“Today we’d like to recognize those who have attended all 10 years…” That’s a cool distinction, isn’t it? Well, it hasn’t actually happened, but I’m still in the running: I attended the inaugural Janesville Rock Roll n Run triathlon four years ago, and have been back every year since. Not just for a streak‘s sake, but because it’s a great race.
Dione and I are training for Ironman, finessing one workout after another into a fun life of work, races, and summer relaxation. Last week, after Triterium we biked for another couple hours. It was tough to get back in the saddle after the all-out sprint effort. This week, we took advantage of the Thursday 4th of July holiday to grab a long ride: a classic 75-mile route to the border. Yep, we biked to Illinois. It still gave us time to recover Friday before heading to Janesville Saturday.
The day started mighty early, but it was a beautiful one. A sliver of crescent moon hung in the still sky as the sun rose over I-39, giving way to a perfect warm, calm race day. I had the honor of singing the National Anthem to set the stage, as a boat displayed Old Glory in the river ahead of us.
Abundant rain this spring and summer has made our yard and gardens lush and green, and has also filled the Rock River high and mighty. Although it’s only a sprint tri, Janesville’s swim is 1/2-mile, but downstream and fueled by the river’s current. This year, the swim was faster than ever before: I only took 8 minutes! Wouldn’t it be nice to only take 40 minutes for the Ironman swim?!
Janesville is a novice-friendly race. The river start also means a time-trial start, so each competitor seeds themselves in line, and jumps into the swim one at a time. So not only is the swim more of a line than a huge mass of thrashing, but all you really have to do is float and you’ll make it through!
As I turned the last buoy to come ashore, I was a bit surprised to drift downstream past the swim-exit, but recovered and zipped into transition. It’s set up with plenty of room between the racks, and I grabbed my bike and headed out.
The city of Janesville was quiet except for volunteers and police at every intersection, giving us the right of way and offering encouragement as well. The 14-mile bike course is a long lollipop, with only a few turns and good-quality country roads. There are enough rollers to keep a rider honest, but plenty of flats, too. I pushed myself to keep up the tempo through the flats, and welcomed the climbs as a chance to get out of the saddle and extend my legs – although I craved a good steep descent for even a moment of coasting. But such is a sprint triathlon: can you push relentlessly for an hour?
The road to Traxler Park becomes a tri-meeting-place with bikers and runners all heading in and out. Not surprisingly, this made a perfect post for one of the Focal Flame photographers. Special thanks to Focal Flame not just for being there to capture the race, but for also making digital images available for free!
I flew into T2, one moment clipped to my bike and the next running for the rack. It went almost perfectly, and 34 seconds later I was out on the run, wondering just what my legs would have to offer. “You can do anything for 21 minutes.”
I was energized by immediately catching up to one fellow who had blown by me on his green Trek TTX – we had a good chat after the race, and it reminded me how triathlon is fun because of its mixture of moving parts. Everyone brings different strengths and gets to manage their energy the way they see fit. As the disciplines unfold, the field ebbs and flows.
The first mile of the run course takes us right through the middle of downtown, where the Saturday farmers’ market is divided by a chute of cones. Farmers and shoppers cheer for the runners, while runners enjoy a moment’s reprieve from racing’s intensity with the smells and sights of the market. I suppose there’s nothing stopping a runner from bringing along some cash and fueling up on a fresh rhubarb pie!
And past the market is a left turn, and a half-mile climb. It’s a doozie. But like anything, it’s temporary, and at the top is a water station, and sprinklers over the road. It was a typical hot and sunny July day, and I welcomed as much cold water on myself as I could get.
As the hill leveled off, I focused on regulating my breath and regaining my stride, settling in. Pro triathlete Tara Sheetz, leading the women’s race, was just ahead, and she kept me motivated to run hard. I caught up to her on a downhill and we exchanged some encouragement; after the race she explained that she is training for Ironman, and had just done a long workout on Thursday and was using the Janesville race as a speed session. I replied with something like “ahh, that makes good sense!” – and refrained from saying my first answer: “me too!”
The great atmosphere throughout the race is guided by race director Kitty Cole, a positive force in the triathlon community. Kitty seems to be everywhere – competing in local races and the Ironman – and also constantly cheering, volunteering, and running her own fine race. At the end of the Janesville race, she congratulated racers and proudly announced the award-winners. Most of the 133 racers stuck around until the end, and when the final racer made his way across the finish line, we united in celebration for his accomplishment.
All this for a lower price than most of the other local tri’s, and rather than another race-shirt, a slick white and blue HeadSweats visor! Win.
Dione and I placed in our age groups, and displayed our trophies prominently on our new deck. Just in time, too, because that evening some of our friends joined us for a classic summertime deck-warming and fire-pit celebration. Weekly long ride: check. Race: check. It was time to kick back and relax, another essential component of the training cycle – and the cycle of life.
It would have been easy to just do nothing and go to bed early. But lest we forget that training is for fun, and is only one component of a healthy, balanced life, we made time in our schedule to relax and socialize. Drinks and s’mores felt fitting.
And since most of our friends are also tri-people, the dishes they brought to pass were mostly healthy and well-rounded… By 9:00 everyone started yawning and heading home, and we got to bed pretty early after all.