Worst. Triathlon. Ever.

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...and I'm friggin' freezin', Mr. Bigglesworth. (That's a quote from Austin Powers)


Devil's Lake State Park, Sunday, September 19, 2010: Steve has his worst triathlon effort ever. End of story.

Still there? Sorry if you are... you're about to hear a tale of disgust and failure, complete with yarns about the world's worst swimmer, a pitiful biking effort, and a geriatric running event, all with a bout of mild hypothermia mixed-in for good measure.

The morning started off innocently enough - the skies were overcast, there was a mild (sub 10mph) breeze, a rain had just rolled through town, the temperatures were climbing to the mid-to-high-40s, and a light foggy mist hovered over an otherwise serene Devil's Lake. The forecast called for the mercury to rise into the high 50s by 10am, with only a "slight" chance for rain.

Having registered and paid for the non-refundable event way back in June, I figured that even if it was chillier than I'd prefer, it wasn't a good enough excuse to stay in bed this morning, so I woke-up promptly at 5:00am, loaded the car, grabbed some water, fed the cat, and hit the road for Devil's Lake Park.

I arrived at about 6:30am and promptly set-up my transition area. I had gotten there early enough that I was able to find a comfy/roomy spot - things were looking good:


With my space set-up, I made my way to the registration center so that I could claim my number, grab a t-shirt, and receive my body marking (they use black markers on your arms and legs to identify your race number and starting wave/group). It was about 7:00am - I still had an hour or so before the race would start, so I snapped a quick picture with my number and went back to my transition area:


The place started to fill-up quickly; I believe they predicted 1200 entrants. The weather probably scared a few folks away, but as you can see here, the transition area was becoming a bit more crowded. I believe this picture was taken at about 7:15.


The weather still felt chilly; people were donning their wetsuits and taking warm-up swims, to which I paid close attention - the Devil's Lake website showed water temperatures were in the high 60s; last year they were in the mid 60s and the water felt really warm. I'm not a fan of the wetsuit - it's so hard for me to get in and out of (I'm afraid of tearing it) that it slows my transitions beyond any benefit the suit would provide.

So, I asked folks how the water felt, and the responses ran the gamut... "Cold," "Great," "Comfortable," "Not bad," "Freezing," "Warm," "About average." Great - that's a lot of help... I dipped my foot in near the shore and it felt really cold, but I reasoned the shallow water would likely be colder than the deeper body of water. I'd made up my mind: no wetsuit today.

Besides, I had been swimming a lot - I'm up to 1500m in the pool, and I've been going 6 days a week, without fail, since late June. I still lack speed with my swimming, but I've been able to crank out the yards without a ton of effort (in practice).

The race started promptly at 8:00am. I was in group 6, which meant my start time was around 8:30. While I was waiting for my group to start, I snapped a picture of one of the waves as they hit the water:


After taking the photo, I went back to my transition area, took off my warm-up gear, double-checked my things, and made my way to the beach. The temperature was still freezing - I was shivering uncontrollably as I waited another 15 minutes for our group to be called to the water. I overheard more than one person give thanks for their wetsuit simply because it was keeping them warm while waiting. Good call.

The siren went off, and we hit the water, and that's when I promptly lost my breath. The water was freezing - try as I might, I couldn't get any air - the cold sapped all of my air and my muscles instantly started to "scream." Great, only 500 yards to go, I thought.

My swimming is AWFUL. I'm the absolute worst, and it's so frustrating. I practiced every day, focused on technique, hired a coach to help (I had eight lessons), and I still stink. I promptly fell to the back of the pack and struggled for the entire 500 yards. Rather than swim with an easy, measured crawl like I'd practiced, I found myself doing a side-stroke and breast-stroke in an attempt to keep my head above water so I could breathe. I even got passed by the next wave of swimmers... talk about embarrassing.

I came out of the water and was greeted by - rain. Yep, it had started raining, and the rain wasn't any light rain. No sir, it was a real downpour, and it was freezing cold. I didn't pack any rain gear (nice planning, Steve), so I rifled through my transition bag to find an extra longsleeve shirt before hitting the road for my 15-odd miles of super hilly riding.

The climbs went really well - the course has a few nice long hills that the majority of folks walk their bikes up. And just like last year, I encountered several people on the hills that were panting, crying and vomiting. Hee, hee. I motored on by.

But, that's where the fun ended... as I made my way through the course, the rain, wind, and temperature were relentless. I quickly found myself shivering uncontrollably once again - almost convulsing. My bike wobbled from the shivering; my legs were trembling; my hands were cramping. Any time I hit 20+mph, the wind and rain would cut through me like a knife. I thought seriously about quitting - I was afraid I was going to crash because I could barely move my hands to hit the brakes or to shift gears.

The only time I felt somewhat comfortable was when climbing hills - my speed would dip to about 12-15mph and I felt a little "warm," but it still was anything but enjoyable. I checked my heart rate and was shocked to see that it was struggling to hit 120 bpm. Normally it would be around 145-150 bpm. My average speed was low as well, primarily because I was purposely trying to keep my speed low when descending hills.

I arrived back to the park after an hour, for an average speed of an embarrassingly slow 14.8mph. Last year I averaged just under 20mph. I was ready to drop-out; I was shivering so hard that my teeth hurt and I couldn't undo my helmet or shoes. I figured I'd grab my jacket for warmth but was punched in the gut by mother nature - the rain had soaked everything in my bag. It soaked my shoes, my socks, my pants, everything. Nice.

Two guys next to me dropped out - they were in the same boat as I was. Too cold, shivering, and bordering on having hypothermia. I decided to wring-out my socks, pour the water from my shoes and trudge through the 5k of running.

The run went a little better; at about the 2-mile mark, I started to generate a little heat and I felt better, although I was still running in a semi-fetal position, trying to keep warm. I saw the ambulance haul somebody away at one point on the course.

I managed to pass about 40-45 people on the run, and finished the race with an overall time of 2:15:00 (that's from the start of the first wave)... my time was probably around 1:45 or so, which is so incredibly bad that I should be banned from ever racing ever again. I didn't stick around to see the official results - I'd rather forget this race ever took place.

After crossing the finish line, I turned-in my timing chip, grabbed a water and packed my things back into the car. I normally do a race bib/gear shot, but since this was such an upside down race, I figured this picture would be most appropriate for summing-up this disgraceful day:


I drove up to the Dells, had some really awful pizza for lunch, and then drove home with the heater set to 85F while drinking the hottest coffee I've ever had (and enjoyed). As I sit here now, I feel like I might get sick... in hindsight, I should've stayed home today, rode the trainer, swam at the pool, and ran with some proper rain gear. UGH.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on September 19, 2010 3:47 PM.

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