By Kat Hunter
Relays get a bad rap – that is, when they're not being completely ignored, which is more often the case.
The general tri-population will tell you that relays aren't "serious." But honestly, that's probably their
There's no pressure in a relay. No one's going to critique your overall time, and at most, you're
competing against a handful of other teams. You also tend to choose your strongest discipline, which in
my case, eliminates worrisome questions before the swim start like, "Will I sink?" and "Will anyone stop
me if I swim the wrong direction, or will I end up in the Gulf of Mexico first?"
Relays are also a great way to focus on improving a particular area of competition, compete in spite of
or after an injury, or ease new people into multi-sport. And sometimes it's just a fun way to participate
when you're not in top shape for a tri and still want to punish yourself in a race environment.
The Marble Falls Triathlon is probably my favorite local tri. The bike course is long (35k) and rolling,
complete with a nasty climb at the beginning and a twisty, Mario Kart-style exit ramp before the final
few miles back into town. Unfortunately, it also starts with a 1,000-meter swim. As much as I enjoyed
myself at the 2010 race, after more than a year off from swimming and nearly four months off from
running, there was no way I was going to sign up. When it comes to race entry, the aero-gear-or-no-
aero-gear quandary, and other important life decisions, one should always consider the wise advice of
Corey May: "Are the results on the internet? Well, there you go."
The relay offered the perfect solution for our ATC trio. Cassidy Santaguida, a swimmer in high school
and later on club teams, was interested in tri training and checking out the scene, and Rita Stroobandt,
a collegiate runner, and I had both fallen off the wagon in one way or another. Rita had been recovering
from a knee injury, as well as mentally recovering from Ironman Arizona, and I had more or less fully
transitioned into time trialing and bike racing.
I was having so much fun that I started out going far too hard. Four weeks ago, after my husband's
aluminum-P3-vs.-steel-sedan incident (the P3 lost, but the Toyota took a heavy beating) our communal
Powertap had to be sent in for repairs. It was returned a few days before the tri, but it was my first
opportunity in a long time to use it for a race, and I forgot to pay attention to the numbers or to give
them the proper respect. After about 20 minutes, I slowed up considerably.
My goal had been to catch and pass Maggi Finley, top amateur triathlete and my new teammate on
the ATC Women's Racing cycling team (official announcement about the team coming soon). She had
left the water ahead of our relay team and was moving fast, but I figured it would be a reasonable
goal to try and catch her, since she wasn't strictly doing a TT. The joke was on me. I caught up to her at
the halfway point, just as she was coming around the cones and I was braking to start the turn. I had
underestimated her strength – as soon as she saw me, she sped up and a sizeable gap opened up again.
I was chasing her until about the final four miles, when the course turns back from Hwy 71 onto 281. I
started to give it all I had left since I knew I was close. When I finally passed her, I croaked "Good job,
Maggi," and thought that would be the end of it. Not a single guy had passed me on the course, or as
far as I knew, had even tried to. So when a few minutes later Maggi came back around on my left, I was
floored. "You know," she said, "that this is going to really mess up my run." I laughed, or tried to.
In transition, our relay team only needed to exchange the chip, so Rita started the run before Maggi.
Through my post-TT haze I remember Rita saying something like, "Ha, no way." She was Maggi's "rabbit"
for the first mile or so of the 4.4-mile run, and then Maggi won a firm victory against Team ATC,
averaging 6:45 miles. But we don't feel too bad about having our three parts beat by one, since in the
end Maggi not only came in first woman, but tenth overall.
So why run a relay? And why feel good about being passed by girls with an "R" on their calves? Because
first and foremost, triathlon is about having fun, and the more people involved, the better the present
and future of the sport. Besides, when the girls are on a relay team, you have an excuse – you can say
you weren't fully "chicked."