Sunday, October 18, 2009

My GOTRIbal Weekend: US Women's Tri Series and Lunch with Chrissie

Today I met Chrissie Wellington and passed her on the bike. Three times.

But let's start at the beginning.

A few months ago, I was reading Chrissie's blog and she mentioned a group called GOTRIbal -- a group dedicated to empowering women through sport, particularly triathlon. One of the things that surprised me when I first started doing triathlons was how male-dominated the sport is. Given that swimming, biking and running are not particularly masculine activities and lots of women do them, I just assumed that lots of women did triathlons. I assumed wrong.

But I love triathlon so much that I decided I had to help change that. So I started evangelizing my sport. To anyone who would listen, but mostly to women. But I'm just one person. Here was an entire group all working towards the same goal. Just think how many more women I could get into the sport if I was working with a group.

So I signed up, joined the SF "tribe" and started visiting the site irregularly. I saw there was going to be a big meeting in San Diego -- a kind of expo/clinic/party called GOTRIbal Fest. Plus a bunch of the local women were going to do the U.S. Women's Triathlon Series Sprint triathlon the next day. This was the weekend before Big Kahuna so I was hesitate to spend it traveling and tri-ing, but eventually the lore of hanging out with my "peeps" go to me and I ended up signing up. In a rare moment of caution, I signed up for the "Super" Sprint instead of the full Sprint.

Then, at some point, the Fest morphed into a bike ride and lunch with Chrissie Wellington taking place after the race. And my plane trip by myself turned into a road trip with my daughter, who wanted to spend the weekend with her favorite cousin and get Chrissie's autograph. I have to say, with completely honesty, that the new plans actually appealed to me much more than the original plans. Plus, it made doing the Super Sprint that much more sensible.

Mini-Mac and I took off late Thurs. so we wouldn't get in too late on Friday. We made great time and hung out at Downtown Disney for lunch, getting into San Diego around 4:00 pm. We visited a bit, I took a shower, and then took off for a party a local triathlete was throwing. When I got there I found out that Chrissie had given a talk at the local tri club and I'd missed it! Shoot.

I got to meet some of the GOTRIbal girls and a bunch of local triathletes. I also ran into someone I knew from home -- he used to belong to my club and just moved down here. Everyone was very nice and told me that next time I'm down here, I have to check out the club website to see what's up.

Saturday morning, some of us met at La Jolla Shores for an Open Water Swim followed by a run and breakfast. Except it was lunch by the time we were done. I didn't run because of my problems with my calf, but I did swim and I had great time.

Then I took a break from GOTRIbal to spend some time with Mini-Mac and my family and friends.

Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 4:15 am and I had the same thought I always have whenever I have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to a race. Why the heck do I do this?! It was horribly foggy on the drive down to Mission Bay, too. I was worried the race would be postponed, but it was totally clear in the parking lot.

I must have still not been quite awake though as I ended up moving my bike three times to get a better transition spot. They were throwing us out of transition 15 minutes before the race started, which also through off my pre-race timeline. My warm-up 15 minute run showed that my leg is still not better as well.

But I felt good and loose and I was sure I'd have a good race, bad leg or no bad leg. I chatted with Brenda from AZ, another GOTRIbal girl, who was in my wave until it was time to get in the water and I had the boyfriend of another GOTRIbal girl hold my flip flops (which I forgot to take off before leaving transition). I also had to take a last potty break AFTER I had completely donned my wet suit. Blah. I missed watching the boat go around the Super Sprint course to show us where to turn because of that, but the course was pretty straightforward and I figured I'd just follow everyone else. Basically, nothing was phasing me at this point.

They horn went off, I pushed the start button on my Garmin and took off. I felt strong and I got into a breathing rhythm right away. TriBobbie, the San Diego GOTRIbal chief, and OWS coach for TCSD had been adamant that we shouldn't waste energy kicking when swimming in salt water and I mostly listened to her. As a result, I was passing people like crazy. I actually caught up to the wave in front of us and passed a bunch of them too.

I ran out of the water and into T1 and ripped off my wetsuit. I had already pared down my transition plans to the bare minimum -- no gloves, no sunglasses, nothing but shoes, helmet and bike. Oh and socks. (I have GOT to learn to bike sockless.)

I was a bit shakier than I expected trying to get my socks and shoes on, but I was on pace for a normal two minute-ish T1 time when I managed to get the sleeve of my wetsuit caught in the spokes of my back wheel. Crap! I did have a thought -- there goes any hope of a podium finish -- but it was fleeting and I was still sure I could do it.

I ran out of T1 with my bike and then couldn't clip in. But I managed to get out on the course and then I started passing people again. I was passing people in wave 14 (I was in wave 16) and passing people who were doing the Sprint. I was passing everyone, pretty much. Then a gal in black and red passed me. Then I passed her. We exchanged places for a while until a third gal came up. We spent the rest of the bike route racing each other and passing everyone else. It was like we were in our own race. My goal was to be in front when we got to T2 and I think I did it.

T2 went okay though I had a moment of panic when I couldn't see my number on the end of my race belt. (It has curled up and around at some point.) I also realized I had left my Garmin on the bike. I actually thought of going back to get it before sanity prevailed and I just ran out without it.

Without a pace, I went out way too fast, but that was somewhat my plan. I wanted to do the 1.5 as a time trial -- basically sprint it -- but I couldn't really hold that. This was mostly because of the leg. I could feel the knee stiffening up as I ran and it just wouldn't go any faster.

Instead, I found someone who was running slightly faster than me and just hung on to them. I did have a vague plan that I'd sprint in at the end and smoke them but apparently they had the same thought (about sprinting, not about me as I doubt they were aware of my existence) and I wasn't able to keep up once they started their finish line sprint. (I need to work on that.)

But I had a good run. I wasn't sure how fast but I figured I'd kept to my goal of a 9:00 min mile pace, more or less. I crossed the finish line, gave up my timing chip and got my finishers medal. As I made my way over to the grub, I realized I hadn't noticed my time on the race clock. Since we weren't allowed back into transition until everyone was out on the run, that was my only clue as to how I'd done. It turns out there was no race clock. Shoot.

I hoped that they'd post the result and announce the age group winners before I had to leave for the Ride with Chrissie. But it turned out they didn't post any results. I was able to stay for the awards though, which were done at breakneck speed (thanks!) but the 3rd place in my age group came in at 51:something and I didn't podium so I figured I had taken longer than 50 minutes.

I guess I should have been disappointed as I'd had two goals for the race (well besides the usual of "finish" and "have fun") and I hadn't made either of them. But I was pretty sure I'd had my first FOP finish and I'd had so much fun and felt like I'd done as well as I possibly could so I really couldn't be disappointed. Plus, I was taking off to ride around Coronada Island with Chrissie Wellington, current and three-time Woman's World Ironman Champion and current World Record holder and current Kona course record-holder. How could I be disappointed?!

We made it to Coronada and hooked up with Chrissie who was easily talking to the girls just like a regular person out for a bike ride. She was dressed in the same type of outfit that she does her Ironmans in rather than a bike jersey, which I thought was interesting. I thought about trying to talk to her then, but there were so many people and I didn't really have anything in particular to say at that point.

I did catch part of a discussion about aero bars that I wish I had heard the whole thing since I have aero bar issues that I'm trying to resolve. It would be so cool to get advice on solving them from the current World Champion. But I had a more burning question I wanted to ask when the time came so I put the aero bars out of my mind.

We took off on the ride and I ended up near the front because we were going slow to we'd all stay together. Chrissie started at the back and slowly made her way up the line talking to everyone. In the meantime, I paired off with different girls and we talked shop and other things.

Then I realized that Chrissie was right behind me. My turn was next! I dropped back a bit and the next thing I knew, Chrissie and whomever she was talking with were in front me. If she kept up her pattern of moving up, I'd missed my shot!

So I had to do the arrogant thing of passing the World Champion on the bike to get back in line. I actually had to do this several times. One time another gal and I made a big joke of it and sprinted past her cheering each other on. I think that amused her.

Finally, I heard Chrissie talking about something I was interested in so I hung back a bit and threw in my 2 cents. That caused her to move up and there we were biking and chatting. I told her that I'd found GOTRIbal through her and how important it was to me to bring more women into the sport. We talked a bit about why women aren't here and a bit about my season. She told me that I was going to love doing a HIM. (I think she's right.) I told her I was going to do IMAZ next year and she was excited about that.

Then I asked my burning question: how much long stuff does she do and does she still only run 2 hours at once like she said she did back in an interview I heard when she first won Kona. She told me more about the incident they talked about in the interview -- where she was told to run two hours and instead ran three because the other girls were running three and she wanted to prove she could keep up and how her coach gave her quite the talking to. She said it really stuck with her -- that we're all individuals and were given different plans for a reason.

And she does only run two hours at a time! We talked quite a bit about quality over quantity and how that's really important for Age Groupers because our time was limited. She told me my coach has the right idea and I shouldn't get nervous that I'm not going big long rides and runs like everyone else. (If you are reading this Coach, I hope you are smiling.)

Then she asked if we could stop so she could use the restroom along the bike path. We all did and, since I'd had to pee since about mile 10, I ran to the restroom too (along with a few others). So now I've not only biked with Chrissie ... I've done the ultimate Girl Bonding Thing -- gone to the restroom together.

When we got back to the bikes, I let her move up the line again and went back to talking with some of my new pals. I hope she got to the front of the line before we got to the park where we had lunch.

Lunch was terrific. I had seconds, which I usually can't do, but I always eat like crazy after both a race and a bike ride. We also all had our picture taken as a group and some nice, patient man with a British accent took our pictures with about 50 cameras. He didn't seem to mind at all. (I should have guessed at this point that he was Chrissie's boyfriend.)

As we ate lunch, different people asked Chrissie questions. Someone else asked about her training and she said "As I was saying to Marie on the ride..." See -- I told you she remembered my name. She had to leave in the middle for a quick interview so we had a raffle until she came back and answered some more questions.

Then it was time for pictures and autographs. Mini-Mac had asked for an autograph so I had her do a poster of her winning Kona for her. For me, I had her sign my shirt. I had this idea that when I worked out or raced and wore it, it would be inspirational. Except later I realized that I probably can't wash it now or it will wear out. I'll figure something out.

At the end, there were goodies left over so I grabbed some towels and water bottles for the kids. I noticed a couple were autographed by Chrissie. So I got one of those! Except again I can't wash it as I know from experience that "permanent" marker washes out in the dishwasher. I'll have to keep it with my various collections at work.

We took the ferry back to San Diego and I went home and looked my times up on the internet. I GOT FOURTH PLACE IN MY AGE GROUP! Not only that, my time was also 51:something so I was :that close: to placing. Plus my T1 time was about 45 seconds longer than it was in my last race and that's about how long I futzed with my stuck wetsuit. So my T1 thought was prophetic.

I came in 55 out of 356 overall too. I can't believe it. Top 15% finish! I knew I'd had a good race even if it took me slightly longer than I expected (I think the swim was longer than the advertised .25 miles--it felt longer than my last .25 mile swim and took me two minutes longer too), but not that good. I'm so stoked!

I can't wait for Big Kahuna next week, but I think I need to get some PT on my leg in the meantime or I'm going to be majorily hosed on the run. I can tough out a 1.5 mile run, but a 13.1 mile run is harder to get through with a painful, stiff knee and aching calf.

P.S. I can't post pictures right now, but I will when I get home.
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