|A Rocky Hell|
Rockhopper Xterra Triathlon is a low key event on the north shore of Tempe Town Lake. The 1000 meter swim, the thirteen mile bike and the 3.5 mile trail run weren’t necessarily long, but they aren’t fast or easy, either. The terrain in Papago Park is hilly and bone-jarring.
I was nervous about this race because mountain biking always inspires a bit of fear. Will I crash or otherwise inflict bodily injury upon myself? My wounded knee hadn’t healed up for the past three weeks, because I kept crashing on it. Pain bred caution. I was slow, and cutoffs were also a concern. I met them last year, but it was tight. Last year’s journal entry mentioned how difficult the race was. I didn’t need the reminder. Amnesia was bliss.
Am I too old for this stuff? It is exhausting and scary. The lack of any females in my age group sometimes makes me wonder if mountain biking and trail running is a good idea. But in a strange way it is fun.
Race day didn’t start out well. I was sitting in the car, ready to leave and wondered what did I forget? Too late I realized what it was. I forgot my Camelbak. Camelbaks are not cool in road cycling, but it’s hard to drink from a bottle while mountain biking. Too much coordination was required to grab a bottle and stay upright.
It also had my flat repair equipment in it. I hoped that the tire gods would be kind and not let me get a flat. Lately, I had been finding inch-long Cholla Cactus stickers in my tires. The desert is not a good place for tires.
I also forgot my required USAT card for packet pick up, since I rarely do this on a race day. Luckily the race director let me off, since he knew me. I was impressed that he actually remembered my name. I must have done enough of his races to achieve notoriety.
|Photo courtesy of Wannatri|
The start of the race was in choppy water. This wasn’t an issue, since I had an old, beat up wetsuit that kept me from drowning. The seventy-five degree water temperature was almost chilly at first in my sleeveless wetsuit, but it felt warm later.
The swim was crowded with swimmers doing only the 1000 and 2000 meter swim. Undoubtedly, a few lapped me on the 2000 meter swim, since I was only doing the 1000 meter very slowly. Hazards like the dangerous breast stroker and over-enthusiastic fast swimmers had to be avoided. Breast-strokers can randomly kick me. Fast swimmers didn’t care if I was in their way and would swim over me if they can get away with it. They also churned up the water, adding the unpleasantness of being out in the murky lake. I was the last woman swimmer, but my time was better than last year. For once, the swim was the easiest part of the race.
The dreaded bike was next. Papago park is unforgiving terrain with loose rock and dirt that was difficult to climb and ascend. It wanted me to die. Pre-riding the course to practice was ineffective, because the right route was not obvious, despite doing the race last year. I managed to find some of it, but not all because the trails veer off in so many directions.
The first loop I felt incompetent. Frequently, I had almost made it up a hill when my wheel skidded on an errant rock. I cussed in frustration and had to jump off the bike when it lost traction, to avoid falling over. A particularly big hill was impossible for me to ascend. Climbing a steep hill isn’t worth it if I am bent over gasping for breath for five minutes, so I gave up. Walking was about as fast as riding anyway, but I hated it because it meant that the dirt and rocks won. I was tired from the swim and had to ride much harder to avoid the cut offs. The sun blazed hot.
I was gingerly descending a demon rocky hill, trying not to kill myself, when a rider flew by me like it was nothing. Really? It must have been his bike that allowed him to do this. Amazing, but irritating. I didn’t know how the fast and fearless did it. For me, self-preservation took precedence when descending a sketchy steep hill. Other riders were having almost as much difficulty as I was. The course has mandatory dismounts–three per loop; two loops total. This involved awkwardly walking with metal cleated mountain biking shoes on loose gravel through a tunnel. Not fun. By the second loop, I had accepted that this course was very difficult and I just had to get through it. It wasn’t my fault; it was the trail’s fault. I had about ten minutes total of walking. At least I didn’t have the hotshots the last loop. The total time was about the same as last year. A little extra length was added because a pedestrian bridge has been taken out at the turn around.
I got into transition and no one stopped me, so I must have made the cut off. In my hurry, I forgot to take off my helmet and didn’t notice for a half mile. I left it on the side of the trail to pick up on my way back and felt really stupid. This had never happened to me. Only the totally clueless do this. Why didn’t anyone say something like “idiot, take off your helmet!”
The temperature by then was eighty-four degrees. It was hot, but not unbearable. A breeze helped. I had no hat as usual, because of failing to take off my helmet. The run course was a little more doable than the bike course, but it was still a lot of climbing and descending rocky hills. A volunteer dude kept asking me what loop I was on. I appreciated his concern, but I was well within the cut off. Go to hell. I had to run with my helmet in my hand the last mile. I hoped no one noticed. Total time was 3:05:43.
I was first in my age group because I was the only one. This usually has to be pointed out to race directors, especially when awards are given out before I even start the run. They must not expect older athletes to show up, though usually every race I do has a seventy-year-old male that can crush the bike, but not run as well.
|Another race, another beer glass|
Being the only one made me feel like a bit of a misfit. But even if I am not good at it, I still mountain bike and do Xterras. Incompetence never stopped me before.