The date was June 13 2004. I’ll never forget this day, as it was my first half Iron distance race. The race was called the Colorado Triathlon. It is now thankfully defunct.
I was about 30 pounds overweight, or as I like to think of myself, right in the prime of the Clydesdale group. I was big-boned in an endurance athlete sort of way. I was packing plenty of self-nutrition. I had my own built in floatation device…my stomach.
I should have known I was heading for trouble earlier in the year. It was just a few weeks before the big race, and I was doing a practice swim in the soon-to-be race lake, when a suspicious object floated by my face.
Normally I don’t notice these things but I was a bit edgy as I was swimming in new place with questionable water quality. This object looked vaguely familiar. It was round, long and dark brown. It reminded me of something but my mind didn’t want to place it. My mind steadfastly refused to identify this mysterious object.
“Could it be a Snickers,” I thought to myself as my brain flashed back to that famous seen in Caddy Shack?
It wasn’t until I looked up and saw that I was swimming by the doggy beach that I final put two and two together.
By the way, what kind of deranged dog poops in the water anyway? And how the heck does it cover up the dirty deed? Does it drop the S bomb in the water and start kicking furiously at the water with its hind legs trying to bury the floater?
And what kind of dog owner just stands around and watches his or her dog squat in the water with its back legs trembling as it squeezes out one Snickers after another? A big old, “Thanks” to who ever you are, for now I have that image forever burned into my brain.
I should have taken this incident as a sign from God, for you know God is just Dog spelled backwards. He was telling me to drop out of the race.
Or perhaps I should have dropped out when I learned that the bike course was changed at the last minute. What started out as a pretty reasonable course was shortened to a 10-mile loop that went over the same huge hill…6 times.
I rode up the hill for 5 miles and down the other side, turned around and did it all over again in the opposite direction. By the third time I had gone up that hill the temperature was well above 90.
My spare tire floatation device was now officially an anchor, and I was already dehydrated just half way into the bike portion of the race. So by the time I rode up that hill three more times, I suspect that I was not thinking straight.
In fact I know I was not thinking straight for I remember dumping out all of my Gatorade before the run, as I actually thought it was too heavy and it might slow me down.
I’m not sure to what extent the race organizers really though through the run course, but they did manage to create an entire half marathon course without a speck of shade. Perhaps they thought it would be good training for Kona, or perhaps they thought that Colorado in June is a dry type of heat so the racers would really enjoy it.
All I remember is that somehow I got it into my head that if I drank two cups of water every mile, and these were the two ounce Dixie cups the dentist gives you to rinse, I would be fine as frog legs.
You see, I thought that I needed TWO cups and not one since it was so hot. Somehow I neglected to consider that two cups was still only about 4 ounces. What seemed to really matter to me was that I was doubling my water intake every mile.
And yes; now I understand that two times zero is still pretty much zero. I kept up this strict hydration regime for the first 6 miles. By mile 7 I was not feeling so well. In fact I was starting to get tunnel vision.
For those of you who have never experience tunnel vision, you’re missing out on a real treat. It’s just like going to an amusement park except you don’t have to wait for the ride. The very ground beneath your feet starts to buck and sway. You move this way and that, the ground swells up like and ocean waves. In fact you sort of feel like a very nauseous whirling Julia Andrews or, Marie for all you fans, in the opening scenes from the sound of music.
Except in my case the hills were only alive with the sound of about a million bees. It seems that the dirt road, or was it a race course, it was hard to recall, had taken me into the Bee family reunion. And boy was this a big Bee family.
Thousands of Bees buzzed all around me as I swayed with the music. What’s worse, I was the only one on the course as I had been passed by most of the other racers a long time ago.
Somehow I managed to make it through the Bees and found a solitary tree. I sat down under it on the lonely dirt road and contemplated my next more. I was three miles from the finish line and about 7 hours into the race at this point. I vaguely recall seeing a medic as he drove by and asked me if I was all right.
The next thing I remember was being in the ambulance with a saline drip in my arm. The world had stopped dancing, and somebody had turned up the air to max. I felt hot and cold at the same time.
My race was over and I had my first DNF ever. I should have heeded his warning for Dog is my co-pilot. Or is it the other way around?
Roman Mica is a amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in Boulder, Colorado and is the managing editor of everymantri.com and the National Endurance Sports Examiner.