Oakland International Triathlon – Race Plan!

If there is anything I like more than triathlon, it’s obsessively planning for a triathlon.



TL;DR – I’m hella nervous so I wrote every little thing I’m going to try and do on Saturday.  Hella Nervous!!

Race day for the Oakland Triathlon Festival is August 29, a Saturday. A little bit odd, but the Raiders have a game on Sunday and that occupies the OPD, so if we want traffic control we go on a Saturday. It would be a bigger deal if I was coming from out of town but as I’m not, all is well.

It doesn’t help matters that Thursday night is both packet pick up and a mandatory meeting for my kid’s preschool. Yay double booking. I can get my packet Friday night and that’s what I’m planning on. I’ll jam home from pick up and lay out all my stuff, do one last bike check, and then try to have a relaxing evening.

Wake up call for race day is a minimum of three hours before start time. Assigned wave time is 7:06 AM so I’ll be up at 4 AM. Breakfast will be a Clif Bar, a banana, and water. I tend to eat my race day breakfast while methodically getting all my gear on, taking bites of bar between pieces of clothing. I know that it will be work to get all the food down, but it’s worth it. I’ll stop drinking except for tiny sips of water at about 5 AM.

My new best friend!
My new best friend!

Given that I want to get to transition around 5:15 AM and I want to have a happy home life, I’m car pooling to the start and leaving the car for the Mister, the little Miss, and my Father in Law to drive in at the not quite normal but at least a bit saner time of 7AM.  There is a whole lot of walking around the swim leg that I want to save my family by not asking them to watch the start, just be there at the swim exit. That also gives them a serious cushion to find parking, get coffee, and scout spectation spots. (I love that this race has really good spectator info, including where to view each transition as well as the finish line and coffee shop recommendations).

Pro Tip: If you have people coming to cheer you on, give them a time range for each leg/each time you will come past where they plan to be. Best bet these days is to text it to them. I do something like “I will finish the swim in 30 to 45 minutes.” This is a massive time range and makes allowances for a great day, a crap day, and swimming with the current! I do that for each leg. They basically reset each time they see me “OK, that was the swim, she said the bike would be approx 45 minutes per lap so we have 40 minutes to get to our preferred viewing area.” Worked perfectly for my last race. Family gets to see me, I get to see family – everybody wins!

Immediate Pre-Race or TZero

Get to Transition, find the club rack (55 people from my club are registered, total domination!), set up transition. Go to Porta Potty.

Light jog down to the swim exit and back.  Optional: Drop T1 spare shoes. Jog the transitions. Visualize success, ease, relaxation, mastery! Go to Porta Potty.

6:15 – T-49 minutes – last check of transition area. Start getting into wetsuit. Go to Porta Pottie.

6:30 – Grab homies, start the walk to the start.

6:45  – Sprint waves start – Take a gel, finish getting in to wetsuit, get in the water to warm up. New race tradition – including butterfly in my warm up. It gets my heart rate up very quickly and it can be intimidating to the competition. Plus it’s just super fun in a wetsuit.

7:00 – First Olympic Wave goes! Chill and breathe, chill and breathe. Visualize race.

7:03 – previous wave goes. Get lined up, not the back, not the front. Chill.

I will pace myself, I will swim to have a good bike, I will bike to have a good run, I will run to finish strong.

7:06 – Go Time!  

Swim – Head down, get into the rhythm as soon as possible. Stroke, Stroke, Breath, Stroke, Stroke, Sight, Breathe. Repeat for 30 – 45 minutes.

I haven’t learned how to catch a good draft while swimming. If I do get feet that would be awesome but I’m not gonna go off book to try and do it. I will probably swim well within what I could do, because I’m not confident of my swimming I think I go very conservatively.

Early in the swim there is a zig zag before we got onto the long stretch. I will focus on getting into a solid rhythm and staying right there; just below the burn, working, firm but not hard, breathing into it but not gasping for breath.

T1 – Flop onto the dock  then stand up, cap and goggles off, top of wetsuit down, find T1 running shoes (NB – gotta make sure I can find my shoes with my glasses off! May need to place glasses in the T1 shoes, in a case, don’t want them smashed and I’ve got cases to burn. Option is to run with foggy vision.

Jog the whole transition. Running all out would just get my heart rate spiking way to early in the day. I bet there will be a lot of people while start out running too hard and end up hitting their bike a walk, lungs heaving. Because…

Oh, doesn't that look fun!
Oh, doesn’t that look fun! We get to run up and down these stairs twice.

That’s right, we run a couple hundred yards out of the water and then up and over a pedestrian overpass! There is actually a prize for the male and female records for T1. Super love that this race has primes (small prizes) for the fastest leg splits.

Get to the bike, thrown down goggles and cap, finish removing wetsuit, bike shoes on, grab flask of gel (it’s sitting in my helmet) and put it in my leg pocket, grab flat kit, other leg pocket (bento box?), helmet on (glasses on if I didn’t run in them), jog to bike mount, right past all the people right at the line, get in front of that traffic and get on the bike! Pull race belt down to waist after getting on the bike (you wear your race belt under your wetsuit? Hell yes I do.)

Bike – Lots of turns on this course, there are not a lot of places where we will be just grinding away in our rhythm. I want to average 16 mph and finish this up between 1:30 and 1:45. Because there will be so many turns, it will be important to slow down through the turns as little as possible while remaining safe. Accelerating takes more energy than maintaining and every moment slower than my goal average speed requires a moment that much faster.

I will pace myself, I will go at a controlled pace, I will bike to have a good run, I will run to finish strong.

It’s out of transition, left turn, a couple of blocks, right turn and a couple of miles straight up Broadway to settle down and get into it before the turns start.

I did the preview ride last Saturday, so I know that the one short, steep downhill is immediately followed by a ninety degree left and then a right, basically a really hard chicane and the middle of that turn has potholes. Priority through the turn is staying upright.

Take the turns nice and wide->apex->wide where possible, otherwise it’s watching out for potholes, train tracks, and pools of ick (I see you 7th Street right turn, I see you!) and staying in the right effort zone. There will be a headwind out 7th to the Port and a tail wind back.

I know where I need to be effort wise, working but no burn in the legs, no chasing, no jumping, no attacking. Steady, steady effort. (Exceptions: necessary passes due to people in front of me slowing down or getting the hell away from unsafe riders).

And no drafting!

I need to do two laps of the bike course, when we approach transition the sprint racers will be heading to dismount and the Olympic racers will need to turn left to head out again. This merge was apparently quite hairy last year so it’s head up time.

No matter what you think the race director ought to be doing, knowing the course, the rules, and racing safely are the athlete’s responsibility.

Nutrition – I will be doing a small hit of gel every 15-20 minutes. I will drink to thirst, with Gu Brew for electrolyte and some calories and just water to chase gels. Plan is to finish three total gels and one and half water bottles during the bike.

The forecast is for mid-sixties with cloud cover. Perfect racing weather. Still gotta wear sunblock, still gotta hydrate, no slacking on the basics!

T2 – on the last stretch down 3rd clam down, spin the legs, stretch the back and hammies, think about running.

Dismount safely and walk to the rack, bike straight on, helmet off, shoes off, shoes on, grab visor and gel flask, run, put visor on while running.

Run – This is not a sprint, no hell bent for leather pace here. Left down 2nd, right, left, left, right, Spend the first five minutes getting under control. I’ve practiced my race effort so I need to relax and let it come to me. I can’t bank on the flow coming but I’m going to make a place for it. Just under 5K pace, just a bit less than a sprint race. Can you do this for an hour?

I will pace myself, I will go at a controlled pace,  I will run to finish strong.

Nutrition – one gel flask at a concentration to be sipped every ten minutes/every mile. Aid stations every mile with water.

(This late in the race, there are fewer words. Keep it simple)

Don’t fall off. Stay on it, don’t slack, stay on it. Don’t chase anyone.

Up to the lake. Home field advantage in full effect. Anyone who runs in Oakland, runs the lake. Familiar courses are easy to run. Let it be as easy as possible. Working, comfortably hard. No burn, no burn, just tired, no burn.

At the Boat house- Can you do this for another thirty minutes? Yes.

It’s okay to be tired here, it’s been a long day. Stay in your zone.

Left after the pedestrian bridge, 1.2 miles to go. Is there more in the tank? No? Ok, stay with this pace. Yes? Pick it up just a notch, a tiny notch.

Under the freeway, about a mile to go. Cross Oak Street, about a half mile, start to spend the last drips of energy. Flask goes in pocket. Stay strong and steady.

I will finish strong.

Here comes the kicker. With a quarter mile to go, it’s back up and over the pedestrian crossing. Stairs, fucking flights of stairs. Just do this, just do this, it’s gonna hurt, it’s supposed to hurt but you’re so close to the finish.

Down the other side and out and it’s a quarter mile to go. Start to squeeze out that last bit of energy. If that means maintaining – good, if that means speeding up – good.

Left onto the path at 300 yards, when you make the right it’s 200, go hard.

In the chute it depends: Is someone in front of you? Chase them down. Is someone behind you? Keep them there. All clear? Arms up, head up, big smile!

All done! Get your medal, walk around, find the family. Ahhh. Get some recovery fluids and calories and enjoy the rest of the day, you earned it!



3 thoughts on “Oakland International Triathlon – Race Plan!”

  1. Love it. 55 racing, plus their immediate supporters, plus the support of all of Oakland. Gonna be great!

    Also I think you’re gonna want to hit the porta potties BEFORE putting on your wetsuit. 🙂

    1. I actually put it on up to the waist, then slip it down again. The first time up and over my butt seems to be the hardest and after that it moves pretty well. Oh triathlon, the things you have taught me.

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