San Luis Obispo, known as SLO or simply San Luis for many of the locals, began as the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772 and was founded by Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish friar. The mission was named after the thirteenth century bishop of Toulouse, France, Saint Louis. Father Serra came up from Mexico and embarked on a journey to Nueva California during a time when the magnificent wilderness had not been tainted by man. It is fun to ponder what California might have looked like back then. Today, the town has an older European feel to it, particularly, the Spanish Mission and surrounding area, with its tree lined streets. The downtown area is pedestrian friendly with several eclectic shops, a wide array of restaurants, and the night life is impressive for a city of only 45,000 people. Having California Polytechnic State University, with an enrollment around 20,000, contributes to the joie de vivre of the area.
October is one of the warmer months of the year averaging 73 and only receiving half an inch of rain for the month. For this year’s Scott Tinley Triathlon we were treated to cool rainy weather; adding some new challenges to the difficult course. Having the prospect of being comfortably cool throughout the race is exciting, while slippery conditions on the bike produced some vigilant descents.
The rainy morning and the laid back atmosphere combine to create a serene and calming mindset. The scene up at Lake Lopez with the low cloud cover hiding the peaks of the surrounding dry hills kept the atmosphere mysterious. Scott Tinley’s Triathlon lends itself to the purists of our sport, still having that grassroots feel to it while employing the well oiled machine of a Tri-Cal event. A remarkable fact about this race, and all of the Tri-Cal events, is that the location is a destination all its own. The lucky ones stick around after a race to enjoy another day or two of escape.
Several of the pros spoke words of encouragement, moments before we ran into the water. “Race well. Have fun out there guys”, seconds later we were plunging through the luke-warm water with an orchestra of rain drops being drowned out by our efforts. Leading briefly for the first part of the swim was fun, being that I have little sprinting abilities, I was surprised. Victor was the only guy on my left and he was right with me. Turning left at the first buoy Victor got in front along with Ethan and Brian who were in front of him. Here, Brian started to pull away and there was little choice for me to do anything other than enjoy the draft from Plata and Brown. Feeling very comfortable at the half way point, remaining behind these two, seemed to be a good place to be.
After rounding the first buoy for the second lap these two gapped me ever so slightly. I went hard to get back in the sweet part of their draft and over-did-it. Spending the next few minutes in recovery mode forced me to lose further time until the next group caught up. We limited our damages to come out in good position (about 6th for me) and about 40 seconds down to Brian.
Onto the bike, the first few revolutions of the crank told me it was going to be a good day. Almost too good! Cresting the first hill with a good measure of speed, I began putting my shoes on. At that instant, a look of panic and dread would have been on my face. The slick roads, my disc wheel with wet brake pads, and my ambitious speed almost ended my race in the first half mile. I was heading into a corner that was going to send me off the road tumbling through the dirt. I couldn’t brake hard for fear of slipping quickly on to my side and the wet brake pads weren’t slowing me down much. I couldn’t turn sharply either for fear of slipping. Luckily for me, at the last instant before smashing into the curb, I made the turn still upright. Pheeew! Not so fast. I was still going to fast for the next corner and nervously avoided another crash. Whoa! I resolved to be super careful for the remainder of the race and felt fortunate to have avoided a crash; my adrenalin was sky high.
Maybe the close call on the first hill played in my favor, as I flew effortlessly on the bike and was riding in 2nd place by about mile 6. Then, I came back down to earth and was unable to put any time on Ethan or Victor. Ethan and I traded leads a few times being extra precise on the turns so that we stayed upright on the slick surfaces. With soaking wet cycling shoes and a subdued excitement I came into T2 in second place.
My legs felt good, fast, and light starting out the run. Surprisingly, I held off Ethan and Victor for about a half mile. That mild victory was short lived however, as they would go on to put a lot of time on me in the run. Balzer passed me and just lingered in front for the rest of the race, then a mad dashing Stehula passed on his way to 4th place. I finished feeling strong and in 6th place while Brian lead from start to finish for an impressive victory.
Having finished, the attention turned to the relaxing day ahead as the sun came out to dry out the wet earth. The dichotomy of the day is a life triathlete’s love. The all-out, go-for-broke effort followed by quiet satisfying reflection and recovery is a deserved laziness. The rest of the day was a good time to spend with your fellow athletes, in celebration of our vitality.