When I was training in the spring and summer of 2011 for my first (and only) triathlon, the now-defunct Ironman Antwerp 70.3, part of my training regimen consisted of completing a couple of triathlons shorter than the half-Ironman for which I had registered. For these shorter triathlons, my training partners (The Jewish Stallion and El Doce) and I got together to swim, bike, and run without actually entering a race.
About two months prior to our race in Antwerp, The Jewish Stallion and I partnered up for the first shorter triathlon. We swam 1200m in a pool, rode our bikes to JS's home, which was less than a mile from the pool, changed into our biking gear, and then rode a bit over 50km from and back to JS's home. After finishing the bike, we ran 7km out and back from JS's house.
We completed our second shorter session about three weeks before our half-Ironman. This time El Doce joined me and The Jewish Stallion, and this time we would be completing a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike, and a 10km run. While we would be swimming and biking the full distance that we would swim and bike in our race, we were running less than half of the run distance (21.1km), limiting the pounding our legs would take and allow us to train successfully through this session.
We lived near a lake, and that lake is where we had been practicing our open-water swimming. So, on an unusually warm day in The Netherlands, we packed our bikes into JS's van and drove to the lake. We completed our swim in the lake, hopped on our bikes and rode a trusty route from and back to the van, and then ran an out and back 10km from the lake's parking lot.
While I was on the bike, trying desperately to keep up with El Doce--I did not succeed, I began thinking about the $250 dollars I had paid to do what my friends and I were doing right now for free. We had our own fuel. We had our own transition area. And we were riding and running in relatively safe areas and did not need roads closed for our endeavor. For what had I paid $250?
During this bike ride is when it occurred to me that more people might enjoy racing and/or training in this manner: self-supported and free.
It's funny that this had occurred to me only then because I had actually completed my first triathlon two or three years earlier while living in Guangzhou, China. Then, I swam 800m in my gym's pool (breast stroke, which took forever), hopped out of the pool and onto an exercise bike for a 25km ride, and then got off the bike and ran a 5k on the treadmill. I had done this spontaneously that day, having only a desire to actually complete a triathlon. However, after I had finished and later that day mentioned my accomplishment to a friend who had completed an official Ironman in Lake Placid, New York, my friend actually told me that I hadn't done a "real" triathlon because I had ridden and run inside.
I think my friend's snobbery kept me from considering the possibilities of Guerrilla Race back then. But racing can take any form you want it to, and it doesn't have to be something that you have to pay for.