The last three races I signed up for did not go to plan.
Sonoma Women’s Tri turned into a Duathlon because there wasn’t enough water for a swim. The Lake Tahoe Triathlon was postponed due to fire. Odyssey Swim Run? Woke up sick and DNS’d for the first time ever.
I signed up for the Napa Tri because I wanted to do a proper triathlon this year. Not a super short one (looking at you Tahoe), not a duathlon (glad I didn’t go with Marin the day before), a regular old standard Sprint Distance Swim-Bike-Run.
I got to do that. I had a great day. I did a course recon a few weeks ago with a club mate. I have been training fairly consistently. My swim is, for being one forty minute session a week, going great. My run is the best it’s been since 2015 and improving. My biking is good and I’ve made big strides in getting comfortable on my tri-bike so I can take advantage of all that amazing aero-ness I paid for.
My goal for the day was to race every leg. The new move I’m making in training is to go out hard and not worry if I’m going to blow up, just hit it and see how long I can hold on.
I lined up at the front of the swim. Am I a front pack swimmer? Hell no. Am I gonna give up places to people who haven’t earned them. Also hell no. The usual mess of people who can swim but have zero technical open water skills happened. Got my line cut across, one person managed to swim under me, which was a first, got some feet to the face – nothing serious. I tried to catch some feet mid way through but that athlete was not sighting well and I always trust my own line.
The big news is that I was swimming the whole time. Not letting my mind wander and coasting. I was in it. Staying with my stroke, focusing on getting a good catch, opening up and using my lats, keeping my elbow high and my body rotating. Head down. Swimming from the first to the last.
Dizzy as hell getting out. Ran most of the way up the boat ramp. T1 was, for me, not my finest moment. Shaking, hadn’t practiced a quick wetsuit removal. Running on a gravel parking lot in cycle shoes to a bathroom break.
The bike was so good. Course recon is always the move. The ride out of the park to the road is horrendous. The first half mile on the road is a bit crunchy and the next eleven miles are lovely. Smooth pavement, low traffic. It’s a continually rolling and curving course. There are no flats or straights for easy miles. There weren’t any very technical moments and I spent more than half the ride in aero.
It did start raining on the ride which I had not planned on. It didn’t get bad enough to slick the roads or muck up my glasses and it kept the temperature down. I do very well in cooler temps and I’m sure I gained some time on people who both took the time to put on jackets and then had the jackets catching the wind. There were some lovely headwinds that had me pushing the gear harder than I expected on some downhills. Thems the breaks and everyone had to do it.
Like the swim – I rode the whole ride. Head in the game all day. Checking on effort. Didn’t look at the watch, just asked my body if I was pushing too hard. Kept after it and pushed it to the end. Got into aero early and often. Hit the downhills spinning in a big gear to take the free speed and refresh the legs. It’s always a good day when I’m moved to yell out “Fuck yeah!” at some point.
Again, not my favorite transition. You’ll never catch me slipping at the rack though. Bike up, shoe change and gone.
The only metric for the run is cadence. 190 was the goal. Like breathing. Gonna take calories in the bottle next time. I wasn’t thirsty because it was cold. A nice hit of flavor would have been wonderful.
Stayed in the run the whole way. Cadence strong and quick. Completely happy to be where I was and to be doing what I was doing. Taking in all the energy from the other racers on course who were just as happy as I was. This is the one part of the race I could have pushed harder. It would have been a big ask after the bike and it wasn’t that day. I didn’t need to go to the well in that way. I was happy, I was present. I also ran my best 5k of the year off of a hard bike, on a hilly course, not feeling like I was pushing particularly hard at all, so there is that.
I made sixth in my age group and I am damn proud of that. A great day at the races and I’m stoked to move into the winter. Got big plans for next year.
Race performance is an expression of your reaction to the conditions not only on race day but during the training period.
I hurt my left ankle quite badly in May. It held up through Folsom Lake Triathlon and for most of the Tilden Tough Ten. I kicked the last fifty yards of Tilden and absolutely jacked my foot. I was smart about it and took time off, went to the Physical Therapist, and did my homework to rest and recover.
The good news is that particular injury is almost completely healed up. The bad news is that there is a host of other shit going on with my feet that I’m managing and I took a few weeks off of running during the build up for this race. I’ve been back to it for a few weeks and I’m feeling great. I’m still being very careful of my ankle and foot health.
During the summer school break I have my daughter Friday night through Sunday night. This means I don’t get out for a three hour low intensity ride with a transition run on the weekends. The summer has had a lot of trainer rides – especially during my ankle rehab we filled the gap with more trainer work. That, combined with not being able to run has resulted in a lack of big training days. I do have a lot of fitness from the rest of the year so I’m not un-fit. I haven’t done many bricks and I need to get a bit of transition sharpening in.
Swimming has been going very well over the summer. This is the first time I haven’t taken a four to five month break and it shows. I’m faster and more importantly have a done a lot of work on getting more comfortable and confident with hard efforts in the water. I was unable to push as hard as I wanted at my last two races so I under-swam my fitness. I want to get closer to what my pool times say my open water time could be and I think I’ve done a lot of the work to get there.
With all those factors in consideration I’m going to be very reasonable in my expectations for Oakland.
Swim – 1500M (1640 yds)
My last race at this distance I went just under 40 minutes. That race was fresh water and very choppy so I think I can cut a pretty good chunk off. I definitely want under 40 minutes and I think I can get below 38. Super stretch, “I’m having the best swim ever plus this swim always goes with the current” goal is 36 minutes. (EDIT: I just checked the tide table for race day. The tide will be ebbing and almost slack at race time so the benefit will be minimal).
T1 – The transition from the swim to the bike is very long and includes running up and down three flights of stairs. I always drop shoes at the swim exit and take my wetsuit off right after the swim rather than after I’ve run for five minutes. The last time I did this race I did T1 in 8:25 which includes getting out of the wetsuit, grabbing shoes, and a bathroom visit. I will still do all of those and I’m aiming for 8 minutes.
Bike – 40K (24.5 miles)
This leg has a power target, so I will stick it there regardless of speed. I’m thinking it will be between 16 and 17 mph average so somewhere between 1:27 and 1:33.
T2 – 1:45
I will not be prideful. I will approach my transition with humility. I will focus on execution rather than speed. (This is my way of saying that I usually do this very quickly but I don’t want to get caught up in making this fast and sacrificing my overall effort. They don’t give out podium places for transition times)(Also, I’ve been running in socks lately and that’s gonna slow me down)
Run 10K (6.2 miles)
Running has been coming along. More than feeling fast, I’ve been feeling steady and controlled. This leg has a heart rate target, so regardless of speed I’m going to set the effort and sit there. Training suggests I should be able to run 12:30 – 13:00 per mile and that would give me any where from 1:14 – 1:20 and I’ll be happy if I’m under 1:30 because I haven’t run that far in almost three months. If I’m feeling strong after the halfway point of the run I’ll try to put in a push but I’m going to be the daintiest little flower ever coming down the stairs after the overcrossing. And no kick at the end (or a very, very gentle one)
Overall – My PR for the course is 3:37:35 and my training strongly suggests that I can meet that and maybe beat it a bit, which would be very, very cool but anything at 3:45 or below will be just fine by me.
Last fall I decided that part of turning forty and being single would be getting custom triathlon coaching! I’ve been doing that for a while, which is it’s own thing, and this was my first race with actual “Coach’s Orders!”
I’ve done the Discovery Bay Sprint tri as my first race of the season the last three years. It’s a grassroots race, field is capped at 300 for both Sprint and Olympic Distances, and I get there early enough to park about 30 yards from transition.
I was oddly nervous this year. I actually got into open water before the start of my racing season, which was the day before. I had a sort of rough go of it, nutrition was off, and that was in my head so I had extra swim anxiety on top my pre-existing swim anxiety.
I just wasn’t as dialed in as I have been for some other races. I forgot my race belt (managed to borrow the exact same race belt that I have from a teammate, go OTC!) I was feeling just a bit lost all morning. I was ten minutes behind schedule when I got into line for the porta potty the last time. Now this isn’t late, it’s just that I was behind perfect and I knew it. The nerves were horrendous. I was practically crying. But there was about 5% of me looking at this saying “Wow, these are some really bad race day nerves!” and not participating in the breakdown.
I nattered at a random person as I walked down to the water and that helped. I saw another ETPA athlete and got some water off of them for the dry mouth that had developed. I was able to zip up my wetsuit with no help!!
SWIM 700 Yards 15:44 2:15/100 Overall Place 70/114
I jumped in with about three minutes before the first wave and six minutes before my race start. It was cold this year! about 58 was what I heard and I felt that all the way in my chest. Brain freeze and yay! more panic. I just held on to the dock and waited for the men’s wave to go.
They went and I took some strokes to get the sighting line right, check my goggle fit, make sure my goggles weren’t fogging up too much. Then it was go time. For all the nerves, I was fine when the horn sounded and we were off.
The word from Raeleigh was to find my edge. Well, I didn’t. I’ve had a mantra for swimming for a while and I lost it. I swam strongly but not as fast as I could have. I tried to kick up my pace once or twice but my chest started to get tight and I just backed right off. My head game was not all the way there and I knew it.
I stayed patient, I kept my strokes long and I kept swimming all the way to the end. No in swim panic, just steady effort.
And when I came out I saw that I hadn’t actually started my watch, so no data beside time. I staggered when I came out which probably cost me a couple of seconds to the timing mat, but that’s all part of the game and it counts.
(Last year was 17:10 – two years ago was 15:39, feeling pretty good about that!)
T2 – 4:39
I was shaky as hell. Heart racing, dizzy. Trying to jog all the way but also trying to got some semblance of control. Top half of the wetsuit off, cap and goggle off on the run up. Had to sit down to get my wetsuit off, feeling slow as anything and like always – top half for speed. 2018 T1 – 5:38.
Bike – 16 miles 58:08 86/114
On the bike I had a power target to meet, not too slow, not too fast. I had to do some watch wrangling to get my power displayed. No riding to feel today! I forgot to lube my bike shoes, so I got to practice really shoving my feet in. I did a big practice session a couple of weeks before for getting into/out of my shoes on the bike, I just forgot I’d be wet this time. Took some breaths and did the thing.
I sat down and tried to match my effort to my target power. It was tough because there were gusting winds, slight rises and depressions and changing road surface. My right hip started to complain about half way through and I was on the look out for having to call it a day. No idea what it was but it didn’t carry on to the run, so I’ll call it stiffness and carry on. After the race my average ride power was exactly in the zone I was aiming for and I rode in under an hour so I am well happy with it.
Last year was a 59:41, so again, improving!
T2 – 1:02
My pride and joy! Which I just whiffed. I couldn’t find my spot! I was just blanking and my towel had gotten thrown over my shoes and I was just dazed and confused for a couple of seconds.
I managed to get it parked and then it was just odd. My brain could not quite wrap around what I was doing. Still grabbed my stuff and got going, just not as fast as usual.
Run 5k (it was long, if Garmin is to be believed) 38:54 12:33 pace 95/114
The run was pretty nice! We had lovely weather all day, low 60s, clear, and dry. Some wind but nothing heinous. I got myself all together, heart rate monitor slipped but I got that sorted set off at my target heart rate.
It’s an out and back so I spent my time cheering on everyone who was coming towards me and everyone who was passing me. It was very, very relaxing to not have to decide whether I was going to chase any of the people who passed me. I had a target and I was going to hit it and that was my whole job.
,Some shin splints for the first mile or so but no serious issues, no blisters either. I gave a tiny kick at the end and that was that. Saw teammates, had a beer and then went for my cool down. Yep, I finished my race and then went running again.
All in all I had fun, I had a very controlled race, I was happy with having a race plan to race to and then racing to the plan. Discovery Bay gets a little better every year, they are very good about incorporating racer feedback. This year they moved a water stop so we hit it twice during the 5k instead of just once at the turnaround.
All things being equal, I’ll probably be out there next year!
(Ed Note: I wrote this ages ago and am putting it up incomplete)
This summer hasn’t been the best for my training. I got some sort of wonderful lung thing that started as a cough and then continued being a cough for a month. Not optimal for sports that depend on the body being able to get, you know, oxygen.
But, in spite of this, I signed up for Barb’s Tri. Why, Fyre? Why sign up for a race when you haven’t been able to train?
My club set this as a focus race this year. Barb’s Race was the only women’s only half distance triathlon in the US. It was run concurrently with the Vineman Full Distance triathlon and was a fundraiser to support people living with cancer. When WTC (you know them as Ironman) bought Vineman a couple of years ago, the bought the rights to the name “Barb’s Race” and promptly killed it stating that it didn’t fit into their model.
This was the first year of the new Barb’s Tri, started by that same Barb. So bronchitis or no bronchitis, I wanted to be there to support this race. The fundraising was modest – just $100. The distance was short – a sprint. I’d been training all spring so the distance was doable, I needed to stick with what my body was telling me on the day.
I sent out a fundraising blurb on Facebook but I was completely prepared to throw down the $100 on top of registration. Well, BAM! Donations! I was covered and right quickly with many messages of “Fuck Cancer!”
So now I really had to do it, didn’t I?
There is a wonderful freedom when you race without expectations. I didn’t worry about how fast I was going to go, all I concerned myself with was racing within my limits aka – not puking or feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
OTC had a fine turnout (the first three people in transition were from my club) so there were many people to complain to about racing with bronchitis or whatever the hell was wrong with me. As I warmed up in the water I was very focused on how I was feeling. I felt great. I was able to swim without any distress, which was my goal.
I was racing the sprint distance – 750 meter swim, 12.5 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. The swim started wonderfully. Warm water, mild current in the river, a small race with lots of camaraderie. Then my goggles started leaking. I stopped swimming three times in the first half to try and clear them but had no luck. I resigned myself to having one eye to sight with and stayed calm and even.
When I hit the beach I walked. Usually I push transitions but not this day. Swim to bike is when my heart rate spikes and I was trying to avoid having my lungs do too much. I sauntered up the beach and over the grass to transition and got on my bike without any urgency.
As I got going on the bike I took my time and got very, very warm. Then I felt a bit of aggression and I wanted to push. My body was more than willing to pick up the pace. I very happily spun through the country (it’s a lovely course) and passed a couple of people. It was just fantastic conditions and I was having a great time.
I took a slight wrong turn on the way back but didn’t go too far and corrected to get back to transition. Whoops! I’ve made a bonehead move in most of my races this year. I’ve been able to laugh them off, which is great. I’m able to not take myself too seriously or beat myself up, I just have a giggle at my silliness and let it go.
Back in transition, I wasn’t pulling any fancy maneuvers for dismounting. I rolled up and quickly changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and got out on the run, again, careful to keep it comfortable.
I chugged along. Not pushing hard but definitely keeping it moving. I’ve finally learned to run “comfortably hard.” No spikes, no troughs, just one level effort start to finish. I did stop to drink at the aid station in the spirit of not going too hard.
I came into the finish behind three women. If I’d been in better shape and in the space to push I would have tried to out kick them but that wasn’t the order of the day. I jogged in to the finish
There were family logistics to consider so I didn’t sleep at home, which meant that I didn’t sleep. Not too much of a bother and I was up bright and early. Or really, when my alarm went off I lay in bed and visualized by race for twenty minutes.
Got to the race on time, got checked in and set up. Set up the technical error for later and chatted with fellow racers. There were quite a few first timers and this was a good race for them! Very small (about 160 registered), flat course, easy water. I handed our some spare equipment and advice, mostly to wait at the start of the swim and not go off too fast.
As it always does on race day, the time flew by. There are always first timers showing up fifteen minutes before the start like it’s a 5k and they can stroll up. I never know whether to laugh or feel sorry for them. I didn’t feel too nervous until I had to put on my wetsuit and then I started getting butterflies.
The Olympic Race went off at 8 (a very civilized start time) and I got into the water ten minutes later to warm up. I really warmed up, not just paddling around to get used to the temperature, which was a perfect 66 degrees, but really revving up my heart rate a couple of times. Getting out of breath with a few accelerations and then hanging out waiting for the start.
We were swimming north, which is great because we never had to sight into the sun. I was nice and warm. I had confidence from my training and I went for it. Not too hard but definitely pushing my pace. I was aggressive at the start and going around the buoy. My sighting was good and I finally figured out how to keep my goggle from fogging up! I could actually see for the whole race and it was awesome.
T1 – Goal 6:00 – Race Time – 4:16. This seems good but let me tell you what happened.
I have a bit of pride around my transitions. So much pride that I kept my bike shoes on my pedals, even though I haven’t practiced getting into them while moving since last May. Yeah. Good T1 time that led to a complete stop 400 yards into the bike to put my damn shoes on. And it was a tiny transition area so even if I had run in the shoes it wouldn’t have cost me much time at all. I lost the forest for the trees right there but I was able to laugh at myself and learn from it.
Bike – Goal – 1:00:00 – 16 MPH – Race Time 57:06 – 17 MPH
Despite my technical snafu, my bike time was good. It felt amazing. I was able to laugh off my jackassery and get stuck in. The course was very well marked and volunteers were doing a great job. My handling was not confident as this was my first outdoor ride on my road bike this year. So there are a couple of minutes I could have shaved off with better technical execution.
My effort was steady and strong, with a good cadence. I never got tired. I spent a solid amount of time in the drops – which is something I’m working on improving. There was a woman in my age group who was right in front of me for half the bike. I passed her just after the halfway point but she passed me right back (and then slowed down to the same speed so she just wanted to be in front). We turned east with about four miles to go and I noticed two things. 1) We had a headwind and 2) she hadn’t been in her drops the whole race. I got in my drops, passed her and dropped her. I was going too hard at that point but damn if it didn’t feel good. She was a few seconds behind me coming in to T2 (Spoiler, she didn’t pass me on the run).
T2 – Goal – 2:00 – Race Time – 1:05
Still got it!
Run – Goal – 32:30 – 10:30/mile – Race Time – 33:40 – 10:52
Well – I’m ok with it. I raced hard. The run was pancake flat with no cover. It was a slog. About a half mile out from transition a newbie triathlete I had been chatting with passed me. I saw that she was in my age group. Ugh. I stuck to my pace. She was about 100 yards in front of me at the turnaround. I thought I could get her.
Last year my age group was six people and I really wanted a podium. I kicked it up just a tiny notch. She wasn’t coming back though. We were both passing people at the same rate. I was hurting. Then I saw her walk to take a drink from her bottle. She started to look tired.
There are two ways you can go at the end of a race. There is the “horses coming back to the barn” surge of speed and there is the “Whew, that’s over with” relaxation and slowing. There was a slight downhill and she didn’t speed up on it. I started pushing harder. Then a tiny up hill to a hairpin turn and the finish chute. I pushed up the hill and turned she was ten yards in front of me.
Well if there’s one thing I can do, it’s sprint forty yards for sixth place! I passed her right before the line and had to bend over to not fall down. I very properly negative split my run and ran so hard at the end I nearly threw up – so a standard day at the office for me.
Total Time – Goal – 1:57:30 – Race Time – 1:51:35
Overall 31/64 Division 9/25 Age Group – 6/11
It’s funny, last time this race was run, that time would have gotten me second in my age group – so I hit the time I wanted.
Super fun day. I would absolutely recommend this race, well organized, well run, would race again.
Continuing my two year tradition – this will probably be my first open water swim of the year. Not exactly setting myself up for success. I may try to get a quick one in this weekend along with some transition practice.
Last year I managed to mount my bike with the shoes on the pedals and get into them while riding (and not knock either myself or anyone else down). I did not manage to get my feet out while riding. I had practiced the maneuver with dry feet. When I tried to take my feet out at the end of the bike leg, the moisture from the swim had stuck the shoes to my feet and I couldn’t get them off. This year I will practice with wet feet and lube my bike shoes so they slip off more easily.
(I don’t do the “flying mount” (shown at :55) or dismount. I run my bike to the mount line and then mount regularly, using my clipped on shoes as pedals until I get some speed, then put my feet in. On the way back my goal is to get my feet out, stop the bike and then dismount regularly. The time savings I get is from not having to run in my bike shoes.)
This is a very small race. Last year in the ten year age group there were six women. I think I have a chance at coming top ten! Actually, I think I have a chance at the podium – so that’s exciting/motivating/scary.
The swim is in a freshwater marina, so no current and a very “honest” swim time. T1 is ~400 yards. The bike and run are dead flat and T2 is short. I’m thinking it will be fast but not super fast. The training plan I’ve been following hasn’t had much in the way of outdoor riding which gives me very little context for what my effort level is going to look like in terms of speed.
I’m going with a conservative prediction on this one.
Swim – 17:30 – 2:30/100y Swim training has been going quite well. I’ve been able to hold 2:36/100 for 1000 yards and that was moseying along. I’m not giving myself any wetsuit credit or drafting credit. I will be wearing a wetsuit, so this could be much, much faster.
T1 – 6:00 – Big cushion here. I have done a slightly shorter transition in under four minutes but I don’t know the terrain.
Bike – 1:00:00 – 16 MPH As I said, no idea what my outdoor speed is right now. My last flat bike race was a touch over 17 and that was almost a year ago.
T2 – 2:00 – I haven’t transitioned in 10 months. This could be crap or it could be under a minute.
Run – 32:30 – 10:30/mile – Running has been going ok but I’m not feeling super fast right now. Holding 10:30 will probably actually be really hard and this could be closer to 35.
Wildflower was cancelled and took the rest of the TriCal season with it, which totally sucks as they have been a bulwark of the independent triathlon scene for a long time. They said that they would return to Wildflower when Lake San Antonio was once again above 20% capacity and they could hold the swim at the Lynch boat ramp.
I’ve been tracking the reservoir levels and they have been dropping, slowly, all year. Even when the rain started, even when rain fell on the lake, still the level went down. What was going on? Was the ground that dry in the lakebed and watershed that it was all just getting absorbed? Considering how dry it has been for the past five or six years, yeah.
California is in the midst of a massive rain storm and I checked in and yes!!! Lake San Antonio got an inch of rain in one day last week (for non-Californians – that’s a lot) as well as continuing direct rainfall and rain on the watershed. It has gone from 6% full last week to 11% full as of yesterday. That includes an increase in overall depth of more than 12 feet in three days this week and an increase of 1.3 miles in length. If you have been to Lake San Antonio that will mean a lot to you, as the actual lake has been really, really far from the Transition/Finish Line/Festival Area for years.
Now we all now that this was just an elaborate ploy to keep Jesse Thomas from 7-peating but as soon as Wildflower is back, I will be there and I hope you will too.
The triathlon season is winding to a close. So naturally, I’m getting excited about triathlon again!!
I trained longer and harder than ever for Wildflower and I definitely burnt out a bit. It didn’t help that my big race for the fall was cancelled. I learned that I am an emotionally fragile athlete. Losing that race from my calendar threw me into such a tailspin that I shut down and sort of hibernated.
I came out of that thinking I would go for a fall marathon – but I totally overtrained and did in my knee. Yay.
I was starting to look at 2017 this week and I was pencilling in Wildflower, perhaps even Wildflower Long Course as my first ~70 mile triathlon. Then the news came that Wildflower was cancelled, along with the entire Tri-Cal season.
Bizarrely enough, that got me kind of fired up. I started poking around, seeing what races were going to be where.
Next year’s tentative race calendar
November 2016 – January 2017 – get back into the flow of training.
Early February – test 5k – I really, really want to break 30 minutes for a 5k. At Monte Rio this year, as the run leg of a triathlon, I ran 30:01. I should be able to break 30 with sufficient training.
April 2 – Oakland Running Festival – I will be doing something – probably just volunteering, but potentially running a relay leg.
April 8-9 HITS Napa – I am committed to supporting local races. I will probably volunteer or even just cheer at this one.
April 22 – Discovery Bay Triathlon – Some teammates from OTC have gone out to this race the past two years. It’s tiny (71 finishers last year), it’s local. I looked up the results and if I had race there this year, I could very conceivably have podiumed in my age group. I am a firm believer in picking your ground. I am totally targeting this race to try and get an AG award.
Third Sunday in May – Tilden Tough Ten – I like this race. It’s as hard as you want it to be. I went into in this year with no specific training and I had a great time.
June 4 – Monte Rio Sprint – Another race I like. I have had two very good years in a row at this race. It’s well run on a fast course.
Sometime around Father’s Day – Woodmonster – Even though the course was changed this year, I still like this race. It’s unapologetically hard. I feel great when I finish it.
August 27 – Oakland Triathlon – I will be involved in this somehow. Depending on how I feel I will either 1) Volunteer 2) Cheer 3) Train moderately 4)Train hella hard.
Early November – Morro Bay – I might do this race next year, it’s on the radar. Or maybe I’ll do that fall marathon I keep thinking about.
I am sooo sunburnt, I have the Evan Borders style whale tail sunburn and my shoulders are on fire. How did I get this way? It all started long ago, on Friday (April 29)….
The husbeast and I packed up a whole bunch of crap & the Little Miss and traipsed down to Lake San Antonio for the Wildflower Triathlons.
I was set for the Olympic Distance race, on Sunday, which meant that we had plenty of time to get the lay of the land. Friday we settled in. Sam from OTC had laid claim to a goodly camping area that was very close to a bathroom. We checked out the festival/finish line area, watched the pro interviews (yay, Bob Babbit!), got the last beer served of the night, and generally tried to chill out. Pip had trouble settling down in the RV (did I mention my dad bought an RV? It’s an ok thing. I appreciated the bed, for sure). It wasn’t the best night of sleep ever, but it was alright.
Saturday was more chilling. When I camp, I tend to go to bed around sunset and get up with the sun so I was up early. Burned pancakes on Paula’s super hot propane camp stove (still delicious), drank not too much coffee, and went to watch the Long Course race finish.
Now, I know this is not common, but I am a fan of triathlon. I know the pros, I follow some of them, I play fantasy triathlon and generally get super duper excited about the people who do this for a living.
Jesse Thomas won his sixth Wildflower Long Course in a row. Crazy sauce considering he broke his foot doing number three, couldn’t race for like, a year, came back just in time to win number four. It really is the Jesse Thomas Invitational. Terenzo Bozzone, the course record holder came in second, making it exciting.
I got some high fives and some videos and went back up to camp to chill. It was not chill. I got race tires, thinner and slicker than my commute tires and wanted to put them on my wheels before I checked my bike in, Saturday night. I could not get my old tires off, or my new tires on, to save my damn life.
I do not react well to stress. I was feeling time pressure, there being only two and a half hours left to get my bike checked in (which I could also do in the morning, so this was an overreaction). I was snappy. I broke somewhere between three and five tire levers getting the new tires on. ARGH!!! Evan came to the rescue with both tire levers sacrificed and advice well given. The new tires were applied and my stress level returned to manageable levels.
I was very afraid of riding down Lynch Hill. I’m still building my descending skills on the bike. I grabbed my transition bag and rode down to familiarize myself with the hill. And it was really not bad at all, especially compared to coming down Snake. The Bay Area really is one of the best places in the world to train. Apart from having altitude to sleep in and extreme weather, we have such a variety of terrain that you can train for anything.
Fears assuaged, I set up my T2 and racked my back. There was a guy there who was helping someone else set up. He opined that every single other person who had set up and racked their bike and set up their transition wrong. Every, single, other person had done it wrong and he knew the right way. Whew! I needed that little laugh. Got my stuff set up safely under my back tire and caught the shuttle back to the campsite.
My dad and Jon collaborated to get the shower in the RV working so I got my own, private, very, very, very hot shower (oh god, I really nearly burned myself severely) before bed. There was a moment when we figure out that the switch to turn the water pump wan’t on, we flipped it and I heard water running. It was the bathroom sink, where all my race morning gear was, getting water poured on it. As my dad looked chagrined I yelled out “You’re lucky I’m a triathlete and it’s all designed to get wet!”
Chaos over. Actually got the little lady off to sleep in a reasonable amount of time, set my alarm for 5 AM and got perhaps my best night before the race sleep ever.
I got up to use the bathroom around 1:30 AM. As I walked out, I could see, even without my glasses, the amazing number of stars in the sky. I’m a city girl, so big constellations are all I’m used to. As I stared up I saw a shooting star. I took it as a good sign. Right before I got back to sleep a coyote started howling close by. It was very cool, especially given I wasn’t in a tent and I was very sure it couldn’t get at me.
Up on time (Pro Tip – start your day with success).
Eat the food, put on the clothes, forget to put on sunblock and burn massively later. Check, Check, Check. Hang out and chat with the Club, watch the Sprint racers leave hours before me.
I got on the shuttle with Erin and Sarah, two mighty athletes who took top spots in our age group. I chatted with a lovely woman name Juliette on the bus as we drove to Harris. Then we waited for the porta potties for an hour. No joke, no exaggeration. But there was nothing else to do. It turned out that four of the eight porta johns had the indicator stuck on red and were empty. One racer in an orange vest was a hero and went through the whole bank of them knocking and getting them back in rotation. She was a hero of our tribe.
National Anthem, Sprint Race Start!! I walked down to my T1A spot. The sprint racers were all at the top of the boat ramp, which is reallllllllly steep and scored concrete – fun for running in bare feet! The Olympic distance racers were down by the water and your truly was less than fifty feet from the swim exit. Score!!
I set up my shoes and hat and saw a bunch of OTCers come out of the water, including Lydia. I screamed at her and slapped her on the wetsuit clad butt. Because that’s what you do when you want to encourage someone to do their best. I went back up the ramp for one more bathroom visit. Going up and down the ramp was a pretty good warm up! I got body marking and then went down to get my wetsuit on. It was very warm in the sun, clad in black rubber. My zipper stuck but Dio Ann’s boyfriend Eric was there and got me zipped up in time. Go Team!
Swim – I hadn’t done any open water in six months, so I knew that was going to be dicey. We got a couple of minutes to warm up, I did a few strokes of butterfly and then got ready to go. It was rough. I had a lot of panic and my goggles fogged very badly. I don’t have prescription goggles so I was flying blind for a lot of the swim. There wasn’t too much contact, I was afraid of it though. I did a lot better with sighting on the way back from the turn. There was some boat wake that had me feeling seasick which I solved by sighting every stroke – first time for everything. I was super happy to be done, it was a slow swim and my heart was screaming at me as I came out of the water.
Evidence of my improving sighting skills.
Swim Time – 42:49 2:36/100 yd That’s actually a solid time for me. And here’s a challenge of racing in a later wave. You’re going faster than a lot of people but since they left somewhere between five and forty minutes before you, you’ll never see them, you won’t pass them in the back half of the run and get that little bump. You race on your own and find out who you beat later.
T1A felt slow. I hadn’t lubed up my forearms or forelegs and my suit wouldn’t slide off. The angle of teh ramp was steep and I had to sit down to get the suit off. I never sit down in transition. I felt like I was flailing and failing and generally the slowest T1A of everyone. My transitions are my pride and joy and there I was, royally screwing up. The results say that yes, my transition was 4:58. It was also the third fastest in my age group and 204 fastest overall. Imagine how well I can do if I practice this!
T1A Run -26:03 (11:45/mi) this is the bit that people are wary of. You run 2.2 miles from the water to your bike. HTFU people. You’re a triathlete and somehow you don’t want to run? I didn’t mind when I signed up and I actually really liked it. I did have to duck into some bushes and risk a penalty. I also surprised Sam as he came around a corner to find me peeing. that’s what stories are made of! I kept to my overall Zone 3 heart rate target and chugged from Harris to Lynch. I was very glad I had my hat for the first run. The sun was out and there was no cover at all. There were college kids (have I mentioned the amazing volunteers from Cal Poly SLO? These kids brought so much energy all damn weekend. Rock Stars) out cheering. As I ran by a couple I shouted that I wanted Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars. They were confused for a second and then started belting out “Daa Daa Daa, du de daa, du de daaa!” with gusto.
Bike – 2:03:47 12.05 mph
I am very content with this time for the bike. I set in Zone 3 on the heart rate and had no heads up speedometer. I think that might have frustrated me, so it’s a good thing. The bonus of running for 26 minutes is that, unlike the Long Course where you get on the bike and have a mile or so to settle in before you hit a big ass hill, the Olympic gives you a couple of hundred yards before you’re chugging up Lynch at 13%. I climb much better on warm legs. I transitioned and ran out on my bike shoes. I realized as I went to mount that my bike was in too high a gear and I couldn’t get in on the tiny incline at the mount line. I sucked it up and managed to get in and not fall down, so, yay for me! (Spoiler, I didn’t fall all day!).
I knew my family were waiting for me at the top of Lynch. I sat in and kept it going easy. I joked with the people who passed me. I saw the guy from Every Man Jack walking his bike down the hill. He needed a tube. He would pass me at about mile 14 on the bike in full #beastmode. I got to the top and there was my dad, my husbeast and my little falcon. I waved to them and rode on.
I overhydrated. I was drinking to time and not thirst and I ended up using the bathroom twice during the bike. Not _on_ the bike (for an Oly, no no no). I stopped at the aid station that was halfway on the out and back section. As I popped out to leave I said “When I come back I want you to play the Imperial March from Star Wars for me!”
I was rolling along, trusting my training, keeping the effort even. Feeling pretty much totally amazing. There were a couple of riders I was in touch with the whole ride. A few from earlier waves that I passed. More super fun volunteers, and I came back to the midway aid station, to once again use the porta pottie. As I pulled in I heard “She’s back!” “Wait, wait, play it while she rides off!” “What’s your name?”
These glorious kids had gotten the Imperial March on MP3 and as I rode off the blasted it out of the speakers while they yelled “Rachel!Rachel! Rachel!” So, that was pretty awesome.
I was getting tired as the bike wound down. My shorts are only good for up to an Oly and I was feeling it, especially as the hills had my sitting and grinding it out a lot of the time. I passed the fam again at the top of Lynch and safely and happily descended to T2.
T2 1:38 – Faster than five pros from the day before. Enough said.
Run – 1:22:07 (this includes the T1A run time)
I went off feeling the hills in my legs. Frankly, I went off feeling like ass. It was hot. But my heart rate was on point and there was less than an hour to go. The first mile was wonderfully shaded and a bit rolling – just right to get the legs into gear. Within that mile I passed a women I had been chasing for the whole bike. Every time I passed the college kids cheering or watering, I would yell pop music lyrics at them, this got a good response. “Shine bright like a diamond” is my standard (lifted from watching The Ginger Runner’s videos – thank you amazing ultra running dude).
I took my own handheld with water – if you do this race, do this. It is really hot and the aid stations are plentiful but being able to drink whenever I wanted was a plus. Beach Hill was not a plus. I walked it, once again with the heart rate. A woman passed me running – #lifegoals – and another woman was just in front of me the whole climb. I stayed on it. For long efforts, I put my head down and think “it takes as long as it takes.”
We crested the hill and I passed the racer I had been chasing a couple hundred yards later – her taped up knee wasn’t doing well with the downhill. Then there was a dusty, sunny mile from the top of Beach to the top of Lynch. I couldn’t hold my heart rate up anymore. I couldn’t run. I saw racers in front of me trudging and looking done and I would run again just so I didn’t look that defeated. I took a moment to feel that it was really hard and that I was 100% alive. I came into the last water stop next to one of those walkers. I shouted ahead “One water in my hand, two on my head” it got a lackluster response and there were ten kids sitting in the shade so I shouted out “Hey, what does a woman need to do to get some head around here?!” Well, yelling that got me about ten cups of water on my head and the admiration of the racer behind me as he said “That was awesome!”
Then it was down Lynch Hill. Thank godtopus. I finish most of my runs at home with a mile downhill so there were no issues with letting myself get down the hill with a quick easy cadence. It’s quite nice, to finish down that hill. Lots of time to let the suffering go and really begin to let the achievement start to soak in. Right at the bottom is the finish chute which I had all to myself. Even though there weren’t many people cheering, it felt like a lot. I gave lots of high fives and the photographer managed to catch this one.
As I came down the chute, the kick I didn’t think I had came and I was cruising along. I heard that Julie Moss was one of the commentators and I thought “Wow, I want to get a pic with her!” Then I heard her call out “Rachel Tibbetts, Golden Gate Tri Club!”
Umm – I signaled that that was incorrect and she said “Oakland Tri Club!” as I came home. More wonderful volunteers draped me in a cold towel (I could feel my skin cooking, the burn was going to be bad), got my timing chip off and there was Rich, my Club president to give me my medal.
“How was it?” he asked.
“Brutal. Legendary. Amazing” I answered.
Then Julie shouted down from the booth that they wanted to give me something for getting my club wrong. I pointed to her and said “I want a picture with you, because you’re a legend.” Two minutes later…
In the documentary about the Barkley Marathons (which you should watch right after you finish reading this), Lazarus Lake says there is no true achievement without the real possibility of failure. That made Wildflower mean something. If you’re going to avoid this race don’t avoid murky water, or a non-standard format, avoid it because there is nowhere to hide. If you haven’t trained, if you aren’t committed, Wildflower will kick the ever loving shit out of you. It’ll do that if you are prepared, it just won’t suck as much.
If you haven’t been to Wildflower here are a couple of pieces of info/advice
-Go to Wildflower – organized, well supported, well marked, amazing energy. The course is really hard and out of the ordinary, step up to the challenge, you will not be sorry.
-Sunblock, hats, water.
-Yep, the hill is big. Learn the shuttle schedule and leave plenty of time to get things done.
-Leather shoes or boots. The foxtails get into everything.
-Don’t leave Evan or Sam in charge of the campfire.
A+ absolutely would race again.
P.S. Evan and Dio-Ann – you’ll get your new tire levers the next time I see you, thanks again!
P.P.S. Yes, this hurt, but every time it hurt I smiled because it was very much worth it.