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?
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!
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.
6:45 – 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…
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!
I’m just trying to set some goals for my next race, the Oakland International Triathlon, on August 29. (You’re gonna come out and cheer, right?) (I won’t be finishing until, like, 11:00 AM, at the earliest, you can make it to the finish line by then!).
I really want to do it in three hours!! But I don’t think I can and that’s bumming me out, so it’s time to have a conversation with myself.
Be real jackass! You did 1:35 at Monte Rio going hard the whole time. There’s no way, in the same year, you’re gonna maintain the same pace for twice as long, it doesn’t work that way. If you pulled a 3:10 that would be phenomenal!
Really looking at training data, what is realistic? What is your body telling you it can do?
Swim – you did a 2000 yard swim with a pull buoy that was 48 minutes or 2:24/100 yds. Race day will be a bit faster with the wetsuit and not having to break rhythm on the walls.
My previous Olympic, the swim was 38:25 – in retrospect I think that swim was short. That would be a 2:21/100 and I think that’s reasonable.
Realistic goal, let’s say 38 minutes, anything up to 40 minutes will be just fine. (and look, we’re back to writing in the first person)
T1 is long on this race – it’s a run from the water, up and over a pedestrian over crossing and into the transition area. Looking at last year’s times, I’m giving myself 8 minutes.
Bike – this is where I feel the least prepared to go how I believe I should be capable of going (torturous grammar!). I love biking and I want to be able to hammer the shit out of a bike. But 25 miles is a long way to go. Given that it’s gonna take me at least an hour and a half I need to recognize that no one could hammer for that long.
My last race I averaged 16.8 mph. My last hard training intervals I was pushing to get 20 mph and I was getting 18-19 mph for a very hard interval. I should think that 16 mph would be really good! That would give me 1:33 for the bike and anything under 1:40 will be fine.
Tempering my expectations doesn’t mean I’ll be pissed off if I go faster! And once again, I will race without a watch on swim and run and go by RPE. I will use my bike computer on the ride. The bike is where I tend to really back off if I don’t have something to spur me on.
I want so badly to do as well, relative to my age group, as I did at Monte Rio (5th!!) but this is a much bigger race, with a much deeper field. I will move myself up in the world. From the back of the pack to the middle of the pack is big move. I’m not gonna get to the front of the middle of the pack for another couple of years.
Instead of being disappointed, I need to fuel my hunger! These are the thoughts for the off season, for strength training, for the days I don’t want to get up at 5 and get on my bike trainer. What do I want? Well, for one, I want to be in the top half of my age group at The Oakland International Distance Triathlon.
T2 is much shorter, the dismount is right before transition, so I’m giving myself 2:00.
and the Run. Sigh. My right IT band has been in not premium shape the last two or three weeks. Hills are just deadly to it. Good thing my race is just about pancake flat! My usual weekly long run on trails has been replaced my a run from my house, but that’s good too as my race is on asphalt so I need to be used to the surface. I’ve been doing my old PT exercises and the leg seems to be holding up. The IT just gets tired easily.
The plan is to stick to doing PT exercises every day, avoid steep hills and stairs, and generally taking care of myself. This is on top of the right ankle injury from swimming and the shin splints that have been making a return. I don’t know why my legs are complaining so but I also know that I had no such problems in my last training build and I was doing drills during almost every run. Hmmmmm…
Pace goals wise, this week I did thirty minutes at goal pace/effort and that ended up being very consistent, I was able to get to and stay at 10:30/mile without undue effort. I feel that the run pace is dialed in and that’s going to be my goal, which would give me about a 1:06.
That means my totally reasonable, based on training data, goal time is
38 + 1:33 + 1:06 + (8 + 2) = 3:19 [All my triathlete people will understand the order of operations].
Which, by the way, would be a thirty minute PR over the distance, which is HUGE. Instead of having my chamois in a bunch because I won’t be hitting three hours, I should be well chuffed that I could cut ~12% off my previous best at this distance.
Further goals include: Not giving myself stomach cramp by chugging a gel in T2, not giving myself a back cramp by biking too hard, not losing ten seconds in transition to worn out bike shoe ratchets (solved by the purchase of tri bike shoes last weekend).
So there. I feel better now. I have a reasonable, training based goal time.
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.
So I raced! “We know, you did a half marathon!” Yes, but I’m not gonna talk about that race, I’m gonna tell y’all about the 5k Turkey Trot at my job last week.
The level of organization at the work gym meant that I had about 5 days notice about this race. I haven’t been running much lately because I’ve added swimming, biking, and strength training into the mix. I’m working out a lot but I’m not running that much. I do have a lot of residual fitness from my half marathon training but that was a long slow race and 5ks are short and sharp.
I showed up on the day trying to talk myself out of running as fast as I could. That did not work. I warmed up a bit (not as much as if this was a goal race) and lined up with the 25 other runners and walkers. Ok, we didn’t line up, we milled about until the gym lady said “go!” Then most of us went out way too fast.
I have this thing, a feeling, that because I am not a very fast runner (yet!) I’m not really allowed to be competitive. Well, yeah, fuck that. In this tiny little, non-timed, non-certified race I had a really good chance to win the women’s division and I went for it. I knew from my tempo runs that I could keep at about 10 min/mile for 30 minutes. I aimed for that level of effort. I was on the vomit line for a lot of the race e.g. if I went any faster I would. Half a mile before the finish two women passed me. I had seen them closing at the turnaround and I tried to pick it up but they got that “horses coming to the barn” energy and I’d been redlining it from the start. I made up some time when they had to stop for a red light (yay podunk races!) but I couldn’t keep with them.
I got third though! I made the overall women’s podium! Even better, I averaged 9:54/mile, which is really good for me. That I did that on no race specific training when I’m beating my body up with a whole lot of other stuff is even better.
The moral of the blog post is that even if I’m not “fast” it’s ok for me to be competitive. I don’t have to caveat my racing with “Well, I call it ‘eventing’ because I’m not going to win anything.” I am allowed to go for it as hard as I can and to race other people and want to beat them.
This race is now 16 days away. It’s time to write my race plan. Over the next two weeks I will run through this several times. The night before my race I will lie down, close my eyes and run through the whole race in my mind. I will print it out and read it to myself on race morning and I may even pack it out with me. If I could figure out how, I would have a running app that would read out prompts when I hit various map points so I could have me shouting my race plan at me on race day.
This race is a half marathon plus a little bit on hill trails on Mt. Diablo in Walnut Creek, CA. Forecast is high 60s that day, so heat shouldn’t be a factor. It has rained on this course, so I need to be prepared for that.
Night before – prep all equipment – Nathan Pack, Gu Chomps, electrolyte capsules, bandana, trail shoes, running socks, running hat, shorts, sweats, sports bra, shirt, heart rate monitor, charge phone!, check weather and pack rain gear just in case, pack recovery drink and bottle. Oh, race belt!
Wake up 4:45 AM, fix breakfast of oatmeal, raisins, brown sugar. Drink 16oz of water.
Get dressed. Apply Body Glide to all necessary body parts
Kiss husbeast good bye. Disappoint dog who by now thinks he is going with me by leaving without him.
Race location is ~24 miles away, leave house no later than 6:30 AM.
Arrive with plenty of time to use bathroom, find sweat check, PICK UP BIB!
Use the bathroom, a lot. Stop drinking water at 7 AM (time for the system to clear).
Try to calm down, chat with people, check equipment, breath deeply. Go pee again. Review race plan in brain. Do dynamic stretches to get the blood flowing, jog very lightly for ten minutes.
Line up! Get run tracking app and interval timer for nutrition ready (snack & water every ten minutes), text husbeast.
8 AM GO!! only, don’t like, GO, just, go. Goal time is 3 hours, that will be a stretch but I think I can do it if I push. Heart rate can hit Zone 4 on uphills but aim to keep it Zone 2 and low Zone 3 (160-170 bpm)
Take the first mile or so easy, get warm.
Mile 1.7, turn onto Sunset Trail, here’s the first big hill of the day! Jam downhill!! Free speed (theme of the day)
Steady and strong up the hill after mile 3, take the downhill quick and controlled.
The big uphill starts just after mile 4. Stay steady and strong. Probably going to walk a fair portion of this so walk strong.
Go pretty hard at downhills, take as much speed as possible. Flats (if you find any) take at a steady pace, shake out the legs.
Mile 4.3 to 5.3 longest single climb of the day. Wall Point Road, Keep climbing strong and steady, keep going, you can do it!
Yes, the hill will end, just put your head down and get it done.
Mile 8.8 Turn off Summit Trail to BBQ Terrace Trail WOOT!! Take a picture at the peak of the race and send to husbeast, should be about an hour to go from here.
Downhill is gonna feel great for a minute and then the suck will set in. Go as fast as is safe, slow down or take breaks if you need to.
Mile 9 is gonna blow, as it gets shallower open up your stride.
Charging hills is totally cool on the way down, get aggressive! Heart rate can definitely start to move up.
Start to think about your finish line pose. Hands up? Take off hat? Get ready to finish.
Mile 13.2 One last hill
Here it is!! Look good for your adoring fans, raise your hands up and smile!!
That’s it, easy right? I said I wanted to go 3 hours. The problem there is my long training runs have been 17-18 minutes per mile and I would need to average 13 minutes per mile. So that’s a stretch goal. My real goal is finish and have fun. This is a very challenging course but I have the feeling it’s gonna be a great time.