Sunday, May 18, 2014

Esprit de She Race Report

I had no expectation of doing well at this race. Recent life events had left me reeling. I had moved two weeks earlier, leaving me feeling disoriented. Where the hell was I and where was I going? My life had been packing, then unpacking. Then I crashed on my bike, which had removed large areas of skin from my leg. The painful wounds had mostly healed, but not entirely. I also had minor surgery scheduled for the next day. I was dazed.

As usual, the thought of swimming 1500 meters in Tempe Town Lake made me nervous. Despite  thirty-two previous immersions in the murky pea soup water, I always dreaded it. The water was warm, which helped hold the thought of drowning at bay. Warm temperatures made me happy.The possibility of dying was more likely in cold water to me, since the misery factor was so much higher. Cold water sapped my energy and will to live. Cold was bad.

They herded us into the water. The start line was fifty yards out. This event was open to women only. The unspoken assumption was that women appreciated the absence of aggressive men swimming over them and crowding the bike course. They would be right. Men don’t always behave themselves and I got in their way, especially in the water. The trade off was it attracted a lot of beginners who didn’t know what they were doing.

Every morning swim in this lake went directly into the sun. I had a vague idea where I was going because I knew to sight off of a high-rise in the distance. Others around me were puzzled as to how to navigate. The water surface shimmered with the guide buoys lost in the glare.

Time dragged and I was not enjoying myself. I swam slow, which made the ordeal longer. I tried to relax and succeeded for the most part. Finally, I turned and could see the line of orange buoys in a line under the bridges. I wondered what the bubbles on the surface were–nothing or something more toxic? People had been reporting a fish die off earlier in the season.

Most people had finished the swim by the time I got out after forty-six minutes. I ran to my lonely bike on the rack.

The bike course was definitely NOT empty and was littered with all the people doing the shorter version of the race. The hordes of riders were in my way. Passing them was an unusual activity for me, being almost as slow on the bike as I was on the swim. The ones who didn’t follow the rules about spacing and not blocking the passing lane, tested my patience.

The roads around Tempe Town Lake either had a flat option with lots of turn arounds or hills. The organizers picked hills, which was more interesting, except they had to be ridden multiple times. They had freeway overpasses, flats and climbs through Papago Park with its sandstone rock formations. I didn’t find it too taxing.

The second bike lap lost the newbies. I almost missed the incentive to go faster to get around them. I briefly thought about stopping at a port-a-potty, but didn’t want to waste the energy or time. This was always an issue at longer races, but miraculously, I had managed to avoid the smelly little huts.

I got back into transition, racked my bike and rushed out to the run. I had not been running much because of a hamstring injury. The back of my leg hurt sharply with each step. I had done a strenuous trail race in February and had paid for it ever since. I hoped not to suck too much.

By now it was fairly hot. Tempe Town Lake was always a heat bowl. It collected the sun and beat a runner senseless with the inferno. It forced me to slow down. The defense to this was pouring ice and water on myself at the aid stations. I wanted to go faster, but couldn’t and just kept moving. At least I wasn’t walking, and felt relatively good.  Usually, the run was the best part, but today it was a matter of survival.

I finally finished, and the mental daze was back, this time from the blood rushing from my brain to my legs. Fatigue had set in, but physical tiredness was better than reality tiredness. Unpacking could wait. A meh race was still better than being with my population of boxes.