Ray's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2004 May 1: Wildflower Triathlon

A year older, a year wiser (and faster)?  The 2003
Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
was my first ever triathlon, and I was
figuring that this year, I'd do the race much faster.  I was
looking forward to some decent weather on race day-- the 2003 race's
made it a pretty tough event (following a pretty sleepless
night beforehand!).  Weather forecasts for 2004 indicated that no
untoward precipitation was expected.

I stayed at a hotel (a Motel 6!)
in King City this year, since camping out doesn't let me get much
sleep.  The motel was about 45 minutes from the triathlon site,
and I brilliantly decided to park a ways outside
the park grounds proper so that after I was done racing, I could effect
a quick and easy exit-- instead of having to wait in a long line behind
other cars to get out of the park, I envisioned a quick 4-mile bike
"cool-down" ride to my car, and then smooth sailing from there.

I reached the transition area with plenty of time to get myself ready,
mill around, etc. 
Fast-forward to around 8:20am, the start of my wave (the first wave of
30-34-year-old men).

I felt happy for most of the swim.  I felt like I wasn't tiring
myself out and I (rather erroneously, it
turned out) thought that I was swimming pretty quickly,
so what more could I ask for?  I didn't even suffer any
physical punishment from my fellow swimmers until near the end of the
swim leg, when some other guy and I kept trying to occupy the same bit
of water for some reason.  During the second half of the swim, I
started seeing some
people from the wave after me (the 8:25am wave) swimming by; that's par
for the course for me, though, lamentably.  I tried to focus more
on the people from the previous wave whom I overtook.

At the end of the swim, I ran up the hill into the transition area,
where I decided to take a glance at my watch to see how I was
doing.  Rats! 
Somehow I had done my slowest ever 1.2-mile swim (by several
minutes!).  No wonder I felt so full of zip at this point? 
(Actually, I always feel fine
after the swim
leg.  And I never do it
very quickly.)

After spending entirely too much time in the transition area switching
contexts, I hopped on
my bike and got out of there.

The ride started out well enough, but the day quickly heated up to an
extent that I apparently failed to appreciate until it was too
late.  I was drinking about one bottle of Gatorade each aid stop, although I
missed picking up a bottle at one aid stop.  (Technically, I
didn't miss picking up the bottle.  I got it and tried to take a
swig from it, but the safety seal between the bottle and the bottle top
hadn't been removed, so the bottle wasn't willing to part with its
citrusy golden bounty.  I didn't feel like removing this seal
myself while biking, and I wasn't going to stop so that I could do it,
so I just threw the bottle off to the side and mumbled something
unhappy under my breath.  By that point, it was too late to pick
up another bottle without turning back.)

To make a short story long (and then condense it back to something
short), I got totally dehydrated during the bike ride (much more
dehydrated than just a single bottle deficit!).  The real blow-up
came when I hit the largest monolithic climb, an 800' unsheltered hill
around two-thirds of the way through.  At the start of that climb,
I finally realized how hot it was and how slowly I was going.  I
slogged up the road, watching myself get passed by what had to be an
entire race course worth of people.  By this point, I had a nasty
headache that proceeded to get nastier over the remainder of my time on
the course.

I worked my way through the rest of the ride after that, but I wasn't
feeling very cheery, especially as I saw how far I was lagging behind
my time for the same event last year (which was my very first
triathlon).  When I got to the transition area, I took stock of my
situation and decided that to deal with my dehydrated state, I might
have to walk for a lot of the run course to finish the day in
reasonable shape.  (Since I had come to the triathlon site alone,
I had a 4-mile bike ride and a 90-minute or so drive that I needed to
be able to do after the race; it simply wouldn't do to be completely
wasted at the end of the day.)

So after drinking a bunch of water, I took off a-strollin' down the run
course.  The full heat of the day was upon us, and I have to say
that it seemed that a lot of
the participants were doing a lot of walking.

Walk, walk, walk.  Every time I thought about running, it took
only a few rapid steps to persuade me that walking was a better idea at
that point.  Some of the course was on a paved path, but much of
it was on a technical dirt trail that required one to watch one's
step.  Aid stations on the run course were placed every mile or
so, and at each one, I drank two big cups of water.  Even doing
that, I was still completely dehydrated.

At some point, some fleet-of-foot women started passing me.  Now,
given how slow and wretched I was (I was
walking the entire run course, after all!), it might seem like it
shouldn't have been too difficult to pass me, but it was pretty
impressive that these women managed to do this (long before the end of
the run course), given that they had started the race at least 50
minutes after I did.  (The usual way triathlon wave starts work is
that the pro men start; and then the pro women start; then the amateur
men start in a big slew of waves in order of ages; and finally the
amateur women start in a big slew of waves.)  I noticed that even
these high-powered amateur women (well, some of them, at least) were
doing some small amount of walking on the course-- there were some really steep spots that just
weren't worth trying to run up.

I saw some nice wildlife during the run (perhaps I should put quotes
around that word?), too.  There was an
I-can't-quite-remember-but-I-think-it-was-a-wolf-or-coyote I viewed
from a distance.  There was a deer that was hanging out right on
the side of the course.  I tried not to spook it, but it ran off
when I approached, even though I was only at a walking pace.  And
finally, I saw a beaver at the mile 4 aid station.  It was
actually a beaver of the two-legged variety: there's always an aid
station at Wildflower staffed in part by topless women, but this year
one of the enterprising ladies manning it was bottomless, too. 
All these hard-working females get a hearty thank-you from me for
giving me something to think about other than my headache and
dehydrated state!

A little more than halfway the run, the course ran through the
campground.  I took stock of how I felt (and how far I was behind
my in-my-dreams schedule!) and decided something along the lines of "he
who bails and walks away will live to bail another day."  In other
words, yes, I bailed out.  I walked down the nasty hill to the
transition area, handed in my timing chip to a volunteer (I had to work
hard to make my intentions clear to the helpful volunteer.  "I'm
gonna bag."  "Huh?
"I've decided to bail."  "What?
"I'm a DNF.")  After hanging out for a while eating and drinking,
I slowly dragged my bike and gear back up the hill, and believe me,
that felt like a brutal
climb.  Once I got to the road up top, I hopped on my bike and
started pedaling-- extremely slowly, again-- to my car.

Tragically, a mile or so into the ride, I noticed that my rear tire
seemed a bit mushy, so I decided to put in a new tube.  I very
unhappily did this, and then hooked up my CO2 inflator and
stared off into the distance for the few seconds needed to inflate the
tube.  I got sufficiently distracted that it didn't occur to me to
remove the inflator until a loud BANG
noise brought me back to reality-- and to the fact that I had just
exploded my tube.  So I put the original tube again, hoping that
it didn't have anything worse than a slow leak, and inflated it. 
I didn't go more than 10 yards on my bike before I heard another loud BANG, however.  The lesson to
be learned here is that even if you're in a hurry, and even if you
really don't feel like taking much time changing your tube, you should
nevertheless check to make sure you changed your tube properly before
you inflate it.  (I had a small section of inner tube protruding
from under the tire bead, which is very bad.)

That was the end of my tubes and my CO2 cartridges, so I
started miserably hoofing it.  Someone pulled up and asked me if I
wanted a ride, and because I'm a complete idiot, I replied, "No, that's
OK.  I'm just walking to my car."  I spent much of the next
40 minutes hitting myself in the head for uttering this automatic
response-- it turned out that the walk to my car was a lot longer than

Finally, someone else was kind enough to offer me a ride, and I leapt at the offer.  On the
way home, I ate lots more stuff, including things I got from a McDonald's: two McVeggie Burgers
(new on the menu.  Not bad, but I think people aren't very aware
of them-- they had to cook them specially for me (so I had to wait for
them), presumably because they're not a highly requested item) and a
parfait.  I have to say that Donkey (from Shrek) was right: that
parfait may have indeed been the most delicious food imaginable.

'Nuff said!


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