Sort of hardcore

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Today was the Hagg Lake Swim, sponsored by a local tri club. They have three different distances: 800m (sprint), 2000m (half-ironman) and 4000m (full Ironman). This will be my third year doing the event and I really like it. It gives me a chance to get some real open water practice similar to race conditions but in a more relaxed (and cheaper) venue. The group that organizes it does a good job and the course is well-marked with lot’s of kayakers/boats in the water to keep everyone safe.

The only thing that didn’t really cooperate this year was the weather. We woke up to the sound of rain drops, which stopped, but it was still cloudy and chilly. Not exactly the type of weather that makes you want to go out and do some lake swimming. We stopped for bagels and hit the road. The park is about 30 minutes away, out in Washington County, somewhat near the town of Forest Grove.

We made it to the lake with time to spare and so I shot a couple of pictures while getting ready. Here’s the lake, doesn’t it look warm and inviting?

Here’s my fabulous sherpa, T:

T took the camera from me and shot my sophisticated goggle selection process:

The 800 meter race went off first and I put my wetsuit on and headed to the water to warm up. The water wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, especially once you got moving. Unfortunately, I started my warm-up process a little too early, so there was a little too much standing around and getting cold. T snapped a really dorky picture of me, which I shall post for your amusement:

This event is a favorite of Team in Training, so there was quite a bit of nervous excitement going on. It’s always fun to see new people in the sport and remember back when I started all of this craziness. Soon it was time for our race to start and I tried to find a good position in the pack (not behind all of the Team in Training folks) but unfortunately I failed in that mission and ended up behind a whole lot of craziness and it took me a long time to settle into my stroke.

My only goal for the race was to finish feeling good and beat last years time. I swam way wide on the course, which sucked because I’m usually better about lining up on the buoy line and not swimming a bunch of extra distance, but I generally felt pretty good. I was swimming among a small group of stragglers, all with their own issues. One of them, a woman wearing hot pink goggles was really fast when she swam, but would frequently stop and tread water for a moment and then take off again. I’d keep catching up to her and then she’d disappear again. I always want to know what’s going on with these folks – how can they be so fast and then stop so often. It’s weird.

I’m pleased to report I succeeded in both of my goals – I shaved three minutes off last year’s time and got out of the water feeling pretty good. T brought his wetsuit so we could do some open water technique practice. He was all dressed and ready to go when I finished, so we watched some of the last swimmer’s come in (one girl was not wearing a wetsuit and was doing the butterfly. Apparently had been doing it for the whole swim according to T and some other bystanders. I was both impressed and a little frightened of how crazy that made her – plus she was way behind me, so my other question is “why?”)

I also witnessed a girl coming in on a jetski – she clearly did not finish. She’d been next to me at the beginning of the race and was very visibly cold, so I imagine that had a lot to do with it. Another man and I helped her out of the water and out of her wetsuit and she was joined by her partner. Once she saw him, he gave her a big hug and I could hear her sobbing. Just seeing it made me cry, because I remember that awful DNF feeling so well. Once you do something it’s so easy to take it for granted, this reminded me to appreciate the accomplishment in it’s own right.

Once enough of the last swimmers came in that we weren’t going to be in the way, T and I got back into the water and did a little practice. By the end, T was actually swimming in a pretty straight line. Then in was time for me to get ready to do the four hour bike ride on my schedule, which I really did NOT want to do. I whined about it for a little while and then sucked it up and changed into my riding clothes. Let me just assure you, when you’ve just gotten done swimming and it’s cloudy and rainy, pretty much the last thing you want to do is get on your bike.

T decided to entertain himself by taking pictures of my departure:

And I was off. I’d mapped out a route home from Hagg Lake that I estimated would take about four hours. For the most part, it was fine. The rain held off, only sprinkling on me from time to time and the countryside was green and really pretty. I was pretty familiar with most of the route, having ridden on most of the roads at one time or another. Everything was fine until I got up into the West Hills of Portland. There was a lot of climbing on windy roads with no shoulder, which kind of sucks. Luckily, there weren’t a lot of cars on the road, but it was unsettling nonetheless.

I was SUPPOSED to turn into Washington Park and wind my way through to downtown, but somehow missed my turn and ended up going down a crazy huge hill that was really busy and had no shoulder or place to stop or turn around, so I kept going and ended up in the Raleigh Hills neighborhood of Beaverton. I had absolutely no idea where I was and was very upset about it, so I called T in tears and asked him to come get me. There was a Taco Bell across the street from where I called him, so I went inside to wait (bringing my bike into the restaurant with me, which I’m sure amused the folks behind the counter – but I didn’t have a bike lock and I don’t leave my bike unattended and unlocked.) and scarfed down some junk food in the meantime.

After T picked me up and I saw how much further I would have had to go (assuming I could have figured out the route) I was really glad I’d had him come get me. It may detract from my hardcore-ness, but I don’t really care. 🙂

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