The Fools Hollow Lake shortly before the swim started.

You’ve seen that photo of a cat completely drenched and looking unhappy and pathetic, right?

That’s how this bicyclist looked when I slogged out of the Fools Hollow Lake following an 800-meter swim on Sunday during the the 2012 Deuces Wild Xterra put on by

The event lived up to its reputation as a wet (muddy) and wild off-road triathalon.

I’d spent the last six months training for the event focusing on swimming and running since those were clearly my weakest events.

I thought I was ready, but nothing could have prepared me for the swim.

The race started and the combination of a tight wetsuit, 100 splashing swimmers, near zero visibility in a dark lake and first-time panic combined to make for an awful swim.

I could not catch my breath and I couldn’t utilize the new swim stroke I had worked on in the pool.

For me, the swim became all about survival and not speed. I ended up doing a lot of sidestroke to keep my face out of the water to get consistent oxygen.

Eventually, I was able to put my face in and start do some actual swimming, although I had to breath on every stroke as opposed to the three strokes I averaged in the pool.

I finished 84th out of the 109 people who completed the swim. After speaking to some experienced triathaletes, a miserable first swim is fairly common.

Luckily, next up was the mountain bike ride. It was a 15-mile course — about 7 miles out-and-back plus an eight-mile loop. Check out the map below.

The course was a lot of fun to ride. For the most part it was very different than the trails in Tucson with the exception of a mile-long climb filled with rocks. Race organizers said only about 10 people ride the whole climb without walking each year.

I got about halfway up when a guy who was walking abruptly switched sides and caused me to hit the brakes. At that point I was done and had to walk the rest of the way.

On the way out, we had to cross under the highway through a rain culvert, which was filled with rust red muddy water. The water was about knee-high covering 8-inches of mud. We had to dismount and slog though the culvert. When I got home yesterday afternoon, I had to use a metal brush to get all the muck off of my shoes.

I didn’t go all out because I was still worried about the five-mile run coming up. I finished 49th out of 109 on the bike ride.

Once I got back to the transition area I had to fight to get my bike shoes off because all the mud made the buckles stick. Eventually I got them off and got my running shoes on.

The course featured two climbs: one called the eliminator and the other called the mini eliminator. They were pretty brutal, but fairly short. The course was basically an out-and-back.

Organizers spared the runners a second climb up the other side of the eliminator, but lest you think they wanted to make it easy on the runners — the route took us through the lake and waist-high water followed by a vertical climb onto the finishing trail.

I finished in 2:38:33. My overall place was 63rd out of 109 competitors.

While the swim was really awful, overall the event was a ton of fun. I think I’ll do another one, but I’ll work on my swimming a lot more.

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