David and I drove to Sand Hollow Reservoir, yesterday morning. I remember that last year I wasn’t on time and had to rush into the water with the second wave (even though I was supposed to start with the first wave.)
We parked about 1/2 a mile from the start (best we could do, even though David’s on crutches) and I took off on my bike for the transition area. David hitched a ride with the shuttle. The first time I ran this race I was really worried about moving other people’s things in the transition area. What I’ve learned is that no one is going to make space for you. You have to move (carefully) people’s bikes, towels and things, sometimes, in order to have room for yourself.
After setting up my things, I went down to the water’s edge and found David, who was happily enjoying not being a triathlete. These things always happen sooner than I want them to. A woman with a megaphone said we’d be starting in 15 seconds.
And then we were off. The water, I forgot to mention, had flowed in from the Arctic the night before. Being able to swim was a relief, because I was ready to generate some warmth into my body. This swim went much better than last year’s. I remember than last year, I had to keep correcting my course. I had not learned how to spot, yet. I also didn’t get tired on the swim. I was able to plug away at it and not have a canoe offer to rescue me (as happened last year.)
I admit it is discouraging, sometimes, to see the sprinters get out of the water after one round through the buoys, but it’s also nice to know that as I’m going around for my second time, that I’m laying my body down on this race. The last 200 meters of the swim were sort of funny (not really), because as I looked up, I saw how close I was, but felt that I couldn’t swim any closer. I felt slow and the ground could not come up beneath my feet fast enough.
Running into the transition area, I made the decision to not use T1 as a resting point. I ripped off my wetsuit, draped it over the metal bars in my area, struggled to put socks on over my still wet feet, pull my shoes on, helmet on, Garmin on (just realized I may not have stopped my time after crossing the finish), sunglasses, and trot over to the Mount Your Bikes here point.
Making sure that my helmet was on and secure before mounting (because you’ll be either penalized or disqualified) hopped on my bike and took off down the hill that would provide me with about 10 seconds of rest.
At the 2-3 mile area, there is a hill that never ends. You will never get to the top of this hill. You will pump, shift gears, shift again, pump and still see no end to this hill. When I was in the middle of pushing up this hill, it occurred to me that I might not finish this race. I had not trained the way that I ought to (at all) and I was quickly running out of juice.
The bike portion was supposed to be just under 25 miles, so I was very very happy to see the turnaround point at about 10 miles in. I’m not sure how they got 25 miles from a 20 mile course, but psychologically, this was a huge advantage for me. At the turnaround, I took a gel and more drink and started back. My butt was starting to kill (again, no training) and my right elbow felt like it was going to give, but I took some comfort from seeing people riding toward me for a while. I was past the turnaround- they were not. Sometimes I use whatever I can to make myself feel better during a race.
You can see the transition area’s white tents about 3 miles before you actually arrive there, so you spend a lot of time seeing the end of an event. It takes forever, especially when running, to get there. But eventually, I arrived, took of my helmet, biking shoes, and donned my white running hat (which my Dad gave me), my running shoes- and took off.
Within a few hundred meters, I realized that running would not be the break that I had intended it to be from the bike ride. It was exhausting. It’s supposed to be. You’ve finished swimming and biking and a lot of your resources are depleted. I made it to the 3 mile turnaround, much faster than I imagined. Gone were the thoughts of not finishing or just walking the rest of the way, replaced by strategy, even if strategy was adjusted every mile or so. I’d allow myself to walk for 20 steps, but then run for at least a minute or two. This lasted until the aforementioned hill, which, it turns out, is still a hill if you come from the other side of it. At the hill, I walked, ran, walked, ran, until I got to the top, where I could sort of coast down the other side.
I finally reached the last hill which takes you up to the start/finish/transition area. It was hard, but I was too close to not run. I crossed the finish and received my metal and water bottle (my kids always fight over those) and they stripped my ankle chip from me.
Sometimes I don’t know why I do these things. Part of it is the family tradition of extra-curricular pain and part of it is the fight against inevitable aging. You can’t win that fight, but you can stave it off.