The Hawk Island Triathlon 2012

The Hawk Island Triathlon — Press Release

It’s Monday, the first day of the workweek and a suit covers up the battle scars and temporary tattoo markings on the arms and legs of Edwin and me.  Edwin is a young Information Technology Intern at MERS of Michigan – a retirement system for municipal employees in the state.  The betraying numbers on our calves and arms inform others of our age and where we land amidst the rest of the 800 plus registrants that signed up for Michigan’s largest Sprint Triathlon this year – a 400 meter swim, 10 mile bike ride, and 5k run.

But although we may be the only ones wearing suits today, there are others who also participated in the race and openly display their numbers: my wife Judy—a teacher by profession that is now a stay at home mom and Dr. Christopher Schwartz, a 29-year-old researcher in New York who also co-owns Northwoods Endurance, a coaching service that trains athletes at any level.  We are part of Team Revolution by Bonders.

Bonders is a brand new organization that seeks to minister to young professionals and their families by promoting personal spirituality in the home, leadership in the church and community, and fresh ideas for adapting the Christian message in every-day life – including the message of healthful living.  As a result, Team Revolution was born.  An endurance sports group of men and women of all ages, Team Revolution runs races for personal fitness as well as to earn funds and raise awareness for humanitarian missions around the world.  Some projects include Revolution Against Cancer, Marathoning for Meru, and Tread on Trafficking with Love 146 – an organization against child sex slavery.

Since Revolution started, three years ago, it has been a tradition to start the season by running the race that started it all – the Hawk I in Lansing, MI.  Some of our team members, though registered for the race, had to bow out due to unexpected international trips, speaking appointments or other schedule conflicts.  We missed them.

The race, however, was a blast!

At exactly 8:00 a.m. the elite group of men lined up at the swim starting line expecting to be finished with the entire race before nine.  Chris, along with another Northwoods Endurance athlete Tom – a Chemistry professor in Ann Arbor – ran into the 68 degree water with the lead pack to swim the 400 meters in a little over 6 minutes before finding their bikes for the next leg of the race.

About nine minutes later, Edwin and I joined the group of men under the age of 40 to begin our swim.  It was Edwin’s first time doing a triathlon and his first time doing an open water swim.  He did great.  Judy followed three minutes later with her age group and was about midway through her swim when I got to my first transition, the place where we store our necessary items to shift from one sport to the next.  After putting on my biking clip-on shoes and grabbing my helmet, prescription sunglasses, and a couple of special gummy blocks for a boost of energy, I ran my bike outside of the transition area and mounted it for the start of the bike ride.  Mounting and dismounting can be a tricky thing to do when you’re in a hurry and your shoes clip into the pedals of the bike.  The gentleman in front of me, for example, lost his balance and fell over before even starting the bike portion of the race.  As I pedaled by him, I asked if he was okay and he assured me that it was a soft fall.

Still catching my breath from the swim, I rode up a slight hill for a little less than a mile before turning right on Pennsylvania Ave, the first main street on the bike course.  The blocks didn’t mix well with the initial exertion of the swim on my body, causing me slight nausea for the first half of the ride.  Riding at about 22-25 mph during the first part of the bike ride, I tried to remind myself to take slow deep breaths to gain control of my breathing.  This is hard for your body to do when your mind will not allow you to forget that in a little over a half-hour you will be asking your tired legs to carry you through a 3.1-mile run.  Finally, things begin to slow down for me—both mentally and physically.  A strong headwind puts a break on my speed and quiets my heart with pounding coming from my thighs.  By this time, Chris has already started running.  Old and young men begin to pass me.  I get to pass a few people too.  In 34 minutes, my bike ride is over.

Volunteers stand at each corner flanked by a police officer directing traffic to ensure the safety of the racers.  I unclip out of my left pedal and pull my leg over the back of my bike to run it to my second transition. The only problem is that I forget to unclip out of my right pedal—oops!  I slide, fall, and skid to provide a nice show of embarrassment for the several hundred spectators that are waiting for their loved ones to come in.  I have a tennis ball-size bruise on my left bicep, a slight gash on my forearm, and a small scrape on my knee.  More embarrassed than pained, I run to the transition and check out my wounds.  I drink some water, pass on the gummy blocks this time, consider playing a practical joke on my wife—whose stuff is right next to mine, and put my running shoes on along with a bandana on my head to prevent the sweat from dripping into my eyes.

My aim is to run 10-minute miles and let my final time fall where it falls.  Although I hate running, this is my favorite part of this particular triathlon because I get to run into the rest of my friends who are also running the race.  The run course is an out-and-back design, meaning that the runners head out to a designated point and turn back towards where they started after reaching the halfway part of the run.  The first person I see is Chris.  He’s finishing as I’m starting.  I yell: Go Chris! And he nods in acknowledgement.  By the calm look of his demeanor, you wonder if he’s in pain or if he even cares about his performance.  I don’t know if he’s in pain, but I know that he cares.  He finishes in 57 minutes!  I reach the halfway part of the run and start on the last part of the race.  Not much time passes before I see my wife Judy pushing hard.  We high-five each other with two hands and I tell her to catch me on her way back.  Although her run is definitely faster than mine – by more than 3 minutes, she crosses the finish line several minutes after I finish.  I wait to meet her with some of our great cheerleaders.

Immediately we ask if she knows anything about Edwin.  She saw him on the run and figures that he’s almost finished.  Several minutes later, Edwin Elia finishes his first triathlon.  He takes a nice cold glass of water, and grabs his finisher’s medal.  Chris introduces us to Tom and we invite him for a meal at our house.  We grab a few free bean burritos provided to us by the wonderful volunteers of the race and wobble around the park.  But it’s not time to go home yet – Chris’ time is fast enough to get him 2nd place in his age group.  And Tom who finished next to Chris, has won 1st place in the Masters category—racers who are 40 and above.  After grabbing their medals and taking a few pictures in celebration, we head home for arugula pesto pasta, a few junk food snacks, and a lot of lying down on the couches.  It was a great day!  I got a PR – personal record by knocking down 5 minutes off my previous time.  Edwin completed his first triathlon with many more to come.  Judy, jumped to the women’s 30-35 age bracket and went from top ten last year to sixth in her new group, also beating her own husband’s time (and I am not ashamed to say it!).  I think that it may be time to get one of those “My mommy can swim, bike, and run faster than your daddy” shirts.

Despite being tired, we’re ready to sign up for the next event of the season and start our discussion of worthy projects for this year’s focus!  Let the revolution continue!

By: Israel Ramos