Mill City International Tri – A Spectator’s Report 
Monday, July 12, 2010, 01:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
Last week, we raced with Bill Rodgers. This week, it was Team Hoyt! If you’re not familiar with this inspirational duo, I encourage you to check out their website. Their story is guaranteed to motivate.

I should clarify that my role in this weekend’s race was as cheerleader, photographer and lugger of gear. Paul, on the other hand, actually swam, biked and ran in the Mill City International Triathlon in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Accustomed to the well-oiled machine that is TriTucson, I found this event from Double C Racing to be lacking in the organization department. First, they registered Paul for the sprint race instead of the international, and then made it a big hassle to switch the entry. When he was finally given race number 99, we walked over to transition only to find that the numbered racks jumped from the 80’s right to the 100’s. While this glitch was an annoyance, at least Paul was rewarded for his patience with half a rack all to himself.

Pre-race chatter was abundant, with questions regarding the course, the ins-and-outs of transition and the legality of wetsuits. Signage was non-existent, as was literature describing the race details, and so everyone was in the dark. This widespread lack of knowledge led to a 15 minute delay in the race start, as the “brief remarks” from the race director and USAT official turned into a full-blown Q & A session.

On the positive side, I discovered that a river swim makes for great spectating. It was impossible to pick out Paul in the mass of green-caps and splashing water, but I was able to follow the pack by walking along the Merrimack River.

I snapped photos of Paul exiting the water and then ran after him, across Pawtucket Boulevard, to transition. While it’s not ideal to have a major road running right down the middle of your race course, I think they did the best they could with the space they had. The swim and finish line were on one side of Pawtucket Boulevard and transition was on the other. Police were present to direct traffic, but they had their hands full with cars, spectators and racers coming from all four directions.

I cheered Paul onto the bike course and reminded him that this is where his race begins. With swimming as his weak sport, he typically spends the entire bike leg passing people.

While waiting for him to pass by for his second lap, I pitched in a bit at the water stop which was rather ill-staffed with two volunteers who appeared completely lost. They actually complained that racers were throwing their used water cups on the ground.

After a brief glimpse of Paul as he flew by, I realized that I was starving. It was only 9:45am, but, having last eaten at 4:30am, I figured this was a good time for lunch. Transition is conveniently located in the parking lot of Heritage Farm Ice Cream, which, I discovered, makes a mean grilled chicken sandwich.

After eating, I walked toward the bike dismount area where I was not too surprised to find that there was no signage – not even a chalk line on the street. There were just a handful of volunteers shouting directions and then getting frustrated when racers did not heed them.

Note to the volunteers and race director: Maybe it’s adrenaline. Maybe it’s dehydration. Maybe it’s intense concentration on the task at hand. Whatever the reason, athletes don’t always think very clearly while racing. In fact, yelling often sounds like the adults in Charlie Brown specials. Big signs with simple words will make your life easier, the course safer and the racers more compliant.

Paul looked great – hot, but great – as he headed out for the run. I knew I had about 45 minutes to kill and so I settled in at the finish line to cheer on the sprint race finishers, including Dick and Rick Hoyt.

I’ve learned from experience that Paul tends to be on par with the first female finisher. Sure enough, when I glimpsed the first tankini cruising down the street, Paul was right on her heels looking strong!

At the end of the finisher’s chute, Paul and another racer compared bloody ankles (maybe socks are worth a few extra seconds in transtition?) before plunging into the Merrimack River to cool off.

Then, we celebrated Paul’s impressive finish of 15th overall and 4th in his age group at Heritage Farm Ice Cream. Giving up their parking lot for the morning was a smart move for this business. How many people can hang out next to an ice cream stand for half a day and not indulge?

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