TandemHearts

Challenge Iceland 2017 Race Report

July 26th, 2017

Where to begin? This race was a huge challenge, it is right there in the name Challenge Iceland! Pre-race I was most concerned about the cold swim, and the run looked a bit hilly on paper. After I did a test swim and ran the hilly part of the run course, I was feeling pretty confident about the race.

Race morning was super windy and cold. The start was delayed because the volunteers were having trouble getting things set up in the gusty wind. Also, things that they had put in place the night before had been toppled by the wind. It was so windy that the organizers changed the swim to be a point to point down wind.

We walked down the road to the new start where a creek flowed from a glacier into the lake and the water was a wonderful 46 degrees.  We had to wade out a bit to get to where the water was deep enough to swim. I positioned myself on the right since that seemed the shortest distance to the finish, but I was towards the back of the 200+ people at the start.

The first half of the swim was fine, and I didn’t really notice the cold. When I got to the first buoy to turn slightly, the waves really kicked up. I tried to time them so I was body surfing. Sometimes I got it wrong and got swamped. The waves were so big, you couldn’t see over the top of them to sight. It was a little nerve wracking, but I just kept going. I am glad wet suits make you more buoyant.

The volunteers at the end of the swim were great. There was a guy standing calf deep in the water to help you cross the rocks. There were two people helping to get you over the roughly 14 inch step up the bank cutout.

Everything for transition had to be placed in color coded bags. I got to my bag and just dumped everything out. I activated my chemical hand warmers and then put on my jersey, arm warmers and jacket. Knee warmers, wool socks, shoes covers and shoes were next. Hand warmers in my hands, hands in dish gloves. That is pure genius! My hands were never cold on the bike!

Grabbed my bike, put on my helmet and glasses, walked past the mounting line and took off. Tailwind out to the main road. Then it was headwinds for the first 12 miles. A few times on the way out, a wind gust blew me a least a foot off my line.

My nose pretty much runs constantly on the bike, and I am a snot rocket queen! It was so windy, I couldn’t always get a hand off the bike to blow. And sometimes when I did blow, it would only get as far as my sleeve. Gross, but I could breathe again. I tried to eat something every fifteen minutes, but I couldn’t always take a hand off the bars to grab it.

When the route turned, I did get the tailwind and I tried to make use of it. I ate a lot through here since I could, and who knew if I would be able to later. I know the wind helped me up the 20% grade. At the bottom of the grade there were volunteers hanging out. I had no idea what they were doing, until I heard the drone flying over my head as I climbed up the steep section. Somewhere my struggle is immortalized on video. More climbing, more wind. I finally made it to the turnaround. Headwind again. I spent a lot of time in my drops since every time I tried to go aero, it just felt too squirrelly. My low back began to ache on the return. I am guessing from either all the climbing or from being in the drops, since I almost never ride there. Coming back I saw just three people behind me. Good news for the volunteers at the turnaround. I knew they were done when I saw the truck hauling the porta potty go past me headed back. I was glad we had driven the course a few times because every time I passed a landmark, I knew I was getting closer. I finally made the turn onto the road to transition, and straight into the wind again. I stopped at the dismount line, walked my bike into transition. A volunteer took my bike to rack and I asked where to go to my bag. And another volunteer gave the news that I had not made the cutoff. I was 15 minutes too late to continue.

I was devastated.

Of course I have done a lot of thinking since. Quite honestly, given the brutal conditions of the day, the race was beyond my current ability. And even on a perfect weather day, a sub 7.5 hour time on this course would have been hard for me. I am tenacious, but slow.  Given my current run pace, I’d have to be freakishly fast on the bike.

I have been mulling what to do next. I want to do a sprint distance in September, just to fully execute a race this year. And for the future, I am leaning towards doing a bunch of Olympic distance races next season. I am not done with the 70.3 distance, but I think concentrating on the shorter distance for awhile might help bring my speed up. It’s my nature to keep choosing to do things that are hard, and I want to come back in two or three years.

Challenge Iceland is an amazingly beautiful, well run race. I was thrilled to meet in person other athletes that I had communicated with on FB. It was wonderful to see one of them complete her first triathlon ever! as the last official finisher. But it is a true challenge.

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