Sunday, August 05, 2007

Going Underground - Indian Peaks Dirtfest Off Road Triathlon

750 m swim, 17.5 k bike, 5 k run
Eldora Ski Resort, Eldora, CO
Elevation 9300'

This was the inaugural running of this race which is always a bit risky for the competitors/guinea pigs but I've done lots of host Racing Underground 's races before and I've enjoyed every single one of them. The race director typically does a nice job of putting on a fun, well organized, low key event and this one was no exception.

The swim took place in Lake Peterson which is a private lake just outside the ski resort. In winter it doesn't just freeze, it gets covered in big icy snowdrifts that look like they're never going to melt. Every single person shivers when I tell them where the swim will take place. Eldora required everyone to wear wetsuits. Water temp. was supposedly 62 degrees but I seriously doubt it, felt more like high 50's. The swim start was an unusual time trial format which had racers going in one at a time 5-10 secs. apart. We were seeded according to a combination of our predicted swim time and mountain biking skills. Out of nearly 200 racers I was seeded 181 and I started about 20 minutes after the start of the race. I thought this would make for a lonely race but in the end it worked out well, I was riding and running with people of my own ability and had very few conflicts on the trail. The swim was wonderful, I had plenty of open water to myself, it was easy to pass people and I even found some feet to draft off of for a wee bit until she started swimming way off course and I had to let her go. There was a small warm up area so I got in and dunked my head under to get used to the water. I had a good head freeze and nearly decided to call it a day right then and there (62 degrees my ass) but eventually I got used to the water or maybe I was simply numb and couldn't feel anything, swam a few short warm up laps and was ready to go. I had no panic attacks or trouble breathing and fell into a nice rhythm right away. Swim went well, did a good job with the sighting, passed a bunch of people and the scenery around the lake was beautiful. It felt good after last race's disastrous swim. I've been going twice a week to the Boulder Rez for my masters group's morning open water practice and this has been a huge help. I was out of the water in 17:20 for a pace of 2:07 mins./100 yards which is fairly average pace race pace for me. I was purposely taking it easy because I knew the bike would be tough.

600 m dash and T1
Unfortunately I couldn't stop to take off my wetsuit in the water without blocking the other racers so I had a bit of a struggle with the thing on shore. Sometimes it comes off so easily and sometimes I feel like I'm wrestling a big black rubber octopus that's trying to strangle me. The more you struggle, the harder it's grip becomes. Once I finally freed myself from the neoprene beast I had to lug the heavy sopping thing for an uphill 600 m trail run to the transition area. I threatened serious violence on any and all photographers who even looked like they were thinking about taking my picture as I must have looked like the creature from the black lagoon complete with pale white belly since I was swimming in my running bra and my cycling jersey was in the transition zone. The battle with the wetsuit and 600 m run took 8:15 and I was out of T1 in 1:39.

I'd been looking forward to this part of the race the most even though I knew it would be the longest and toughest portion. As it turned out the trails were way less technical than the ones I'd been riding with Jonny. There was one very steep rocky hike-a-bike section that was unrideable for probably everyone but other than that almost the entire rest of the course was rideable. Lots of beautiful, smooth singletrack and dirt roads. The trails were mostly cross country ski and snowshoe trails that I've skiied during the winter and it was kind of cool to see what they look like in the summer. I was also shocked at how steep some of them were and couldn't believe I'd been down them on skis. These trails aren't open to the public during the summer so it was a rare treat to be able to ride them.

The course started with a steep uphill then leveled off for some ups and downs for about 2 miles. I held my own for this part, even passed a few people on the downhill. Then we hit the hike-a-bike section which was my least favorite part of the race. I was hiking up an incredibly steep rock garden in my bike cleats while pushing my bike and neither my back or I was happy about it. Loads of people passed me and I could feel my heart rate going through the roof while I crawled at a snail's pace up the neverending hill. It was supposedly 300 yards but felt oh so much longer. Once at the top there was some wonderful singletrack and I caught up with and passed a couple of people. I missed the trail at one point and one of the guys I passed got ahead of me again and I got stuck behind him on the singletrack, the only place in the race I had a problem. Eventually he fell right in front of me for no reason I could see and after checking to make sure he was o.k. I rode on. I was by myself for quite a long portion and it was easy to forget I was in a race. The woods were gorgeous, the trail a lovely mix of ups and downs and I even saw a deer dash down the trail in front of me. There were spotting's of a moose mom and her baby in the area over the winter so I was keeping my eyes peeled but sadly I didn't see them. There were a few short super steep uphill sections that I had to get off and walk and a few mud puddles on the downhill but otherwise I rode just about the whole thing.

By the 7 mile mark I had had enough fun for one day and I was thinking that had I entered the DOCNA trial I would have been eating my entry fees because I knew there was no way I was going to be up for an agility trial the next day. I was also thinking that I was so not in the mood to run a 5k on steep trails at 9000 ft thank you very much and I still had quite a bit of biking left before I got the privilege. A guy finally caught up to me and I let him pass me before a steep downhill and followed him for a while. We came to a trail called 'Cheater's Corner' and he headed down in so I gleefully followed knowing that this was the quick way back to the base. Now my brain knew this was wrong because we had way too many miles left but my heart wanted to believe the lie so I followed without question down a steep hill then back up a steep hill. Where a kindly volunteer told us, uh, sorry folks but you've come the wrong way. So it was back down the steep hill and back up the other steep hill only to find the guy who'd fallen and I'd passed ages ago had caught back up to me. I lost at least 5 minutes and some precious energy on that little detour. I was doing so well following the signs too. I almost got led astray at my last race by a guy in front of me not paying attention. So from now on I'm reading all my own signs, no more following the boys.

A few more miles of steepy hills, both up and down and finally the volunteer said 'Just down this road and around a corner to the transition area'. I told him sweeter words were never spoken and cruised down the hill to T2. Total bike time was 1:49:24 for a measly 5.96 mph ave. speed and a max. speed of 24.6 mph.

As I came into T2 a woman who had finished must have seen how tired I looked and in an effort to give me some encouragement told me the bike really sucked but the run was great, I would really love it. Boy did she lie. I was out of T2 in 1:07.

I was pretty toasted by this point, the bike was fun but the hills and constant redlining/recovery cycles had worn me down. The run was also on the ski trails so I was familiar with most of them and knew what I was in for. I had to power hike all the steep hills but managed to run the rest albeit very slowly. At the 2 mile mark I came to a hill that I knew was awful and as I was contemplating the enormity of it and fighting back the swear words I somehow managed to fall for no particular reason on a wide, flat, smooth piece of trail. The same guy who had fallen in front of me on the bike was hot on my trail and this time it was his turn to ask if I was o.k. I was fine, just a little twisted ankle that quickly felt o.k. to run on but man I felt stupid after handling all those bike trails with nary a problem. We both stopped at the top of the hill at an aid station to get a quick swig of water and he said I was doing so great, he was struggling to keep up. I told him I certainly didn't feel all that great but thanks anyway. I left him at the aid station and tried to pick up the pace, not because I cared about beating anybody but because I so badly wanted to be done. With about 1/2 mile to go one of the women I'd passed way back on the bike passed me back like I was standing still. Normally I don't care about such things but there was something particularly heartbreaking about it maybe because I was so tired and oxygen deprived and because I so badly wanted to be done. There was no way I could keep that pace so I watched her go. The finish line came up abruptly after a turn so I didn't have much opportunity to pick up the pace for a final kick but to be honest I didn't have much kick left in me anyway so it was just as well. Run time was 38:23 for a pace of around 12:48/mile which is slower than my worst marathon pace.

Final finish time was 2:56:06. I was happy to finish under 3 hours. It's so hard to have a sense of what the numbers mean because trail riding and running are so different from the road. Hopefully they'll do the race again next year and I can see if I can improve.

Final stats:
Swim-750 m (820 yards): 17:20 or 2:07/100 yards (111/168 overall)

600 m dash (656 yards) + wetsuit removal: 8:15

T1: 1:39
Bike-17.5 k (10.87 miles) ish/1400 foot elevation gain: 1:49:24 or 5.96 mph ave. speed (142/168 overall)

T2: 1:09

Run-5 k (3.1 miles) ish/300 foot elevation gain: 38:23 or 12:48 min./mile (150/168 overall)

Overall: 2:56:06 (148/168 overall)

I was 2/2 in my age group and got a nice glass for an award. On the one hand I felt a bit silly taking home hardware just because I showed up but on the other hand it was a long, hard day out there and if I get a little something extra to take home for it, well, why not enjoy it. I can't help it that not many 40-44 year old women chose to show up on the day. Oddly enough the 45-50 and 50-54 female divisions all had faster times than the first place woman in my division. I ended up beating the woman who passed me in the final stages of the run by 1 second because she had started so far ahead of me in the swim. The guy right behind me in the run ended up beating my by 29 seconds because he started the swim behind me. This is one of the disadvantages of a time trial start, you don't really know how much time lies between you and the people immediately around you. Personally I don't care because I don't race the other people anyway. I loved the format, esp. having so much space in the water and room on the trails on the bike. However I can see how it would mess with the people who are really competitive minded.

I'd been fighting some health issues all week and I wasn't feeling all that great on race day. I'd started taking drugs on Sunday that messed with my hormones and was struggling to adjust to those plus the effects of the disease so I wasn't in fighting form but still I think I can get in a lot better shape than I'm in. That bike course was good for the climbers and I could have done better, esp. on the hike-bike part. Running always has lots of room for improvement. Swim went fine, I can improve a bit but I was happy enough with it. Race conditions were perfect-low 70's and cloudy with some nice cooling breezes. There was a chance of thunderstorms but thankfully they never came during the race. Overall a very fun race in a beautiful setting.
I also won a hat, bottle of Hammer Gel and $25 gift certificate to my favorite bike store in the post race raffle. Jonny suggested a Cervelo bike frame but I don't think $25 is going to make much of a dent in that $3800 price tag (never mind the components). Think I'll put it towards some new tires or a saddle pack. Darn, why do I always have to be so sensible.


  1. Congratulations!!!!!


  2. Holy hypoxia. I can't even imagine racing at 9300 feet. Well done!

  3. That's an award well done--not for showing up, but for finishing when you felt like you were ready to quit before you even got to the running part. That's definitely a nonwimp award!

  4. You are tough! The cold water, the lack of oxygen, and hills - yuck! Good job!

  5. Showing up is 90% of life and racing, and you did more than just show up. Great you've battled back from your injuries and are on the trails (and in the cold water) again.