October 24, 2011

8 Tips for a Successful Race Day

Although I am certainly not an expert, by now I am a seasoned racer. To date, I have completed 7 half marathons, 1 full marathon, 6 triathlons, and countless 5ks. During this time, I have learned many things to do--and NOT to do--in order to make race day a success. While you can easily google this and find many lists of things to help you on race day, I decided to compile my own list, most of them learned through experience.

1) Get to the race early. I can't stress this point enough. Arriving to your race early will decrease your stress level (sitting in traffic as the start time grows nearer and nearer does no good for your blood pressure!), allow time to stand in the long port-o-potty line, and give you time to acclimate yourself and warm-up. If you are doing a triathlon, getting there early will allow you to leisurely lay out your gear in transition. You'll also have time to find the key entry/exit points from transition (swim-in/bike-out/bike-in/run-out) and where they are in relation to your rack.

I have been to quite a few races where I have witnessed other people stuck in traffic and missing the start time. The Safari Park Half Marathon was a logistical nightmare; I got there in plenty of time, but others weren't so lucky and had to park miles away and run to the start line! I easily cruised up to Long Beach a few weeks ago for the half marathon and slipped into my pre-paid parking spot without any traffic at all; however, afterward I read that many runners, who were maybe only 30 minutes behind me on the freeway, got stuck in horrendous traffic and people missed the start time. Even a few weeks ago, at the Mission Bay Triathlon, I myself left in plenty of time yet ran into a ton of unforeseen traffic and had only 15 minutes or so to set up my gear before I had to exit transition.

The lesson? Look at your start time, and backtrack from there. Allow PLENTY of time to arrive to your destination, park, and get to the race area. Once you have your goal time to leave the house, do yourself a favor and backtrack it by another 30 minutes or so. Yes, this means you have to get up earlier. But the worst-case scenario is that you arrive too early and sit in your car for a while listening to the radio. You will not be stuck in traffic, worrying and stressing, and be able to start the race in a good mood and having used the facilities, if you need to.

2) Charge your electronics. These days, most runners use some sort of electronic devices when they run. Garmins (or other GPS aides), heart-rate monitors, iPods/MP3 players are all common place. What a bummer it is when you fail to charge your device though! At this year's Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon, I had wanted to reach my goal of breaking the 2:30 barrier. However, I had not properly charged my Garmin, and the battery died at mile 7. I had no idea of my pace or what time it was. I am convinced that had I known my pace, I would have reached my goal (I missed by time goal by just over a minute) as I would have kicked up the pace at the end, knowing how close I was. In triathlons, you are not allowed to bike or run with music, but most running races allow it....and I can't imagine running a 13.1 mile half marathon without my favorite tunes in my ears. Failing to charge my iPod would be horrible for me.

3) Nothing new on race day. This is common knowledge among runners; we hear this again and again. However, I know plenty of people who fail to listen to this sage advice. "Nothing new on race day" means no new clothes, food or hydration. If you need new running shoes, don't buy a pair at the expo the day before and wear them on race day. During the Long Beach Half Marathon a few weeks ago, I used a extra pouch on my fuel belt that I bought to hold my camera. If you read my race recap, you'll remember that my camera bounced out of it after I forgot to velcro it closed. Had I used this pouch on a training run, I would have been more practiced with closing the pouch, and the camera probably wouldn't have bounced out.

As for hydration and nutrition, if you train with a favorite sports drink, and you find out that the race course support will be handing out a different brand, either don't take any during the race or drink some of the new brand during a training run to see how your stomach reacts to it. I myself bring my own Gatorade on my fuel belt, but, for example, when I read that a race is offering a different sports drink like Cytomax I try it weeks ahead of time to see how I like it. I've heard of many a runner who drinks an untried brand of fluid during a race and ends up with stomach cramps. This goes for gels (I use GU and once passed by the table handing out PowerBar Energy Gels because I had never tried it and didn't want to start during mile 9 of a half marathon)! I just bought some Nuun and will be trying it this weekend, far ahead of my next scheduled half marathon.

And, of course, make sure you've run in your shoes, socks, clothes, hat, and whatever else you plan on wearing. Doing a triathlon in open-water? Make sure you've had some open-water swim practice...IN the wetsuit you are planning to use, and with the same goggles. Work out any kinks before the race.

4) Bring your own hydration. If you are doing a short race like a 5k, you probably don't need to bring anything (unless the weather is so hot and/or humid that you will need it). However, on races 10k or more, I highly recommend bringing your own. Race courses will, of course, have aid stations along the way, always offering water and sometimes a sports drink. However, there are two problems with this:

The first issue is, what if you need a drink and there is no aid station in sight? I always carry my own liquid on my training runs (for me, I carry it on runs 5 miles or more). I get to take a sip whenever I want. But during a race, aid stations are usually set up every mile or so, sometimes spaced even further apart. What if you are dying of thirst and the next aid station is 3/4 mile away? You run the risk of dehydration, especially if you're racing in hot weather.

The second problem with not carrying your own hydration is that race directors are human, and sometimes planning can go wrong. It's not unheard of for aid stations to run out of water. A few years ago the CHICAGO MARATHON (a very well-known race) ran out of water...and in the blistering heat one person died and several other runners had to go to the hospital with heat-related illnesses. I myself have seen many aid stations run out of water; I'm so slow that often by the time I get there they're out of goods. And during last year's Carlsbad Half Marathon I came across an aid station that had plenty of water, but had run out of cups! My running partner, who did not carry her own water, had to drink out of a communal water jug. Yuck! I ended up giving her one of my four bottles of Gatorade in order to help her through the race.

5) Lay everything out the night before the race. There is a lot of things to remember to bring to a road race, and a triathlon is a whole other beast in terms of necessary gear. Because you need to get up at dark o'thirty on most race mornings (see tip #1 above), I recommend having everything ready the night before so that all you need to do is get up, brush your teeth and get dressed (in the clothes previously laid out). For a running race, I will lay out my clothes, already have my bib pinned to my shirt and my timing chip on my shoe, and have my fuel belt packed with my gels and bars. I fill my flasks with Gatorade and put them in the fridge; all I need to do in the morning is take them out. I have my Garmin, iPod, headband, sunscreen and anything else I need already laid out on the dining room table; I even pre-make my pre-race peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and stick it in the fridge. When I stumble downstairs in the dark, exhausted and anxious, it makes it easier on me that everything is done.

For a triathlon, I start to lay my gear out on the dining room table 3 days ahead of time. I know this sounds excessive and obsessive, but there is so much gear to bring to a triathlon that I like to start collecting early so I won't forget anything. I use this list to check off my gear. The night before the race, I triple-check everything and load it all in the car, including my bike. Then all I need to worry about in the morning is pulling on my trisuit and shoes, and getting my sandwich and Gatorade out of the fridge. Knowing everything important (bike, helmet, wetsuit, goggles, timing chip, etc) is already in the car is a great relief to me.

6) Bring clothes to toss. Most races that I've done start early in the morning. It can be a bit cold when you're waiting around for the race to start, even in the summer. However, you don't want to dress too warmly; runners will quickly heat up once the race begins. I have learned to bring clothes that I can dispose of either before the race or as soon as I heat up on the run. I used to wear old sweatshirts to the start line that I could discard, but now I don't have any more old shirts. Therefore, I go to the Salvation Army (you could go to any thrift store) and spend a few dollars on a hoodie or jacket. I take it home, wash it, and wear it race morning. I don't feel bad at all discarding a jacket I only spent a few bucks on. Many races have volunteers that collect the discarded clothes and donate them to a charity. I also buy cheap gloves at Target (they have some that come in a 2-pack for something like $2.50 for two pairs, or something ridiculously cheap like that.). It's a great way to keep your hands warm and not feel bad about tossing the gloves later. As a last resort, I've seen runners cut holes in garbage bags and wear them to keep warm.

7) Train for race conditions whenever possible. If you're doing a local race, this should not be too much of an issue. However, if you travel, this could definitely come into play. Weather, elevation, even the time of day can wreak havoc on a runner's routine. If you live at sea level and sign up to do a race in the mountains, the elevation change can be hard. It's best to arrive a few days beforehand to acclimate. Similarly, if you live in a dry climate, like Phoenix, and sign up for a race in a humid city, like Dallas, the weather may drag you down. If you can train in the conditions, it'll help you that much more on race day. Doing a race that's notoriously hilly? Train on hills. I am doing the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in December, and it's at night. I do all of my runs in the morning. While I doubt I will be doing a long run at night before the race, you can bet I will do a few short runs in the evening, just so that my body gets the feel of running during that time of day.

8) Finally, trust your training and have fun! If you're been training properly, you should be ready for the race. And having fun is the most important thing---this SHOULD be fun! Most of us are not professional runners who depend on the race as a way to make a living, or for their reputation. Soak in the contagious energy of the other runners, enjoy running in a new place, and smile, smile, smile---especially for the race photographer!

October 21, 2011


When you have a child with a long history of medical issues, you learn to be grateful for things you wouldn't ordinarily think about. Eating? I'm grateful....my daughter, A, didn't eat for years and used a feeding tube until she was 3 years old. Walking? I'm grateful...my daughter didn't walk until she was 3 1/2. And today I'm grateful for a sprained ankle.

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from my daughter's deaf/hard-of-hearing therapist. She was really concerned about A. She observed her at school to be off-balance (even more so than usual), seemingly unsure of where to step when she walked, and was not writing her name correctly, with the letters in the right order. As she relayed all this to me, I grew more and more concerned; I, too, had noticed yesterday morning that she wasn't walking quite right, but chalked it up to her possibly being tired. And when I volunteered in her classroom yesterday, I witnessed her not writing her name correctly, too.

The therapist was concerned that A had possibly suffered a concussion. This was not a far-fetched theory; she had been pushed down by a little boy on Monday, 4 days earlier, and in fact had a cut and gooseegg on her forehead. (This same little boy has been pushing her a lot recently. It's not aggressive; rather, he has a crush on her and keeps running over to hug her. But she has balance issues and keeps getting pushed over. It's gotten to the point where the principal is involved, and the little boy is being put in a different recess than A). The therapist also suggested that maybe A had had a seizure in her sleep; this frightened me, as A has never had a seizure before.

Needless to say, hung up and had A walk over to me. She was indeed walking funny, something I hadn't noticed earlier because she hadn't been walking far. I had her write her name a few times, and each time she got it right. I was not concerned about this now, but I was concerned about the walking issue. I called our pediatrician, who told us to go straight to the emergency room at Children's Hospital.

The whole drive there I was freaking out. What if A had suffered a concussion? What could they do about it at that point? And what if it was a seizure? I know this is a large leap to make, but given her medical history, and the fact that she had a bilateral pre-natal stroke, it wouldn't be unheard of. On the other hand, I was able to talk myself down from the ledge; her writing was ok, and over the past few days she had exhibited no unusual behavior (aside from the odd walking)...her eating, sleeping, and personality was unchanged.

The doctors at Children's Hospital did not think it was a concussion, based on observation and examination. However, when they looked at her legs, they noticed one ankle was swollen! She ended up having some x-rays done on her ankle, which luckily turned out normal. Most likely she sprained or strained her ankle, which would of course account for her walking oddly! One thing that worries me is the fact that she didn't tell me she was in pain! Never in the past week did she indicate, either verbally or non-verbally, that her ankle hurt. She is definitely a little trooper, but I wish she would be less so sometimes.

So, I am grateful. A sprain/strain? That is easily healed. We are keeping her off her feet as much as possible; of course she's walking some, but she is sitting out of adapted P.E. and is playing in the sandbox at recess. And at home, of course, I'm carrying her around like a princess as much as I can. In light of what I thought it COULD be, this is nothing. A concussion? A seizure? A broken ankle? Bring THIS on. We can deal.

October 13, 2011

Hooray for Kindergarten!

I just realized I haven't written anything about how my daughter is doing in kindergarten! Usually my blog is half about my family and half about racing; however, these past 6 weeks or so I've been so focused on my races. In the past few weeks, I've completed two triathlons (a sprint and an Olympic distance) and a half marathon and I've completely neglected to write about the part of Grateful Mama's life that makes me a Mama!

My daughter, A, started kindergarten at the end of August. As I wrote on her first day of school, she is in the first of a two-year kindergarten. My school district offers this two-year kindergarten to children who were born in June through November, who would otherwise be the youngest kids in the class. This is not a special ed class; it's 100% mainstream, with all typically-developing kids. Most of the kids in there, including my daughter, can benefit from the extra year in order to develop more social, language and other developmental skills. Although she is in a mainstream class, she does get pulled out for 5 different therapies during the week (30 minutes of physical therapy, 30 minutes of speech therapy, 30 minutes of occupational therapy, 60 minutes of deaf/hard-of-hearing therapy, and 60 minutes of adapted P.E.). I'm so happy that they are giving her all of her services even without being in a special ed class.

School has now been in session for seven weeks. My son, D, is doing great in second grade, as I expected. But my daughter? She's thriving!

  • Academically she is exploding. She went to school being able to read a few 3-letter word here or there. Today she can read most 3-letter words without help. She can even spell! We have lots of magnetic letters on our refrigerator that she loves to play with. I can ask her to spell a 3-letter word, like "hat" or "fox" or "bed" and 9/10 times she gets the correct letters and spells the word! Today she came home from school being able to read the words "the", "my" and "see". Being as she is only 7 weeks into her first year of kindergarten, I am very hopeful that she will be a good reader one day.
  • On the potty training front, she is mostly trained. I wrote in mid-July that she wasn't potty trained at all. Soon after that, she started to get it. Now, she is accident-free most days, although there are a few days here and there that she comes home from school in new shorts and underwear (I keep a backpack of extra clothes for her in the health aide's office). She also sometimes has accidents at home. But I know many kids in kindergarten have accidents at school, so I'm not worried; I mean, she only trained two months ago!
  • She has friends! She seems to be well-liked in the class (as she always was in preschool, too) and has a little group of friends. I've even heard kids say "Oh, there's A, let's go play with her" while we're on the playground in the morning before the bell rings. My heart melts each time I see her walking hand-in-hand with a friend. Of course, her language seems to be way below that of most (but not all) of her peers, but she's obviously able to keep up with them.
  • She is getting a bit better with writing some letters and using scissors. This will be an ongoing struggle for her, particularly with her vision issues.
  • She is getting so independent! She's been wanting to pick out her own clothes and get dressed by herself; help set the table; help unload the dishwasher; and assist me with various other household chores.
All in all, I have seen HUGE progress over the last few months with A. Of course, her whole life has been one big leap of progress, but I'm seeing more and more subtle, yet important, milestones these days. I couldn't be prouder.

October 9, 2011

Long Beach Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon. Up until just a few days ago, I was not sure I would even be participating. Because I've been injured with plantar fasciitis, I have not been able to train properly. I have not had a proper long run (10 miles or longer) in a few months. And recently, I have given up most running to speed up healing, except for the two triathlons I completed in the past few weeks and some short runs around the neighborhood with our dog. I am used to getting a long run every weekend and doing an additional 3 miles twice during the week. But I've been wanting to rest my feet, so I've been doing more swimming, biking and doing the elliptical at the gym instead. Regardless, I was unsure if I would do the race; at the last minute, I decided I would try. If worse came to worse and I was in a lot of pain, I could always walk it. Or, I could always walk to the next aid station and drop out. As it turns out, I finished the race strong and pain-free (at least, pain-free in my feet!)

By the way, this race was extremely well organized. When I got to the race area, everything was clearly marked with signs and high-flying labeled balloons, directing people to the volunteer booth, first aid, gear check, port-a-potties, start line, etc. The event was huge---not only was there a marathon and half marathon, but there was also a 5k and a 26.2 mile bike tour. Needless to say, there was a lot going on, but the scene was not at all chaotic. After the race, each runner (for the full AND half) was handed not only their medal but a mylar blanket and a plastic bag containing a banana, cookie, cereal, etc. My only "complaint"was that there was not a lot of on-course entertainment and there were huge stretches without spectators, both of which can add energy to flagging runners. There was some entertainment, though, and I loved running through the sections where there were a lot of people cheering.

I was not able to go up the day before to attend the expo, as it was Yom Kippur, a holy Jewish holiday. I got special permission from the race director to pick up my race packet on the race day. Ordinarily, I would have been up there the day before for the expo and gotten a hotel, but this meant that I needed to drive up early race morning. I set my alarm for 3:15 (I cringe just typing that!) and was out the door by 3:45. I finally pulled into my pre-paid reserved spot at 5:30. I went to the volunteer tent, where I got my t-shirt, goodie bag, timing chip and bib. As I am morally opposed to wearing the race shirt the day of the race (I think you need to earn it, although there are always TONS of runners wearing the race shirt during the actual race) I opted to check my gear at the gear-check, something I've never done before. I hit the port-a-potty, and got ready to head to the start line.

Before the race started, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Mihael, a friend I've known on Twitter for quite some time but had never met in person (this was my week for meeting new friends; last week I got to have coffee with another Twitter friend, Vee, who was in town for business). He is really nice and we connected immediately. It was nice to hang out before the race. The race was self-seeded, and even though I was not expecting to run my ultimate goal time (I am still seeking that elusive sub-2:30 half marathon) I seeded myself in Wave 4, for the runners expecting to run sub-2:30.

Soon we were off! I quickly lost Mihael in the crowd and concentrated on running my race. The first two miles I went out way too quickly---my ultimate goal is to maintain an 11:28 mile pace throughout the race (including walk breaks) and the first two miles I ran in about 10:15-10:30 each. I hadn't really run in a long time, and felt fresh and full of excitement and adrenaline. In retrospect, I probably should have slowed down and saved that energy for the end. The first few miles we ran by the harbor area, where the Queen Mary is. That was pretty neat to see. Then we ran through Shoreline Village, a cute tourist-y areas with lots of people cheering us on. I have never really been to Long Beach before and am excited to come back to this area with my family one day, now that I know what it is!

Around mile 5 I ran into some trouble. The day before the race, I had bought a new pouch to put on my water belt. I wanted to bring both my phone AND my camera to the race and can't fit both in my water belt, so I bought the pouch for my camera. I also put my GU in there. Anyhow, at around mile 5 I took a GU. A few minutes later I looked down and noticed that the pouch was open---and empty! I had forgotten to velcro it shut after I took the GU out; the pouch was so new to me that I hadn't even thought about it. My camera was gone! I freaked out....I needed to find it! I knew I had just taken a picture with it a few tenths of a mile back, so it couldn't be far, but there were hundreds of runners! I was hoping I would find it, and that it wouldn't be smashed from a runner's foot. As I backtracked, I ran into Mihael, but waved him on. Runners called out to me "You're going the wrong way!" Miraculously, a few minutes later I saw a runner pick up the camera and start running! I ran over to him and told him it was mine...and got it back! The only bummer was that the battery pack had opened and the battery fell out. The memory chip was still in there, but no battery. I spent about 15 seconds more looking for the battery, but decided it wasn't worth the time to look, as the battery would be easily replaceable. I set off again.

By this point, I knew that any hope I had of breaking 2:30 was gone, as I had spent several minutes on the camera debacle. In a way, this took the pressure off of me. I decided to just relax and enjoy-- to appreciate running, and to soak in the feeling of participating in one of my beloved races.

About miles 6-10 were all along the ocean on the bike bath. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was getting hot at this point, and I began dumping water on my head and down my tank top at every water stop. It was also at this point that I realized I had lost a water bottle (my Nathan 4 water belt holds four 8-oz bottles); instead of four bottles, I had three. I have no idea where or how it came off (I hadn't even used that bottle yet, so it wasn't like I was putting it back in the holder and missed) but, just like the camera incident, apparently things can fall off my belt. This I didn't care about---I can easily buy another bottle---but was somewhat sad that I would be missing that 8 ounces of Gatorade. As I said, it was getting HOT.

At about mile 10 I was struggling. I hadn't run that far in quite some time, due to my injury, and my body was rebelling. Coincidentally, one of my favorite pump-me-up songs happened to come on my iPod at this point, "Till I Collapse" by Eminem. The best part of the song is the beginning rap, which I played over and over at this point in the race just to get me through:

'Cause sometimes you feel tired,
feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

Whenever I hear those lyrics during a run, it pushes me. I'm glad that song came on right when I needed it. Better yet, at about mile 11 I ran into Mihael again! We ran/walked the rest of the way together. Sadly for him, he got to witness one of my meltdowns at mile 13. I often cry at mile 13....a mixture of physical pain, exhaustion, joy at almost finishing, frustration of being so close yet not seeing the finish line yet, pride in my accomplishment, etc. It's always a raw moment for me. My Garmin showed 13.1 miles....13.2....13.3....finally, at 13.4 (remember, I had extra mileage, as I had to backtrack a bit to find my camera) I crossed the finish line. I finished in about 2:43....not my fastest half marathon, but not my slowest either. Considering my lack of long runs, my injury, and the fact that I lost a few minutes looking for my camera, I'm very pleased.

Because I completed this race, I now want to do the next two in this series: Surf City in February and OC in May. Completing all three of these races in succession will complete the Beach City Challenge and earn me a cool medal!

October 6, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs (or, cancer sucks)

Yesterday, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, died.

Hearing this news really upset me. Not just because of the effect he has had on my life (my household has an iPad, iPod Touch, iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle) and the lives of millions. But because he died of cancer.

Cancer is an equal opportunity killer. My father-in-law died young from pancreatic cancer, the same kind of cancer that killed Steve Jobs, as well as Patrick Swayze. Millions of people get diagnosed with cancer each year; some survive, some lose their battles.

But here's the thing---who had better access to treatment than Steve Jobs? He was a billionaire, and could easily afford the best health care, regardless of where it was in the world. I had the same reaction back in 1998 when Linda McCartney died from breast cancer. It shook me to the core that someone like Linda, who could easily afford the best doctors and treatments, lost her battle.

Cancer doesn't care how much money you have. It doesn't discriminate between races, religion, economic class, marital status or sexual orientation.

I hate it.

October 2, 2011

Mission Bay Triathlon Race Recap ('11)

Yesterday was my "tri-iversary"...that is, one year ago yesterday I competed in my first-ever triathlon, the Mission Bay Triathlon. This triathlon (which happens to be the birthplace of the triathlon; the first one was this one, in 1974) was special to me for two reason: my dear friend, Wendy, was doing it as her first triathlon, and it would be the first triathlon that I would do again, thereby being able to measure my progress on the same course. The fact that I got to do the same race on my tri-iversary was a bonus. I originally had not planning on doing this race this year, but I wanted to support Wendy in her first effort, and plus, it's fun! It's a 500 meter swim, 15k bike, and 5k run.

Saturday was the expo. First, my family and I walked in a 1-mile walk called "Shamu and You", which was a fundraiser for Rady Children's Hospital, a place that has saved my daughter's life on a few occasions and is very special to us. The 1-mile walk took us through Sea World, which was fun for the whole family. Afterwards, my whole family went to the expo, where I picked up my packet, timing chip, cap and shirt. I also got to rack my bike. This is the 6th triathlon I have done this year, and this is the only tri that I have seen which gives you this option. I was happy, once again, to have my bike racked the day before; it's nice having one less thing to worry about in the morning. As I would see the next morning, I would be very grateful that I was able to do this.

Yesterday I got up early, ate a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, got dressed, and hit the road. I left in plenty of time; I left the house at 5:15, and transition opened at 5:45. It takes about 25 minutes or so to get to Mission Bay, where the triathlon was, so I figured this was plenty of time. Last year, I arrived there AFTER transition had already opened, easily slipped into the front, closest parking lot and had plenty of time to set up my stuff. Well, yesterday was a different story. I arrived at Mission Bay around 5:30ish, but there was TONS of traffic; it was backed up for miles! The close parking lot was already full. A second lot was full. I was in traffic until after 6:00, and I was getting more and more anxious. Finally, I found a spot (far away) and walked with a bunch of other anxious triathletes to transition. My only sense of relief was that I didn't have to worry about either walking my bike so far, or finding a place on the bike rack, since it was already there!

I finally arrived in transition, got bodymarked immediately, and then went to my bike. My friend and bike partner, Angi, was there again cheering (she was at my Olympic-distance 2 weeks ago as well) as her husband was a swim buddy (a swimmer who volunteers to swim with struggling or nervous swimmers). She was hanging out next to the fence where my spot was, and it was nice to chat with her while I set up. Soon, Wendy and another friend of ours came (they, too, got stuck in the horrible traffic). At that point, transition was about to close, so we really had to rush and hurry, which I hated.

I was in wave 13---out of 14 waves. Ugh! That meant that I didn't get to start until long after the official start of the race. Wave 1 started at 6:45 or so, and my wave didn't start until 7:55. That's a long time to have to wait, outside the transition area and nervously watching the swim! Finally at about 7:30 Wendy and I got in the water to warm up. I've long since learned that a warm-up is essential to me not panicking in the water. We warmed-up, swam a bit, and then waited for our wave.

At 7:55 it was our turn! We lined up for the water start with all the other women aged 40-49, and suddenly we were off! I had a realization in my Olympic-distance swim 2 weeks ago that the Oly swim is actually easier for me. Why? Well, even in a pool, it takes me about 500 yards or so for me to warm up...my shoulders, my arms, even my back can be cranky in the water until I get 500 yards done. Then, usually, the rest of my swim is easy. In the Oly a few weeks ago, I struggled a bit for the first 500 meters, but then I was warmed up and actually enjoyed the last 1000 meters. Yesterday, as in every sprint I've done, I struggled a bit. Not with my breathing, or even with shoulder pain, as I have in the past...it just seemed to take forever. I was happy to finally turn the last buoy and exit the water. Measured on the same course from last year, I shaved off about a minute in the swim. Yay!

I ran into transition, and was determined to have a shorter T1 (transition 1) than in my Oly, which was several minutes too long. However, I had a hard time there. For some reason, I was woozy; perhaps it was the combination of the swim and running back to transition. I had a hard time getting my wetsuit off; I was trying to step on the legs to quickly pull it off, as I usually do, but kept losing my balance and almost falling. I quickly put on my shoes but struggled putting on my Garmin. Looking back, I should have just stuck it in my bento box on my bike, and waited to strap it onto my wrist on the run. I wasted about a minute of so just fooling with it, trying to get the strap in the hole. I wasn't thinking clearly!

The bike was easy. Last year, I really struggled with the bike...I was on my old hybrid bike, and as a new biker my legs were killing me. Yesterday, however, it was much easier. I shaved off 13 minutes on this easy, mostly flat cruise around Fiesta Island. I'm still not fast, not by a long-shot, but my legs weren't burning like they were last year, and although I got passed by tons of people, I actually passed a few people myself. It was an enjoyable 10+ mile ride (although, just like last year it should have been only 9 miles, as the race is advertised as a 15k bike).

I had a quick T2 (transition 2), just threw off my helmet, racked my bike, and was off on the run!

Actually, I was very worried about the run. I wrote recently how I've been plagued by plantar fasciitis, and how in recent weeks it's been worse than ever. I had been going to acupuncture, which seemed to help but then stopped helping. I hadn't actually run since last week. I was resigned that if my foot hurt, I would walk the 3.1 miles. However, my plantar fasciitis didn't bother me at all during the run! I did have a shin splint in my left foot, which really hurt, though. Regardless, it was a pleasant run, and while I took more walk breaks than I would have liked (besides the shin splint, I also had a hard time catching my breath for the first 2 miles!) I still shaved a minute or so off my time from last year. I was happy to finally spot the finish line up ahead, and sprinted to the finish, thrilled to be done but with gas still left in my tank.

Overall, I was 16 minutes faster yesterday than I was on the same race one year ago. I'm very proud of myself for this. There is still room for improvement, in all 4 areas (swim, bike, run and T1) but this a measurable indication of how much stronger I've become in the past year. Now I need to think about my race schedule, in terms of triathlons, for next year, as this was my last tri of 2011.