To avoid confusion- I was a spectator for this race, and I went out to take lots of photos and support my training buddies: The Wet Willies! There are a lot of photos to go with this post, I will post a HUGE gallery at the end of the post with all photos.

small-tiny-tx-logo-smallSo way back in my last review, I mentioned I needed to cycle more, swim more, run more ….simply train more. There was in informal group of us going out to Boerne Lake weekly, and that group grew so much in a short time that one of the members decided we needed a name, as well as a closed facebook page. Drawing from all sorts of differing levels of experience, we have become a tightly knit group of athletes willing to share our knowledge and training with each other in order to make us all better athletes.

Since my August is so incredibly busy (I have a race every weekend in August) I decided  iwould not compete in this one, but I would instead dust off my camera and head out to get some good photos of my friends in action, offer support and cheer them all on!

This race, like the “Tri for Old Glory” was a dual distance event, with the Small Texan being an Olympic distance race, and the Tiny Texan being a Sprint Distance race, and I had team members of the Wet Willies competing in both distances.

The transition area looked tight, as many races tend to, so there was no surprise there. There was only two gates in it however..a swim in/bike in and a run out/bike out. This wasn’t a huge issue for most of the racers, but a few of the really slow swimmers had a small traffic issue with returning cyclists. The final cyclists to leave out of transition wound up having to avoid some cones that had been put down to keep the runners on course, as they were leaving through the same exit. Again, not a HUGE issue, just a small annoyance.

The line where cyclists could mount was poorly placed between the transition fence and a fence for the parking area…there is a different mounting technique for every cyclist, and having the mount line at the end of a choke point caused it’s fair share of problems….one cyclist would stop to mount and clip in, while the cyclist behind would attempt a flying mount…can you picture the issue? it would be comical if I didn’t know first-hand just how much the exhaustion of the swim leg can befuddle your brain a little…but I am getting WAY too far ahead.

I got to the venue with plenty of time to spare-enough time to find my friends in the crowd and get some pre-race shots:

It didn’t take long for the race to kick off, starting with the men’s Olympic distance wave, then the women’s (featuring Let the Jet of the Wet Willies) kicked off a few minutes later:

Followed shortly thereafter by the Men’s Sprint and then, finally the women’s and relay wave:

After what seemed an eternity, we were soon cheering them back as they made the final approach. This is where I think Redemption Race Productiond has spoiled me. The entrance/exit of the swim portion was located at the bottom of the boat launch leading into the lake, the bottom of which is constantl submerged and covered in algae… making it slicker than eel snot. While the Wet Willies and other locals know about this from training in Boerne Lake on a regular basis, I didn’t hear it mentioned during the pre-race briefing, and there were no staff/race officials/volunteers on hand to help people out of the water. I wound up standing knee deep in the water shouting at swimmers to watch their step, offering a hand here and there as I could.

RRP solves this problem by having volunteers on hand to offer a steadying hand…not to pull you out of the water, just something to help you out like a handrail… this was something that should have been addressed by the event coordinators.

Soon the Wet Willies in competition were leaving the water and getting on their bikes for the next leg:

With all our team mates out on the cycling course, the few Wet Willies that were there for support/pictures turned our attention to the final few swimmers struggling to make it through the final portion of the swim course. One in particular caught my eye because he was so far behind every other swimmer, but even from the shore I could tell he wasn’t going to give up…. no matter what.

The idea of someone trying so hard and not being able to hear the cheering crowds spurring him on towards the finish just didn’t sit right with me.

So I did something I thought was right and just, I handed my friend Belinda my camera gear for safekeeping, stripped down to my running shorts, and swam out to him to cheer him on for the last 200m, so that I knew HE would know how much support on the shore he actually had!

He was a slow swimmer, but unwavering in his determination to finish the trial at hand, I simply encouraged him to finish, and I swung my arms to get the crowd shouting for him as soon as we could hear them. Soon he was out of the water, and headed to transition!

…and just as he was headed off on his ride, the first of the returning Wet Willies came flying up to the dismount line…

….followed closely by the second of the four team members we had competing….

…but where was number 3?

As a cyclist CARRYING her bike came into view, we all quickly realized it was one of ours. It turned out someone going the opposite direction took a turn FAR TOO WIDE causing her to veer off into a gravel patch three miles from the finish line of the bike leg. She couldn’t repair her bike right then and there, so she did what any other determined tri-athlete would do in this situation- she picked up her bike and carried it the final three miles to transition!

She racked her bike and headed out for the run…determined to catch the rest of the Wet Willies already out on the course….and sporting road rash from her knee to her shoulder!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new official definition of BAD ASS!

With the sprint competitors of our group all on the course, the spectating three kept an eye on the horizon for Let the Jet’s petite profile to make te final turn and approach. As we were starting to worry, I decided to head up the hill to the finish so I wouldn’t miss our friends as they triumphantly crossed the finish line:

…and in short order, all three of them finished almost right on top of each other….

…and just as we were starting to worry something fierce, Our final competitor came into view. She was in and out of transition in a flash, and took off like a bat out of hell to conquer her 10k run….

A short time later, the loudspeaker announced the final cyclist coming in…and I knew it had to be my swimming buddy!

Watching him come up the hill, I could tell he was gassed…but determined… as he approached me on the path, I high fived him and asked if I could join him for the run. He looked at me (and my bare feet) in amazement and said, yeah…that would be great man…

So off I went with my new friend to conquer a hot and sunny 5k….barefoot, with 30lbs of camera equipment on my back…. what can I say, I need punishment!

We settled into a run/walk pace, talking about anything and everything except what was happening…then the dirt path turn into asphalt, and I had to pull on my Juaraches… I stopped and snapped a few photos along the way:

We hit the aid station and rehydrated, then set off along the paved portion for a mile or so of paved uphill hell before we reached the turn-around and headed back…

…and it was during this portion that she emerged, materializing almost magically from the shimering heat waves radiating from the pavement:

…and just as quickly as she was there, Let the Jet was gone!

As we plodded along, each step feeling heavier then the last, my friend (Henry) started to slow….

“i gotta stop,”he said.

“NO” , I said, ” that’s the kiss of death…you can slow you can crawl, but you can NOT STOP”

…and just like that, we kept going…right to the turn-around and then we were on our way back!

We paused again at the aid station to re-hydrate, and then headed off to conquer the final leg of the run portion.

As the finish line came into sight, we started running more and more… some Wet Willies and race volunteers came out to meet us….with about 800m left in the run, I bid Henry farewell and trotted to the finish line…. I wanted to get a picture of him crossing the finish line, and there was now more people there to help him finish…besides, it was his day…not mine…I just wanted to help him a little…

He reached down deep and found the strength to finish at a SPRINT crossing the finish line looking like he was barely trying at all:

My team mates and I invited him out for lunch, but he declined in favor of heading home to rest… being tri-athletes ourselves, we all understood and bid him a fond farewell….

Being a spectator at this race allowed me to see things that I don’t often see from the inside. The determination and heart of fellow athletes, the joy and fun that some volunteers have… a few rude racers and the havoc they can create…and exactly how lucky I am to be able to compete in RRP races where they do everything they can about everything they can…

Stay Muddy My Friends, and like my new friend Henry, ALWAYS TRI YOUR BEST!

See y’all at the Tour De Jalapeno, The Greater Gator, The FSH Tri and the Bastrop Lost Pines Tri next month!