Race Iron Teams or.....
I skipped the Iron Teams race this year, for the first time in more than six years. In the past, I’ve been on several teams, paddling or biking, then started doing it solo for four years up until last year. 2012 my wife rode the bike leg with me on our tandem. Technically I was solo and the tandem is way slower than my light sleek road bike, but she loved it. The 2013 race found me undertrained so I did the first four legs, my wife and I did the bike leg then we passed the baton to a fast young and fit friend for the last leg. He smoked it. On the drive back from the bike leg, passing runners on the road, some of which I had been back-of-the-packers with for several years now; I felt pangs of guilt and remorse.
These feelings were quickly swallowed by many memories of that last run. Hot, chaffed, dehydrated with sweat and seawater crusted like a terrible candy shell, I remembered wondering if I should just lay down in the bushes, plunk down with the folks at the water stations and stay with them or just thumb a ride. The last run is tough for me. I’ve never been accused of having a runner’s physique exactly. In fact on the beach run that very year a friend who possesses very much a runner’s body ran alongside and chatted. His question was “how are you doing this?” Yes I was out of shape but had felt so obligated by tradition to do it. Not so much this year.
In the past I’d trained, run in the middle of the night after everything was done or early morning, even on the beach, ridden seriously and maybe even gone for a swim before the very early season race. Once I’d even paddled my board a little. I used to run the loop before the event to be sure I could do it. This year I just didn’t have the drive. My running shoes had gathered dust, my road bike’s odometer had moved very slowly, and I’d not swum a stroke. We considered trying to cobble together a team so my wife and I could still do the bike leg but it just didn’t happen.
I love the race. It’s done to support a great program and group of people, formerly Big Brothers Big Sisters, now called Mentoring Youth Nantucket, it’s got a long 30+ year history and, like so many islanders, it was the first non-school sporting event I entered. Its relaxed atmosphere and unique style make it very approachable. Many teams are not highly trained and are not aboard the fastest of equipment. There are serious athletes to be sure, but there is a wide enough range to make rookies comfortable. Many people also have the memory of the old course where you paddle out to Coatue, run that strip of soft sand, then swim back. Far more epic than the way the course is done now, but both are a joyous challenge.
Seeing the photos of people I have raced with and people who look like it’s their first time, and seeing the joy on their face made me remember that feeling. The infectious joy of eating burgers with dozens of others who look as shelled as you feel is palpable. Gorging on recovery brews and hot dogs in tight sweaty clothes builds bonds that last.
I think I missed it just enough to be ready for next year, missing that feeling of communal accomplishment and personal achievement, but for this year, it was nice to sleep in.