This week we made our farthest trip of the season. With it being winter we have to get creative to find races running. After a lot of digging I found the HITS triathlon series in Palm Springs, CA. This race would allow me to do two races in one weekend – a 70.3 race on Saturday and a sprint on Sunday. I also found the Beach Blast Triathlon in San Diego the following weekend. This was the only opportunity to pack in three races in December so we decided to make the trek. For those that are counting this is Lincoln’s second trip by flight and this brought him to his 15th state. Pretty crazy stuff. He is 34 weeks old and has been to 15 states. Pretty good average.
Before we get to the races I have to talk a bit about the location. The HITS races were being held in the Palm Desert. I didn’t know much about the Palm Spring area other than it was a favorite escape for Hollywood of old. As we started our approach into the desert we had to cross a large mountain range. When we came across the top of the mountain the elevation sign showed we were over 6,000 feet. I was getting nervous. I had thought that the race was pancake flat and didn’t think it was at elevation. Well, after we crested the top we started our descent. 10 miles of descending into the valley below. It was amazing. The Palm Desert really is in a bowl almost entirely surrounded by this mountain range. When we got to the bottom and had a chance to look back at the mountain we had just crossed we were in awe of the beauty of this place. If you were dropped in the Palm Desert with no previous knowledge of where you were I would bet that most people would think they were in some far flung exotic place. Very cool stuff.
Well, we got settled in on Friday and started feeling our way around the town. That night we were scheduled to pick up our packets and check in the bikes for the following morning. Now, when we arrived in town I certainly noticed that it was a bit chilly. However, I assumed that we just caught the tail end of a cold system and it would warm up before race morning. Well, a quick check of the weather forecast revealed that this was not going to be the case. It was going to be a very cold race….we started scrambling to get more clothes for all of us.
After we got ourselves situated we headed to this small Italian restaurant that we had read about. Small family deal that sounded fun. As we made our way to our seats I saw a gentleman with an Alabama hat. I gave him the obligatory “roll tide” which elicited a responsive “roll tide” along with a big smile. We sat at the table next to him and we just started chatting away. Talking about Alabama football, where we were from and why we were out there. They seemed very interested in Team Chad and the story about our journey. Maggie got him a card and I saw him whip out his phone at the table to check out the blog. We chatted about the bike, his riding, donating to Team Chad and on his way out he wished us good luck. Well, we were wrapping up our dinner and getting ready to pay and be on our way. The wait staff (which had also become friends during our short stay – Lincoln is a heck of an ice breaker) came up to us with a big smile and said “your Alabama friend paid your bill.” I was speechless. We could not believe that there is still such kindness out there. If my Alabama friend reads this thank you and please send me an email so we can thank you personally – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, race morning for the half showed up early. Now, let me be completely honest. I was not prepared for this race. Not because of the cold (although that was one part) but I had not been training much over the past 6 weeks….life just sometimes gets in the way. I had not swam, ridden or run in that entire time. I knew I was in for some pain out there but I was hoping that the base I had built up would get me through the day. The plan was to just swallow my pride and take it very, very slow to ensure that I did not injure my poorly under-trained body.
Well, the morning of the race the air temp was about 39 and the water temp was about 58. That is cold folks. When you get in water that cold your heart races, your breathing races and your senses feel overwhelmed. Your body is trying to figure out what is going on. It is odd but you only become comfortable, from a pain standpoint, once your body goes numb – especially your face. I did not know the swim was going to be this cold so I left my full sleeve wetsuit at home and brought my sleeveless suit. This certainly put me at a bit of a disadvantage for dealing with the cold.
The swim started…about 600 swimmers together in a very shallow and crowded swim course. When we made it to the turn around near the 500 meter mark the collective swimming of 600 swimmers created one heck of a current. The current pulled you towards the turn buoy and then shot you around the buoy and out towards the middle of the lake. On the first loop I didn’t really know this was happening until I lifted my head to sight and saw everyone fighting back towards the course. On the second loop I was prepared for the flow and had a better line coming around the buoy. It was still strong…sort of like swimming in the Hudson with the current. Never seen anything like it in a lake.
Out of the swim and into transition. The run up to transition and over to my bike was probably a quarter of mile of sheer pain. My feet felt frozen. Running on them was painful. You would think that they were so numb that nothing would hurt, but that was not the case. Made my way to the bike. I was thrilled that HITS gave all racers their own stool to sit on. I never sit in transition but I knew that this one would be different. I had to dry off and layer up for the ride. I took my time to ensure that nothing was forgotten and that I was dry before heading out into the 40 degree weather. The rule of thumb for cycling is layer as though it is 10 degrees colder than the air. So I didn’t want to be wet on top of that. This lead to the longest transition of my life..but it was needed.
The bike was beautiful. Just gorgeous. We headed out through farm country along the base of the mountains. The roads were half chip seal and half nicely finished asphalt. The chip seal was a bit dicey but not too bad. Two loop bike course. Took my time on the first loop..wanted to get comfortable and not push. That was tough because I actually felt pretty good and comfortable after my hands thawed out. But I knew this wouldn’t last…I knew the lack of training was going to catch up. And boy did it..at about mile 40 the anchor dropped and the pace slowed. I felt it. I knew it was going to be a long 16 miles in. Plus the wind really started pushing against us at this point.
Came into transition more fatigued than I wanted. I took my time again to make sure I was situated for the run. Off I went..13.1 miles of bliss…or something like that. The first half of the run went OK for the lack of training. I was really trying to pace the front half knowing how the back half would feel. Well, I thought I knew how the back half would feel. It felt a lot worse. I made my way back to the turn for the last 2 miles or so into the homestretch. That is when the winds opened up. I could not run into the wind. Not with the fatigue in the legs. I just dropped my head to keep the sand out of my eyes and fought my way, slowly, up the hill. I couldn’t help but look over and see the full distance racers still on their bikes almost being pushed over by the wind. They were in for an even longer day. Once I got out of the wind I could run again and brought it into the finish.
Training is not over-rated for those wondering. I was very happy to get 70.3 miles in the total column. Packed everything up and we headed back to the hotel to rest up for my race the next morning.
Sunday morning we were back at the race site for another go. The body did not want to get in the water, on the bike or on the run course at all. At every stage it was yelling at me to stop. This race was the same temp, same course – just a lot shorter. 800 yard swim, 12.4 miles on the bike and a 3.1 mile run – 16 miles was a lot nicer than 70.3.
This weekend we got to add a total of 86.3 miles total. Not bad for a weekend of racing. This brings our total to 571.3 total miles. I am looking forward to a warmer race, hopefully, next weekend in San Diego. That will wrap up the 2013 race season and we will be getting geared up for 2014.
Not really related to the racing but after we were all done with the HITS series in Palm Springs we decided to get out and see the city a bit. Maggie came across a tram that would take you up to the top of one of the mountains..up above 8,500 feet on a tram. Well, we couldn’t resist. After all Lincoln has already been to the world’s shortest and steepest tram car (Dubuque, Iowa) now he can say that he has been on the world’s largest rotating tram car…unbelievable stuff. Maggie is going to load some photos from our trip to Palm Spring shortly.