Option 1: A relatively standard reverse perimeter loop of Aquatic Park WITH wetsuit - roughly one mile against the current.
Option 2: Lingerie swim to the buoy line and back SANS westuit - roughly 200m in freezing ass cold water.
Strangely enough, Option 2 is the more popular of the two.
51 ridiculously hilly miles - in costume, of course! The route: from Aquatic Park to Mill Valley, UP to Four Corners, down to Muir Woods, UP Hwy 1 to Muir Beach, down to Stinson Beach, UP Bolinas-Fairfax road, UP the Seven Sisters (or "Bitches," if you prefer), UP to the East Peak of Mount Tam, down the East Peak of Tam (which, to add insult to injury, requires you to go UP yet again), and back down to Mill Valley.
The Double Dipsea. There is nothing flat about this course. You're either climbing stairs or trail, or you're screaming down them for 14.5 miles.
A spectacular party complete with puke bucket prizes, finisher medals and shirts, pizza, beer, and other goodies!
So, really, who wouldn't want to participate in this torture and mayhem??? Well, after hearing all the stories (and despite hearing all the stories), I sure as hell wasn't going to miss it!
Let the madness begin
I turned in my registration, along with my "Ode to Ralph," a Haiku written especially for Uncle Ralph and Muffy, dubbed myself "Ralphaholic," and crossed my fingers that they would find me worthy of taking part in the event this year (or maybe I was secretly hoping that they would laugh in my face and say "Go Ralph somewhere else!" but that's neither here nor there...).
Ode to Ralph
Ralph in icy Bay
Then on Tam and Dipsea Trail
I need a bucket
As is expected by Muffy and Ralph, TN2R arrived, and I was nowhere near ready for any of it. I'd done a few long, hilly bike rides and some trail runs, but no brick workouts, and I hadn't run more than 8 miles in at least a month thanks to my tweaky hamstring. Oh well!
Megan (AKA "Bat Girl") picked me up at 5:40, and we headed to Aquatic Park to set up our transition area. Needless to say, it was still dark, but several other athletes were there getting ready before making the trip to Mill Valley to drop off cars for the run transition. It only took me about five minutes to set up my area, so I spent a good deal of time getting body marked and trying to blow up my awesome Hello Kitty inner tube.
|Cherries for TN2R virgins, Buckets for returning Ralphers|
A few of us made a trip to Starbucks to use the bathroom and get coffee (they forgot to put the espresso in my latte - WTF?), and then as the shuttle returned from Mill Valley, we all changed into our costumes for the swim. I wish I had photos of the reactions that we got from the Team in Training and Luna Chix groups that had gathered at AP for their own workout. They were thoroughly entertained! I thought my Ross (Dress for Less!) houndstooth checked lingere was ugly, but it was actually pretty cute compared to a lot of what was out there! Here's a sampling:
|Muffy herself, ready to Ralph!|
|That's some fancy lingerie, there!|
|Don't you hate it when everyone shows up in the same polka dotted nightie as you???|
|These guys made pink tutus look gooooood.|
We all gathered on the beach for a quick competition between the TN2R virgins and the more experienced Ralphers, which involved us running down the beach holding hands and moving big blow-up plastic balls through an obstacle course. The virgins won!!!
|Virgins on the left, Ralphers on the right. This little contest was more tiring than the swim! (courtesy of C. Chan)|
|Tri Not 2 Ralph Class of 2011 (courtesy of C. Chan)|
I ditched the inner tube on the beach, dove in, and started swimming, and it wasn't until about halfway to the buoy that I realized I couldn't breathe. The water was so cold that I started to hyperventilate, so I had to calm down, take a few deep breaths, and continue on my way. For a few moments I thought that maybe I could handle that whole swimming-in-the-Bay-without-a-wetsuit thing, but then my better judgment kicked in and I realized that would just be plain crazy. Because I never do anything crazy, right?
Let me tell you, costume changes in triathlon are not easy. I did two full costume changes in Ironman AZ, and I vowed never to do it again, but in this case I had to (unless I wanted to ride my bike in a soggy, ugly negligee all day). Freezing cold hands and wet clothes do not make for an easy change, especially when you've got to do it under a towel! Finally, I somehow managed to get my bike shorts on, along with my adorable (if I do say so myself) beer maid outfit. If nothing else, TN2R is a great opportunity to recycle Halloween costumes!
|Rolling into Old Mill Park on the way out. And to clear up any confusion, yes, I have a Hello Kitty boob tattoo. No, it's not real!!! (courtesy of L. Geller)|
|Skins is a hottie. She's also the only one who actually ralphed on this ride.|
|Bat Girl flew up those hills!|
|Bunny Ralph and The King were just too cool for words!|
Katya, Skins, Howard and I made a quick pit stop at the Sports Basement to use the facilities on the way out, and I got a bar (which, it turns out, was a very good decision on my part), and then we headed on our merry way out to Mill Valley. The climb started just past Old Mill Park, and I managed to stay pretty well within my limits on the way up to Four Corners. I lost the front and back of the pack here, so I just headed on down the hill on my own. I didn't see anyone else until I'd climbed out of Muir Woods and was getting ready to start the descent into Stinson. That's when Faith caught me (and proceeded to drop me like a rock!). I kept my steady pace, and saw a few other Ralphers here and there. It was a pretty nice day for a ride, so I tried to enjoy what I could before the real climbing began.
I caught back up to Howard at Stinson, and he was nice enough to let me hang onto his wheel on the way up the Bolinas lagoon. Thank God, because the next turn after the lagoon is the start of a 10 mile climb up Bo-Fax to the top of Mount Tam. Bo-Fax didn't feel so bad, or at least not as bad as the previous time I'd ridden it a couple of weeks back, but I did stop at one point to eat a Gu. Otherwise, I just kept chugging along. Passed a couple of people, but mostly got my ass kicked by Dolce Vita types who blew by me like I was standing still. I felt like a complete dumbass, too, because they're all in their fancy full cycling kits and I'm in a beer maid costume. But seriously, how can you not at least crack a smile when you see something ridiculous like that? Whatever. At least I was having fun! Fun. Right. I kept trying to remind myself of that.
Anyway, I was sooo happy to see the top of Bo-Fax! I stopped at our little Tiki Bar for some snacks - potato chips and peanut butter pretzels are pretty fantastic when you've been eating Gu and Gatorade all morning - and took a little bit of a rest. There were lots of gracious volunteers waiting at the top to help us out. A big thanks to everyone who spent their day supporting all of us freaks!
|Michelle working the Tiki Bar at the top of Bo-Fax (courtesy of C. Chan)|
|Hanging with fellow SFRRC/SFTri'er Deirdre at the top of Bo-Fax|
I gutted my way through, and just as I was about to catch the group in front of me, I stood to gain a little extra speed and my chain slipped. Luckily, it miraculously slid right back on without me having to do anything, but as the chain slipped, my left pedal dropped really fast, and I whacked the crap out of my thigh on my aero bar pad. I cussed up a storm and started to tear up because it was so painful. I almost decided then and there to skip the East Peak of Tam, but something in me made me keep going. It hurt like crazy, but nothing was going to stop me from finishing this stupid bike ride!
So I kept climbing up to the West Peak of Tam, which was the first time I'd actually felt like I was working so hard that I might ralph (in retrospect, I would have felt better if I'd eaten more earlier on, because at this point I was running on a Gu, a bar, and a couple of potato chips). The only thing that kept me going was seeing everyone else descending back toward Pantoll - the encouragement from my fellow PEPs was definitely helpful! When I finally got to the top of West Peak, I could see the final climb into the parking lot at East Peak - it looked like a cliff from where I was, and I wasn't I would make it up there. Fortunately, it's not as bad as it looks, but it's a nasty little climb at the end of an already gnarly ride! I hung out at the top of Tam for a bit and enjoyed the view, while random hikers laughed at my costume. I'm sure we did look pretty ridiculous!
|Proof that I made it to the top!|
I got a few cheers as I headed into the park - I was SO happy to be done with what was probably my most difficult bike ride ever (not the longest, but definitely the hardest!). And, fortunately, I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come. I headed to the car, switched out my beer maid costume for more comfortable running attire, put my bike away, and stuffed part of a bar in my mouth. Grabbed my Camelback, and headed for the Dipsea trailhead with about ten others.
|Heading out on the run (courtesy of L. Geller)|
We walked to the bottom of the Dipsea stairs, and then proceeded to walk up all 676 steps. We may have jogged a little bit at this point, but we hit trail and another uphill section, so we did more walking than anything. We didn't legitimately start running until we hit the Panoramic Highway - a downhill portion of the course that's maybe a mile in. We ran all the way down to Muir Woods, past some sketchy portions of road that looked like they might fall down the cliff at any minute. When we arrived, we found that the bridge that crosses the river was closed, and that we'd have to take a detour. While the others continued on, I took a detour of my own, back to the Muir Woods gate to use the restroom. I'm glad I did because it was the only chance to do so on the whole run, but I was also sad to have lost a group of running buddies.
|Well, at least I made it to Muir Woods...|
|At the top of Cardiac Hill|
|Gorgeous view of Stinson from the Dipsea Trail|
Our little pack started to spread out as we headed up the hill, and I just did my best to keep Meredith, who was still in her Wonder Woman costume, in my sights. I ran when she ran, I walked when she walked, and I tried to just ignore how tired I was. By this point, we'd gone at least 8 miles. This was my longest distance prior to TN2R in a loooong time, and it was readily apparent to me that my endurance was not up to par for something like this, especially not on a hilly trail like the Dipsea! I think this is when we were both bonking big-time. While we were trudging up the stairs, we were both in a deep, dark pit of despair. At one point, Meredith wobbled. I mustered an, "Are you alright?" She managed a, "Yes." But later, back at the top of Cardiac Hill, she told me she was feeling pretty out of it at that point. We were both on the verge of passing out, but somehow pushed ourselves and each other through it until the Gu and Fritos we'd eaten at Stinson finally kicked in.
Despite our totally trashed quads, we jogged the rest of the way down to Muir Woods, where we caught back up with a couple of other Ralphers. We stopped at the bathrooms there and braced ourselves for the last stretch. There's another long uphill from Muir Woods back up to the Panoramic Highway, and then it's all downhill from there. We chatted with some wild turkeys (they were really there, I swear!), and then made our way up the hill. From the top, all we had to do was navigate the rest of the trail without falling (one of these days, I'm going to eat it on the trail, I just know it, and it would have been just like me to do it at the end of this run!). We swore that we were going to walk down the stairs, more for safety than anything, but we were so excited to get back that we ran all the way down and back into camp. The cheers from the rest of the Ralphers were pretty awesome!
|Making our grand entrance into the post-workout kegger! (courtesy of A. Ramirez)|