Monday, June 11, 2007

Tri OneOOne

In Clearlake I met this man
Of whom I am now a big fan:
A true Hero, he was called Me.

He was as valiant as can be.

On his back I swam, biked and ran.

Oh so badly this race began:

Raw panic flooded the brainpan
Then I slew the Fear beastie

In Clearlake.

Bring up the rear, not the van,
Was the tentative pre-race plan:

I was, after all, a newbie.

But five others I did out flee

As His arms broadened my wingspan

In Clearlake.

Date: June 10, 2007
Race: Tri OneOOne (1.86M Swim, 80.6M Bike, 18.6M Run)
Location: Clearlake, Lakeport, CA (Lake District)
Time : 10:48:56

The Greek god Pan inspired panic in lonely places. Hence the word panic in English (from the Greek panikon "pertaining to Pan"). I felt it for only the second time in my life.

The first time was in Muscat (Oman) sometime in the summer of 1992. Rajeev Char and another friend were trying to teach me how to snorkel. The mask I was wearing was one of those real old ones - the kind that has an oval faceplate surrounded by thick black rubber. My field of vision went from 180 degrees to less than 90 degrees the instant I put my face in the water. I felt intensely claustrophobic and panicked. It took me 45 minutes to conquer it and start snorkeling in the shallows.

My second encounter was brought about by a host of reasons - tight wet suit, too fast a pace causing me to get slightly out of breath and the sight of the other swimmers disappearing from view.

Let's rewind a bit.

Saturday, June 9
I picked up Rajeev Char from his place at 11:00 a.m. We loaded up his stuff in the car, hoisted his bike on a bike rack and hit the road after picking up water, bagels and some coffee.

We met up with Vinod Herur, another triathlon stud (like Rajeev Char), in the Vista Point parking lot on the Marin side of the Golden Gate bridge.

(The San Francisco skyline behind us)

We hit 101N and finally stopped for lunch around 2 p.m. Our next stop was just past 4 p.m. in the little town of Lakeport. Specifically 3rd & Main where the race was to start and end the next day.

There were not too many athletes when we picked up our bib numbers and racked our bikes in the transition area.

(The race registration area)

We decided to grab a few beers (carbo loading???) while we waited for the Race official's briefing at 6 p.m.

We trooped into this little restaurant called Park Place. We met the maitre d'hotel, a girl name Ashley. More about her later. We also met this wonderful 80+ year old lady whose daughter, after getting divorced, had re-invented herself. Mellonie Irvine has her own CD now. You can read about her on Such an inspiring story.

The race briefing went by fast and we then headed to this wonderful hotel Vinod had found. The balcony was in line with the swim turnaround. What a view of Clearlake with Mt. Konocti a bit to the right on the far shore!

The picture below shows the swim course.

(The buoys on the swim course)

(Listening to the official briefing)

After getting our transition bags and other stuff together we finally hit the sack.

Sunday, June 10
We were up at 4:30 a.m.. Did the rounds of the bathroom and hit the road to get to the race. We found parking a few hundred yards from the Start/Finish area.

We inflated our bike tires and got into our wet suits after having body marking done and picking up our chip.

With 15 minutes to go I realized, when using the toilet, that I had put my wet suit on inside out! Kelly (picture below) McKean, who went on to win her Age group, and Rajeev Char helped me set things right. I had generously applied Body Glide to my ankles, my knees, my wrists, my elbows and around my arm pits. The rookie I was, I forgot to apply it around my neck.

(Lovely Kelly and handsome Vinod during the pre-race briefing dinner from the evening before)

A few pictures from before the start below.

(Helping a fellow athlete inflate her tires)

(Getting ready to don the wet suit)

SWIM (2x0.93 miles; 1:30:27)

The start of the swim was a tread water start i.e. we had to wade out a bit from the pier to start. The water felt cold when it seeped into my wet suit but the temperature soon equalized and I felt just right. 7:00 a.m. the Pros had been sent on their way. I remember treading water and hearing the voice of the Race Official saying "45 seconds", "30 seconds" ... I had my watch in Chrono mode and pushed the start as soon as the "gun" went off. I made it around the first buoy and then the panic hit me like a sledgehammer.

I stopped swimming. My mind instantly decided to quit. It tried to justify that decision be stating that I'm a runner, not a triathlete. This was NOT my sport. Then my Spirit took over. It promised to see me through. It got me to start swimming again albeit slowly. It lovingly cradled me until the mind had accepted that there was no turning back.

Then I got into a groove. Swim a few strokes. Look up. Sight the next buoy. Make course corrections. Swim some more. It went on like this for another 80 minutes.

The second lap was faster because I had gotten the hang of navigation. The lack of Body Glide on the back of my neck caused a lot of chafing. I was the last one out of the water, in position 116.

The volunteers in this race were simply outstanding. The volunteer who helped me with my transition got me my transition bag, helped me out of the wet suit, laid out my helmet, bike shoes, gels etc. on the table and even folded and put away the wet suit. Thank you whoever you are. I changed into my bike shorts, stuffed my jersey pockets with Cliff bars, a spare tube and candied ginger.

BIKE (3x26.88; 5:35:38)
It took about 4 miles and a small climb before my legs got into biking mode. The first person I saw was Vinod. I was at about mile 9 while he must have been at mile 22. Char came into view soon about 2 miles later. They both looked in fine form. I ate a Cliff bar just before the turnaround. I was passed by numerous Pros and fast Age Groupers and it was inspiring to see them pedalling away at breakneck speed, as though I was standing still instead of biking at 15 mph. The lap ended with a nice 1.5 mile descent into the town of Lakeport.

That first lap was done at an average speed of 15 mph. The 2 cages on the bike had bottles filled with Gu2O+Clip2+Succeed. The plan was to finish both bottles over the lap and replace them with fresh ones at the end of the lap. I did that and was away on the second lap.

That lap was pretty much a copy of the first one save for the feeling of nausea about 2 miles into it. I reached into the jersey pocket behind me and found the ginger. 4 pieces and 5 minutes later the nausea had disappeared. That happened on and off through that lap and the next. Nausea followed by ginger. That queasy feeling prevented me from drinking and eating as much as I would have like and the run later showed me how much I had been affected.

I finished that second lap with an overall average still at 15 mph.

The third lap was a slow one. There were not many cyclists out there. Just 4 people behind me that I could see. I tried to eat as much as I could but it was not a lot with the nausea still rearing its head now and then.

All along this third lap I was thinking about how Anu had done the 56-mile bike ride during her Miami Half Ironman (Nov 2006) in just under 3:30. I have nothing but admiration for her. She is another amazing athlete!

I ended the bike portion around 7:10 into the race. Overall speed had dropped to 14.4 mph.

I quickly got out of the bike clothes and into running shorts and a matching singlet. Slapped a visor on my head, sunglasses in place and grabbed my hand bottle filled with Coke+Succeed. That combo has worked in all my ultras this year and it delivered here too. The Coke helped somewhat counter the lack of proper nutrition on the bike.

RUN (2x9.3 miles; 3:30:12)
I had planned to run the entire course. Of course you know the old adage about "All the plans of mice and men ...". I did though run the first 11.5 miles non-stop. This course was just an incessant barrage of hills. Short but steep ones that took their toll on the athletes. I ran the first lap at a constant pace of around 11 min/mile.

My breathing had started to unravel slightly during the last bike lap. It came apart completely right at the start of the run. The breath made a wheezing, raspy sound going in. Almost like a death rattle. That prevented me from picking up pace. I was still determined to run as much as I could so I settled into a pace that was commensurate with the amount of oxygen going in!

I ran 18.6 miles on Coke+salt. I met Vinod and Char about 1.5 miles into my first lap. They were at about mile 8 for them. They looked great and encouraged me. I met Char again almost at the same point in the second lap and he looked very strong and I knew that he was going to go under 9:35 (9:23 was his actual time). What a stud!! I doff my hat to you sir.

I met Vinod a mile behind. He was walking. He admitted to being tired. I would have been on my knees had I been in his shoes - 100 mile bike rides on 3 consecutive days over the Memorial Day weekend followed by a hard race in the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon the week after and then this ultra triathlon the week after Alcatraz! He is another super stud I'm in awe of. He went on to finish in 9:48.

My own race ended 10:48 into it as I sprinted across the Finish line. Char got off the massage table when he heard my name being called just to see me finish. What a wonderful friend.

I got a fantastic massage 30 minutes later.

The volunteers in this race were just phenomenal. Ever smiling and ever ready to len a helping hand. The race organization was superb too.

Char and Vinod - Thank you very, very much for all the tips and advice and help you gave me. This race would not have been as much fun had you not been there. Vinod - thanks for the pictures. They are wonderful.

We ate dinner in Park Place (the same place where we had had our beers the day before). We made friends with Ashley and learned about her. Her husband's cancer was discovered 3 days into their marriage! They had canceled health insurance for a couple of months in order to pay for their wedding and the illness was discovered during that period. He has been on chemo for 7 months now and they are $ 600K in debt. You could never have told from her demeanor. She was cheerful and smiling and such a wonderful person. Look her up if you are ever in Lakeport and tell her that Rajeev, Rajeev and Vinod send their love.

One word of caution too all you folks out there who are contemplating doing a triathlon - please do not take the swim as lightly as I did. All my bravado could have been disastrous. Please put in the requisite training AND adequate amount of open water swimming before you try your hand (and arms) at a tri.

Good luck to you all. Be safe.


Quizman said...

Well done! Amazing stuff.

Great report.

Rajeev said...


Thank you my friend.


shekhar said...

Great Job Coach!

Rajeev said...


Thanks buddy.


rush said...

awesome- amazing- wonderful. Great great report

Rajeev said...


Thanks for stopping by.


arul said...


Rajeev Char said...

Two panic attacks - 15 years apart...and I was involved or was in close proximity for both!! What are the odds :-)
I love your spirit dude! Your ability to make these endurance events into a party is a special gift...rock on!

Rajeev said...


Thank for all your help and encouragement. Just knowing that you were on the course and that you would be there at the end helped boost my spirit.


Peter Lubbers said...

Great job, Rajeev!
I think I'd rather run 100 miles than swim the distance you covered :)


Rajeev said...


Thanks my man. Once the panic attack subsided, the distance did not feel that daunting.


Tiny Seal said...

Very enjoyable report! Great to see you exploring new frontiers with triathlons. Look forward to reading about more adventures in future!

Btw, if you ever want to do open water practice before future triathlons, you are most welcome to join me and my buddies at aquatic park in the weekends. We swim with dolphin club ( and guests are welcome to use post swim shower and sauna facilities to thaw out.


Anonymous said...

Tamhare pehli triathlon complete karva mate bau bau badhai ane shubh kamnaye, mara taraf thi. Saru kam karyou ane aouta waras maa pan tame wadhare success ma le.


anil said...

Great achievement Rajeev. I was concerned in the swim leg as you didnt get chance to do much of open water swim, but i was well aware of your mental grit.

You are a unique athlete with unbelievable ability to rise to the occasions again and again. I am honored to be with you buddy/coach.

Hats of to your spirit and a fantastic effort.


Rajeev said...


Thank you very much. :)


Rajeev said...


Whoa there! That's very high praise! I don't know if I deserve all of it though!!

Thank you for the thoughts though!!

Look to yourself too. You are as amazing as anybody I know. I am honored to be your buddy too!!!


olga said...

Awesome on tri! I am a sissy when it comes to bikes, as well as a slow slog in swimming (but at least I won't drawn).
Thanks for your comment, and keep endurance interesting!

Rajeev said...


Thanks for stopping by! I believe you would excel at the other two sports given how strong you are mentally!!