Patrick and I have always talked about the Spudman. Lynn has always talked about maybe/possibly/never doing a triathlon. So it seemed appropriate that the three of us traveled up to Burley, Idaho, together, to experience the Spudman.
We arrived in Burley and immediately, all of us (except for Patrick and me) began to panic.
To be fair, this was a more complicated triathlon. There were two transition areas (every triathlon that I’ve ever done has had both the bike and run transition in the same location. Usually it’s pretty brainless- just set out everything you need that’s not for the swim and you’re done. But here you had to remember to put everything you needed in the proper transition, or you might be out of luck when you get to the bike transition and figure out (like in my case) that you won’t have your inhaler until your last event- the 10k. Not a huge thing to set up, but you had to really plan more carefully.
Honestly, though, Lynn voiced what I already knew- that we needed to set up our stuff correctly, or things would go pretty darn wrong. Fortunately, we all nailed it and left the transition areas, knowing that in the morning, we still would need to revisit T1 to check tire pressure levels.
Sleeping accommodations were not horrible, but also not ideal. We never had nailed down a hotel or anything, so I had thrown my tent in the back of Lynn’s truck, just in case. But when we were getting ready to sleep, I realized that if we had any major take-down issues in the morning, we’d be close on time. The race started at 7 AM, and we needed to sleep as many minutes as we could.
Lynn, selfishly, had paid for gas and done all of the driving and refused to share the bed of his truck. Sort of ridiculous if you think about it. So Patrick and I slept on the ground in borrowed sleeping bags (graciously supplied by Lynn’s other triathlon friend, Eric.) At one point, Patrick was either pushing me or punching me in the face, he says. Claims of me snoring are getting old. I’m positive that I don’t snore (and who should know better?) But it’s gotten to the point where people will bring it up, just for the sake of changing a conversation’s direction. For instance:
Wendy’s salon client: “So Ted finally landed a new job and will be working for that toothpaste factory in Salem.”
Wendy: “That’s great! You know, Nathan’s snoring has gotten to the point that I think I’m having second thoughts about planting those petunias.”
So, as you can imagine, Patrick’s allegations of me snoring the night before the Spudman were a little annoying to me. But whatever. I pushed thoughts of angry friends aside and settled in for some quality sleep, which lasted about four hours.
My phone’s alarm, consideration aside, blasted through my brain at 5:30 AM, and I awoke with a start. I lied to myself and worked out a story about how excited I was to get into water and swim with strangers who would consider swimming over my corpose a”good start.”
The male, 35-39 age-groupers entered the water. Patrick and I started swimming around a bit, waiting for the race to start. As the countdown began, Patrick and I wished each other luck and then I started allowing myself to drift toward the back of the pack. I’ve never been a strong triathlon swimmer, so I don’t kid myself- starting at the front of the pack is a one-way ticket to being beaten up and spit out. It’s a horrible way to start a 3-5 hour race, where you can count on being beaten up by the elements, your bike, and your willpower, anyway.
But as the race started, I discovered something, sort of amazing. I was actually passing people- a lot of people. Somehow, all of the open water swimming in Utah Lake started paying off. For the first time in a triathlon, I had to actually spot to see open space that would allow me to pass other swimmers. It was weird. It felt like something was going horribly wrong, only because I was in uncharted territory. So this is what it’s like to enjoy the swim portion of a triathlon.
I should disclose, at this point in writing, that we were swimming in the Snake River. So there was already a little current to help us along (also another triathlon first for me.) As I swam, I noticed how fast the banks of the river moved along. It was a little deceiving, but a positive deceit, so I enjoyed it.
I could see the bridge where we’d be getting out, up ahead, so my confidence shot and I pushed myself harder than I have in the swim portion of a triathlon. Throwing caution to the wind, I pretended that there weren’t two more events and just gave it what I had (ok- I held back a litte.) As I made my way toward the bank to exit, I noticed how many people were still in the water behind me. I already knew that I’d done a good job on the swim.
But I also knew that Patrick was long gone. There is a tradition, in each triathlon that Patrick and I do together, that when I get to the first transition area, Patrick is long gone (usually by about 20 minutes in the Olympic distance.) So I almost fell over when I sawPatrick, just about to leave the transition. He congratulated me on a fast swim and took off.
In the transition area, I made an effort to push a little to get out and on the bike. Usually I allow myself a little breathing room to relax and put myself together. I still did this time, but I pushed a little harder. I ran my bike out to the mounting point and jumped on.
Two miles into the bike, I already started to pay the price for not biking (at all) this season. My bike had been hanging on the garage wall until Friday, when I placed waaaaay too much faith it it’s condition. No tuning, no tire check- nothing. Sort of stupid. But what’s a triathlon without a little drama?
My muscles were killing me and my butt was aching as I hit mile 3. “Thank goodness there’s only 21 more miles left”, I told myself, because I think sarcasm is my second wind. Sarcasm was not my second wind, it turned out. When my watch reported 10 miles left on the bike, I was already in pretty decent pain.
It should be noted that I’m pretty sure that all of the people that I’d passed on the swim took their revenge and passed me like a water station volunteer. It really took the pride out of me. It was just every triathlon from last year, in repeat. My legs are burning and people are just whizzing past me. Some of them seem to be having fun. And I don’t want to get into a “thing” here, but it really puts the hurt on, when all manner of people are passing you. People that look like they’d be better off in “before” pictures, are absolutely wiping the asphalt with me. I already knew that Patrick was putting miles on, in front of me. He’s got some good riding experience and doesn’t deal with a lot of my aforementioned issues.
So you can imagine my relief when I was finally able to drop my bike off at T2 and put on something a little more familiar to me- my sweatpants. No, just kidding. I laced up my running shoes, threw on a hat, and cursed my legs as they failed to make the change from “bike” to “run.” If you’ve never experienced a triathlon, try this, sometime- go ride your bike for miles and miles and then, suddenly, start running. The first time you do it, you feel, uh…weird- sometimes you cramp up. It’s interesting, to say the least.
In fact, it almost took me 1.5 miles before I really felt normal, again (whatever you consider that to be.) Every mile, I’d stop and drink some water, walk for about 30 seconds (I may have cheated on that time, for a couple of miles), then start running, again. I actually kept a decent 8:30 minutes per mile for a while, but that deteriorated to about 9:30 by the time I was a mile away from the finish line.
This is a paragraph that is meant to emphasize the amount of exhaustion that had encompassed my body at this point. There. That should do it.
And then it happened- about half a mile from the finish, I found Patrick. He told me that he’d “bonked” and it looked all-too familiar to me. I am a professional “bonker”, myself. It’s what I do best. I train as little as possible, under-nourish myself for weeks, then I compete. It usually ends with disappointment. Patrick told me to go ahead and so I took off to end the misery.
Only minutes later, I ran down the same embankment that killed all of us, when starting the run. This time, I had to be careful to not go too fast, because my legs were starting to give out. Crossing the finish line, a volunteer stripped my ankle timing chip, another handed me my finishing metal, and I stumbled around, as I waited for Patrick and Lynn.
Two minutes later, Patrick ran in and finished his race. About 15 minutes later, Lynn laid down his first triathlon finish. It should be noted that Lynn’s swim wave started 10 minutes after Patrick’s and mine. So it turned out that Lynn, Patrick and me all finished within five minutes of each other. Sort of amazing, considering that we were killing ourselves out there for just over three hours.
We gathered our things, packed into the truck, and headed back to Utah. That night, the three of us would sleep in our own beds. There would be no kicking, punching, or snoring (I still deny this), stressing out, no wet sleeping bags, or alarms to wake us at 5:30 AM. Thank goodness. Let’s not ever do that again…
Until next July.