Arizona Heat Race Report

Stan has been working, training and racing down in Phoenix since the beginning of the season. I had been meaning to go visit him for some time now, but with my work schedule, the time just hadn’t presented itself.

At the last minute, I planned a trip down to visit; completely oblivious to the weather conditions, despite the numerous visits to weather.com and warnings from Stan, a high of 122 Fahrenheit (50 Celsius) just didn’t sink in.

I packed my bags and boxed up my bike (thanks Jill for your box and for the bike disassembly and reassembly lesson), I affectionately refer to as “My Little Pony” (yes, I had several as a little girl). At 4:30 am I hitched a ride with my Dolphin’s buddy Matt (Thanks Matt!) to the skytrain station, where I proceeded to haul my bike, a suitcase, a backpack and a large duffel bag, for a short trip down south.

The heat hit me like a sack of bricks when I stepped off the plane. I messaged Stan to let him know I had arrived; I immediately received a message “Wait Inside!!”, it was 43 degrees outside. As I waited  I received many glances from passer’s by, curious about this giant box that a little woman in a white sundress was towing alongside her; one man had the audacity to inquire as to whether or not it was my makeup box, I smugly replied that it was my race bike. When Stan arrived I towed my load outside, as expected, he was sarcastically horrified by the amount of bags I had brought with me.

The next morning we proceeded on my first training ride on the bike – at 6:30am it was already 40 degrees; I got on my bike and before we pushed off, I already had removed my shirt and opted to ride in a sports bra, my jersey was already close to be soaked through in sweat. We had 2:15 on the schedule, and after 15 minutes in, I looked down at my computer and thought “I can’t do this”. At the halfway point we stopped for water refills, and after pouring half a bottle on my head, I realized it wasn’t so bad.  I spent the rest of the day feeling completely exhausted, but satisfied that I had made it through my first training session in the dessert.

The following day, we had every intention to get up and do mile repeats in the morning, unfortunately the snooze button got the best of us. We waited until 8:30PM to go out and do our workout; we took frozen bottles with us, and about a ¼ mile into the warmup, I was ready to throw in the towel. There weren’t any local tracks open, so we ran to a stretch of road where from traffic light to traffic light it was just over a mile – this meant no water between intervals.

I ran the first interval about 30 seconds slower than expected, the second 45 seconds faster than the first, perhaps the incentive of water at the end of that set was a factor. When I finished and looked at my HR I realized that I had gone over my max, not good considering that I still had 2 more repeats to go. I opted to do half miles and call it a night.

The alarm for race morning was set for 4:15 am, ugh. We had to have our bikes in transition for 5:15am, kids race started 5:30, the mini sprints for 6:30 and the maxi sprint, our race, for 6:45.

We already knew we would be spending some time waiting around, but didn’t realize how long. The most nerve wracking part about waiting was the sun, as each minute passed, heat was becoming more of a factor.

The race was pretty disorganized, transition was a free for all, and bikes and gear were setup haphazardly by what appeared to be many first timer triathletes. We squeezed our bikes onto racks that were close to the front of transition, no way were we going to run 150m to get to our transition spots.

We picked up our packages, and I was delighted that numbers were assigned alpha, Stan and I had #427 and #428, and consequently, were starting in the pool 15 seconds apart. For many of you that know us as a couple, we are fiercely competitive, despite the fact that he is a much better swimmer and runner than I.

A close swim start only meant that he would have a short headstart before I got onto the bike; which I’m frequently closely nipping his heels on. Wagers, which will not be discussed on this post, were set and agreed upon with a handshake.

The swim was organized by race number, and were not seeded by time; we watched as the mini sprints started their swims. It became apparent there were many first timer’s participating in this race, backstrokers, breastrokers, side strokers, dog paddlers, you name it, we saw it. By the time we got into the water, it was 7:45, 2.5 hours of waiting around. The swim was short, but was slow for me, after the first 250 yards I jumped out of the pool and ran back to the start to do the final 250, I glanced at my watch and realized that I was already 1:30 slower than anticipated. Fortunately I found a pair of feet after the first lap and finished the swim slower than anticipated, but strong. 11:24.

I got on the bike, curious to see if my lack of performance in past races was because of the climate. My suspicions were true, the colder weather had definitely been a factor in past races, and not being warmed up enough had resulted in poor performance on the bike.

Despite the heat, I knew I was strong on the bike right away. Because I only had one cage on my bike (I know, rookie mistake in this climate) I had to choose wisely with my hydration – I opted for coconut water (it had been great during training sessions). The coconut water was not so great when at the halfway point of the bike I was so hot, that I was forced to pour the coconut water on my head and arms – it dried into a sticky mess within 60 seconds, I don’t recommend it.

The only way to describe riding at speeds in upwards of 47kph in the dessert heat, is what I would imagine it would feel like to stand in front of a giant hot air dryer. The bike went well, best performance in a race situation, 38:26, which includes T1 and T2 time.

When I entered T2, a mountain bike with a kickstand was parked horizontally in the middle of transition, yup, I was pissed. I had to pick up my bike and run to the other side. There was a group of by-standers, just milling around and having a Sunday gossip session directly over top of my transition spot; needless to say, I had some choice words as I screamed for them to move.

I put on my new racing flats and head out for the run… 100m in I knew that I was too hot, dangerously too hot. The first water station was a half mile away; I proceeded to shuffle as fast as I could. Not sure which was more of a factor as this point, the mental, or the physical dehydration. When I reached the water station I was in bad shape, I stopped for about two minutes; I cleared the water station or their little Dixie cups, I had two volunteers scooping and pouring water on me, I continued on. Next waterstation was a half mile away, I pulled it together enough to continue running until I got there, directly into the sun and the wind. Next water station, same routine; thank goodness it was an out and back, on the way back, the sun and wind were to my back, and suddenly I had some pop in my legs. Mile two of the two mile course was almost 3 minutes faster than the first, 17:24.

I crossed the line strong, close to what I thought my goal time was going to be. My projected splits were off, but my strong ride balanced everything out. Not bad for a race in rough conditions, no taper, poor nutrition and crappy sleep.

Yes, Stan beat me on the bike, but only by 30 seconds. Watch out, I’m coming for you honey!

Natasha Lowe

t's so hot in Arizona that...

  • the birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
  • the potatoes cook underground, and all you have to do to have lunch is to pull one out and add butter, salt and pepper.
  • farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs.
  • the cows are giving evaporated milk.
  • the trees are whistling for the dogs.
  • you no longer associate bridges (or rivers) with water.
  • you eat hot chilies to cool your mouth off.
  • the temperature drops below 95, you feel a bit chilly.
  • you've experienced condensation on your butt from the hot water in the toilet bowl.
  • you can attend any function wearing shorts and a tank top.
  • The 4 seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!
  • you discover that in July, it takes only 2 fingers to drive your car.
  • you discover that you can get a sunburn through your car window.
  • you notice the best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
  • hot water now comes out of both taps.
  • you actually burn your hand opening the car door.
  • you break a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m. before work.
  • no one would dream of putting vinyl upholstery in a car or not having air conditioning.
  • your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
  • you realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
  • a sad Arizonan once prayed, "I wish it would rain - not so much for me, cuz I've seen it -- but for my 7-year-old."