There’s always one. Sometimes you see it coming, and sometimes it just sneaks up on you when you’re not looking…the race from HELL.
In the style of Sophia from Golden Girls….”picture it, Birds Hill Park, Manitoba, June 12, 2016……”
It was a cold, rainy and miserable day. Not what one would expect in June. A chilly 12C, the rain was pounding down, the wind was pulling tents up and over to the point they were being dismantled and put away. The thunder and lightening in the background created an addition enhancement to the atmosphere. And there we were, a group of crazy triathletes, all in our wet suits, huddled together under a tree, trying to escape the torture of the weather and anxiously awaiting information from the race director.”It’s going to be a great day! Just wait! The clouds will be clearing in about 10 minutes!” Came the booming voice over the loudspeaker. I looked at my friend, pointed out that they had said the same thing 30 minutes ago and continued to shiver. The debate was on…could we just do the whole damn race in a wet suit? You could totally cycle and run in it, right? We watched a couple of (smart) people head in to the transition area, grab their stuff and leave. A few minutes later the instructions came that we would be delaying the start and the Olympic and sprint distances would just be starting closer together. In the meantime, we were to go to our cars to warm up. Yup, that’s right. It was miserable enough that we were sent BACK to the cars because it was too damned cold to be outside.My friend and I huddled in the car, laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, wondering if, perhaps, we really were insane, drinking coffee and cranking up the heat until we stopped shivering. And then it was time. We wandered down for the pre-race meeting. We figured it was as good a time as any to test the water and see how brutal it was going to be to swim in. Turns out, the water felt wonderful and all the athletes were hiding in it to stay warm. During the meeting, we were dragged out of the water and danced on the sand, our feet freezing to it with every step. As soon as that meeting was over there was a mad rush to get back in to the warmth of the water. The dark cloud and distant thunder loomed in the background, reminding us that we were, indeed, going to do this race soaked, whether we liked it or not.
The Olympic athletes were off and our time quickly approached and before I knew it we were off… and I was blind. Anti-fog spray my ass!! I flipped on my back for a bit to try to fix them, breast strokes a few times to get my bearings and then back in to the swim…and then fogged again. Can’t see a thing. No idea where I am on the course. Better fix this…. and then it strikes…
DISASTER 1: The strap lets go. Half way through swim and I no longer have goggles that will stay on my face. CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. I wear contacts to continuing with my face in the water just doesn’t work. I shove the goggles in my teeth and start breast stroking with my head up through the course, cursing in frustration the whole time. My friend is going to beat me due to goggle failure. I go racing up in to the transition area just as my friend is leaving. Good, I can catch her on the bike, it’s not over yet!
Shoes on…jacket on… helmet on…grab bike and GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! I can see her in the distance and I’m gaining on her. My legs are strong, I can do this. Closer and closer…I just need to adjust my gear and…
DISASTER 2: Bike chain drops. CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. I thought this problem was fixed!!! Hop off the bike, cursing wildly, pop the chain back on. My hands have a coating of grease that matches both the weather and my mood. It’s ok… I can still catch her. PUSH AND GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. She’s still in my view! I can do this!!! and then… well, they say things come in threes….
DISASTER 3: I can feel the twitching in my hamstring…the tightening of the muscle as it fights the cold. The muscle that may not quite be as healed from the tear in October as I would have liked. No, no, no!!! Not today! Not now!! No seizing!! And I can feel it. And… CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. I’m off the bike, using it as support to get this damn muscle to release. Good enough. I get back on the bike and tell my leg it’s just going to have to suck it up for a while longer. I look up. She’s gone. Defeat sets in.
First loop of the park done and she sees me as she heads for the second loop. She hoots and hollers, celebrates and laughs. I cry. She has no way of knowing the disaster that has been my race. I head out on the second loop a defeated and frustrated athlete. The rain starts a little again, this time, in ice format, pelting me at every turn. The dark clouds and thunder are closer now. What’s the point? I’m so far behind I must be dead last in the whole race — totally irrational thought as I have CLEARLY been passing people despite everything going wrong. The downfall to the Birds Hill course is that you can end up quite isolated and I assumed I was so far behind. And then I gave up, slowed down and felt a little sorry for myself for a few minutes. And then that passed.
Eff-it. LET’S GO! In to the transition area, I see my friend just heading out on the run. Holy crap. I wasn’t that far behind after all. Damn. I could have caught/passed her if I hadn’t been acting like such a baby (when the results are posted I discover we were a mere 10 seconds apart in cycling time). Rack the bike and head out on the running course. I’m a fast runner. I can catch her. I’m running, my legs are seizing, it’s freezing, and then the rain dumps. Full out downpour. You have got to be kidding me. At this point, all I can do is laugh. One of the course officials is cycling along side me, also laughing at the ridiculousness that has been my race but giving words of encouragement as I approach my friend. Along side her, I tell her that I don’t know if I can finish. I can feel the twitching in my hamstring again and I think I’m going to seize. But my slow and icky run suddenly shifts. The muscles in my legs loosen a bit as I pass her. WHEEEEE!!! I’m running, I’m moving, I’m going…. there’s the finish line!!! WOOOT~~~~
And now all I can do is laugh. And when the results are posted, I’m DFL in my group. But I beat the race that wanted to beat me.
(and still snuck past my friend in the last few minutes)
Oh –and on a side note, I ran the relay with my friend in the Manitoba Marathon this weekend and CRAP was it humid. I thought I was going to pass out the whole time. That means I’ve had a race that was so freaking cold that I could barely stand it and one that was so freaking HOT/HUMID that it was making athletes collapse. That means the next one will be perfect, right?