A year ago some girlfriends of mine peer pressured me into registering for this race. A big group even, fun weekend at the beach, twist my arm.. ok, I'm in. Fast forward a year later and I'm one of the last girls standing. WTF? And a race with an ocean swim that I would NEVER in a million years sign up for unless talked into it and now I'm the last of my little foursome of girls that is still doing it, hmm? I think I need some new friends. (j/k) Thankfully our triclub still had quite a few peeps participating so it would still be a great group trip!
I thought about this race a lot more than others because my coach made me. Ok, she didn't really MAKE me, but she did ask me to write out the most detailed race plan I've ever done and then she made suggestions. Suggestion #1 being I eat at LEAST 800 calories on the bike, and if I didn't I may as well throw my run right out the door.
Damn, that's a lot of calories for someone my size. But, she is kinda smart and has kinda been doing this sport for like ever so I suppose she knows what she is talking about, no? Well that and I pay her to tell me what to do so what good is it if I don't listen to her?
The week leading up to the race I felt great. Legs were fresh and tapered and massaged. Then we sat in the car for the 6 hour drive and they started aching. There is something about the taper that just really sucks. No matter how good I feel one day, in the last couple of days leading up to the race it all just go to shit. My legs throbbed and my knees started to ache. My IT bands were tight. Ugh, again. I freaking hate the taper. I felt fat and bloated and out of shape. How is this possible when 2 days prior I felt like a million bucks?
We got into town early enough on Thursday to get registered and pick up our packets. Good decision because by Friday afternoon the lines were crazy long. We did however head down to the expo to get a pre-race swim in on Friday. I'd been dreading this since I first saw the ocean. I'm scared shitless of ocean water. My first experience in the open water was about 10years ago on a trip to LA to vista my friend from HS. We headed to Balboa Beach for the day and within 30mins of getting there our entire group (6) were carried out into the ocean and caught in a riptide without knowing what had happened. One minute we were knee deep in the water and the next we were a couple hundred yards out to sea being rescued by 100lb baywatch-esque lifeguards. The waves were so strong they literally threw us under the water and sent us spiraling in circles with force.
Before that moment I had never in my life been afraid of any body of water. Seaweed, yes. Creepy things touching me in a lake yes. But never afraid of drowning. While I had never taken a swim lesson in my life, I basically grew up in the lakes of the Pacific Northwest and could handle myself form a very early age after my parents taught me to swim via "sink or swim" method. However, top the riptide even off with a couple of years later being stung by a stingray in Mexico and I was convinced the Ocean hates me.
Fast forward to last Friday when I was faced with testing out the waters for a pre-swim with THESE waves and imagine how terrified I was. I'm honestly not sure if I'm laughing or crying in this picture, but all I know is I can't thank the guy next to me, Matt enough for sticking with me and getting into the water to calm my nerves. I don't think he actually knew how TERRIFIED I was, but either way I was so happy to have some company.
Besides hitting the first big wave face first because I was so nervous I didn't duck under the break early enough the swim was uneventful. I'm certainly not in love with swimming in the salty water, but the cold temperatures everyone was so freaked about didn't bother me one bit, and I survived. I knew we wouldn't see anything (wave-wise) as crazy as this as the swim took place in a harbor so I felt completely relieved after!
The rest of the day was a little bike ride to make sure everything was working, getting gear ready and then pacing and doing circles in my hotel room waiting for dinner. Before I knew t I was in bed, popped an Ambien and trying to head to lala land.
Unfortunately I still work up every hour (who does that EVEN after taking Ambien?) but didn't feel too tired when I got up at 4:30. We left the hotel about 5:15 to get into transition and then had a LONG wait for my swim start. I was the 18th wave I think, the last women's start at 7:33 almost an hour after the pro start. The weather was windy but cloudy so I was happy! I had heard that the run can be brutally hot if the sun is blazing so I will take the overcast and cool temps ANY DAY of the week.
The swim was pretty uneventful. Most of it took place in the harbor so it was very protected from the waves, however there is a small section where you have to come out into the open water and there was definitely a little chop. As we made a left to hit the last turn before coming back into the harbor I started to get a little sea sick. Apparently there had been some warnings about the waves and the beaches were even closed. We didn't have anything crazy like that in the harbor, but it was a little more chop than I was expecting and I got a little disoriented on the way back. I don't actually think I went off course, even tho my wonderful coach did as me if "I got lost on the swim." :-)
I exited the swim in just over 34mins. 28/140 in my age group. I was hoping to be more like 32mins, but oh well!
T-1 was LONG. We had a long run along side the outside of transition, then my bike rack was halfway back up into transition and then getting out to the bike mount. It was a total of ~4mins, so not too shabby. I was running the whole time so I don't know if I could have gone any faster. My best new change was buying some TRIGLIDE to use under my wetsuit. It made getting out of it SO easy!
There is one short tiny little hill just before you head out onto the bike course. I needed to get my blood flowing so I stood up & just as I did that one of my bottles popped off my bike. UGH…. here we go again. I even grabbed my favorite camelback bottle that NEVER pops out. The only thing I could think of was that I didn't have it pushed in all the way. It was my gatorade bottle and about 150 of my planned calories, but at least I had my water to wash my food down with & I could grab the powerbar perform on the course.
I quickly settled into aero and grabbed my little box of my magic pills. I had emptied out a mentos gum thing that had a pop up lid and put my e21 in there. My plan was to take 2 right at the beginning of the ride and 2 every hour after. I grabbed my first 2, put it back into the bento box just as I hit a bump and the entire thing went flying out behind me. I looked behind me and considered stopping and going back, but there were just too many people and it would be too dangerous. I almost cried. Those little electrolyte pills have done wonders for me in my training and I was COUNTING on them. I remembered that last minute I had taken 2 pills out of the box and put them underneath all of my nutrition in the bento box. I re-evaluated and came up with plan B. I took 2 pills already, I would grab the sports drink at every aid station to get in as many extra electrolytes as possible and I would save my last 2 e21s to take at the 2hr mark on the bike. I had also given Shane a little emergency bag with 2 tylenol, 2 e21s and my inhaler so I figured I could get those pills and take them right away on the run.
Plan B in effect. The first 30miles on that bike ride were amazing. They were mostly flat and I was able to stay above 20mph the whole time. I started stuffing my face with my nutrition and staying hydrated. The first of 3 hills came and it was just like everyone said. Looked like DEATH from afar, but before you knew it you were up and over. And yes, there really were people walking up this hill. People with aero helmets and $6k bikes. I looked at my Garmin and saw a couple of low speeds of like 5mph but nothing that I would even for a minute consider walking for.
After that first hill things started getting tough. I had been told to expect strong headwinds for the last flat 10mile section, but the wind in these hills was STRONG. I was working hard but my pace was so slow. I wasn't getting passed (except as the strong 35-39M group that started after me came cruising by) so I figured I was doing fine relative to everyone else? But, I did start to do the math and saw my bike time slipping. Not knowing the course, other than it was hard I didn't know what to expect. I did a little research and came up with a bike time of 2:50 for myself. It seemed doable, but that was slowly slipping away and I did get a little down. As I ended the hilly section and the flat started I was expecting a crazy headwind and my pace to slow me down to about a 3hr bike finish and I was frustrated.
However, as the road flattened out my speed went WAY up! I was flying past people and loving it. I managed to keep my pace around 20-24mph the entire time and booked into T-2 happy again! I got ALMOST all of my 800 calories in (maybe 700?) and was not the least bit hungry.
Bike time 2:54 27/140 T-1 a super fast 1:40something!
As I headed out on the run I yelled to Shane I needed my "baggy." Bless his heart he started running through the crazy crowded road to try to get to me, but I didn't want to slow down and wait. I yelled that I would grab it on the next loop & settled in. My legs felt AMAZING. I was running right at 8min miles effortlessly with my HR around 165. The only problem is I had had to PEE for the entire bike ride yet couldn't make myself go. I wasn't about to get off my bike so I saw the first porta potty at less than a mile and it was open so I hit a lap on my watch to see how much time it took me (yes I am a nerd) and was in and out of there in less than :40seconds!
I couldn't believe I was running so well. I felt fantastic (thank you very much coach for making me stuff my face on the bike). I was even passing people! What a great feeling. I ran through every aid station taking in some water or cola and wiping my face with a wet sponge. I was bound and determined not to walk at all so half of the stuff went all over my face and body, but oh well. I kept thinking about what Michelle said, that I needed to keep fueling my body and the minute I was feeling like I NEEDED something, it was too late.
My run time was my real goal. I had the number 1:50 in my head and I had no idea whether or not I could actually do it. The course was mostly flat with a few bumps here and there so my plan was to try to stick to running as close to an 8min mile on the gamin and hope that with some of the little hills and turnarounds and aid slowdowns it would even out. I hit the first loop at just over 54mins right on target, but I was a little worried I might slow. My stomach was a little uneasy from all the crap I had consumed, but I didn't want to bonk so I kept taking stuff in. Mostly coke and water.
Having the 2 loop and out and back course was pretty cool because you could see a lot of people out there. If you were looking for a certain person you wanted to beat you certainly had the opportunity to find out where your competition was. I did spot someone that I had kinda been looking for all day. I knew that person would come out of the water way before me, but I thought I could maybe catch up to on the bike. The first time I saw this person I realized I was down about 3 or so minutes. I felt strong and made it my GOAL to somehow beat them. It wasn't until about mile 8 when I could actually see their race kit in front of me. I dug deep and slowly started gaining time. I FINALLY made the pass at mile 10 and force fed myself one last gel to get my through the last 3 miles. I never looked back, just kept on moving.
I hit the finish shoot with a BIG FAT smile on my face just shy of my goal at 1:51:11 (but I'm telling myself it was in the 1:50s cause I had a 40second pee)! I was full and tired and full of joy for having the BEST triathlon run in over 9 years of racing!!!! RACING.. I actually RACED :-)
Thanks to everyone out there for the amazing cheers and support and encouragement to believe in myself. Thanks go my hard core, bad ass and brilliant coach for getting me a 17min PR.
Finish time 5:25:57, and I RAN myself up from 27place to 24th out 140! A first for me :-)
Such a great weekend with some great people…. Here's a pic of our little group outside of our very own "Clerks" style convenience store (frequented WAY too often by some..)