Xterra DINO, my 2nd ever triathlon. It was Ugly…
I knew this was the longest triathlon of the Xterra series, being about 20 some odd miles altogether, no big deal right? Wrong. The day was beautiful and wonderful, I could not have asked for a better day in itself, although not much sleep the night before, being so anxious with some lingering soreness from this week’s workouts.
I got to the water, and knew there was the danger of blue-green algae (toxic in certain amounts), which I was not fond of experiencing, especially on my longest unassisted open water swim I’ve ever done (0.5 mile, which ended up being 0.6 miles). The water temperature was 85 degrees, well above wetsuit legal temperatures. I don’t like cold water, so that was nice at least (their threshold however was 72 degrees…blah). I started in the survivor wave, which just went two minutes behind the competitor wave (which is subtracted from your total time). The water smelled horrible, had tons of weeds just in the first few feet stepping in, which felt icky underneath. But it was go time. I headed out toward the large yellow buoy in hopes of finishing the swim alive. Made the turn, and coming back to shore, I found the algae, which I found to be most unpleasant. I actually managed to pass 3 other swimmers from the previous wave, have no idea how though. There were several floating weeds that freaked me out completely and slowed me down. Exiting the swim went about as well as entering.
There was a long way to go between swim exit and transition, glad I set down some flip flops to make the hike up the hill, no cut foot this tri. Transition 1, I was not so worried about time, just getting everything I needed. I was hosed off too, after the swim at the top of the hill, hopefully removing some of the algae. Put on shoes and off I went into the bike.
The bike course was moderately hard in places, but slow going because of how tight the single track was; one loop twice, about 8 miles long. I was trying to be careful but didn’t want to feel like I was being left behind (since I am a SLOW swimmer as it is and I was already 2 minutes behind the first swim wave), but I went a little too fast and flew over the handlebars. No big deal, yes it hurt, but I was not broken. This was only mile 2, sheesh. More and more tight turns, and could just not get any speed. About 5 miles in, I realized, I really needed some water. This was the beginning of the end. I had not brought water with me onto the bike course. There were no aid stations, as I later found out. I climbed a bunch, coasted a lot down into more turns. I finished the first loop in about 54 minutes, and was super sad about the slow time. I decided to make the 2nd loop count. I was into mile 10 or so, and I chose my line of sight wrong and hit a BIG rock. The bike stopped at that rock, and I kept going into the air flying in front. I don’t remember a lot of what happened, but I skidded to a stop. ALWAYS WEAR YOUR HELMET!! I can’t remember if I hit my head or not. But this is where competition turned into survival. Not only was I dehydrated long before this happened, but for the next 5 miles I had severe issues seeing at all. I had these bright white circles around my direct line of vision in front of me, basically throwing my speed down to running speed because I couldn’t anticipate anything in front of me. Gradually though, the bright circles got bigger and I could eventually see through them like a doughnut hole. Eventually near the end of the bike, they went away entirely. I fell one last time on my own going too fast around a turn and skidded to the side, but it was one place where it was grassy so I don’t count this as a crash. I had one gel after this happened (like mile 14), but had no water to rinse, but I figured at least one gel this race might help SOMETHING (I don’t know if it did or not).
Entering transition 2, my friends are nearby, and it makes me smile. But there is business at hand, I need to finish this race. I took in as much water as I could chug in like 5 seconds (mistake), dropped my helmet and went. My transition time was under 1:20.
Out to the 7k run. It was mainly on gravel, a surprise for sure. I couldn’t keep a pace below 10:20, which was disappointing, but I was literally dying for water. It was only 7k, I can do this, I can survive. My bruises and cuts were bothering me, as I was sweating much more on the humid forested run. At least I was still sweating. Lot of little hills and climbs, the trail not technical in the least which was nice after miles of single track. I took it as easy as I could, well knowing I might need to call for help at this point. But no, I knew I could never quit out so close to the end. I got to mile 3 on the course, and FINALLY a water station. I sat there for like 2 minutes and downed 5 cups of water, not caring if it ended up sloshing around in my stomach. I kept going until the finish. My time was horrendous at about 45 minutes.
I crossed the finish line, all that matter to me at the current time. I found water a few meters away from the finish, I chugged I have no idea how much. I did NOT feel well. I felt like crap, and I had NEVER felt this way after a race before. Even when I finished my first marathon without gels or energy, at LEAST I had stayed hydrated at every aid station (just one mile apart usually). I managed to walk around a bit, losing 1st place age group, and at this point, no longer cared because of my performance. My head was pounding, pressure increased. I wanted to sit down. But it didn’t help. My stomach felt terrible and unsettled. I wandered over to where my bike was and threw up. Between my head and my stomach, I was paralyzed. I felt a little better after that, but my head was in no place to go anywhere. I knew I also had a 4.5 hour drive back to Madison and THROUGH Chicago, which I was trying to figure out how to do. I probably sat there for 45 minutes. I was dehydrated, I was wondering why I had not cramped up, or died. This is also not a good sign that I was still able to push through dehydration, because it means I can most likely do it again if need be.
I gathered myself and left the race site. I am home safe now, and the drive went a lot better than expected. I drank fluids and electrolytes every ten minutes on the way back. I still moderately feel like crap with a headache, but I reckon that won’t disappear for another day. Stomach is settled now though. If anything, I worked my butt off just to finish. I learned a lot on the trails, and had a wonderful time spending time with Aida Cepeda, in which I would be in a worse situation if she had not been there for me the whole time caring for me.
Injuries include: An extremely scuffed up left shoulder (covered in dirt in the pictures), bad scrapes on my left leg and cuts along my left ankle, deep scrapes on my right knee, scrapes up my left calf, and back of arms, bruising on my hands (cushioning my fall, helping me to have not broken or sprained anything), and bruising along my hips and quads. Gotta get better fast, round 2 is next weekend near Peoria, IL!
Post race thoughts (April 2017): Looking back, the only real positive thing I took from this was that it was organized as a race. I did not appreciate the water quality, as most surrounding bodies of water were full of algae. I didn’t like how they were not clear about whether there were aid stations or not…just tell me, I don’t care if there is one or not. Although I had issues out on the bike course, it was long compared to the rest of the race legs. I really did not like this race much and will not be back. Also looking back, I’m pretty sure I had a mild concussion or too much of the lake water made me sick.