Falling in love with the HITS Tri Series in Lake Havasu, I was addicted to try another race of their series. It is in Palms Springs, early December. I was thinking of another 140.6, but knew it was cold. I heard horror stories, of 55*F water, with air temp even less. But last year it was 61* water / 70* air, so yes it was a gamble on sign up, thus I choose the Olympic, as I have a particular goal in mind. One week before the race the dismal forecast was out… mid 30*s for air, 58* for water… with gusts of to 60 mph, in rain! Still I wanted to see what would happen.
..cold bike prep, it is much more torture than being on the bike than the cold water, where the water temp is warmer than air, and you have no wind in the face too.
Luckily for me, and not so much for Bessy, she would work that expo. We drove up the day of the 140.6/70.3 races with the miserable wet conditions they had to endure. On our way, snow flakes, yes snow flakes in SoCal. We got to the expo were she would help a co-worker racing the next day, by doing the afternoon shift. The gusts were strong, that many tents flew into the water with their product, but with my last minute tie downs the tent held in place, even though the winds tried to rip it out. The days are shorter now, and darkness settled in. Surprisingly, even with the pitch blackness, people wanted to buy wet suits trying them on in the windy tent.
The co-worker offered a place to stay, since hotels were sold out, but with the darkness and conditions, we were not able to make it in order for me to race tomorrow. Thus, we slept in the car, just like I did in my BQ chasing phase.
We wake up, grab some coffee and hit the race. I thought the race would start at 7am, but found out the Olympic was delayed to 7:50 so sprinters can clear the bike course. This really screwed up my usual race timing, yet thankfully this race series has coffee for the athletes in transition. I did what I could prepare for this miserable experience, arm/leg warmers underneath, tons of petroleum jelly on exposed skin, and ski jacket with sweat pants for T1. I even poured hot coffee into my suit – don’t do this, I’m pretty sure I burned my skin. I get in the water for pre-race warm-up… sprint out and feel like I can handle it. The race director even modified the course to stay close to shore to maintain the warmest temperature. It wasn’t enough… the race starts, and there is chaos with many people standing up or swimming head out of water. I had to make a decision here – to stay an extra 10-15 minutes in the water and suffer hypothermia, because I need to pass people? I can tell you some more bodyfat could have helped me, the winner of the 140.6 had a little pouch…
Quick tangent: Unlike a running race start strategy, where you can adjust your position at the START line for who to “draft” off based on if they look fast – or even by asking them their estimated finish times – this is not possible in a Triathlon swim. There are 3 types of swim starts: run in (beach), treading water (in water), dive (jump off something by wave). The time before the swim is short, and the group that ends up being beside you may not be the same group you met. Mind you, focusing on the cold creates confusion that you can forget race strategy. The coworker of Bessy, was on the farthest buoy out (albeit coldest water, but less people) … and ended up with a super PR of 2:28, while I was hurdled in the largest pack of people.
A PR was not to be set here, nor a decent average result. Todays water was 56*! I decided to bail and take the DNF…
… better than DNS (did not start)
It was a good decision. A friend of mine, Rusty, did finish the swim but suffered hypothermia, leading to DNF any ways. I wanted to enjoy my experience here, so I decided to do a run of 18 miles where I for sure will be warm, as opposed to a miserable bike. I did do the bike though after the run, while waiting for Bessy to finish her shift. It was smooth as butter, it is definitely a PR course, just if it could be a better time of year. After the shift, it was a mad dash to Ronald McDonald house, so Bessy and Xterra can volunteer by serving food to the families of sick children. A humbling weekend it was, and I am glad there everyone was safe in the end. This is one of those races, were a finisher medal does matter.