Monday, August 30, 2010

Xterra Lory Triathlon 2010

I'm hard pressed to remember ever doing a race that hard and that includes 4 marathons.  This was already promising to be a difficult day for me but the blazing heat and sun pushed it to a whole new level.  Temps. were maybe in the high 80's, low 90's?  I don't know, it's hard to make an accurate judgment when it feels like your head is about to melt.  It was in the mid-90's in Boulder by 4:00 anyway.  Plus the course has not a single moment of shade.  And it seems I can't get through a triathlon this year without suffering the indignity of some stupid ass embarrassing situation.

Is there anything more cheery than the sight of the bright orange swim buoys on race morning?  At least the swim went well.

Ready for action

800 meters/875 yards
I have a bit of wetsuit panic in the couple weeks before my race when both my wetsuits-full suit and shorty-get holes and/or start falling apart.  I loudly proclaim to anyone who'll listen that there's no way I'm getting into Horsetooth Reservoir on the last weekend in August without a wetsuit.  Because last year it was freezing, at least the air temp. was.  Hands up who likes trying on bathing suits?  Trying on wetsuits is even more humiliating.  It's like trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube.  Plus do you know what those things cost?  It's even more fun when it's 97 degrees outside and the triathlon shop has marginal air conditioning.  Let's just say I set a record for longest amount of time to put on a wetsuit.  A customer comes into the shop and unawares that I'm sweating it out with a rubber octopus in the fitting rooms proclaims, 'Boy, you can really smell those wetsuits can't you?'  Wetsuits have to fit precisely in order to work effectively and not chafe you to a blistery hell so it takes many tries and a custom order but finally I get my suit the Thursday night before my race.  I take it for a test drive out at the Rez on Saturday and it's so fabulous, better than my old suit.  Fits better, more buoyant, comes off easier, I will fly in my race for sure.  Plus it has cool pink racing stripes, I'll look fabulous as well and maybe less like a whale but it still says 'Orca' on it.

What do you suppose the water temperature was on race morning?  74 degrees.  Yeah, I didn't need a wetsuit at all after all that fuss and bother and the Elites weren't even allowed to wear one.  Lucky I'm not an Elite because I wore it anyway as did most people.

Couple lessons learned from my little tri last week-mirrored goggles for one.  Those helped with the glare because once again I was swimming into the sun.  Also, I kept to the inside of the pack this time rather than the outside.  I was in perfect line with the buoys so got to swim the shortest line and for some reason everybody kept wide so I had a nearly clear shot the whole way.  Had to swim around a few people who were stopped and treading water, couldn't figure that out but people do it out at practice at the Boulder Rez too.  Wetsuit feels great and I turn in a time of 17:44 which includes the run to transition.  Take off a minute for the run and that comes out to 1:55/100 yards which is on the fast side for me.  Thank you fancy pants wetsuit.

The only other excitement during the swim comes at the start of my wave when 2 men from another wave who are heading for the finish swim directly towards us as the announcer say '30 seconds to start'.  Everyone starts yelling and they finally realize they're about to be mowed down by 50 or so women and make a hasty change of course.  I'll bet one was following the others feet and never noticed how far off course he was being led astray.  That's a lesson for you kids, be sure to look where you're going every once in a while.

12 miles
Here's the fun part and the part I most fear.  I never make it back to Lory to practice the course.  The Daisy Peel seminar was a mere 15-20 minutes drive from Lory but what would I do with the dog while I was riding?  And who would want to sit next to me?  So I did a lot of riding other places but mostly cool places, up in the mountains, in the nice shady woods.  Why torture myself with riding in the heat when there's little chance that my race will be hot?  Last year I was going hypothermic on the bike and I think I even had some fingers turn white.

See those hills in the photos above?  That's where we're riding.  They don't look like that much but when you add up all swimming/biking/running they take their toll.  The big hill part that they've added is at the start of the bike.  You get a bit of a warm-up, 1.5 miles or so, but then it's up the steep singletrack for 2 miles then a 3/4 mile descent.  That first 4 1/4 miles takes 45 minutes and the next 7 3/4 miles take 32 minutes so that gives you an idea of what I'm up against.  It's not ideal to be working so hard at the start of a race but you can only go so slow before you topple over so I have to grunt my way up.  I pass some people, some people pass me and it's not as big a problem as I thought it would be.  There's a chatty woman at the start of the singletrack and she stays behind me for most of the way.  I ask her if she wants to pass but she says no, then she couldn't watch my streamers and they are an inspiration.  I resist the urge to overexert myself to pull away from her-she's trying to be nice but I don't like wasting precious energy on chatting during races especially when I'm fighting for every breath on a bad ass hill.  I answer her with grunts and wheezes and finally she stops trying to talk to me.  Then I feel bad about being grumpy.  I lose her somewhere near the top of the climb.

I'm already too hot by the time I make it to the top of the hill and I'm on the verge of a mental breakdown at the thought of having to come back here and run up this bastard.  How hot am I going to be by then?  I'm not sure how that's going to work but I can't dwell on it because now I have the dreaded descent to deal with.  Steep.  Sharp switchbacks.  A few rocky technical bits.  Oh joy.  A couple of guys in their 20's pass me right near the top of the hill and as they start their descent they let loose with a loud, joyous 'Woo Hoo!' and fly down the hill out of sight.  My first thought is 'Crazy.  Those boys are crazy'.  My second thought is that there are pretty much only 2 approaches to this descent.  The 'Woo Hoo' approach of flying down with wild abandon and the 'Holy Sheet' approach of death grip on the brakes.  I say to myself, 'Do you want to be a Woo Hooer or a Holy Sheeter'?  O.k., o.k. I'll try the Woo Hoo approach.  So  I say it in my head-woo hoo.  No, let's try it again.  Woo Hoo.  Better but not there yet.  WOO HOO!  and I let go the brake and down I go.  Woo Hoo, Woo Hoo, Woo Fucking Hoo.  Then a few bits of 'Dirty Old Town' by Ted Leo which is a cover of a Pogues song which probably isn't really a Pogues song but rather an old traditional song but if you've heard it it's probably the Pogue's version that you've heard.  But this situation calls for the Ted Leo version over the Pogues because if I think of the Pogues sooner or later I'll start envisioning Shane McGowen's teeth and you go ahead and google that (I dare you) and tell me if you think that's a good visual to have on a scary mountain bike descent.  Anyway, wouldn't you know it, the Woo Hoo approach works.  I pass a buncha people, ride some stuff I know I had to walk last time and it's actually fun instead of scary.  Who woulda thunk it?

Rest of the bike goes down without a hitch.  I end up in a group of 4 other women for a while.  I pass them on the flats & downhills, they pass me back on the uphills.  I pass them again on the really steep rocky uphills because they have to get off to walk and somehow I've unexpectedly turned into a mountain goat.  Then they pass me back on a more moderate climb with a couple miles to go and I never see them again.  Oh wells.

Bike time is 1:22:07 or 8.8 MPH.

4.8 miles/8K?
The run goes up the same bastard hill as the bike but at least when I'm done I get to go back to the finish.  The cruel thing about the run is that on your way out to the hill you run right past the finish area.  You can hear the cheering for all the people who are done and it seems horribly unfair that they're done and you have to climb a big bastard hill.  In the searing heat.  Aid stations on the run are sparse because there's no way to set one up on the singletrack.  There's one at the start of the hill and I pour a couple cups of water on my head and guzzle what I think I can keep down.  I didn't drink nearly as much as I should have on the bike.  Here's a tip kids, if you're going to dump water on your head, take off your sunglasses first.  Trust me on this.

Last year I was able to run nearly the whole run, even up the hill, but not so this year.  Trail runners/racers will tell you it's more efficient to 'power hike' rather than run in many instances, especially if the hill is steep.  I put this to the test and it does feel faster but I can't help wondering if it's wishful thinking and I go back to running.  There's a woman behind me for a good distance.  She runs, catches up to me then walks and falls behind.  Then I have to start walking because my stomach is getting a little queasy and the heat is getting to me.  I walk a bit, run a bit and eventually the woman passes me.  She's not in my age group and even if she was I can't chase her in the heat.  The passing out in Chipotle episode has me on the cautious side these days.  For the most part I put it down as a weird, one-off occurrence but I'd be lying if I said it isn't in the back of my mind especially as I feel my brain starting to melt in the heat.

Nobody in my age group passes me until nearly the top of the hill.  Then a woman goes flying by and I try to convince myself that the number on her calf indicating her age says 40 and not 46.  When I received the starters list for my age group I noticed there were 6 people, 2 of which are crazy fast.  One of them won last year, coming in 3rd overall of all women and beating me by 45 minutes.  The other woman is even faster, coming in 1st or 2nd in my age group at Xterra Nationals last year.  I have no idea about the other women.  I know if only one person passes me I'm out of the money because those other two are far ahead.  Not that I'm banking on making the podium anyway.  Since the race is an official Xterra race this year and the bike portion is way more challenging it's attracted a fairly competitive crowd compared to previous years.  So I'm not sure if my chances for hardware have flown by with this woman or even if there are 2 other women already ahead and I have no chance anyway but chasing this woman is out of the question.  Aside from feeling bad from the intense heat I also start to feel the blisters on the arches of both feet and for some bizarre reason my middle toe on my right foot is killing me.  I've stumbled a few times and fallen once, is it possible I jammed it on a rock and sprained it?  The elastic laces on my shoes are too tight, something which didn't come up at the shorter race, and though I stop for a moment to loosen them it's a more complicated fix and I can't do much about it.  Should have had some longer practice runs with the elastic laces.  Also should have worn socks.  I race sockless all the time, not sure why I suddenly have blisters despite all the Body Glide and Aquaphor I globbed on my feet but oh well.  Nothing for it but to keep plugging along.

Last year I remember flying down the hill, not so this year.  The various pains in my feet and debilitation from the heat keep me at a slow steady pace.  The last 2 miles are a sheer test of will because I'm starting to get dizzy from the heat.  I have to alternate walking and running to keep from overheating.  I don't think I've ever had to walk in a race but I don't want to get heat stroke.  Those people who crawl over the finish line at the Ironman?  Yeah, that's not me.  I think it's 12 ways to stupid and I have no intention of crawling or passing out.  It's just a stupid race, let's see if I can finish it without needing medical assistance. 

Somehow, someway, I finally get off the trail and turn onto the road to the finish.  People standing around tell me 'Keep going, you're SO close', but I keep not seeing the finish.  I say to one of them 'Am I really close or are you people all lying to me??!!'  She laughs and tells me no, I'm really close.  Then I see it, the finish line, I can hardly believe it.  I cross it, stop, click off my watch then notice the people yelling at me that I haven't actually crossed the line yet.  Doh.  How I miss the timing mats and giant inflatable gate that says 'FINISH LINE' on it I don't know.

But hold on kids, we're not done yet.  There's a giant inflatable Slip-n-Slide thing just past the finish line and they tell me I have to do it.  I really really really don't want to and if my brain wasn't melted into a puddle of pudding I would have said 'No I don't think so' but without thinking it through I say o.k. and take a running leap onto my belly onto the slide.  Then I notice how absolutely filthy the thing is.  Then I come sliding to a halt about halfway down the slide, like a gutter ball except I'm at a dead stop.  I get on my hands and knees to crawl the rest of the way but it's hard work and humiliating so I manage to stand and take another leap and this one gets me to the end.  Which unfortunately is a huge tub filled with disgusting, filthy brown water that has been landed in by over 200 other sweaty filthy athletes before me.  I realize the horror too late and I'm helpless to prevent it.  All I can do is helplessly yell 'Oh how gross!  How GROSS!!!' before I fall victim to the laws of physics and plunge head first into the muck.  I climb out of the tub and I'm thoroughly soaked and grossed out and have a nice wet t-shirt contest look going for the post race food and raffle hanging out.   And yes folks, there's a photographer right there to capture the whole thing.  Because who doesn't want to look like Swamp Creature in a wet t-shirt for their finish line photo?

I manage to get down a reasonable amount of food and water so hopefully I won't get sick and pass out in front of all the people at the finish line because wouldn't that be a great end to the day?  I check the results board and I'm shocked to see that I'm 3rd out of 4 in my age group.  Guess 2 people didn't show up.  For the first time ever I'm nearly in tears at the thought of an age group award.  Normally it's not such a big deal and certainly not something I expect but it was such a monumental effort for me and such a tough race it would be so cool to come home with an award.  Then I notice they haven't posted the run portion yet, I was 3/4 off the bike.  Was the woman that flew by me in my age group?  I guess I'll have to wait and see.

I have some more food, see someone I know, Melissa, and have a little chat.  She's got her dog, a mini Rottie mix, with her and I give her some skritches.  The dog goes along with her and her boyfriend a lot when they bike and she's a solid chunk of muscle, even more so than most agility dogs.  And such a nice girl.  Melissa's relay team won the relay last year and her team wins again this year, beating the second place team by 27 minutes.  This is hardly a surprise because the swimmer is some phenom of a teenager, son of the woman who won my age group last year, and Melissa is one of the top mountain bikers in Colorado.  She used to race Xterra triathlons as a pro and was ranked 4th in the country.  But today she's just here for fun.

Finally they post the updated results and start the awards ceremony.  As I'm scanning the sheets they call my name for 3rd place.  I can hardly believe it.  I don't know that I've ever been so happy to receive an award at a race.  In past years they hand you your award and that's it but this year, perhaps because it's an Xterra, they have me stand on stage with the other winners for a podium photo.  I feel like a fraud up there with those women and I'm hoping my shirt has dried enough that the photo won't be too embarrassing but still it feels good.

Edited to add podium photo.  That's me on the left in the blue.  Big thanks to Melissa for posting it on Facebook.

Then I have the not so fun part of walking 1/2 mile in sopping wet shoes with my blisters rubbing away back to the transition area to pick up my bike then another 1/2 mile back to the car but at least I have dry sandals and socks in the transition area.  Blisters on the arches of your feet are problematic because how are you supposed to stay off them to let them heal?  They were horribly sore yesterday but doing better this morning.  Do NOT use Bactine on blisters.  The bottle, which says 'No sting' and 'Relieves pain on contact', lies.  That stuff does the exact opposite.  Did you hear my screams yesterday?  No agility practice for a few days at least and how will I exercise the dogs?  Guess it's a chance to brush up on some tricks training.  I've got some impressive bruises as well but those might have come from falling off a log into the creek in Crested Butte.  Too bad I'm not as agile as my dogs.

My award - an Xterra bronze belt buckle.  With a big X on it because I'm so extreme.

 Let me tell you, there are a lot easier ways to get a belt buckle.  And I don't even wear belts.


Swim:  800 meters/875 yards - 17:44 (includes run to transition), 1:55/100 yards not including run to        
                                                transition (estimate 1:00 to run to transition)
           Placement 196/268 overall

T1:  2:09 - 2nd fastest in age group

Bike:  12 miles - 1:22:07, 8.8 MPH
          Placement 203/268 overall

T2:  1:46, 3rd fastest in age group.  I took a few swigs of water and ended up choking a little so that wasted
                some time

Run:  4.8 miles/8K ?* - 1:18:11, 16:17 mins. per mile for 4.8 miles
                Splits:  Mile 1 - 15:21
                           Mile 2 - 18:12
                           Mile 3 - 15:09
                          Mile 4 - 14:35
                          Mile 4.8 - 14:45
         Placement 253/268

Nothing surprising there Mile 2 was the worst of the hill, I'm surprised Mile 4 was the fastest.  It was a slight downhill but it seems like I remember walking a lot of it because that's when I was really starting to get dizzy.
I did the run in 1:04/13:19 mins. per mile last year, the heat and bike course took its toll this year.  2 minutes per mile is a huge difference and my knee felt better this year, no complaints from it whatsoever.

*Race website says 8K/4.8 miles but 8K is really 4.96 miles so who knows how far it really was.  I'm guessing 4.8 miles.

Final Time:  3:01:56
                   Placements:  3/4 Age Group
                                     60/84 Females
                                     225/268 Overall


  1. Congratulations!!!!! I can't wait to see your podium photo. Great job holding it all together in the heat and pulling off a placement!

  2. Thanks! I edited the post to add my podium photo.

  3. Wow! What an awesome accomplishment! You must still be flying high!!!!

  4. Wonderful work! I can't imagine doing any one part of what you do on those races; you're an iron woman to me! I love your WOO HOO story--sort of a metaphor for life in general that most of us don't apply. I'll have to think more about that.

  5. P.S. We need a photo of the hot pink racing stripes on the new wet suit, with or without you in it. But in would be better. Even just a leg or an arm. :-)

  6. Wow, 8MPH average on the bike? I think I'll stick to road biking! ;)


  7. Amazing. Congrats! Congrats! Congrats! I hope those blisters feel better soon.

  8. Hey, great job!

  9. Thanks you guys.

    8.8 mph is slow for sure riding on trails is totally worth it. I've had some rides up at West Mag that are steeper and more technical and my ave. speed is around 6 mph.

    I'll try to get a wetsuit photo on Thursday at masters. Will be embarrassing to ask someone to take it but apparently I'm well versed in 'embarrassing' these days. Didn't quite make it to masters this morning. Slept in a bit then decided I didn't want to risk getting sand in my blisters (one of them burst and the skin ripped away during the race so it's exposed), yeah, that's it.