Written By Brian Szydlik
The winter is technically over. I think. Time for everyone to come out of their hibernation dens. I hope :-). Unfortunately, most of us did not have any Canary Island, Southern Hemisphere, or Panama race vacations planned for this winter so we just endured the Utah cold up on the slopes, at work, and indoors on a boring trainer while sneaking in a few bundled up rides outdoors. As for me, I am a self-proclaimed wuss when it comes to riding in the cold. Thus, I counted the days to Spring and “The Coveted,” Icebreaker Sprint distance Triathlon. I have only been living in Utah for a little over a year as I recently moved from the East Coast. See I was a Sea Level Weenie as I was told; and was rudely introduced to the USAT Rocky Mountain Region geography last year with less Oxygen. However, a REFRESHING family of warm hearted athletes all over this Salt Lake Valley were and are more than willing to show me the ropes on how to breath like a “fish” here at altitude with less.
Since I am such a wuss when it comes to the cold, why in the heck did I sign up for a race called the “Icebreaker.” I guess because optimisim is good and hoped it was figurative and not literal. Plus, I had to have something on my calendar or else there is a very good possibility I would have spent all winter at In-and-Out Burger, my other den. Seriously. The gamble paid off. AND WOW, did RACE TRI deliver some great weather, in a surreal venue, and a flawlessly managed race in American Fork! I call yesterday a HUGE success and a great way to say good-bye to winter and hello to the start of a great year. More than 220 others with double the spectators and family felt the energy from Race Tri also, and decided to come on out. AND BOY, was the ENERGY LEVEL genuine and very HIGH!
The 2012 Season is here! Give me a second to paint the venue here from my perception:
How in the heck would Race Tri herd a Battalion of volunteers out of their dens into possibly another den that was colder? So, in my opinion, it starts at the top. With the leadership and culture of the organization. Wow, and was this organization packed with energy, competence, and pure love for the sport. Race Tri magnetized great people and volunteers to help deliver a successful event. Two hours before kick-off, wide eyed, and fully energetic volunteers started to show up. And I saw this with my own eyes, these people were fired up! It wasn’t just the cool yellow shirt…these people just wanted to help serve the sport. You could feel it. The energy, even two hours before the race was palpable. I grew up playing baseball so it was very cool to see the “race headquarters” under the lights in shallow center field of city baseball field. When I was little, I used to count down the days till the opening day of baseball, and I remember feeling like a kid on Christmas morning at the ballpark while we stood during the national anthem while the smell of popcorn, cracker jacks, and fresh cut grass loomed everywhere. Aaron Shamy, the Race Director, was “shakin and bacon” and was greeting several athletes and volunteers by name as we all arrived at the “ballpark.” What a great way to start a season, eh? (No, I am not originally from Canada, although I do think it is cool to state rhetorical statements that sound like questions).
So right on schedule, Aaron and Race Tri, began the pre-race briefing. Race Tri’s pre-race briefings are different. They are genuinely welcoming, motivating, timely, and personal. In a very brief but brilliant way, Aaron welcomes athletes from all over the country, puts things in perspective and humbly informs the group of local returning athletes vying to better themselves from a year ago. Then snap, “everyone get to the pool!!!!”
The crowd scatters and marches with a sense of well instructed purpose and within 15 minutes, everyone is lined up by swim time ready to get the party started. Heath Thurston had the honor of kicking the season off, and rightly so. This guy powers and glides through the water (and who broke his bike’s crank bolt?). For the rest of us, it was just a smattering of splash and hypoxic pain. And that went for the swim too….
The real story is that it was impossible not to notice the energy, the joy and pure power of this sport in action today. As the lead pack of runners came to the halfway point on the run, several teenage kids leaped for joy. Again, the energy was infectious. We all ran like we were being chased. I certainly was as it turned out…by a great athlete that would eventually set a course record. Congratulations to Dave Warden for lighting it up. Hats off for Jameson King for burning all of our legs up on the bike!
Congratulations to Amber Foster who was gracious in her OA female win! Congratulations to ALL athletes who clamored out of their own dens to compete with themselves and to lead by example in terms of showing their families that it is cool to wake up early in the morning to swim, bike, and run…to be fit, to reach a goal, to run for him or her, to escape, to find out how the engine is running, to lose weight, to do, to live, to ? It was just a great way to start spring. Yeah, Spring is cool.
It certainly was an honor to compete and be a part of “opening day.”
See you next year for sure.
Brian Szydlik is a seasoned triathlete who placed 2nd overall in the 2012 race with a time of 00:53:48.4 Szydlik ran the second fastest Ice Breaker time that has ever been completed. Coming in just 22 seconds behind 2012 winner, David Warden.