Stopped at the Holiday Inn Express to check in. Mary had booked a suite using her State employee rate and was disappointed and a little baffled to learn that this did not apply since we weren't actually on official state business. My AARP discount didn't help us either. Neither did USAT membership.
The hotel lady asked if we were there for the "BMX event". That explained all the cars with bike racks and teeny tiny little bikes in the parking lot. Our tri bikes were gargantuan in comparison.
We kept smelling something delicious. The hotel lady said she was "baking the cookies". Is this a Holiday Inn thing? A ploy to quell our discontent over the increased room rate? Whatever it was, it worked. There is nothing quite like a chocolate chip cookie still warm from the oven.
Drove up the street to Rock Cut State Park. The hotel was literally 3 minutes away from the race site. We scoped out the lake situation. There are two lakes in this park and the triathlon is held in Olson Lake, the smaller of the two. There is a very nice public beach that was pretty crowded. Not much chance of getting a practice swim in today. The terrain is rolling and the lake sat in a low area, with parking lots and the transition up higher on a hillside. Looked like T1 was going to be a long one, judging by the distance from the beach to transition.
We checked out the vegetation issue. Being somewhat of an aquarium/nature nut, I was impressed by the variety of aquatic plants that were absolutely flourishing in this lake. There is a healthy population of lily pads that were in full bloom, arrowhead, duckweed and what I think is cabomba. You can buy cabomba in aquarium stores, it's a cold water plant that goldfish like to eat. It also gets incredibly long, stringy and its tiny leaves collect poo particles and other unspeakable things. Ugh...that would be the seaweed people talked about. It did seem to be contained to the outer edges of the lake. The race crew had done a good job of chopping it back.
There were people fishing at a little dock and by the spillway. Wait, a SPILLWAY AT A TRIATHLON????? WTF???? The water had a tiny bit of chop to it, and you could tell there was some current down that way. Not sure what that round thing is in the water, maybe a lily pad? Or some toothed creature pissed about the weeds being chopped back...
We decided to bike the run course. It was all beautiful rolling, i.e. steep hilly roads winding through the pine forests. Mary held the bikes while I visited a rustic "aid station". I was impressed how clean the facilities were. No wasps at all! No poo on the toilet seat. It even smelled ok in there.
This has nothing to do with triathlon --- Pit toilets are scary things. I will show my age here by stating that pit toilets remind me of an episode of the Xfiles where a tapeworm/fluke thing somehow was crossed with a human thanks to Chernobyl. The "flukeman" made it over to the United States where it was captured and subsequently escaped to a park NOT UNLIKE ROCK CUT STATE PARK. Flukeman hunkered down in a pit toilet and went on to kill a whole bunch of unsuspecting people. Shudder...would Flukeman be in the weeds tomorrow?
We then drove the bike course. Very beautiful, mostly flat with some gentle climbs through gorgeous rural areas.
It was about time for dinner. We ditched the bikes at the hotel and drove up the main drag in search of pizza or pasta. Found a place called "Happy Joes'". This seemed like an omen since our coach is named Joe.
Happy Joe's was kind of like Chuck E Cheese for adults. The system whereby you actually order and manage to receive food was confusing to us. Blame it on a long day, I guess. There was about three people in the whole place at 6:30 on a Friday night. That is usually never a good sign. But we went ahead and ordered pizza and a glass of wine and it was pretty good stuff after a long day. We boxed up the leftovers and called it a day.
In the morning we arrived at the race site around 6. The skies were clear with no indication of the thunderstorms that had been forecast. Humidity was a little high, otherwise it was perfect weather.
There were three waves and women were in the last wave. Unique about this swim is that you swim out from the beach, execute a roughly rectangular course, exit the water and run around some orange cones and then repeat this.
I never did find out what the water temperature was, but suspect it was just on the borderline of being too warm for a full wetsuit. A sleeveless might have been a better choice. One woman actually ran into the water at the start, then turned around, stripped off her suit and jumped back in.
The first lap went very well. You had to do a lot of siting, which was easy to do since there were a lot of volunteers in bright orange life vests at every buoy. Really, there were an amazing number of cheerful volunteers out there. Swimming near the spillway was kind of weird for me, I could feel the current and see the gates when I breathed to the right. Stayed with my wave pretty much and passed a couple of men from the prior wave. Things were going well.
I was a little out of breath when I ran out on the beach and I stood up in some seaweedy muck that felt really gross. Around the cones and back into the water. Halfway to the first buoy, I got too close to a guy who was breaststroking and got kicked in the side of the face. Not hard, but I was turning to breathe and ended up inhaling a full breath's worth of lakewater.
It was pretty much over at that point. I flipped over on my back to regain some composure and coughed. Then I puked lakewater and whatever was in my stomach. It was disgusting and awful.
I finished the swim but had to rest on a kayak twice. My time coming out of the water was something like 41 minutes. The walk up to transition seemed to take an eternity and it was hard to breathe. Got out of wetsuit and geared up and trotted over to bike out. At about a mile, I felt lightheaded and nauseous, was having trouble getting a full breath of air. Got sick again, nasty salty stuff.
I was done. I rode back to transition, turned my chip in and said I was dropping out. I have never done this before and it felt strange. I didn't know what to do with myself. Some people would probably have gotten emotional but I just had an odd sense of peace. This was not my "A" race, things had not gone well but it didn't matter in the big scheme of things. It was just a race, nothing more.
Since Mary was still out racing, I knew I had a couple of hours to hang out before watching her cross the finish line. I walked for a bit, tried to drink some water but it threatened to come back up. An awesome volunteer named Cat (Kat?) said I could help in several areas if I wanted to, and so for the next two hours I sat in a chair and helped with timing the racers coming across the mat. It was great to watch the fast people come in.
Wherein I Do Not Quit
So that's the story of my first DNF. I didn't take home a medal but I sure had a story to tell. I spent Father's Day kind of mulling around why I do this stuff, whether or not I will want to continue, and if it all ends this summer, what will takes its place. A big part of my identity is vested in multisport and I'm not ready to roll over, sell my bike and start scrapbooking (no offense intended for any scrapbookers out there), but today was hard, much harder than it should have been and mentally exhausting and I don't think I have another DNF in me.