|The "Finisher" Medal|
Silverman had 4,200 feet of climbing on the bike, so maybe all the hill training that I had suffered through during the summer could be put to use. The weather of course would be hot, so the run would be awful. The swim was questionable for being wetsuit legal, since the water temperature had to be under 76 degrees. I swim very slowly without a wetsuit, when I am not having a panic attack. Drowning is not appealing to me.
Still, I got in for $50 instead of the usual $300 plus and could drive there with a friend. Right from the time we got near town, the venture turned into a giant pain. We were stuck in traffic for an hour due to an accident; a harbinger of things to come.
We rushed over to registration an hour before it closed. Registration involved standing in various lines. They gave us a timing chip, a shirt and of course assorted plastic bags to put morning clothes, bike gear and run gear in.
I was thoroughly sick of the whole bag thing, having done it two weeks before. Planning what to put in the bag required organization and a lot of thought about what would be needed for the race, which was too much effort. The bags had to be dropped off in two locations the day before the race. Hopefully, the items in it wouldn’t disappear, leak nor melt from the heat.
Bikes also had to be dropped off the day before the race. On the drive to the site, somehow a giant traffic jam suddenly materialized before the Lake Mead transition area. The park demanded $10 to be there for half an hour. We dropped off the bikes and I hoped my tires wouldn’t explode from sitting in the sun.
|Swim course the day before|
I was stressed about this race since it would be difficult. I had already decided I would wear a wetsuit even if it wasn’t wetsuit legal, since I couldn’t make the swim cut off without it. The uncertainty was nerve wracking. The forecast high was ninety degrees, so heat would be a factor. Mere survival was all that could be hoped for.
Race day dawned cool, but quickly warmed up. The swim was announced as being wetsuit legal, which cheered me up.
The swim start chute was horrible, with 1500 bodies crammed tightly into a small area. I felt claustrophobic and anxious. I had my wetsuit partially on and the sun was up, baking me. I oozed towards the fence to get some air. No space to crawl under it to escape. Some people couldn’t take it and jumped over it. This much body contact with strangers was unpleasant.
Finally, my age group of 50+ females got in the water. I swam off to the side because I knew the twenty-somethings behind would swim over me. This was not a good arrangement. Even worse is when they invaded my space. Get the hell away from me.
I always hated the swim. This one was no exception. The water was smooth, but too many bodies passed by me, churning up the water. I didn’t like the insecurity of being far away from the shore. Sometimes, weeds would drape themselves over my arms and I had to remove them. Time went slowly and the wetsuit was a little too warm.
I got to shore, peeled off my wetsuit and put on my bike shoes and helmet in the empty transition area. I had no idea what awaited me, not knowing the course, but it would undoubtedly be an adventure. The sky was cloudless and the sun was hot on my skin.
The bike course had many hills to climb. Trucks passed me hauling massive boats. The scenery looked like a cross of the Arizona Painted Desert and a moonscape, with a touch of Death Valley desolation. The rock were sometimes splashed with red minerals. The vegetation was sparse with stunted creosote being the main plant that could survive the harsh climate. Crossing a bridge, a wetlands greenery contrasted with the bone-dry setting. This road was fun to ride, but I would have preferred cooler weather.
The heat was bearable, but felt like it could easily slip into heat exhaustion. Riders walked the hills and others were on the side of the road, perhaps contemplating their fate. About mile thirty, I realized that I had to hustle to make 1:30 bike cut off. Stops at the aid stations were still necessary to get water and ice, but I couldn’t linger.
|T1. It looks like a lot of Porta-potties, but it wasn't enough|
Picking up speed, I passed more people, who didn’t seem in a hurry. Fear was a good motivation to go faster. My heart rate kept rising. Heat and a high heart are not a good combination and I would pay for this later.
The route turned off of the park roads and proceeded back to Henderson. The hills weren’t done and an evil big one smacked me at the end. I neared transition and of course most of the racers were way ahead of me and already out on the course.
I fumbled through transition and started on the hilly run, which was three loops. The first part of the loop was shaded, but the last one mile uphill section wasn’t. The run had to be finished in three hours. This time limit would have been doable normally, but in ninety degrees was very difficult.
Luckily, the aid stations had lots of water and ice. I constantly sucked on the ice cubes from a cup and held them in my hands. I ran under some sprinklers. My speed wasn’t fast enough, but I kept moving with the hope of finishing. The end got farther away.
By mile eleven, I gave up finishing under the cut off. My energy was gone and nausea and weakness had crept in. No one pulled me off the course, so I continued.
Other people were struggling as well. I saw one person sitting on the curb, holding his head in his hands. A symbol of this run. The sun burned my skin, so I splashed water on it. The turn-around was in the far distance. I couldn’t run anymore, so I walked. Maybe on the downhill, I could run.
A volunteer asked how I was doing. I said “marginal.” She asked if I wanted a ride, but I didn’t have that far to go, if I could hang on. Two more miles.
Finally, the turn-around. I attempted to run, but cramps seized my calves, so I walked. After repeated attempts, I ran about a quarter mile to the finish line. The announcer had to mention how old I was. People think that athletes my age are an oddity, though it was nice to be cheered. I go from fifty-nine to sixty and suddenly my competitors disappear and I am “geriatric”. I don’t like being old.
Not feeling that great, I was escorted to the med tent to get an I.V., to treat dehydration. That was a first, but probably not a last.
I was okay with the race, until I saw later in the results that I got a big, fat DNF(Did Not Finish) for almost nine hours of racing, since I didn’t make the cutoff. No points, no age group awards, no credit for racing. That was a mood deflator. The people in the 35-39 age group with the same time were considered finishers, since they started earlier and had more time. That was unfair and hard to accept, but it made my DNF more arbitrary.
They gave me a medal anyway. Maybe they didn’t want to mess with a cranky old person. No one else in my age group finished. Perhaps I was a freak.
I have mixed feelings about the race being a failure or a success. The total time was one of the worst ever for me, but it was also one of the hardest half irons I have done. The med tent sucked me in. The bike and the swim were decent, but dehydration set in before I even ran, despite my attempts to avoid it.
I may not have “finished,” but I did finish.