Thursday, July 3, 2014

Deuces Olympic Race Report

This year's "metals." This picture doesn't show it, but, I have a
giant blister on my third toe for my race effort.

I had done so many triathlons that I assumed that they would all be predictable. This turned out not to be the case with Deuces, except for the weather, which was always hot. The unexpected was not always good.

Deuces had evolved over the years, but not always for the better. It had a half iron, Olympic, Xterra and sometimes a sprint. A huge raffle used to occur on Saturday evening along with a dinner. The raffle and dinner disappeared. The Xterra this year was cancelled due to forest fire danger. I never wanted to stay late anyway, so it didn’t matter to me. The less time in Show Low the better. I couldn’t really explain why the town makes me want to leave as fast as possible.

Last year's metal.
I was nervous before the race because high altitude makes breathing difficult. The swim had  the danger of panic attacks. I usually felt alone on the bike course because it’s remote and everyone was ahead of me. The run, which was half trail was an ordeal.

The temperature was warmer than I expected at dawn. This did not bode well. I struggled into my wetsuit and tested the water. It felt chilly at first, but tolerable. The lake level was down nine feet, due to the water being used for fire-fighting. The channel out to the start was much narrower than usual.

The swim start was the typical struggle due to the lack of oxygen at altitude. My chest felt tight. I couldn’t see the far buoy because it was partially deflated. I had to ask the kayakers where it was. I turned the corner, went across to the next one, then started down the lake. I aimed toward the next yellow buoy, but the kayaker said I had to go around the orange ball buoy. 

This confused me. The race organizers had said all we had to do was right turns, but nothing about navigating randomly placed balls. At times, I actually saw the bottom of the lake through the murk. Time dragged on and I contemplated my inadequacy in this event. At least the water was smooth and I could breath. As I was going back past the start, I heard the announcer say “three minutes” for the sprint race. Great. I was taking forever and was soon going to be run over by sprint swimmers.

 I rounded the last far buoy, then the final one to come in and hit a thick jungle of weeds. The patch was enormous, the largest I had ever seen, and it extended all the way to the shore. The long plant tendrils clung to me, trying to drape themselves over my arms. I panicked, flailing my arms to escape their grasp and groaned. The only way I was going to get away was to keep moving. The swim exit was beckoning. The sprint racers had caught up, but passed by without slamming into me.  

I staggered out of the water through six inch deep muck and walked up to steep hill to be stripped of my wetsuit. I ran into transition, which of course was empty. I was last or near last out of the water, which was depressing. At least my bike was easy to find.

On the bike, it was hot already. Tall pines trees that lined the road did not provide much shade. The white sun seared my skin and sucked the moisture out of my body. Sweat salt crusted my face. Once off the main highway, Lone Pine Dam Road was empty past the sprint course racers. An out and back had been on the route last year, but none was marked this time. I worried that I had missed it, but all I could do was go on. No volunteers were out in the remote area to guide us. The sign I had gone past said “Olympic straight”, but I still felt lost on the lonely route that stretched on and on and seemed to go nowhere.  

The run was a reminder of race misery past; almost ironman level of deep despair. I knew it would be problematic since my hamstring was injured, but to run through soft sand resulted in sharp hip pain with every step. It eased off  to a bearable stabbing when I got to firmer ground. The path wound through the campground, then entered an out and back road. The slight uphill made it mentally a dark place. My legs were dead and merely plodded through the uneven ground. An unwelcome hill marked the turn around. I grabbed some gummy bears for quick energy. The sticky layer adhered to my teeth.  

On the back half of the run, the aid stations were out of water. I had my own bottle, but it was low and lukewarm. The threat of heat exhaustion worried me with three aid stations in a row lacking water and cups. I grabbed some vile-tasting Heed-laced ice, which made my water foamy, but cooler. The run ended up being 6.78 miles instead of 6.2.  

They managed to even run out of water at the finish line. I lurked around the water containers and poured some in my bottle whenever they re-filled it. Some athletes, unhappy with the situation, berated the volunteers, but they had no control over the ineptitude of the race organization. 

 I was hot and considered the kiddie pools that they had set up, but the water was dubiously cloudy. God knows what was floating around in that water with the many sweaty butts that had sat in it. I saw surprised to see some one actually wash her face with it. She might regret that later. I  jumped in the lake instead, and pushed aside the weeds. At least the bacteria would be diluted. The coolness of the water refreshed me, despite the hot furnace air.

I chose this race, not because I liked it, but mostly because it was good training for a half iron at altitude that I was doing later in the fall. I didn't  expect to do well, so I didn’t worry about it.  I had merely survived the lack of oxygen and water, the weeds, the running injury and the desolate bike course. 

People don't understand why I put myself through this kind of ordeal  Sometimes, I don't know, either. Maybe, the discomfort makes me tough. A little less pain, however, would have been appreciated.