||Taupo Half 2005
||Half - Ironman
I think it may have simply been the effect of the rain and wind all day. I'm so glad I didn't sign up for South Africa. But I do somehow think that will be my next race.
At the swim start I have to do a little butterfly to warm up a couple of times as rain drops tap the back part of my neck which is used to being warm since I have long hair. I wear two caps. The water is cold and smooth and I use my body to pull through it. The swim seems long after ten minutes. Yeah, it's cold (about 60 degrees F--they say last year it was worse), but it's just a lake, and it's calm conditions. Lake Taupo, on the North Island of New Zealand, was formed by a volcanic eruption. There is a hole-in-one-raft in the lake and I could not stop myself from diving down and grabbing one of the golf balls only to reconsider and drop it moments later. I want to be faster than 44 minutes, but there's a hill you have to run up to transition so that's why by the time I get to the timing mat the time it's 50:00. I feel mostly numb, and I am patient with my limbs as I shimmy around trying to get free of my wetsuit.
The bike course is an easy two loops (flat) compared to what I'm used to (St. Croix, Ralph's, Wildflower) and the road surfaces are a lot like at my summer house in rural Wisconsin--rough but pristine--not a lot of potholes and not a lot of grease and oil stirred up by rain--unlike Brazil and California--with similar wind conditions (coming at you from all sides all the time) but there are a few patches of forest (as the Kiwis call it) to protect. I am in the transition area having biked 3:10 as the winner of the race crosses the line.
The time change of twenty eight hours across the international date line makes me want to stay in the moment---coffee or not. I head out on the run course staying to the right (the wrong side) for my first loop when most people are on their second. It doesn't take me too long to move over to the left. My foot hurts again like it had at the end of my training leading me to believe I might need new cycling shoes, too. There's a girl in front of me running about my pace and I hope she's on her first lap--she's smooth and steady. On a hill on the second loop I catch her as she starts walking. I say I'm so glad to see you...come on, follow me, I tell her. After all, I had followed her. I feel great running all the hills and got a second wind somewhere by the last quarter of the first loop. Rachel and I run in the whole time together and I even convince her to take a bathroom break with me. Our approach is simple: just keep running together-- in silence until we know we are almost done---then it will be safe to talk. She is right behind me at the finish photos. It turns out she is part of a relay team which explains her fresh legs on the first loop. She hadn't done the bike or swim.
There are times on the run I think I may not finish. Times I think you should do something else with your life--something meaningful like having a child or becoming a doctor. The weather causes me to dig a little deeper than a half-ironman should. But you know it was nothing like a full ironman.
I also have tons of friends since I've been here the whole week. I mean they're faster, so they've finished the race and they're looking for me on the run course and at the finish. The couple that I stayed with in Auckland are amazing. Mike did like 20th on the bike (32) 4:30 without really training and Doris did 5:30 (37). Mike keeps popping up under trees and along the road yelling from his car, "Good Job!" in this fake American accent.
Not known for their ability to party, there are 700 triathletes at the after party. Kiddie swimming pools are filled with mounds of ice and bottles of beer. We get drunk fast and the prize giving as they call it (not awards ceremony) involves a lot of big stuffed animals and not just the winners. Hooksie calls up the international racers and makes the men moon the audience. I am glad to get out of there before midnight having danced enough to cut my foot on a piece of glass on the soiled wooden floor of the high school.