May 5, 2015

Spring Sprint Triathlon Race Recap 2015

Last weekend brought another triathlon.  I signed up for the Spring Sprint solely to get my head back in the triathlon game, and to practice my transitions.  I haven't really done a triathlon since my last half Ironman, which was over a year ago, and I have Vineman 70.3 coming up in just over 2 months. (Yes, I did that reverse triathlon a few weeks ago, but I'm not counting that as good practice, since the transitions were backward and there was no open water swim).

I did this race back in 2011, and enjoyed it enough to want to sign up again. I was also a spectator last year, watching my son (then 10 years old) and my best friend become first-time triathletes.  I was oddly nervous about this race.  When I mentioned my nervousness to my friend/coach Steve, he questioned why a two-time half-Ironman finisher would be worried about a little sprint.  Well, I was nervous about two things---how cold the water might be (the water temperature had dropped somewhat in recent weeks) and the washing machine of swimming with other people (something I always dread in tri).  I also have only had one open water swim since Tiki in September, and wasn't sure if this would bite me in the ass.  However, regardless of the nervousness, I didn't show it prior to race day---I didn't even start packing until Saturday afternoon!  In years past, I always start gathering stuff together 3 days in advance for fear of forgetting something.  I guess I'm becoming seasoned after all, because it was easy for me to pack---and I didn't forget anything.

Steve had two goals for me for this race.  One was to practice putting my swim stuff in a plastic bag (at Vineman I'll have to do this, just as I did at Oceanside, as they'll transport my gear from T1 to the finish. It took a lot of time for me last year).  For this  I brought an actual Ironman gear bag from my Oceanside race.  The second goal of his was for me to run a progressive 5k at the end; that is, to run each mile faster than the previous one.  I wanted to accomplish these two goals, as well as have a quicker T1 than usual (I'm always slow as molasses) and just to have fun.

I sent J to the packet pickup on Friday, so I didn't have to deal with any of the expo stuff.  Saturday afternoon I packed my tri bag, cleaned and lubed my bike, and loaded everything in the car.  I checked my blog from the last time I races (truly, one of the reasons I blog is so I can remember all the details that might come in handy later!)  I went to bed early, and was up before my 4:00 wake-up call (after waking several times in the night, as per usual for me pre-race!) I went downstairs, got dressed, brushed my teeth, and was out the door by 5:00, eating a Luna Bar on the way.  I got to Mission Bay by 5:20, easily found a parking space in the front, hung out in my car for a bit and then walked into transition. I was in Wave 9, and was happy to see my friend Marsha already there, with space next to her bike for mine.  I set up my transition, and got to talk to Marsha and her friend Tracy until it was time for our wave to start.

all set up

After watching wave after wave start, it was finally our turn.  This race has a water start, so we had to get in and swim maybe 50 yards or so to the start. I didn't know where to position myself.  I'm not fast, so I didn't want to be at the front, but there are also a ton of newbies at this race and many are slow--I didn't want to be stuck behind people. I settled for the middle. I quickly got acclimated to the water---it was estimated by the announcer to be between 66-68 degrees, and it felt good. I wasn't too cold at all. I was glad I chose to wear my neoprene booties though---I didn't necessarily need them for the warmth, but waiting beforehand on the boatramp, and the run to transition after, is very rough on the feet. After treading water and putting my face in the water to blow bubbles and test my goggles, the horn blew and we were off.


I Tarzan-ed the first several yards as I did not want to get kicked in the face and it was crowded.  Soon, though, the crowd dispersed somewhat and I was able to swim. I had to go around a lot of people, or slow down as sometimes two women in front of me would start to converge as I was attempting to swim through the gap between them. I truly hate this part of swimming in triathlon.  My right shoulder started to ache, and I still don't know if it's because I often have shoulder issues or because my wetsuit is too constraining. Either way, I didn't let myself stop---it's only 1/4 mile swim, and I knew the more I progressed, the quicker I'd get out of the water.  It didn't take long to round the buoys, and I was back to the boat ramp sooner than I'd expected (the course is somewhat of a square). 

I ran up to transition, and found Marsha running next to me. We had finished the swim at the same time, which amazed me.  The timing mat is at the entrance to transition, which sucks, because I didn't get a true measure of my swim time---the run to transition is stuck in there (if any race organizers are reading this, may I suggest a timing mat at the boat ramp?).  I took off my goggles and cap and started to unzip as I ran. Into transition I went. Wetsuit off, booties off, and all swim gear stuffed in the plastic Ironman bag.  Socks, bike shoes, race belt, sunglasses and helmet on.  Clip-clop out of transition, pass the mount line, and BIKE!

It was an overcast day, which was surprising, as all week it'd been very hot and sunny. I was grateful for the cooler temps, but that meant I was a bit cold in my sopping wet trisuit. Normally I dry myself a bit more in T1 but I'm working on getting quicker, so I only kind of patted down my feet to get my socks on.  The course changed this year---normally the bike is two laps of Fiesta Island but apparently there was a soccer event going on there so the bike course headed the other direction, and did two laps.  I liked it, as I HATE Fiesta Island--but there were at least 3 hairpin 180 degree turns on each lap, which made us slow down a lot. I also wonder if any accidents occurred. I didn't hammer the bike as I did in the triathlon a few weeks ago, but I tried to maintain a good cadence. We were told there was one hill---I didn't see any hill!  There was a slight uphill as we went over an overpass, but no hill.  I passed a lot of people, and gave encouragement when I could. It was clearly some people's first tri, and it was awesome to see them out there.

11 miles later, I cruised back to transition.  Dismount, clip-clop back to my spot, rack my bike, helmet off, run shoes on, hat on---and RUN!

With my goal to run each mile progressively faster, I was dismayed to look down soon into my run and see my pace in the 9's.  That is unsustainable for  me, and I certainly can't get even faster!  So I made myself slow down.  I did my usual 2 minute run/30 second walk ratio.  The run was pleasant----it was still overcast, and the two-looped course was flat. I did the first mile in 11:09 and the second mile in 11:07.  I was feeling good. I was feeling strong, even.  Toward the end, I passed a woman cheering who yelled to me "You look cute AND you're running strong!"  That put a huge smile on my face!  The last mile, since I felt so good, I did mostly 2:15 minute run/ 15 second walk. I finished the last mile in 10:35.  Talk about progression!  For the third time this year, I crossed the finish line with no nausea, feeling happy and triumphant.

A fun race indeed.  I met my goals, and got my head back in the triathlon game.  I had no goggles leaking, no bike issues, and no foot pain. I did just order a sleeveless wetsuit, as the shoulder pain is worrying me and I have a lot of open water swims coming up---hopefully that will help.


April 23, 2015

Diamond Valley Reverse Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

A few months ago I received an email from our local youth triathlon coach that a new triathlon,  the DV Triathlon, would be held in April and that there was a kids' race as part of it.  I was intrigued, as this was a REVERSE triathlon, meaning instead of doing a swim/bike/run, athletes would do a run/bike/swim, with the swim in a pool.  I ran the idea past my son, D, who at that time was 10 years old but would be newly 11 on race day.  He did his first two triathlons last year, both kid-sized races, and while he enjoyed both, he wasn't overly thrilled with the open water swims he had to to do in the chilly bay.  He loved the idea of a pool swim. However, since he would be 11 on race day, he would have to race the adult-length distance (only kids 10 and under got the shorter distances).  Still, these would be doable distances for him---the race was advertised as a 5k run, 15k bike and 175 meter swim.  My husband, J, was also interested, having done his first triathlon this past October, and I signed the two of them up.

Life intervened, as it always does.  J recently had brain surgery to insert another deep-brain stimulator to help with his Parkinson's Disease symptoms.  As it was very recent (end of March) he was under doctor's orders not to swim for a few months, to allow his head to heal.  I'd already paid for him, so I contacted the race director and asked if I could take his place.  The race director was extremely nice and accommodating, and suddenly I had another race coming up.   I had never done a reverse triathlon, and I'd also never done a tri swim in a pool!  I was especially excited to do this with my son---we'd be starting at the same time and everything! My friend Steve, who is coaching me for my upcoming half-Ironman at Vineman, ordered me to run hard and hammer the bike.  With such short distances, there was no reason not to.

This race was in Hemet, a good hour away from home, so on race day we left the house at 5:15 (we still had to pick up our race packet, and the youth coach wanted to meet with the kids at 6:30).  My kids were troopers getting up so early.  We had no trouble getting to the race site, which was at a rec center.  We checked in, got our packet (which consisted of a t-shirt, timing chip and one small sticker for the bike--no swim cap, and I was glad I'd thought to put one of my own in my bag as a precautionary measure), and our race numbers written on our hand.  There were bike racks set up, but in my opinion there should have been a few more--space was tight, and I counted myself lucky to find a space next to my son.  There were a lot of newbie triathletes doing this race (it really was a perfect race for a first timer) but along with that comes not knowing how to set up transition.  I only had room to fold my towel in quarters and set my stuff up---only swim cap, goggles and bike shoes (helmet and sunglasses were on the bike).  It's been a while since I've had such a minimal setup.

Then it was time to wait.  A 5k-only race started at 7, and a few minutes after that was the kids' race.  Our race was supposed to start at 7:30, but they wanted to wait for the kids to get off the course first.  Totally understandable, the kids' safety comes first---hopefully next time they will account for that in the start times.  It was fun to watch the kids come back into transition from their run and bike----they are so inspiring!  We also passed the time chatting to the people around us, including a woman for whom this was her first triathlon (and she doesn't know how to bike yet---she has training wheels!  How courageous is that?)

Finally, it was time to start our run.  From the beginning, D was way ahead of me (he finished with a pace at about a 8:30 minute mile, while mine was 11:00).  On this out-and-back run course, I got to see him as he passed me.  Later, another man who was on his way back shouted to me "your son is way ahead of you!".  Thanks, dude, I know.  I ran hard, often clocking paces in the high 9's (which is TOTALLY unsustainable for me), but even with my walk breaks I still had a good pace.  There was one water station on the course, but it wasn't very warm so I didn't need it.  The transition area appeared too soon, and shortly after I passed my cheering husband and daughter the 5k clocked short per my Garmin----by over 1/10 a mile.

finishing the run

It should have been a quick transition-- running shoes off, bike shoes on, helmet and sunglasses on and GO!- but I had to use the bathroom and while I guess I could have waited until after the race, I decided to go.  The bathrooms were real---in the rec center, not port-o-potties---and I had to wait for a stall.  I didn't care though, I was ok adding a few minutes onto T1 here.  Finally I was off on the bike.   As I rode out, my husband told me that D was 9 minutes ahead of me (made sense with his run pace and my bathroom break).  Steve wanted me to maintain a 17 mph pace.  I was using my new Garmin 910xt for the first time in a race, and the screen kept scrolling to different screens, so I had a hard time seeing my speed.  I decided to just hammer and let my body do what it could do without seeing the Garmin.

The bike course was a double loop, and very flat. I was able to stay in aero for most of it, and just concentrated on strong pedal strokes.  On the first loop I saw D as he passed by me on his way back on the out-and-back.  He looked good! I was expecting to catch him on the first loop, but it took me until the middle of the second to finally pass him.  As I did, he complained that his shoulder hurt. I asked him if he wanted me to stop, but he said no, to keep going, so I did. 

I was pleased with my bike performance. I did a 17 mph ride!  I know that's not fast for a lot of people, especially on a flat course, but for slowpoke me that was lightning fast.  I also passed a lot of people, which made me feel really good. 

Coming into T2, I noticed that like the run course, the bike course was a bit short.  A 15k should have been 9.3 miles, and I clocked 8.9.  I dismounted, ran my bike to the rack, and took off my shoes and helmet and grabbed my swimcap and goggles..  After I started to trot into the adjacent pool, I realized my socks were still one.  Doh!  I had to run back to transition to peel them off, then back to the pool.  The swim was done in a serpentine style---swim up one lane, duck under the rope to the next lane and push off the wall to swim down.  I'd never done this before, and actually thought this was fun. I was swimming in my tri suit, which felt weird, as I always swim in my bathing suit (whenever I do I triathlon I have a wetsuit over my clothes as open water here in San Diego is so cold!).  The water was warm, and I felt sluggish. I know I could have swam a lot faster than I did, but for some reason I just couldn't.  Or didn't.  Someone kept slapping my foot on one lap, so I sped up, but except for that I just crawled along.

I was expecting 7 lengths, to make the advertised 175 meters, so I was surprised when I got to 150 YARDS (the pool was yards, not meters) and it was time to get out. I climbed out on the steps, crossed the finish mat, and got a medal. I was surprised they had medals---it was such a low-key race, without even swim caps, so it was a nice touch.  After I got out, I saw my husband and daughter, who were cheering on D---he was in the middle of his laps. He was struggling, and a really nice woman in the pool kept encouraging him.  When he finally got out, he was crying and said it was the hardest thing he'd ever done.  He hadn't done too much training (especially on the bike) recently, despite me asking him repeatedly, so I think he learned a much needed life lesson---that to compete, especially at longer, adult distances, he needs to put more training in.

All in all, it was a very fun race. I loved racing with my son.  I really liked the small-town vibe of the race. My only complaint is that all 3 distances fell short, something that can be easily remedied for next year (or advertised differently).  I found that reverse triathlons are fun, and I LOVED the pool swim versus the cold open bay or ocean water I'm used to competing in!  I'd love to do this again with my son, but actually I hope that next year it's my husband doing it with him instead of me.

March 12, 2015

Divas Half Marathon Race Recap

There are some races (actually, most of them for me) where I sign up just to have fun.  Some races are a challenge type/distance for me, others are goal races where I hope to set a personal record (PR).  But most I run just for fun, for the experience of running in a new destination, etc.

The Divas Half Marathon was this type of race for me when I signed up. I was supposed to run this half marathon over a year ago, but I'd been injured and not ready to run 13.1 miles, so that day I took on the 5k instead.  While it was the right choice at the the time, I felt I had unfinished business with the Divas brand.  So when they announced a special race in Temecula, a town not far from me, I jumped on it.  They promised that registration would not only include what it usually does (feather boa and tiara at the finish, medal handed out by a shirtless hunk, rose, etc) but also a tutu, wine tasting, and free finisher's photos.  I signed up long ago, and wasn't too worried about it. I did the training, but,  as usual, did not pay any attention to elevation profile or course specifics when I signed up. I was running this race strictly for fun---and for redemption. I wanted to be a Divas half marathon finisher!

Race week was rainy.  While I welcomed the rain in drought-affected San Diego, I was worried about rain the morning of the race.  I don't mind running in the rain---in fact, I like it a lot. It's fun.  What I DIDN'T want to do is stand around for a few hours before the race in the rain.  Standing and getting drenched, then running 13.1 miles is not my idea of a good time.  And in checking out the course profile, I noticed that several of the miles were on a dirt trail.  Which, in the rain, would be mud.

The day before the race I drove up to Temecula, about 45 minutes away, for packet pickup. This was at a winery, which took quite a while to get to once off the freeway.  I was looking forward to the expo---when I did the race in 2013 in Ontario, the expo was amazing and I literally had to restrain myself from spending money.  This time--not so much.  There were hardly any vendors there, which was fine with me, as I didn't know if I'd be able to resist this time. I got my shirt, bib, and goodie bag which had a pink tutu in it. They also had a coupon for a wine tasting, which could be done either that day or after the race. Since I knew I would want to go right home after running, I went to the winery bar and got my own Divas wineglass (to keep).  I was allowed to do two tastings, but since I had to drive I settled for a few sips of just one.  Sigh. Note to self---next time bring a designated driver!

 One big question I had---whether or not to wear the tutu. On one hand, I try not to do something new on race day, and god knows a tutu would be new for me. I was also worried about the rain, and how wearing a soggy tutu would feel.  On the other hand, it WAS a Divas race, and if I didn't wear a tutu for it, when would I? I loved dressing up in other races, such as the Hollywood Half Marathon, Tinker Bell Half Marathon and Costume Party Half Marathon--so why not now? I decided to bring it just in case it didn't rain, and to make the decision race day.  The rest of my outfit consisted of my pink Divas shirt from my 5k, capris and my old running shoes (I just got new shoes a few weeks ago, and was worried about the potential for muddy trails). I wanted arm warmers, but couldn't find my black ones, so made my own by cutting the toes off a pair of black tube socks.

It rained on and off on Friday, but race morning it seemed dry. I wasn't sure what time to leave the house.  Because parking was very limited at the winery, where the race started, runners were instructed to park in an off-site parking garage and be shuttled to the start.  Even though the race didn't start until 7:30, the last shuttle would leave at 6:45. I've read on other blogs about other Divas races that traffic can be a nightmare, and I didn't want to get stuck on the I-15 in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I also didn't know if it would start raining, and if it did, I knew rain would make traffic worse. So I set my alarm for 4:00, and was out the door by 4:30.

And....was in my parking spot by 5:05.

Sigh.  Way too early.  But, as I always say, better to be early than late and stressing in traffic.

After frittering away time in my car, I got on a shuttle at about 5:30.  Since it wasn't raining, I decided to wear the tutu, figuring that if it rained during the race and got soggy, or if I just didn't like it, I could ditch it at an aid station. Once I arrived at the winery, I circled around, trying to get my bearings.  There was no line at all for the port-o-potties (and the winery was locked, so their indoor bathrooms were not an option) so I took the opportunity to use it.  After that, I just wanted to get warm. It was cold!  I found a place under an awning and sat, making friends with the woman next to me.  We passed the time chatting, as fellow runners always do. I also ran into a friend from the local chapter of Moms Run This Town. I knew several women running this race, and with it capped at 2000, chances were good to find them.

pre-race, and c-c-c-c-cold!

Finally it was time to line up.  By this time, the line for the port-o-potties was out-of-control long, and I was glad I'd already gone.  I checked my gear (sweatshirt) and shivered my way over to the start. There were two waves, going off 2 minutes apart, and they were very strict about not being in a wave you weren't supposed to be in. I was in wave 1.  I found another friend, hugged, and suddenly it was time to start running!

start line

I immediately started in on my two minute run/30 second walk ratio, which has proven to help me with any sciatic pain.  We passed wineries left and right.  It was very pretty scenery with the vineyards. I tried to take a few pictures, but as I didn't want to stop they turned out blurry. Sorry.


just one of the many wineries we ran by

The sun never really came out too strong. It wasn't raining, but it sure was cloudy.  My kind of running weather. I fell into a groove and ran/walked on.

At mile 4 I noticed I was at 44 minutes, which was a faster than average pace for me in a half marathon.  Hmmm.....I was intrigued, but didn't think much of it, as I've run faster paces before in half marathons and in the end always fade with exhaustion. Mile 5 came, again at a fast pace.

Around this point there were some hills. Not too long, but pretty steep.  On the steep ones I just walked them, even if it wasn't time for my walk break.  Again, I wasn't looking for a PR, I just wanted to have fun and finish.  I thought that taking extra time walking on the hills would worsen my time.  But at mile 8, I realized I was on pace for a PR.  And at mile 10, when I had about 40 minutes left in order to go sub-2:30, and only a 5k to go, I knew I could do it.

I kept going.  There was a long out-and-back portion on trail (luckily it wasn't raining still so it was dirt) and I saw a few of my friends, which gave me a boost.  I kept thinking about the possibility of a PR.  

I was shocked. I wasn't looking to PR this race.  And yet here was an opportunity. I have run a lot of half marathons. This was #23 for me, and I had only gone sub-2:30 in one race.  Most of my half marathons average between 2:31-2:40.  There was a few in the 2:30 range, and a few in the 2:55 (or longer) range when I was injured, but most are between 2:31-2:40.  Only once in my life had I gone sub-2:30, and that was my PR---in 2012---the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, when I ran a 2:29:17.  That was almost 3 years ago!  It never occurred to me that I might PR again.  By this time, it was clear that I would PR.  The question to me became, by how much?

I decided to give it my all. A few days later was my 45th birthday, and I wanted to give a great birthday present to myself: a shiny new PR. I was NOT going to let this slip through my fingers.  Yet here's the thing: whenever I'm in a race, and I'm talking about ANY race of ANY distance, from 5k to half marathon to half Ironman, whether it's a running race, a bike ride, a swim race, or triathlon--when I get to the last mile, I feel nauseous. I rarely finish strong and triumphant. I know it's a mental thing, and I plan on writing a post about this, but it's something that I need to mentally conquer. I decided that was going to rewrite my story during this race. I was NOT going to feel nauseous during the last mile. I was NOT going to fade with exhaustion. I was going to finish strong, and finish proud. So when I inevitably started to feel sick, just half mile from the finish line, I got stern with myself and fought on.

I kept on running, doing more running and less walk breaks. Past the families cheering with cowbells.  Past the cute Girl Scouts giving high fives. I was on a mission.

coming to the finish

Right before the finish they have a tiara station, where they give each runner a feather boa and tiara. I grabbed it and tried to put it on while still running. I didn't care how it looked, I had a finish line to cross! I was hoping to see 2:28:xx on my Gamin when I crossed, which would be a huge PR for me.

Instead, I finished in 2:26:xx.

finally feeling triumphant

Yes, an even bigger PR than I ever thought imaginable.  I crossed the finish line, accepted my medal (and took a selfie with the shirtless hunk, of course), got my rose, and staggered off the to side to cry.  I could not believe what a gift I had given myself, especially one that was so unexpected.

After I composed myself, I got my gear and easily hopped onto a shuttle to the parking garage.  As we were driving, it started to rain.  I was happy I had missed it, but sad for the other runners whom I knew were still out on the course.

Would I do this race again? I don't think so. I do recommend it, and had a blast doing it, but once was enough for me.  I loved getting dolled up in the tutu and being in a women-centered race.  The course was pretty and challenging.  But for me, once was enough.

And I'm thrilled with my PR.  While I may never PR again, having this time as my PR, just a few days shy of my 45th birthday, feels very, very good.