It’s Autumn! That means it’s time to run a lot. I have a half marathon in November. This is good considering my worst leg this year has been the run. Statistically, I have ranked lowest in running in both my tris this year. Weirdly, my best leg has been swimming.
The discipline I have done the least is the one I’m best at? What are the rest of you people (and by that I mean women in the 35-39 AG racing triathlons) doing? I’m crap at swimming!! At least, that’s what I think. Now I have to change my conception of myself. I’m not a slow but steady runner who like to cycle and knows how to swim but not very well kind of triathlete. I’m a learned to swim late but is getting pretty good at it an needs to put some time into the other two kind of triathlete.
Monte Rio’s swim was really fun but Oakland was kind of a drag. By the end of that swim I wanted to be done. I sped up because it meant I could stop swimming sooner. I got punched in the head! Still placed better in the swim than the bike or run.
So, no more saying I’m crap at swimming!
(My real best discipline is T2, knocked that one out of the park and I’m only getting faster!)
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!
No, really, I have a terrible sun burn on my back. Next time I will be wiser and ask Mr. Haar to put the sunblock on my back. It’s decidedly painful and distracting.
This morning’s swim set was as follows:
Warm up – 200 easy, couple fo fast 50s, 100 easy, then…
1 x 2000
Yeah, screw you too coach!!
Anyways, I did it. Miraculously, I didn’t lose count of the 40 laps although I thought of little else besides my current lap number. I did it with a pull buoy. My right ankle is just coming back from a swimming injury that I’ve been nursing since June. The tendon in question was giving me a heads up or a tingle after yesterdays long bike/run brick. I’m not about to reinjure myself 19 days out from my next race and either not train until my race or limp myself over the line. The time was alright.
To be honest, I’m not feeling great about my prep for this race. I’ve had a couple of big disruptions, the aforementioned right foot and the new job I started in mid-July. I am trying a new training program and it hasn’t inspired me. It is very important in life to know what you don’t like. Constrasting my current training program with the last one I used (Sufferfest, ahoy!) I’ve learned a lot about what I value in a training program. I will definitely be taking that forward into my next training block.
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.
(N.B. The Tilden Tough Ten is not sold out yet! It’s a great, cheap, local race. Get on it if your schedule allows!)
Anyway, Sprint triathlon, four weeks away! I jiggered my training plan and instead of plowing through and then having to make things up for two weeks I dropped back to the last rest recovery week, and will complete the last three week bloc in time to have a intense taper week and be race ready on May 31.
I’m feeling good about this decision. My energy was in the tank on Monday, I was not prepared to hit the most intense week of training ever (no joke, this is the most and most intensely I have ever trained, ’tis dope).
Wednesday morning I was scheduled to hit the bike for a really hard trainer session. The last time I used that video (The Long Scream, no intimidation there!) I cracked. I got eleven or so minutes in and could not hold my power. I dropped my effort and finished the video but at a much lower level that I was targeting. I was scared. I didn’t get out of bed, I didn’t do the workout. I rallied to hit the exercise bike in the gym at lunch – a poor substitute but I’m glad I made the effort.
This morning I was schedule once again to get up early and hit the bike trainer for a hard video. This time it was Fight Club and then a twenty minute run. I was intimidated and scared. I’d never run after such an intense bike workout. Then I figured out what happened on Wednesday because it happened again this morning.
I had a dream that I woke up and decided not to do the video, that it was too hard and I was too tired and I couldn’t do it. I dreamt that I changed my alarm and slept late. WTF brain? Today I managed to break through the mental fog to realize that I was dreaming and the alarm was not for a few more hours. It was still a struggle to get up and out and down to the bike but I’m damn proud of myself.
The workout itself was bollocks. My legs fell off about half way through. I couldn’t even approach my watts. I soldiered on based on RPE – I might not make the watts but I was going to do the work dammit. Then I went running and it felt great. I busted my ass on the bike for an hour and then had a nice and easy twenty minute run.
Then I left for work and shit got weird. I rode my bike the mile and a half to the train station and dropped it off at the valet (that’s how we roll in Oakland!) There is a short walk to the fare gates and I had plenty of time to get my train. I wanted to run. I really, really desired to run. I got in about fifty meters and it felt amazing! I wanted to ditch work and go hit about five miles of trails with my dog. Right now, I want to go running. I want to get moving, I feel amazing.
I’m feeling very optimistic for my triathlon in May. I think it’s going to go very, very well.
Have a great weekend y’all! May the crazy run strong in you.
Dan Empfield’s equivocating notwithstanding (oh, here are some stats but he doesn’t really know the answer but he thinks adding slots is less important than access at low levels, completely ignoring the fact that we need BOTH), the end of the article is basically him saying that the people (women) asking for equality on the pier need to be nicer and more humble.
The old canard of “Why do you have to speak so loudly?” “Can’t you be nicer about this?” “If you were less strident then this would be easier for you.” “You need to see it from their position.”
No Dan. Being nice doesn’t get us anything. Sitting down, crossing our legs, and being ladylike is exactly what we do not need right now. We are not here to make it easy for WTC to ignore us. We are not working to fulfill your expectations of what the discourse should look like. Getting things done isn’t pretty and sometimes it isn’t nice. It’s about effectiveness.
I have personally been told that I just need to speak up and I’ll get “Goal X.” Then I speak up and I’m told that I’m being too loud, I’m not asking for the right thing, I’m not asking the right way. This is how people and organizations in positions of power attempt to exert control over people who do not have that power. This is a tactic that has been used to try and shut women (and a lot of other people) up for millenia. It’s old hat and it’s not going to work.
I don’t give a shit if Dan Empfield or Andrew Messick or anyone on this planet thinks I’m too loud or that I’m not engaging in the discourse in the right way. The right way is the way that gets it done. It may seem out of scale but I’m thinking of the March on Selma, fifty years ago this year, and of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. They didn’t sit down and shut up when power told them to be nicer, to just be patient and it’ll happen.
I’m not patient, I’m not quiet and I’m not yours to order around. I’m here to get shit done.
So I’m on this journey to train hella hard (and smart!) to get as fast as I can at triathlon-ing. The earliest I’m going to race the swim-bike-run format is February, 2015. I have months until I will test my fitness in a race. There are fitness tests on my training calendar but right now I’m in this limbo of working out a lot (really, a lot!), and sort of beating the crap out of myself, and not knowing if it’s doing a damn thing besides make me tired.
I have a great fear that I’m slow, that nothing I do will make me faster. In my brain slow=fat and fat=lazy, stupid, bad, horrible, etc. So yay, irrational fears!
This past weekend I got on the bike trainer for my first extended bike workout. Unlike the daily bike commute, there is nowhere to hide on a trainer. You can’t coast, there are not stop lights. When the schedule says 40 minutes, there will be pedaling for 40 minutes. Because the weekend schedule was crazy, I lumped my run in right after this ride.
It was easy. 40 minutes watching old Ironman Hawaii coverage, alternating between the hoods and the drops to build my arm and neck strength and keeping my heart rate in an easy work zone and my cadence high. No worries! That was probably faster than I have ever actually ridden in a race and then I busted out 30 minutes with the stroller, toddler and doggie. No speed records but I covered most of the distance of a sprint triathlon in a time I would have been jealous of four years ago and I wasn’t even tired.
So yeah, it’s working. Strangely enough, so far, self coaching and working out by myself has been effective. With the exception of swimming, which I do at masters and it kicks my ass, I don’t workout with other people. There is no temptation to slow down and chat. Conversely I don’t go too fast trying to keep up with faster athletes. I’m training myself and it feels awesome.
I had a job and was playing the lottery regularly with my co-workers. We were pretty miserable and it was a nice piece of escapism. We would “friv” or talk about the frivolous purchases we would make if we won the jackpot. One friv topic was “what will you do with your time?” I said that I would spend a year with a triathlon coach to see how fast I could get.
Last month I had a chance to go to the Clif Bar Headquarters and attend a talk by four professional triathletes. I went down, I didn’t really know anybody. I didn’t have the courage to go up and talk to the athletes before their on stage time, which was silly because they were there to talk to people like me. I saw a guy there who looked very familiar but I decided he wasn’t who I thought he was.
Then at the start of the program they announced that Mark Allen was there, not on the program, to tell us about his new book. You probably don’t know who this guy is so let’s say it’s kind of like Joe Montana just showing up to talk about his book and shake hands.
The programmed athletes went on after Allen and they were all very cool. What was even cooler was they way they treated me when I went up to get autographs. Clif Bar had provided copies of Triathlete magazine with each of the athletes on the cover. I grabbed one of each and got in line, except there was no line. Triathlon isn’t a big sport and here were four pretty big names, not huge names, but known names, with nobody engaging with them. I could barely look them in the face but I got my autographs and had a chat.
The big thing is that they chatted back. They were all really, really nice and seemed genuinely interested in talking to me as a person and a triathlete. Which is something to remember on the low days when I disown the things that I’ve done in favor of thinking less of myself.
Then I was shaking hands and Mark Allen jumped up on stage. So I reached out and taught him a handshake. He smiled and threw me a shaka. My face nearly broke in half with the smile I walked out of there with.
As I walked to my car I gave myself permission to stop waiting for a thing that was never gonna happen to go after what I want. I don’t need the lottery to get fast, to train hard, and put something I love high up on my priority list. I don’t know how fast I can get but I’m very excited to find out!