But I digress . . . .

It was a dark and stormy day. A chill ripped through my body, and I dreaded turning into the wind. I knew I could get through this, if only the rain would hold off.

But I knew I needed to get my gear packed into my VW van so I could leave for the race.

I spent most of the drive to Lake San Antonio trying to convince myself that the skies would clear and the rain would be gone for the race. It worked pretty well up until the point on Jolon Road where the downpour obscured my view of the road. Then it cleared, and I was able to resume my efforts at self-delusion.

I drove back to the Harris Creek area, and found a place to park. It wasn't raining, and things were looking up. The sun even peeked through the clouds a few times. I changed into some bike clothes, grabbed a light waterproof jacket and some full-finger gloves and headed over to the registration area. I decided to go down Beach Hill and check out the Beach area on the way. Just as I turned, the clouds opened up again. I was starting to sense a pattern . . . .

By the time I got to the transition area and the registration desk, it was pouring. The registration desk was located strategically under the front of the tent so that the first person in line was out of the rain, and the second person was standing under the flow from the tent top. So I grabbed my bag, checked my chip and headed back to my bike. On the way out, 2 different guys offered to buy my full-finger gloves. Going back up Beach Hill, I could see little rivers flowing over the road, dashing all hopes I
had of a dry race. Just as I arrived back at my VW van, my front tire went flat. I didn't have to change it in the rain, but it seemed like a not-so-promising start to an already challenging race.

I spent a quiet evening in the van (relatively quiet, anyway, as long as you forget the sound of the rain on the roof and the generator in the RV next to me). I changed my tire, set up my gear for the race, read a good book and munched lots of carbs.

Around 3 or 4 am, I woke up to howling wind and pouring rain. I pulled a pillow over my head and hoped I was dreaming. It didn't work.

A couple of hours later, the sun came up. At least I assume it came up, because my alarm went off and it did get slightly lighter. I had coffee and cereal, put on my race suit and wetsuit, topped it off with my heavy rain coat, and set off once more for the transition area. Although it rained pretty much continuously up to 8am, things were looking up around start time. I distinctly remember seeing and feeling the sun a couple of times while waiting on the ramp for the start of my swim wave. At least I
think I remember that; if not, it was a high-quality hallucination.

I vaguely remember hearing the announcer tell us that the run course had been changed so that we wouldn't be running in the mud. It would be the full 13.1 miles, but we would do the same paved loop twice. Sounded good at the time, but it didn't occur to me that THEY WERE GOING TO MAKE US RUN UP BEACH HILL TWICE???

Much to my surprise, the swim went well for me. The way out was a bit rough, with enough chop to stop my stroke short a few times, but I felt like I stayed on course pretty well. It may be the best "goggles" race I've ever had: no fog, no leaking and a clear view of where I was going the whole time. Despite having cut way back on swim training, my time was a minute faster than in 2002.

T1 was an exercise in massive indecision. I had carefully packed my gear in a waterproof bag in the order I would need to take things out, with options for no rain, light rain and heavy rain. First out was the towel. Towel? What's the point? It was still raining lightly, so drying off was futile. O.k., sit on the towel. Stare at the bag. Rain jacket? Vest? Arm warmers? Ear warmers? Too many choices. Brain lock. Snapping back to reality, I decided to go with the arm warmers and forget the rest. In one
last fit of decisiveness, I grabbed my sunglasses and hung them around my neck (where they stayed for the entire bike leg).

During the bike leg, it rained off and on, with a couple strong downpours but mostly fine drizzle. There were also sections with strong winds. And it seemed like I was never out of sight of someone changing a flat. Boy, I felt lucky that I didn't have to do that.

I had a carefully scripted plan for eating and drinking on the bike. Too bad I didn't follow it. I had intended to eat at three intervals on the bike, pretty much every 15 miles. The first time went fine. The second time, I was heading into a strong wind and didn't want to sit up. When I finally got a break from the wind, I was getting close to Nasty grade, and didn't want to eat too much before the climb. I ate a little more after that, but my stomach was starting to be disagreeable and I didn't want to push it. I ended up eating about half of what I planned.

Speeding down the grade towards the turn back into the lake, my front tire started feeling a little soft. Hoping that I was imagining it, I kept pushing. About 200yds from the turn, thump thump, thump . . . I had joined the ranks of the flatted. With only a few miles left, I was sitting on the side of the road, changing a tire as riders whizzed past. Having just changed one the night before, I think I got through it pretty quickly, but I felt personally deflated at having lost time on what I thought, up to that point, was a decent bike effort.

I arrived back at the transition area, ready for the run. I felt a lot better at this point than I had in 2002, and started out at a reasonable pace. I as I made my way through the beach area, it suddenly occurred to me: the only way to get out without going over muddy trails was up Beach Hill. THEY'RE MAKING US RUN UP BEACH HILL TWICE???

I survived the run. In 2002, I _barely_ survived the run. This time, I was more prepared for the hills, but my lack of food on the bike hit hard. I gulped a gel during the first loop, and sipped water, but my stomach was complaining loudly and painfully. By the second loop, I was out of gas but unable to eat anything. I finally hit the finish line, and I think I bonked as I crossed. I grabbed some water and some fruit, and sat down on the ground. It wasn't really by choice; at that point, standing up was not an option.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. The stormy weather added to the epic sense of the event, and my overall time was 7 minutes faster than my 2002 time, even with time lost changing a flat. Less swim training and more bike time really helped. Although my bike time was actually worse than 2002, my swim, transition and run times were all better, and the bike time might have been better w/o the flat.

Thanks to the Tri-California team and the officials. I'm sure it was an extremely difficult day for organizers and officials, and it was handled well and with good spirits. It was a great event under difficult weather, and everyone did a fine job making it work.


Art Courville
6:16:07 total, 30:22 swim, 3:27:26 bike, 2:09:12 run, 9:07 transitions