Saturday, July 9, 2022

June Lake Half Tri–Robin-2022

July 9th, 2022 – June Lake, CA
Swim 1.2miles – Bike 52miles – Run 13.1miles

5:58:01 (34:16 – 5:21 – 3:00:06 – 2:36 – 2:15:41)


1st W45-49 (out of 2); 4th/13 Overall


HALF- FCA: Anna Soares

OLY – FCA: Troy Soares

SPRINT – FCA: Ariel Soares

It’s been 3 years since we last raced here at June Lake. It’s such a beautiful place to camp and race. And this year I’m racing the half here for the first time but the distance is familiar. Anna on the other hand is racing her first half ever. She has been planning on racing this distance for years and finally the time has arrived. She gets down to transition before me to set up. I join her a bit after and squeeze myself in a spot across from her. I look around and see some old school road bikes among some of the fancier bikes. I also see transition sites with unique character such as the stuffed plastic box with Gorilla tape inside among the items. The person I’m next too has a huge towel with all their gear laid out. It reminds me of the days at Wildflower and our local TBF Racing Company.

Anna and I head down to the water together for a brief race meeting. I think the race director says the water is 58 degrees. Yikes! I ask him to repeat the temperature and I hear him say 68 degrees. Phew! I can handle that! The race director says it’s mostly going to be a shallow swim and people can run if they need to. It’s a two loop course.


Ariel and Troy join us and we all pray together. Troy is doing the Olympic Tri and Ariel is doing the Sprint Tri. This is a big day especially for Anna. We want to remind ourselves of where our strength comes from and who this is for, Jesus. I need to keep Him my focus today. I strained my hamstring a week ago in a run race and haven’t been able to run all week. If I can run today, it will be a miracle. There has been continued difficulty lately and I have been lacking sleep. I just know if I get through today, it is on His strength.

As Anna and I wade into the water to the start buoy, I am concerned. Even with my booties on my feet, it sure feels cold! I’m also concerned for Anna. She doesn’t have any booties or an extra cap like me. I should have checked in with her earlier and made sure she had enough gear. She has low body fat but she does have youth on her side! I decide not to warm up but just jump in cold turkey.


Ready, set, go! We are off. The first few moments are cold but I quickly adapt and get comfortable. The water is shallow to the first buoy. I finally get into a good rhythm. As I head to the second buoy, I’m expecting my watch to click off 500 yards any minute. It is not until I almost reach the second buoy that my watch clicks off. There is just one more buoy not too far away to complete the first loop. I can tell already that the swim is going to be short.

I make it back to the start buoy to begin the second loop. My watch clicks off another 500 and I see my pace is faster. I feel stronger than I have lately swimming open water. I am having fun!

I make the last turn and I’m heading home! About 100 meters from shore the water is getting shallow! Soon, I’ve hit bottom. I get up to run but it’s hard and the shore is still off a bit. I fall back into the water and try to swim. I do this about three times before I get up and run awkwardly the rest of the way to the shore. I’m feeling a little cold so I opt to keep my wetsuit on to my transition spot. As I run out Ariel asks me how the water was. I say “cold, but not too bad.” It was about 1800 meters which is 400 yards short of 1.2 mile swim.

I race to my bike and begin the struggle to take off the wetsuit. My hands are a bit cold so they are not working great. I find a spot to plop down and yank it off. I put on a jacket and a beanie. I am about to put on gloves when I see Anna enter the transition area. I want to get a head start because I know she’ll be catching me on the run.


I run out of transition and start biking uphill out of June Lake Park. Halfway up the hill I shift and my chain drops. I calmly turn around and bike down the hill and shift again to pop it back in place. Ok, good to go. Thank you Lord for giving me peace in that.

I turn onto June Lake Loop. I feel cold riding through small downtown June Lake. It’s shady along here and the air is cool. I’m shivering some. Every time I hit some sun it’s so nice! I play leapfrog with a guy. I pass him on the uphills and he flies by me on the downhills.220709_june_lake_half_robin_bike

After some up and down, it’s mainly flat or downhill. There are 3 other small lakes I ride by. So pleasant and quiet…until around a corner I see a man in the middle of my lane walking slowly across the road. I say “heads up” and slow down. I get around him safely but that was a surprise. I pass a camper campground and all is quiet.

At the last lake, it’s all sun so I warm up some more. This lake water level is really low but there are still boats out there. Soon I hit a patch of gnats that lasts for a mile at least. Not too bad thankfully. I’ve been passed by some men. The guy I played leapfrog with has pulled ahead now. An old competitor/friend of Troy’s rides by me, Duane. He and his girlfriend are camping right next to us. “Good job Duane!”.

I think of Anna often and am praying she’s not too cold. She’ll like this part of the course having more sun!

Eventually this fun flat/downhill section comes to an end where I turn onto a highway for 6.5 miles. This is basically an uphill trek to near the start to begin the next loop. I catch up and pass the leapfrog guy and Duane. Even though I am definitely undertrained, my hilly Auburn training is still helping me today!

The temperature is comfortable, but the jacket is still nice. I grind my way back to the turn. So glad for a change of pace! I look at my watch. Troy should be the swimming now. I hope he’s not cold! There is a chance I will see him on the bike. I hope to get to June Lake before he come out on the bike so we can see each other.

I turn back onto June Lake Loop. More climbing up to June Lake. Ugh! Downhill ahead! I make it to the top and look for Troy coming out of the park. I see some fast-looking guys and try to gauge if Troy could be ahead of them or behind them. He could be ahead of me already and then I’ll never see him.

I go through downtown June Lake and there is a lot more cars and activity because it’s late morning now. I dodge a few cars and safely ride out to the other lakes. It’s surprisingly quiet out here now even at the camper campground. I hope Anna is feeling strong and that her nutrition is working out. There is much to learn and figure out in an half iron race!

I’m getting passed by a handful of Olympic Distance riders including a girl but no Troy. He must be ahead of me. I’ll look for him on the run. I’m hoping I can catch some of the riders passing me on the highway. I hear a strange noise behind me and as I look back I’m startled to find a shirtless rider going by blasting music. That's totally against rules but it is a low key race compared to Ironman brand races so you can get away with a lot…including drafting. I see this guy jump on the wheel of another rider going by. “Oh brother!”. It’s hard not be annoyed but I look to God and focus on what I need to do.

I hit the highway and expect to catch some riders. I begin to really feel fatigued. This is hard! I catch a few riders early on but that is it. The girl that passed me is nowhere to be seen. I feel discouraged but I feel God remind me that this race is a gift and that the run could be a walk. I have to trust Him and keep doing the best that I can.

I find some relief as I turn off the highway and enjoy a brief downhill before the climb up to the lake. There are more cars passing here as it is close to noon and folks are coming to visit the lake and town. I have to ride by the lake one more time into town before I pick up the course that Ariel did for the Sprint. It’s a right turn to take me around the lake. I’ve never ridden it and don’t know what to expect. What I am met with is a series of hills. It is brutal but I know the run is near. Even though I don’t know if I can run, I am looking forward to getting off the bike. I can see the bike isn’t going to be the typical 56 miles but about 52. With the 7,000 feet of altitude and hills it makes it feel like 56 to the body.

Downhill! Yay! I see runners now crossing the road. I see a guy that pulled out ahead of me right at the lake earlier running. Troy must be out here! I look for him on the road but soon the runners disappear off on a trail to the left. It sure looks hot and unshaded out there! That’s where I’ll be in 20 minutes or so! I should run into Troy out there somewhere.

I turn back towards transition. I slide my feet out of the shoes as I descend back to my spot. I have a good dismount and hobble to my rack. The hamstrings seem ok. I hear “Ariel Soares, first place” over the mic and look over to see her getting her award nearby. I cheer “great job Ariel”. Not sure if she heard me.


I exit transition and pass by Ariel and tell her congrats and “God is good”. The first 150 meters is sand. I carefully jog through and test out the hamstrings. I feel soreness but no sharp pain thankfully. I hit the big climb. It’s steep and a bit sandy but shaded too. I see a guy coming down the hill fast. Wow, that has to be the top Olympic Distance guy coming back to the finish already! Wow!

At top, I hit the pavement and merge with the half riders coming in. I wonder if I’ll see Anna.

Mile 1 is 11:44. Not bad for trudging up a steep hill with a sore hamstring! Thank you God!

It’s a nice downhill to the trail. I make the turn and head out into the unknown. The first aid station is here and the turn around for the Sprint. A part of me would like to turn here. I have to do this course twice. I grab some chips. It’s warm already but the main concern is the hamstring. So far so good!

I count 3 women coming back with half bib numbers. They look strong and are clearly far ahead.

Mile 2 is 10:04. Not bad! The hamstring is holding up! I climb up a pretty good hill. As I crest, I can see Troy coming back to me! He is smiling. I go by and start going downhill. He turns around and starts running with me to see how my hamstring is doing and give me some encouragement. I appreciate him so much for sacrificing his race to check on me! He heads back. So glad he is almost done!

A guy comes alongside and says “I need that guy running with me and encouraging me!”. I smile and tell him “you can have that encouragement right now by praying. God is always there to encourage us anytime.” We run together for a bit. He points out his daughter running toward us. I tell him my daughter is racing too.

I see a woman coming back in green. I recognize her from registration. I tell her good job. Maybe I can catch her.  But my focus is not on being competitive on the run but to get through it.  There are 11 miles to go and I don’t know how the hamstring will do.

Mile 3 is 10:49. I come upon another aid station. To my far right I see a timing mat. It’s confusing what to do so I ask the girls at the aid station. They tell me I have to run pass them and follow the road around to the timing mat and back. Weird, but ok I think. I hit the mat and turn back. I can see runners in the distance. It’s the beginning of the trail over there. Wow, funny how I feel so far away from the beginning of the trail but I am actually so close!

Mile 4 is 10:58. Slight climb. The hamstring is hanging in there. Thank you Lord!  There is Anna!  She looks strong.  I tell her good job and remind her to focus on her form.  Her hip has been an issue lately and she wasn’t sure what she’d be able to do today either.  It’s possible she can catch me!

I have not needed to walk at all yet! I need a restroom. There is a porta potty ahead and someone is exiting right when I get there.  Score!  

Mile 5 is 11:59.  I exit the trail and am relieved to be back on pavement for a short time…even though I have to climb. About 2/3 up I see a rock slab on the left side of the road.  I make a note to remember that spot on my 2nd loop.  Next time I’m here I’ll be so close to the finish line.  I turn off the road and get to enjoy the downhill back towards transition/finish. 

Mile 6 is 10:46.  Hamstring not getting worse but it reminds me that I am unable to run fast.  I fly down hill and see the girl in green!  We intersect at the turn around/aid station. “Good job!”. I can see the finish line…not yet!  I grab some oranges and get out ahead of her.

I trudge back up the steep, sandy hill.  It’s not bad especially since I am still running.  Thank you God! What a blessing!

Back to the road for a nice run downhill! 

Mile 7 is 11:45. I see Troy and Ariel on their bikes! It’s hot and they have already raced.  They must be so tired but still they are out here cheering!  I tell Troy my hamstring is hanging in there, praise God!  Back to the trail.


Mile 8 is 10:03. I see the top three girls again and they are further ahead of me.  They seem to be spread out exactly the same amount as last time I saw them. I’m pretty sure now that I am in 4th place.  There is Anna!  She is motoring!  I hope to hold her off.  It’s going to be close!  I won’t be able to go much faster than this.  I tell her she’s in 6th place and that there is a girl in green that she can look for.

Up and over hill to the turn around point.

Mile 9 is 10:49. I grab some chips and pour water on my head.  I turn at the timing mat and get to head home for good!

Mile 10 is 10:14. Up and over once again!  I just have a straightaway now and then the climb to the rock slab!  There is Anna.  Man, she has not slowed at all it seems.  I am so proud of her and thankful that the Lord has sustained her today!  I think I will safely make it back ahead of her but she will be close!

Mile 11 is 11:05. I’m so tired but I just have to push a little more.  There is Troy and Ariel cheering me on. 

I’m on the road and looking for the slab.  Thank you Lord!  I have not had to stop and walk at all!  The hamstring is tender but hanging in there!

I’m at the top and hitting the trail!  It’s all downhill now!

Mile 12 is 11:00.  I can see the finish line.  The course is short some but I don’t mind so glad to be done! So blessed that the hamstring hung in there!  Thank you Lord!

A group of ladies are cheering and jumping up and down for me.  It’s so sweet!  I see Troy and Ariel cheering me in. 


I cross the line and point up to God!  Thank you Jesus!  Troy is waiting and I fall into him and hug him tightly.  I start to cry tears of joy! 


Now, time to focus on Anna.  Troy and Ariel jump on their bikes to go look for her.  Just a few minutes later I see Anna coming into the finish.  Bummer, I wish I can call Troy and Ariel back.  Anna finishes only 5 minutes behind me! Amazing!  I hug her and tell her we and God are so proud. We find someone with a phone and call Troy.  They hurry back and we all celebrate together.