Monday, February 11, 2008

Winter Nationals

This past weekend felt long. That is a good thing - better than a work/school week feeling long. I finally managed to rope an adventurous friend into my hare-brained plan to drive to Bend, OR, do the winter triathlon national championship and drive back on the same day. I have mixed feelings about the race, but it was certainly a learning experience and a chance to get to know Sasha better.

This next bit will certainly amuse Phaedra, as she is continually berating my pre-race nonchalance, which is a euphamism for un-preparedness. Because I knew we would be cutting it close getting to and from the race, I was careful to Mapquest everything (hotel, race site, etc). So Sasha and I headed out across a treacherous parking lot well before daybreak with mapquest directions in hand ready to be at the Mt. Bachelor nordic center by 7:00 am at the latest, as registration/packet pickup was from 7-8. Naturally, I cruised past the plethora of signs pointing towards Mt. Bachelor, because surely Mapquest was going to take us there most directly. I started to get nervous as the sun came up and we were in the middle of the Deschutes National forest on a seemingly unfrequented road with no obvious mountain in sight. Perhaps the nordic center is just in the middle of this snowy forest, Sasha and I rationalized. When we had been driving for way too much time, I called Aaron in Colorado in a panic. He spent a lot of time in the Bend/Bachelor area during med school and residency, but had no idea where I was. Thankfully he had internet access and called me back with a convoluted route to guide us out of the middle of nowhere. That was just after we had reached the wall of snow and the sign reading "road closed for winter."

Luckily, the race was ridiculously unorganized, and our 8:35 arrival was no big deal. The big news for us, however, was that the race start had been changed to a mass start at 9:00 a.m. (Sasha's wave was originally slated for 10 and mine for 11). Oops. Time to figure out how to set up a winter tri transition and to determine what seat height I should use on Morgan's mt. bike. There were a lot of minor details that I thought I'd be able to negotiate during the 4 hours between our scheduled arrival and my wave start. We managed to get our numbers on, bikes and skis racked, and running shoes tied. Given that the race was a 4km run/10.5 km mt bike/8 km ski, I didn't really have a nutrition plan, since it should have taken about an hour. What I hadn't noticed, however, was that the sun that was so beautifully beating down on the mountain was turning our race course into a thick soup.

I put my toes on the line for the start, figuring that I had a pretty good shot at leading the run. The first few steps were a shock. Ankle deep snow and the odd plunge through to my knees. It got marginally better as we heading down into a shadier, forested area, but it was a tough run! 2 laps with a 1 km descent and a 1 km lung-burning ascent (the altitude was a minor shock). Still, I managed to be the first lady into T1 with all of a 25 second lead. T1 didn't go so well with gloved hands, but only started the bike a couple of seconds behind the eventual race winner. This is when my race when to s*!?. I couldn't get on my bike. Every time I tried to mount the front wheel would spin and lurch to the side. So I would run 20 meters and try again, with the same result. The few seconds that I did ride were absolutely chaotic. In addition, with my iced up cleats and pedals, there wasn't a chance of clipping into my pedals. I watched, bewildered as people streamed by on their mt. bikes. I'm not the worlds best mt. biker, but I'm not completely incompetent either. I had read about deflating your tires for riding on snow to 15-20 psi, and I had kept mine around 20, and assumed this might be part of my problem. With schrader valves, however, I couldn't reach the pin to deflate my tires any further (the nail-biting finally comes around to bite me back!). So I plugged on with my bike-jogging method until I started getting lapped by the top men. Finally, I took a safety pin off of my number and got to the valve pin that way. Immediate relief. I was able to finish the 1st lap mostly on my bike and catch 2 of the 6 women who had passed me while I floundered on the side of the race course. The next two laps were a return to bike/jog tactic for everyone, as the well trodden race course was at least 12 inches deep in sludge and impossible riding for even the most experienced winter triathletes. I gained a little more ground, as I was probably one of the better trained athletes when it comes to slow, slogging runs.

The ski was fast and fun. It started with an awesomely fun descent and despite having no time to fine tune my wax before the race, my skis were fast. Thanks for the HF Toko Robin! The only problem was that I was completely poked by that time. I had certainly not paced myself energetically and nutritionally for a 1:15 minute bike (snow jog with bike). Regardless, I was just happy to be using equipment that is actually designed for snow and actually finished the day with the 2nd fastest ski split. I was really happy about that, given that I've only been skiing for a year and the majority of the elite women's field was composed of elite XC Oregon skiiers. I'll definitely stick with triathlon for the forseeable future, but do wish I'd been exposed to XC skiing sooner.

So I finished 5th in the women's field. It would be lying to say that I wasn't disappointed, but I can't change what happened, so it was what it was. I suppose I am most bummed by the fact that my limiter should have been my skiing, but I was so ridiculoulsy underprepared for the mt. biking, and that is my own fault. If I had been better about finding directions to the race, perhaps I would have experimented on the bike course and figured out how to ride it and maybe even switched over to pedals with baskets, but who knows. Perhaps I would have remained as underprepared as ever and hung out in the warm lodge until my race start. Even though it was one of the harder things I have ever done, I will definitely do another because I know I am better than 5th. And it was fun in its own inane way.

The best part was feeling a genuinely warm sun on my body. It was t-shirt weather while milling around after the race, and the mountains were exquisitely beautiful. The return to Spokane's meltdown is dreary but welcome. I'll have my cross bike out on the roads SOON. I also owe a HUGE amount of gratitude to Sasha for her perpetually upbeat attitude, even as we sped towards a wall of snow Saturday morning, and endured a long post-race drive back to Spokane just so I could be at Langlauf the next morning. She was a complete champ!

1 comment:

Kim said...

Haley- that was hilarious. I did not even know there were these kind of events. You always look so posed and prepared--I would have loved to watch you on that Mt. Bike!

Your blog is very cool. One thing a blog is supposed to do (Will Richardson) for its writers is encourage critical thinking and reflection, both of these I found in your blog. (nice work!)

Look forward to seeing your smile the next time I'm at your store!

Good luck with the end of your winter time training.