Mountain Tropic tri

Half-Ironman: check.

Yesterday I ran the Mountain Tropic half-IM tri at Bear Lake, my first attempt at this distance I hadn’t prepared as well as I ought have; work has been a special kind of crazy lately, and I do like to see my family occasionally, so the 12+ hours of weekly training Chris Carmichael says I ought to be doing didn’t happen. My clever plan was half-assing and stubborning my way through it.  Which I did, finishing in (just) under six hours, third of three finishers in my age group [1]. Podium, baby!

The one thing I have been working on is the swim. Not so much with an eye to performance,  more with the intent of making 1.2 miles without panicking and drowning. The water was warm and flat, the start line uncrowded (there were only 31 men in the half-IM), and the lake so shallow that you could probably stand up anywhere in the course. In other words, conditions couldn’t have been better and the thing went off very well. I felt weak, for some reason: stress, lack of sleep, who knows? And I still can’t swim in a straight line. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the Great Salt Lake swimming I’ve been doing it’s how to spot, so while I may not have swum a straight course, I was never lost, nor panicked. That’s a first. I think I can safely say I enjoyed the experience, and that’s a first too.

I got out of the water in about 40 minutes. I knew I wasn’t dead last because a large bearded fellow and I managed to collide within inches of the finish. No harm done, and we hustled off to prepare for the bike. I took my time about it, applying bag balm and putting on gloves. I reckon a 54 mile ride merits the few extra seconds it takes to properly prepare.

The conditions for biking were ridiculously perfect, too. Windless, not too warm, almost no traffic, flat as a pancake. I prefer a little climbing in my rides – flat is so tedious. But one can hardly fault the organizers for my silly predilections. For someone who came to this sport via cycling I turn out to be pretty lousy at it, and I was trying to be conservative, so the ride was slow, just barely under my goal time of three hours. The course was an out-and-back, which means you get to see the leaders returning while you’re still outbound. I was amazed to see a woman with a long blonde ponytail was leading the ride by a good distance, despite the women starting five minutes after the men. It turns out she was Malaika Homo and she’s a pro at this, but all I knew at that moment was that she was wicked fast. I still had seven miles to the turnaround when she passed, putting her 14 miles ahead of me, or about 45 minutes. 50 with my headstart. And not even halfway done yet!

I finished out the bike feeling quite good. Right at the finish line I reeled in a woman I had been chasing for several miles. She turned out to be a little slip of a girl riding platform pedals in her running shoes; can you imagine my shame? We took off running and quickly found our paces quite similar, so we fell in together and started chatting. She turned out to be Kelsey, a student from Provo, and we stuck together for several miles, talking about how we came to be doing this mad thing and how sociable triathletes tend to be, excluding the twenty-something men who are still testosterone poisoned and glaring. We marvelled at Ms. Homo as she came past us at damn near a sprint (she went on to win the whole thing by ten monutes over the nearest competitor). Even when we ran out words it was pleasant to have a running buddy. Alas, at about mile five she began to lag and I decided to push ahead. Now I was left with nothing but obsessive calculation and recalculation of my pace, the remaining distance, what fraction of the run I had covered. I was shooting for a two hour run, and I got to the half way point just barely ahead of schedule. But alas, I was suffering hard. The GPS tells the sorry tale: my pace was just getting slower and slower. I had made a crucial blunder at transition and forgotten to take any Advil. Now my legs were very, very upset at the insult I was giving them.

At about five miles to go I had to give up on the two hour run goal. My obsessive computation showed it just wasn’t going to be possible. I was hurting myself too much in the effort. The six hour total goal was still in reach though, but there was enough risk left in that that I couldn’t take it easy. Walking, for instance, was not an option.

Grimly I shuffled on at about ten minutes a mile. The course was largely empty now. I saw other runners only occasionally. The few I passed were almost all walking, but my pride kept me tottling along. I fixed my soul on the aid stations. They were spaced a mile apart, and only the promise of cold water managed to get me each of those last five miles.

At two miles to go I passed the bearded man from the swim. He was walking. “Come on!” I called to him, but he just grimaced and kept plodding.

So I ground out the last couple of miles and there, unexpectedly, was my family at the finish line, with the best cold Coke I’ve ever had.

I made it. It hurt. Not as badly as the marathon, not as much as Little Cottonwood last week, but it hurt a lot.

After I get done with Lotoja I’m just gonna sit on the couch and eat bon-bons for a month, I swear it.

 

[1] there were four signed up; the fourth does not show up in the results, so I dunno if he was DNS or DNF, but I’m calling it a win for me anyway.

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