The 26th running of the Bottomless Triathlon was just as smelly, bumpy and hot as ever. What on earth possesses me to return to this race year after year I’ll never know but it is some kind of sick addiction.
The race doesn’t start until 8:30 in the morning when it is already heating up. IT is plenty light to start the race at 6:30 in the morning but we always wait. Being a Clydesdale I get to start off in the last wave at 8:40, mercifully it is not a huge race with 10 or more waves but I swear the temp starts climbing about a degree a minute once 8 o’clock rolls around.
The race venue is actually kind of cool. The Pecos River runs, if you want to call it that, north to south about 10 miles east of Roswell, NM. People reading this who are not from a desert environment have to change your idea of river from a wide, deep, flowing body of water to about a 50 to 100 meter expanse of sand and mud that is intermittently disturbed by pools of water. Immediately east of the river is a series of large sink holes that remain filled with water and they are nestled up against a red-rock bluff that serves as the western boundary of the Llano Estacado, otherwise known as the high plains of west Texas and eastern New Mexico.
The swim is supposed to be 400 meters but it is laid out by a couple of guys equipped only with a small boat, two walkie-talkies and at least one west Texas accent. One on shore and the other in a boat with buoy in two. Shore guys says to boat guy “Grab that there boy and head on out chair a bit and I’ll give you a holler when it’s taam to set’um down.” Boat guy dutifully and quietly grabs the buoy and proceeds out toward the middle of the lake. Shore guy surveys the shore for a bit and then lifts the walkie-talkie and says, “That’ll do rot chair” and the ever silent boat guy sets the buoys and heads back. Despite the imprecision of the set-up I had a decent swim time, 8:21. I know this was pretty good because I was the third person in my wave out of the water and I even out swam several people in wetsuits.
The bike course is not only bumpy as in the thing is paved with gravel and tar but the road bed is also warped so fitting with the general “wild west” atmosphere riding even the most shock absorbent bike is like riding a bucking bronco. This course is precise, it is a simple circle around the Bottomless Lakes State Park. The ride begins with a nice flat to warm the legs and then climbs straight up onto the Llano Estacado where the road runs through a series of small rollers before diving back down into the Pecos River Valley. It is down in the river valley where you encounter the stink. I don’t know exactly what it is, probably rancid pockets of muddy water or something but it gets pretty funky in places. On the upside you have that much more motivation to push harder. My bike split was 23 minutes for 12 K, precisely the same bike split I turned out last year and just to give you an idea of just how rough the road is…that is the same average speed that I maintained two weeks ago at the Buffalo Springs 70.3.
By the time you get to the run the heat has climbed to truly de-motivating levels. This year I had the “opportunity” to run in 98 degree heat, Yea! The run is only 4K long but everyone agrees that it is the worlds longest 4K. It runs straight out of transition and then straight back I’m beginning to think the road climbs imperceptibly on the outbound route because it always feels easier coming back.
There were several Clydesdales at today’s race that I didn’t know so even though I was pretty sure I was in first place by the time I hit the run I had flashbacks of Buffalo Springs and getting caught from behind so I just ran all out keeping my heart rate pegged at an average of 177 beats per minute, which is about the maximum I can sustain for more than a mile or so. I focused on running people down that I knew I wasn’t racing but I needed something to keep me focused in that heat. I hit the finish line in 20:21, which may well be the fastest average pace I have ever run in that kind of heat.
When the awards were given out I was handed the second place Clydesdale award, I was crushed. I raced as hard as I could and came up second.
But not so fast.
The first place “Clydesdale” had taken his time and ended up walking up after me. He was maybe five and a half feet tall and probably topped out at 145 soaking wet. He sheepishly told the race director, “Um…I’m not a Clydesdale.” Ya think! It turns out that he was the third place winner in the Male 40-44 division and I was indeed the first place Clydesdale, Yahoo! They didn’t break the clydes into masters and youngsters either so I also happened to be the oldest Clydesdale taking the field today…not sure how I feel about that but whatever.
In the end it turns out that I had run the race in 54:22 according to my Timex and had beaten the second place Clydesdale by a whopping 16 minutes. I was pretty happy about that but kept it between myself and the GeekGrl, who happens to have walked away with first place overall Athena.
The Bottomless Triathlon is one tough little race but I sure do love it!