Sunday, April 19, 2009
I iz triathlete
Well, I did it. I finished my first triathlon (the ICE Breaker Sprint Triathlon) and it was awesome!
My plan was to arrive at 7 am, two hours before it started and I did manage that even though getting Mini-Mac out of bed in the morning and mixing all my various sports drinks took forever. I got my race packet and then went to set up. I was able to get a rack on the aisle right after the ones reserved for triathlon clubs (making it easy find later) and set up. Yes, I did figure out how to rack my bike. There were enough people there already to copy.
I also got to meet Scott -- the person who talked me into signing up for this particular race. His race started well before ours and I wanted to cheer him on but I was too distracted by my own stuff. Plus all the guys in wet suits and yellow caps all looked the same coming out of the water so I couldn't figure out which one was him.
Anyway, my first set back was to discover that the number for my bike was meant to tie onto the bike. I only had safety pins, not twist-ties like everyone else. So I made do. Later on I noticed someone taping theirs on and remembered I had duck tape too. So I used that to reinforce things.
I laid all my stuff out on my beach towel and I had much too much. I really went overboard on the nutrition, in particular. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I never even opened one of the protein bars and only took a bite out of the other and didn't consume a single sports bean while on the course.
I was also nervous about being late, so I ended up putting on my wet suit way too early. It was already pretty hot -- it was up to 90 by the time I finished the race -- so I got smart and took off the top part and tried to stand in the shade as much as possible.
Eventually it was time to start, so we all went down to the water. I didn't want to warm up too early, since I was in the last wave, but I didn't want to roast in the sun, either, so I got in the water. It wasn't too bad at all. The lake was pretty calm and the lake bed wasn't too icky to walk on and the water was a decent temperature. I ended up doing a bit of swimming to warm up and then they made everyone in our wave get out so we could start from the shore. I didn't like that so much as it meant hitting the shock of cold water twice.
Then we were off! I tried to stay back and off to the side like I'd been advised and also take it pretty easy in the water. That had been my race plan -- take it easy on the swim so I still had plenty left for the bike and run. But some of those people were pretty slow and not very comfortable in the water and they were getting in the way. The next thing you know I was telling myself "f' this, it's a race" and then I was actually passing people! I hadn't expected that as I'm pretty slow in the water and was figuring I'd only have energy for survival.
I even managed to draft for a while until I passed that person. I did okay with the sighting too. I went a bit wide at one point on the way out, but was totally straight across the base of the triangle and pretty straight on the way back. I really couldn't keep track of who was behind me but every time I glanced that way, I saw at least one yellow cap, so that was reassuring too.
I also didn't get kicked in the head one single time (I don't know why, but I was convinced this would happen). I did get run into a bit. And bumped some people myself. Not too bad though until the last stretch where some lady was doing the breaststroke and she kept kicking me and I could not get around her.
The breast stroke takes up about 3x the space as freestyle and towards the end I was ready to hold down her leg and drown her. The only reason I refrained is that I figured she was probably just as annoyed with me as I was with her. Oh and it would have taken too long.
When I got out of the water, I was a bit wobbly, but not too bad. I got my zipper down faster than I ever had before and executed the pull the wetsuit sleeve over the cap and goggles maneuver perfectly.
But then I could not get the arm of my suit over my watch! I had to pull everything back up, take off the watch, pull everything back down and then put the watch back on. All while running. And asking Mr. Mac how many people were behind me -- about a dozen, which was what I expected so probably some of those people I passed had later passed me.
I got to transition and saw one of the people I had been talking to prior to the race -- an experienced, fit triathlete from my wave -- about to set out on the bike. So I wasn't very far behind at all. That was exciting. As I biked out of the area, I looked at my watch -- only 25 minutes had passed when I expected to take 30 for the swim alone. I was ahead of schedule!
On the beginning of the bike route I was on fire. I felt at one with my bike and I passed a bunch of people. My plan for the bike was to pass as many as I could and then just hang on and hope not too many people passed me on the run. So I went for it. I was a little worried that I'd use up all my reserves, but I love to bike and I love this course. So I just hauled ass as much as I could and hoped for the best.
It was hard to tell where I was in relation to the pack because we did the bike loop twice. So were the people passing me actually people who were already ahead of me on their second pass or people behind me catching up? I convinced myself they were all people on their second pass because it made me feel stronger and faster. Even though I'm sure a few of them were really catching up.
On my second loop, I still had leg power, but my brain pretty much shut down. I told myself that I'd biked this route two times before (once yesterday and once just now) and my body knew what to do. And she did, too. I got around fine and shifted at all the right times, or at least as well as I normally do, anyway.
At some point, the course emptied out. I was all alone for much of the last five miles. Not gaining on anyone in front of me, but no one passing me any more either. I did hear someone behind me at one point, so I set myself a new goal: She would not pass me. I sang it in time to my pedaling. She will not pass. She will not pass. I had had enough of people passing me and wasn't going to let another one do it, if I could at all help it. I was able to hold her off and eventually completely lost her. Victory was mine!
I finished the course and whipped back into transition, changed shoes, grabbed hat, grabbed fuel belt and race belt and took off. In the wrong direction.
But the race people got me on the right path and I shuffled off convinced my legs would never make it through the first mile, let alone four. I was still ahead of schedule though and my heart rate said I had more in me. So I convinced myself to push on.
As I got to an open part of the course, I saw other people ahead of me. Oh my god, that must mean I was gaining on them. That never happens to me when I run. I tried to push harder, so I could catch up to them, but the legs still were not cooperating.
Until one of the people started to walk. We exchanged greetings as I passed and she said her calves were cramping up. That made me feel a bit guilty about passing her, but not enough not to do it. I tried to catch up to the next group too, but they were not walking and I never saw them again.
At this point, it was so hot that I was sure the sun was going to roast my face off. I was so glad I had learned to run with a hat but, even with the hat, the sun was beating down on me. I think the sunscreen I had put on earlier was all gone and I was sure I was going to look like a lobster when I was done. So when I got to the first aid station and was offered water and gatorade, I took water and, instead of drinking it, I just poured it on my head. It helped for a while.
After thinking I had gotten carried away with nutrition earlier, I was now so glad I had brought the fuel belt, because otherwise I would have had to take gatorade and drink it instead of being able to cool off with the water.
Then came the most vicious course I have ever run. This course was put together by a sadist. The ups were so steep that I had to walk parts of them or my heart rate would go over 170. But I couldn't make up any time on most of the downhills because they were also so steep I had to crab walk them or risk breaking my leg. I did turn an ankle at one point, but there was no permanent damage. It did scared me a little though.
Somewhere in all the up and down, I passed another woman and calf lady passed me. The three of us then spent a lot of the race catching up to each other and passing each other until the calf lady left us in her dust and I left the other woman in mine. (Victory #2!)
At some point a father and son passed me, just flying. They must have been on a relay team (my wave also had the relay teams), because there is no way people that fit had gotten behind by several waves. Then later on I passed a silver-haired gentleman. Okay, maybe some of the guys could get behind by several waves. I also threw another cup of water on my head. And roasted some more.
Eventually I heard cheering and figured it must be the last 400 so I "poured it on" just as I was taught -- which at this point wasn't much of a pour but my heart rate did go up so hopefully I actually went faster. I was still very much ahead of my estimated time too.
I crossed the finish line, as the announcer stumbled over my name, accepted a cup of water and a bottle of "low cal" Vitamin Water and went to fuss with my stuff in transition, quite pleased with myself and sure I had placed in my age group.
But I was wrong. A bunch of very young looking 50-54 year olds all beat me. Well phooey. Last year my time would have been good enough to place third! I don't feel too bad though. One of those very buff ladies was a tri coach! Plus, I accomplished everything I wanted to and even beat my "maybe, just maybe, if everything comes together and angels lift me up on the run" time goal by quite a bit.
But, by the time I went to get my race t-shirt, the only sizes left were a large (I'm a small) and I forgot to get a goody bag and, I realized on the way home, I never got a finishers medal either. Oops. I'm slightly sad about the medal, but I have boxes of them from when I was figure skating and I know two years from now I won't even be able to find it.
I also don't know my official time or where I placed as we left before they posted all the results and the results didn't have times anyway, just places. Before the race, I was hoping to finish in about 2 hours and 35 minutes, but figured it could easily be 2 hours and 42 minutes and was determined not to be disappointed if I took that long. I did have a secret hope to finish around 2 hours 30 minutes though.
So how did I do? My watch said 2 hours, 21 minutes when I pinged it after I turned in my race slip past the finish line. We didn't have timing chips, though so I have no idea how that will translate into an official time. Hopefully results will be up soon and I can figured it all out.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I am so happy I joined Silicon Valley Tri Club because there is no way I could have done as well as I did without them, Brandon Nugent, our "New to the Sport" coach in particular. Between the long bike rides, bike-to-run transitions, tabata squats, sprinting up hills and swimming in freezing cold, choppy water, I was well prepared for this course and felt good racing it.
Now I get to do it all over again only for twice as long at Wildflower in two weeks. (Tell me again what I was thinking when I signed up for that race and Olympic distance to boot?)