As I made the sharp turn back into the
park that surrounded the Cain Center I knew that I was within a
quarter mile of the finish line. I glanced at my watch and saw
that I was within two minutes of 1:20 which was the winning time
for my division last year. Tears started to well up in my eyes
as I came to the realization that I would probably get my first
Hi, my name is Chad Soileau and this is my
account of running the 2009 Athens Texas triathlon. Athens was
my first tri and it's where this whole crazy triathlon lifestyle
started for me. As such, this race will be an annual event for
me as long as I can swim, bike and run. The atmosphere and the
hometown feel just make it all the more special.
Last year was cold. This year was cold and
WET. The rain didn't let up for the entire 7 hour trip from
Baton Rouge to Athens. We arrived, checked into the hotel,
grabbed some chow at a local restaurant and were in bed for
10PM. I was exhausted from the drive so I'm assuming that was
the reason I got a great nights sleep.
AM wakeup and I sucked down a Kombucha Tea along with a packet
of honey. We arrived at the Cain Center to check in just before
7AM. After going through body-marking and picking up my timing
chip I went out to transition to setup my gear. Thankfully, the
rain let up on race morning but it was replaced by a fine mist
that soaked anything exposed. I found some paper towels and
tried to put them over my shirts but the effort to keep
everything dry would be fruitless. I would arrive at T1 and T2
to soaking wet clothes and gear and there was nothing I could do
I was seeded 31st of the around 250
participants. The swim was a time trial start in a pool. Each of
the athletes were seperated by 10 seconds. I was anxious as 8AM
came and went and the race hadn't started. There were some
issues with the timing mats that caused the start time to be
delayed 15 minutes. I felt sorry for the guy that was "me" from
last year. He apparently seeded himself way to high and was
doing a sidestroke / freestyle / breaststroke routine and I
could see he was clearly struggling. I guess he was getting a
lesson the hard way just like I did last year. I jumped in the
pool around 8:20. Unlike last year, I had a plan, I was calm and
I KNEW that I would have a good race.
What can I say about the swim this year? I
didn't get kicked in the face and it flew by. I kept my heart
rate down, relaxed and just did my thing. I'm not fast by any
means and I bet I could have saved a couple minutes by not
having to stop at each end of the pool and dip under the lane
ropes. I ended up at 6:16 for the 300 meters.
was greeted by frigid temperatures as I exited the warmth of the
pool. A could of steam rose over my body as I struggled to put
on my bike shoes and my long sleeve compression top. The mist
had pretty much soaked everything which made it very difficult
to slip on my gear. A kind gentlemen that was positioned next to
me in transition saw that I was struggling with my top and
helped me pull it on. I didn't catch his name but I think Beth
caught a picture of him. Thanks buddy! :)
I ran my bike to the mount line, clipped in and
off I went on the bike course. The bike this year was a bit more
challenging with the wet roads. I had to slow around all the
turns to prevent my back tire from sliding out. Thankfully,
there was little to no wind for the duration of the ride. I got
aero, got in gear and pounded my way through the course. I
hammered up the hills and spun in a big gear on the way down. I
hear a pop and a hiss in my rear tire right after I got to the
I thought to myself, "PLEASE don't be a flat!"
unclipped, hopped off my bike and inspected the rear tire.
Everything looked good to go and the tire still felt inflated. I
know I wasted at least 2 minutes checking everything out but I
guess I should be thankful that I didn't have a flat.
I hopped back on the bike and hammered my way
up the last big hill. The only 'gotcha' moment I had on the bike
course was when a rider failed to yeild to my pass from just not
hearing me or being a jerk. The result was me hitting a series
of speed bumps and almost crashing. I felt the front tire
grabbing the side of one of the bumps and was dreading my
imminent date with the pavement. I pulled through at the last
moment, had some choice words for the rider and continued on to
it was a great bike. Sure I could have saved a few minutes by
not stopping but I'll take the 43:24 / 19.1 mph bike split for
the 13.8 miles. I ended up having the best bike split of
everyone in the Clyde division.
I slipped my feet out of my shoes and executed a
slow flying dismount into T2. The moment my feet touched the
pavement I realized that running was going to be a challenge. I
yelped out in pain as they touched the cold pavement. I don't
own a pair of toe warmers but you can bet that I will be picking
up a pair soon. My feet were frozen through. I couldn't feel
them and it felt like they had been replaced with two blocks of
wood. I wasn't alone in my discomfort in T2 because everyone
around me was complaining about their dead feet as well. At one
point, as I was standing in front of my equipment, fumbling to
try to get my helmet unsnapped I was trying to 'will' my shoes
onto my feet. Of course that didn't work. I finally managed to
slide the shoes onto my frozen nubs and just as soon as I was
exiting T2 onto the run course a volunteer yells out, "Sir, your
I had left my race belt and had to turn around
and run back to pick it up. An extra 30 seconds of wasted time
but I didn't care because a glance at my watch told me that I
was making good time.
run course was exactly the same as last year. There were a few
little rolling hills but for the most part the course was flat.
At around the halfway point I could finally feel my feet again.
I increased my pace and ran the second half of the race at a
much quicker pace than the first. That was, after all, part of
the plan. Coach Will Jones, my tri coach from 4th
Dimension Fitness, instructed me to "do the race with
the intention of going faster as the race goes on". I guess I
saved it all up for that last mile because I damn near sprinted
the whole thing. I was a sweaty, huffing and puffing, snot
slinging, spitting machine as I turned the corner with the
finish line in sight. I crossed over in 1:19:51. My run average
was 8:37 miles. The funny thing about the run average is at no
point during the race did I think I was running 8:37 pace. I
felt like I was running much slower. I guess the plan is working
because from what I understand that's the way I'm supposed to
only get one first time and the Athens Triathlon holds two very
special memories for me. Not only was this race my first
triathlon last year but now it is also my first podium finish
with hardware. When I started in triathlon I never
intended and still don't intend to ever be "competitive".
I race to inspire the man or woman that is in the condition I
was in 3 years ago, for my own well-being and to beat whatever
course I'm on. The unintended result of my training is that I
have now become competitive. I know it wasn't an Ironman and we
only had 250 participants but I, Chad Soileau, former 464 pound
man, took SECOND place in the clyde division. That's a
moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Ironman New Orleans 70.3 in less than 3 weeks.
Am I ready? You bet! I can't wait!
I hope you enjoyed reading my account of the
2009 Athens Triathlon as much as I enjoyed writing (and living)
Best of luck on YOUR life journey!
May you reach all your goals and achieve all your dreams!