BZ correspondent recalls his Sandy Beach Triathlon
Will Neary of Warren prepares to begin the cycling portion of the recent Sandy Beach Triathlon. John McKenna photo
By Will Neary
BZ sports correspondent
The Sandy Beach Triathlon boasted about 60 athletes on the warm Friday evening of July 28, and I was one of them.
It was my second SBT. This year, however, I felt like I was poised for a quality finish. The race was smaller this year. There were no lines at the booth where we got our trackers and numbers, no urgency to get your bike in the perfect position for the first transition, and no pushing to get to the front of the line before the swim. The sun was up and strong, but the weather wasn’t too hot, and the Bantam Lake water wasn’t too cold.
The beginning of the race, which was signaled by a shout over a loudspeaker, was a mess of flailing limbs as we headed into the lake. The first 200 meters or so of the half-mile swim was really just a mass of bodies pushing for position. That splashing and chaos combined with the already choppy lake made for a series of gulps of lake water when I was anticipating air, occasionally getting kicked or hit, and definitely kicking and hitting some others as I tried to push somewhat closer to the front.
The two buoys we had to swim around always seem impossibly far away from the shore. It’s a little bit better once you’re in the water, but at the slow pace that swimming always seems to go, the orange dots in the distance didn’t seem to be getting closer at any noticeable rate. And, even once you made it around the first one, there was the daunting realization that you had to go around another one.
After a tiring 14 minutes and a few too many gulps of murky water, I finally reached the beach and jogged through the gate and over to my bike.
The bike was easily my favorite part of the triathlon, which was the opposite of my experience two years ago. This year, due to construction, part of the bike ride went through the White Memorial Conservation Center and over Chickadee Bridge. I was a little nervous having only ridden a road bike once this summer to take it onto the off-road terrain, but it was actually a lot of fun. In my opinion, the section of the bike that took the racers through the woods almost served as a way to take my mind off of the fact that my legs were already burning and I still had a 3.1 mile run ahead of me.
In general, the route we biked over did not offer up any serious hills, serving what I would at worst call a heavy incline. In all honesty, the hardest part of the bike was the moment I had to step off of the pedals and was struck with the realization that my legs were going to have trouble carrying me for 5 kilometers.
The sensation of running immediately after a 10-mile bike ride is a strange one to say the least. My legs felt heavy but light, if that makes any sense. It felt like I was running with 10-pound weights attached to my legs, but also as if those legs didn’t even belong to me. I was moving at a pretty sluggish pace for the first mile or so, and, to be completely honest, I may have stopped to walk a few steps here and there. Once I hit the halfway mark, though, and the course started more downhill, I started to feel a little better. The weirdest part about the run, to me at least, was that it seemed to get much easier as it progressed. My legs came back from their heavy numbness and returned to their position under the rest of my body.
The last hill, which was about 200 meters long, was brutal. But, once I reached the peak, with probably half a mile to go, I kicked it into overdrive. One of my least favorite things is finishing a race with more in the tank, so I picked up the pace and almost dead sprinted the last quarter mile to the finish line.
Overall, this year’s Sandy Beach Triathlon was definitely a race worth swimming, biking and running. Naturally, the best part of the race was the second it was over, but, looking back, I’m happy I did it. The weather was great and, though it was tough, the race is definitely something I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Whether you choose to compete in a team and only do one or two of the events or individually and do all three, it is well worth the experience.
Editor's note: Will Neary finished in 14th place in a time of 1 hour, 20 minutes and 9 seconds.