I’ve mentioned before the theme for the year is moving from completing to competing. Even though I’ve done countless sprints in the past, even making goals for myself, I’ve always done it at training pace or something comfortable to finish at. This race is my first attempt at “racing” a sprint, pushing outside of my comfort zone, and really seeing what I’m capable of.
Leading into this weekend my coach warned me that I’ve been doing a lot of time trials to start adapting to the feeling of pushing myself to an all out effort (and it’s been a blast!) but I cannot ride as hard as I do in time trials. She said think back to how you feel right after a time trial, would you be able to do a 5k? The answer better be “No”!
I tend to over think things so I like giving myself time goals for each leg. I sent the break down to my coach and asked if they were too ambitious. She said just push yourself and don’t die. My break down landed me right at 1:30 (1/2 mile swim: 22 min, T1: 2 min, 9 mile bike: 30 min, T2: 2 min, 2.1 mile run: 34 min). We’ll see if it’s possible.
When packing I always lay out my gear in general, swim, bike, and run. One of these days I will make my own check list and be more efficient at packing but for now I lay everything out before it goes in the back to give me a good visual. So here is everything I use for a sprint: tri suit, sports bra, tri slide, run guard, heart rate monitor, tri tats, sunscreen, nutrition, wet suit (optional), goggles, back up swim caps, cycling shoes, socks, helmet, running shoes, sunglasses, hat, race belt. (Since the list is typed out I did some formatting and voila! Download an editable check list for yourself here)
I drove to the race with my dad who helps at these events. Long story short due to his schedule we couldn’t make it to packet pickup but Janice was nice enough to grab my packet and bring it to the crew dinner. Normally USAP allows a friend or relative to pickup your packet if you send them a picture of your photo ID to show. The crew ate at a Mexican restaurant but I popped in to the Italian place next door called Strizzis. The food was fast and very good but they didn’t exactly give me what I ordered. Oh well, it still sat well on my stomach and I was ready to set up my bike. I’m a shorty and always have trouble attaching bike numbers and always need to cut them down thus hard to mess with on race morning which is why I needed to get my packet the night before. This race I decided to place it on my down tube.
My dad needed my car to do his various jobs on the course so I arrived when transition opened at 5 am. Boy that was early for a 6:50 start. My plan was to get a good spot in transition by dropping my bike, eat breakfast, then get settled. There was already a small line of 5 or so cars getting into Shadow Cliffs Recreation Area which is why I always like trying to get to the venue by transition opening. I parked near the finish line near where my parents were helping at so they could take the car. I had a short walk to transition to drop my bike and transition bag while carrying my oatmeal. I never feel like eating race morning and it was all I could reasonably get down. First I checked the team racks for TC3 (my local tri club) or Betty Squad (my racing team) and luckily there was a TC3 rack in a prime transition location in the most efficient path way to all exits. I got the end cap and started eating breakfast while chatting with some new athletes helping them with last minute transition and set up questions. After eating it was time to set up transition.
The water temperature ended up being 76 degrees this morning and I only have a sleeved wetsuit. I decided to go without making this my first race without one. As I made my way to the water I felt very naked. Like I was missing something. My protective shield that usually contained all my nervous energy was gone. I felt exposed and raw but tried to shake it off and get in the water. Julienne and LeAnn, from my two teams, waded into the water with me. It was warm and very comfortable; I could tell it would have been toasty in a sleeved wet suit. This was LeAnn’s first triathlon and had a few swim questions I tried to answer while we walked to deeper water. She joined me for my coach’s mandated 200 yd warm up which is also new to me at this race.
After our warm up we got back to standing depth and listened to swim instructions. The swim pattern was changed from the athlete guide but it was easy enough to follow. Then it was announced the swim start would be delayed. About twelve minutes late we got the party rolling. This race is a deep water start which means you have to really pay attention to time wading out to the start line buoys before the start gun. I was in the second wave and positioned myself mid inner pack this time.
The swim was fairly uneventful. I could feel my butt was sinking and tried my best to keep it up. Getting to the first turn buoy felt effortless (300 yards) but we had to make a pretty sharp turn around which surprisingly didn’t have as many thrashing feet as I was expecting. Thus far I only had one woman who threw in breast stroke kicks every now and then to avoid. At about 2/3 of the way to the second and last turn around buoy (550) the men caught up to us. I usually don’t have a problem with this but had someone put their hand squarely on my back and push straight down for the first time ever. It rattled me but I shook it off and kept my mind on the task at hand. Letting it disrupt my rhythm wouldn’t be productive. “Just keep swimming.” After the second turn we went straight into the shore. I try to think ahead about what I will be doing at swim exit and knew to wait until my hand was almost scraping sand but it was deceptively shallow. I stood up too early at mid thigh level but tried my best to high knee jog out of the water.
No wetsuit was so easy!! I just had to run along the carpet. I always keep my goggles and swim cap on until I get to my bike because this gives me one less thing to fumble with while running to my bike. There was a kiddie pool with water so I dipped my feet in mid run and was on my way. My bike was easy to find with bright blue bar tape and a bright red towel. Wipe wipe feet, socks, shoes, helmet, and go! That’s all there is to transition. Timing mates were placed on the entrance and exit of transition and the official time was 1:01.
There are two “hills” on this 9 mile bike course. The worst one being out of transition. Make sure you are geared down and ready to grind. It’s over fairly quickly though and is nothing if you are geared properly. The bike course is sort of a triangle. Since I have been doing time trials recently (all out effort for 10 miles) it was difficult to gauge the sweet spot of pushing myself but not pushing too hard to blow up on the run to come. The first three miles were fairly easy but as soon as the course turned we got a head wind that never seamed to leave no matter what direction the road was facing. During these times I’m grateful to be on a tri bike. Since we had a steep transition hill it was also sketchy to decent. We had to slow down very early to stop for the dismount line. Official time was 26:56 which was 19 mph.
I like short a sweet for transition. Again my bright red towel makes my rack very visible. I racked my bike, removed helmet, shoes, replaced running shoes, hat, sunglasses, and finally put on my race belt as I was jogging out of transition. Official time was 1:14
The run…..I knew everything would be smooth until now. It’s exciting that I am finally up to 3 mile training runs so I am able to race which I’m grateful for but there is still worry in the back of my mind that too much will set me back again. Time to get to work and see what happens. I grabbed some electrolytes at the beginning of the run at the first aid station. Thus far I’ve only had water which is ok since this race will hopefully be done in less than 90 minutes.
The first 3/4 mile were easy enough on asphalt and paved road but of course it couldn’t stay that easy. We then turned onto a dirt road. The next 3.35 miles would have inclines scattered through out with rocks and pebbles that make footing uneasy. Big picture my eye is on Santa Cruz 70.3 and having a strong run there so I made the tough call to walk the inclines. Take a hit today for your A race. The first gravely hill I took a deep breath and forced myself to walk. Since inclines are the exact pressure that exacerbates my bone bruise I just had to suck it up and to the smart thing. Because of the walking the run was long and frustrating but I made a few friends along the way who also walked a few inclines.
The last 1/4 mile we got back onto a paved running trail and it was amazing! The finish line was so beautiful and push hard for the last stretch.
Immediately after crossing the finish line I felt dizzy and nauseous but didn’t throw up. Coach said that was the goal for “racing” and is happy I pulled back on the run once I described the terrain to keep us on track for Santa Cruz. I didn’t know what to expect at today’s race. Based on my training numbers I thought I could be sub 1:30 but the run was weaker than I wanted it to be. After walking around for a bit I made my way to the results tent to see my official time: 1:25:26. I was really shocked because I knew my run was terrible. Looking at the break down I crushed the swim, transitions, and bike! I had the fastest transitions and bike of my division. If I can just shape up that run we’d be in business!
Place: 2/6 Athena, 74/171 Women, 194/352 Overall
Swim: 21:51 (900 yards)
Bike: 26:56 (9 miles)
Run: 34:23 (3.1 miles)
I’ve come a long ways since my first open water triathlon in 2013 where I was dead last to top 43% of women at today’s race. There is still work to do in all disciplines but I’m really satisfied in this first step towards racing. I’m excited to see how the rest of this season and next year turn out.
Special thanks to my bike sponsor Rubber Soul for always keeping my ride in tip top shape, Coola for keeping my skin protected with top quality sunscreen, and Betty Designs for keeping me decked out in the best apparel. Photo credit: USAP and David Schilling
California Tri by USAP is a fun and fast race with a run that will keep you on your toes. If you haven’t done it yet add it to your list! If you want to follow my latest adventures crushing it on the course, then crush that subscribe button! #createalifeyoulove