My first triathlon was in 2009 – The Buzzards Bay Sprint.   Most people are intimidated by the swim portion when considering a triathlon.  My fear was the dreaded run.  I’ve been told in the past that I run like a duck and admittedly see some truth to that – haha.  I wasn’t fast in the water but being the true Aquarian that I am, I’ve always felt comfortable in it.  I did the entire swim portion via sidestroke without a wetsuit.  The biking felt natural and the run wasn’t the death march that I envisioned it to be. After that positive experience, I decided to continue racing in triathlons along with a few 5k’s here and there.  The 2010 & 2011 season included a handful of races.

This year I wanted to take it more seriously, so I decided to work with Colin Cook.  My big goal for the year was to run a marathon simply because I never   “loved” running.  I thought it would be good for me to step outside of my box and focus on a new challenge.  After I signed up for the Smutty nose in September, I found myself surfing the web looking for a few other events.  A “few” turned into a total of 11 races. That was the start of my commitment for this year and I was excited about it!   An early calf injury has made the running more of a challenge, but I think we have it under control!

This is officially my first race report.  I’ve included two of my favorite races from this season.  I selected a destination race for my big event because I have a love for traveling.  At first, my eyeballs were wide open at the sight of 70.3 Zurich, and then I came back down to earth and realized that an Olympic distance state side was more realistic for me this year.  My first favorite race selection was The Golden Gate Triathlon – Olympic distance.  My second was motivated by my love for the neglected mountain bike – X-terra Stoaked off road sprint distance.  I’ll start with the most recent:

X-TERRA – Stoaked off road triathlon sprint distance – Hanover NH –August 11th, 2012

(.5 mile swim – 10K mountain bike – 4K trail run)

I slept like a log Friday night and took advantage of sleeping in until 7am. The sprint did not start until 1pm.  After eating my typical pre-race breakfast and packing up my things I headed up to Hanover. I had ½ of a peanut butter sandwich and banana on the ride up.  I arrived at 11am with plenty of time to check in, look at the swim area, set up my T area, meet up with friends and get settled in without a rush.  I decided not to use T2 at the swim exit for extra shoes as it made more sense to run barefoot to T1.

SWIM – I watched the end of the morning trail race before heading down to the swim start at 12:30, went for a quick warm up swim, took my gu and moved over to the pre-race meeting.  I was feeling good, awake and relaxed.  I positioned myself toward the front right side. The swim was out and back. It started with a kick in the face but luckily my goggles stayed on!  I continued my swim at a steady pace while saving some steam for the immediate hills on the bike portion.  My swim exit left me feeling good and I proceeded to run the 500 yards through the camp ground and up the hill to get my bike.

BIKE – T went smooth and off I went. The immediate climbs did not leave much room for easing into the ride.  It was a hot- humid day. My HR was pretty high pushing up the first hill. It was a slow grind. I passed one rider on the way up then turned the corner up another hill. There was a cluster of people in front of me.  The person directly in front of me abruptly stopped, forcing me to unclip and hike the bike up the hill around them.   Most were learning that this approach was faster than getting stuck in the bottleneck climbing up a narrow path.  I was drinking gu brew out of my camelbak for hydration and stopped quickly to take a gel approx. ½ way through the ride.  I was pretty winded and struggling to breathe normally.  The course continued to roll up with some flat areas in between before getting into a technical section.   (At the start, I figured it would be the lesser of the two evils to have a little extra air in my tires, thinking I would be less likely to get a flat.) I quickly realized that I probably should have thought about that a bit more in addition to spending more time training on technical trails! Oh well – too late for this race.  My rusty bike control and wet trail conditions caused me to fishtail over several roots and eat it 3x.  At that point I thought it would be wise to hike the bike again over some of it before I injured myself. That would have put a major kink in my marathon efforts!  I was pretty frustrated, which wasn’t helping my focus.  A few people passed me and there were a lot of screeching brake sounds coming up from behind so I got up and kept moving.   After getting through that slip and slide it was not far to the best part – The downhill!  My focus at that point was not my HR, nutrition, time that I lost, how many people were behind me. It was simpler than that:  RIDE HARD – DON’T CRASH! The downhill was a fast single track leading into a wider x- country trail back down to the field.  On the ride down a big smile appeared on my face because it was super FUN!

RUN – T went good. I grabbed my water, took my last gu and ran out fairly hard knowing that I lost some time on the bike portion.   I slowed down going up the first hill as I was not feeling great at that point.  The remainder of the course rolled up and down around the pond – through a field – back down to the swim start and back up to the finish at T1. I slowed down to a walk up a couple of the hills then kept a slow but steady pace. When I approached the last ½ mile I pushed harder and back up the hill to the finish.

Not really knowing what to expect from this course, I set a finish goal at 2:00. I finished in 1:53:26. The swim was my best leg with a time of 14:50.  It was a fun race with great people in a laid back atmosphere.  The end result was a very surprising first place age group finish, a jar of maple syrup, winning raffle ticket and another positive race experience!

Golden Gate Triathlon – San Francisco California June 24th 2012

(.93 mile swim – 25.82 mile bike – 6.17 mile run)

The week leading up to my race was hectic.  I was also diagnosed with tendonitis, which was a result of me changing my gait during the Y tri. (Babying the calf)   I was given two treatments at PT and skipped my remaining run workouts.   I unfortunately did not get the extra sleep that I was planning on that week.  I left for San Fran on Friday June 22nd at 3:30 am. The race was on Sunday. Luckily, I was able to sleep on the flight. My flight arrived on time and I went directly to my hotel.  I spent Friday afternoon and Saturday testing out the rental bike, attending a luncheon for the charity that I raised money for, and checking out part of the course.

It was a perfect sunny weekend.  I was very excited to be there and I was on vacation!  I chatted with a few locals about the race:

1.                  The guy at the front desk of the hotel – “The rip tide is really bad this year with El Nino”

2.                  A local rider that I asked for directions during my test ride – “yeah, that swim is gonna suck”

3.                  The dude at packet pick up – “water temp 50 degrees”. (I checked NOAA the week before and it was a bit warmer!) My biggest fear with the swim in this race was the water temp as it puts a kink in my breathing (asthma)

4.                  The cab driver – as he laughed he told me “they’ve been having issues with the seals in the bay nipping at surfers / swimmers.”

Alrighty then! I was ready!

I took a cab to meet up with some friends for an early 5:30 dinner on Saturday night.  They made reservations at the Slanted Door (Vietnamese fusion). It was Pride Weekend in San Francisco. The traffic was insane. I started to wonder how late of a night it was going to end up being.  I watched my friends feast on yummy food and wine while I selected chicken, jasmine rice and pineapple juice just to be on the safe side.  I really wanted the spicy vegetable rolls and some other unique menu items!  We left the restaurant and 8pm and there was not an empty cab in sight!  The last thing that I wanted to do was hoof it in flip flops from the Embarcadero Pier back to the Presidio. I saw a cab coming and like a lunatic I jumped in the road with arms flailing!  The Cab stopped so I gave my friends power hugs and hopped in.  I made it back to the hotel about 9pm so I could sleep!  Yeah right, I was nervous Nelly. I slept on and off for about 6 hours.

My alarm went off at 4am, I grabbed my backpack, my bike and rode the 2 miles through the dark streets, along the ocean and over to T2 at the warming hut.  I set up my run gear with a flashlight, rode back to T1 to set up the rest of my gear, made some new friends, and checked out the water. The sun was starting to rise. The water temp was 56 degrees. The dude at packet pick up was off by a few degrees in the right direction!  My wave started at 6:45. I was all bundled up with wetsuit, swim socks and neoprene cap ready for my swim. I took my gu then dove into the water to get the shock over with.

It was a triangular course x2 laps. The first leg of the swim was directly facing the sunrise. There were 3 yellow buoys which were extremely hard to see. Everyone was standing on shore trying to see where the heck they were going.  My wave was the 2nd to enter the water. The woman standing next to me said “this is good that we are the 2nd wave because we’ll see which way wave #1 drift”.  After wave 1 entered the water, I remember her saying “wow, they’re drifting really quickly to the left!” We sort of became like a pack of huddled football players.  “Let’s swim toward the mooring on the right, knowing we’d likely get carried to buoy 1” – “ok, got it! “

SWIM – My goggles fogged up then we were off!  Seeing was a challenge from the get go. I started off slow and steady swimming as planned toward the mooring, which was right of buoy 1.  I approached the buoy and immediately started feeling like NEMO…..swimming but not going anywhere.  I was expecting a current as we were in San Francisco bay after all but I was not expecting it to be that strong. I looked up to find a few swimmers holding onto the buoy.  I would guess that I was in the water approximately 5 – 6 minutes at that point. The 2nd wave caught up to us and it became a small cluster of turbulence at buoy 1.   In my mind at this time I was thinking “how the heck am I going to swim two laps in this before the cut off time, oh crap”. I really did not want to quit so I started swimming harder, became stuck in between a few people and looked up treading water for a moment. The guy next to me was doing the same thing. We kind of chuckled and said “we are not going anywhere”.   A handful of people pushed forward in a straight line parallel to the shore so I started following them.  Not too long after that, we were getting waved into shore and a few were picked up in the boat. They cancelled the swim portion of the race.  It was bittersweet.  I loved the excitement of it in an adrenaline rush kind of way.  However,  I would have been really bummed out if I missed the cut off and lost my chance to complete the bike portion and run over the golden gate bridge. I was glad that we had the opportunity to give the swim a fair shot before they cancelled it.

BIKE – The time picked up again when you left T area on your bike. My hands were cold getting out of the water. My body was not warmed up as the swim was so short. I broke the strap on my Garmin trying to pull it with numb fingers so I was unable to use it for tracking my HR.  The plan was to stay in z3 for the entire ride.  It was a hilly course compared to what I was used to riding with a total elevation gain of 2919 feet.  Long climb up – down through Baker beach parking lot –  long climb back up –  fast down with sharp left hand turn and winding small road to the parking lot at the T area – turn around x 6 laps. I felt great on the bike ride with exception of a slight pain in my left knee.   I guessed at my HR and stayed in what felt like z3 – took 2 gels and drank all of my water.  This is when I realized that all of the training really paid off because I felt good even with no sleep and jet lag! I passed a handful of riders on the way up. Several passed me on the way down. By the 4th lap I became more comfortable with the road and turns so I increased my speed on the downhill.

RUN – T went well.  I took a gu and felt pretty good at the start of the run around the park. From there we ran past the T area and toward the bridge. My left knee was still a little sore which caused me to start running like a duck again.  I tried to concentrate on my form and just took it easy. I ran around the corner and what a lovely surprise!  Stairs!   148 of them (I counted them on the way up). After the stair climb, I entered the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was still taking it easy at this point, enjoying the breeze off the water and loving the magnificent view on a sunny clear day while keeping a steady pace.  At the end of the bridge you turned around in Marin and ran back over. I tried to pick up my pace a bit at this point as I knew I was on the home stretch. Then I hit the tourist trap. I’ve never had to dodge tourists in a race before . This was a first! Luckily, I was not running fast enough to have any casualties. I proceeded to the end of the bridge, back down the 148 steps, and through the tunnel. Once I hit the dirt path, I pushed it to the finish line!

Swim – 0 – Bike – 2:09:14       Run – 1:09:56

My finish time was a bit slower than I was shooting for but I did not come in last, I had an awesome time and I learned where I can push myself harder.  Another positive race experience!