If you live or know a cyclist it is quite obvious that there is a big difference between cycling and triathlons. Besides the water, aerobars and running shoes, it is a completely different sport. Here are some of my observations about triathlons:
Triathlons are addicting. You watch one, do one and are hooked. People start training for a triathlon in order to lose weight but after a few weeks, the goals change and a bigger distance becomes the next step in the journey. Triathlons are one of the few sports that anyone can do. If you can swim, bike and run you CAN finish a triathlon. Triathlons are one of the few sports that when you age, you get better and little more competitive. Triathlons have distances for everyone. Triathlons are one of the few sports where you don't have an athletic background to race in a national championship. Triathlons are one of the few sports where you can actually tell your friends and family that you hope to qualify for a world championship. Triathlons are one of the few sports that you can be a world champion at any age. Triathlons are one of the few sports that kids can watch their parents train and compete (not the other way around). Triathlons are one of the most time consuming, yet manageable sports, which keeps your life in balance. You can be competitive at a triathlon AND have fun. You can race at a triathlon and not know anyone and still feel like you have fans and teammates.
Since meeting Karel on May 31st 2006, I have seen him grow as a cyclist. He is so passionate about what he does and since he was a very young kid in Europe (racing for a junior team in Czech) he has always loved bikes. His dad, at the young age of 65 still races!! For the last 2 years I have learned a lot about cycling. Probably a bit too much. The training and racing is very different than triathlons and of course, cyclist have no choice but to ride their bike everyday in order to get better. At the races, the energy is a lot different. You are usually in a field and you see people on trainers getting into their zone. There are usually more teams than indivdual riders so you see a lot of groups, in different areas of the race venue. You can register the day before the race and not worry about the races "closing". There is a payout for almost all divisions so no matter if you are a Pro or a first time road racer, you always have a chance to get paid. You have to upgrade in order to race with the more elite riders and in order to upgrade you have to accumulate points based on your finishing position. And once you are able to race in the 1,2 category (Pro) the field of cycling totally changes. You have world champions dominating the field and Professional teams leading the races. There is a major emphasis on skills and tactics and you don't see experienced riders. You must know what you are doing when you race with the Pros.
Last May Karel was hit by a car and fractured his clavicle. This was the day of his first ride since finishing the Tour de Gila and he was feeling super strong. Well, the crash set him back but he was determined to continue to train hard in order to upgrade to Category 1. Unfortunantly, he wasn't able to race the BIG races to get the points to upgrade. So still at category 2, he is driven and determined to upgrade. He has a powertap, a coach and a team. Aside from working 40-45 hours a week, he lives the life of a pro. He thinks, eats and sleeps like a focused cyclist..just like all of us triathletes do on an everyday basis. No matter how good we are, triathlons are a lifestyle!
Karel started off the season with a few bad crashes and not the performances he had hoped for with all his hard training. But, with determination, hard training (I've never seen anyone train so hard) and a very good nutritionist (ME!!!) he is starting to get some better results. Still not the results he needs since unfortunantly, you have to race the BIG races which have the best of the best racing. And, you have to be the best in order to get the points to upgrade.
So, last weekend Karel went to Chattanooga, TN for a Georgia Cup series race. Not only was this a long drive from Florida, but he had no teammates there and he was without me (his cheerleader/watter bottle hander). On sat morning there was a time trial and as Karel's most unfavorite thing, he did it anyways. Sat. evening Karel was driving to the crit races in downtown Chattanooga and all of a sudden I get a phone call. This surprised me because he doesn't like to talk to anyone the hours before a race. He is so upset because the interstate was closed. He had 90 minutes or so to get to the race and he had been sitting still for over 30 minutes. I felt his frustration and I just let him get mad at me. Well, not really mad at me but he needed someone to release his stress to and of course, I didn't mind it. He kept apologizing for being so upset and the traffic but I kept my cool. Inside, I was super stressed cause i would hate for him to miss this race. He was 1 mile away from the exit and in my mind i am thinking that he should just pull over and ride his bike to the cops and tell them to let him go to his race. Yes, I live in lala land when a race is involved. I want people to be stress free before a race. So, finally Karel tells me he was able to get to the exit and then it was a quick I love you and I didn't hear from him for a few hours. I get a phone call from Karel and when I see his name on the ID I prepare myself for 3 different scenarios.
1) The race was too fast and he didn't finish. This is very common in cycling that a number of cyclists don't finish. Imagine doing a group ride and getting dropped. Once you get off someone's wheel you are done.
2) The race was hard and he did ok. As his loving fiance, I am always happy no matter how he does. Even with triathletes, I always find a positive and I'm always happy when people give it their all after hard training.
3) He did fantastic! As a male, I don't expect much excitment from him. If it is me..I'm super excited for anything (again, always happy to finish a race). But for Karel, he evaluates even the best performance and is pleased but still determined to get better.
So..how did the weekend turn out. Karel had one of the best weekend results in his life! Karel not only placed top 10 in the 60+ min crit (out of over 90 starters) but he was 5th place! I couldn't believe it I nearly cried I was so happy for him. He said he was so nervous for the race he almost didn't even want to start. As for the 92 mile road race, Karel was told by another rider that they were racing for 20th-30th place. Just like in triathlons when you start in waves, you never know how you finish until the results are posted. All week Karel thought he was 20 something place which was great since there was over 100 starters in the Pro 1,2 race. Well, the results were posted a few days ago and Karel and a few others were actually racing for 10-15th place. Karel ended up placing 13th in the road race!!
I'm so proud of Karel. Although cyclists and triathletes are different, the one thing we all have in common is that we love what we do and the passion for getting better is what keeps us craving for more.