Sunday, July 03, 2005

Not your tree-hugg'n father's Maine...

Ahh, Maine...Conjures images of paddling your kayak on pristine water in air crisp, with seals swimming along side, or possibly basking on rocks in the July sun. So, when given the opportunity to race a triathlon in Maine, other than working out the logistics, I was excited by the opportunity. My whole team was turning out and the weather was supposed to be great, so all signs pointed to a great day.

The race was in Bath, Maine on the Kennebec river. Well let me tell you, Bath is something the town's folk know little about. Bath is a little piece of the rust belt here in New England. It's a blue collar town with the Bath Iron Works (Shipbuilding), being it's major industry (and for all intents and purposes the only show in town). The Kennebec river is not a crisp cold blue or green, at least not in Bath. No, it's rusty brown. Thick enough that when swimming, I was unable to see my outstretched hand in front of me.

So it's race morning, and I'm preparing to ride down from the Holiday Inn, to the start/finish area. I'm very late because Otis had to go, and you just can't ignore that, no matter what the cost. It's going to be close, but I think I can still make the start on-time. With 18 minutes to spare I pull into the start/finish area. That's when I learn the transition area, where you put all your stuff for the race, is another mile down the road and the last shuttle has left. So I ride down. It takes me about 5 minutes. I set up my area. It's now 7:20 am and I'm a mile away from the starting line of a race that is to start in 10 minutes and the last shuttle has left. It's not looking good. However, I refuse to concede defeat and see a Mercedes M sitting with it's engine idling. I run up to the driver. "Are you going to the starting line." "Yes." "Could you give me a ride, I'm really late." "So is my son, so sure I will." The volunteers are all laughing. One exclaimed, "Did you see that? It was like a car-jacking." Hey, I wasn't going to miss my start. I pulled on my wetsuit in the backseat of the woman's car and made the line with 5 minutes to spare.

The first indication that this was a "less formal" event than I was used to, came after we jumped of the dock into the water for a floating start to the race. The "race director" (I use that phrase loosely), indicated that the starting line was between the blue boat on the mooring and the guy in the blue kayak. You're kidding right? Among other things, the guy in the kayak was moving. As for swim course directions, just keep the shore on your left. When you see the orange float, turn left. Okay, it's a river. Being told to keep the shore on my left isn't really helpful. And as for the bouy, the fog was thick as pea soup and the bouy was a mile up river. Needless to say we had no friggin' clue where the turn was.

The race started with swimmers going in all directions. The water was murky, the air was murky, and I had no clue where the course went. Oh yes, and before I forget, the water was unnaturally warm. You could have gone without a wetsuit if so desired, unheard of in neaby Casco Bay, which is actually to the south. Could the warmth be from the, as I learned later, sewage treatment plant we were passing on the swim? Or was it exhaust from BIW? (Was that a piece of corn that just hit my goggles?) After some time I took an extra long look and saw the bouy, 200 yds to my left. Shit... I've overshot the turn. So did quite a few other people. I think they're still looking for a couple of guys!

The rest of the race was uneventful (except for the guy riding next to me crashing hard), and I had a solid if uninspired race. I finished 25th overall, though last of the men on my team. They're all really good, so I'm not heartbroken. Furthermore I feel fine today, except for a sinus issue (wouldn't be that sewage plant again, would it?) .

No, this was not Bar Harbor. This was not Kennebunkport. This was more like Ambridge, PA. Not too pretty. However, the family still had a good weekend, and we had fun with my teammates at lunch after the race. So would I do it again? If everyone else goes next year, I'll probably be there (though I'll make sure to get my shots!).