The venue is hosted in a park like setting at a place called "West End Beach" at Donner lake. Great place to bring a family and do a triathlon at the same time. Playground, picnic tables, boat rentals and lifeguards on site to help keep an eye on the little ones.
I arrived at the venue about 6:20am and walked into the transition area. It was a bit strange not having my bike. I've never done a duathlon. They had 4 rows about 100ft long labeled by bib numbers. The turn out was very small. I found my row and set up my gear. The air temperature was a bit cool, around 66 degrees. So I put in my wetsuit and started walking to the water about 6:45.
Looking over the water was almost like looking at the ocean when the fog rolled in the night before, but instead of fog it was smoke. The sun was orange in the sky. I knew there would be smoke but was hoping it wouldn't settle like it had. I jumped in the water and it felt warmer in the water than outside. After doing a few laps I felt pretty confident with my breathing and form. The smoke didn't seem to bother me and the elevation seemed manageable. I've done this venue before. I did the Olympic tri and the elevation made the swim very challenging. With this experience I told myself over and over slow and steady. Take your time and keep your breathing under control.
The race director called us all over to the starting area. The group of people participating the half was only 19. The race director told us the course and then told us that the current air quality is around 150. Which means it's unhealthy for sensitive groups.
The race started at 7:04am. l positioned myself towards the back of the group. Told myself again slow and steady. I waded in about thigh high and dove in. Apparently I didn't do what I kept telling myself. After 300 yards (maybe) I was out of breath. I started doing the breast stroke. That helped a little. After a few minutes, I tried again to freestyle. Made it a little ways and flopped on my back. By the time I made it to the first bouy I was panting and couldn't recover. I had so many thoughts racing through my head. I was thinking of quitting.
Then, after rounding the first bouy, I sucked in water. I've done this a few times.... I've never sucked in water and had to vomit. It was very unpleasant and almost put me in a panic. I raised my hand (first time ever) for the lifeguard. As she made her way to me I couldn't stop coughing. I grabbed her board and continued to cough. She asked the one question that I was already thinking, "Are you quitting?" First response was, "I don't know," She then said to take all the time I needed. The thought of quitting seemed so nice. To be able to catch my breath on land and leave. Looking at my watch I was about 25 minutes into the swim. I couldn't quit with so little time done, but I knew if I made it further I couldn't quit cause I already made it that far. I told her thank you and let go of the board.
It was a battle through the whole swim. Freestyle, side stroke, some altered back stroke and back to freestyle. Looking around I had 2 other swimmers near me going through the same struggle. I finally reach the beach close to the arch. The one time I wish the camera guy was missing to not catch my exhausted look as I exit the water. I put on a smile and walked out of the water feeling almost defeated. Swim took me 53:11.
Transition was probably the longest I've had. Stava puts it at 5 minutes and 38 seconds. I needed as much time as I could get to recover and get my breathing back to normal.
As I started running out of the transition area I opened a mint rxbar. I've had these a few times and thought it was a good idea. I only made it a mile and ate only half of it. Couldn't finish it since it felt like I was eating leather. The other half runner caught up to me. He was diabetic and forgot his nutrition at home in San Francisco. I gave him an extra gel that I had and we ran together for a little bit. He eventually took off after the first Aide Station. After 40 minutes of running, I felt comfortable with my pace of 11:30 minute mile. As I ran around Donner lake, I looked out over the water and the smoke was not clearing out but was in fact settling in. By the time I finished the air quality was bordering 160. It was difficult to take a full deep breath without coughing. The run took me 2:41:44.
I finished last with a total time of 3:40:35. This event has now surpassed Folsom for being the most difficult for me. I hope following years it gets easier with more training for elevation and the hope that there isn't a fire near by. Two years ago the swim was very difficult but the other sports were not too bad. I'll be looking forward to the newly re-paved road on this event. The view is amazing and I was a bit disappointed I didn't get to see it this year. Probably wouldn't have seen much due to smoke though. Until next year Donner!