Wednesday, May 9, 2018

We tried a tri

After months of preparation the day came for our triathlon. We drove to Farmington, NM on Friday night, had some Chick-fil-a with the Barnes crew, and went to bed as early as we could. Saturday we drove the 45 minutes onto the reservation to Shiprock for the triathlon.
I should have known that this triathlon might turn out crazy. I mean, it was on the res after all. Shiprock is not the prettiest place in New Mexico. And I heard from Julie that there were only 30 racers. What? That is totally weird for a triathlon. But, I figured it might be nice not to be so crowded in the swim. I had previously emailed the race organizer and asked him three very specific, numbered questions. He only answered one of them. He didn't even answer the question about what time my race started! These were just the beginning signs of pending trouble.

We got to the race site around 7:30 since we thought the Olympic wave started at 8:00. The race coordinator (RC) explained the bike portion - that it would be an out-and-back along the highway and that "there should be someone there to let you know when to turn around." Should???  Another red flag. Then as he described the run course, he said it was a loop around the school, on a running path. There would be an aide station at halfway. His directions were marvelously vague. Again, I was worried. I even asked if people would be there to point us in the right direction. Remember, there would only be 30 of us running this race, and some were doing the Olympic distance, and some would be at least 10 minutes behind the first group because of different heats in the pool swim. He assured me it would be clear. I was still nervous. 

One of the benefits of this tri was that it was in a pool. Open water is a totally different beast, so it was nice to start the season with something easy. The drawback was that there could only be about 12 swimmers in the pool at a time. And the Olympic racers all had to finish before the sprint group could start. That meant that we all sat around for 15 minutes and waited for one remarkably slow and admirable swimmer to finish her heat. This wouldn't have bothered me regularly, but I needed to start my race by 9:00 in order to be done by that I could watch my girls race! The RC insisted that he had to start the kids race by 10:30 because he had to be out of the pool by 11:00. Why he thought it would take the kids 30 minutes to swim 2 laps, I don't know. Needless to say, I was ready to jump in the pool by the time the last Olympic swimmer hopped out. 
I think our swim started about 9:15. Julie and I claimed the spots closest to the door. The swim went well...Julie finished second in our heat, and I finished fourth.

I'm so glad Julie's mom was there to take pictures!
I made the decision to not add any clothing layers - to tough it out in my wet tri suit. It was windy and kind of chilly, but I figured what the heck. Oh man. That bike ride. It was SOOO windy, and mostly uphill on the way out. I didn't have my phone with me telling me distance and speed like I usually do, so I had no idea how much farther I had til the turn around. I kept hoping to see bikers coming down the hill toward me, but I was 4th in the group, so there were only 3 ahead of me! I was relieved when I finally saw a guy going in the opposite direction. And then I saw Julie! And there WAS a person there telling us where to turn around. After the turn, the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. Now that I wasn't heading into the wind, it was a quiet spring morning. I felt like I flew for the next 6 miles. Seriously, I braked a lot because I felt too fast. Plus that tailwind sometimes felt like it could push me over!

At last a made it back to the school, where the RC said, "Unless you're a really fast runner you're gonna miss your kids swimming." Uh, thanks dude! If this were all organized differently, that wouldn't be a problem! I got to transition as Julie was running out. I changed shoes fast and hit the road. 

That's when trouble really started. After about a quarter mile, I saw Julie and another girl turn off the road. I didn't see a trail marking that, yet they did say that we were supposed to turn at the entrance of a community college. I called to Julie, I caught up to her, and we tried to figure out where to go. There was no one else in sight by now, so we just kept running on the college entrance road. When we came across a locked fence that we had to crawl through, we figured we had gone the wrong way! We hopped on the running trail at that point, and started making our way around the school, thinking we would be home free. But then the trail forked. There was no sign. No indication of where to go. We saw another runner running around aimlessly as well. We just kept moving. Finally we saw an aide station. But it was off the running path and on a dirt road. We got water and asked the lady where to go. She told us we were supposed to follow the road back the way we came. I was confused. I thought we were supposed to run around the school? But she said to go back, so we did. At this point we had seen numerous runners very confused. We figured we had run 1.5 miles according to my watch, so we turned around, after following some spray painted arrows on the ground. We ran into another runner who joined us on our run back. We kind of didn't know what to do...we were afraid that since we didn't think we had run enough distance it wouldn't be fair going back, but everyone was lost. So we crossed the finish line, having run 2.8 miles. Not very satisfactory. And our time was slow because we had stopped to figure out the trail so often. 

We immediately ran over to where we could see Anna, Hattie, Edward, and Nolan riding bikes. They had to do 4 laps of the parking lot. There were ZERO race officials over there. Come to find out later, Hattie was in the lead, mistakenly did only 2 laps and headed back to transition for the run, and then someone told her she had to do 2 more laps. So by the time she got back out the course, she had lost her lead. They ran 2 quick laps and crossed the finish line, again, with no one watching from the race officials. 

I told Hattie to count it as a win! haha! They still enjoyed themselves, even though it was chaotic and I couldn't watch the swimming. 

I still can't believe he couldn't wait 15 minutes for us to finish the run.

It was, to say the least, all very strange for a triathlon. I enjoyed it, despite the chaos. We left as quickly as we could, not waiting other racers to finish and to see race times posted. Because what did it matter? We all ran a different course! So who knew who actually ran 3.1 miles? One of the racers and I were talking about how crazy it was out there and the RC came over and asked about the course. I was honest and said it was a mess - that the trail forked with no one to tell us where to go, that the aid station was off the running trail, and that she pointed us back the way we had come. To this he said, "What? She wasn't on the running trail? I can't believe she was in the wrong spot. Well, as race coordinator, I can't control everything." I kind of just stared at him because that is literally his job! The least he can do is make sure we know where to go! We shouldn't have to memorize the course! As I left I heard other racers complaining and chewing him out. I felt bad for him. He wants to grow this triathlon, but he's got to up his organization first.
After a few days, I still didn't see the race results on the website. So Julie emailed him to ask about it. No surprise there: the wind blew the laptop off the table and lost all the race data! So we have no idea how we did! It was the icing on the cake, making our Shiprock triathlon even more memorable.
Julie and I signed up for another tri, June 2nd. I'm glad to have an excuse to keep training with her. Julie has been the funnest part of this whole thing. I've never had a training partner like her before and it makes all the difference. I look forward to our workouts...the time to talk and the hard work! I think she's the reason I'll miss Albuquerque the most. Good friends are hard to come by.


Julie Barnes said...

I love the last picture!! You are seriously the BEST training partner EVER! I will miss you so much! I can not wait to do our next triathlon. I am actually nervous to swim in the open water!

Stephen, Britney, Ellie, Lila, Andrew, & Marcus said...

Oh my goodness Melanie, Steve and I laughed so hard reading this. My family does the Spud Man as a team before so we know how tris should work and we felt for ya! And way to go to train to do one by yourself--you rock! :) Britney