Just under a month ago, I proposed a thought experiment which actually included very little thought at all: What if The Hammer and I duked it out in a Half-Ironman? With our respective strengths and weaknesses — although I think it would be folly to suggest that either of us has any weaknesses — will The Hammer win? Or will I?
I believe it is time for me to update you on our training progress, so you can update, recalibrate, ameliorate and otherwise tweak your expectations.
A couple weekends ago, The Hammer and I visited St. George to scout out the Half-Ironman course. You know, swim where we’ll be swimming. Ride the ride. Run the run.
Wear the outfits.
As we often do, we stayed at Kenny’s and Heather’s house in St. George, which meant that we’d have good guides for our mountain bike rides (hey, we weren’t going to just be tri-dorks for the weekend), along with good company between rides, runs and swims. Oh, and we’d have a free place to stay, but that’s neither here nor there.
During dinner one of the evenings, the subject of whether The Hammer and I were really racing each other came up. “Sorta kinda but not really but also yes a little,” I replied, helpfully.
Then I added by way of clarification, “It’s not really that we’re racing against each other. During the race itself, I’m not going to be thinking about beating Lisa; I’m just going to be focusing on being as fast as I can.”
“That said,” I said, “this really is an interesting race for us. Lisa thinks I’ll win because I’m fast on the bike — faster than I’ve ever been, in fact. I on the other hand think she’ll win because she’s been training on the swim (while I have been swimming only a couple times since we signed up) and is fast on the run — faster than she’s ever been, in fact.”
“Here’s what I think,” Kenny mused. “The fact that Lisa starts the race six minutes before Elden should be thrown out. All that does is give Elden a carrot, plus the bike portion — Elden’s strong suit — of the event is longer than any other part. So the question shouldn’t be which of you has a faster chip time, but which of you will cross the finish line first in real time.”
“That’s a good point,” I agreed. And it’s really true. Having The Hammer six minutes ahead of me from the start of the race really will give me a psychological boost — the carrot effect will be in full force.
“So if you go by which of you crosses the finish line first, in real time, I’m going with Lisa, concluded Kenny. “Once she gets close to Elden on the run, he’ll sag and slow way down. She’ll pass him and finish a few minutes ahead.”
And I should point out that Kenny has a preternatural ability to look someone over and predict their finish time and place for a given race.
Panic at the Reservoir
One of our objectives during the St. George trip was to familiarize ourselves with everything, including doing a swim at the reservoir. But as we paid our fee to get into the Sand Point Reservoir and saw “Water temp: 55″ written on a whiteboard, I had serious reservations. Because that’s cold water.
“We’ve got to be ready for it,” The Hammer said. “Get that uncertainty out of our systems.”
So we pulled on our wetsuits and climbed — barefoot — down a slope of volcanic rock to the swimming area of the reservoir.
This is probably a good place to mention that I have unusually sensitive feet (or maybe I’m just a big baby) and so I never go anywhere barefoot. Even walking around my own house, I always wear shoes. As a cyclical result, I have very few calluses on my feet . . . which means that they remain unusually sensitive.
And in short, walking down a slope of sharp rocks was neither fun nor fast for me, and I was grateful to step into the water.
Until, that is, I actually stepped into the water. Because at that moment I discovered that 55 degrees is actually colder than freezing.
I gasped and began breathing shallowly. Rapidly. Unhappily.
Meanwhile, The Hammer had waded in up to her waist level. Slowly, steadily.
“Oh, let’s just get this over with,” I said, figuring it would be better to just dive in — kind of like it’s better to just rip a bandaid off.
Diving in was not better.
“Goarrgh!” I said as I came up, by which I meant, “COLD!“
And then I commenced to panic. Not just feel anxiety and discomfort. Real, honest-to-goodness, out-of-control thrashing wide-eyed panic.
I managed to half-swim, half-dog-paddle to an outcropping of rocks, then drag myself up onto it. I intended to never get back in the water.
“I don’t think I can do this,” I told The Hammer.
“You just need to work your way into the water slowly,” she replied. “It was a shock diving in and hitting that cold all at once.”
“I said I’m not going back in,” I screeched, shrilly.
“Just wade in. S-l-o-w-l-y,” she said, slowly.
“I AM NOT GOING BACK IN,” I reiterated, in the verbal equivalent of bold and caps and italics and with numerous exclamation points at the end.
But of course, I did go back in. Slowly, just as The Hammer suggested (of course). And I was fine (of course).
But still, it was . . . interesting . . . to have my first experience with true uncontrollable panic. And to know that within a few weeks, I’d be back in the same water, but starting with more nervousness because I’d be about to race.
I should just poop in my wetsuit now and get it over with.
PS: In the next installment of my analysis of my training for the upcoming (May 4 for crying out loud!) St. George Half Ironman, I shall talk about the ride, the run, and a number of things that are making my training much better. I may also show a picture of me in a one-piece Tri suit. I apologize in advance.