The Mountain Man Triathlon in Flagstaff, Arizona bills itself as “The Toughest Race You’ll Ever Love.” Something about altitude. And a hill. I had done it last year, and was looking forward to testing my mettle on the course again. I was also faster, more experienced, and perhaps most importantly, I had better gear. After the tube and tire fiasco at the previous month’s triathlon, I had made sure to take care of everything bike-related well before the night of the race. The latex tubes were in my tires, and I was able to use both race wheels.
The night before the race, my husband and I headed to Picazzo’s. I had a delicious Greek salad and a whole-grain crust pizza. Several other triathletes were carbo-loading there as well. Afterwards, we headed to Target. I needed berries and granola for my breakfast yogurt, and if a few other things happened to find their way into my cart, well, far be it from me to throw them out. We had planned on walking around downtown, but decided to head back to our room and watch Trouble With The Curve (purchased at said Target) instead.
I woke up a little after four, ate my yogurt breakfast, sipped black tea, and let Ted sleep for another half hour. He got up without too much urging, and we quickly loaded the car and headed toward Lake Mary. The mountain air was delightfully cool, and I wore a sweatshirt and yoga pants over my tri clothes. We parked off the side of the road as instructed, and made our way toward the transition area.
Some races assign racks by number, but this isn’t one of them. Trying to find a spot to slip your bike in can be a little tricky, but I’ve never had a big problem. Sometimes, however, I do have a problem getting the number onto my bike using the twist ties provided. Aerodynamic frames have funny shapes. My friend Jeff says that he staples his number on, and I might just have to do that myself next time.
After everything was set up, I had plenty of time to eat some more, use the port-o-potties (the lines weren’t bad), and don my wetsuit. My wave was assigned golden caps, and I think they look as snazzy as latex head covers can possibly look. My time here last year was 2:44:57 and my goal for this race was to go under 2:40.
Swim (does not include time to reach timing mat) http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513147
00:30:20 | 1640.42 yards | 01m 50s / 100 yards
Age Group: 4/13
The water was a bit chilly, as we stood half-submerged waiting for the start. I positioned myself about a third of the way back. Once we started, it was a mass of flailing limbs and brown, churning water. I knew from past experience that the first few minutes of the swim would feel awful thanks to the altitude, but knowing didn’t make it any easier. I felt like my lungs had shriveled up and I just had to keep telling myself that the feeling would pass and to keep going. My upper body felt powerless, and it was all I could do to weakly paddle forward. There had also been some turmoil in my personal life over the past month, and while I had gotten my workouts in, they certainly hadn’t been stellar. It would be interesting to see how this race unfolded. I threw in a breaststroke every so often as I tried to sight, and I had to re-align myself more than once. The crowd had thinned by the time I reached the first buoy, so I was able to make a tight turn. I was also breathing much better by this time, but my stroke still felt weak.
As I turned around the last buoy to head to the ramp, I was nearly blinded by the glare of the sun off the water. I could make out swimmers ahead of me, but not much else. I kept popping up to sight, but I couldn’t see the exit. It felt like I was never going to get out of this lake. I kept going, and swam right into a volunteer who was there to keep people from hitting a reef. At least the finish was in sight now. I was disappointed with my 30+ minute swim because it was slower than last year. I know I wasted a lot of time zigging and zagging. Still, there was a lot of race left, so I ran toward the transition, cursing the pebbles along way.
Transition 1 http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513149
I scarfed a Z Bar and applied some sunscreen. In the process of unracking my bike, I knocked my aero bottle out of its cage, so I had to re-rack and put it back. I know my official transition time of 3:29 is slow, but since according to my Garmin I went all the way to Africa, I’d say that it was pretty fast. Seriously, check out the link. What up, Garmin? Atmospheric disturbance?
01:14:09 | 24.85 miles | 20.05 mile/hr
Age Group: 3/13
The bike course is kind of an oxymoron: hilly, but fast. It’s an out-and-back, with most of the climbing taking place in the first half. Some people seriously fly on the way back, hitting speeds of 50+ miles per hour. I had decided to leave my aero helmet at home because I didn’t know if I’d be riding mostly upright on the hilly parts. I knew the first part of the course was pretty flat, so I settled into my aero bars and rode at a controlled, fast-ish pace. My bike computer was showing cadence, but not speed. I am ashamed to say that the song going through my head at this point was Ke$sha’s “We Are Who We Are.” My only excuse is that it was in the RPM release that I was teaching that week. At least some of the lyrics were motivating.
Tonight we’re going har-har-h-h-h hard
Just like the world is our-our-ah-ah-ah ours!
We’re tearing it apar-par-par-pa-pa-pa part
You know we’re superstars
We R who we R
The lake and mountain scenery was gorgeous. It seemed like I wasn’t too far into the bike leg, when I saw the lead men coming back the other way. They had gotten an earlier start, but still. One of them was wearing nothing but a Speedo. Not so gorgeous.
I remember being challenged by the climbs last year, so when I hit the biggest hill of the day and it didn’t seem too hard, I wondered if it was the hill I remembered. I ended up passing my friend Shannon on this climb. His swim had been really rough as well. I was getting passed by people, but it seemed like a lot fewer than usual in my Olympic distance racing experience. I hadn’t heard any auto-lap beeps (I have it set for five mile increments on the bike), but I think that’s because the Garmin still had me in Africa.
I finally reached the turn-around and knew that time-wise I was over halfway there. I back-and-forthed with a sixty-year old woman for a while. I eventually took the lead, but I was seriously impressed with her. I wanted to shout out the cheer from the audition scene from Bring It On: “Awesome! Oh wow! Like totally freak me out!” I decided to save my lungs, though.
When I got to the long downhill, I remember thinking, This is what had me shaking in my spandex last year? It really didn’t seem scary at all, even though I reached 39.7 miles per hour. My hip flexors bothered me a bit, but I was mostly able to ignore it. I had decided get all of my bike-time calories in liquid form, and had Body Armor sports drink in my aero bottle. It tasted great. So much better than the mass-produced “ades”.
I was really pleased with my bike. I had taken over eight minutes off of last year’s time, but more importantly, I was happy that I was a much stronger and more confident rider. Improvements come slowly sometimes, but they do come. Next year, I’m bringing my aero helmet.
Transistion 2 http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513156
I applied more sunscreen. 1:51, officially.
00:46:00 | 6.2 miles | 7:25 min/mile
Age Group: 3/13
I will spare you a thousand words describing the course, and let the picture above speak for me. It’s very flat – until it’s not. I felt confident that finishing under 2:40 was well within my reach. I tried flipping through my Garmin screens to get a sense of what my instantaneous pace was, but got nothing useful (it still had me in Africa). So, I just ran by feel, which is what I normally do anyway. Still, I like peek at my pace and check my splits. There was a pebble in my shoe, but I decided I to ignore it.
Hill time. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other… There were kids with super soakers at the switchback, and I waved at them and hoped they’d let me have it. They obliged. I didn’t feel like I was running fast, but I kept passing people. I saw my friend Jeff, and we gave each other hollers. I was losing feeling in my left foot, and Linkin Park’s “Numb” started coursing through my head. At least I no longer felt the pebble.
After the hill, there’s a brief section on a dirt road, then it’s turn around and head on back. I was looking forward to screaming down that hill. I gave Shannon a wave as he made his way up. It was warming up, but at least I was in the home stretch now. Finally, it was back to the flats. When I hit the one mile mark, I knew that I would easily surpass my time goal. Feeling started to return to my foot.
I felt the cumulative physical effort of the race, but I was nowhere near as mentally exhausted as I had been in my previous Olympic triathlons. I saw two women ahead of me, and made it my goal to catch them. Concentrating on Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” had worked well for my last tri, so my mind went there again. I passed one woman. Digging deeper. The finish line was in sight, and I passed the second. I managed a little kick-lette, and I heard “Michael Kaseler from Tucson” over the loud speaker. Michael? Well, keep running, Michael. I crossed the line and the woman that I had passed was close behind. No one had passed me during the run.
Even though my swim wasn’t great, I was very pleased with this race. I had knocked over eight minutes off of last year’s time, and felt so much stronger and more confident in my abilities as a triathlete.
Final time: 2:36:31
Overall: 59 / 278
Age Group: 3 / 13