Monday, October 26, 2009

Race Report: Esprit Triathlon Festival (Woody Freese)

Ed Note: Woody- I got tired of asking you to post your results on the website! So I caved! Yes, people, I even have to chase down EC members to post their results:)

The Esprit Triathlon Festival was held on Saturday, 12 September in Montreal, Canada.

For those unfamiliar – the event is a held on the Notre Dame Island, not far from downtown Montreal.

The swim is held in Parq de Olympique rowing basin, built for the 1976 Olympics. This ‘pool’ happens to be 2,000 meters long, approx. 200 meters wide – no more than 10 feet deep. The water is crystal clear and shares a LP – like quality: lane lines (built into the basin for the rowers.

The bike course is held on the Montreal Gran Prix/Formula One Indy Car race track – a 4.4 kilometer loop, containing the smoothest and flattest cycling surface you will ever ride on! The road is repaved annually for the Gran Prix – the balance of the year, the loop is limited to cyclists, runners and rollerblades – no cars!

The run takes you thru in/around the basin and the track.

This is the fourth time I have done the Esprit Iron-distance. It was my very first IM, back in 1995 – and will always hold a special place in my heart. Danny McCann and his lovely wife Bev are the race directors – and they put on a show that is difficult to rival!

Having slogged my way thru Lake Placid 7 weeks ago, originally I had no plans for a 2nd Ironman event in 2009.

The decision to enter was basically a last minute decision – and had little to do with competing. Bear with me for a moment…

Larry Lewis is a very dear friend I have come to know thru the triathlon world. We have competed together since the early 1990’s. Thru the multi-sport world, I came to know Larry and his wonderful wife, Kathleen and daughter Larissa – as well as several folks who have become mutual friends.

In February, I learned that Kathleen was admitted to the hospital, in NYC for brain tumors - her prognosis was not good. For the next 5 ½ months, Larry spent each day at Kathleen’s bedside, in an effort to make her days more comfortable.

On Thursday, 23 July, Kathleen lost her battle and passed away.

Despite Kathleen’s illness, Larry had hoped to make an appearance in Lake Placid earlier in the summer. The sudden change of events changed his plans to participate in the 11th IM USA.

Down – but not out… Larry was committed to participating in the Esprit.

A small group of friends gathered in Montreal to share this day with Larry and as a tribute to Kathleen.

The swim went well – crystal clear water… not particularly crowded and not a wave to be found.

The bike was pancake flat and smooth as could be! My computer went on the fritz and I lost the ability to calculate mileage accurately. The staff of SportsStats (the timing company) did an outstanding job keeping order among the racing chaos! It was a blast sharing the course with sprint distance, Olympic distance, and ½ Ironman athletes, as well as relays and duathletes – all racing on the same course and on the same day – with staggered starts. Watching the short course athletes blast by was a rush! At no point, during the 41 laps, did I find myself bored or anxious to exit – and despite seeing things repeatedly, there was always something going on to keep you ‘busy’ and not thinking about laps.

The run was special… as I had the distinct pleasure and honor of “running” 20 miles side by side with Mr. Lewis. I use that term loosely! We walked… we jogged… we tossed a bit of running in for good measure – but more importantly, we spent a few hours together sharing, laughing and reminiscing.

In Lake Placid, in 2008, I hit the wall hard. The weather was abysmal and I was on the verge of dropping out. Larry found me on the course and sacrificed his day to ensure I crossed the finish line with him. Ironically enough, the race was on his birthday that year – and it was the 10th running of IM USA. I look back at the finisher’s photo and cherish the memory. The 2009 Esprit finish photo will be proudly displayed right next to the IM USA pics. I am even more proud of the fact that between the 2 of us, Larry and I have 46 Ironman finishes!!

I cannot begin to imagine the pain of losing a spouse and best friend. I can only hope that for two days, we provided a sense of support and compassion to Larry and his family. Mr. Lewis - thank you for sharing your weekend with us -

Saturday was not about going fast… It was not about racing… It was not about qualifying for anything… It was not about podium spots…. It was not about what IM finish… It was not about setting a PR.

Saturday was, however, a celebration of life and friendship.

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