Saturday, February 10th – 12:30 PM
The weekend of the first collegiate race of the season had finally arrived, and the UCSB Tri Team was ready for it. Half an hour before scheduled departure, Gordon showed up decked head to toe in USA Triathlon gear with the towing SUV, Ricky procured the finest mom van in Santa Barbara County for the weekend, and Coach Matt rocked jeans with running shoes like only a man on the eve of his thirtieth birthday could. Jonathan, Bella, and Jared almost crashed out of the race before it started in their attempt to ride their bikes from the dorms to the wreck cen parking lot with all their race gear balanced on their handlebars but managed to make it in one piece. Once all the bikes were loaded in the trailer, it was time to hit the open road. Those in the van driven by Coach Matt quickly realized the error in appointing the only person who didn’t own a car as the driver, white knuckling their seatbelts as several hard, fast stops were blamed on the van’s “bad breaks.” After about fifteen minutes of breezing along the beautiful Pacific coast and an hour and a half crawling through LA traffic, the gang decided it was time for a bathroom break. Most everyone was glad to get out and stretch their legs for a few minutes, but Ethan was just pissed that there was nobody working the register at Carl’s Junior, robbing him of a golden opportunity to get in a pre-race double western bacon cheeseburger.
Before long, the team had arrived at the eerily utopian city that calls itself Irvine, California. Iris’s blood began to boil as the van crossed the city limits, spitting fiery insults at suburbs with streets named after prestigious east coast universities. After packet pickup the team decided it was time for dinner and headed to a local pizza joint that Dane used to work at. Coach Matt was delighted to see that his pizza did indeed arrive - a drastic improvement from the previous year. Patrick enjoyed one small sized pizza and two large pizza-sized cookies. Ricky wasn’t so pleased with the service. “Those bastards. They brought me two plates.” He said through gritted teeth as a waiter delivered a large pizza topped with two pigs worth of sausage.
After stuffing their faces, the team headed to Dane’s house to post up for the night. It took some time to find it, in part due to Ricky’s subpar navigational skills and in part because all 79,000 houses in Irvine look exactly the same. The team set up camp in the basement and the day came to a close with half the team nerding out in preparations for midterms they had on Monday while Gordon amused himself by throwing starburst at people. By 8:00 PM, most everyone had fallen into a restless sleep in anticipation for the next day’s events.
Sunday, February 11th – 4:30 AM
Alarms chirped and phones buzzed at the ass crack of dawn the next morning. It took most of the athletes a few minutes to recognize Ray as they rubbed their sleepy eyes clear – most couldn’t remember the last time they saw him without a helmet or baseball cap on and forgot about those luscious locks of silky black hair he had hiding under there. As soon as kits were on and oatmeal was eaten, it was off to the race course. The next couple of hours were spent unloading bikes, inflating tires, and setting up transition. Some of the veterans got a warmup in, while the rookies were preoccupied with figuring out how to use the bathroom in their new race kits.
Sunday, February 11th – 7:00 AM
The team was gathered on the line five minutes before the race was set to start. The nerve was there, but everyone felt ready. Coach Matt was busy curating his snapchat story, mumbling the occasional word of encouragement when the gun went off. Sean took the field out hard from the start, with Ricky, Jared and the Wattslayer gang breathing his dust. Iris took the ladies out fast while Bella and Nicole showcased their running skills on the long, sloping downhills that made up much of the 3.7 mile run course.
Transition from the run to the hilly, 12 mile bike went smoothly for most aside from the fact that many of the rookies drastically underestimated how hard it would be to locate their bike among 200 others. Sean widened his lead, while Ricky ate up the lead Wattslayer almost as fast as he had eaten that large pizza the night before. Gordon sandbagged the run but jumped up to the lead pack on the bike, setting a course record in the process. The spectators’ jaws dropped as they saw how fast the race leaders were flying down the hill on the descending portion of the four-lap bike course. “My goodness! How fast are they going?” exclaimed one lady standing near Coach Matt on the sidewalk. “I’m not sure, but the chubby kid on the red bike’s probably going around fifty,” he replied as Gordo flew down the hill at a top speed of fifty miles per hour. Iris was dancing on the pedals through the first lap of the bike course, and looked like she was ready to pull a “reverse Gordon” by the last.
The finish line was literally in sight as the athletes approached the swim leg of the reverse triathlon. Sean won the race handily, as most of the men’s field was pretty strung out by this point. The women’s race on the other hand was a nail biter. Iris got into the pool in first place with around a ten second lead on UCSD’s top girl. Things heated up as the UCSD girl flip turned her way to the front, edging Iris out with just 100 yards left. This brought up a bit of controversy since flip turns weren’t supposed to be allowed, but the refs let the SD girl have it after she said some things that probably shouldn’t be repeated here. Sticks and stones will break your bones – but words will mess you up. Lindsey and Ethan hopped in the pool and did what they do best, gliding through the water for two strong finishes.
The mood after the race was light as the nerve was finally gone and everyone could relax. The athletes feasted on free snacks and rehydrated with every flavor of kombucha. Sean was bombarded by local kids asking for his autograph, and Jonathan - GQ model of tri kits - had a post-race photoshoot for his Instagram on the pool deck. Meanwhile, Nicole staggered around the finish line confusedly asking the race officials where the other forty six miles of the run course was. After the award ceremony, the team gathered for a picture with Gordon poised on Iris’s back. “Holy crap! How is Iris carrying Gordon?!” exclaimed many. “What do you mean,” replied Gordon to what was possibly the stupidest question of all time, “have you seen Iris’s legs? They’re ripped!” All in all, it was a solid day for the Gauchos with Sean outclassing the entire men’s field, Ricky coming in second, and Iris taking second in the women’s race. Gordon, Jared, and alumni Jon Waltman also rounded out the top ten. Congratulations to Bella, Nicole, Jared, Jonathan, Ethan, and Patrick for completing their first collegiate triathlon!
The ride home was relaxed after a much needed lunch stop at Chipotle. Jonathan ate a burrito that was clearly larger than the capacity of his stomach and apologized in advance about the extra stop his van would need to make on the way home. Patrick was pronounced an honorary California-native as he ordered his first Chipotle burrito on the west coast and proceeded to complain about how expensive it was and how they had the audacity to charge extra for guac. Everyone had different ways of passing the time on the drive back. Ray passed out as soon as he got in his seat, Bella listened to music, Iris was already formulating her plan of attack for Tritonman, while Jared and Ethan engaged in some good old fashioned class warfare over who would get to buy Sean’s TT bike next year. Coach Matt occupied himself telling embarrassing stories about Ricky and Sarah to whoever would listen to him.
“Ricky was stone cold. I mean he wouldn’t say a word to me, or anyone for that matter, except for Sarah,” Coach recalled with a grin on his face. “Then he held her hand, and he was a changed man. Suddenly, he was just oozing with self-confidence. Ahh, now that’s a wedding I can’t wait for.” Ricky spent the rest of the ride home sweating bullets.