I’m going to try (TRY) to constrain myself and not write a Russian novel. We’ll see what happens…
M dropped me off at 0-dark-thirty to catch my bus up to the race start. (She wisely opted not to spend two hours of bus riding for the privilege of freezing her butt off and watching me swim for a few minutes/then bike away.) The bus got lost (we’d later learn that most of the buses would have this problem) and had to make a u-turn on the highway. As punishment for his lack of preparedness, the driver had to endure a bunch of Type-A triathletes giving him directions and consulting their various smart phones. So, getting on the bus at 5:30 was well worth it, as I still had plenty of time to set up and get ready, unlike the two people doing the longer race which was supposed to start in ten minutes. Whoopsie.
It was very chilly and there was lots of nervous chatter as we set up our racks about what people were planning to do for the start of the bike. I was apparently the only person who wasn’t freaked out about being cold. I put the toe covers on my bike shoes and prepared some arm warmers. My reasoning was that it was only likely to be cold for the first 20 minutes, but could be very warm for the other 3+ hours…
I ran into AndyPants in the change tent, so I hung out with her while she got into her wetsuit. It was hard to leave the warm tent, but we forced ourselves. I was grateful to have she and Phil to hang out with pre-race. Joking around took away a lot of my pre-race jitters.
SWIM: (2.5K, 47:49)
It was an in-water start at a buoy maybe 300 yards away. My wave was the last of four, but there was apparently some confusion with the other waves because it was a bit of a free-for-all. There were people on the shore whose waves had already gone off, (who clearly didn’t realize how far away the buoy was), so there were people sprinting to get out to the buoy for the start. Not helping matters was the fact that the 250k racers (who had to do two laps of our course) were having to come up out of the water, around the dock and back into the water. It was chaos. Plus the water was very shallow, so as we were swimming, we’d hit our hands on the rocks at the bottom. The good news was that when we got out to the buoy we could still stand on the bottom, which made for a very relaxing way to wait for our wave to go off. Sadly, there were only about half the women that should have been there, so a number of peoples race were off to a bad start…
My start was a bit rough. My lack of swim fitness + the altitude + the adrenaline of the race start = I couldn’t catch my breath. But luckily, I could stop, stand up and gather my wits. After a few deep breaths, I was off again. The water was crystal clear and I could see the bottom for much of the swim. At one point, I saw a teeny tiny lobster (crayfish) on the bottom. There were folks around me, but nobody got in my way or jostled me. I focused on a nice steady stroke and tried not to get too distracted by all of the various things we could see on the crystal clear lake. (ooh, lava rocks! Oooh, another lobster/crayfish… )
The end of my swim matched the start. I was following the buoy line, blissfully unaware that I should have been angling to my left toward the swim exit. A nice woman in a kayak pointed me in the right direction, which was unfortunately right into the sun. Since I couldn’t see anything except for the sun, it was a bit of a mess. I also didn’t want to hit the rocks again, so I kept stopping and starting. Not my best swim ever. Good news was that the course was almost certainly short, so my time was better than I expected.
Thanks to my decision not to change clothes, I had a pretty quick transition. A nice lady helped me out of my wetsuit and I was able to change into my gear relatively quickly, considering my frozen hands. There was an Asian family waiting for a racer the next rack over watching me, which was disconcerting (especially since transition is supposed to be for racers only) but they weren’t in my way, so I just ignored them and went on with my day.
Bike: (106K, 4:28)
I felt surprisingly good at the start of the bike. Usually I feel a bit dizzy and disoriented, but I felt great right away. I got into my aero bars and just focused on taking advantage of my legs feeling strong. I also kept on top of my eating and drinking and not surprisingly, that helped me continue feeling good. I was largely by myself, except for the faster 250k racers who would pass me every so often. It was actually nice to be around the fast people, it made me feel like a really good swimmer. 😉
There was a long section of slight uphill as we approached the mid-way point of the course. There was an aid station around mile 30 and I stopped to use the port-a-potty. A number of racers were there as I got in and I was surprised to hear how much complaining about the “climbing” there was. Since we weren’t at the actual climb yet, I felt bad for them. As for myself, I felt really good. I was a bit worried about the long climb ahead. I remembered it as being rather brutal. But as I climbed I kept waiting for that “really bad climb” that I remembered from Pacific Crest, but it never came. That was nice.
Finally I hit the long descent back into town. There was brand new pavement, which was really fun to ride on. There were some cross-winds that made it a little scary at times. I willed myself to relax and tried not to think about crashing. There was a distinct smell of smoke and a brownish tint to the air ahead, which meant the winds from the area wildfires were not in our favor. Hmmm… I came around the turn into transition to see M waiting for me, cameraphone in hand:
I gave M the highlights as I changed into my run gear. She had me pose for a quick picture:
“Run”: (16.5K, 2:29)
I headed out, feeling good about my race thus far. My feet and legs felt like they usually do after a long bike. I plodded along for a bit, waiting for everything to loosen up. What was different this time was my lungs. I kept having to take walk breaks to cough up a lung. It was getting a bit ridiculous and kept getting worse the more I tried to run. I stopped at the first aid station to get some water and cough for a bit. It eventually became clear that the only way to make forward progress without hacking up a lung was to walk. If I’d had more run fitness, a jog might have been possible, but c’est la vie.
The run course itself was gorgeous, but definitely tough. There were lots of rolling hills and spots where it wasn’t entire clear where I was supposed to go. But there were aid stations every mile and they had these wonderful icy cold wet towels. And potato chips. And coke. Ahhhh… So, while I was sad at how slowly I was going, I was pretty pleased at how good my stomach felt. I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on this whole nutrition situation…
I forced myself to run the last mile, smokers cough be damned, and FINALLY found myself crossing the bridge to the finish line. M was there to snap a photo:
Given my lack of swim and run training for this race, I was actually really happy with the whole experience. I felt great right away (as opposed to the post-race nausea I usually suffer from.) AndyPants was at the finish line, so M & I hung out with her for a little while. I felt so good that I was able to claim my free post-race Deschutes beer:
Final time: 7:54:56.
Despite this being one of my slower races, I was really proud of my race. The course and conditions were definitely epic and I didn’t come to this race nearly as well-prepared as I’ve been in races past. But I had fun and for the most part felt great. I definitely want to come back again for a rematch. I think I have the potential to have a really great race here. Plus, I ended up getting third in my age group (due to the fact that four of the seven people in my age group didn’t start), but it’s closer to the podium than I’ve ever been before, so I’ll take it. 🙂
We stopped at a Jamba Juice for a little post-race treat. M got the tiniest smoothie I’ve ever seen: