What makes the desert so beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well
Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it best I think. Blue Lake Triathlon for me was a desert. Physically it was hotter than Mordor in July but mentally especially because nothing went my way. However, there always is a well, there is always some solace, something to be learned.
These last two weeks have held a lot of things for me. Mainly I have played in 4 concerts and one of them was my final senior recital which for those who may not be up on classical music practices is essentially an entire concert performance of solo music for my instrument. Its terrifying but once done, you are finished with everything and get your degree. To be honest I hadn't been thinking much about triathlon recently. I had mostly been focusing on my music making and finishing my undergraduate work. I had been training steady but the stressors of working in my professional symphony job, practicing a ton for my recital, and also doing my actual coursework were really taking an unknowingly strong toll on me. This would all become very apparent within the first few meters of the swim
After a hasty warm up I lined up in the elite wave. This was an interesting group of competitors, some I knew were IRONMAN guys, others seemed a bit out of place for this Olympic distance speed show, and others, like Matt, Keet, Shea, I knew should be there. The stand around in the water waiting for the race felt a little familiar....
After the awkward standing in tepid lake water we heard the gun and were off. After the first 500 meters I started losing contact with the top 3 swimmers and started feeling off. My arms were aching more than normal. My stomach started to feel queasy and the sweat was accumulating in my wetsuit. After about 1000 meters Keet dropped me and I slowed pace even more on the way back. I was already baking alive in my wetsuit it felt like. Compared to the cold, fast swim I had weeks earlier this was a crawl for life.
Well... The swim was crummy. I'll rock the bike right? Right?
Nope. I put my shoes on the bike backwards!!! What amateur hour stuff.
So I had to stop. Beside the road about a mile into the course and put my shoes on for real and keep going. In this I estimate I lost a about 45 seconds and contact with those ahead of me. As I pedaled back to speed and started trying to get going I noticed I just felt very sluggish. I tried standing up and push and moving about but to absolutely no avail. The sluggishness only intensified. I drank all my fluid. No luck. I just kept grinding and watching the dots on bikes ahead of me fade off while those behind grow closer. I pleaded with my legs to go and give me more!
The miles dragged on and one. I was passed by one rider. Then two. Then three. Finally I fell all the way down to 10th, beaten, frustrated, and hot. As I entered transition again I saw way too many bikes already on racks. As soon as my feet hit the ground my muscles made me feel their toil. I literally staggered off onto the run, stopping and guzzling water from a terrified high school girl aid station volunteer. Her white eyes and shaky exchange of cups of ice water served as a stark contrast to the sluggish reach of my hand and downward dejected look in my eyes. I almost walked over the course then. But I didn't. I don't believe in DNFs unless something is broken.
My luck did turn around here, despite my own personal agony. Everyone for the most part who passed me on the bike obviously went too hard. Shuffling out of transition I was running a meager 7:40 pace but moved right by into top 8, then into 6th, then 5th and then 4th! I was picking it up slowly. I soon started running side by side with a kid named Shea, I asked him to work together to stay ahead. He obliged.
Our alliance proved to be strong until almost the very end and I ultimately would lose contact with him at the final aid station. Before this came to pass the OSU guy came and scorched by us. I tried to rally but the legs were flatter than pancakes. I couldn't do anything but swear under my breath and wonder why he had to wear such a preposterous beaver tail race belt.
I blew up the last few miles. Don't look at my splits, lets just not talk about it.
I would cross the line, many minutes back from where I should have been in, 4th place overall. But ultimately, two days removed from this race I think it was a blessing. I learned the be wary of over heating in my wetsuit in the warm water. I learned to put my shoes in the correct way on the bike. I learned the full effects of mental stress accumulating for weeks before a race is real. And most important of all, the true well in this desert, even if it all goes to hell in a handbasket, just keep going forward one step at a time, it's better than just walking off and quitting.
Thanks to Ninkasi Brewing, Death Row Velo, Fast Carbon Wheels, and Sweat X for their support in speedy races and death marches alike. I appreciate it a ton. Stay tuned, 3 weeks is Duathlon National Champs!