Monday, June 27, 2011

Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake weekend

What a weekend this was! You've seen the repeated screen shots of the weather service's dire predictions for hight heat, but what actually headed our way was even more brutal: Yesterday's temperature officially boiled over at 112 degrees Fahrenheit, the second-highest temperature ever recorded here in Lubbock. Incidentally, the hottest it ever got was on the day of the 1994 Buffalo Springs Triathlon, June 27, with 114 degrees. Could the race have something to do with these weather patterns?

Let's put it this way: These temperatures are not fit for human consumption. On Friday and Saturday I spent my entire time in the relative coolness of the Holiday Inn atrium where the expo for the race was located. Thanks to race organizer Marti Greer I've had a table here for years, selling some of my eclectic bike part inventory and wrenching on athletes' bikes. Over the years I have developed quite some following, with people patiently waiting in line so I can rub a little magic on their machines—or simply massage the gears that their hometown mechanic can't get adjusted just right. Friday had been a long day, and Saturday I spent a full 13 hours on the expo floor, leaving me physically spent. I finally hit the rack at 11:30 p.m.

The alarm clock rang at 3:40 a.m. on Sunday. It was not only the alarm that was sounding, but the wind-chimes on the porch made a hellacious racket, too. The wind had never died down and stayed steady at 25 mph or more. Transition opened at the ungodly time of 4:30 a.m., so not much lingering at the casa. But race day is always exciting, wheter one is the athlete, the organizer, or the head referee. A steady stream of cars made their way to Buffalo Springs Lake just a few miles east of town, attracted by a skyward-pointing search light. Yes, this is my hometown race, and I am proud to be able to head the officiating crew for this one. This year we were joined by a new volunteer, Ryan, but otherwise we were all old hands at this event, all "good folk," as we like to see around here.
RD Mike Greer, a legend in his own right in the world of triathlon
Because of the expected high temperature organizers Mike and Marti Greer had decided to push the start of the race as far forward as possible, and at the very crack of dawn the racers congregated on the sandy beach of the lake. BTW, the water really did measure 74.2 degrees that morning—Mike has taken a lot of flak over the years that he manipulates the temperature reading by placing sacks of ice in strategic spots, but I took this reading with my thermometer, and the broth really was that cool. What lots of people forget is that this is a spring-fed lake (thus—duh—the name!) that simply doesn't warm up as much as other bodies of water in our parts.
The lake right before the 6:25 a.m. start
It sure is a pretty picture when 1,000 racers get ready to test themselves. It turned out a day of testing for everyone. Even on the motos it was fairly warm, and the volunteers who handed out water bottles along the course could have used shade and a cold drink or two themselves. The wind was dry and hard, sucking the lifeblod out of everyone. Riding behind the Pro men I continued to be amazed by how fast these guys can go, with or into the wind. Unbelievable.

I won't bore you with who raced or who won—I hardly ever know that myself. But I do want to tell you that all those preparations in anticipation of the heat paid off. Just look at this picture of the finish line, right before the arrival of the overall winner: All those blue shirts are nursing students from Texas Tech who had a first-hand crash course on how to handle a triage situation.
Medical personnel at the finish line
The placement of the medical tent is exemplary, less than 30 meters from the finish line. Medical director Natalie Steadman had done an absolutely astounding job of planing for every eventuality—except one: She got totally overheated, and the exhaustion of the days leading up to the event took their toll as well, sending  her into a bath tub with ice water while being hooked up to an IV. Here's the medical tent, around 1 p.m., about two hours before the end of the race.
A scene from M*A*S*H*
Of course, another way to cool off is to simply go back into the water, and quite a few athletes chose that route. Barely had they crossed the finish line, they'd grab some cold drinks and sit for a while in the lake. Once I was done with my duties around 3 p.m., I grabbed a cold Miller Light and found a shady spot right on the water and watched the ski boats and ScooBaDus. Time to relax, at last. I had another Miller.
Cooling off in Buffalo Springs
Some of those who know me and my truck have firsthand experience with the Toyota's anemic AC, and they won't be surprised that I drove home with the windows rolled down. Wow! I couldn't believe how HOT it was driving down the highway! It felt as if somebody was pointing a hairdryer at the arm that I dangled out. Man oh man. At that time I didn't know yet that we would hit 112 F around 4:30 p.m. But when I came home, this was what my back-porch thermometer had to tell me:

4:00 p.m. on my back porch
I wouldn't mind at all if I were to never see this again, but at the time of this writing, on Monday afternoon, we're again at a quivering 100, so the official temp is going to be a few degrees higher. Good thing that in two weeks I am going to leave for Vineman in California, and from what I understand, things are a bit more moderate out there. Until then, I'll continue to suffer and be confined to the house during most of the day. Maybe I'll use some of this weekend's earnings to buy myself some Popsicles tomorrow....

Stay cool,


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