Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Grand Columbian Triathlon - Sep 13, 2008

(The gang at Dry Falls on the way back)

We flew into Seattle on Wednesday night and it was good to meet Ruchi, Anup & Rohan –had a few glasses of wine and some awesome lamb curry that Anup had made and called it a night around 12:30am.
Thursday morning we loaded up the Jeep and set off for the 4 hour drive to Grand Coulee – the contrasting terrain which changed from a lush green hills of Seattle to flat farm lands to barren hills to the granite canyons of the Grand Coulee area were matched by Anup’s eclectic music collection. We heard music that spanned UK bhangra, Bollywood hits, Turkish music, Japanese instrumental, Sufi songs and a collection of North African/Arabic beats.

Got to Grand Coulee around 2:30 in the afternoon dropped my bike off at the bike shop and headed for lunch and a few cold beers. Checked in at the Grand Coulee Motel which was right in front of the imposing Grand Coulee Dam. Went for a 30 min run in the evening and had some good Chinese food for dinner. Spent the evening relaxing by the pool, sipping a few cold brews. Friday morning picked up my bike and went for a short ride – rode the bike to the swim start and had a 15 min swim – rode back to the motel. Late afternoon as we were sitting in our room I noticed that the rear tire was flat – so set about pulling out the tiny metal shrapnel and as I was inflating the new tube Anup noticed there was hole in it (I’m glad these guys did not diversify into making condoms!) – any way, used my last new tube and headed to the registration/packet pick up (bought a few more tubes at the expo). As the pasta dinner was included in the race fee I had dinner with the athletes and headed back for an early night.

(Fixing the flat)

Race Day:
Up at 4:00 am got to the race start at 5:15 – dropped my T2 and special needs bags – placed my bike bottles – topped off the air in by tires and headed off to the start. The water in Banks lake was beautiful – bluest of blue and calm. The Race Director had placed a white rope all along the floor of the swim course – that was a huge help, although in a lot of spots it got hidden by the grass on the lake bed.

Swim: 2.4 miles (Time 1 hr 23 mins)The first 700 meters was swimming directly into the rising sun – the visibility was ZERO – but I had this guy drafting off me so I assumed he was following the rope or buoys…I was also very flattered that someone found it fast enough to draft off ME! But after about 1.5K his constant slapping of my feet and scratching my toes started getting me pissed. I just stopped – thankfully he carried on and I finished the second loop all alone.

(Swim Start)

Bike: 112 miles (Time 7 hrs 43 mins) Changed had a Porta stop and off I was – the bike starts with a 3.5 mile climb to the Mesa – (We drove up the climb on Friday and it looked steep in some spots) but with fresh legs and a cool day it was not all that bad – it was a easier than the Old LaHond climb in Portola Valley (Woodside, CA) – then once on the Mesa (Table top plateau) you could see for miles in all directions – it was desolate country – not a tree in sight – miles of farm land. The first 60 miles were all rolling hills with long stretches of 2-3% grade – The 10 mile stretch out of the town of Almeria was especially painful – the blustering cross winds and the irritating 3% grade just sapped my energy – this plateau was deceptively hilly! For miles I saw no one, accompanied by dust devils and tumble weed – the only way I knew I was on the right track was by seeing the occasional gel pack or CO2 cartridge on the road. Around mile 60 Ruchi, Renuka, Anup & Rohan were at the Almira aid station.

(At Almira - Pix by Anup)

I stopped and refilled my bike bottles and headed off for the next 52 miles. The last 37 miles on Hwy 155 were the worst – this historic route has not been maintained and there were partition ruts every 10-15 feet (for 35 miles!!) the constant “Thump, Thump, Thump” was very uncomfortable – I tried riding on the white lane marker but every car/truck that went by made my bike wobble. I was glad to get off the bike. The ride over the Dam was pretty cool (only the participants were allowed over the dam – it is closed to public due to security issues)

(View from the top of the climb to the Mesa)

(Hwy 155)

Run: 26.2 miles (5 hrs 19 mins) The run was off road on well packed dirt all along the river (Two 13.1 mile loops) – I was cheered on by the gang from the bridge and had Rohan’s company for about 100 meters going back up the hill to the bridge at the end of the first loop (2 hrs 33mins) – As I was walking up the short hill, Rohan said “Isn’t this a running race? Aren’t you supposed be running?” I had to laugh and watch the 10 year old scamper up the slope…Ah! to be young again!

(View from the bridge -Pix by Anup)

(Grand Coulee Dam - Pix by Anup)

I made the turn around and ran on for the next 5 miles at a nice steady pace – I met Richard Jones who had also participated in the Vineman Iron distance race 6 weeks ago. He was in good shape – he really powered away from me on the bike on that bumpy 155 stretch...We ran together for a half a mile and then he asked me to carry on. Richard went on to finish the race, big congrats to him…he had suffered badly due to the heat at Vineman and could not meet the cutoff – that DNF was taken care of at the Grand Columbian Iron Distance triathlon – He is an Ironman! I finished the marathon in 5 hrs 19 mins for a total finish time of 14 hours 47 mins. Rohan decided to run the lap around the block to the finish with me and as we neared the finish line he just took off – the crowd (and I) had a good laugh as we watched him sprint away and finish a good 20 meters ahead of me…Ah! To be young again!

(At the finish - with Rohan looking on - Pix by Anup)

Picked up my bags the next morning and headed back to Seattle – settled in for some lovely dinner and beer and had a good music session with DJ Anup.

Great race – very well managed – well stocked aid stations – lots of Porta Johns. If the full distance race returns in 2010 I will consider doing it again. Thanks again to Ruchi, Anup, Rohan and Renuka for all the cheering and support.