Recently, I brought you live coverage at Facebook live on Mud Run Guide of the 8th Annual Medford Lakes Triathlon. Like me, you may have felt a bit of déjà vu. The scene and the people looked familiar. The beach, playground, cabana, lake, policemen directing traffic, and lots of athletes stirring around waiting to start a race. Except for this time, it wasn’t my training in my backyard. It wasn’t my annual 5Ks. This time it was something much bigger. Something that OCR athletes are starting to crossover train into. We are breaking out of our OCR extreme WODs and branching into areas like ultra-running and triathlons.
This one is known as a triathlon sprint. Unlike the full Olympic-scale triathlon of swim 1.5K, bike 40K, and run 10K, or the Ironman swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 mile, and run 26.2 miles, the sprint is a 400m swim, 10K bike, and 2.5K run. The top athletes finish this course in just over an hour. Although I live, train, and race in my little town, I’m still not convinced I want to try a Tri.
A lot of the athletes tell me that swimming is the hardest, slowest part of the race for them. Many are unfamiliar with the dark, spring-fed waters of South Jersey. The water at the nearby river-fed Vincentown Triathlon is even darker, spooking a lot of athletes. I don’t mind the dark water having grown up with it. It’s only dark because of the decomposing cedar trees that produce tannic acid throughout the waterways of the Pinelands National Reserve in South Jersey. This natural process actually helps keep the water incredibly clean and pure.
The bike loop follows my running route when I do hill training. These 80-100 foot monsters are the biggest around so they just have to do. While not really a challenge for the biking portion, the roads do follow some very beautiful terrain. That’s one of the biggest attractions of this race. The course is gorgeous any time of year, always bringing a full complement to this race, my 5K races, and many others.
The running route is a short out-and-back along a tunnel of trees route that skirts a 100+-year-old YMCA camp and our local golf course. Runners can also catch glimpses of the historic log cabins that dot the lakeside where they swam earlier.
All this tranquility, however, did not come without a few moments of sporting action. One bike rider, an older gentleman, wanted to cross the road. The police officer stopped him to prevent a collision with cars and racers whizzing by. The local gentleman, just out for a Sunday morning ride over to the Medford Lakes Coffee Shop, was not at all happy. He expressed his displeasure to the officers and then went on his way. He’ll probably post the incident on Facebook later today.
That was something else that bothered me. Besides my wife and I, our neighbor the Boro manager, and the police, only one local woman actually participated in the race. The rest were probably still in bed recovering from Canoe Carnival the prior weekend. Or they were down the Shore. The only activity most Medford Lakers do is ride their bikes to the coffee shop. We live in a rough town. It was reported earlier this week that a gang of pre-teen boys actually rode their bicycles into the local supermarket. A gym-owner friend of mine, a very large man, chased them out. I conceived of a new sport or at least a feasible training option. Indoor supermarket OCR. I see it on TV commercials all the time.
Anyway, these four guys took the top spots. I saw them go neck and neck throughout each leg of the race. They obviously race together a lot and swap podium positions during the season. They laughed, chatted, and gave good-natured advice to one another for how do avoid dodging deer on the road, wondering what creature it was that bit them in the dark water, or trying to figure out how we get coffee so deep out here in the woods.
My wife’s friend Jill grabbed second place in her age group. She just keeps getting better and better at this. She fuels up with a Vegan diet. So the night before we directed her to Honeygrow for dinner, just about ten miles west towards civilization.
In between FB Live takes, I took some nice pictures of the athletes and spectators hogging up my training ground. It’s this wonderful combination of lake, cabana, beach, and playground all in one. And there are a bunch more in my town just like it. Our little bubble of clean water, pristine nature, and magnificent sunsets. When the race was over, everyone cleaned up and left it looking just as nice. Danzeisen & Quigley, the event organizer, did another fine job. They gave out tons of awards going five deep in some events. They also held a few raffles, giving away three racing wetsuits each valued at over $300, as well as a few dozen steri-bags to those who hung around for the awards ceremony.
Finally, the police lifted the barricades and the last few stragglers departed. Everyone there who knows me wondered why I wasn’t in the race. Alas, my racing bike still hangs in my shed, lonely, unridden, for over two years now. If I go into the lakes, it’s to help with running resistance and form training. So I go up to my waist, splash a lot, and get the tanning mommies all pissed off with the noise I make or blocking their views of their kids who otherwise might suddenly get snatched underwater by the alleged man-eating snapping turtles who lurk beneath.
This is the pressure I live with as an athlete. You’re always welcome to come train with me if you can handle it. Or sit at the lakeside, watch a sunset, and ponder the likelihood of doing this triathlon next year.