Monday, November 2, 2009

Marin County Triathlon race report

Well, this weekend started out great and just . . . stayed that way.
(jeepers, this is a looong post!)

The Day Before:

We met up with our great friends (and totally hard-core active couple) Jen and Eric on Friday night at a campground in Olema, maybe 1/2 hour from the race venue.  An evening of beers and campfires passed in great conversation, and we awoke late the next morning and prepared a killer breakfast on our campstove and in J&E's VW campervan -- this vehicle is just the BOMB and oh! someday I'd love to get one . . .

A leisurely breakfast of eggs, sausage, onions, chard, cheese, avocado and mimosas set us up for the day.  We eventually got on the road by noon or so, and they all went off for a crushing mt bike ride, while I hung out and "prepared" for the next day by, well, hanging out.  I also went down to McNears Beach and did my packet pickup, and really started freaking out in earnest.  It was definitely the biggest venue I have yet raced at, and when I saw where (and how long) the swim was my heart just went pitter patter.

The start was a long way from this pier, go around the pier and then swim to forever.  Or that's what it seemed like.  I was happy to see the bay was smooth, and the water was warmer than I had anticipated.  The start (and the finish, for that matter) proved to be extrememly rocky and sharp, and I let someone at one of the vendor booths talk me in to buying some little neoprene booties to protect my delicate footsies.  I later was very happy with this purchase.  She also tried to get me to buy some arm wamers (ooh, you'll be so cold when you get out of the water . . . ) but I fended that one off, and didn't miss them.  I then drove the cycling course (which is also the run course) and was a bit surprised with how hilly it was.  I had previously only looked at the course map online (and very briefly at that, the whole ignorance-is-bliss motto in play) and assumed it would be flat, as it appeared to run right along the coastline.  Not flat, not mountainous but quite hilly, curvy and kinda techincal.  Very much like the course I did back in September's race.  OK, I began to think Maybe I CAN do this without dying.  I was, however, HUGELY regretting my lack of training at this point.

I decided I'd try to really change my luck and attitude by getting nice and prepared the night before.  We stayed in a cheap motel room pretty close to the venue so I could have a nice shower and a good night's sleep.  Proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance, yes?  You can see here that I've been a good triathlete and have all my gear all laid out and ready in the bottom of the photo.  I guess it's pretty obvious what's going on in the name of "preparation" over there in the middle of the photo . . .

Lest I try to claim innocence in this matter,

. . . this photo speaks for itself.  Guilty!

Race Day!

I did get a great night's sleep -- thanks daylight savings time for the extra hour! -- and got up at 5 am.  Tom and I head out for McDonald's for my reliable pre-race sausage egg mcmuffin breakfast, then we headed out to McNears for the start.  We found I couldn't get dropped off right at the start, so we pulled over as close as we could, I got all my stuff together and biked in about 1/2 mile.

I'm feeling a little skeptical about the whole thing, but at this point trying to have a good attitude at least.   When I first signed up for this race, I had every intention of making it my "A" race of the season, and I would train for it with gusto and really be ready to show what I was made of.  Take it seriously for once!  Well, after I all but fell apart in the Donner Lake Tri back in July, I didn't do any kind of excercise (let alone trianing) for over a month, and whilst I ran pretty regularly after that, it has been a little sporadic.  I did go on a couple of long bike rides, and I swam at least 5 times in the past 3 months.  I don't think this really counts as Taking It Seriously, or even training, and in the days leading up to the race and especially the morning of the race I really had my doubts.

By the time I get my transition spot set up, though, I have pretty much pushed all the doubts aside (what good does it do at this point, anyways?).  The weather was perfect, the venue absolutely beautiful (I wish I had taken more pics) and I was determined to just enjoy that and the race no matter what.  So I started acting like the goofball that I am.

At the swim start these little bouys are sitting there for some reason, and I grabbed one and asked if they were for the unsure swimmer to take along -- the answer, sadly, was no.

I got in the water (with those sharp, sharp rocks -- so glad I bought the little booties!) with all the other ladies in my wave start.  Yeah, that's me, dancing like a fool to Stevie Wonder.  I'm sure everyone thought I was a little touched.  OK, it's race time!  Right above my head you can see the first bouy -- what you can't see (off to the right and out of the picture completely) is the "sighting bouy" . . . wtf?  Apparently there is a really strong onshore current (which I find out about maybe 10 minutes before the start of the race -- I should pay better attention, no?) and unless you're a really strong swimmer you have to swim towards the sighting bouy and you'll end up leaving the first bouy to your left.  Happily, our wave had the benefit of seeing perhaps 4 other waves go off before us, and we saw first-hand the way the current set the swimmers to the left in a really quick and destructive manner.  The first wave -- the pros! -- did not heed instructions and most of them ended up having to swim for the bouy against the current and they were very slow in doing so.  Each progressive wave paid a little more attention to the current and fared better.  By the time we got our Go! I think we learned the lessons of those previous racers and I, for one, just swam almost directly for the sighting bouy and I must've gotten it just right because without much correction I left the other bouy directly to my left with about a foot to spare.

It was about halfway into the swim that I began to feel a little, ... strange?  This is where I'm supposed to start to tire a bit, to flail around a little, to start eyeing the finish with a sense of urgency, like I have in Every. Other. Swim.  However, I just felt . . . fine!  Like I wasn't going to die anytime soon.  Even though I had another half mile to swim.   What the hell?  I kept swimming along, trying to deal with swallowing *salt* water, blech!  No big deal though, and I finally rounded the third bouy and headed for the swim out.  I think the current must have been assisting quite a bit, because the swim up the beach was considerably more difficult (though strangely I still didn't see death over the next wave).  I was chugging along when whammo!  Out of nowhere my right calf just seized up like an old Chevy, hard as steel with my toes going all wonky in different directions beyond my control.  My first thought was Don't Panic! (ok, my first thought was really AaaarrrrrggghhhhhOwie!Fuck! but close on its heels was Don't. Panic.)  This actually worked, and I calmly rolled over onto my back and floated there for a second (thanks wetsuit!) then reached down and jammed my thumb in there for all it was worth, causing infinitely more pain but also the eventual release of the seizing muscle.  Ouch!  I tentatively took a few strokes and found that I could move forward as long as I didn't use the right leg much.  I paddled along for another few minutes, then started adding the right leg to the swim and everything seemed ok, if a little sore.  Disaster averted!  When I got out of the water I saw my time of 39:something and thought I really must have been helped by the current, because that's pretty damned fast for me, especially considering the cramping episode.

On to transition, which took something like 3:35 (the top female finisher did this transition in :39, how is that even possible?)  The grass was really wet, but at least I didn't have any sand between my toes.

I'm trying to get my feet dry here, but you can see I've got only one glove on.  I think I must have put the one on, then seen something shiny and forgot all about the left handed one.  I didn't even realize it till about 1/3 of the way into the bike . . . space cadet.

Oddly enough, the bike was probably my worst event this time.  The course was a 6+ mile loop, once we rode out there, repeated 3 times.  An interesting way to do it, I thought, because hey! I didn't ride alone and got passed all kinds of times by leaders and everyone else.  I usually never even see those guys on their fancy bikes with the loud carbon wheels and the aero bars . . . hello!  The road was rolling hills, never flat, and quite twisty.  It was closed to traffic, and coned off into 3 lanes, 2 for the bikes and one for the runners.  At one point I almost got clocked as a rider coming from the other direction came careening into my lane just a few feet in front of me.  I cried "Lane! Lane! Lane!" and we both jigged and jagged and narrowly avoided each other.  Whew!  She might have been distracted by the scenery, which have I mentioned was awesome?!  The course paralled the bay shore and every corner offered up a new vista of the sea . . . so very cool.  5 stars for scenery!  Plus, there were something like 3 different bands along the course, playing drums and steel drums and marimbas and whatnots. 

I say the bike was the hardest, because this was the only leg that I kinda struggled on.  My quads were hurting and I just didn't seem to have much fire.  I wasn't worried about it, though, and I had a gerat time dodging the fast bikers and hooting and hollering at the runners starting to appear, encouraging a whole bunch of them and acting like a goofy freak all at the same time.  I was happy to finish, and did so having completed the section with an average pace of 14.7 mph.

And then the run, the run!  Right after transition I ducked in to a nearby lockerroom type thing and had a pee, then I was off!  Right up a damn steep hill first thing, no time to get used to being a runner.  I flew up the thing (granted, "flying" for me is like an 11:00 pace, but hey!), ate a gel and some water, popped on the (surely illegal) iPod, and prepared to suffer.  Every tri I have done to this point has included suffering and generally breaking down on the run, as evidenced by grimacing and walk breaks.  Not today!  I just kept truckin' along.  Up hill, down hill, nothing slowed me down or discouraged me a bit.  Now I really got to take in that wonderful scenery . . . I think I ran half the run with my head turned to the side to see what there was to be seen.  Really pretty.  I was happy to find a little trail beaten in a foot off the road, and ran mostly on that (and had another near collision with a racer, but this time we hugged instead and went on our seperate ways).  I got passed by a few people right off the bat, then settled down and ran the next coupla miles mostly by myself.  I had my own water with me so I ran through the water stations without stopping.  I did walk maybe once or twice so I could sip some water, but then started just sipping on the run.  I hit the turnaround in about 40 minutes, slower than I had hoped but I felt so GOOD!  The return 3 miles was definitely more uphill, and I started passing singles and groups of people walking -- this is what the back of the pack looks like, folks.  Lots of walker-up-the-hill people.  I think my increased hill running of late paid off and I trotted by all kinds of walking people.  Me, passing people, what a concept!  I think I kinda like it!  Anyhow, as I headed towards the finish line I really felt like I could run another 5 miles easily.  In fact, I sprinted across the finish line with lots of energy and cheered myself like an idiot (Tom and friends were off on another mt bike adventure at this point, a far more interesting way to be a tri spectator, IMHO).

I totally blew my (shelved!) sub 4:00 goal out of the water with a nice 3:49:17, which I was inordinately pleased with.  I got a  finisher's medal (oh wow, BLING!) and a really sweet steel water bottle (oh wow, MORE schwag!), and then got myself a nice 20 minute massage.  Then I proceeded to dance around to the music for a while until my friends arrived.

A totally fun race and my best perceived performance yet.  A few thoughts about THAT:

1.  I live and train at altitude, 6200 ft.  I didn't think this would have much of an effect this time, as I had been at sea level for a week (to work), and only back in Truckee for 2 days.  Then back in Marin for 2 days prior to the race.  I thought the advantage would be really small considering so many recent days at sea level, but really that's the best explanation I have for feeling so strong (not fast, just really STRONG and kinda invincible) given the ENORMOUS lack of training. 

2.  I have probably posited this before, but I am really beginning to think I am built for endurance rather than speed.  Speed just seems so foriegn and out of reach, but endurance seems attainable and kinda natural to me.  This upcoming marathon training oughta really prove if this is actually true, or if I'm just smoking crack (again).

3.  Perhaps the 3-month-taper concept IS a good one?

4.  Today, I don't feel so strong.  I feel very un-energetic, and my calf still hurts a bit.  I haven't done much all day.  I will NOT let this turn into a month-long avoidance of anything physical (as I have done in the past).  To that end I am making plans to run with other people (gasp!), and will stay on-target with a training plan for the Death Valley Half Marathon in December, soon after which starts my training plan for the Reno Marathon in May. 

After the race, we headed out to a really nice seafood restaurant and had a fantastic early dinner with Tom's lovely family.  I proceeded to eat like crazy, and had a delicious 4-course meal and ate every bite.  This has to be the best reward for racing in a triathlon, the license to eat whatever and LOTS of it (this is perhaps why I haven't lost a POUND since I started running etc 3 years ago, but that's a while 'nother story).  Some triathlete, eh?

I'll leave you with the view from the restaurant:


Kelly said...

Great race report, and great time! I guess I'm outa the loop, but I think you're totally ready to conqure a marathon! I love food too after any race/run/horrible workout. Maybe why I've gained weight while working out more?

ShirleyPerly said...

CONGRATS on your race!!!

I have heard that folks who live at altitude do a lot better at sea level. I know for a fact that I such at 5000-6000 feet. But aside from that, what a lovely race venue. I used to live in the S.F. Bay Area many, many years ago before I ever got into tris but have been over to Marin County many times for various reasons. You've made me want to go back.

Rest up and thanks for the great report!

Lisa said...

Congrats again. I have to say trialthoners are hardcore. You have my admiration. I could never do that.

Bootchez said...

Oh, man, I am SO not hardcore. Seriously, I pretty much gimp around the course trying not to fall down (or drown). It's not as hard as it sounds, at least if you're like me and just out there for the good time and exercise (and schwag). Those people that are actually out there competing and going all out and giving it their all, THEY are hardcore. I'm just trying to finish without peeing my pants. But thanks for thinking I'm tough!