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Tri for Fun #1 Race Report

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:15pm
Today I completed my very first ever triathlon, the Tri for Fun #1 in Pleasanton. It was a sprint distance fun race, meant for novices or training. The distances were 400 yard swim, 11 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. Not exactly a piece of cake but doable. In the past few weeks of tri training I've completed a couple of bricks but this was my first time to try all 3 together. I was (unreasonably) nervous about the race, mostly because it was new to me. And because I'm a freak.

Early Morning
I set my clock for 4:00 am (with a back-up set for 4:15 in case the first didn't go off or maybe I'd fall back asleep or sleep through it. Right.) but I was awake by then, tossing and turning because of the heat. Although I had set my air conditioning to keep the house cool, it goes off at 11:00 pm and the house steadily got warmer from then. I generate enough heat at night; extra heat keeps me awake.

I did all the morning stuff, ate my getting-so-sick-of-it-I-can-hardly-eat it-now oatmeal, paced around the house a bit, shoved ice and Ultima in my bottles. I had packed my bag the night before and was pretty certain it contained everything I needed (for a week long vacation). My bike was in the car, tires pumped and ready to go. I was wearing my brand spanking new Danskin tri suit with a sports bra under it and a tee over it until the race, gobs of sunscreen, and flip flops. I got in my car at 5:00 am and left home. It was getting light out and already warm.

The race wasn't scheduled to start until 7:00 am but the gates at Shadow Cliffs opened at 5:30 am. I was worried about possible traffic problems (huh? at 5am on a Saturday?) and thought it would take at least a half hour to get there. That's exactly how long it took. I paid my $6 parking fee at the gate and nabbed a great parking space. As I was getting out of the car I saw that Claudia was as much a worrier as I; she and Rocky were already there, unloading her bike and pack.

They had grabbed a primo spot to rack her bike and I set up right next to her. We spaced ourselves out, knowing we'd get squished later but hoping for the best. I spread out an extra towel I had brought and laid out my helmet, gloves, socks, shoes, tank top, buff, hat, glasses, extra bottle, swim cap, goggles and probably more that I can't think of now. Claudia was doing the exact same thing. I had brought a red scarf to tie to the rack as a sighting guide but the people at the rack right behind us had a red helium heart balloon and that worked even better.

We picked up our bibs, got our cheap cotton short sleeved tee shirt, and got marked. My first time being marked, with red indelible marker on my left thigh and right upper arm. Almost immediately the marker and my sunscreen started interacting and the markings started to fade.

We hung out, went to the bathroom, hung out, went to the bathroom, hung out. The guy who racked his bike right next to mine noticed my TnT water bottle and asked about it. I told him I'm on the the tri team and surprise, so is he! We all chatted as more and more people arrived and squashed us in on the racks. And then we still had more time to wait.

At 6:50 we walked over to the starting area. When we got to the beach, Rocky had me turn around and sight to our rack. It was an excellent bit of advice and I'm really glad he pointed it out. Although the race was scheduled to start at 7:00 am, because of announcements and talking and more announcements and thank yous and blah blah get it over with already it was 7:15 before the first wave was sent out. This was the elite wave, men and women. Wave 2 was young men, wave 3 was older men, wave 4 was young women (bye Claudia!) and wave 5 was older women. Although wave 6 was for newbies and novices and scaredy cats, I decided to go with my age group. It was hot, I was tired of standing in the sun and I just wanted to get going. Finally the gun for my wave went off aaaaand Go!

I forgot how to swim
Seriously, what's up with that? I've been swimming for 50 years, I'm comfortable in the water, I've been at Shadow Cliffs several times, I'm even swimming in a straight line now. But my heart was racing and there were lots of people and the water was muddy and I just couldn't focus. I kept moving forward but what kind of stroke is this?? Dog paddle? Breast stroke (which I haven't practiced at all because of my knee)? Side stroke? Where's my neatly performed crawl? When I rounded the first big red buoy I firmly told myself to relax, breathe, stroke stroke stroke breathe, just like I've been practicing. Didn't matter. My heart was pounding so fast and I was breathing so shallowly that I couldn't get enough breath on every stroke. I focused in the woman ahead of me, then the one ahead of her, kept moving forward but never swam well at all. Before I knew it I was back at the shallow end and it was time to run out. Swim time: 10:38 (just about what I had guessed predicted)

Transition 1
Jeez, I needed to calm down. I saw Jeanette and Olivia cheering (oh! I haven't mentioned yet that Olivia and Jeanette got up at the buttcrack of dawn to come cheer us on! And they were carrying a great sign for us, and it was fantastic having them there and they're the Best! Cheerleaders! Ever!) and tried to run out. My legs were wobbly, I was ripping off my cap and goggles, trying to slow my breathing. I think I sat down to put on my socks and shoes, pulled on my tank top, tried to get my helmet on with fumbly fingers, pulled on my gloves, unracked my bike (I think the last remaining one on that rack). I ran out with the bike, stepped off the curb to the street and was off. T1 time: 3:31

In which I kick ass cycling
To get to the road there's a sharp uphill. In my oxygen starved, adrenalin saturated brain fog, I shifted backwards. D'oh! The last several yards up the hill were really tough, seeing as I was in the wrong gear. But I powered through and headed out Stanley. I was flying and figured I had a hecka tail wind. I was finally managing to slow my breathing, managing to get my overexcited body under control. I took a couple of glugs of Ultima, ate a sports bean, settled in. I was passing people right and left and being passed myself. Lots of rude peeps out there, very few "on your left"s or people riding to the side. I guess that's a problem with novices, nobody to teach them etiquette. I continued breezing along, riding strong, knowing that sooner or later I'd be slowing down for a hill or a headwind or something. It was hot and sunny out there.

I had turned on my cyclecomputer when I started but I guess at about 27 minutes I hit the off switch because it was 27 minutes for about 10 minutes before I realized something was up. Knowing that my average these days is no more than 12 mph, I had guessed I'd be out there about an hour. The course was a bunch of turns and out-and-backs, mostly on roads with coned off lanes. At one point on Vineyard the CHP directing traffic was letting through cars and stopped the cyclists. That was a pisser, not only did I have to come to a complete stop, I had to power back up again and repass all those behind me that caught the light at the right time. I probably lost almost a minute there. And told myself that this was a training race and why did I care and why was I riding so hard anyway and ease up! No surprise, I didn't slow down, I was feeling gooood!

There was one sizable hill on the route, the type that I'd normally take at about 4 mph but I powered up at about 7-8 mph. Dummy. I was flying and didn't care; it felt good, I was strong, I had my breathing in check and lookit me go! Before I knew it I saw the signal light that was at the park and the ride was over. Wha? How could that be? I rode down the hills, clipped out, jumped off and hurried over to the rack. Cycling time: 41:52 (20 minutes faster than predicted and almost a 16 mph average)

Transition 2
Everyone was back already, bikes shoved on the racks, only a couple of inches left for mine. I squeezed mine between Claudia's and Matt's bikes and figured they could worry about it when they finished. I ripped off my gloves, tore off my helmet, toed off the shoes. I replaced them with my cap and running shoes and picked up my bottle. I had decided against a waist belt because it was only a 5k. Not my greatest decision. At the last minute I sucked down a gel, hoping it would give me a great run. Transition 2 time: 1:38

In which I fall apart
I waved at the Best! Cheerleaders! Ever! and headed out. By this time it was easily 80+ degrees, sun blazing down. For about the first quarter mile my legs felt strong, then they gave up. We were running on a fire road; hard pack gravel and dirt with ruts and gullies. Not my favorite but at least I had known it was coming. What I didn't know about were all the hills; I was under the impression that the run was flat. Not even. There were uphills, downhills, uphills, downhills, outs, backs, up again. I was toast. Cooked, burnt, stick a fork in it. I walked the uphills and decided to do a run-walk on the rest. I set my watch to beep at a 4:1 but the hills took the rhythm out of that. There were a couple of water stops that we hit a few times each and I dumped a cup of water on my head each time we passed. I drank my Ultima and cursed myself for carrying the bottle with the hand strap, instead of the belt. I was so hot that I was heating the drink and that little bottle weighed a ton.

I was running so slowly I had no clue where I was or how far I had gotten. There were no mile markers anywhere on the course, but someone said that one of the water stops at the top of a hill had been half way. I felt like I'd been running for hours by then. I walked a little more, then tried to run. My running was pitifully slow, almost slo mo. Finally I got to the top of the hill where a woman directing things told us it was the last hill, it was downhill to the finish from there. Goodie! I couldn't power down the hill because I was afraid I'd trip on the rocks or ridges, but I was a little faster than I'd been.

Then I realized we still had a bit of a way to go, this time through all the picnic tables and partiers who were on the pathway. I felt like Godzilla by this time, people looking over their shoulders to see me lumbering along and them pulling their children out of my way so the kids wouldn't get trampled. Good plan. I finally saw the finish line, the finish clock reading 2 hours and something. Claudia, Rocky, Jeanette and Olivia were cheering me to the end and I ran in feeling thrilled that I had made it. Run time: 42:55 (at least 4 minutes slower than I'd predicted, 13:49 average)

Wrap-up and final thoughts
There were muffins, melon and bottles of some electrolyte drink at the end. I wasn't interested in any of them, I was more concerned with not falling over or puking. I paced my heart rate back down to normal and got hugs from everyone. I was dazed, as if I had completed a 20 mile run. My legs were shaky, my arms hurt, I felt sunburned and gritty and sticky and wet. I almost thought I should jump back in the water to cool off but the thought of getting back in that icky water deterred me. My knee was sore, my lower back was aching but at least they hadn't bothered me at all during the race.

I was happy with my clothing choice, not so much with my bottles. I think my food/drink plan worked ok, it was just the anxiety and excitement and adrenaline that threw me off. That and a total lack of good pacing on the bike, not caring whether there was anything left for a run.

I'm thrilled I did this before the big day, glad that only my good friends were there to see me (and they didn't even realize how I slowed down at the end, they were looking at overall). I will definitely work on slowing down my cycling (ha, never thought I'd have to say that) to save something for later. More bricks will take care of that. I have to do something about the swim and I don't think that being in a calm pool will help; I have no problems there.

The biggest surprise to me was that I persisted in treating this as a race when it was supposed to be a training exercise. I've managed to run 5k and 10k and half marathons, heck, even full marathons, as easy training runs so I don't know why I was pushing here. Maybe it's because it was the first; all of my first running races at all distances were treated as races too. I know my only competition is myself and today I proved that I'm a competitor (even when I'm not supposed to be one).

Total time for my first triathlon: 1:40:33

Now it's time for a well-earned glass of wine!
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