A triathlon PR: better than sex. yes!!! (I’ve always wanted to start off a race report that way.)
So I went down to Santa Cruz on Saturday with my friend Michele (English Channel swimmer who is currently training for crazy stuff like a triple Ironman and Ultraman) for the Big Kahuna Half Ironman. We stayed at the Santa Cruz Youth Hostel, which was only a 2-minute downhill bike ride to the transition area, and an eclectic experience in and of itself. There were three sets of squeaky twin bunk beds in our girls’ room, and we met all kinds of folks—bike tourists and very cute, very blonde college boys from Norway who were roadtripping up the California coast. And at $20 per bed per night, such a bargain!
Race morning, the swim started on the south side of the pier, went around it and out the north side. Instructions from the coach were to work the swim. I had always thought that I “worked” the swim in previous tris, but after this race, I don’t think I ever had before. I used to think the swim was the “easy” part, even thought it’s always been my weakest leg, because it’s kind of relaxing, right? Ha! I was probably never fit enough to swim the whole thing hard. This time it was a different story. I put my head down and it was just arms, arms, arms. I’ve never gotten my head bashed so much in a race! These girls were aggressive. One of them was swimming on my right and kept trying to push me off course. I pushed back so I could stay on course. When we finally got untangled she kept going off course. I tried to set her straight (literally!), but oh well. I was really glad I had done my 4-mile ocean swim earlier in the week, the confidence and familiarity helped a great deal. I endured a significant scratch to the nose, I couldn’t feel it at the time and was confused after the race when my mom asked if I had a nosebleed, and a random girl asked if “that” was from a nose piercing. !!! There was apparently a mean girl swimmer who doesn’t cut her fingernails and probably shreds up her wetsuit every time she puts it on. It was pretty much a bashfest the whole way, getting slightly better on the way back. I was thrilled to run onto the beach and hit the timing mat at 31:02, that’s gotta be 3 or 4 minutes faster than my swim PB. Yeah! I feel like all the swimming that Coach has had me do for the last 2 months is finally paying off.
The transition area was actually set up a ways from the start and finish lines, so maybe a third of a mile, primarily on sidewalks and streets. I had come to the starting line with my bright green and pink flip-flops and gave them to a couple of random spectators to place somewhere by the swim exit. Well, I couldn’t find them. So never one to waste precious transition time, I proceeded to transition, doing my best to run quickly barefooted over the pavement. Ech. I made sure to slap on some chamois cream and headed out on my bicycle! I tried holding back the first half hour on the bike, and got passed by some girls, most of whom would end up falling back by the turnaround, and I did a good job of catching up to many of the faster swimmers. The first hour went by quickly, but then I started spacing out a bit. Like racing always is, it was just a painful experience. I was going as hard as I could, my butt muscles were burning, my girl parts were aching, and the thoughts in my head whined, “this hurts. boooo. You know, when you go pro, it’s not going to hurt any less… You’ll just be going faster.” And so it went, until I got the best wake-up call ever—my friend Jen from Sacramento flew right past me, with a sort of surprised “hey?!” My “hey?!” in return was equally as surprised. So that’s when the competitive monster inside me finally reared its head and I took off like a rocket. Thanks, Jen! It was also really cool seeing Michellie Jones out on the course–the defending Kona world champion was using Big K as a tune-up race before Hawaii.
I made it into T2 after some failed attempts at the “fancy shoe thing” I had been practicing so much during my weekday bike commutes. I blame it on the downhill into transition; my bike rack was very close to the “bike in” anyway. Imagine myself cruising downhill into T2, bending over to unstrap my Velcro and just eating it. Yup, wasn’t happening. Next time, I promise! While throwing my running shoes on, I realized I had left my Bike Boutique visor inside a pocket inside my transition bag, which was on the other end of the bike rack. D’oh! I decided to save myself 20 seconds and went without; it was pretty overcast. I headed out on the run and managed to smile for the first couple of miles, much easier to do when you are purposely trying to hold back from going out too fast. Plus, my mom, her best pal Emmy, and G-dog were cheering for me, and it’s especially important to look happy for your mom during long triathlons. Otherwise she’ll get way stressed out (like during Ironman). At the first mile marker, I forced myself to eat a banana per coach’s instructions, to slow me down, and yeah, it sure slowed me down! Call me uncoordinated, but am I the only one who finds it difficult to chew a banana while running and breathing kinda hard? Now I know why they invented gels. I sustained a steady pace, continually moving up in the field, and chipping away at the girls who had outbiked me. Most of the run went right along the cliff edge on the coast, and it was a beautiful distraction seeing the surfers and bodyboarders below. I knew I was on course to break my PR, so there was no letting up, especially since I would be close to 5 hours even. It was a relief to see the roller coasters and rides at the Beach Boardwalk, the last couple miles were a slight downhill and I continued to plug away, doing my best to ignore the fatigue in my legs. The most difficult part was the last half mile, when we went from pavement to the beach—trodding through the soft sand, then a long stretch of hard-packed sand by the ocean. My shoes got soaked by a wave close to the end, then a final turn back through the soft sand (so cruel!) finally brought me to the finish line.
Whoa, I did it! Just a couple months training under the teamTBB beginner regimen and I went 5:04 in the half iron! it was an 11-minute PR for me, and my first age group podium (3rd) in a tougher age group here in California (where everybody and their brother does triathlons). And in a big race with a field that included the Ironman World Champion! It felt like a real breakthrough, knowing that I’m seeing so much improvement so quickly, even while holding down a full-time job. Post-race I bumped into many triathletes from the California tri community I haven’t seen in years–back from when I was a teenager! It was good catching up with them, and hearing things like “you grew up! and you got faster!” This is the last half iron of the year for me, so sub-5 will have to wait, but I’m more than confident that it is now well within reach.
xoxo! til next time!