It’s Saturday morning, last night I had a long drive to Paso Robles, California, met up with Kim and looked for a way to avoid paying $35 a night for camping. I had a fitful night of sleep, I was nervous, knowing that once again I was ill prepared for a race. When I decided to do it, I had ever intention of training, but somehow, between moving, a new job, travelling, and all the fabulous whitewater near my new home, training kept slipping away. I did some, a bit of swimming at the Y, some running, some biking, but I knew it wasn’t much. (one indication, I had to rent a road bike for the race. hmmm…)

So my sleep was fitful, and I woke even before my early alarm. Kim and I drove

in to the event, picked up my registration packet, and tried to get things figured out. As we entered the transition area, I was trying to check out how others had their gear arranged, learning as I went.

Quickly, it was time for the swim. This was the part I was really nervous about, having never done a mass start swim. I picked a spot at the back of the pack (for my age group), and when the horn went, ran into the water. 1.2 miles is a pretty good swim, but I felt good about it. It was a little weird when faster swimmers from the heats behind would swim into you, but I mostly avoided it by taking a WIDE path around the bouys marking the course. I was pretty stoked coming out of the swim and made my way to the transition zone.

The transition zone, with Lake San Antonio in the background.
I changed into my bike shoes, hopped on the bike and set out. A few turns and twists, and we get launched into a steep, steep climb out of the campground. Wow. This is gonna be tough. The next 30 odd miles are tough rolling hills, and the temperatures are soaring. I’m not pushing myself, but I’m trying to keep a steady pace, and I’m feeling good.

The bike ride, though tough, had an interesting effect. Some of you might remember that I used ot be quite “into” cycling, for quite some time it was my main focus, but with college and climbing and kayaking, it had gotten to the point where I don’t even own a road bike anymore. The ride really rekindled my interest in road bikes. the whir of gears, the hum of the tires, the feeling of speed. Not to say that the course wasn’t tough, but I was enjoying it.

That is, until mile 41. There, there was a monster hill. Dwarfed all the others. 4+ miles, at a 7% grade. Hot. No Breeze. It did me in. I was feeling ok before, awful after. I was trying to drink, but with the heat, and the exertion, I was getting horrible, really painful leg cramps. At one point, I was stilling riding the hill, but so slowly that a guy walking his bike passed me. I wanted to quit right there. I rode most of the hill, but ending up walking the last part. I wasn’t the only one. By that point my legs were fried, and even trying to pedal flats and downhills were tough. I was chugging water and gatoraid, but the heat was unrelenting. I saw quite a few people drop out, taking rides in SAG wagons, sitting under trees.

I finally finished the bike, and it was really tough to go out on the run. The run had a similar effect on me as the bike leg. It made me think about how much I like bicycles. => Run might be a very generous term for what took place. My legs were done, and the run was hard. Harder than any run I’ve ever done. I was shuffling and my run wasn’t seeming any faster than my walk. It was still super hot, and I saw lots of people quit. At about mile 7, the run course passed through the campground. I knew if I quit there, I was moments away from food, rest, just being done. But I forced myself to go on. I was in genuine pain. Every so often my legs would cramp, and I’d be forced to stop and stretch. Trying to drink, but feeling nauseous, it was tough.

The final downhill, I was happy to know it was almost over. I had done it. They put the medal over my neck, and I accomplished my only goal, finishing. (although I guess I missed the cutoff time, as I was DNF on the website, sadly. The list of Did Not Finish folks was LONG, with many showing no times either for the bike or run).

Me, at the end of the race. No longer smiling.
I was feeling pretty bad, My legs hurt, and I had a headache, my stomach was churning. I was led into the medic tent, where I rested for bit, took some water, and had ice packs to cool me down. I took some odd comfort in the fact that many people in there appeared in much worse shape than me, MANY had IVs going.

Some rest, and Kim and I found dinner. Camp out, and we spent Sunday relaxing at the coast.

I’m glad I did it. I’ll probably do another, but these things are way ahrder than a Marathon, and I’ll train much better for the next.

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