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Scene@ Colchester Triathlon 

Bayside Park, Sunday, July 27, 9 A.M.

click to enlarge MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen

By 9 o'clock on Sunday morning, hundreds of individuals clad in swimwear were waiting in the shallows of Malletts Bay. Further out, a line of canoes and kayaks did the same. The voice of an announcer suddenly blurted from a loudspeaker, his countdown echoing across Bayside Park. At "zero," the swimmers and boaters launched into action. The water around them exploded - more like a shark frenzy than the peaceful start I had expected. And so began the 24th Annual Colchester Triathlon.

I sat among the spectators, just a few coffee sips short of my preferred caffeine intoxication, but otherwise ready to support my wife, who was in the running portion of the "tri." She and several hundred competitors faced a lengthy course, which started and ended in Bayside Park.

The event, put on by Colchester Parks & Recreation, was advertised as a "tri-option" triathlon, meaning there were three ways in which participants could customize their own race: (1) competing as an individual or as part of a team; (2) swimming a half mile for the first part of the course, as is traditional in triathlon; (3) opting out of the swim and instead trying their hand at paddling a canoe or kayak on a 2.5-mile course.

Swimmers and boaters soon slogged out of the water and clambered uphill to the biking exchange zone. There they mounted up, or tagged off to a waiting teammate, for a 12-mile route that brought bikers to Susie Wilson Road before turning back toward Malletts Bay School. And there, racers traded bikes for runner's shoes or tagged off to their final teammate. All impressive feats, and best done by somebody other than me. I did, however, get some exercise rushing between various staging points. My wife's team managed to place in the top third, and she cut more than three minutes off her usual running time, easily earning her a post-race brunch. Eating: Now there's a sport I excel at, though I practice on a strictly non-competitive basis.

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