Last fall I decided that part of turning forty and being single would be getting custom triathlon coaching! I’ve been doing that for a while, which is it’s own thing, and this was my first race with actual “Coach’s Orders!”
I’ve done the Discovery Bay Sprint tri as my first race of the season the last three years. It’s a grassroots race, field is capped at 300 for both Sprint and Olympic Distances, and I get there early enough to park about 30 yards from transition.
I was oddly nervous this year. I actually got into open water before the start of my racing season, which was the day before. I had a sort of rough go of it, nutrition was off, and that was in my head so I had extra swim anxiety on top my pre-existing swim anxiety.
I just wasn’t as dialed in as I have been for some other races. I forgot my race belt (managed to borrow the exact same race belt that I have from a teammate, go OTC!) I was feeling just a bit lost all morning. I was ten minutes behind schedule when I got into line for the porta potty the last time. Now this isn’t late, it’s just that I was behind perfect and I knew it. The nerves were horrendous. I was practically crying. But there was about 5% of me looking at this saying “Wow, these are some really bad race day nerves!” and not participating in the breakdown.
I nattered at a random person as I walked down to the water and that helped. I saw another ETPA athlete and got some water off of them for the dry mouth that had developed. I was able to zip up my wetsuit with no help!!
SWIM 700 Yards 15:44 2:15/100 Overall Place 70/114
I jumped in with about three minutes before the first wave and six minutes before my race start. It was cold this year! about 58 was what I heard and I felt that all the way in my chest. Brain freeze and yay! more panic. I just held on to the dock and waited for the men’s wave to go.
They went and I took some strokes to get the sighting line right, check my goggle fit, make sure my goggles weren’t fogging up too much. Then it was go time. For all the nerves, I was fine when the horn sounded and we were off.
The word from Raeleigh was to find my edge. Well, I didn’t. I’ve had a mantra for swimming for a while and I lost it. I swam strongly but not as fast as I could have. I tried to kick up my pace once or twice but my chest started to get tight and I just backed right off. My head game was not all the way there and I knew it.
I stayed patient, I kept my strokes long and I kept swimming all the way to the end. No in swim panic, just steady effort.
And when I came out I saw that I hadn’t actually started my watch, so no data beside time. I staggered when I came out which probably cost me a couple of seconds to the timing mat, but that’s all part of the game and it counts.
(Last year was 17:10 – two years ago was 15:39, feeling pretty good about that!)
T2 – 4:39
I was shaky as hell. Heart racing, dizzy. Trying to jog all the way but also trying to got some semblance of control. Top half of the wetsuit off, cap and goggle off on the run up. Had to sit down to get my wetsuit off, feeling slow as anything and like always – top half for speed. 2018 T1 – 5:38.
Bike – 16 miles 58:08 86/114
On the bike I had a power target to meet, not too slow, not too fast. I had to do some watch wrangling to get my power displayed. No riding to feel today! I forgot to lube my bike shoes, so I got to practice really shoving my feet in. I did a big practice session a couple of weeks before for getting into/out of my shoes on the bike, I just forgot I’d be wet this time. Took some breaths and did the thing.
I sat down and tried to match my effort to my target power. It was tough because there were gusting winds, slight rises and depressions and changing road surface. My right hip started to complain about half way through and I was on the look out for having to call it a day. No idea what it was but it didn’t carry on to the run, so I’ll call it stiffness and carry on. After the race my average ride power was exactly in the zone I was aiming for and I rode in under an hour so I am well happy with it.
Last year was a 59:41, so again, improving!
T2 – 1:02
My pride and joy! Which I just whiffed. I couldn’t find my spot! I was just blanking and my towel had gotten thrown over my shoes and I was just dazed and confused for a couple of seconds.
I managed to get it parked and then it was just odd. My brain could not quite wrap around what I was doing. Still grabbed my stuff and got going, just not as fast as usual.
Run 5k (it was long, if Garmin is to be believed) 38:54 12:33 pace 95/114
The run was pretty nice! We had lovely weather all day, low 60s, clear, and dry. Some wind but nothing heinous. I got myself all together, heart rate monitor slipped but I got that sorted set off at my target heart rate.
It’s an out and back so I spent my time cheering on everyone who was coming towards me and everyone who was passing me. It was very, very relaxing to not have to decide whether I was going to chase any of the people who passed me. I had a target and I was going to hit it and that was my whole job.
,Some shin splints for the first mile or so but no serious issues, no blisters either. I gave a tiny kick at the end and that was that. Saw teammates, had a beer and then went for my cool down. Yep, I finished my race and then went running again.
All in all I had fun, I had a very controlled race, I was happy with having a race plan to race to and then racing to the plan. Discovery Bay gets a little better every year, they are very good about incorporating racer feedback. This year they moved a water stop so we hit it twice during the 5k instead of just once at the turnaround.
All things being equal, I’ll probably be out there next year!
(Ed Note: I wrote this ages ago and am putting it up incomplete)
This summer hasn’t been the best for my training. I got some sort of wonderful lung thing that started as a cough and then continued being a cough for a month. Not optimal for sports that depend on the body being able to get, you know, oxygen.
But, in spite of this, I signed up for Barb’s Tri. Why, Fyre? Why sign up for a race when you haven’t been able to train?
My club set this as a focus race this year. Barb’s Race was the only women’s only half distance triathlon in the US. It was run concurrently with the Vineman Full Distance triathlon and was a fundraiser to support people living with cancer. When WTC (you know them as Ironman) bought Vineman a couple of years ago, the bought the rights to the name “Barb’s Race” and promptly killed it stating that it didn’t fit into their model.
This was the first year of the new Barb’s Tri, started by that same Barb. So bronchitis or no bronchitis, I wanted to be there to support this race. The fundraising was modest – just $100. The distance was short – a sprint. I’d been training all spring so the distance was doable, I needed to stick with what my body was telling me on the day.
I sent out a fundraising blurb on Facebook but I was completely prepared to throw down the $100 on top of registration. Well, BAM! Donations! I was covered and right quickly with many messages of “Fuck Cancer!”
So now I really had to do it, didn’t I?
There is a wonderful freedom when you race without expectations. I didn’t worry about how fast I was going to go, all I concerned myself with was racing within my limits aka – not puking or feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
OTC had a fine turnout (the first three people in transition were from my club) so there were many people to complain to about racing with bronchitis or whatever the hell was wrong with me. As I warmed up in the water I was very focused on how I was feeling. I felt great. I was able to swim without any distress, which was my goal.
I was racing the sprint distance – 750 meter swim, 12.5 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. The swim started wonderfully. Warm water, mild current in the river, a small race with lots of camaraderie. Then my goggles started leaking. I stopped swimming three times in the first half to try and clear them but had no luck. I resigned myself to having one eye to sight with and stayed calm and even.
When I hit the beach I walked. Usually I push transitions but not this day. Swim to bike is when my heart rate spikes and I was trying to avoid having my lungs do too much. I sauntered up the beach and over the grass to transition and got on my bike without any urgency.
As I got going on the bike I took my time and got very, very warm. Then I felt a bit of aggression and I wanted to push. My body was more than willing to pick up the pace. I very happily spun through the country (it’s a lovely course) and passed a couple of people. It was just fantastic conditions and I was having a great time.
I took a slight wrong turn on the way back but didn’t go too far and corrected to get back to transition. Whoops! I’ve made a bonehead move in most of my races this year. I’ve been able to laugh them off, which is great. I’m able to not take myself too seriously or beat myself up, I just have a giggle at my silliness and let it go.
Back in transition, I wasn’t pulling any fancy maneuvers for dismounting. I rolled up and quickly changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and got out on the run, again, careful to keep it comfortable.
I chugged along. Not pushing hard but definitely keeping it moving. I’ve finally learned to run “comfortably hard.” No spikes, no troughs, just one level effort start to finish. I did stop to drink at the aid station in the spirit of not going too hard.
I came into the finish behind three women. If I’d been in better shape and in the space to push I would have tried to out kick them but that wasn’t the order of the day. I jogged in to the finish
There were family logistics to consider so I didn’t sleep at home, which meant that I didn’t sleep. Not too much of a bother and I was up bright and early. Or really, when my alarm went off I lay in bed and visualized by race for twenty minutes.
Got to the race on time, got checked in and set up. Set up the technical error for later and chatted with fellow racers. There were quite a few first timers and this was a good race for them! Very small (about 160 registered), flat course, easy water. I handed our some spare equipment and advice, mostly to wait at the start of the swim and not go off too fast.
As it always does on race day, the time flew by. There are always first timers showing up fifteen minutes before the start like it’s a 5k and they can stroll up. I never know whether to laugh or feel sorry for them. I didn’t feel too nervous until I had to put on my wetsuit and then I started getting butterflies.
The Olympic Race went off at 8 (a very civilized start time) and I got into the water ten minutes later to warm up. I really warmed up, not just paddling around to get used to the temperature, which was a perfect 66 degrees, but really revving up my heart rate a couple of times. Getting out of breath with a few accelerations and then hanging out waiting for the start.
We were swimming north, which is great because we never had to sight into the sun. I was nice and warm. I had confidence from my training and I went for it. Not too hard but definitely pushing my pace. I was aggressive at the start and going around the buoy. My sighting was good and I finally figured out how to keep my goggle from fogging up! I could actually see for the whole race and it was awesome.
T1 – Goal 6:00 – Race Time – 4:16. This seems good but let me tell you what happened.
I have a bit of pride around my transitions. So much pride that I kept my bike shoes on my pedals, even though I haven’t practiced getting into them while moving since last May. Yeah. Good T1 time that led to a complete stop 400 yards into the bike to put my damn shoes on. And it was a tiny transition area so even if I had run in the shoes it wouldn’t have cost me much time at all. I lost the forest for the trees right there but I was able to laugh at myself and learn from it.
Bike – Goal – 1:00:00 – 16 MPH – Race Time 57:06 – 17 MPH
Despite my technical snafu, my bike time was good. It felt amazing. I was able to laugh off my jackassery and get stuck in. The course was very well marked and volunteers were doing a great job. My handling was not confident as this was my first outdoor ride on my road bike this year. So there are a couple of minutes I could have shaved off with better technical execution.
My effort was steady and strong, with a good cadence. I never got tired. I spent a solid amount of time in the drops – which is something I’m working on improving. There was a woman in my age group who was right in front of me for half the bike. I passed her just after the halfway point but she passed me right back (and then slowed down to the same speed so she just wanted to be in front). We turned east with about four miles to go and I noticed two things. 1) We had a headwind and 2) she hadn’t been in her drops the whole race. I got in my drops, passed her and dropped her. I was going too hard at that point but damn if it didn’t feel good. She was a few seconds behind me coming in to T2 (Spoiler, she didn’t pass me on the run).
T2 – Goal – 2:00 – Race Time – 1:05
Still got it!
Run – Goal – 32:30 – 10:30/mile – Race Time – 33:40 – 10:52
Well – I’m ok with it. I raced hard. The run was pancake flat with no cover. It was a slog. About a half mile out from transition a newbie triathlete I had been chatting with passed me. I saw that she was in my age group. Ugh. I stuck to my pace. She was about 100 yards in front of me at the turnaround. I thought I could get her.
Last year my age group was six people and I really wanted a podium. I kicked it up just a tiny notch. She wasn’t coming back though. We were both passing people at the same rate. I was hurting. Then I saw her walk to take a drink from her bottle. She started to look tired.
There are two ways you can go at the end of a race. There is the “horses coming back to the barn” surge of speed and there is the “Whew, that’s over with” relaxation and slowing. There was a slight downhill and she didn’t speed up on it. I started pushing harder. Then a tiny up hill to a hairpin turn and the finish chute. I pushed up the hill and turned she was ten yards in front of me.
Well if there’s one thing I can do, it’s sprint forty yards for sixth place! I passed her right before the line and had to bend over to not fall down. I very properly negative split my run and ran so hard at the end I nearly threw up – so a standard day at the office for me.
Total Time – Goal – 1:57:30 – Race Time – 1:51:35
Overall 31/64 Division 9/25 Age Group – 6/11
It’s funny, last time this race was run, that time would have gotten me second in my age group – so I hit the time I wanted.
Super fun day. I would absolutely recommend this race, well organized, well run, would race again.
She goes. Same day registration is open! She pays. She gets a bib and she wonders (in the third person because that’s how she is rolling today) “If I can complete a hard International Distance triathlon, does that fitness carry over to being able to run 10 miles at a decent clip?”
Fun facts! When you’re a triathlete, you get used to showing up 1-3 hours before your start time to get everything situated. I showed up 1:15 before race start. I was so early the volunteers weren’t there yet . Got great parking and then had nothing to do for ages. Such a different scene than I am used to.
Race plan was simple: Go out first mile in zone 2, then stick it in zone three for the duration. Goal: 2 hours.
It was very fun. No pressure, just a fun race, great weather. I hooked up with a single serving friend about a half mile in who was going at my pace. He was running a bit faster than I had planned to but sticking with him kept me moving well. We chatted and ran and all was right in the world.
He moved off at mile four and a half (and put fifteen minutes into me over 5.5 miles – brother was moving!) and I trucked down to the turnaround.
The course is out and back. At mile four you turn off the paved path onto a fire road. There is a small climb and then you plunge down a steep, sandy slope that had my heart beat well above threshold. There’s a flatter section, then you descend again, down a rough fire road. You spend a half mile going straight downhill knowing that once you hit the turnaround you have to go directly back the way you came.
I kept it easy after the turn around. A runner came up on me wearing a Wildflower shirt, so we chatted about how the uphill was like Beach. He passed me right as we came back to the paved section. I wasn’t marking the time, I was running on effort. I heard a woman running behind say that she wanted to make it in two hours and she was just on pace. I checked my watch and thought “Oh shit, I need to get on that if I’m going to make two hours!”
I hit two miles to go with exactly 24 minutes left and my heart rate had been solidly in zone 4 for a least a mile. That was scary for me. I was expecting a blow up or a throw up. I got stuck in and committed fully to my two hour goal. Time for…
I have never run so hard for so long. If I had planned it I would not have written “After the turn around, peg your heart rate in Zone 4 keep it there no matter how much you are hurting.” It worked though. I was keeping it under twelve minutes a mile. I passed my Wildflower friend when he stopped to walk an aid station (handheld water bottle, for the win).
I took a short walk break on the last hill and pushed up to the finish. Throughout the race, the miles had been spray painted on the paved path. As I crested the last hill on the ground it said “9.9 GO!!” Given that the end of this race tends to sneak up on you and I often miss the kick, I really appreciated it. It’s the little touches.
I did indeed “GO!!” and finished with about a minute to spare on my two hour goal.
I am sooo sunburnt, I have the Evan Borders style whale tail sunburn and my shoulders are on fire. How did I get this way? It all started long ago, on Friday (April 29)….
The husbeast and I packed up a whole bunch of crap & the Little Miss and traipsed down to Lake San Antonio for the Wildflower Triathlons.
I was set for the Olympic Distance race, on Sunday, which meant that we had plenty of time to get the lay of the land. Friday we settled in. Sam from OTC had laid claim to a goodly camping area that was very close to a bathroom. We checked out the festival/finish line area, watched the pro interviews (yay, Bob Babbit!), got the last beer served of the night, and generally tried to chill out. Pip had trouble settling down in the RV (did I mention my dad bought an RV? It’s an ok thing. I appreciated the bed, for sure). It wasn’t the best night of sleep ever, but it was alright.
Saturday was more chilling. When I camp, I tend to go to bed around sunset and get up with the sun so I was up early. Burned pancakes on Paula’s super hot propane camp stove (still delicious), drank not too much coffee, and went to watch the Long Course race finish.
Now, I know this is not common, but I am a fan of triathlon. I know the pros, I follow some of them, I play fantasy triathlon and generally get super duper excited about the people who do this for a living.
Jesse Thomas won his sixth Wildflower Long Course in a row. Crazy sauce considering he broke his foot doing number three, couldn’t race for like, a year, came back just in time to win number four. It really is the Jesse Thomas Invitational. Terenzo Bozzone, the course record holder came in second, making it exciting.
I got some high fives and some videos and went back up to camp to chill. It was not chill. I got race tires, thinner and slicker than my commute tires and wanted to put them on my wheels before I checked my bike in, Saturday night. I could not get my old tires off, or my new tires on, to save my damn life.
I do not react well to stress. I was feeling time pressure, there being only two and a half hours left to get my bike checked in (which I could also do in the morning, so this was an overreaction). I was snappy. I broke somewhere between three and five tire levers getting the new tires on. ARGH!!! Evan came to the rescue with both tire levers sacrificed and advice well given. The new tires were applied and my stress level returned to manageable levels.
I was very afraid of riding down Lynch Hill. I’m still building my descending skills on the bike. I grabbed my transition bag and rode down to familiarize myself with the hill. And it was really not bad at all, especially compared to coming down Snake. The Bay Area really is one of the best places in the world to train. Apart from having altitude to sleep in and extreme weather, we have such a variety of terrain that you can train for anything.
Fears assuaged, I set up my T2 and racked my back. There was a guy there who was helping someone else set up. He opined that every single other person who had set up and racked their bike and set up their transition wrong. Every, single, other person had done it wrong and he knew the right way. Whew! I needed that little laugh. Got my stuff set up safely under my back tire and caught the shuttle back to the campsite.
My dad and Jon collaborated to get the shower in the RV working so I got my own, private, very, very, very hot shower (oh god, I really nearly burned myself severely) before bed. There was a moment when we figure out that the switch to turn the water pump wan’t on, we flipped it and I heard water running. It was the bathroom sink, where all my race morning gear was, getting water poured on it. As my dad looked chagrined I yelled out “You’re lucky I’m a triathlete and it’s all designed to get wet!”
Chaos over. Actually got the little lady off to sleep in a reasonable amount of time, set my alarm for 5 AM and got perhaps my best night before the race sleep ever.
I got up to use the bathroom around 1:30 AM. As I walked out, I could see, even without my glasses, the amazing number of stars in the sky. I’m a city girl, so big constellations are all I’m used to. As I stared up I saw a shooting star. I took it as a good sign. Right before I got back to sleep a coyote started howling close by. It was very cool, especially given I wasn’t in a tent and I was very sure it couldn’t get at me.
Up on time (Pro Tip – start your day with success).
Eat the food, put on the clothes, forget to put on sunblock and burn massively later. Check, Check, Check. Hang out and chat with the Club, watch the Sprint racers leave hours before me.
I got on the shuttle with Erin and Sarah, two mighty athletes who took top spots in our age group. I chatted with a lovely woman name Juliette on the bus as we drove to Harris. Then we waited for the porta potties for an hour. No joke, no exaggeration. But there was nothing else to do. It turned out that four of the eight porta johns had the indicator stuck on red and were empty. One racer in an orange vest was a hero and went through the whole bank of them knocking and getting them back in rotation. She was a hero of our tribe.
National Anthem, Sprint Race Start!! I walked down to my T1A spot. The sprint racers were all at the top of the boat ramp, which is reallllllllly steep and scored concrete – fun for running in bare feet! The Olympic distance racers were down by the water and your truly was less than fifty feet from the swim exit. Score!!
I set up my shoes and hat and saw a bunch of OTCers come out of the water, including Lydia. I screamed at her and slapped her on the wetsuit clad butt. Because that’s what you do when you want to encourage someone to do their best. I went back up the ramp for one more bathroom visit. Going up and down the ramp was a pretty good warm up! I got body marking and then went down to get my wetsuit on. It was very warm in the sun, clad in black rubber. My zipper stuck but Dio Ann’s boyfriend Eric was there and got me zipped up in time. Go Team!
Swim – I hadn’t done any open water in six months, so I knew that was going to be dicey. We got a couple of minutes to warm up, I did a few strokes of butterfly and then got ready to go. It was rough. I had a lot of panic and my goggles fogged very badly. I don’t have prescription goggles so I was flying blind for a lot of the swim. There wasn’t too much contact, I was afraid of it though. I did a lot better with sighting on the way back from the turn. There was some boat wake that had me feeling seasick which I solved by sighting every stroke – first time for everything. I was super happy to be done, it was a slow swim and my heart was screaming at me as I came out of the water.
Evidence of my improving sighting skills.
Swim Time – 42:49 2:36/100 yd That’s actually a solid time for me. And here’s a challenge of racing in a later wave. You’re going faster than a lot of people but since they left somewhere between five and forty minutes before you, you’ll never see them, you won’t pass them in the back half of the run and get that little bump. You race on your own and find out who you beat later.
T1A felt slow. I hadn’t lubed up my forearms or forelegs and my suit wouldn’t slide off. The angle of teh ramp was steep and I had to sit down to get the suit off. I never sit down in transition. I felt like I was flailing and failing and generally the slowest T1A of everyone. My transitions are my pride and joy and there I was, royally screwing up. The results say that yes, my transition was 4:58. It was also the third fastest in my age group and 204 fastest overall. Imagine how well I can do if I practice this!
T1A Run -26:03 (11:45/mi) this is the bit that people are wary of. You run 2.2 miles from the water to your bike. HTFU people. You’re a triathlete and somehow you don’t want to run? I didn’t mind when I signed up and I actually really liked it. I did have to duck into some bushes and risk a penalty. I also surprised Sam as he came around a corner to find me peeing. that’s what stories are made of! I kept to my overall Zone 3 heart rate target and chugged from Harris to Lynch. I was very glad I had my hat for the first run. The sun was out and there was no cover at all. There were college kids (have I mentioned the amazing volunteers from Cal Poly SLO? These kids brought so much energy all damn weekend. Rock Stars) out cheering. As I ran by a couple I shouted that I wanted Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars. They were confused for a second and then started belting out “Daa Daa Daa, du de daa, du de daaa!” with gusto.
Bike – 2:03:47 12.05 mph
I am very content with this time for the bike. I set in Zone 3 on the heart rate and had no heads up speedometer. I think that might have frustrated me, so it’s a good thing. The bonus of running for 26 minutes is that, unlike the Long Course where you get on the bike and have a mile or so to settle in before you hit a big ass hill, the Olympic gives you a couple of hundred yards before you’re chugging up Lynch at 13%. I climb much better on warm legs. I transitioned and ran out on my bike shoes. I realized as I went to mount that my bike was in too high a gear and I couldn’t get in on the tiny incline at the mount line. I sucked it up and managed to get in and not fall down, so, yay for me! (Spoiler, I didn’t fall all day!).
I knew my family were waiting for me at the top of Lynch. I sat in and kept it going easy. I joked with the people who passed me. I saw the guy from Every Man Jack walking his bike down the hill. He needed a tube. He would pass me at about mile 14 on the bike in full #beastmode. I got to the top and there was my dad, my husbeast and my little falcon. I waved to them and rode on.
I overhydrated. I was drinking to time and not thirst and I ended up using the bathroom twice during the bike. Not _on_ the bike (for an Oly, no no no). I stopped at the aid station that was halfway on the out and back section. As I popped out to leave I said “When I come back I want you to play the Imperial March from Star Wars for me!”
I was rolling along, trusting my training, keeping the effort even. Feeling pretty much totally amazing. There were a couple of riders I was in touch with the whole ride. A few from earlier waves that I passed. More super fun volunteers, and I came back to the midway aid station, to once again use the porta pottie. As I pulled in I heard “She’s back!” “Wait, wait, play it while she rides off!” “What’s your name?”
These glorious kids had gotten the Imperial March on MP3 and as I rode off the blasted it out of the speakers while they yelled “Rachel!Rachel! Rachel!” So, that was pretty awesome.
I was getting tired as the bike wound down. My shorts are only good for up to an Oly and I was feeling it, especially as the hills had my sitting and grinding it out a lot of the time. I passed the fam again at the top of Lynch and safely and happily descended to T2.
T2 1:38 – Faster than five pros from the day before. Enough said.
Run – 1:22:07 (this includes the T1A run time)
I went off feeling the hills in my legs. Frankly, I went off feeling like ass. It was hot. But my heart rate was on point and there was less than an hour to go. The first mile was wonderfully shaded and a bit rolling – just right to get the legs into gear. Within that mile I passed a women I had been chasing for the whole bike. Every time I passed the college kids cheering or watering, I would yell pop music lyrics at them, this got a good response. “Shine bright like a diamond” is my standard (lifted from watching The Ginger Runner’s videos – thank you amazing ultra running dude).
I took my own handheld with water – if you do this race, do this. It is really hot and the aid stations are plentiful but being able to drink whenever I wanted was a plus. Beach Hill was not a plus. I walked it, once again with the heart rate. A woman passed me running – #lifegoals – and another woman was just in front of me the whole climb. I stayed on it. For long efforts, I put my head down and think “it takes as long as it takes.”
We crested the hill and I passed the racer I had been chasing a couple hundred yards later – her taped up knee wasn’t doing well with the downhill. Then there was a dusty, sunny mile from the top of Beach to the top of Lynch. I couldn’t hold my heart rate up anymore. I couldn’t run. I saw racers in front of me trudging and looking done and I would run again just so I didn’t look that defeated. I took a moment to feel that it was really hard and that I was 100% alive. I came into the last water stop next to one of those walkers. I shouted ahead “One water in my hand, two on my head” it got a lackluster response and there were ten kids sitting in the shade so I shouted out “Hey, what does a woman need to do to get some head around here?!” Well, yelling that got me about ten cups of water on my head and the admiration of the racer behind me as he said “That was awesome!”
Then it was down Lynch Hill. Thank godtopus. I finish most of my runs at home with a mile downhill so there were no issues with letting myself get down the hill with a quick easy cadence. It’s quite nice, to finish down that hill. Lots of time to let the suffering go and really begin to let the achievement start to soak in. Right at the bottom is the finish chute which I had all to myself. Even though there weren’t many people cheering, it felt like a lot. I gave lots of high fives and the photographer managed to catch this one.
As I came down the chute, the kick I didn’t think I had came and I was cruising along. I heard that Julie Moss was one of the commentators and I thought “Wow, I want to get a pic with her!” Then I heard her call out “Rachel Tibbetts, Golden Gate Tri Club!”
Umm – I signaled that that was incorrect and she said “Oakland Tri Club!” as I came home. More wonderful volunteers draped me in a cold towel (I could feel my skin cooking, the burn was going to be bad), got my timing chip off and there was Rich, my Club president to give me my medal.
“How was it?” he asked.
“Brutal. Legendary. Amazing” I answered.
Then Julie shouted down from the booth that they wanted to give me something for getting my club wrong. I pointed to her and said “I want a picture with you, because you’re a legend.” Two minutes later…
In the documentary about the Barkley Marathons (which you should watch right after you finish reading this), Lazarus Lake says there is no true achievement without the real possibility of failure. That made Wildflower mean something. If you’re going to avoid this race don’t avoid murky water, or a non-standard format, avoid it because there is nowhere to hide. If you haven’t trained, if you aren’t committed, Wildflower will kick the ever loving shit out of you. It’ll do that if you are prepared, it just won’t suck as much.
If you haven’t been to Wildflower here are a couple of pieces of info/advice
-Go to Wildflower – organized, well supported, well marked, amazing energy. The course is really hard and out of the ordinary, step up to the challenge, you will not be sorry.
-Sunblock, hats, water.
-Yep, the hill is big. Learn the shuttle schedule and leave plenty of time to get things done.
-Leather shoes or boots. The foxtails get into everything.
-Don’t leave Evan or Sam in charge of the campfire.
A+ absolutely would race again.
P.S. Evan and Dio-Ann – you’ll get your new tire levers the next time I see you, thanks again!
P.P.S. Yes, this hurt, but every time it hurt I smiled because it was very much worth it.
The race start time was humane, almost leisurely, at 9AM. I got to the venue two hours before because my homie who was running the full (which started at 8AM) had picked up my packet for me. She even got my bib signed by The Oatmeal! Cheryl is the best and you should run with her.
The day of the race was the day of the cold snap! We have two seasons in California – warmer and drier and then sometime in November it’s colder and wetter. The drop is 20-30 degrees in a matter of days. No easing into fall, just, BAM, it’s colder now!
Cheryl bought me gloves, because she is the best ever. Gloves I was loving as I strolled around Raley Field – the race venue, while it was 45 degrees waiting for my packet. Looking back , the wandering was good – got me a bit warm, got my nerves out, but stupid. My car was warm!!
I got in a nice little jog with some faster work to get my heart rate up, dumped my jacket and gloves in the car and got ready to rumble.
For the first little bit the lure of pace was strong, but I held tight to heart rate. I tried to keep it right about 169, not too high, not too low, just even effort. The first mile was the longest. After that it got easier, just run, check heart rate, adjust – rinse and repeat. I took a gel every 30 minutes and carried my own bottle. I started with Gu Brew (Lemon Tea flavour is the bomb) for calories and electrolytes. After that ran I out I switched to water.
There were protestors, as this was the morning after the Paris shootings. Anti-refugee protesters. Lovely. I yelled at them, they yelled at me, I flipped them off and ran away. Literally. (That’s for you KJ!)
The miles went by so easily, just staying in the Zone, talking to other racers, thanking traffic control and volunteers. They would have gone by even more easily if there had been any porta potties on the course! I talked to the organizers later and there had been a miscommunication so the porta potties were not delivered correctly. I spent mile 3 through mile 10 needing to pee. Right at mile 10 there was a park bathroom right on the course. Good timing to drop some weight and push the effort up for the last three miles.
(Look at that beautiful bastard!)
(And yes, even if your Garmin says it was only 12.8 it was 13.1. Can you say lots of curves and tree cover? Also, the course was lovely and I highly recommend it. Lots of turns broke it up mentally, lots of tree cover, good water stops, well stocked, great swag. A – would race again.)
After my pee break I bumped up into Zone 4. I saw my buddy Noodle at her water stop, high fived her and settled in for a tempo run to the finish. Now, I didn’t get much faster, but it was the hilliest part of the very flat course. We were going through multiple underpasses and I maintained my speed through the uphills. A half mile before the finish was a wooden boardwalk that would have sucked a lot more if I didn’t run trails.
All through the race I had been near two women running with donuts around their waists like life preservers. The donuts beat me man. Someday redemption will be mine! As we came to the finish they had way more kick that I did. The half marathon, the full marathon, the 10K were all together at this point. The marathoners finishing at this point were outpacing us all, and I got the nice jolt of passing a crap ton of slower 10K-ers to get me through the last bit. I did manage a bit of a kick on the last 100 yards and passed one person right on the line.
Oh be still, my anal retentive heart!! If there is one thing I love more than going faster than I thought I could, it’s hitting my mark over a long distance. It also shows me that the online race time estimator that I used was spot on. The more than 12-minute PR? Also super dope!!
A great day! Great conditions, good training and fueling, good race organization, and most importantly, spot on race execution courtesy of yours truly.
-Base goal race times on current fitness, not last spring’s fitness or a bucket list goal time.
I wanted to race 10k in an hour. I was watching the clock during lap one of the lake, trying to keep in a time range. I passed two women in the first mile – they were probably running half the distance I was and who gives a shit if you pass people in the first mile of a race that’s more than a mile long?
I was so worried about not being on pace for that goal that I went out too fast and then I got tense worrying about being too slow and then I got nervous about not feeling good on the second lap of the lake. I was a mess dudes, a mess.
-Yes, I can run far.
I seem to learn this one and then forget it over and over. I am still afraid in my deepest heart that I just can’t finish. Not fast or anything, I am worried that I literally will not be able to finish the distance. It’s rooted in the fact that my second race ever was a frickin’ marathon and I was genuinely afraid of not finishing. Ten years on from that and a lot of miles later I need to learn that I’m not gonna crack on a 6.2 miler. I only managed to relax and let the race come to me after 4 miles.
-Running by effort is way more effective than running by pace.
Lap one – my heart rate was all over the map. Lap two, when I gave up on hitting an hour and focused solely on keeping my heart rate in zone 4 – super even and consistent. The other reason my heart rate wasn’t consistent was that…
-I need to warm up.
I have two warm up levels. One comes after about fifteen minutes of warm up, the other after forty five minutes. My heart rate isn’t “actual” until I’ve been going for a while and the engine is nice and warm. A few factors were at play on Sunday – mainly that the Peanut was racing! I was distracted and didn’t set myself up to have a proper warm up. I got in a bit of a jog but nothing close to what has been successful for me in the past.
-I’m going to be fine for my A race…
This race wasn’t super perfect, no biggie. It wasn’t an A race, I didn’t taper at all (speed intervals on Friday) I didn’t fuel aggressively, and I haven’t been training specifically for this distance.
-…If I stick to the plan
The race time predictors I am looking at are telling me that – based on this race – I should be able to run my half marathon in 2:20 to 2:24. The slower end of the range would be a 13 minute PR. I will be smart! I will run based on my current fitness level, I will run based on level of effort and not speed. I will be patient but not overly conservative.
and I’ll be perfectly happy if I come in at 2:19 😛
TL;DR – Total Time: 3:37:35 (Goal – my terrible math told me this was 3:19, but it was actually 3:27-3:36 so whoa, I hit my goal time!)
I had a crap night of sleep. Not outside of the realm of normal for racing. I was awake from 3 AM, right out of bed with the alarm at 4AM. As planned, breakfast was a Clif Bar and a banana and water. Sometimes the banana is hard to get down but on this morning it was delicious!
My ride showed up right on time and we got an amazing parking space about a block from transition! Then I realized I forgot my flat kit. That was an “Oh well!” If I flatted, I flatted and I’d go race Mermaid in a month.
I got a great transition spot on one of the Oakland Tri Club Team racks- right on the end so my run and bike gear wouldn’t be under any one’s feet. Not having my glasses accidentally smashed is a goal every race. We had a great spot for our team, right in front of the swim in so we had a small advantage over other racers. A small thing with this race is that all transition spots are not created equal. It’s not always possible due to space constraints but it’s something to keep in mind.
Transition set up went well. Got settled in and set up. Chatted with the team. Cooled out with Darcy’s tunes (thanks dude!) and used the bathroom a lot. This being my home town race, and given that I was wearing an Oakland Tri Club kit for the first time, every time I walked through transition I would answer any questions I heard and generally chat and be super positive. I do this at every race because it helps my nerves and it seems like I’m the only one who ever reads the athlete guide. Seriously, people are out there on race morning and they don’t know where the race starts, where the bike out is, how many laps of the lake we are running, what time the awards start. So every time I hear a question or even worse, someone telling someone the wrong thing, I jump on it. It’s officious, pedantic, and presumptuous, and 90% of the time the people in question thank me for it.
There was one wrinkle on race morning that I didn’t think through and I think it bit me in the ass a bit, I mean, it was a valuable learning experience!
I had planned, as usual, to have a gel 15 minutes before starting the race. Except, the swim start was a long walk from transition. For a 7:06 start I was going to leave transition at 6:15. I decided to take the gel early as I had no extra water bottle to take to the swim start. This was an ok plan but it wasn’t great. The gel I took had caffeine. A bit of caffeine right at the start would be ok, but an hour before go time was enough time for the diuretic effects to kick in without the mitigation of high effort. I ended up visiting the toilet three times during the race. I made the visits as quick as possible but the combination of the discomfort of needing to use the toilet, feeling a bit of an idiot for “screwing up” my nutrition, and mentally cursing the wasted time of the visits themselves, did my race no favors.
I walked out of Transition and to the swim exit. I placed my T1 shoes – it was quite a hike from the water to the bike – and walked to the swim start with an OTC team mate. We made our way to the last porta potty line of the pre-race and I got in and out with about ten minutes to go before my wave start.
Swim – 44:13 – 2:42/100 (Goal: 38 – 40 minutes, not too shabby)
I wasn’t super confident in any type of speed for the swim but I was satisfied with my endurance. The entry was lovely. There was a dock right on the water so we could sit down and then slip right in. The temperature of the water was in the sixties and just perfect for swimming. I did a bit of a warm up, including some butterfly because apparently that is now “my thing,” and lined up behind what I thought was my wave.
The wave started and no one in front of me was moving. Whoops! That was the next wave. I caught on quickly and swam through them. One of the bigger themes of the swim was “Am I just shit at navigation?” Three or four times I was far away from where it looked like the majority of people were swimming. I think it was a combo of not being able to swim in a straight line to save my life, swimming in a tidal current for the first time, and – after checking the course map after race – realizing that I was swimming in a straight line and all those people weren’t (remember how nobody else studied the course before the race?).
We were swimming against the flood, so it was slow going. It was also very physical, with other swimmers cutting right in front of me, one very proper punch the back of my head when a swimmer from a later wave came by me very, very close, and the guy right in front of me being fast enough to stay in front of me but not skilled enough to sight so he stopped and did breast stroke twice a minute. Screw that guy! Learn to swim open water dude!!
Given my late start I was a bit behind but I passed a fairly large groups of people about a third of the way through. Which I imagine is when the adrenaline wears off and everyone really started to settle in to the rhythm. Which I also did, I just didn’t slow down.
I swam my swim, didn’t think about much besides sighting and swimming. I wasn’t really on my game with staying streamlined and keeping my stroke effective. I just sort of did it. By the end I was really, really ready to be done. We were getting out on an inflatable dock and they had volunteers there to pull us out of the water. I swam up and my puller was my coach! I thought I was going to get a second to collect myself but nope! She just grabbed my arm and yanked me bodily out of the water. Whoa!
T1 – 9:30 (Goal 8:00 – meh)
Umm, so I guess I’m in transition now! Had a lovely cramp in my left calf and walked it out up the ramp the shoes as I pulled the top of my wet suit off. My shoes went on quickly and I jogged on. I had to pee, so bad! This was not normal for me. I ran into a porta potty on the course and spent precious time using it and then struggling to get my wet suit back over my hips so I could run. Next time if I think I’ll need to pee I’ll just pull it off for a quicker in and out.
Then it was up and over the pedestrian bridge for the first time. It wasn’t super hard and I took it at a walk. My heart rate was still sky high from the swim and just would not go down. As I crossed 2nd Street to get to transition there were Mr. Fyre and Little Miss!! I popped over to give kisses (no hugs from super dripping wet mum) and the little one was obviously like “Whoa, who are you?” Apparently the open water algae beards were quite intense for this race.
I had scouted my rack well and had no trouble running directly to my bike. I got my suit all the way off, got my shoes and helmet on, grabbed my gel flask and ran on out.
Bike – 1:32:55 for 24 miles 15.5 mph (Goal 1:33 – 1:40 Whoa, under! The course was one mile short but I’ll take it!)
I was super happy to get on the bike. It had started raining very lightly about an hour before the race start and kept up until just about the end of my bike. Just enough rain to raise the oil on the roads. There was some carnage out there. The traffic control was for the most part excellent. The race was not cheap but given the number of police on the course, I knew exactly where my money was going and I was happy with it. At all the corners the volunteers were reminding us to slow down and watch the wet roads. A couple of intersections even had police on loudspeakers calling out to slow down. The race went through Downtown – lots of metal man hole covers, West Oakland – crap roads, pot holes, old railroad tracks, and the Port – roads mainly used by big rigs, lots of oil.
I knew I needed to get my nutrition started and wash the salt out of my mouth but my heart was still racing and I didn’t feel very centered. I started to see some cyclists walking back with either bodies or bikes that couldn’t finish. Every time I passed someone changing a flat I sent up a tiny prayer to the gods of rubber and racing, then tried to put it out of my mind and keep my head in the game.
Ride to run strong.
My goal was to average 16MPH. I focused on keeping my effort right in the place of working, but not working hard. I spun up the three hills, none of which was any particular challenge, and stayed in the drops on the second half of each loop. The first half was all turns and crap road, the second half was well paved and had long straight sections and some headwind. I got my nutrition going and was spot on for calories and fluids. The pockets on my team kit weren’t great for my flask, so I pulled a Faris and just stuck it in the back of my shorts. It kept the gel warm and easily accessible.
Pro Tip: Warm gel flows faster and can be easier to get out of a flask or sachet and to swallow.
Then I needed to pee again. Goddamnit! By now I was almost done with lap one and my team mate Angela was racing near me. We chatted back and forth. She had a 70.3 Triathlon coming up in 14 days days so she was taking it easy. She would gap me on the flats, I would take all that gap and more on the downhills and the technical sections.
We finished the first loop and there was my family again! Have I mentioned how super good my husbeast is at spectating? He is really, really good at it. I gave a wave as the Little Miss yelled out “Mommy!!” There was no traffic as Angela and I made the turn around for loop two, past the very enthusiastic water stop.
Volunteers – Wow. A glut of volunteers. Intersections, water stops, swim exit. Happy smiling people giving lots of great energy! However, hearing from racers, volunteers, and spectators there are areas for improvement (which I will be sending to the race director). It’s only the second year of this race and it seems well on it’s way to being a great Oakland tradition. Getting information out to volunteers can be a challenge but it’s one that needs to be undertaken to provide a safe race. The biggest problems I heard about were; Traffic control on the last block before transition – vehicles were crossing and entering the “closed” road at one intersection. Not good. There was a cop there, they were not super engaged, Volunteer knowledge of SAG procedures – the volunteers were not given emergency contact information or procedures. Racers who crashed out were asking how to get back to transition and there were no answers for them. This is quite a large lapse. A volunteer told me she saw some runners almost slip and fall and had no idea what to do if one of them had required assistance. It should be easily solved with an info sheet handed out to all volunteers with basic directions, traffic routing instructions, important times and emergency procedures.
Back to the race…
Loop two started with a jackass breaking the rules and very nearly taking me down. A man passed me, correctly, on the left, then started bearing right, correctly. The guy behind him (and his little draft pack, not correct) obviously thought the first guy was going to slow and decided to shoot around him to the right, not correct. The first guy, not seeing the three racers coming up behind on the right, was bearing steadily to the right of the lane. The right hand passer starts yelling and the first guy, Mister on your right, his two drafting buddies, myself, and Angela were all nearly taken out because Mister pass on the right apparently doesn’t need to follow the rules.
Dickhead. I saw some other fairly blatant drafting but no other big transgressions. Everyone seemed to be playing it safe in the wet conditions.
I had been eyeing the random but unlocked porta potties along the bike route and planned to make a pit stop. I stopped, opened the door and it was clean!! (or cleanish, clean for a porta potty) and it had paper! I dropped trou and heard the clunk as my gel flask took a dive. It was almost empty so there was no big loss. As I left another athlete popped right in after me. I’m a trailblazer for my people!
I stayed right on my level of effort and speed as I finished the last couple of miles. It takes some resistance at the end of the bike to stay at an even level of effort. I get that “coming home to the barn” feeling as I finish the leg and I worked hard to remind myself that I wasn’t finishing the day. I got off the bike feeling like I had hit my plan right on (minus the potty break, but when you gotta go, you gotta go).
T2 – 1:31 (Goal 2:00 – awwww yeah!)
I’m proud of my transitions. I have been working on them and will continue to work on them. It’s way easier to put time into somebody while you’re changing shoes than when you’re trying to run faster than they are.
For perspective, the women who won the race only went :07 faster than I did in T2. The former Ironman Pro who won my age group did it in 1:03, and the fastest T2 men or women appears to have been :51. That’s what I’m gunning for.
Got in, found my rack, changed my shoes, grabbed my belt and hat, and ran out. Done!
Run – 1:09:26 for 6.3 miles (course was a bit long) (Goal ~1:06)
The run was the leg I was least happy with when I did it and with which I am more pleased as time goes on. I had one bathroom stop and we had to run up and over the pedestrian bridge again. Given those two factors, my actual running speed was probably very close to my goal speed.
The run never felt good. I felt doable, it felt endurable, but never good. The usual dead leg feeling cleared out after about a half mile and I tried to settle in. I couldn’t find a place that was easy and at the pace I wanted to run. I’m glad that race pace won that fight.
Run to finish strong.
I stuck right on my nutrition plan, walking the aid stations so I wouldn’t choke on water, taking my gel before each aid station so I could chase it with my drink. The energy was mostly there. I was getting tired but that was the time to get tired. Angela, who had finished the bike before me, ran by (as did about four other people) wondering how I had gotten ahead of her. My answer “I transition like a motherfucker.” One guy told me he stopped to dry off between his toes. It was raining! What’s the damn point?
Anyways, I’m trucking along and I realize that the upcoming course marshal is my dad! Cool surprise! I gave him a big hug and told him I’d see him in about an hour. A half mile later I ran past my co-worker Brenda and several other well placed and enthusiastic volunteers. Then it was time to run around the lake.
Pros – knowing exactly how long it is
Cons – well…..
My constant check in with myself was “Can you do this for another forty minutes? Can you do this for another half an hour?” I had the rhythm, just like I did at Monte Rio. My training runs had been feeling amazing. I wanted that feeling of ease and flow to show up and carry me through the day. Instead, gritting my teeth and staying on my pace got me through the day. Whatever we need to do, right? There was a runner in front of me in the same age group. Over the first two miles I slowly but surely reeled her in! Then I had to use the bathroom. I spent way too much time asking if it was open and waiting for someone to check rather than just running to the damn door (home field advantage: knowing where the flush bathrooms were on course because there were no porta potties). She passed me while I was in there and so I set about getting her back.
I was making small, but steady inroads on her lead until about mile four and half. Then I started to struggle a bit more. I was getting tired, it didn’t feel like a lack of fuel, just straight muscle fatigue. She started to pull away and I didn’t want to blow up chasing her down. The bad part of knowing we had the pedestrian bridge to do again is that I was scared of it. I was worried that it was going to hurt like hell. I finished the lake, passed by Brenda again, passed my dad again, passed a racer (always a nice little boost at the end) and got ready for the stairs.
They weren’t that bad! After using the hamstrings and glutes to run for an hour (because I’m finally using them to run, yay physical therapy!) my quads were more than happy to get in the game. I didn’t run the bridge itself, I was tired in my brain. There were people with finish medals on the stairs and I wished the volunteers had known to direct them to the other crossing or two blocks in either direction to cross with stairs, a note for next year.
I got down the stairs and knew I had less than 400 yards to go, that’s less than a lap of the track. I managed to get running again and I could smell the barn for real this time.
Pro Tip: I use a mapping website to track backwards from the finish line so I know when to kick. Nothing worse than kicking early and not having the strength to carry it though, or kicking too late and not getting max benefit. I check on 200, 400, and 800 meters from the finish.
About 200 yards from the finish I turned it up to eleven. No more worry about “Will I be able to finish” Will I have to walk?” I passed one guy immediately and the other with about 85 yards to go. I ran all the way through the finish and threw up my hands. Strangely, all I could see as I was running in was Oakland Tri Club’s president, Chris, standing right in the middle of the finish exit with sort of a puzzled look on his face. It was weird, but whatever!
T3! Total Time: 3:37:35 (Goal – my terrible math told me this was 3:19, but it was actually 3:27-3:36 so whoa, I hit my goal time!)
Done! I bent over, heaving, while the volunteers tried to put a medal on me and give me water. As I exited the finish area Chris took my towel and wiped the bay beard off my face. Lovely!
The Fyre Family wasn’t there. I fretted! But then I realized that if the Little Miss was having a rough time, we were so close to home, Mr. Fyre probably just took her home (which was indeed the case). I hung out with the club, cheered people, nearly vomited, didn’t vomit! Drank German non-alcoholic beer (actually pretty good), and generally had a rare old time.
My age group was won by Kate Major!! No shame in that game. My homie KJ won her age group for the second race in a row. Beast Mode!! OTC collected our palmares and celebrated everyone who came out to race, volunteer, and cheer. Our last team mate successfully finished and we met her at the line. There was great rejoicing.
Conclusion: Damn if the post race let down hasn’t been hellish. No direction, no motivation, no idea what to do next. I’ve got a half marathon coming in November, so I need to build for that. Then I think it will be on to the search for a coach to help me answer the question, to 140.6 or not to 140.6?
Yesterday (holy crap, it seems like a week ago) I raced the Monte Rio Sprint Triathlon. It was my first triathlon in three years. I had a lot of anxiety going in to this race. I hadn’t practiced open water during my hiatus. I hadn’t specifically practiced transitions that much – changing from swim to run and run to bike can be really hard to do quickly. I had done a couple of races in the last year but they were runs, so they had significantly easier logistics.
My anxiety was not helped by the total upheaval of my travel plans on Wednesday night. Instead of focusing on my race and visualizing my transitions, I was completely upset and distracted. Every time I tried to lie quietly and think though the race my mind wandered and catastrophized – I even imagined a fist fight in transition. I was in rough shape. I told Mr. Fyre several times on Saturday that it was the worst race anxiety I’ve ever had. Only knowing that it was nerves (yay, years of racing experience!) kept me at all in the game. I was shaky, tired, nauseous and generally freaked out. I had planned to do a short swim in the river on Saturday to get at least some open water in before my race – no go. I had planned to do a short bike and run to shake out my legs – no go. I had planned to drive the bike and run courses and scout the swim entrance and exit – actually did it! One out of three – I’m a winner! At that point my race goal had come down to – just get to the start.
Team Fyre adapted and overcame and found a last minute hotel room that was pricey but ended up being really nice (The Woods Resort in Guerneville – really nice people, good rooms, good coffee). The only downside to the hotel were the people in the next room. I don’t begrudge a person a shower at midnight after a long drive. I do begrudge them shouting over the sound of the water to their friends so loudly that it wakes me up in the middle of the night before my race, when I was actually sleeping the night before the race (this never happens and I still got the best rest I’ve ever had on the night before). Mr. Fyre, my absolute hero of the whole week, nearly took the wall out banging on it. Desired effect achieved, sleep resumed. Little Miss Fyre even obliged us with an early bedtime and nine hours of solid sleep in a strange bed.
Sunday morning came and I rolled over to check the clock at 4:29 AM. I caught the alarm before it went off and popped into the bathroom to eat my breakfast and get dressed without waking anyone up. Lots of self talk and posturing into the mirror followed. I got my food down and got ready. The theme of race day was that the technical skills of triathlon – timing your eating, transition set up and execution, swim sighting – stay with you regardless of fitness. Race morning felt like race morning – not some new and strange experience. I knew that eating the banana was a good idea, even though I felt nauseous looking at it.
Hitting my schedule on race morning is key to my confidence, so I felt great when we walked out of the hotel room at 6 AM. I felt even better when we got to the parking lot. There was a line for timing chips and then a shuttle ride. There were a lot of people nervously glancing at watches and putting on their wetsuits as they watched wave start times tick by. I was in the last wave and I was going to have time, not a luxurious amount of time, but enough to get set up with any craziness.
On Saturday I had run into a couple of Swim Bike Moms and I saw one of them again on the beach, walking to the start. The day before the two women had encouraged me and on this day Suzanne ( I think, I’m so terrible with names) gave me a huge hug and then zipped up my wetsuit. That’s triathlon. I zipped up two other people, I chatted with a first timer on the shuttle and all the people around me in the line. We were all there together, really together. I can’t even say how much it meant to me to see those women I had never met and how much they helped me when I was cracking open. SBM Army – for real.
Down the beach – the very rocky beach – to the water. There was a walk (it is shallow as anything and I highly recommend this race to anyone with water anxiety – you can stand up just about any time) to the swim start line. Everyone around me was slogging through waist deep water – Smarty McFyrepants here got a swim warm up! At least ten minutes of swimming, getting loose and relaxed, getting my heart rate up and back down. I even threw down some butterfly to show the competition I meant business. We were the last wave, all the Olympic waves and the Sprint men were already off. Waiting at the line, when the announcer said “Thirty seconds” I yelled “Chase ’em all down!” Then it was go time and things got new.
In every previous triathlon I have lined up at the absolute back of the swim. I’ve walked down to the water and started slowly. That was when I trained three times a week. One swim, one track session and a weekend ride or run. That will get you to the finish of a triathlon. But I have been training five to six days a week, up to eight hours a week. I started base training in November, I did weights, I’ve been doing yoga for strength and to gain hip flexibility. I have used The Sufferfest Novice Triathlon plan and I am a new damn woman. My last hard swim workout was doing 100 yards hard, not quite as fast as possible, but hard and steady. And doing it fourteen times in a row. I had not worked that hard and sweat that much to sit back and take it easy.
My number one race goal was not a time. It was to race hard the whole way. To RACE.
I passed half the women’s field in the first 200 yards. I swam over bodies, arms and legs clashing. I went, I deferred to no one. That pace, drilled into me over twelve weeks, those hard hundreds were in my arms and my mind. No pausing, no worrying, just going hard until two orange buoys, then turning and heading straight for the swim exit. It was amazing. I felt strong and fast and confident. I didn’t even kick. We ran out of depth fifty yards before the exit and walked over the rocky bottom to the exit. I ran as soon as I could and there was Team Fyre. A kiss to the Little Miss and then I ran up the (very thoughtfully laid out) carpet to transition.
As I ran I was wheezing, my heart rate was way high and all I could think was theme two of the weekend “I didn’t come here to take it easy.” I had a bit of trouble getting the suit off but then it was glasses, helmet, race belt, shoes, and off to the bike.
Once again, my heart was pounding, my breath was wheezing and I did not slow down. I knew my body would settle in without coddling. I went for it, again, still. Training had told me I could hold 18 mph, so I pegged it there and stayed low. The hardest moment of the race was a curvy downhill on patched road. I lost my bottle. I know that I need to build bike handling skills and confidence in taking turns at speed. I did the best that I had on the day. Twice I straight out attacked. There were riders on the course who did not have great handling skills and did not know the rules on drafting (like, don’t do it!) or road position. Two of them I purposefully put in a big effort to pass and leave behind. As I passed one I thought “This is Fight Club!” The bike training I had done had prepared me for exactly the effort I needed.
Then the bike was finished (Hi Monica!). My legs had started to hurt but I knew I had a good run that was waiting to be called for. Then the ratchet strip on my bike shoe got stuck and I couldn’t take my bloody shoe off. I yanked and yanked and it gave (first post race gear purchase will be new shoes). I raced out of T2. Wave and a smile to Team Fyre and into the pain cave.
Nothing grows in the comfort zone. I did not come here to take it easy. I didn’t feel fast. My legs never “woke up.” I got a rhythm. It wasn’t my usual rhythm when I feel happy and light and strong. It was there though and I grabbed it. I tried to keep a smile on my face and started crying. There had been no panic attack on my swim, there had been no ease on my bike, this was new ground. I counted the women who passed me and tried to see if they had sprint bibs. Two. Two women passed me on the whole run. I got to the turn around and saw the strangest thing; they were all behind me. I have never seen that many people behind me at a race, ever.
I kept going, one steady pace the whole way. I had planned a kick and had memorized landmarks for 800, 600, 400, and 200 meters. I was able to give it a bit more at 600 but I was already running so hard there was nothing else to do but keep going. A wave to Coach Raeleigh (props for recognizing me without OTC kit!) and Prez. Chris and I threw myself down the home stretch. Then, the insult to injury. The last thirty yards are straight up hill. No valiant finishing sprint but an uphill shuffle. Team Fyre was on the left, shouting for me and then I managed to kick in the last ten yards.
Arms up over the line! Then nearly falling over, heaving, as I got a medal put on and chip taken off. Done. I had gone as hard as I could, as long as I could. Mission Accomplished.
Event review: These people know how to put on a race. The event was extremely well run, absolutely would race again. Great value, great venue.
I had planned a good, better, best set of goal times for this race. I also had a super secret awesome stretch goal. I beat that goal. The one that was outlandish, the fantasy. My training numbers told me I could do it. The body would be willing, I had to have the fortitude to go there.
Swim – 14:21 1:55/100M
My fantasy swim time was 15:00. I beat a number I didn’t think I could make by 39 seconds. I am still absolutely ecstatic over this. Imagine how fast I would be if I kicked! (Out of 199 racers – men included, only 60 were faster than I was. I learned to swim six years ago this month.)
T1 – 4:31
Seems long until I tell you it was the second fastest in my age group and out of 199 total racers, it was faster than all but 34 of them.
Bike – 44:15 16.8 mph average
Not quite as fast as my fantasy number of 18 mph, but better than 114 others on the day.
T2 – 1:35
Once again, faster than all but 37 other racers, including the jammed bike shoe.
Run – 30:22 9:48/mile
This is the fastest I have ever run a race – even one that wasn’t a triathlon. I held off the next women in my age group by 20 seconds.
Total – 1:35:03
-5/24 in my age group
My best race ever. It hurt and it was amazing. I could not do it without Mr. Fyre, he is my hero. I could not do it without me, I am my hero.