RAGE: Olympic Distance Triathlon #1!
April 21, 2012
All great things seem impossible, until you accomplish them.
We completed our first Olympic distance triathlon and……RAGE had its way with us! Originally we had planned on doing a sprint distance for this tri, but we got over-ambitious and changed it to the Olympic distance last minute, which seemed like a good idea at the time….. The race included a 1500m swim (.93 miles), 40k (24.8 miles) bike, and a 10k run (6.2 miles). This was the most challenging race we have done so far, both in distance and in battling the elements and elevation changes. It took a 17-hour “nap” and over two-days just to rehydrate from the heat!
The drive into the event site was breathtaking. The sun came through the mountains lighting up the water at the Lake Las Vegas/Lake Mead area – the calm before the storm. We knew going into this race it was going to be a rough one, and the challenges started from the beginning as we carried our bikes and gear through the rocky dirt to the “mile-long” transition area. Arriving a little later than we should have, we didn’t have a lot of time to waste, so we started setting up our transition areas. Once we were as set as possible, we did our pre-race workout (getting on our wetsuits!) and headed to the water.
We met up with our amazing support system at the water’s edge. We were so lucky to have Antoinette, Paul and our friend Blanca at this event. Having people you care about supporting you, especially when you are driving yourself beyond what you even think you are capable of, is really the fuel that keeps you going. Being a spectator at these events is grueling and my heart was full that they were willing to spend all day in the heat to support our efforts at accomplishing another goal towards Ironman. LOVE YOU GUYS!!!
It was time to start and Andre was taking off in the wave before me so we got into the water to acclimate a bit and get directions on which buoys to swim around. The water was supposed to be about 60 degrees, but with the sun starting to do its magic it didn’t feel as cold as I thought it would (thank goodness!). The gun was about to go off for Andre’s wave so we gave each other our pre-battle hug, then off he went!
My main goal going into this race was to conquer the swim, or at least improve to the point where I wasn’t flailing in mental distress for the entire duration of the swim leg. I had my mind set on getting through it as strong as possible. We had an amazing group of women in my wave and after a loud cheer of excitement from the ladies who were about to start we dove in and made our way into the blue(ish) abyss. As I headed to the first buoy, I heard coach’s tough-love advice from our last open water swim in my head, “You just have to suck it up and get it done.”
The first part of the swim was the usual chaos. I tried to stay relaxed and make my way, but struggled through the crowd making the weird first buoy turn. I guess I probably started off too fast then wasted a bunch of energy trying to see where I was going. Determined to swim and not do my backup doggy paddle breaststroke the whole time, I fought through and was able to slowly get into motion. Once we rounded the first corner of the swim course, there was an endless stretch of water to the next buoy. I pulled my breathing together then set out to swim, as I started slowly getting into my rhythm I realized that the water was clear and I could see all the way to the bottom. I suddenly realized one of the reasons Tempe Town Lake was so hard to swim in, you can’t see ANYTHING. Excited for the view, I occupied myself with what looked like catfish and other water life below me as I glided through the water. I may have gotten a little too distracted because I went off course and had one of the course guides in a kayak come get me and ask me if I was ok. Laughing to myself I swam back to the track and continued to swim. As I rounded the final turn, I was ecstatic that I was swimming and I was proud that I finally swam without freaking out in open water. All I was thinking was….I LOVE this feeling! As I approached the shore and ran up the ramp past our amazing support team, I had a huge smile on my face and felt that I had accomplished my main goal of the day. Little did I know my challenges were yet to come….
As I headed out of transition to the bike leg, I took off to attack one hill at a time. The bike route was not coned off or protected from traffic on the single lane mountain roads. All the race participants had about 2 feet of shoulder room to bike on and even though the traffic wasn’t too heavy, not everyone in vehicles was pleased or courteous about sharing the road. It was starting to heat up, so being on the bike and making my own head wind was refreshing. I am always grateful for my San Francisco single-speed bike hill training when I take on inclines….having multiple gears is such a luxury! I wasn’t sure how hard I should push to leave enough energy for the run, but I tried to maintain a decent level of exertion and when I got to the Olympic turn around I felt worked, but still energized.
As I climbed the hill just after the turn around, my back tire started making noise and I thought I had gotten a flat. I was approaching another downhill and worried that I would lose control once I started gaining speed if my tire was done. I turned my head in a small panic to look at the back wheel and before I could stop, I made a tiny swerve and headed straight off the side of the road, down the mountain! The first thought that passed through my head, besides “OH CRAP!!!” was saving my bike! Everything happened so fast and I couldn’t clip out quick enough to stop the inevitable, so I rolled on my back and tried to hold my bike up as I slid down the hill. As soon as I stopped sliding I jumped up in a daze and tried to assess the damage. Another racer who was right behind me pulled over and was yelling down at me asking if I was ok. Concerned that I would ruin his race if he stopped any longer, I told him that I’m fine and that he should keep going. Luckily, he didn’t listen to me and said that he would like to at least help get me back on the road. Still in a daze, I said, “Ok.” He climbed down the hill and pulled my bike back up, then helped me back up. Once we were back on solid ground, I told him thank you and to please keep going so I don’t hold him back any more. I could tell he was hesitant to leave, but just then the race bike support pulled up and he felt ok to take off. I’m so grateful he stopped and I wish I was coherent enough to remember to look at his bib number to be able to thank him again. I am not sure I would’ve been able to get my bike back up alone!
The race bike support was awesome. They helped me scan me and my bike for damages and aside from a popped chain, tweaked brakes and a dirty scratched up girl, we came out alright! I realized my “popped tire” was just a fat piece of duct tape stuck on my tire. After some quick fixes, my bike was ready to go and even though I was still shaky, I was ready to get back to it! The race support guy asked if I was sure I wanted to keep going, and I told him I saw no reason not to and off I went! I took it a little easy at first to make sure my bike was stable. I saw Andre in his fluorescent yellow on the other side of the road and was so excited to see he was pushing through the hills!! We gave each other a quick burst of energy as we flew by each other. By the time I got back for the last leg of the race I finally shook off most of the shock of what just happened. Even though it was a scary experience, I was so lucky that the outcome was what it was, since it could’ve been much worse.
As I got ready for the run, I was wobbly legged and sooooooo thirsty. I headed down the long transition corridor and as soon as I made it to the run out, I realized I forgot my watch. Not wanting to lose my pacing, I ran back to pick it up and ran back down, which led to a nice hefty T2! As soon as I crossed the timing chip pad, I saw that the first part of the run was going to be on the uneven dirt and rocks. Already feeling like jello, this part of the run was nuts. I ran through it like I was running through an obstacle course. By the time I got to the first tent I was ready to drink the world. The heat, which was just shy of 100 degrees if not over, was unforgiving and being off of my bike with no breeze I was wilting fast. The usual relief I feel about finally getting to the run was nowhere in sight! At the first aid station I stretched and took some water and then headed off. Within the first minute I could feel myself breaking down. I started pushing my body, but it just fought back. I started walking up the first hill. A guy passed by and yelled, “Come on baby girl, you can do this!!” I tried to push and made it a little further again, then I ran out of *umph* and started walking again. By the time I got to the second aid station, my stomach was mad at me from all the gels so I went into the hot box porta potty, which is totally inappropriate to comment on except for the fact that I would even contemplate stopping during a race to take a mini vacation in such a painfully stifling place!
For the remainder of the run the aid stations turned into a water cocktail party. I couldn’t take in enough water and I felt like I was dragging a dead body through the desert. I poured water over my head and took a cup of Gatorade and a cup of water to try and hydrate at each station. On one of my sputters to a walk, another runner came up to me and said to stay with him, to keep running. He told me this is my pace and I just need to keep going, I slow down too much when I walk. I was beyond any ego at this point, and beyond any concept of what my race pace was, all I know is even when I ran it was about 3 minutes per mile slower than what I train at. I stayed with him for a while and thanked him for encouraging me since I was beyond messed up! By the time I got to the run turnaround I was broken and delirious. I’m not sure what got me back to the finish line, but the positive support and encouragement of all the other racers was definitely a huge part of it. We were all melting and doing our best to encourage each other to complete this event.
When I came down to the final stretch I saw Andre heading into the second mile of his run. Feeling like I just went to hell and back in what is usually my favorite discipline, I ran up to him and told him that the first three miles will be painful, but it gets better coming back, just so he could prepare. I’m assuming at that point I just looked like a mad woman! After I left my mid-race picnic with Andre, I ran through the final aid station to find another racer, our new friend Jenn Ty, getting a bath from all the volunteers. They all took cups of water and threw them at her as she ran through…a runner’s car wash! I was cracking up and thought that was just perfect!
As I reached the final mile of this torturous 10k, I tried to pull out any end-of-race energy I had hiding. The final stretch to the finish line seemed to last forever as I ran through dirt, rocks and sand pits. I gave my best sprint at the end and felt like I was trying to get juice out of a dehydrated orange, but I pushed anyway! As I collapsed into the finisher’s tent I picked up a hat full of ice and dumped it on my head- precious, beautiful WATER!!!
I peeled myself out of the shade and back into the sun to watch Andre finish, and when I saw him in the distance coming around the final stretch I was filled with so much happiness. Knowing how much of a challenge this is, and that we have accomplished another crazy feat together fills me with so much pride! We are one step closer to our ultimate goal and galaxies beyond what we even thought possible.
**All photo credits for this post go to Blanca Tenhet!! THANK YOU for being so amazing!!**
Results (Andre): http://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_individual.php?make_printable=1&bib_num=398&race_id=22943&type=result
Results (Tiffany): http://www.onlineraceresults.com/race/view_individual.php?make_printable=1&bib_num=479&race_id=22943&type=result