Sunday, June 8, 2008

Iron Frog

Mike "Wood Frog" Keene leaving the Choptank River during his transition from the swim to the bike leg of the Eagleman 70.3 triathlon.

I am not used to being a spectator at an endurance event. And to be honest, I don't much care for it--it makes me feel too much like a poseur ;) But I wouldn't have missed Mike Keene's 70.3 mile attempt in Cambridge. The Eagleman takes its participants through a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and then a 13.1 mile run, for a grand total of 70.3. They used to call that distance a half-Ironman race.

If covering that distance wasn't hard enough, Keene decided to do it on the hottest day of the year thus far. Anyone living on the Eastern Shore knows that temperatures topped 95 degrees today. People aren't even supposed to be outside mowing the lawn in that stuff!

I arrived in Cambridge later than I hoped, a little after 7 a.m., and had to park several blocks from the start--causing me to run with a backpack to make Keene's start. I got there to find his red-capped cohorts all in the water, and listened to the announcer extolling the accomplishments of race founder Fletcher Hanks (a cousin of mine), who founded the race in Oxford. As a kid, I can remember riding our bikes down to Batchelor's Point to watch the start of the swim, and then being in town to watch everyone finish.

Keene looked great coming out of the water--like he had actually trained for this race :) and I trucked from the water over to the chute where the cyclists came out on their bikes to yell at him some more.

This race is a big deal. From hundreds of volunteers, to traffic control, to vendors, to spectators, to triathlete clubs, to the athletes themselves--the scene is a whir of activity and energy.

Time went quickly (though damn hot standing around!) and the race leaders were coming in off their bikes and getting out on the run. Keene came through upbeat, hollering and smiling, and I kept my vantage point to see him come back out on the run.

That guy looks much too happy to have just swum 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles in insane heat and humidity!

After Mike took off on the run, I macked down a burger and fries and shortly, RUR official photographer Joel Shilliday was on the scene, sporting an action-hero straw hat, and we caught up and began to the countdown to Keene. In the meantime, I saw a runner in the chute, with 20 yards to go, puke neon green Gatorade onto the road, his shirt, and down his chin; we saw a couple runners reduced to almost a crawl from the heat; we saw a 77-year-old man bring it home strong; and we saw countless stoked athletes and families as they were instants away from finishing the race!

We caught Keene's hopping legs and snazzy tri-duds approaching the chute and leaned out to yell at him in the chute, and when he saw us and heard his name, his smile again went large, and he picked up the pace to bring the race home. "Wood" Frog has now been upgraded to "Iron Frog!"

Keene and Cambrige Multi-sport cohort Jim Crowley pose for posterity after finishing the Eagle Man.

I haven't been able to find an official or otherwise list of finisher times, but I can bet that Wood Frog will have a detailed posting soon on his blog. But I can tell you a couple things: 1) it was hot, 2) the scene was inspiring as was Keen's perseverance to finish, and 3) it was hot!

2 comments:

landy said...

Mike,

Great race recap. Sounds like it was a scorcher. Congrats to Keene- it sounds like he had a good day and that the heat likely got to everyone by the run.

Keene's hair looks uncharacteristically flat in that last photo. I did not know his mane could be tamed like that.

Runners on Trails said...

Well, Landy, it actually takes a firehose to get my hair that flat, just ask Valliant.

Mike, thanks for being there for my entire 5 hours and 58 minutes of racing time, as well as, a great race report. Can I just cut and paste it to my blog? Many thanks, my friend.