|Canyon walls from the boat ride to the staging area|
|At the staging beach|
The swim was a battle, mostly of my own doing, as usual. While sitting in the FREEZING water (so cold that for the first 30 seconds I was hyperventilating) waiting for the start, I decided if I felt good, I was going to let the horses run. You might be asking, "Why would you make such a rash and stupid decision to totally change your game plan 10 seconds before the start, while sitting in water so cold your brain hardly even works?" Because I'm stupid like that.
But that was just the beginning of the bad decisions.
Like the day before, I started slow. Most of the second wave was ahead of me within the first 100 meters or so. My stroke caught its rhythm within a mile. And once I felt dialed in, I put the pedal down, reeling in the first and second wave swimmers one at a time for the next hour and a half. After my first two feeds (40-minute feed schedule), I felt fantastic. Then I got to thinking (or not thinking, as it were), "If I keep this pace up, I might finish this stage in 3.5 hours. That's just 90 minutes away. Why should I stop to eat? It won't even digest by then." So as I finished my third feed at the 2-hour mark, I told Shearin, "I'm done eating. You can just stow my bottles." I rolled over and got back at it.
Shearin was kayaking like a BOSS! He predicted it would be tough to distinguish optimal lines through the maze of 200 foot bluffs that give Canyon Lake its name, so he brought binoculars. He had us dialed in! We passed one swimmer (who was faster than me) three times just by his perfect navigation. After the third time, I noticed her pace dropped dramatically. I stopped, pulled up and told him, "I think you broke her with your ninja skills." Every time I breathed on his side and caught him staring through his binoculars, it elevated my spirits and pushed me harder. "If he's gonna work that hard, so am I."
On the other hand, another kayaker crashed into me TWICE. The first time she actually ran over me from behind. Then maybe an hour later, I crashed into her broadside, head first. She had gotten sideways, perpendicular to me while her swimmer and I were in a drag race. Neither crash was that big of a deal. I wasn't angry. She was a volunteer, after all. God bless her for being out here. Without her, there would be no S.C.A.R. But I did tell Shearin to go whack the other swimmer on the head, just to level the field.
About an hour after I'd decided to quit eating, I regretted it. I felt sluggish and tired and started desperately scouring the canyon walls at every bend, yearning for the canyon to subside into the open lake and the target dam. By the 3:15 mark, it was quite clear I wasn't going to be wrapping up in a warm towel anytime soon. And the lake conditions had deteriorated considerably. The narrow canyon was a freeway of boat traffic and, once again, we were finishing directly into a headwind. I was quite tired and the conditions exacerbated the situation.
I don't think I bonked in the clinical sense, but maybe in the emotional one. I checked behind me to see if anyone was close. Nope. I eased way back and limped in to the finish line.
I managed to pull off a 3:54, shaving 6 minutes from the previous day on a stage where most added time. Moved up 3 slots to 19th overall.
The wrist help up pretty well. But I have a weird, sharp pain in my right forearm. Not sure what that's all about. Ice seems to help.
Tomorrow is Apache. El Diablo. Famous for the winds and the 17 miles of swimming (I can hear the wind outside as I type this). I had dinner tonight with a very accomplished OW swimmer who dropped out of this stage last year after a 9 hour struggle. It will separate the men from the boys. Hope I'm the former.