Sunday, October 5, 2014

The race that never happened

After Worlds, I took some recovery the next day with a hot yoga session and then headed straight to Jasper with Ailsa on the Wednesday for one last cycling trip in the mountains.  We wanted another quick training block consisting of climbing, climbing, and some gnarly climbs.  As soon as we arrived, we ate quickly and then got on our bikes for the 3+ hour ride up to Maligne Lake, and despite it being just 2 days after my race, I felt amazing! The following day was the hardest ride of my life- just under 5 hours and just under 7000 feet of climbing!  Crazy.  We rode all the way up to Marmot, and then all the way up to Edith Cavelle.  The 3rd and final day was a shorter ride (2 hours) up to Miette Hot Springs, which was an incredible ride!! I loved it, other than the fierce winds we had to contend with that day.

A family of mountain goats were just hanging out on the bridge, and scattered when I rode by.  

 That was my last big week, and my 2 week taper began right after that.  We.Were.Ready.

We left for Lake Tahoe on the Wednesday before the race (with a 3:15am wake up call, my earliest one ever), and driving from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe we encountered this:

 Looking pretty ominous

It was crazy - lots of smoke due to an intentionally-set forest fire pretty nearby.  We were a little worried but assumed everything would be fine.  Once we arrived at our townhouse, which was just under a mile from the beach/transition 1, we got settled and unpacked, and picked up some groceries (and wine!).  The travel day was also a rest day so the rest of the evening was spent making dinner and relaxing.

On Thursday we hit up the Ironman expo and registration at Squaw Valley, and immediately noticed the thick layer of smoke that was blanketing everything.  I was surprised that they didn't allude to the smoke and air quality at all in the athlete's meeting, it was kind of like the 'pink elephant' in the room.

Friday was beautiful, though.  It seemed the smoke had cleared up and it was warm and sunny.  On that day we checked out the beach and swim course, and did a little pre-race swim of about 20 minutes.  The water was gorgeous, crystal-clear and pretty chilly when you first got in.  Not bad at all though.  One of the volunteers at check-in warned me that the water was 'so cold' but once I was swimming it was completely fine, probably 17 or 18 degrees.  Cold, schmold! She was from California, after all!  

Ailsa and I took our bikes out for a quick little spin on Friday as well, 20-30 minutes.  One or two of my gears were skipping a bit, which always happens when I switch to the race wheels, but I figured I would just get the mechanics to quickly check it down at the race site the following day.  Normally it's just a quick adjustment and I can do it myself most of the time, but I couldn't get it dialled in perfectly, and I wanted it to be just perfect, given I'd be riding it for 180 km!

During the day on Friday, we brought Ailsa's bike to a bike shop in Tahoe City, as she was having an issue with her brakes.  I really should have brought my bike, which could have gotten fixed up and squared away, but no - I decided to leave it until the next day. Why everything always last minute...

A little pre-race snack/meal on Friday down at Tahoe City's Brewery!  Yam fries and some other good stuff...

On Friday evening, I was reunited with BFF Stephen, whom I hadn't seen in over 3 years!  He drove up from SF to hang out and support crew us.  We had so much fun catching up and it was so great to see him.  

After a pre-race shake-out run on Saturday morning with Ailsa and Stephen (Barry also joined in for the fun but is MIA from the pic for some reason- probably because he took the pic! Geoff had studying to do so he was also MIA)

 Saturday was a gorgeous day, sunny and blue skies, and around 26C and no smoke to be seen anywhere.  The bike drop at T1 and run gear/special needs bags at T2 was to be completed between 10-3 pm.  It's remarkable how disorganized I was that day, it was of gong show proportions.  We drove the mile down the hill in the van with our bikes and run gear/special needs bags, and once parked and getting out of the car, I saw that Ailsa had her swim to bike gear bag as well.  I had a brain fart and didn't think we needed to bring it till the morning, so didn't have it with me.  Ailsa was pretty sure we needed to check it in. We decided to walk down to T1 to double check that we needed to check that bag in.  We did.  Oops.  Also, I figured there would be a tent with bike mechanics down at T1 so I could get them to quickly adjust my gears.  There wasn't.  Okay....

Turns out there was a little bike store just a few blocks away, so the new plan was that Barry drove me quickly back up the hill to our house, I ran in and gathered up my swim/bike gear bag (which of course wasn't packed so I had to quickly organize and pack it), and at the same time, Ailsa and Stephen would bring my bike over to the bike shop for a quick adjustment, and we'd meet them back down there very shortly.  However, the bike shop told them that there was a reason the gears weren't all lining up properly and that was because there was a 9 speed cassette on the wheel and my bike was a 10 speed.  #amateurhour

Rewind a bit here... after Worlds I wanted to switch up my 23 cassette for my old 25 that I took off the race wheels last year, due to the course being so challenging.  I must have grabbed the wrong cassette when I brought it to Element to get it put on (the cassette that I used when last racing my 9 speed road bike in 2012), and unfortunately here we were at 1pm on the day before the race with no options, as this little bike store unfortunately did not have any cassettes I could have used (not really a specialty tri store), and I hadn't brought the 23 cassette on the trip with me.  And there wasn't time to take my bike to that other shop in Tahoe City to get a new cassette, and drive back in time to make the cut off bike drop time.  Should have just manned the f up and kept that 23 on, in hindsight.  Sigh. Oh well.  I was a bit worried but figured I could make it work as it didn't really seem so bad when I was test riding it the day before.

Race morning the alarm clock went off at 4:45am. I had the worst sleep of my life, not being able to fall asleep and getting maybe a couple hours, tops.  We quickly checked outside on the balcony and didn't smell any smoke.  We planned to leave the house at 5:30am, but got a bit behind schedule.  Luckily we were only less than a mile to the race venue.  Down at the transition, the air seemed clear.  The swim was supposed to be a self-seed continuous feed, with the first waves of athletes starting at 6:40 (pro's started at 6:30).  I was planning to start in one of the first 'waves' as I hoped to swim around 55.  Ailsa and I got our transitions all set up, and I had to visit the bike mechanic for some help with my rear tire as I couldn't get a seal on the valve extender to get enough air pumped in.  He got it fixed up and good to go (and while he was working on it I started putting on my wetsuit as time was running out), and once my bike was back in my transition spot, Ailsa and I started to make our way down to the beach just before 6:30.

As we were walking over from transition, a bunch of athletes were walking back toward us.  It didn't cross my mind that there was a problem, I just figured maybe they needed something out of transition.  I heard someone say "race is cancelled" but thought it was a joke.  A few other people mentioned similar things.  Ailsa gave me a hug and said 'Good luck!', as she needed to find a port-a loo quickly, but then I said, 'maybe we should just find out what's going on first'.  I asked the next guy walking towards us what was going on, and he told me they'd just announced the race is cancelled due to hazardous air quality elsewhere on the course.  We were shocked and started walking towards the start line where there was an announcer talking about details of athletes needing to get shuttles back to Squaw Valley and everyone needing to pick up gear bags and get their bikes out of transition.

The atmosphere was so surreal, people were walking around confused, some were upset and crying, others angry.  We found our support crew shortly thereafter and then started getting our bikes out of transition, and there was a huge line to check your bike out of there.  After that we found our van and made our way back up to our house.  I was still wearing my wetsuit when we arrived home.  The mood was sombre, and nobody was really sure what to do.  I passed some time trying to find updates and news on the cancellation.  Soon after that, the smoke indeed rolled into the area where we were and you couldn't even go outside to do anything.  I just wanted to go home that day, but our flights were scheduled for Tuesday from Sacramento and we couldn't change them, so we were stuck there.

It was a bit sad having to go and pick up our run bags and special needs bags, but as you can see from the picture, there is absolutely no way the race could have been held in those conditions.  

We had to pick up our run gear bags later on in the early afternoon down at the finish/T2, which was not a fun experience.  It was kind of depressing, really.  But one thing was for sure - the smoke was thick and it was everywhere.  It was awful.  That was the one thing that sort of validated the cancellation - at least it was obvious that the right decision was made in pulling the plug on the race.  But it didn't make it any less disappointing.  It was a huge let down, having planned the whole year around this race and dedicating so many training hours and resources toward it, and then having it taken away from you while essentially standing on the start line.  It really did suck.  However, that disappointment pales in comparison to the residents in surrounding areas affected by the fires, some having had to evacuate, and not to mention all the wildlife and critters affected, killed, and displaced.  I felt almost selfish, being so crushed over something so trivial as just a race, when some people were in danger of losing their homes.  An update on the King fire says that it is now 95% contained, so it sounds like it is under better control at this time.

 You got that right!!

So what's next?  The WTC provided the athletes some options to register for other races, some of them in the remaining months of 2014, and some of them discounted options for a select number of 2015 races, or an entry into Lake Tahoe 2015 (for $100).  At first, I was really motivated to squeeze in another race in 2014, but the only race that could have been feasible was IM Arizona in November.  They only opened up 50 spots though, and those sold out in about 5 seconds.  Now that a few weeks have passed, my motivation levels have plummeted and I'm totally ok now with being done for the season.

It's time to switch gears  and refocus my energy and motivation for next year, and start making some plans for 2015 races.  I am likely going to use my credit/discount for one of the early-season IM races they offered us.  I wasn't really planning on doing an IM next year, but as it didn't happen this year, I need some redemption.  Also, I am going to start my 2015 season with a 1/2 marathon in Phoenix on Feb. 15 (IMS Arizona Marathon).  I haven't raced a 1/2 marathon since Feb. 2011 so I will be setting a really aggressive goal and will start planning out a training schedule to target that soon.  Also, I may jump into the Fall Classic 10 Miler on Oct. 19, depending on how I feel.  Motivation levels are waxing and waning, so we'll see how it goes over the next 2 weeks.

Training for 2015 starts.... now!


Joel Maley said...

I was pretty choked for you after they cancelled IM Tahoe. All that training and hard work with no oppertunity to let it show.
You should consider doing Ironman Texas in May. As it is the NA Championships there will be 75 slots to the IMWC.

Darin Hunter said...

Can't be too disappointed Lisa, you're right the conditions were absolutely horrible and it would have been a tough call for the race organizers but the right one. After all IM racing is more about the journey, all that training will pay off next year and you don't have to worry about recovering from an IM!

Lisa Ulrich said...

Thanks Joel - IM Texas is definitely a consideration, I've been mulling it over. Was hoping to pick your brain a bit about that race so I will send you an email.

Darin, you're so right! Thanks for the comments.