When my children were young, we used to camp at Jamestown Beach, next to the ferry landing, so the Patriot Sprint, which starts and ends at the old campground, is like a homecoming. As I walked along the beach shore on Saturday evening after picking up my race packet, I looked up the bluff to our favorite camping spot, now overgrown with brush. In my mind’s eye, though, my 4-year-old daughter was nimbly scooting down the hill to watch the Baptists or Methodists singing hymns on the beach – and then was escorted back to our campsite after the service by a kindly church member, who was no doubt horrified to find the sweet child’s father drinking a beer.
The next morning, as I considered the river in the rain, I would have liked to been tucked snugly in our old camper instead. The water temperature was 74°, so wet suits were allowed. Despite the buoyancy a wet suit offers, I tend to feel like I’m choking in it. Hoping to alleviate this problem, earlier this year I purchased wet suit no. 3 –in a larger size and different style. The suit felt okay on dry land, but the Patriot swim would be its “christening.” My other problem with a wet suit is that getting it off after the swim eats up my time in T1, but I don’t swim well at all in chilly water, so I opted to wear it.
Probably, though, I should have gone without the wet suit because the water did not feel cold and my neoprene-swaddled body didn’t seem tethered to my naked arms. I made more progress kicking on my back than actually swimming. I silently agreed with a fellow swimmer who said, “Well, wet suits suck.” I kept aiming for the yellow buoy where we were supposed to turn, but it seemed like the distance between it and me stayed the same. I noticed that some swimmers who had started in the groups behind me were already turning toward shore, without having passed the buoy. Then I heard someone in a boat telling swimmers to turn because the buoy had come loose. I’m not sure how much out of the way I went, but I do know I’m not a fan of open water swimming.
The distance from the beach to the transition area was a hike through a grassy field. I struggled a bit with getting my left foot out of my wet suit, but still my T1 time was 16 seconds less than the maximum possible time I’d estimated.
I rode the bike course in exactly the same time as two years ago, which was disappointing because I’d expected to be faster on my new bike. Or, maybe I should spin it this way – I’m just as fast as I was, even though I’m two years older. I think I needed my bike pal KG riding ahead of me as incentive.
The run course took us through another grassy field at the beginning and end, with a paved trail in the middle. My time was a little faster than other 5K runs I’ve done this year, but still slower than I’d hoped.
All in all, the event provided another good memory of Jamestown Beach. Because I was the only official entrant in my age group, I was awarded first place, albeit by default. Another competitor had a better time than I did, but she was registered in the novice category rather than age group. Whether I was first or second, though, the prizes were the same – a wine glass and a bottle of chardonnay from a local winery.