This is a new distance (1.86 mile swim, 81 mile bike, 18.6 mile run, or just about a 3/4 Iron distance) in a new place (Lakeport, CA, on the west shore of Clear Lake) and is part of the new Tri One O One series. I signed up for the race on the advice of my coach, who thought it would be excellent prep for Canada later this year.
An uneventful flight Friday morning followed by a pretty 2 hour drive west from Sacramento airport to Lakeport and I was at the race site. The motel I was staying at had a lot of athletes there; I soon discovered that the couple in the room next to mine were pro Hilary Biscay and her boyfriend John Schwartz. We talked for a while and I wound up loaning John an Aerodrink bottle straw for the race, as his was inexplicably missing. I told them this was my first time at anything past a half and was prepping for Canada and they were both very encouraging. Hilary had already done 3 IMs this year, including Brazil just 3 weeks ago. How pros recover so quickly is a bit astonishing to me.
Saturday morning comes and I realize that I'm a nervous wreck - mentally very scattered and forgetful. During breakfast I was reading a book on mental training for triathlon, which helped calm me a bit. I did the 1 hour workout Ben had written, which helped a bit more since it felt good to be active. The locals had repeatedly told me how warm it could get and it was warm at noon, so I was so focused on temperature it never occured to me to think about humidity. It turns out the moisture content in the air is less than half of what it is up in Seattle. After a good lunch I was able to focus on getting the bike and run gear and special needs into their respective bags and get everything checked in by 5 PM. It was all over but the body marking and the race itself. At the athlete meeting that night they announced that the race would be wetsuit-legal for age groupers (the water was 72), but that they would take another measurement in the morning to see if the pros could wear wetsuits - they would be able to, it turned out.
Sunday morning comes - I had breakfast at 5 AM, got to the race start by 5:45 or so for body marking and listened to music until 6:20 when they opened the water for us to get used to. I was feeling very good; much more relaxed than the day before. I had decided that given the length of the day ahead I would use the first of the 2 1500 meter laps as a bit of a warmup, and during a quick check my HR was 145 on the first lap, so I picked it up a bit on the second lap (to 150). I was feeling good through the first 1/3rd of the second lap and began to feel a few twinges in my calves. These would progress to cramps in either calves or hamstrings in both legs on the last half of the lap. Not disabling but they did slow me down to a stop a few times and my legs felt heavy as I got out of the water. The wetsuit strippers were a nice touch, as were the folks that I could just hand stuff to and they would stuff my swim gear into my bike bag.
I got on the bike and my HR was high (160) for a while but I had already picked out a long gradual downhill a few miles in where I knew I could relax, so I didn't worry about it. An HR in the low 150s felt the most sustainable but the power numbers were lower than expected - 185 - 190 for the first 2 laps instead of the roughly 200 which felt too hard. I felt much more comfortable on the Lucero at Onionman than I did here, not sure why. I went through my first bottle in well under an hour but was not visibly sweating which was my first clue that the air was a lot drier than we are used to up here, so I began to increase fluid and electrolyte intake to compensate but it wouldn't be enough. I even split the 2 first laps at about 1:28 which put me at a projected 4:24, a pace I thought would leave me something for the tough run to come. A few miles into the 3rd lap I had cramps in both legs, both quads and hamstrings, and got off the bike to work them out, walking the bike (when I could walk again) a few yards before getting back on. I would do this twice more. After getting back on the bike for the 3rd time and having my legs still twitching a bit I was frantically massaging them with one hand while steering with the other to ward off another round. In sheer frustration I wound up actually screaming at my legs, cursing them for betraying me as worthless excuses for muscles. At this point I realized just how ridiculous a sight this must have been to some (hopefully hypothetical) observer and broke into laughter. The extra electrolytes I had taken from my bike special needs bag gradually started working and although I had to baby my legs a bit for the next 10 miles or so, the cramps wouldn't really return until the end of the 3rd lap.
At T2 I took about 6 Endurolytes and a bottle of water hoping to eliminate cramps, since ahead of me I had the longest run I've ever done on the toughest course I've ever seen. At the awards dinner that night the race director said he had heard a lot of comments about the run course from many of the pros, most far too profane to publicly repeat. I could manage a 10:00-11:00 / mile pace on the flats, gentle inclines, and gentle downhills for the first lap but any attempt to run up anything steeper was met with more cramps. There was a 1 mile stretch with 5-6 steep rollers that we would do a total of 4 times and apart from a group of women pros that were finishing their second lap while I was 3 miles into my first (Hilary and I waved as we passed each other) I don't think I saw anyone run up any of these; even running down them was difficult on increasingly tired quads. It was getting warm as the afternoon progressed so I settled into a rhythm of getting a cup of water over my head along with an Endurolyte and something to drink at most aid stations. Lap 2 was slower than the first since the perceived effort required to run up the gentlest incline (or walk up the steeper ones) was much greater. While I didn't have cramps anymore all that water over my head led to a wet race top (good) and some fierce chafing down below. Some Vaseline at an aid station fixed that, but I'll be adding that to my special needs bag for Canada. I finally made it to the finish, running the last mile and after a short rest walked straight into the lake, very happy that I actually made it all the way through.