Hey Guys! Todd here!
A couples of weekends ago, I was able to represent Swim Bike Kid at the TOUGHKids Syracuse race in Rome, NY. Contrary to what somebody else wrote, I did not Swim Bike Nap the entire trip. I truly was awake!
On the way to the race, Meredith and Sweet Red insisted on swinging by Dunkin Donuts. And I really hate to admit it, but the blueberry donut holes are da’ bomb. Seriously, I didn’t mention how good they were until AFTER I polished them all off. (And Meredith screamed from the front seat, “You ate ALL the blueberry ones!?!”). Ooops. Who knew I’d love them when I always say I hate berries?
We arrived at the race and the first thing I noticed was… a Vancouver Canucks jersey? How can that be? Where am I? I’m in New York, right? Well, yeah. But I had no idea but the Utica Comets were THE Utica Comets of the AHL, a minor league team for the Vancouver Canucks. I can’t believe I didn’t realize that. So who was wearing the jersey? Audie, the Utica Comets’ mascot! By the way, he loves to photo bomb.
The first thing I noticed was the cool transition “racks.” They were similar to other bike racks I’ve used but more ingenious.
As a youth coach, I get a kick out of the range of bikes you see at a youth race. From the high dollar 24 in junior road bikes the junior elites use to the 10-12 inch bikes with training wheels for the little ones. It is amazing how to see how welcoming the race was to all levels of experience.
We all hung out at the transition tracking it out and headed down for the swim start. Wait, what? An open water swim for kids?! No way! How cool!
The first wave to start was the 11-12 and 13-14 year old group. For the swim, a swim lane rope was set up 100 yards parallel to the shore. The youth swam a “loop” around the rope to complete the 200 yard swim. Delta Lake is very fortunate to have a shore line that long to be able to accommodate that. I know here in Georgia, you’d have to look hard to find 100 yards of shoreline that “linear” to do that! Sure, you could get 100 yards stretched out of the rope but you’re gonna cover some deep waters trying!
The 11-14 wave all did great on the swim and it was neat seeing a major difference with the youth versus the adults. The crowd nearly moved as a herd as the kids came out of the water and headed to transition. During adult races, there is such a wide spectrum of ability that spectators trickle from the swim to transition. Not the 11-14 year olds! That was a tight group of abilities.
As we ran up with all the spectators, I heard Meredith mutter, “These kids give me goosebumps. This is so cool!”
The 11-14 bike course consisted of 4 miles which consisted of two 2 mile loops. The kids all did extremely well on the flat course. Finding relatively flat courses for youth to accommodate all skill levels is tough. I thought it was great that is perfect!
The last leg of the 11-14 wave was a 1 mile run. The course is extremely flat which, again, accommodated a wide spectrum of abilities.
After the 11-14 wave was over, we headed back to the beach for the 7-8 and 9-10 year old wave.
The 7-8 and 9-10 year old race was essentially the same but shorter distances. Instead of swimming a loop around the 100 yard rope, they simply swam one length of it. As for the bike, they only did one 2 mile loop. And the run was 0.5 mile instead of 1 mile. I was extremely impressed by the ability of the kids as well as the sportsmanship they displayed.
When you see the kids waiting to start, you can’t help but to love all the different outfits you see them sporting. You see youth tri kits, to swim trunks, to sun shirts. It’s so cute to see the differences in each child versus the adults, all standing there in wetsuits, swim caps, and goggles all looking the same. [By the way, what’s up with that? Those kids weren’t wearing wetsuits. Hmm, are the adults a bunch of wimps??? Anyways… 🙂 ]
Then, the true epitome of triathletes showed up… the 4-6 year olds! Oh my goodness. You want to see awesomeness, just watch these little guys and gals. Wow! The course for the 4-6 year olds was a 20 yard swim, 1 mile bike ride, and a 100 yard run.
One of the things you have to do with kids this age, it’s really difficult to keep them quiet and focused. It was so funny when, Jeremy from ATC who was on the megaphone asked, “So who’s going into Kindergarten next year?” All of a sudden, every kid in the group was hollering out what grade they were going in to, what age they were, the school they were going to, their teacher’s name, etc. Everybody wanted to be part of the action!
Another great thing about kids this age is if they see somebody do something, they all do it. For the swim, the rope was moved closer to sure for the 4-6 year olds so they could stand up if needed. Well, about 10 yards into the swim, one child did just that–and began to run. So what naturally happened? A majority got up and began running through the water as well! Priceless…
They all went into the transition area and nailed their transitions. It was great to see handlers in the transition area to assist the kids. Not all races are so accommodating and it’s frustrating to see the kids struggle so this was great.
The kids all jumped on their bikes and began the bike leg.
There was one little princess who absolutely stole the “show”! I had actually taken picture of her bike before the race. She had a little green bike with training wheels and a pink helmet hanging from the handlebars. It was THE smallest bike in transition. I thought about how precious it was.
As the kids trickled in, here she came—the little doll herself. As she rode down the stretch towards transition, she was beaming with a smile from ear to ear. But best of all, she was waving to the entire crowd as she noisily rode by with her training wheels! If that doesn’t melt your heart, I don’t know what does… 🙂
I had to ask her family what her name was and I quickly began cheering for her. She was such a cutie! Did I mention a fast runner too? Wow! I ran up to take a picture of her at the finish line and I barely got to the line in time! Wow, was she fast!
I mentioned to Meredith and Sweet Red, “Oh my goodness, she’s so adorable and precious, I could adopt her!”
Meredith quickly corrected me, laughing, “You’re ridiculous, she doesn’t need to be adopted. She HAS parents!” [Okay, well, yeah, but that doesn’t take away the fact that she melted my heart.]
All in all, this was an amazing youth race. It was highly organized and addressed one of my biggest pet peeves of youth races: volunteers. I have to really give it to ATC Endurance for the amount of volunteers they had. All too often I don’t see enough volunteers to ensure the kids have the best experience they can have. Not here. There were plenty of volunteers for the kids.
And another cool aspect of TOUGHKids is the championship series. The top three of each group get invited to the championship race in September. How cool is that?! A youth series championship?!
Todd is a husband, father of three, youth triathlon coach, and 140.6 finisher.
He’s the voice of Swim Bike Kid.