This weekend was the 25th running of the Bottomless Lakes triathlon down near Roswell New Mexico and I just had to toss it into the schedule if only to take a brief respite from all the long, slow stuff I have been doing this year. I was anxious to see if I had any speed left at all and this was the place to find out because it is shorter than a regular sprint distance race and everyone is going absolutely flat out.
The race is a 400 meter out and back open water swim, a 14K bike on rough roads with a tough mix of climbs, rollers and flats and it ends with a 4K run that is flat as a pancake, straight out and back but it occurs as the day is beginning to really heat up and being down in a river valley it is protected from any winds and has a relatively higher humidity than you usually see out here in New Mexico.
When the GeekGrl and I hit packet pickup last night I checked the registration to see if I knew anyone in my age group and the only person I recognized was fellow Outlaw Orlando so I was still left wondering how exactly I stacked up against the competition. This year, as I have mentioned, I am running in my local/regional as an age grouper and every time I show up at a race I get that nervous tension going wondering how many guys out there could smoke me, wondering just how hard I would have to push to possibly fight my way onto the podium if I made it there at all. Honestly, I love that feeling, the great unknown, the fight for survival, there is nothing like it and it is something that I missed when I was racing locally as a clyde.
So the race started at 8:30 with the women’s wave and then my wave, all men 44 and younger, took off at 8:35. I knew that I was not going to don my wetsuit for this brief swim in relatively warm waters but I was still debating as to whether or not I would wear my Blue Seventy fastskin right up until a couple minutes before the race. I ultimately decided against it thinking that the fast skin probably wouldn’t afford me any greater advantage than the guys wearing the wetsuits and I would still have something to take off, which is something I wanted to avoid and why I went sans wetsuit in the first place. I went with just sticking with my trisuit and going for the fastest possible transition. When the horn went off I plowed into the water in a very aggressive position in the pack and just started swimming as hard as I could. It wasn’t long before I noticed I was swimming alone and when I looked to sight on the buoys I notices one guy off to my left and maybe two ahead of me and then a pack that seemed pretty far off to the right and behind. I kept swimming and sighted again and saw a similar scene and then it occurred to me that I was one of the lead swimmers…holy crap!
I rounded the buoy and passed a guy and then really dug in for the final 200 yards. I passed another guy and then I was out of the water and on my way to transition. As far as I could tell I was most likely the second or third male out of the water. I grabbed my gear and bike and headed out as fast as possible. It was difficult to tell where exactly I was because there were plenty of women still in transition but when I crossed the mount/dismount line the guy told me, “There are two ahead of you!” YES! I totally smoked the swim and now was the moment of truth, time to see if my legs were completely fried from the high mileage I have been maintaining in prep for some upcoming races.
I leapt onto the bike and started cranking it out. My breathing was ragged, my heart was thumping and I felt like I was going to puke…perfect. The road is a rough chip-seal and is warped in many areas so it makes for a pretty rough ride. To add to that the bike starts with a pretty good uphill climb and just when you thing you have finished with the hill and are ready to start sprinting you discover that you are not on the flats yet but just on a much less steep hill. I was cranking along passing more of the women and then I spied the GeekGrl cursing along and I yelled “Hey” as I passed not having the breath for anything else. About this time some guy in my age group passed me and just motored away and I knew there was no way I was going to catch him. Then a guy who was wearing a Texas A&M tri uniform passed me but he was 21 so I didn’t really worry but as he pulled in front of me I thought to myself “F-this” and I jumped up out of the saddle and passed him back and just cranked it out for all I was worth. I never saw him again on the bike and when I pulled into transition the guy at the mount/dismount said “There are three ahead of you!” so I just headed for my rack wondering if I could dig any deeper. At this point I knew I was so far forward in the pack that there were a lot of serious runners behind me.
I hit the run and felt like I was moving pretty slowly but I was working about as hard as I could. I grabbed some water and immediately threw it right up my nose and choked on it…I did not need that, seriously. Once out on the flat, hot road I just kept focused on keeping my legs churning and could just feel other runners at my back. I saw a guy well ahead of me and noticed that he stopped to walk and that was all that was needed to get my focus in front of me instead of behind me. I had a target and I started to chase. After about a quarter mile Texas A&M went striding smoothly by me and I couldn’t hang on but seeing him run did focus me on my own stride, which was a bit sloppy. I got my wits about me and was able to even out my breathing a bit and pulled my form back together. I was now running well and Texas A&M stopped making much progress on me but was still a hundred yards ahead and pulling away, albeit slowly. The guy who had been walking got his legs back and was off to the races but he had served his purpose in focusing me forward and now I was running well but was unused to running at such a labored pace. At the turn around I threw another cup of water up my nose, WTF!! I just couldn’t get anything down and I was really starting to bake in the heat.
Being on the home stretch I could finally see where the competition was and how close they were to me. I quickly spied another guy in my age group who was maybe a minute behind me and he was followed by a woman who was maybe 30 seconds back from him and after that there wasn’t really anybody for a while. I knew there were four guys ahead of me now and I knew one was in my age group and one was not but the other two were a question mark. I also knew I had one guy in my age group right at my back and that the fight for a podium spot was now on.
I just focused straight ahead and ran as hard as I could. I was half way back and nobody passed. I was ¾ of the way back and nobody passed. I was maybe 200 yards from the finish line and thought I heard footsteps right behind me. I said to myself, “No f-ing way am I going to get dropped at the finish line” and I dug in for a sprint to the finish. One hundred yards to go, fifty yards to go, 20 yards to go and I suddenly heard ragged breath at my back and the rhythmic slap of shoes on pavement. Ten yards to go and I had a runner thrown an elbow and try to pass me on the inside. I thought “NO!” and threw an elbow back and surged ahead leaning hard to the inside to close off any space for passing and right at that moment I realized that it was the woman trying to pass me! I felt like crap, looked back and the guy was nowhere to be seen.
I stopped cold and let her go by for the pass then I trotted across the line right behind her and immediately went over to apologize. She laughed and told me she was sorry for trying to pass me on the inside like that and I explained my paranoia about the guy that I was absolutely certain was right on my heals. All was well; no harm, no foul.
So, by the end of the race I was the 4th male to cross the finish line in the 44 and under group though I know that some of the guys in the 45+ wave behind us made some time on me so I don’t know where I stood overall but most likely in the top 10. I can tell you though that I took 2nd in my age group and was glad to see I still have wheels despite all the long, slow training. I was also reminded that these little sprint races are hard!
My final time for the whole race was about 51:45 give or take, there are no official results as yet.
Later tonight I will be off to do another long night run in prep for next weekend and the El Scorcho so if you will, dream a little dream for me.