Ray's Blog

Sunday, June 24, 2007

2007 June 23: XTERRA Tahoe City

In 2004 September, I did an XTERRA triathlon with my main man Cedric, and it was a terrific race. Somehow I hadn't gotten around to doing any XTERRA since, but I decided to remedy that this season with the newly-minted XTERRA Tahoe City race.

June 22, the day before the race, I dropped my mountain bike off at Tahoe Sports Ltd to have them do some very minor stuff (I'm quite familiar with the rule that you shouldn't mess with your gear right before an event/race, and I have violated that rule rather flagrantly in the past). An hour later, I got a call telling me that there's a crack in the frame by the dropouts. Oh, no!

The store hooked me up with a Giant Reign something-or-other to ride for the race. I thought numerous times of ditching, given the circumstances, but I decided to go for it anyway.

That night I headed up to North Tahoe, where I planned to stay at Analisa's family's ski house, which happened to be located a mere 12 minutes or so from the race venue. Just before departing my house, in a whirlwind of activity, I grabbed a bag of gels to consume, grabbed my helmet, etc., threw the bike in the car, and ran off. Some time later, on the road, a little voice inside my head told me that I had forgotten my bike shoes. Bugger! (Why don't those stupid voices pop up earlier?!) I thought again-- quite seriously!-- about bailing out, but I had plans to do dinner with the kids up in North Tahoe that night. So I turned around, drove the 20 minutes or so back home, and grabbed my bike shoes. It turned out that I had also forgotten my helmet, gloves, and headband; somehow, in my haste, I had left them in a pile in the laundry room.

Now fully equipped, I started off once more towards North Tahoe. I had a nice dinner in Truckee with the kids and Pavlo, and then went over to the ski house. I set the alarm on my watch for some rather early time, then settled into bed to read my book about the Donner party (which, I should mention, turned out not to be a raging kegger).

A bit later, I looked over at my watch on the nightstand, and it was totally blank. I guess (I haven't verified yet) that my battery choose that time to die on me. Great! I set the alarm on my cell phone.

Next morning, I got up bright and early and realized that I hadn't remembered to bring any of my staple foods (like bananas and energy bars) for starting out the day of an event. So I had a minimalist breakfast of a little bread and some dried mango, and headed over to the race check-in area. Everything with check-in and setting up my transition spot went quickly, so I had a while to wait around for the start of the race. A little problem I encountered setting up was that I couldn't find that bag of gels I had brought. So the only grub I had on hand for during the race was a single gel packet they handed me at check-in, plus an old Tahoe Trail Bar (those things are great!) that happened to have been in my Camelbak for who-knows-how-many months.

On to the race...

The swim leg was two 600-meter laps of a little course in Lake Tahoe. In between the laps was a short-- maybe 60 meters-- beach run. Since I'm not a fan of getting into the water before the start of a triathlon (which some people ironically call "warming up"!), I jumped in at the start, and suffered the shock of entering 57-degree water. Soon enough, I was feeling pretty good, though. The whole course was very clear, and the water was super-shallow-- I wouldn't be surprised if the depth of the course never exceeded 7' or so. Things were so clear and shallow, in fact, that while I was swimming, I saw several crayfish scuttling around on the bottom of the lake. (This makes me feel confident in my plan to begin commercial lobster-farming operations in the lake! Oops-- that was supposed to be a secret.)

The first last took me 12 minutes or so, but I was starting to feel hungry and tired (maybe I shouldn't have lifted weights the day before the race?) around a third of the way into the second lap. Not a good sign! I finished it up nevertheless and ran the 500 meters to the transition area, where I had a devil of a time removing my wetsuit, because my hands were a bit numb from the cold water. My perseverance and cussing paid off, though, and I eventually got myself ready to get going on my loaner bike.

The first part of the bike leg was a decent-sized climb-- perhaps 800' of elevation gain or so. I wasn't feeling all charged up, but I did OK. I started to get really hungry, so I ate my one gel. Because I was wearing a tri-suit that zips in the front and my race number safety-pinned in front, it was kind of a pain to unzip to go to the bathroom. So even though I was feeling kind of inclined to stop and take a leak, I didn't do so, and (worse!) I eased up on my drinking.

The bike course continued with two loops around a reasonably flat 9-mile course, much of it something along the lines of a nondescript fire road. I continued on my merry way, getting gradually slower and slower. Eventually I stopped and underwent the big effort required to take a leak. Once I got going again, I felt a whole lot happier. More willing to drink, too, but the damage was already done, and I was started to feel kind of dried out.

I finished the first loop and started the second. A ways into my second trip around, I did a time check on my Garmin Forerunner 305, and found that it had gone inoperative. This race was looking to be fraught with hardware problems! There'd be no more time, speed, or distance information for the rest of the race for me.

By this point, I was starving, too. In a pathetic excuse for an epiphany, I remembered the Tahoe Trail Bar that I had in my Camelbak. I immediately stopped and wolfed it down. It perked me up some, but it was too little, too late. I kept on slogging through the bike leg, but I was going dog-slow and my heart wasn't in it at all.

Finally I finished that interminable second loop and rode the few miles back to the transition area. I had gone so slowly on the bike leg that right near the transition area, I passed a few people who were just about to finish up their run (the 6-mile run that I had yet to begin). No bueno!

Against all reason I decided to continue the race, although at that point, for me, using the word "race" to describe it was a bit of a farce. How bad could a 6-mile run be? So I started running uphill with the carefree spirits caused by a bonked brain. Because I had done the earlier portions of the triathlon in super-slow-motion, I encountered hardly any people.

The course shortly departed the road, continuing up-- and up-- and up-- on a trail. It didn't take me long to determine that I wasn't quite as enthusiastic and energetic and I had mistakenly believed. I downshifted and started walking. After walking uphill for quite a while, I decided that I wanted to bail out, but I didn't know the "ideal" place to do it. So I kept walking uphill. Finally I came to the start of a loop, where there was an aid station. The guy manning the aid station described the run course as a "lollipop shape", and he said most people were taking around 25 minutes to run around the loop (before they had to head back down to the race start).

"I'm bailing out!" I proudly announced, as I grabbed a cup of Gatorade. Then, ignoring the loop at the end of the lollipop, I walked all the way back down, cleaned up a little at the transition area, and then went down to the race start to bail out more officially and to get my cheeseburger from the post-race barbecue.

You can see proud evidence of my bailage here.

When I got home, I saw that I had left my big bag of gels on my desk. Bad idea!

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