Saturday, July 13, 2019

June Lake Triathlon–Half Ironman (Troy)

July 13th, 2019 – June Lake, CA
Swim 1.2miles – Bike 52miles – Run 13.1miles

5:51:44 (36:07 – 4:09 – 2:48:57 – 1:36 – 2:20:53)


1st 50-54M (out of 3); 6th Overall


OLY – FCA: Anna Soares, Robin Soares; Sharley Simpson

KIDS RACE – FCA: Ariel Soares

We arrive at incredibly beautiful June Lake.  And what a treat to run into Whit Raymond, one of our favorite announcers in triathlon.  To have such a lively, talented announcer at a small event is a great privelege.

After the race meeting we set up camp and I start complaining and worrying – mainly about the significant wind blowing, it will surely chill me on the bike, and I don’t have the right jacket, and I didn’t get enough sleep, and my foots going to hurt like last week…

I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s completely still and quiet.  The full moon is reflecting off the water and the snow covered parts of the mountain.  This "Oh! Ridge” campground has been the quietest we’ve ever stayed at (maybe because it’s all athletes and everyone races the same morning).  I sleep very well.  Thank you, Lord.

Race morning, attitude improved, read the Bible, kiss Robin goodbye and head to the 7am start for my race.  (Robin & Anna will start the Olympic at 8am and Ariel the kids’ race at 12).

There is no wind at all.  The water is glass.  The volunteers are cheerful, no lines at the porta potties and everything, including the shuttles of athletes who didn’t camp, seems to be running smoothly.

Although there’s about 250 racing all the events, only 50 of us get ready for the Half.  I talk to a couple guys doing this hard course for their first one.  I jog a little and my foot hurts.  I spend a good amount of time stretching and then down to the water.  It feels really cold this morning!  I wish I had booties… until I go to the start area it feels much warmer, like 65.

I run back to pray with Robin, Anna, and Ariel.  I appreciate their prayers for me and I pray I remember it’s not my race, my life, my goals.. it’s the Lord’s, which should free me from worrying about it and instead focus on Him so others can see Him through me.  I’m reminded of the song “Crown Him” which says,

“It’s not my life, to live. It’s not my song, to sing. All I have, is His For all eternity” and goes on to say “It’s not my weight, to bear..”  worrying is the heaviest weight.

The Swim

I feel ready.  There’s only 30 of us starting.  Go!  I start calm and relaxed.  It’s easy to sight and the water is so clean and clear.  We go around the short sprint course and then head out for the Olympic course.  I’m breathing deeply, and sometimes every 2 strokes instead of 3 or 4 because we’re at 7500 ft.  Racing at altitude is like missing every 5th breathe so have to make up for it.  A woman behind me is swimming backstroke.  Amazingly she’s drafting off me without being able to see me!  That is a good way to get more air.  A guy next to me is swimming with only the lower 1/2 of a wetsuit.  The swim course is wonderful.  The shadow of the mountain blocks the sun so sighting is never a problem.  Most of the course is shallow.  I see a couple fish darting around and lot of rock formations below.  I think about God.  I’m joyful.  I’m calm. Sometimes I feel like I might get cold but I actually stay comfortable to the end.  I see 30 min on my watch and hope I can finish soon.  I push more at the end but mostly the swim was low effort which should help the rest of the race. 36:07. 11th place.

After a jog through the entire transition site (to make it fair for everyone) I put on only my light jacket (I’m not cold and there’s no wind, thank you, Lord!) and am happily off on the bike.

The Bike

Immediately I can sense the thin air by how fast I accelerate downhills.  Biking at altitude is a thrill because the speeds are faster.  But even more so on this course because it’s so beautiful!  Along June Lake, through the cute town of June Lake with people starting to sip coffee under awnings.  Along Gull Lake, sailing under evergreens… It really does feel like a “Tour de France TT below the Alps” as a previous athlete wrote in his race story from last year.

Curving along the base of mountains, I make it through one really sharp turn and hope Anna negotiates it ok in her race.  Then I catch view of Horestail Waterfall above to the left. Amazing!


Then Silver Lake on the right and the huge Grant Lake which seems to drop off the edge of the hills at the end.  It’s a little chilly but warming up a little.  I think of Anna and hope she will be comfortable in her race suit.

Now onto the shoulder of Hwy 395.  Even though it’s a main freeway, it’s a very wide shoulder and not concerning.  I’m warm and take off my jacket.  It’s a slight climb for 6 miles and I try to be efficient and take it easy.  It was such a beautiful easy cruise along the lakes that I’m looking forward to doing the 2nd loop!  After a short difficult climb to June Lake, and insuring I’ve finished 1 large bottle of Vitargo, I excitingly start the loop again now with Olympic Distance riders to pass.  Through all the scenic spots this time I try even more to take it all in.  I also remind myself “stay calm, stay calm” so as not to push.  The race starts with the run.

I think about Robin and Anna who are somewhere ahead on this loop.  I calculate what Anna’s times might be and then look way ahead and see a yellow outfit climbing up Hwy 395!  Yes!  That’s her!  I yell a couple times but she can’t hear me.  I’m supposed to be going easy but I push more hoping I can catch her before she pulls off to the bike finish.  I catch her right before the down-n-up to the finish.  “So glad to see you, Anna, how’s it been?”  “It’s going great.  But that was a big hill.  I wasn’t able to get water but my 2 bottles will be enough”  Thank you, Lord for keeping her safe in her first Olympic Bike leg.

Robin is probably starting the run, Anna is heading to T2, and I get to go along the Lake and through town a 3rd time (which is so cool) and then turn along the back June Lake to the finish.  It’s very hilly along the back but I didn’t realize it provides great viewing of the run course and runners!  At first the trails don’t look so hard, but then I see a ferocious trail climb and even the climbs on the paved road look hard.  And there’s Anna!  Looking strong despite the heat and hills.  This is a cool bike course!  A big descent to T2 alows me to stretch, finish drinking, and pull out of my shoes.  2:48:57 bike, 9th fastest and now in 9th place.  Dismount.  Lose a shoe, go back and get it, change into my new NB 860’s (since last week’s Crown City Classic run proved the 880’s weren’t helping my injury).

The Run

I start to the trail but remember my plan to take a bottle. I go back, grab a bottle and hope the timing mat doesn’t get confused.  Starting through the spectator area I already notice my foot feels so much better than last week!  Thank you, God!  I see Ariel cheering for me which really makes me smile.  I’m feeling optimistic to take this crazy trail climb they told us about.  But wait, it’s sand!  A steep climb in sand.  The great news is that I’ve been practicing walking steep parts lately.  So I power walk the slippery climb.   Many runners are flying down.  I try not to get in their way.  I’m really happy about the effort and pace I’m able to put out walking and soon am at the top.  I drink my bottle and then fill it 1/2 way up at each aid station. 

The wind has picked up now and I’m thanking God for it.  Imagine that, I was cursing the wind yesterday and now it’s a blessing because it’s cooling me off during a hot, hilly run!  I see more Half Ironman athletes biking and many Sprint and Olympic runners coming back.  Way up ahead I see Robin coming up the road.  I yell but she can’t hear me.  I turn onto the ferocious, sandy hill climb and start my power-walk and then turn-around to see Robin down below on the road, “Good job, Robin!  Anna’s about a mile behind you”  she waves and smiles.

I’m breathing super hard and drinking a lot of water, and pouring it on me.  This bottle is great!  The trail keeps climbing!  I can’t believe it.  I’m passing many that are resting along the trail but my power-walk really allows me to keep going and doesn’t hurt my foot.  Thank you, Lord.  They said this course was like Wildflower but at 8000 ft.  But it is much harder.  It’s almost a joke that someone could run up this, but maybe they can.

It is all worth it at the top!  Running through meadows with low-ground-cover and patches of wildflowers.  Small lakes back-dropped with snowy mountains.  A light cool breeze under a bright sun.  People are happy to stop and let me pass.  I guess everyone wants to rest.  I stop and stretch my hamstrings and try to get a rock or something out of my shoe.

The best part – downhill!  It starts calmly, zig-zagging through beautiful single-track, but then intensifies with steeper sections and almost getting out of control… and then it just drops off!  Some sections I have to carefully step down rocks.  And then back to very steep sandy descending.  This can be very dangerous, but I always love challenging downhills.  I feel excited and trying to descend faster than others gets the adrenaline going.  Wow!  Finally at the bottom.  I take Heed and water and start the run along the road back to the start.

At the spectator / finish area, where we have to go do it all again, I’m actually looking forward to it!  The walking worked so well and the running along the top was so fun, it’s actually appealing!  Thank you, Lord, only you can turn something daunting into fun.  I see Robin, she’s so happy for me and tells me she was able to win her race and Anna did well, too.  I ask Ariel how she did and she laughs because she hasn’t raced yet. 

A good time seeing family and now back up the climb.  Now there aren’t many runners out.  I see some Half Ironman runners coming back behind me.  Others Olympic runners are walking.  I’m also taking Endurolytes which they provide at the aid stations.  I hit the huge climb again.  This time it is more work and the pace slows a little but I push through.  Thank you, Lord!  I stretch at the same rock, take a Honey Stinger and then hit the big descent.  Stomach gets a little uneasy.  Starting on the trail/road back, for the first time, I’m feeling fatigued and uncomfortable.  But I ease up and feel good again.

Now I’m overwhelmed with humility and regret for my attitude yesterday.  I have a great talk with God.  I realize how faithful He has been and unfaithful I’ve been.  I ask for forgiveness for my worrying yesterday and plan to start over and trust Him more next time.  I realize that having a bad attitude beforehand ruins even a good finish because of regret.  So the only way to finish the day completely good is to start with a good attitude beforehand.  It’s a special time repenting and feeling God’s encouragement along that hot and hilly road.

Over the last climb, now I’m excited!  Flat and then down.  I grab a gel and my whole race belt falls off.  I hug my bottle by my side while trying to put the belt on but it falls again and my bottle falls and gets covered with dirt.  Everything is going wrong.  I manage to wash off my bottle top so I can hold it in my mouth while putting my belt on and finally taking my gel.  Ok, re-grouped and back to the fun part… steep sandy downhill.. through the grass.. onto the beach..and painfully quick-step over the sand to the finish!  Thank you, Lord, for forgiveness and provision!  Run was 2:20:53, 4th fastest. 6th place overall.

Not only did the Lord bless my race, but all of our races.  Humbled and grateful.  And a BEAUTIFUL race venue!

IMG_20190713_125137772_BURST002IMG_20190713_125137772_BURST020IMG_20190713_125358622_HDR190713_JLT Troy podium