I’ve noticed a very clear pattern after a whopping two triathlons:
In the days before the race I’m stressed and anxious.
The morning of the race I’m excited and happy.
During the race I’m demoralized in the swim, joyful on the bike, spent on the run.
After the race I’m ecstatic and proud.
Since it was a Saturday race, I worked the day before. It was actually really nice to have several students on Friday. They distracted me from the stressful ticker of “what if’s” that was scrolling through my brain. It was reeeeeally warm in the area I was teaching and was upgraded to HadesHot when I went to pick up my packet in Pleasanton. Yikes, is this what we have to look forward to tomorrow? I made sure to hydrate well throughout the day and actually chose water over Diet Coke.
Packet pickup was smooth and I was home by 6:30. Small bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and about a cup of Ben and Jerry’s Milk and Cookies. I debated this one long and hard. I realized after last week’s long run that all my best workouts have been the day after I’ve had cookies and cream ice cream! No, that is not a joke. I know dairy isn’t the best idea for your digestive system but it seems to have a proven record of success. This is pretty risky behavior for me but Tim gave me his stamp of approval and claimed all accountability if something went wrong. Excellent.
I used the same spreadsheet system as last time. I check off the items as they go in the bag. No exceptions. This way I don’t feel the need to obsessively double check and repack, as I would doubtless leave something out during the repacking. I can be a little…..scattered when I’m anxious. Packed, fed and asleep by about 9:30. Perfect!
I slept well but still wanted to Hulk SMASH my phone when it started chirping at 5:10. That is a really not cute hour for me. Anyone else? Spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom cursing my decision to have dairy. Eventually I had my first (and most necessary) success of the day and I felt immediately more relaxed. I tend to have urgent tummy issues when my heart rate is elevated. The pre-workout evac is really essential, especially when I know it’s going to be hot outside. Probably enough on that subject.
In another risky move, I chose to wear a brand new tri suit that I hadn’t worn in a single workout. Yes, I am fully aware that that the cardinal rule of racing is do not do/wear/eat/say/look at anything new on race day. Thing is, this is the first big outing for my beloved Oakland Triathlon Club and I really wanted to represent. My singlet didn’t arrive until FRIDAY and I chose rest over a workout in the new threads. I wasn’t crazy about the fit at my neck but I glided the heck out of myself and hoped for the best.
On the beautiful drive from Oakland to Pleasanton, I listened to my favorite pump-up songs and got a little verklempt. This training cycle has been full of SO many new experiences and challenges. I felt proud, regardless of what happened on the course.
Arrived at the race site and OTC was in full-effect. We had a sweet tent and Chris (president) and one of the members, Z, were there to put on race number tattoos and give high fives. In the days before the race, I felt a little nervous about the idea of so many club members being there. Rationally, I knew they didn’t know anything about my fitness level or goals but the performer in me wanted to impress. Ultimately, it was really fun and nice to have their support and I met some great new people!
We had a rack in very back of transition, near the run out but faaaaar from the swim in and bike out. I got my stuff set up and explained some stuff to a guy next to me doing his first race. I say this without any sarcasm: I really admire people who can show up to something like a triathlon and know literally nothing about what they’re supposed to do. I could use a big dose of that fearlessness. I hope he had a great day!
The day was already warming up. Transition closed and almost everyone made their way into the water, regardless of their wave, to cool down. I made friends with two really sweet girls (Hi Dana and Lauren!) who were doing their first tri. We waded and chatted, reassuring each other as we headed to the start. It was time to GET IT.
Swim (0.5 mi / 19:56)
Two big yellow buoys. Swim to the first one. Turn left. Swim to the next one. Turn left. Swim home.
I don’t have a ton to report here. Swimming is hard. In the moment, it felt demoralizing to see swimmers get further and further away from me every time I sighted. I tried to push those negative thoughts out of my mind and just focus on the fact that each time I looked up, the buoys were closer than before! I wasn’t nearly as robbed of breath as I was in the Mermaid Tri. I breathed more frequently and switched to breast stroke many more times than I’d have liked but it was what I needed to do. During the swim, I didn’t feel awesome but in retrospect, it was a VAST improvement over my first, much shorter swim. Those sessions with Velia really boosted my confidence and ability. Must do that much more. It would be great to feel STRONG during a swim but hey, at least I didn’t get kicked in the face!
This was a SHITSHOW. I tried to get the top half of my wetsuit off on my way into transition but I was still struggling as I got aaaaaaalllll the way back to my bike. Then I couldn’t get the bottom half off. It would not BUDGE off my left leg. It took a good minute for me to realize that I hadn’t removed my stupid timing chip. When will they just implant us with a microchip?! GAHHHHHH. Finally got the wetsuit off, everything else on (including HELMET) and took a bolt chew. I guzzled as much water as I could stand, knowing that I would be riding 14 miles in the heat without any additional hydration.
So, as if the wetsuit nonsense wasn’t bad enough, I was about to experience my second biggest triathlon fear. Okay, third behind death and public defecation.
OH. MY. GOD. Yeah, it was congested around the bike mount and I didn’t quite have my footing. I’m NOT great at pushing off when there are people close to me. I wobbled into the dude very close to my left and he fell over. FUUUUUUUUUUUUU*K. I felt HORRIBLE, obviously. But apparently not horrible enough to actually help him up?! I apologized profusely and asked if he was okay but then I was off. In the moment, that seemed appropriate. In retrospect, I feel like a pretty terrible person for not helping him up. Oh and the look on the faces of the Oakland Tri Club folks who were literally 5 feet away from this assault? Yeah, it took me about 4 miles to get over it.
Bike (13 miles questionable / 44:40 / 17.4 mph):
THE BIKE WAS AWESOME. I pedaled my butt off. I didn’t eat shit on any of the many u-turns. I geared appropriately for both of the major climbs. I PEDALED ON DESCENTS AND HIT 26 MPH FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE.
I was fearless. It was amazing.
More, faster, better, NOWPLEASE.
The only thing I would change about this ride (besides the convoluted and SHORT course) was learning how to drink on the damn bike. I had a fantastic ride but by the time I was done, I felt like my mouth was full of sand. PARCHED.
As you can imagine, I was pretty nervous about the dismount. Thankfully, there weren’t any humiliating incidents when I dismounted. Phew. And Yay.
T2 (1:05): Lots of water. Visor. Go. Forgot Garmin. Don’t go back. Forgot to take off glasses (ugh). Don’t go back. RUN AND DONE.
Run (3.1 mi / 31:57 / 10:17 avg)
So, when a race website advertises a “fast and flat bike course!” and doesn’t say anything about the run, you might be in for some unexpected challenges. Like a trail run with constant hills. Add 90 degree heat with no shade and you’ve really got a party going.
All my time goals went out the window. Since I was Garminless, I decided to run by feel and just get by. Coming upon the first hill, I made the decision not to walk, as many were. I made this decision for every single hill on the course. I only paused at the two water stations to pour a cup over my head and drink another. I felt like I was shuffling at a snails pace because my breath was under control and my body felt really good. It was easy to thank every single volunteer standing out there in the sun. I asked a couple if they were jealous. I’m pretty sure they weren’t. Throughout the run, I knew I had a lot more in me but I was completely zapped of any competitive urge. I wasn’t interested in pushing myself. I just wanted to finish strong.
After many, many, many more hills, I cruised down to the beach and into the chute! I picked up my pace to the sprintiest strides I could muster and with a HUGE smile on my face, crossed the finish line!
And how did my times compare to my goals?
Swim goal: 20:00 ……. Swim time: 19:56
Beat by 4 seconds! Phew!
T1 goal: 2:30 …… T1 time: 4:37
Absolute debacle. I mean, learning experience.
Bike goal: 52:00 /16.15 mph (based on advertised 14 mile course) …… Bike time: 44:40 / 17.4 mph (based on questionable 13 mile course. May have been even shorter.)
T2 goal: 1:30 ….. T2 time: 1:05.
Run goal: 30:00 …… Run time: 31:57
Abandoned goal due to heat and course. A great run for me under those conditions. Had I known, I would have made 35 min my goal.
The post-race party was fun. It took me several bottles of water before I could choke down an orange slice but the burritos looked good. For someone else. I hung around for awhile to watch several of the OTC-ers in the awards ceremony! We had three folks on the podium, including third overall! So inspiring! HUGE thanks to all the awesome Oakland Tri Club folks, especially Chris Van Luen. Whattaguy!
And thank YOU for reading another endless recap!
Overall, it was a fantastic experience. Triathlon is hard but the finish line feels SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good.