||Xterra West Championship Sport
An Account of Survival:
My first Triathlon. I FINISHED!!
OK, now on to the reality of the race. I began training with a triathlete and fellow tri clubber (Tara) a few months back and she suggested I sign up for a triathlon. Sounds good! I take a look at the upcoming race calendar and the field is immediately narrowed due to the fact that I do not have a road bike. The Xterra West Championship Sport in Temecula is the obvious choice. 750m lake swim, 15K mountain bike and a 5K trail run. No problem! Subsequently, many raised eyebrows from other athletes when I mentioned I was doing Xterra. "Those things are gnarly!" shouldn't you start with a nice road sprint? No problem!
Race day approaches. I have been pool swimming, riding my bike as much as possible and running a couple of 5K's a week. Should be a no brainer. Saturday the 20th I head out to beautiful Temecula for the race check in and to pickup my packet. After traffic and driving a 20 mile round trip on the "other" highway 79, I arrive at the race site with 15 minutes to spare before things shutdown for the day. Check in, ask a few questions, go have a nice dinner and try to get a good night's sleep.
Up at 5:00a ready myself and drive to the race site. Beautiful day!! Sun is shining, light breeze, lake temp 72 degrees. It's going to be a great day. I am nervous as hell! Body marking, setup transition, get my wetsuit on and head down to the lake for the pre race instruction. I am extremely nervous at this point.
When the cannon is fired and I recover from the fright of the noise, in I go. Nothing can prepare the first timer for the mad dash and frenzy that ensues during the start of the race. I kicked and was kicked. I slapped and was slapped. I could not get a swim rhythm to save my life. After the first 100m the nerves and anxiety erupted. I stop swimming, rip my goggles off and have a full on panic attack. Hyper ventilating, a little tunnel vision, the whole ball of wax. My first thought was, spinning wildly to see how far I was from shore, can I swim back and quit? Have a made a huge mistake? What was I thinking? I decided that I would probably drown trying to get back to shore. Maybe I can go hang on to one of the water patrol boats. They could drag me in. During this line of thinking a small guy floating on his back sculled past me hardly making a splash. Ah! Back to reality. I was not going to be beat by something like that! Goggles back on I floated for a bit and got my breathing back under control. Rolled over and finished my swim. Out of the water and up the hill to transition. Swim time; 19:34. I am certain that 6 minutes of this was spent freaking out in the first 100m.
Thankfully there was only one transition area. This made life a lot easier for a newbie. Wetsuit off, cycling shoes and helmet on head out for the second leg, the 15K "trail" ride. I'm OK on a mountain bike, not what I was 15 years ago but OK. I thought I would die on the trail! The majority of the ride was vertical climbing that maybe a handful of people were able to ride. I was part of the majority that spent the better part of the ride pushing my bike up the vertical grades. A friend of mine that came out to see the race said his jaw dropped when he saw the first climb! That was only the first long climbs of many. The icing on the cake came at the end of the bike leg when you had to climb a rock and sand hill returning to the transition area. I was NOT going to dismount and push into transition! I grinded up that hill and arrived in style. Bike time; 01:41:36.
Switch shoes, grab my hat and head out for the 5K trail run. Originally the run was going to be through the hills and trees down along the lake and creek. Due to the rains that area was under water and the run course was moved. Sadistically the run course was on basically the same terrain covered on the bike. I ran down the hill out of transition, drank a Gatorade, some water and ate a Gu pack. Started running, uphill of course. Brutal best describes the run. Actually treacherous hike would better describe the run. I resigned myself to walking, as fast as possible, uphill and running down the descents. Run time; 41:48.
As I came running up the final hill, the staffer who was directing which way to go began clapping and cheering me on. "Pick it up"! "Your close to the finish"! I could see the village and finish at this point and the feeling was indescribable. My running form improved, my head came up and I felt as if I could do another mile if needed. I crossed the finish line at 2:42:58. Not the greatest time but I FINISHED! How many people can say "I finished a triathlon". I finished 13th out of 15 in the Clydesdale division and the winner of the division finished in 1:51:41. One of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I had a huge boost to my moral through out the race seeing another competitor wearing an LA TriClub jersey.
Following the race I vowed never to do Xterra again. I couldn't imagine putting myself through that again knowing what was in store for me. Monday afternoon, I was figuring out ways to shave more time for next year.
I'm looking forward to my next races. After completing the first race I am convinced that I can do or accomplish anything at this point.