Oftentimes, the weight of a race medal is indicative of the magnitude of an event. Appropriately, the Leadman Triathlon medal is heavy like as if really made of lead. Also known as the Lifetime Fitness Epic 125, it lives up to this tag as well. Forty mile per hour wind gusts on an already difficult course made for truly epic conditions.
The swim was 2.5 kilometers in roughly the shape of a rectangle. A 10:00AM start is very late for triathlon standards and it ensured that even the swim would be affected by the high winds that increased throughout the day. Lake Mead was cold and choppy, although very clear with great visibility. I set out at a very easy pace, perhaps too relaxed. I made slow progress against the current on the long straightaway after the first turn until deciding to ramp it up to reach the next turn or else risk practically swim in place. Throwing my arm forward against the wind felt like sticking my arm out the window while driving on the highway.
On to the 111.5k bike segment. I had only slightly more bike training than swimming recently, completing a handful of 50 mile rides in the past month or two. The sustained wind was relentless and the gusts were enough to threaten to knock you over without warning. There were many times when the crosswinds would kick up and I was left stranded on my aerobars waiting for a lull to switch to a more sturdy position on the handlebars. For calories, I used typical endurance nutrition like a flask of gel and Honeystinger waffles. I also took along a small bottle of watered down gel of a different flavor than the flask. Neither had caffeine. Later, on the run, I sipped a little cola at each aid station. It's always nice to have a variety of caloric sources to choose from. At each aid station, I exchanged one water bottle from my bike frame and take a second one to quickly drink and squirt on myself since it was also fairly warm. It was Spring Break in Vegas, after all.
I was persistent enough to survive the rough swim and bike. Needless to say, a lot of people had either chosen not to race in these gusty conditions or pulled out for one reason or another. Once in the second transition, I knew I would finish. The run is a point to point course that is 99.9% uphill. As much as I love running, especially on mountain trails, and it is my strongest triathlon discipline, I am not too fast at climbing. I started out slow, walking out of transition talking to fellow competitors. After a few minutes, I started to run and held a steady pace for the remainder of the 22k run. I walked through each station sipping cola and water. I took a few salt tablets and a couple of gels, too. Overall and in my age group, my run ranked in the top third.
On Sunday after the race, I went for a hike in the picturesque Red Rock Canyon State Park with an old college roommate, Andrew. He said that on Saturday while I was racing, the wind wreaked havoc back at the hotel pool.