This is how gorgeous it COULD have been...
I wake up at 3:30 and I smell smoke.
Inside the house through closed windows.
No need to even take a peek through the blinds.
I knew there was a good chance this would happen after seeing the smoke roll back in the night before but I was hoping for the best... only to wake up to the worst.
Thursday, when we rolled into town, the air was terrible.
Like the-minute-I-got-out-of-my-car-I-got-a-headache terrible. But there was hope because, hey, winds change and firefighters are hard at work and there were more than two days left before the race!
This is what Thursday evening looked like down by the lake:
I didn't do much that night. Just a a very easy little jog along the beach to shake out the legs after a day of driving. And super short swim because I couldn't wait any longer to swim in that beautiful lake!!! But then, of course, I got wimpy again swimming all by myself in that big lake and talked some poor guy, who had already finished his swim, into going back out for another little loop with me. Many thanks to you, stranger!
Friday was definitely much better.
Smokey but not bad. Winds had shifted and we all got our hopes up again!
Northstar pool on Friday was lovely!
At the pro meeting there wasn't a lot of talk about a possible cancellation of the race because predictions for Sunday were looking good! So smiling faces by us Coeur girls all around!
Love my Coeur teammates!
Saturday was even better!
So I took my lovely Fuji bike for a nice little ride before checking it in.
All good to go!
Huge thanks to my personal bike mechanic, Karl Jarvis, for taking excellent care of my bike!
And then Sunday, race day, the air was at its WORST and looked like this at the finish and most of the course:
The swim start was one of the few places where the air was relatively good:
Picture by Sherry Daerr
Depending on in which direction you were looking, it was a quite beautiful morning:
Picture by Sherry Daerr
But you can see the smoke looming in the background and to the west:
So while eating breakfast
(white rice with 1/2 banana, almond milk and small greek yogurt with 1/2 banana)
I knew there was a good chance WTC would cancel the race.
I mean, what choice did they have?
But since I hadn't heard anything and knew they wouldn't make an announcement until 5:30-6 when most athletes were in transition, we drove down to the start and I went through the usual pre-race routine. At least physically. Mentally I wasn't about to get myself psyched up for something that might not be happening after all. It rained on us for a bit and we hoped by some miracle that would help with the smoke. Not a fan of rain but in this case I was hoping for a major downpour!
When dropping off my special needs bags, I asked:
"So we are dropping these off pretending like the race is going to go off without a hitch?"
The answer was: "Yes."
Ok then. On we go.
I was a bit worried about my precious special needs bags. Because, heck, these days you don't get them back! So I wasn't going to put anything of value in there. And, yes, a nice bike bottle is 'of value' at our house.
At 6:15 there still hadn't been an announcement of any sort, so we put on our wetsuits, headed to the water, and warmed up.
Picture by Sherry Daerr
Apparently I was so relaxed that I was doing arm circles and talking to a couple other girls with my eyes closed! Although at this point I was convinced the race was actually going to happen. Otherwise they would've told us already, right?
We headed to the starting area and lined up behind the male pros and then at 6:28 - 2 minutes before the start - the announcement came.
"Race is canceled due to terrible air.
You have until 10 to check out your bike and until 12 to head over to the finish to pick up run gear and special needs bags."
WTC made the right call.
No doubt about it.
The air was dangerous to everybody's health.
There are numbers to prove it but I didn't need numbers.
I had seen and smelled the air and it was obvious.
But I am a bit frustrated regarding the timing and deliverance of the cancellation.
From a few things that were said, it was clear that WTC knew very well that they would cancel the race by 6:00 the latest. So why wait until 2 minutes before the start to announce it?!? Why pretend while we are pumping up tires, putting nutrition on our bikes, filling water bottles, eating one last snack, putting T1 bag in place, and squeeze ourselves into the wetsuit? I would really like to know.
And how about putting some heart and feeling into the announcement? Just enough to let us know that you care about us and feel very sorry about the situation. That would've been nice.
Heading out to swim.
The first thing any of us pro girls said after the announcement was:
"Let's go swim the course anyway!"
The air was still fine and buoys set up, so we asked an official and he gave us the ok.
We walked into the deeper part and off we went.
It was just what most of us needed to deal with the situation.
I am sure most of us deal with crap by exercising.
So that's what we did.
A few of the guys joined us as well. After one loop, we had a quick chat, and some of us went for a second loop to swim the official 2.4 miles. The water was fantastic but I felt average. I even had moments where I thought: Man, I am glad this is not a race or I might be dead last pro out of the water. Ha! Clearly I would've happily taken that scenario over the present one.
Then we grabbed all of our crap and packed it back up and all went our ways.
Karl and I went back to the car. I changed out of my wet and cold Coeur kit on the side of the road and proclaimed to Karl after he gave me the look:
The last thing I care about right now is public nudity!
Because that was the truth.
In the car I ate a whole bunch of Thai Lime & Chili cashews. I don't even like those! But what else was there to do?!? Then I took a long, hot shower. Long and hot showers solve a lot things. But I am not so sure about this one.
By now it was only 8:30 in the morning.
What to do?!?
I decided to do what was going to make me (somewhat) happy.
And that is swim-bike-running! Surprise.
So I rode my bike for 6.5 hours,
swam another 30 minutes.
and ran for an hour on the treadmill.
Don't ask me for miles or meters. It wasn't about numbers today.
And in case you are worried about my health:
I escaped the smoke for a while by biking on the east side of the lake and then climbing a very long, steep hill. I took a selfie and sent it to my friends back home who had sent me a picture of them riding the Wupatki loop in glorious sunshine. Well, this wasn't Wupatki or glorious sunshine and I was all alone but I was going to make the best of it!
Look who I ran into at the top of the mountain and rode with for a while? Mackenzie Madison.
Fellow pro girl and fun riding buddy!
I certainly wasn't the only athlete out riding my bike which was nice! But by now smoke was everywhere and there was no getting away from it. So when Mackenzie turned off, so gave me one of her masks she had brought so I could avoid the worst.
You know it's BAD when I am willing to ride around like this for hours:
Karl says I handled it really well. And I agree.
But it still sucks. Big time.
Yes, there are many worse things in life. No, it's not the end of the world. But it's the end of a dream for many of us. Are there other races we can do? Certainly. Does that mean it's no big deal? NO! This is a big deal to most of the people that lined up on Sunday morning to accomplish a huge goal. I am fortunate that I decided to race professionally this year. Had I decided otherwise, I would be in the same boat as many of the age groupers who have saved up for this race and this trip for many months, made incredible sacrifices, and had their dream crushed minutes before the start. I truly feel for them and my heart goes out to them and their families. It's no one's fault (except the person that purposefully started the fire) but it's an incredible disappointment nonetheless.
I think it's ok to be frustrated, sad, angry, depressed, and crushed. For a while.
I thought I was just fine until we got home and the kids left for school this morning and Karl went to work, and I realized that I am not fine. Yet. And I can live with that. I don't have to pretend that it's no big deal. Even of others think so. Which is why I didn't leave the house. Because I am tired of hearing things like:
"Oh, your race got cancelled? Well, at least you are signed up for Ironman Arizona as well."
"You didn't get to race? Well, at least you and Karl got to go on a trip."
"Such a bummer. But at least you didn't have to pay for a hotel."
Have some of these same thoughts? You are right. It's all true statements. And, obviously, I know that! But it's just NOT helpful.
Karl shared this little clip with me the other night and it fits this situation perfectly. If you know me, you know that I am not the best at showing empathy. Which is exactly why Karl showed it to me. So I am going to watch this clip every now and then. To remind myself to be more like the bear and less like the deer. And because I love Brene Brown! You should watch it. It's rather eye-opening.
So now what?
I had signed up for Silverman 70.3, Soma Half, and Ironman Arizona at the beginning of the year thinking I could pull off two Ironman and two Halfs in 7 weeks. Then I changed my mind about Silverman but never notified WTC. And now I have decided that I will go and race in Vegas next weekend after all! Because I LOVE that course. And because it's my birthday! And who cares that I have no speed in my legs! And who knows what will happen next year. I am not a fan of putting all of my eggs into one basket, so I'd rather have a bunch of B races then one super important A race which might get cancelled or shortened or I get two flats or get sick... Speaking of being sick, I am currently not feeling well and my body seems to have finally succumbed to the illness Karl has had for over a week now. So we will see how these next few days go.
A huge Thank You to my fantastic sponsors:
And also to Karl for his patience and support!
And to Naomi who graciously offered her wonderful home to us, made us feel very welcome, and helped us out in many ways!
(Separate blog post about our 10-year anniversary trip to and from Lake Tahoe to follow. Boy, do I have some good stories!)