Timberman 70.3 is held on the shores of beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire. Despite having raced there in 2008 and 2009 I still a) cannot pronounce Winnipesaukee and b) have absolutely no clue as to how the Lake got its unpronounceable name. I therefore decided to undertake some research. A few googles later I was enlightened. The Legend of Lake Winny-pes-ow-key goes a little something like this….”Many moons ago on the northern shore lived a great chief, Wonaton, renowned for his courage, and for his beautiful daughter, Mineola. One day, Adiwando, the young chief of a hostile tribe to the south, hearing of Mineola, paddled across the lake and fearlessly entered his enemy’s village. Her father was away, and before long he and the Mineola fell desperately in love. Wonaton, on his return, was exceedingly wroth to find that the enemy’s chief was his daughter’s suitor and he raised his tomahawk to kill him. Mineola pleaded for the life of her lover and finally succeeded in reconciling them. After the wedding, the whole tribe accompanied the two in their canoes halfway across the lake. The sky was overcast and the waters black, but just as they were about to turn and leave the couple, the sun came out and the waters sparkled around the canoe of Mineola and Adiwando. “This is a good omen,” said Wonaton, “and hereafter these waters shall be called Winnipesaukee, or ‘Smile of the Great Spirit’.” I couldn’t think of a better place to hold a triathlon – a sport where a big smile and a great spirit are two of the most important characteristics anyone can have.
And so it was with a smile and a high spirits (not the alcoholic variety) that I travelled from Boulder to Gilford, New Hampshire for my third consecutive race at the Timberman 70.3 Festival. I arrived on Wednesday evening and, as always, stayed at the wonderful Gunstock Inn, complete with its indoor pool, fully equipped gym, gigantuous breakfast/brunch/lunch buffet and amazing views over the Lake. I hit the pool on Thursday morning, and quickly realised how nice it is to actually be able to breathe properly when swimming at sea level – as opposed to feeling like you are sucking through a straw at 5000ft in Boulder. I was however slightly perturbed when a girl in the adjacent lane proceeded to race me. Being beaten is never good for one’s ego. Especially if that girl is 7 years old. Anyway, nursing my bruised ego I took the Slice out for a 3 hour spin in the afternoon – spinning being rather difficult given that the Timberman course has a number of hills of the 7-9% variety. There is however a flattish section which would be incredibly fast was it not for the Grand Canyon like crevasses that scar the road. Other drivers must have though that I had consumed some of the ‘great (alcoholic) spirit’ as I swerved in and out trying to avoid a ‘wheel down crack’ debacle (narrowly avoiding getting hit by a passing truck with 50 precariously balanced porta pottys on the back. Could have been messy).
My Thursday night television viewing (‘Cake Wars’ and Wife Swap’ – very intellectually stimulating) was put on hold when I received a visit from the anti doping officials. It’s great to see the WTC upping the ante when it comes to testing – this time they took blood as well as urine. Friday was my rest day, but was full to the brim with a long massage and excess consumption of breakfast buffet staples. The evening was spent at the Champions Dinner where I gave a little speech and had the opportunity to meet some of the age groupers that were racing over the course of the weekend.
Now Timberman is not just a 70.3 – it’s a complete Festival – with a live music, previously live lobsters, a kid’s race, a sprint race, a sprint to the carbo loading dinner and an even faster sprint to the pro panel. Here Andy Potts interrupted the proceedings with an embarrassing ‘Guess Chrissie’s body part’ competition. Anyway, the quiz basically amounted to Andy waving the ‘body part’ photo from the latest ESPN magazine and the first person to guess the part won the signed photo of that part. Somewhat worrying was the fact that my upper thigh was mistaken (including by a doctor) for my calf and my knee. (According to the mother of the 7 year old girl who raced me in the pool I had also been the subject of a family game of Pictionary. The daughter had drawn me. Her brother had to guess who it was. His guesses were Mr Potato Head and An Alien. Fabulous).
Like last year one of the highlights was having the chance to speak at the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ ceremony. Make a Wish is a not for profit organisation that grants wishes to children with life threatening illnesses – see www.wish.org. It truly is an amazing charity, and the small gathering was held to thank the athletes who were racing to raise money for the organisation. It was an absolute honour to meet some of the fundraisers, and to help raise the profile of the Foundation and its great work. If ever a child dreamed of meeting a professional triathlete I would jump at the chance to make that wish come true.
Race day dawned at about 4.30am. Overcast skies, but no rain, faced us all as we prepared in transition. As always the pro field was full to the brim, with Dede Griesbauer, Caitlin Snow, Heather Jackson, Angela Neath and a host of others. The men’s side was no different – a hotbed of athletic talent including defending champ Andy Potts. I met a wide variety of people in transition. One man came up to me ‘and said – this is my first 70.3 chrissie. What tips have you got for me?’ I didn’t have the heart to tell him that 6am on race morning was a tad too late to be asking me for ground breaking advice. So I offered the following pearl of wisdom. “Use Vaseline”. I didn’t hang around to watch him apply my tip.
With a water temperature of 71 degrees my TYR Hurricane wetsuit was the order of the day. The women went off two minutes behind the men. My start was pretty sub optimal – largely due to the fact that the water was only about 2ft deep and so we had to dolphin leap for about 10 meters. Dolphin leaps are not my forte and looked more like a beached whale. Luckily I hit deeper water, and managed to get into my stroke and onto Dede’s feet. About two thirds of the way round I decided to try and hit the front, and by some small miracle came out of the water first.
I jumped on the Slice and had a strong bike, managing to avoid any ‘wheel in crack’ accidents, and rode into T2 feeling pretty sprightly. Onto the run I felt good, and managed to hold the same pace throughout the half marathon. The Timberman run course is two out and backs, and the course is lined with spectators – especially hundreds of kids – yelling, cheering, eating, playing music and generally having a ball – even the rain didn’t dampen their spirits. What I find equally amazing is the amount of athletes who expended some of their precious energy to shout words of encouragement to me – I hope I was able to put medals round the necks of at least a few of those who cheered for me. I crossed the line first in 4hr10 – to defend my Timberman title, run 5minutes faster than last year and break the course record was so incredibly special. Last year I scattered Jon’s ashes at this race site, and once again I was able to roll across the line in his memory.
And the day didn’t end there. A post race urine drugs test was the first port(a potty) of call and then I proceeded to devour half of the post race buffet. A culinary heaven, centred around bagels pizza, pasta, cold meats, cheeses fruit, salad, ice cream and cakes to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the race. And from there I rushed back to the finish line to meet and greet many of the age groupers as possible. It was slightly dispiriting to be told by a WTC official that I should stop putting medals around people’s necks as I was causing a jam in the finishing chute. I ignored him.
Despite this one individual and his ludicrous suggestion the Timberman 2010 experience was fantastic. A first class pro field, the best post race food, superb support from volunteers and spectators, and importantly heaps of interaction between the pros and the amateurs throughout the weekend. Congrats to Andy for the win, to Angela and Heather for rounding off the women’s podium, to the wonderful Richard and Maureen at the ‘home from home’ Gunstock Inn and all morning, all you can eat (and I did) breakfast (www.gunstockinn.com), to Amber and Robbie and the rest of the race massage team (www.vitalkneads.com), to Myles at MC Cycle and Sport (www.mccycleandsport.com) for making sure the Slice was ready to rumble – and of course to Audra, Keith, Alex, and the rest of the Timberman crew. Lake Winnipesaukee – or ‘Smile of the Great Spirit’ – I couldn’t have named it better myself.
Some more photos at