Sunday, April 02, 2006

Triathlete

Date: April 2
Mileage: About 5
April Mileage: 5
Temperature upon departure: 35

Today I raced the Homer Sea to Ski Triathlon.

Ok. Maybe "raced" is a bit of a stretch. While fighting off wind exhaustion and sore calves from yesterday's "out in the weather" camping marathon, I jogged a 5K, pedaled a pretty decent 7.5K mountain bike climb and - while still spectacularly awful - did manage to get through a 5K cross-country ski without stabbing myself with a ski pole.

But the important thing is, I completed my first triathlon. Which (I think) makes me a triathlete. Never mind my general disdain of running, the fact that climbing is my weakest link as a cyclist, or my stunning inability to stay vertical on a pair of skis. I am Ironwoman.

Geoff and I decided to do it on a lark. It was a sprint event after all, so there wasn't too much worry about not finishing or hobbling to the end. Plus, today was a beautiful day. And, according to current forecasts, it may be the only one until May. It was a good way to spend an afternoon - meeting athletic neighbors, getting some good exercise. I decided from the get-go that I wasn't going to race it hard. We took off from the Mariner Park (the "Sea" part of the name) at 1 p.m. Headwinds were blowing fierce right into our faces, which made it feel much colder than the 35 degrees it was. Still, that didn't stop Geoff from taking off like a flash and finishing first on the running leg with what he guestimates was probably a 18 or 19-minute longish 5K (the results aren't online yet, but I'll be happy if mine was close to 30 minutes.)

Those 10-minute miles placed me solidly in the back third of the pack, so I had the thrilling opportunity to pass a lot of people on the bike leg. We were climbing, climbing, I was riding easy and passing cyclists (OK. So most of them looked suspiciously younger than 16. Still). When we reached Highland Drive, the gravel road was a slushy, icy, unplowed, pothole-filled mess. I was so thrilled. "Finally!" I thought. "This is my event." Forgetting that I had filled my tires to a solid 45 psi, I tore through the slush with reckless abandon, swerving down the rolling hills and pumping hard up. I passed more people. Mud flew in all directions. I flew forward. Dozens disappeared behind me. I was reaching the middle of the pack - I was beating many of the relayers. The race would have been mine - but then it was time to ski.

The ski started out with a steep downhill. I missed the first turn and planted my bad knee in hard ice, literally screaming out in pain because I was unable to hold it in. The trail was icy and hilly - unfortunantly for me, it was mostly downhill. Skier after skier flew by. I limped along. At one downhill, I fell near the top, lost my pole, skidded all the way down, and literally had to crawl back up the hill to retrieve it. Then, after failing to duck-walk up another steep, icy hill, I abandoned my vertical stance again in favor of a few quick frog hops (I learned this technique as a mediocre snowboarder.) There are so many ways to explain why my ski leg was so, so pathetic. And yet, I had fun. The sun was shining. I could hear a bull horn blowing in the distance. What was there to complain about?

I think my final time was about 1:40. I really hope my run/cycle was under an hour, and only the ski was that mind-numbingly awful. The truth is, I didn't keep track of my time, so I don't really know. But I didn't race hard. I feel better now than I did when I woke up this morning (except for my knee, which broke open again on the ice skids). So, all in all, I'd say I came out ahead.

By the way, about that picture - my feet aren't really that big. In my ignorance of European sizes, I bought a pair of ski boots that are really about a men's 10. I wear a women's 8.5. Could that be my problem? I'd like to blame something.

Triathlete, out.