Sunday, the first full day of sports at Gay Games VII, began with a hot 6 a.m. kickoff down on the lakefront of Lake Michigan as triathletes from all over the world geared up for the short course (0.75K swim, 20K bike, 5K run) or long Olympic course (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run). The temperatures and humidity had already begun cooking even at that early hour, which did not bode well for the athletes who would be participating in this and later events.
After checking in and receiving their swim caps, the triathletes walked approximately a half mile from the bike transition area to the swim start. At most triathlons, the swim starts right where the bike transition begins, so many of the gay and lesbian participants grumbled as they worried about the effects of the asphalt and gravel on their feet.
Even with the sun still not up, sweat began to glisten on the faces of the triathletes, many of whom wore wetsuits, which trapped unwanted body heat and sweat as the temperature rose by the minute. While at most triathlons swimmers often dip a toe in and seem loathe to get wet, at the Gay Games triathlon the athletes leapt right in like so many kids at the pool on a hot summer’s day.
The first group of Olympic distance triathletes went out right on time at 6 a.m., followed every three minutes by a new wave of swimmers. At 6:09 a.m. the first group of short-course swimmers went out.
Except for the problems of heat and humidity, the Gay Games triathlon is not a challenging course. The water is warm and flat; the cycling runs in a loop along a relatively flat course along LakeShore Drive, with a few rolling hills to add flavor to the bike; and the run follows a pretty, lakefront course with beautiful views of the marina.
Despite the heat and the problem of the swim-to-bike transition, most participants seemed to enjoy themselves, with many athletes encouraging others who they saw struggling. A few ambulances were on hand for cases of heat exhaustion, and one participant told RealJock later that heat had led to more than a few hospital trips. While it was too early for crowds, many triathletes stayed after their race ended to cheer in other participants, showing the positive spirit that pervades the Gay Games.
At the end of the race, volunteer massage therapists waited on hand to help soothe the sore muscles of participants, a nice treat to start the week of Games off right.