Lake Del Valle Aqua Challenge

July 22, 2006

This was a cooker! Temperature over 100F, and the water was about 82-83F. I'd been training with Rick Ferrell all summer and felt fairly ready, although I admit I've been slacking on my bike riding into Nicene and the Pogonip lately, and my aerobic fitness was probably not tip top. I arrived at 8am and decided to park on the ridge top high above the lake and bike the last couple of miles down into the park and the lake. Get a bike workout on the way home and save $6 park entrance fee. Big mistake! But more on that later.

Got set up near the start line, wanted to get a picture of the start of the .5 mile first race... and found I'd forgotten to replace the flash card in my camera. Exact same thing I did last year. So no pictures. Again. The next worry was the heat - it was close to 100F already, and predicted to get to 110F by early afternoon. I got into the water... and it was still too hot! Got off to a decent start, but after the initial buzz, I began to realize that I was just not cool enough. The water had a surface layer that was well over 80F and this layer was a good 12-18" deep, so cooler water underneath was useless. After the first 2/3 mile I was feeling slow because of cooling system failure. I also saw some swimmers cutting the course, and it all put me in a bad mental place. Then I realized that I was early in the first mile, and had a long long ways to go. I was NOT going to quit, since I've never quit any race. And I was not willing to grumble and psych myself into a lousy race I'd always regret. "Get a grip, Nolthenius!". About this time, I was having occassional swimmer bumps; a foot kick here, an arm there, from this guy in a green cap who looked like he might be in my age group. I focused, and started to settle down. Still, this guy managed to pull ahead 10-20 feet every time I got close. This went on for the entire first lap, and on to the second mile lap. Clearly we were well matched. It was good, after a while, to have a companion. After the far bouy 2nd lap, I could turn and try and see what final kick I could muster. I slowly and steadily raised my pace, pulled harder, and gained and passed 3 people. Climbing out of the water, my bad hip was really hurting from the kicking and I staggered across the finish. But it was a good race! I came in at 1:03:55, chopping almost 4 minutes off last year's time. The course was laid out using GPS, so I hope it was a fair comparison. More swimmers this year, I was still able to take 2nd in my age group, beating mr. Green Cap by 5 seconds even with my stagger out of the water. Times on average were slower this year, from listening to the awards presentation. The heat, no doubt. I "pity the poor fools" who used wet suits. They were stripping out and collapsing back into the water as soon as they hit the finish line.

Now the hardest part - getting back to my car. I dunked myself shirt'n all one more time, got on my bike, and started up that long steep mile long 1200 ft. high shade-less climb with temperatures about 105F. It was miserable, and the last 300 feet had me genuinely worried. I was panting uncontrollably. Not my legs, it was my cooling system... shot to heck! I could feel my core temperature not longer under control, and I started to get dizzy. Finally getting to the ridge top and the car, it was messy getting my bike back on the roof rack, and I even saw a couple of cars stop a ways further on and look back. I must'a looked like hell - Once in the car, I looked in the mirror. Cherry red! Not a warm pink, but my face was a deep red! I haven't felt race temperatures like this since Ironman Canada '96. I pulled out my extra water stowed in the car (had been cold when I packed it at dawn), and "aaaagghh!!" it scalded my mouth! But my RAV4 air conditioning worked, and slowly I got myself cooled down on the drive back to Livermore and home.

This global warming thing is not for me.