|No race pictures of me because they were hideous|
I don’t react well to altitude. I sometimes get splitting headaches and I can’t sleep at night. Most commonly, I just get lethargic. The tiredness hit me when I got to my hotel room. I took a nap, but I didn’t want to move.
Downtown Flagstaff awaited, though. I always have to see the spectacle of weirdos, musicians, students and freaks that gather there.
Wheeler Park is the epicenter of people watching. A concert is always going on in the summer on Saturday nights. This is what attracted the entertaining mix of denizens. A young girl was singing. She had a strong voice and her version of Disney pop songs was good, but I thought her rendition of the Etta James “At Last” lacked depth.
As I was listening to her, a man with a giant tractor tire and hula hoops showed up. According to the drunk man talking to him, I think he had some show with the hula hoops . He opened a violin case and took out a pair of saws to play. He was waiting until the concert was over. In the meantime he let kids and adults play with the hula hoops. Five people with varying abilities attempted to master the skill of twirling the hoops.
I looked over the crowd and saw a women holding up a bunny. It was to give the animal a better view, but the creature didn’t look like it wanted to be there. She held it like a baby and walked off with another one in a stroller.
I watched the show of old people, young people, hippies and tourists for a while, then left.
I didn’t sleep well. I kept waking up every three hours.
The next morning, on the drive to Lake Mary, at a hideous hour of the morning, The moon, Jupiter and Venus were in formation, plus a bright orange star. I saw a bright shooting star in the dark sky. I hoped it was a good omen.
I set up and did a warm up run so I wouldn’t be so nervous starting the swim. I saw my coach on the way out. I still felt like I couldn’t breath. I was too tired to move in the thin air. I had to get motivated to race somehow.
On the way from transition to the swim start I talked to people I knew. I went down the pier and got into the water.
The water was warmer than the air and a mist was over the surface and was almost completely opaque and was brown on the surface, but white underwater. I felt a general all over chest tightness, but no panic. High altitude swimming is tricky and kind of scary. It’s a fine balance to avoid the feeling of suffocation and going fast enough to actually move.
I couldn’t get into a rhythm until after the last turn. I would swim a little, get out of breath and have to stop and rest. My form felt bad . I didn’t have any buoys to count off to distract me from the distance. I finally slowed down a little more near the end and swam steadily without resting so much. It felt like a mediocre swim, but I was surprised to see my watch only read forty one minutes, which was flying for me. It seemed a lot longer than that. It didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere on the swim.
As usual, I was mostly alone on the bike course. It’s easier to get oxygen, but not enough that climbing steep hills isn’t difficult. The ride goes by the lake, past fields of sunflowers and pine trees. It felt deliciously cool at the start. It felt slow on the way out because of humongous climb. I always forget that the way out is usually longer than coming back and I think my ride really sucks. The rest of the field is returning already and this makes me feel even more slow. This time it was ten minutes slower going out. I averaged 14 mph going out, maybe 18 mph coming back.
I kept myself fed, which is a balancing act to try to stay upright on the bike while stuffing chewy food in my mouth. I wasn’t hungry and it was difficult to eat because of the gummy texture. I needed it, though, to fuel the run. It felt like it was getting hot by then, the sun searing through the clouds. . I didn’t feel wiped out after the bike like I usually am, a feeling that isn’t helpful when a 10k run awaits . Total bike time was 1:31:15.
The first mile of the run always is harder than it would appear to be. It looks downhill, but it doesn’t feel that way. By the time my legs got used to running after the hilly bike, the hill was looming. This hill is BIG with over a mile to climb. It’s steep and difficult to run up at 7,000 feet. The weak merely walk up it. I got up the hill entirely running, but it hurt with a dull, heavy pain. The fun part was running down the hill. I was happy. Gravity was my friend because it was free speed. At the bottom, though, the elation went away and I felt tired. I tried not to think how far away the finish line was. The last two miles seemed forever. I looked at the cheery, yellow masses of sunflowers for distraction. Pretty flowers chase away the pain. Final run time was 66:36, which was my best for this race.
Total race time was 3:29, a time that might be very slow to some people, but I didn’t care. I usually beat myself up because I can’t be fast in this race with its thin air and the hilly terrain. I decided to accept it as it is-a brutally difficult event that fights with me every mile and finds every weakness. It abuses my body, but I don’t let it punish my mind