Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat
I’m not sure exactly what made him think racing 125K triathlon would be a good idea but approximately 10 months ago the boyfriend, Patrick, signed up to race Leadman 125 Bend. I knew I had no interest in doing a HIM or IM, but this basically modified HIM with a 2.5 K swim, 106K Bike and 16.5K (later changed to only a 13K) run, was quite intriguing and definitely suited my specialties. By the time April rolled around I pulled the trigger; we would both be racing the Leadman 125.
We arrived in Bend Thursday, a day later than expected due to a connection snafu in Salt Lake City where I actually sprinted through the airport as fast as I could to try and get our connecting plane only to find it had left early, so stuck in SLC, but I’m counting that as my fastest run ever, so a positive. Another positive: we got to fly into Redmond in the daylight and could scope out what we thought was Mt. Bachelor (the Mountain we’d be biking around) in the distance. Beautiful.
Friday we picked up our bikes from Tri Bike Transport near what would be the finish line and took them for a spin. It felt GREAT to be back on my own bike, since I had been riding my sister’s bike for the past week… which I’m so thankful for (thanks Lisa) but just not the same. Following our short ride we picked up our packets and went to the race meeting to hear all about how to pack our 3 or 4 transition bags, as they were running the race clean transition style (which was new to the both of us). After the meeting we drove the scenic byway (the back 45 or so miles of the bike) out to Lake Cultus, a crystal clear Mountain Lake in the Deschutes National Forest sitting at about 4700 feet above sea level. I knew we’d be climbing up to about 6400 feet on the bike but this really put things in perspective. How would I ever finish this ride in close to 3 hours?
We arrived at the lake with our suitcases stuffed full of everything we could possibly want to use in T1 and attach to our bikes. I think I changed my mind about 35 times on what would go on my bike, what would go in my T1 bag and what I would actually wear or carry in my post-race bag. It was supposed to rain and possibly snow overnight so after discussions with some other athletes around me I decided on keeping everything dry in the T1 bag and only nutrition and my repair kit would stay on the bike. Once the bike and T1 bag were set we scoped out the lake. The swim course was definitely short, which for me is always a disappointment, but at the same time the water was going to be about 60 and the air 40, so maybe a shorter swim wouldn’t be so bad?
After Cultus we went to drop our T2 bags back in Bend, grab a quick light dinner and back to the hotel to get everything set for an early morning. Per usual I set 3 alarms so that the chance of oversleeping would be low.
4.a.m. alarm one is off. I down my first bottle of water and start getting dressed for the morning. It’s about 50 degrees, slightly warmer than expected, but it was only going to be about 40 degree up at Cultus Lake. I ate my usual yogurt and granola and had a thermos full of hot coffee which was perfect for this cold morning. Bundled up in layers and a full sweat suit, hat and mittens we headed up to the high school to catch the bus out to Cultus. We pulled into the high school lot right behind my dad. Oh yea, I should have mentioned that, my Dad (Stopwatch Greg) came out to watch me race, because he’s been at every single one of the 15 prior triathlons I’ve done and he wouldn’t want to miss it. You probably are wondering why he needed to be at the high school at 5am too: 1. He’s used to the routine of driving me to every race so that I can be the first person in transition. 2. In the race meeting the prior day they were discouraging spectators to go to Cultus because they weren’t sure if they’d get them back in time to see T2, but he was determined to figure out a way to spectate, for some reason the swim is his favorite part to watch. So I gave him a hug and we parted ways. I was about to walk back to the car but suddenly Patrick was pulling up next to me saying we needed to go back to the hotel… oh god… what did he forget? Well it wasn’t just him; we had both completely forgotten to put on our timing chips. Oops…? Luckily we were really early and the hotel was about 25 minutes round trip so we were still able to make a 5:45ish bus and get to the lake before 7.
As expected the lake was about 60 and the air was near 40. The skies were cloudy, looking as though it could rain and people were huddling in the warming tents bundled up in their wetsuits. We weren’t supposed to be able to access our T1 bags at all in the morning but of course everyone was rearranging them anyway. At about 7:45, after the 250er’s had begun and 15 minutes before our start, I ran into Cathy and Kerry Yndestad and got to talking about what they were going to be wearing for the possibly rainy, snowy, sleety bike ride. This conversation instantly changed my plan and I was back in the warming tent stripping down and changing outfits. I decided I shouldn’t wear anything wet on the bike; thanks CY and KY, probably the best decision of the day.
With a few minutes until the start we threw our bags into the bag drop and wandered over to the lake. It actually wasn’t so bad, once you went under the water for a second and adjusted it actually felt really great. I have to say I was a little nervous for the swim start, which is VERY unusual for me. I knew the lake was crystal clear and you could see 20-30 feet down which for some reason just creeps me out. I actually dreamt about drowning the night before (again, oddly my biggest fear). Well 30 seconds till go time so time to suck it up. I was hoping there’d be a fast swimmer to go out in front with me, but after about 10 seconds I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I watched the bottom of the lake go down down down until it was really like nothingness, I felt quite alone but kept on. The buoys were a bit hard to sight because of the steam rising from the water. There was one buoy way off course that I went around because I didn’t want to risk a DQ but on my way back (it was a straight out and back swim) the masses behind me ended up just skipping that one, oh well. I started catching some of the 250er’s so it was nice to have some people around me temporarily. Finally I spotted the shore to exit. The lake was getting shallower, the water was getting much cooler and suddenly I felt like I was going nowhere; I guess there was some sort of current coming from I don’t even know where.
Shore. I darted out of the water down the chute to grab my T1 bag and hit the ladies warming tent. I got stuck a few times, as I’m sure everyone did, trying to put on my tri suit and long sleeve cycling jacket while damp. I have to say my outfit was ridiculous, mostly due to the combination of bare legs, mid-calf length wool socks and toe covers. While dressing, about 2 minutes later, I heard the second 125er had made it out of the water, which I later found out was Patrick. Out of the warmth I ran to grab my bike and off for what would be the longest and hardest ride I’ve ever done.
At the end of the road leaving the lake the volunteer had told me everyone goes right, but in the race meeting the prior day I mistakenly believed they said the 125er’s go left and 250er’s go right. After a short discussion I asked if he could basically phone a friend to verify. I sat there unclipped waiting, mad at myself for not properly studying the course like I had been doing all year. He couldn’t get a hold of anyone so finally I took off to the right, then I turned back again thinking maybe the next guy would be coming… and again changed my mind and just went for it. I saw a camera crew not much later and asked them; unfortunately they just added to my fear and said they thought it was just the 250 racers that took a right. At that point I knew there were water stops every 10 miles so the most out of my way I’d go was 20 miles and it would be a lesson I probably deserved for not studying the maps like I should have. Luckily, a few minutes later off in the distance, the 5 mile marker appeared for both the 125 and 250, AMEN. In my head I could finally start to crank it out a bit, time to race.
Shortly after mile 10 there was a controlled burn happening alongside the road we were riding on, so along with breathing in the ‘fresh air’ we also had to be on high alert for the little critters fleeing their burning homes… poor little buggers, sad face. Heather concentrate! I have to remind myself sometimes. Around mile 20 the eventual winner flew by me on his bike, cheering me on. I could see him off in the distance every so often until about mile 40 and then he was gone.
The first 20 miles or so I knew were going to be fairly tolerable with a few rollers, but miles 20-47 had a category 4 and a category 2 climb (as they rate climbs in the Tour de France), so I was anxious for the miles ahead, but knew after that it was about 20 miles of downhill home to T2. I could remember bits and pieces of the course from driving it the day before but I have to say the hills didn’t seem as big when you’re out there on your bike, but that’s not saying they weren’t hard! I slowed down to about 8mph going up those climbs.
Reaching the summit of the ride was amazing, the view when you’re about to go downhill is indescribable. On the descent I hit a max speed of 43. I was pretty scared so I came out of aero at top speeds and hugged the left side of the shoulder so if a gust of wind did get me I wouldn’t be tossed into the guard rail and over the edge for what would be a long roll down the mountainside. The last 20 miles were fun and fast. Throughout my ride a truck with a mom and her two daughters were stopping every 10 miles or so to cheer me on. It was pretty nice to have constant support out on the ride, because it is pretty lonely. I also have to mention the best spectators on the course were two guys in speedos with inner tubes blown up around their waists; a good laugh mid race.
Finally sailing into T2 I dismounted my bike and started to run, ouch, I couldn’t feel my feet or basically anything that was happening below my knees. I was about to enter T2 and found out I had missed the timing pad and had to run back to the mats with my bike, ouch ouch ouch! I got to my spot and frantically opened my T2 bag to dump out my shoes. As I was putting my shoes on my T2 bag started to blow away so I had to go chase that down further in transition, bring it back to my spot and stuff my jacket and helmet in. Time to run.
Aside from not being able to feel my feet, I felt alright knowing I had just a bit more than Olympic distance to run. I looked at my watch and I saw I had to hold about 8 minute miles to make the 4:30 cut off for a big belt buckle. After about 1.5 miles there were some slight inclines that did NOT feel good, then around a corner, a rather large hill, halfway up I gave in and walked. I’ve never ever let myself walk on a race before so I was slightly disappointed in myself for momentarily giving up but I accepted it and started running again. There were only more hills to come, and I gave in again and again… and again. At this point I started thinking if I gave in like this I don’t deserve the big belt buckle anyway. Walking up to mile 6 I turned and saw two guys running up behind me. I looked at my watch: 8 minutes to get to 4:30 and about one mile to goI couldn’t believe I was able to maintain that pace with some walking so I got my head back in the game, determined to beat the 4:30 mark. At mile 6.5 I looked at my watch again and I had just about 4 minutes to get to the finish. Luckily the last bit was a little downhill and I had two guys to chase. I finally crossed the line at 4:29.50, I made the cut off.
My Dad was there to greet me and was able to tell me when Patrick got through T2, he was pretty much killing his goal of 5:30 and he was going to be close to getting the small belt buckle if he had a decent run. Patrick ended up coming in at 5:09 making the 5:15 small belt buckle cut off. A great way for both of us to finish.
After massages and a little food on site, we relocated to the hotel for some post-race food we had been fantasizing about all week, a large bag of peanut butter M&M’s to start; so good and well deserved.
This race was an amazing experience, I’m glad I decided to race out in Bend, I would definitely do it again and I can’t wait for next year 😉 Check out more photos.
…Oh and my bike mantra… Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat… when I needed some motivation, from this song: