17th Annual Siesta Key YMCA Shark Triathlon

So I'm managing to have a good finish to my 2001 season. Yesterday I won the 17th Annual Siesta Key YMCA Sharks Triathlon at Siesta Key Beach. I finished 2nd the last two years, and in the back of my mind really wanted to win this race. Not only does it have a sizable cash award, but I've finished second the past two years.

This triathlon is a bit unique in Florida, in that it has a pretty long swim, but regular distance bike and run segments for a sprint. The swim is usually around 1000 meters. This is a benefit for a guy like me, who used to swim competitively in ocean lifeguard races. Many of the other triathlons around Florida only have quarter mile swims, and that takes a lot away from my strength. But I deal with those, as I understand that not everyone likes to swim. Wimps. Anyway, I digress.

Last year Dan Domingo beat me by 50 seconds, and two years ago Ian Ray beat me by 9 seconds. I was 4th in 1998. So I do have a history with this race. First off, I like it because of the swim. Second, I like it because the beach itself is very nice, the volunteers are great, and the bike is flat and fast with a few technical portions. The run is on the beach, and the tide has been low in my memory. That means that most of the run is on hard packed sand, another favorite of mine. I worked for six summers as a lifeguard in Ocean City, NJ, and I used to train on both hard and soft sand. It is actually much better for your legs than anything except a wooden boardwalk or a trail.

So when we lined up on the beach, I saw that Dan was not in attendance. I did see that one of my main rivals, Dave Picciano, was there. Dave has been running very fast lately (even faster than he normally does, which is fast), so I had to get a good lead in the swim. I also saw Kevin Rowley, another former FSU swimmer, who has been improving over the past few months. There were also a few guys who I have not raced very often, so I didn't know their strengths. I only knew one thing - I was going to swim like a maniac in order to get as much space as I could on everyone else.

And that's what happened. I broke away after about 300 yards and came out of the water 35 seconds ahead of Kevin and a fellow named Boris from Miami.

Once on the bike I knew I was going to have a good day. I felt strong, comfortable, and was moving along well. There was zero wind, so the only thing holding me back was my own limits. I rode hard, but not with everything I had, because I knew I would need to have a pretty good run to win.

And I did. I got off the bike and was able to turn it over. I wasn't blazing, but I ran fast enough to have the 3rd fastest run on the day. Dave P ran 1:30 faster than I did, but he had too much of a deficit to make up. Kevin Rowley had a great day, and ran across the line for 2nd place, 10 seconds ahead of Dave, who caught Boris in the last quarter mile.

My girlfriend Brianne (who was the 3rd female) told me I am lucky. Not lucky to win. Not like that. She meant that I am lucky that I have the natural ability to be able to race at such a level, as well as the drive to do something with that ability. Not everyone has the chance to win a triathlon, and I understand it.

But she also sees how hard I work at it. She goes to six am swim practice with me. She rides fifty miles in the hills on a mountain bike with me. She runs eight miles on a busy Friday afternoon with me. She may call me lucky, and I may be, but she also knows that I deserve it.

This is how I see it. If you work hard at something, you deserve to reap the rewards in the field you have sown. If you plant a tree, and water the tree, and get the tree doctor out to fix the tree when it's sick, then damn it, you should be able to see that tree get big and tall, be able to lie down in the shade under the tree, and say, "Wow, what a great big tree."

I want to be a great big tree.

How about you?

Marty Gaal - October 2001