In between eating tacos, body surfing, and strolling up and down palm-lined beaches, I did a race. It did not go well. After one margarita, I didn’t care.
Adelaide and I never had a honeymoon last winter, and the trip to Mexico we had planned for last fall was cancelled when Adelaide was hit. So last week’s race down in Los Cabos had purposes other than just being a race. But going back to that first paragraph, I actually did care when my race went to shit.
The swim was rough. Once again, I found myself alone for 99.9% of the time. A beach start meant we got to run and dive, which I’d been practicing for two days before the race and was eager to find out if my goggles would stay on my head for once. 82 degree water meant that no wetsuits were allowed, which, combined with wavy conditions, was a major disadvantage for the less skilled swimmers such as myself.
Within five seconds of entering the water, someone smartly used my face to propel themselves forward. I attempted retaliation by swimming on top of their back, but only managed to push him forward and myself backwards. A few moments later I was on my own, scanning left and right hoping to find a fellow straggler to follow. I spent the next half hour chocking on salt water and wondering where I was supposed to go, since one of the paddle borders freaked me out by frantically signaling to go right when I was pretty sure I was supposed to stay straight, which I was. Throughout it all I did take time to appreciate the fact that out of 2,000 people racing, I was most likely the only person lucky enough to get to swim all alone. There’s no fighting for position when you’re in a race of your own.
I passed over some colorful tropical fish as I approached the beach 35 minutes later. I by through the crowd at the start line and heard the announcer exclaim that the first age grouper was out of the water.
Nope. That’s just me. 10 minutes down already. But thanks.
I stumbled through the transition area to my bike and tried to collect my thoughts and breath. All the men’s bikes were gone and half of the women’s too. But I had heart left, hoping beyond hope that the previous two and a half weeks of no training would give me good legs for the ride and run. To combat the fatigue from a long season packed full of external stressors, not to mention my god damn piece of shit nonfunctional thyroid, I’d opted to simply not train between Silverman and Los Cabos. After Silverman I’d briefly attempted to ride and wasn’t able go any harder than recovery pace.
15 minutes in to the bike I realized that all that rest wasn’t the magical cure I’d yearned it to be. I failed to pass the lead woman, and by mile 40 I’d been re-passed by the 2nd place woman (remember, both had started out five minutes behind my group). Not only had I simply not been able to put out the power in the first hour, but now my back and glutes were cramping up so badly that I couldn’t pedal in the aero bars. So I just coasted the downhills and soft pedaled in the bull horns on the flats and climbs. Soon they were so cramped that I couldn’t even coast in the aero bars anymore. By that point it was mostly downhill to the finish.
Despite my complete lack of ability to pedal hard, I did enjoy the scenery. The course went out along the coast for about 30 miles of palm trees and short rollers, then it climbed up towards the cactus and tall green brush of Baja Sur’s mountains. I hoped that Adelaide was having a good race.
I gave up almost immediately during the run. I didn’t have it in me physically, and at that point I was well over half an hour behind the leaders. A few miles into it I became incredibly depressed, wondering if I’d ever be fast again. Or be able to train. I thought that taking almost three weeks off (aside from swimming, which I’d still been doing) would allow my hormones to balance. But nothing of the sort had occurred and here I was, jacked up on caffeine, sugar, and race adrenaline and still unable to ride over 250 watts or run below eight minute pace. All those feelings of panic, self-loathing, and hopelessness came rushing on as I crossed over a long bridge. I looked down and saw that it wasn’t nearly high enough to do the job, so I continued my slow, lonely jog/walk, unable to imagine ever being happy again if my thyroid wouldn’t return to normal.
I trotted that first lap at 11 minute pace, walking at times, stopping to shit in the porta potty, and even taking the time to wipe. The only thing that kept me from packing it in after the first lap was the realization that I was going to have to wait for about nine hours before Adelaide finished since she was doing the full and had also started an hour and a half behind me. I had some time to kill. So I started that second lap, now mixed in with age groupers for company, which was nice…to see other people suffering and going even slower than me. Misery loves company, because the human condition is an evil, fucked up thing.
I trotted along, walking through the aid stations to eat as many peanuts and drink as much coke as I could stomach, not necessarily because I needed it, but because it was free. After five hours and twenty two minutes I finally crossed the finish line. I was an IRONMAN©! But not really because it was only a half. A trivial detail.
I was in decent spirits during that second lap and had gotten over my depression, rationalizing that it might take longer than six weeks for my thyroid meds to return me to normal. But once I saw Adelaide half an hour later my heart sunk again. She was supposed to be out on the bike. If anyone was going to have a good race here it was her, since her training had for once gone perfectly leading up to the race. But her lazy fuck up of a bike mechanic (me) hadn’t taken the time to make sure her bike was in working order.
Instead of pre-riding the course, unpacking and dialing in the bikes after our flight, and doing all that important stuff the days leading up to the race, we’d spent our time swimming in the waves and having fun on the beach. During the race, her front brake had clamped down on her wheel due to damaged brake cable housing. She’d stopped to adjust it five times on the first lap 56 mile lap but couldn’t get it to unclamp. It would have taken a multi tool to get to her front brake, which she didn’t have. Thanks aero brake cover fairing! That’s progress!
Usually when people say their wheel was rubbing it’s just an excuse for bad legs, but when I tried to spin her wheel with my hand I could barely make it budge. We quickly righted all the wrongs of the day by downing a pair of large margaritas. Then we decided that the only reasonable thing to do next was to get back to our hotel and take the bus to the beach for a second, and possibly, third and fourth round.
I’ve done a lot of traveling over the years for races, but none of it was for vacation. And a lot of it has been to places like Arkansas and Minnesota–not bad places by any means but also not vacation destinations. All of my travel has been for races, and I always come back home way more worn out than when I left, which, from what I gather, is not how vacations are supposed to work. Although this trip did involve a race and a lot of stress the day before during all the equipment drop offs, this trip had a different vibe to it.
I’ve always wondered what people do on vacation. It weirds me out seeing everyone else at the airport without bike bags. What will they do when they get where they’re headed? Do they rent bikes at their destination? Do they go on runs or something? How is it that all of these people are runners? Or are they going on long backpack trips? How will they exercise? This incredibly bizarre thought process has followed me into my movie-watching mind as well. During a romantic comedy I’ll wonder how any of the characters can possibly train with all the relationship stress that’s going on. “I wouldn’t be able to do it, Adelaide! These people’s lives are horrible. How can they ride hard with all this crazy drama?!” Adelaide tells me to be quiet a lot.
Well, after last week I came to a realization. It turns out that, on vacation at least, you can kill the day just fine without even thinking about training.