This week I have another guest writer. Also a former Columbia swimmer, Ben Neuwirth (c/o ’06) is responsible for keeping me out of the 400 medley relay at my senior conference meet by being faster than me. While I was off crying in the corner, Ben pulled out a 48 low in the 100 fly and helped our team move up a few spots in the rankings. Ben was a transfer from the Banana Slugs – UC Santa Cruz, and he brought with him a California attitude (positive) and the quiet bluntness that could pull people right off their high horse.
Now Ben works for Microsoft, which I find amusing because he is the least nerdy Computer Science major I’ve ever met, and also knows less about computers than my 12 year old cousin. He lives with Jake Abbot, another CU swimmer (c/o ’07), in an apartment in downtown Seattle. Jake has been a Seattle resident for almost an entire month now, and was lucky enough to move here just before the nine months of gray skies and drizzle that makes Seattle the suicide capital of the world. He’s also lucky enough to spend no less than 12 hours a week commuting to Tacoma, which is the auto theft capital of the world (or at least the US).
A couple weeks ago Ben and Jake raced in the Kirkland Triathlon. I rode my bike there with Brian Davis to cheer on our friends in their first ever triathlon. What we saw was pretty funny from our point of view, so I thought it would be even funnier from theirs.
From left to right: Tobin White, Henning Fog, Ben Neuwirth, Jake Abbot, Mike Bentley, and some guy that sneaks into all our pics. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a picture of swimmers with clothes on.
Yo dude, here it is, better late then never. Sorry it took me so long. Let me know if it’ll fly for your blog. [it’s flyin’! – ben]
On September 16, 2007 myself (Ben Neuwirth) and my roommate (Jake Abbot) participated in our first triathlon (the Kirkland Tri). Jake and I were not quite as prepared as we could have been for our first tri, but we were depending on our general can-do spirit to get us through the race.
Our alarms went off at 5:30am the morning of the race, and I immediately popped up and began cooking eggs/getting ready. Jake chose to take the more relaxed approach, and remained in bed until I reminded him that no one was going to win the race for him, he had to go out there and do it himself. Finally, race gear in hand, we were out the door and on the road, praying that we hadn’t forgotten anything important.
Arriving at the transition area, Jake and I began anxiously preparing for the race. Jake laid a towel out in front of his bike and lay down. About 5 minutes later he went off in search of a bathroom, but returned mumbling something about “No TP”. I stretched out a little bit and made nervous comments about the approaching inclement weather. About a half-hour before the start the race-director invited all athletes to the starting line for a pre-race pep talk. Jake and I declined his invitation, and continued our preparation. About ten minutes before the race started, a volunteer actually had to come over to us and kick us out of the transition area, saying if we didn’t go over to the starting line we wouldn’t be allowed to race. “Ahhh man,” we said, but began to disrobe.
Walking to the swimming starting line, one thing became immediately clear: we were in Speedos, and everyone else was in wetsuits. While on the outside we loudly questioned the manhood and testicular fortitude of our competitors, on the inside we were like “uhhh…crap, I wonder how cold that water is?” No matter, it was too late to turn back now, and Jake and I made our way down to the edge of Lake Washington. Toes in first, and then the ever-shocking groin region, we were in the water, and waiting for the send-off. Go!
We were off, and fully submerged in the water. The temperature wasn’t too bad, and we placed our focus on getting ahead of the competition. Jake, being a distance swimmer by trade, quickly pulled ahead of the field, while I, being a sprinter, tried to pace the start. Never the less, even I was quickly ahead of the other athletes in my wave, and found myself facing a new challenge. Before Jake and my wave, the Kirkland Triathlon folks had deemed it appropriate to send off the “Athena and Clydesdales,” a wave you are put into based on your BMI (Body Mass Index). While I do not know the exact BMI you need to gain entrance into this wave, let’s just say that the swimmers in front of me did not suffer from a lack of buoyancy. Making my way through a minefield of kicking legs and protruding elbows, I was eventually able to fight my way back to the beach and exit the water.
Once I had left the water, I was in no actual rush to make it back to the transition area and begin the bike. As I began walking at a leisurely pace up the beach, I was suddenly confronted by hundreds of screaming fans saying things like “Way to go!” and “You can do it!”. “I know I can f***ing do it,” I wanted to scream back and then continue my slow stroll, but surrounded by so much motivational energy, I had no choice but to up my tempo to a jog. As I entered the transition area I was followed by one last scream from none other than Ben Collins, who wanted to remind me that Jake had beaten me out of the water and was in the transition area waiting for me. Thank you Ben, without your taunts I would have had to wait 5 more seconds to see Jake sitting next to his bike slipping his shoes on. With your warning, Ben, I was able to prepare for that shocking site. [You’re welcome, there’s another surprise at the end… – ben]
Shorts on, socks and shoes on, quick squirt of water, and I was out the door, having completed my transition in a speedy 3 minutes (compared to Jake’s 4:30. Pfff…nice one Jake [wow – ben]). I hopped on my bike and began pedaling down Lake Washington Drive towards downtown Kirkland. With the whir of the pedals beneath me and a sea breeze hitting me in the face, I felt like I was on top of the world. Pumping my legs faster and faster I zipped around shops and through streets, passing all manners of riders (especially those on mountain bikesâ€¦suckers!). And then I stopped! Well not really stopped, but slowed significantly, to a crawl. What happened? I looked down at my bike, everything appeared to be intact. I looked back up and there was the problem staring me right in the face. The road, it was angling up! Ahhhâ€¦welcome to the hills of Kirkland.
From that point forward there wasn’t a single flat section on the entire ride. Up, down, left, right, it was like a rollercoaster. No hill was too intense, at no point did I have to get off my bike and walk, the hills were just never ending. Favorite part of the ride: about half way through, next to Bridal Trails, when the clouds stopped threatening and actually started spitting rain. That was awesome. [welcome to Seattle – ben] Finally I crossed back over I-5 and began the descent back to the water, screaming down the wet pavement as fans cheered on the sides of the road.
I jogged my bike into the transition area and Jake was nowhere to be seen. “Punk” I intoned as I hung my bike up and began moving towards the beginning of the run. Coming off the bike and transitioning right into the run, my legs felt heavy and slow. But this I could do, 5k is nothing, I told myself as I started up a slow pace and made my way back to Lake Washington drive. For the first half of the run I moved very deliberately, lifting one heavy foot at a time and placing it in front of the other. I kept looking for Jake to pass me on the other side of the road heading to the finish, but I never saw him. Wow, I thought, he must be way ahead of me. Okay, time to focus. I picked up my pace a little bit and raised my head, picking out people to try and pass. Turning at the halfway mark I really started to jam. Up to this point the triathlon hadn’t been too painful; after all, I was only doing it for fun. But now my competitive instincts kicked in and as my speed picked up the pain began to build. Just keep going, I thought, you know how to handle this. I saw two runners ahead of me and passed them on the last uphill leading to the finish. I looked back, there was no way they were gonna get me, but more runners were coming, sprinting into the finish. I stuck my chest out and lengthened my stride. 100 feet, 50 feet, 10 feet, I was done! I breathed heavy and let a volunteer cut my timing chip off of my ankle. Just past the finish line Jake was waiting for me with a hand raised. I slapped it and then continued to move to catch my breath. We had done it!
Overall verdict: Not too bad, but the run had been pretty painful for both of us, and we hoped to be in better shape next time. No matter what, the triathlon was definitely a great way to start a Sunday, and we quickly repaired back to Seattle to gorge ourselves on breakfast and then take much needed naps.
This is Ben Neuwirth in front of the Metropolitan Museum of art. I think this is how he paid for college, and as far as I know, nobody ever complained. Thanks for the post Mr. Neuwirth.