Let It Go!
(This race took place a full week ago, Saturday Mar 22. I was waiting for the Pine Hill Arms Website to upload the photos before posting my account. Unfortunately, almost all the pictures are stored on a PhotoReflect site in thumbnail form, encouraging us to purchase them as souvenirs. That’s a shame; having already spent $50 on the admission fee, I’d prefer it if the Pine Hill Arms could do what it’s done in previous years, and just post a bunch of photos on its regular web site. Fortunately Belleayre Mountain has posted its own photos, and I’ve used some of those here. )
Last year, I competed in the Pine Hill Arms ski-bike-run Triathlon at Belleayre Mountain despite a nasty leg injury picked up a month earlier on the ski slopes. End result? I had a real nasty time of it, and had to then take the next two months off all sports completely, embarking instead on a perilous path of X-rays/MRIs, proposed surgery and eventual therapy that brought me down emotionally as well as physically. This year I opted to compete again, but with a totally different attitude: Enjoy it first, worry about it later. Training on the bicycle on the local hills in late winter weather was still a bitch: there’s no other way to describe it, and there’s no way to prepare yourself for the race course’s nasty series of hills other than to get out there and do them. But the skiing and running promised some “fun.” And fun, indeed, was had. Despite…
1) Standing on top of Belleayre Mountain for thirty minutes, waiting for the race to start, in windy sub-freezing weather, wearing only Underarmor, a thin track top and running gloves. Hey, at least it was sunny. Let it go!
2) The skier next to me wearing cross-country skis that I swear were no more than two inches wide. How he got down the hill in them I don’t know, and couldn’t see: he shot off across the Belleayre ridge like a bullet, and I never saw him again. Let him go!
3) The casual weekend skiers who somehow found themselves on the race course despite Belleayre’s token effort to shut off access points to the route. It’s one thing going 30mph down a super-fast packed powder “blue” run with a bunch of other suicide skiers; it’s another thing entirely to be watching out for five year olds cruising casually back and forth across the course. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a video game, except that if I hit someone here they’d get hurt for real. But hey, no one did get hit. Let it go!
4) Having no one to help me crew, and taking a solid minute to switch from ski boots to running shoes. Some veterans with help from family assistants can do it in fifteen seconds. But it’s not like I’ll catch those people anyway. Let them go!
5) My bike gears slipping out of alignment just before the peak of the first savage hill, at the very moment I thought I had it beat. As I desaddle (is that a word?) and run my bike up to the crest of the hill, I’m disappointed that I’d trained so hard to ride these hills and now my equipment has let me down. But I don’t seem to be the only one running or walking my bike so just walk and run a little faster and …. Let it go!
6) My chain coming off entirely near the peak of the next hill. I take solace in the fact I’ve already passed another cyclist who had his bike upside down, desperately trying to reattach his own chain, and the fact that, all around me, I hear non-expert cyclists, mainly on mountain bikes or, like me, a hybrid, complaining of exactly the same problem. None of us really know how to bike this hard on our less-than-ideal equipment. Let it go!
7) Forgetting to take off my track suit top when I turn my bike in, losing more valuable seconds as I run back and throw it at a volunteer. And having to stop and do up my shoe lace just half a mile into the run. Valuable seconds lost if I thought I was going for anything more than beating last year’s time. But when I overtake another male runner tying up his own shoelaces two minutes later, I realize, “So this happens to the best of us.” He can just… let me go.
8) The steep uphill in the midst of the running leg (introduced for the first time last year), which seems like cruelty piled on top of cruelty. Every part of this triathlon course is graded (i.e., not flat) to begin with: whose idea was it to send us up a quarter-mile perilously steep hill people can’t even walk at a decent pace? (Answer? Someone who doesn’t compete!) Ah, what the hell, just walk it at less than a decent pace. That’s what everyone else is doing. After this you’re almost there so… Let it go.
9) Getting a stitch on the last mile of running. Normally I could run a couple of hours without thinking much about it. But this has been solid down and uphill running, on the back of stomach-crunching up-and-down-hill bike riding, preceded by crouched-position downhill speed skiing. Nothing I can do about it; I just won’t be able to push on the last few hundred years. So breathe in deep and … Let it go.
10) Taking the last turn, off the last downhill on Route 28, up into Pine Hill and the finish line, looking around and seeing the other guy with the shoelace problem a good thirty yards behind me. Knowing I can’t catch the runner ahead of me, I let myself cruise towards the finish line. With only twenty yards to go, the guy who was behind me suddenly shoots past me go. I try and catch him but he’s got the momentum; he beats me by three seconds. More power to him; he found the spurt where I couldn’t. I’ll shake his hand as soon as I find him after the finish. But for now, best just… Let him go.
And when all is said and done and I look at my watch, it turns out I’ve gained five minutes on last year’s time. Half of that gain is attributable to the faster ski conditions. The other half appears to have come on the run. Last year I was in absolute agony when I got off the borrowed (former pro rider’s) road bike from all the thigh-crunching low gear work. This year, my cheap bike actually made pedaling uphill less painful, and sent me off in to the running section a lot looser – and, it would seem, faster. My zen approach has paid off. I’ve even learned from last year’s confusion about where to park, what bags to pack and where to leave them. I use one of the changing rooms at the Pine Hill Arms Hotel, to take a shower and change into warm clothes, and when I get back downstairs, the bus back to Belleayre is about to leave. My equipment has been safely stored at the lodge and I’m back in my car and heading to a kids birthday party in Woodstock barely an hour after finishing the race. I’ll be sore for a solid week to come: in fact, three days after the race, I take one of the slowest jogs I’ve ever engaged in as I attempt to loosen back out my leaden thighs. And the new Onteora Runners Grand Prix starts in just a few days. But I finished in the top half of the field once more, as much as I can hope for until I become a stronger cyclist, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. So, embrace the post-race high and as for all the sore muscles… Let it go!