Last year was a tough sporting year, but thanks to the challenges I faced, 2015 has been a fantastic comeback year and the results have been even sweeter than imagined. I haven’t “gone long” but the short sprint triathlons and other local races I’ve done have been so much fun. Of all the races I missed in 2014, the Winding Trails Summer Triathlon Series races were the ones I missed the most.
The 10 race series celebrated its 15th year and 150th event tonight at the season finale. That is an amazing accomplishment. I have more than 30 of them on my palmares. The format, a 1/4 mile swim/5 mile mountain bike/3.1 mile trail run is tried and true. I raced 9 of the 10 events this summer. I skipped the race that was the day before the Pat Griskus Triathlon.
The epic “tempest” race didn’t count towards the results, so rather than scoring on your best eight finishes, the overall results were scored on your best seven finishes. I was fortunate to win five of the nine races I entered and was second in the other four (behind four different competitors) which secured me the overall win. I had an insurmountable lead going into tonight’s race, but I was focused on finishing with a very strong result. Last week, Jon Arellano out kicked me in the final meters and that stung a bit. I was proud of his victory, his first in many years trying.
I didn’t have the best preparation for tonight’s race, but that is out it goes. If you choose to “go hard” on the weekends, then you aren’t always fresh for Tuesday night. That is one of the things that makes the series so challenging. You have to bring your best effort every week and remain consistent all summer long. Climbing Mt. Washington twice in a weekend (once on my bike and once on my feet) left my legs heavy and sore, but I was determined to push through the discomfort. I had a decent swim and a strong bike. Ken Schulz is my usual benchmark, and he held me off until the start of the run, so I knew that A) he was having a good ride and B) I was going to have to suffer on the run.
I knew that Jon would be breathing down my neck. I passed him, Roberto Diniro, and Joel Emmendorfer, all serious rivals, earlier on the mountain bike leg. It was a warm night, but a very pleasant night. After passing Ken, I set the pace as hard as I could, going through the first mile in 6:34 and then the second mile in 6:25. The trail was a bit rougher than usual with wood chips and eroded sand making for some challenging footing. I decided to not look back until I could feel Jon breathing down my neck. I knew he was coming. His running has been getting stronger all summer. Coming in to tonight, we have had two fierce sprint finishes and I felt that we were in for a third.
I punched it on the last few uphill sections hoping to stave him off, but he closed in on me on the final descent before the bridge. I chose to glance back twice to get a sense of where he was and to ensure that he wouldn’t jump me. I was throughly beaten in the sprint last week, but felt that I had better legs despite the biking and hiking in New Hampshire. I surged with 100 meters to go, but he passed me on the left. I didn’t let go, didn’t give up, and pulled even again before unleashing a furious kick up the right side. He had worked very hard to close the gap and I knew that if I sustained my sprint, that he would break. He had nothing left to give and in a role reversal, eased just before the finish, giving me a well fought victory. That made me smile.
I was absolutely cooked. We have been pushing each other all summer long and for a couple of 40+ year-old athletes, that is very cool. That intensity and competition is why we race. In the overall standings, I was followed by Jon (who leapt from 4th) and then Roberto. Debbie came into the series sitting in third a mere two points out of first. She needed to pick up a couple of minutes on her rival, Lizz Weiler, who took over the lead last week. She moved up one spot and came oh so close to making it a husband/wife top step of the podium, but Lizz prevailed. Debbie was 2nd and Alison Masopust was third overall.
Our children both did the kids race and had a blast. My parents and Debbie’s parents came to watch. The post-race festivities were fantastic and full of good cheer. Race Director, Sharon McHale, was honored for her 15 years of service. She said she is “retiring,” so we will see what 2015 brings. The best and worst award that I received was a free entry into next year’s series. The 10 races take a serious commitment. It isn’t easy to work all day, fight the Hartford and Farmington traffic, and push yourself week in and week out. I haven’t set any goals for next year, so I’ll give it some time before deciding if I’m gunning for the series title again. This was my first after being runner-up in the past, so it is a nice accomplishment and one that I’m proud of. I love the Winding Trails community. Sharon, Tiny Tri Race Director Jimena Florit, the staff, and volunteers do a great job. The race has many great sponsors including Fleet Feet, Collinsville Canoe & Kayak, CT Outdoor Guide, CCAP, Timex, Biker’s Edge, Central Wheel, Newington Bicycle, Berlin Bicycle, and Team Horst Engineering’s shop sponsor, Benidorm Bikes. There were some fine results from my teammates on the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes. The race has introduced hundreds of athletes to the sport of triathlon. The kids race, Tiny Tri, and main event have a high status in my ranking of well-run events.
I’m hoping to do one more road sprint triathlon before hanging up the wetsuit and triathlon bike for the season. Cyclocross season is coming and I’m planning to translate my sprint fitness into good cross results. I won’t get too far ahead of myself. Right now, I’m ready for a shower bedtime because the Wednesday after Winding Trails always brings one sure thing…work, and I’m on the road again.
Series Results (will be posted when available)