The word transition is defined by Webster's New World Dictionary as ``a passing from one condition, form, stage, activity, place, etc., to another.''
It may not sound like much, but transitions can take on critical importance in story, music and life.
Transitions can even be critical in a multi-sport event like Saturday's Capital City-Fish On Duathlon, where athletes competed in a race with a 3-mile run, a 10.4-mile bike and another 3-mile run along the North Douglas Highway.
Overall winner John Bursell, a former triathlete who has competed in several of these multi-sport events, easily sailed through the transitions in Saturday's race. Bursell never spent more than 28 seconds in the transition area as he cruised to a winning time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 7 seconds.
One racer took nearly two minutes in between transitions, as he changed from running to cycling shoes while Bursell and most of the others just wore their running shoes for the entire race. That athlete even brought his own chair for the transitions.
Runner-up Jerry Buckley, who ran without a shirt but cycled with one on, took 50 seconds in his first transition as he snagged a dry shirt out of his car to replace the drenched one he'd laid in a puddle near his bike. But his second transition was much smoother, just 10 seconds to the 24 seconds taken by third-place finisher Tom Meyer.
The difference in time spent during the second transition, 14 seconds, proved to be more than twice the final six-second margin between Buckley and Meyer. Buckley posted a time of 1:13:11 for second place, holding off a rapidly closing Meyer who had a final time of 1:13:17. Andy Grossman took fourth place in 1:16:02, with female winner Erin Mitchell fifth in 1:23:35.
``I can't believe how hard that transition was,'' Meyer said, referring to the second transition, from bike to run. ``My legs were all rubbery. They felt like Gumby for the first mile. My feet were cold and numb.''
``Getting to the bike part (the first transition) is actually easy,'' said Buckley, age 57, another of Juneau's top masters athletes. ``You feel better once you get going after the transition.''
Bursell, whose Saturday to-do list still featured coaching a youth soccer game and an afternoon run after the duathlon, took 18 minutes, 25 seconds to complete the first three miles of the course, which went from the False Outer Point parking lot to the end of the North Douglas Highway and back. His time for the bike leg was 31:16. The course along the North Douglas Highway to near the Fish Creek Bridge and back. His second run, which followed the same course as the first run, only took 18:00. All the rest of his overall time was spent in the transition zone.
``A negative split, isn't that how you're supposed to do it,'' Bursell said of his two run times. ``I felt pretty good. Jerry was leading me on the hill during the first part.''
``I led, just for the first half mile,'' Buckley said. ``I can't run with John. He's 20 years younger than me.''
Buckley finished in third place after the first run, which was held in a downpour. But the clouds lifted during the bike leg and Buckley passed Meyer as the roads started to dry. In the final run, Buckley's lead shrank but he held on for second place.
``I needed another 50 feet,'' Meyer said.
Grossman was another one who felt the transitions, especially the second one, as his legs became wobbly. Another athlete, who will go nameless, yelled out a string of scatological expletives upon hitting the second transition.
``The legs don't do good going from the bike to the run,'' Grossman said. ``But about the top of the hill (a quarter- to half-mile into the second run), they kick in again. My legs were cramping up on the bike ride, and they almost never cramp up on me when I ride.''
Mitchell said she felt the transitions, too, especially since this was her first duathlon and she was using a borrowed bike. Mitchell's sister, Shelly James, is one of Anchorage's top triathletes so there might be something in the genes. Mitchell said she plans to compete in the May 2001 Gold Nugget Triathlon in Anchorage, the state's largest female-only triathlon with more than 800 athletes each year.
``I was a runner, but now I'm just trying to get back into shape,'' said Mitchell, who had a baby eight months ago. ``I was supposed to do this race with JoAnn Quigg, my old high school teammate, but she had to go to a wedding and I ended up using her bike. That part (the second transition) was hard, and I felt really sore. But once I got to the top of the hill I felt OK again.''
Mitchell arrived in the transition area in sixth place, three seconds behind 15-year-old Darius Nabors, but her transition went much smoother and she gained 32 seconds on Nabors entering the bike leg. The gained time proved to be a big help since Mitchell overshot a gear shift during the leg and had to restring her bike chain. Nabors, who was the only biker using a mountain bike rather than a road bike, eventually dropped to seventh place behind Stan Ridgeway.
There was only one team effort in Saturday's race, as Jan Rumble (first run), Greg Pease (bike) and Ritchie Sonner (second run) combined to post a time of 1:25:18. The team was in ninth place after the first run, but Pease, the only male in the trio, moved the team into fifth overall ahead of Mitchell before the team fell back a spot in the final leg.
Mitchell said she didn't mind having Pease ahead of her because it gave her a more experienced rider to watch while she pedaled, and she learned a few tricks. For example, much of the road has recently been covered with a gravel coating known as chip seal, and Mitchell noticed Pease was able to find a swept shoulder of the road to avoid the bumpy surface and loose traction caused by the gravel.
In fact, race director Layne Brant and the two sponsoring groups - the Southeast Road Runners and the Juneau Freewheelers' Association - had been so worried about the safety of the bikers with the chip seal that earlier this week the race was listed as canceled. It was only after the city promised to sweep off part of the road that Brant and the groups decided the race would be held Saturday.
Between the early cancellation and the wet weather, the race turnout was lighter than anticipated. Bursell was the only athlete entered Saturday who regularly competes in local cycling events, although Buckley and Grossman have both entered one bike race this year.
``If you noticed, we're all runners out here today,'' Buckley said. ``Bursell is a multi-sport athlete, but he's really a runner.''
CAPITAL CITY-FISH ON DUATHLON RESULTS
Results from Saturday's Capital City-Fish On Duathlon, a 3-mile run, 10.4-mile bike, 3-mile run event held along the North Douglas Highway near False Outer Point. Each finisher is listed with his or her overall time, and their first run and bike leg splits (before transition) are in parentheses.
Individuals - 1. John Bursell, 1 hour, 9 minutes, 7 seconds (18:25, 50:19); 2. Jerry Buckley, 1:13:11 (19:49, 53:07); 3. Tom Meyer, 1:13:17 (19:11, 53:40); 4. Andy Grossman, 1:16:02 (20:10, 54:07); 5. Erin Mitchell (first female), 1:23:35 (22:10, 59:42); 6. Stan Ridgeway, 1:26:47 (22:48, 1:01:49); 7. Darius Nabors, 1:31:28 (22:07, 1:04:12); 8. Tim Hahnlen, 1:31:43 (23:52, 1:04:27); 9. Jana Linfield (second female), 1:34:16 (27:02, 1:05:20).
Teams - 1. Southeast Swim/Dive (Jan Rumble, Greg Pease, Ritchie Sonner), 1:25:18 (24:29, 58:17).