It all started in May. Actually, it all started 11 years ago when Arti and I signed up for the 15th annual Tri For Fun in Pleasanton at Shadow Cliffs park. Swimming, biking, and running were all things that I did not do, but we thought this would be fun. Well, Arti did at least.

We spent the next several months preparing for this race. There was a 400 yard swim, 11 mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run. We would go to the community pool in Mountain View two or three times a week and swim a couple of thousand yards. We would run around our neighborhood for 30-60 minutes at a time which was severely unsavory for me at the time. We’d ride our bikes occasionally, but really … who needs to train to ride a bike?

When the time came to do the 2002 Tri, we nailed the swim, cruised on the bikes, and hobbled around the course on the run. Well, Arti pranced around on the run since she has the stamina of Half Dome.

It was indeed a fun time, but we didn’t really get the itch to do it again. So time passed.

This year, I overheard a few friends (David M, David F, Sarah J) at work talking about doing a triathlon. It turns out they were talking about the same one Arti and I did 11 years back! This seemed like an intriguing adventure, so I mentioned it to Arti and she signed us up that night. Both of us are in way better physical condition than we were 11 years ago, so it seemed like actual fun to do this with some friends.

Arti has been teaching cycling and group fitness amid occasional runs and bike outings. I’ve been running 20-30 miles per week and biking 50-150 miles per week, so we were so ready for this. Oh yeah – there is a swimming part right? We made one trip to a lap pool a month before the race and swam 600 yards or so. So…. swimming is pretty tough! But we’re in great shape, right?

I had been joking with the youngest of the three friends (David M, 23) about how I was going to clean his clock in the race. He swam competitively in college, but only recently picked up biking and running. Old man stamina is no match for young man aggression, isn’t it?

The night before the race, we packed up the car and drove to stay at Kanta’s house in Pleasanton. David M also joined us there. David F and Diego stayed in a nearby hotel. Unfortunately Sarah J bumped her head pretty hard a couple weeks prior and wasn’t able to do the tri this time, but she promised to be there to root us on.

We got up at 5am Saturday to get ready for the event. After a quick breakfast, we hopped on our bikes for the 4 mile ride to Shadow Cliffs. This was a really nice start to the day, since we could get moving a bit. David F and Diego passed us in their car just outside the park entrance, so it was great timing. We claimed a spot in the transition area and hung out until things got rolling.

There were three heats of starts – men, women, and kids+older folks. This means that I was going to start with both Davids, but Arti would be in the next heat. After some instructions and a pep talk from the race organizer, we were off splashing into the lake to swim out 120 yards or so to the first buoy. I knew I should take it really easy since I didn’t practice too much and I wasn’t too experienced swimming in close quarters to other folks. No problem – I’ll just hang back and catch David M on the bike.

At the first buoy, I was pretty winded. Swimming is kind of like running – if you don’t work up to it, it’s really hard! I was breathing pretty much every stroke. Whenever I’d run into someone I’d stop and lose all my momentum. After rounding the corner to head for the second buoy I started having some panicky thoughts. This was really surprising to me – we were surrounded by 20 or so lifeguards on surfboards, so there wasn’t any real danger, but I kept thinking about what would happen if I just couldn’t continue. I turned over on my back a couple times to catch my breath, then continued on with the swim to the second buoy. I remember once on my back I just stared up at the sky and wondered what the heck I got myself into. “Dark Moments”. Ends up David F and Arti both did the same thing in roughly the same place, ha! The lifeguards probably are used to this kind of nonsense :-).

After rounding the second buoy, it was time to swim back to shore. I probably did half of this stretch on my back. “You should have practiced swimming a LOT more you knucklehead”, I kept telling myself in a demonstration of awesome self-encouragement.

Finally I got so where I could touch bottom in the lake again and so I transitioned from “splash and flail in the water” to “run the heck out of this damn lake” and headed for my trusty bike. I think I was in the water for 12 or 15 minutes. Super David M finished the swim in 6m17s – incredible! As I left the water, Sarah J was there with a great sign – “Go Zack! Smoke the 20-something!”. She shouted that David M was 4 minutes ahead. I wasn’t sure if I could get him on the bike, but I had hope.

Out of the Water

The bike route was truncated a bit from prior years due to some construction, so it ended up being less than 9 miles. Knowing this, I set in full speed ahead sprint power mode. I was huffing and puffing the whole time on my mountain bike with knobby-tires, but I managed to pass a few guys on full carbon special aero tri bikes, especially going up hills.

Back to the transition area, I ditched my bike and helmet and took off for the final run. Again Sarah J was at the transition area and told me that David M was only a minute and a half ahead. “Oh yes – I think I can get him”, I thought.

I took off at a pace that felt like 9 or 10 minutes per mile. Ends up it was right at 8 minutes/mile. About halfway though the course, I spotted David M’s green shoes. He was walking up a hill! This was my chance. I caught up to him and gave him a big high five, and suggested that we run together. And so we did. He stepped it up given the fresh challenge, and we ran together all the way to the end. The course looped back on itself three times, so we got to say hi to David F and then to Arti as we were making our way through.

The final chute was diabolically long, but we kicked it up and did 6:30 pace in the last few hundred yards. We ended up with a 1h5m total time. It was great fun to finish together. We grabbed some drinks and snacks at the finish then went to find Sarah J. She had flowers for us and a cardboard cut-out gold medal for me. We had been joking about that earlier in the week. That was great, Sarah – thanks so much!

Home Stretch

I decided to backtrack on the course to find Arti to finish with her. I saw David F along the way and shouted some random encouragement his way – he was running really strong when I saw him. I got to Arti as she was coming down the last hill before the long finishing chute, and we ran together to the end. She was hauling – it was challenging for me to keep up with her ;-).

Finishing With Arti

The triumphant finishers:

Tri Finishers

After a bit of hanging out at the park, we all headed back to Kanta’s house for a post-race brunch (chole, poories, and the best pickled mango ever). We stayed for a couple of hours enjoying the nice weather and company, then headed home.

When is the next tri, guys?