By Aisia Azus
Waking up Saturday morning to gray skies and a continuous downpour seemed like an ominous start to Treeathlon weekend, featuring a draft legal race on Saturday and classic on Sunday hosted by Stanford Triathlon.
The constant rain continued steadily throughout the drive to Redwood shores Park, which included exposure to French(?) music and almost getting lost once (shoutout to Nripendria’s DL car). The rain continued throughout packet pickup and transition set up, with the exciting promise of a bucket filled with water to greet racers in T1(draft legal requires all athletes to return equipment to a bucket provided in transition).
Prepared for race day as always, Cal Triathlon immediately erected the team canopy to spare our athletes and their belongings from the now torrential downpour. However, less prepared spectators, racers, and seemingly everyone in the vicinity ended up coveting the tent, which became comically crowded with everyone but Cal athletes. This was expedited by an official’s declaration that the prerace meeting would be held at the Cal Tent. During said meeting, Coach Dean was (unsurprisingly) a proponent of the race being held in its entirety rather than cutting out the bike due to rain. The officials seemed dubious yet initially conceded, although later announced the bike was to only be two laps instead of the four.
It was a mass start, and eight Cal athletes began the official swim after being submerged in water for essentially the entire afternoon anyways. Anna Belk came out of the water 7th and subsequently whizzed by on the bike, coming in 3rd overall. Jocelyn Vides and I made the top ten in 8th and 5th respectively. Greg Harper came out of the water first and retained his lead throughout the race. Other strong performances of the day include our president Louie Cao’s 9th place finish, as well as Grant Schroeder, Derek Ahmed and Nripendria Acharya’s first completed draft legal races. Despite the less than ideal conditions, Cal Tri had a great first day.
The next day I awoke at 4:45 AM to similarly ominous grey clouds over Berkeley, but this time with a body significantly more stiff than the day prior due to the draft legal race less than 24 hours before. In the hazy state between alarm going off and actually waking up, the vague thought of not racing the classic appeared in my mind, to be reaffirmed when I rolled out of bed to find my entire body protesting. Nevertheless, I dutifully reported to Kroeber and we rolled out into the rain.
Despite the brief period during the drive to race site during which I admittedly could not see anything due to a sudden deluge of water, when we arrived at Redwood shores there was not even a drop of moisture in the sky−the race commenced without a hitch.
Due to the incredibly long run between the water and transition, I was the first woman in T1 despite being the third out of the water. I am not sure if that constitutes winning the swim, but I do know that is the hardest I have ever run during the swim portion of a triathlon. After sprinting to transition, the bike felt surprisingly good. I arrived in T2 still without seeing another woman pass by. I began the run with tired legs, with a vague idea that perhaps I could cross the finish line first. Despite the rubbery feeling that at some point becomes pain in the legs during a race, I was invigorated by seeing all my teammates on the out and back run. Everyone had an encouraging smile, cheer, or “Go Bears!” to offer. These gestures combined with everyone’s obvious efforts inspired me to keep going.
What I remember from crossing the finish line is not the moment at which I crossed the line, but the things prior to that point. The plethora of screaming Cal Tri alumni that came out to watch, current Cal Tri members that came to take pictures and support their teammates, the teammates who had just finished racing and were probably so exhausted yet still found the energy to jump and yell and run with me to the end. I remember a Cal flag just before the line and feeling that even if I didn't cross the line in first or at all, I had won because I had found this amazing Cal Tri family that is there to encourage, push, and inspire me.
All sentimental musings aside, Cal Tri had a great weekend. Greg Harper winning both the draft legal and classic, president Louie Cao coming in 10th in the classic. On the girls end, five out of the top ten girls came from Cal, including Anna Kudej, Katherine Hoolihan, Martha Morrissey, and Rosalie Lawrence.
And now I hear there is a swim at MTS (yay!), so maybe all that rain was actually worth it after all…