Anna and I traveled out to Utah days before the weekend's event got started. Not long enough to get adjusted to elevation but who can afford to stay away from home for 2-3 weeks?
The 1000-mile long road trip was paused for 2 hours in Bozeman, MT where, while Anna went for a shopping spree at the mall, I decided to stretch my legs by running one of the many trails around the area. Little did I know that the "gradual climb" the trail was described never let off and I ended up turning back after 1400' of elevation gain. The downhill was even worse. The 8 hour sitting in the car messed up my knee and while running downhill my right knee wanted to constantly lock up. It was a rather painful experience I must say.
After another 6 hour drive through Yellowstone and Idaho we finally arrived and occupied our residence for the next few days.
I rode the course on Wednesday morning, as easy I could possibly ride up without tipping over. OK. It was a little faster than that but I was seriously careful not to get too exhausted during the 2 hour ride. Most importantly though, I felt great! It was not only the most picturesque ride this year for me but my legs were turning over rather fresh and easy. I didn't run but swam in the evening at a local pool. Now that was not fun. In Bismarck, I can go to any of the three pools, anytime, and likely get a full lane to myself. At this pool there was only a 1-hour period available for lap swimming in the evening and I had to share it with a slow moving (where slow is VERY slow), another guy and like 6 kids who were apparently getting swim lessons from a woman who clearly didn't care.
On Thursday we checked out Park City and had a lot of fun. Went down on the coaster and on the slide, walked the historic downtown and even checked out some overpriced pictures. I don't think I would pay $8000 for a picture only because it glows in the dark.
Friday marked my first run since the mountain challenge for me. An easy spin on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail followed by a mile of jog was all I did to get my legs ready for Saturday's torture. I mean it's a torture in epic scales. The swim is at 4900ft elevation then you climb and climb and climb until you can climb no more. Not because you are spent but you've reached the peak of the mountain at about 7200ft. The run starts at 6400ft and climbs an additional 1000ft or so. It's a brutal day even for the professionals.
I really wanted to have time for a good swim warm up. We left over 2 hours before the race's start but somehow I managed to just barely make it down to the water for a quick, 5 minute swim.
Not that I wanted to kill my shoulder anyways. The crash at the XTERRA Mountain Champs left me with a rather weak left shoulder that has yet to heal completely. I positioned myself on the left wing of the "starting line" to avoid the battle for position. That plan worked out pretty good as I had clean water from the get-go. I eased into a decent pace, or so I thought. My first lap was completed in 13 minutes followed by a 14+ minute second lap. I knew the swim was a bit longer than 1500m, and I also knew I wasn't swimming as fast as I did back in Alabama. However, the 5 weeks without swimming resulted in a 5 minute slower swim than Josiah Middaugh who usually swims 1.5-2 minute faster than me. It was followed by a race-worst T1 with over 2 minutes while most left in under 1 minute. After the race my wife, who doesn't do triathlons, but observes, compares, and cheers, suggested that I should cut the bottom of my wetsuit so I can take it off through the timing chip faster. Will do, Mrs Molnar!!
On the bike I managed the first 2 miles on the shoulder without fall. Success. Going up in Wheeler Canyon I passed all of those who passed me on the swim. Well, not everyone. Some I didn't catch until the upper sections, on Sardine Peak. And there was about 10 who not only swam faster but also biked faster up on the mountain. I was relatively careful on the downhills, keeping the speed up but making sure I don't repeat my fall again. All in all it was a successful ride but still not strong enough to put me back in the race.
The run was nothing less than survival race for many of us. My first goal was accomplished when I didn't have to walk on the first climb but oh boy how much I wanted to just slow down. Up on top I had to find another gear to run past and stay clear of the Austrian Carine Wasle. She is one tough gal. I managed to pass a few more age groupers before I spotted a red-dressed gal. I figured it was Chantell Widney but it took me a good mile or more before I got close enough to her to make a pass. She didn't let go off the pace, chasing me down the hill. She was in the money. I was light years away from the fastest age grouper of the day, JP Donovan.
Swim: OK. It's all I can do after 5 weeks off then only 7 short workouts under my belt since August 24, 2014.
Bike: Much better than 2 years ago. Then I biked 1h 44m and completely destroyed my legs that I had to walk the run. I had a decent pace at first but as the field thinned out and there was no one in sight I also lost my momentum and that likely cost me a minute or two.
Run: WTF? This one is supposed to be my strongest of all three but I just didn't have it today. Sure, I went 2 minutes faster than 2 years ago but this time at least I didn't have broken ribs that would have made every step a misery. I want to believe I did what I could but I am never fully satisfied. Especially when most of the pro field out-run me. One thing is for sure, if I have someone in sight or someone I can run with I'd have likely posted a faster split. It's almost like when I don't have the pressure on me I just let off and cruise and try to stay clear of the red zone.
The upcoming weeks will be tough. At least I need to make them rough. In just about 5 weeks I will line up with the world's best off-road triathletes or at least those who can afford to go on an expensive vacation to Maui.
That course is no easier than the Utah course. And with all the heat and humidity it's likely even more grueling.
We can also say that there's five weeks until the break.