't until over 8 miles into the ride. At mile 12 some douchebag guy on a road bike passes us (not going much faster than us, mind you) and says "Hey, I know you are not being competitive or trying to win anything, but drafting is not allowed." Really? The race directions specifically say no side-by-side riding or weaving and we are a team. We yelled this back at him. If I didn't have to run that darn 5k after the bike, I would have drafted off him and then shot past him at the end. Jerk. The positive to come from this is that the last 1.5miles went by quite quickly because I was so annoyed.
Now we get to the part of the race I am most unsure of, the running. My calves are always tight after a hard ride, and I have been struggling with achilles soreness on both legs in the past few weeks. Heather is reminding me/bitching/directing me to be fast, fast, fast in the transition. We both have our running shoes on carabiners attached to the back of our camelbacks. I kind of forget this fact, or am at least not thinking about it right at that moment. I start to undo my bike shoes. Im not thinking about my running shoes yet. Im trying not to die. I would feel bad if Heather had to carry my rotting, 90 degree corpse for 3.1 miles. She turns her back to me and tells me to unclip her shoes, and she will do mine. Really? Untie your own shoes! But Im new to adventure racing/transition stuff, so maybe that's how you conserve energy...by having your partners take your crap off? Remember, Im trying not to die. So I bend over and start untying her shoe. LOL!! It would be a lot easier if her back weren't turned to me, I'm thinking. Then she says, "no, unclip my shoes from my camelback!" OH YEAH! Im a moron! Ok, shoes on, time to run.
Well "run" may not be the best word to describe what I was doing. I couldn't tell if my legs felt like jello molds or tree stumps. My calves are locked. The run was uneventful. I spent 3.1 miles trying not to die. I have exercised induced asthma that really kicks up in the heat and humidity, and I forgot to take my inhaler. The first 1.5 miles I was strictly focused on trying to get oxygen. I had to walk about every 3/4 mile to stretch out my achilles. I was a disaster. Heather is yelling at me or something...looking at me with sad eyes that say "you pathetic pathetic girl". I'm not listening because I am so focused on not dying or popping a tendon. We pass a few people. We only got passed by maybe 2 solo guys. It's a chute finish so Heather goes first and I finish right behind her. Thank God its over!
Yay! We end up getting first in the whole competitive doubles division. We beat all the guys too! Well..actually, come to find out, it was team for the kayak , but the rest of the race was actually solo, which makes the win that much better in my eyes. So, Heather got first (because I LET her go first) and I got second.
I wish that one douchebag guy on the bike was around to see us get our medals because I would have put it where the sun doesn't shine.
The Tri City Challenge was overall a fun, yet challenging race....not overwhelming for a newbie like me. I'm still alive, Heather still likes me, so all is well in the world!