I did two races this weekend: a 10K and a sprint triathlon. This report is about the tri. My friend John covers the 10K admirably, over here.

I used to write race reports with some regularity, but I’m reasonably sure I haven’t ever done one for a triathlon. Then again, my memory is failing me, so who knows?

Anyway, the San Dimas Turkey Tri is the first triathlon I have ever done in my home vicinity. That is to say, in the 13 years I lived here prior to my leaving for New York, and in the year since I have been back, I have never done a triathlon in southern California. So I was excited. And, I was excited because my friend Chels, who is a friend from my MFA program and has done the Whidbey Island Triathlon with me for the past two years, was also participating in this race. Plus, added bonus: Jim signed up for it too! So we had a nice little team. Chels’ husband Tyler came to watch and help us shlep stuff from race finish to the car afterward. Very nice.


When we woke up on race morning, it was 42 degrees. Brrrr. Like, super-Brrrr, if you live in SoCal and your blood has suddenly become irretrievably thin. Even more Brrrr if you consider having to get into 62-degree water. Fortunately, we had wet suits. Yes. Good.

We had a relatively easy morning, having arranged most of our stuff the night before, and we stuffed our faces and then piled everyone into the car, cranked up the heat, and drove the 8 minutes to San Dimas.

On the way out of the car the strap to my triathlon pack broke. That would have been okay, if the other one hadn’t already been broken. Sigh. I made the 25-foot walk to TA with no problem, set up my area, reversed the set up, decided my bike would be better facing the other direction, and reversed the setup again. Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve raced. Shut up.

Then I decided I was getting cold, so I struggled into my wet suit. Picture a leopard seal humping its way across the beach. That’s about right. There was some pinching around my thighs, so I looked down and realized that my shorts had gone with the neoprene and rolled themselves up into little sausages around my legs, so I jammed my hands down into my wet suit and struggled some more until the pinching had stopped and I did not look like I was wearing gigantic Cheerios around each leg.

Then I realized I had to pee.

By the time I was done struggling out of and into the bottom half of my wetsuit, it was almost time for race start. Chels and I went down to the water, where we donned our piggy-pink cheapest-of-the-cheap swim caps, spat into our goggles, and went into the water to “acclimate.”

People. There is no such thing as acclimating to 60-degree water, not even in a wetsuit. You just get in, hope your brain doesn’t freeze solid from the water rushing around it, wonder what will happen when the 60-degree water that is leaking into your ears reaches your brain (ice-cream headache, HELLO!), and then hope for the best.

The lake was dappled in light that morning; that is to say, big, big dapples. So big that, swimming into a dark patch, I worried I had lost sight of all reality and had plunged into a wormhole. Unfortunately, none of the wormholes skipped to the end of the swim portion, which, you know, would have been nice. Clearly, some of the wormholes caused me to lose time, because I posted a dismal 22.5-minute swim. It was unbelievably slow, and really quite painful, if only because it would. not. end. The ice-cream headache was all over and I had stopped feeling my fingers and toes.

I met up with Chels at the transition area, which gave me lots of heartened joy. It was nice to see her, just to commiserate over the swim and wish each other luck for the rest of the race.

Have you ever tried to put on armwarmers, gloves, or socks while you’re entirely wet and covered in gravel and pond muck? Yeah, I wouldn’t make it a sport. I was out of the transition area in five minutes after forgoing armwarmers and gloves, because I just could not get them on, and also, I had already struggled enough with my socks. I couldn’t feel my extremities, anyway, so the whole thing was just an exercise in existential pointlessness.

The bike course at Bonelli Park is gorgeous. You go past a cable airport and a speedway; you go around the lake; you are marveling at the sight of the snow-covered San Gabriel mountains the whole way. If you are lucky, like I was, you might see a bird of prey playing in the thermals, looking for something (triathlete carcasses?) to nosh on. You go over a dam and up a couple of slight hills, and then you do it again, for a sweet 14 miles total, and somewhere amidst all the joy of being on a bike, you remember that you should probably eat and drink something, so you flex your fingers, which have gained some feeling back, dig into your snack bag, and open a packet of something with your teeth, choke it down, and then spend the next half a mile wobbling across the lane as you stuff the empty packet up the leg of your bike shorts, where it pinches, so you move it to the back of your bike shorts, where it start to slide down your rear end, so then you finally give up and stuff it back into your snack bag, where it is, even now, still festering.

Somewhere along the way your toes freeze.

I made the turn to finish the course and headed pell-mell towards the transition, where a woman holding a coffee cup was blithely crossing the lane, even as she was getting screamed at by volunteers to get the f*** out of the way of the rabid oncoming cyclist. I really wish I’d have had the opportunity to just graze her, but my arms were still a little wobbly and I didn’t think I could be trusted to just give her a little bump.

I was out of the TA in a nice two and a half minutes, and went out on the run course. This is a really beautiful course, through the park and past many, many flush toilets, which were so tempting that I just had to stop and pee. (I drank a lot of water in the lake.) At about two miles in, my right foot unfroze to the point where I realized there was a rock in my shoe, so I had to stop, only to realize that there was a rock in my sock. So there was that.

Volunteers, you guys, make any race. It makes SUCH a difference to hear people cheering for you. It makes an even bigger difference if the volunteers have COWBELLS. These kids were from Key Clubs in the area; and from Mt. SAC as well, where my friend John (he of the race report mentioned above) directs the creative writing program. They were fantastic, indefatigable people.

Between the volunteers and seeing Jim and Chels on the course, it was a really nice race. I’ll do another one there, anytime, and with this particular race outfit, too.

One thing I will not do again: shlep the mile back to the car after the race, lugging my bag like an unrewarding papoose.







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