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Race Recap: My first Duathlon! Mermaid Duathlon, Alameda June 9, 2012

they had such a cute photobooth there!

Well, it’s been quite a time for spontaneity around here. I had such a good time at See Jane Run last weekend that I was all excited to do See Jane Tri in the fall. But lo and behold, it’s the same weekend as Fitbloggin’ 2012. BIG conflict! No way I am missing Fitbloggin’ so I was all bummed out about that. Then Pubsgal told me about the Mermaid Tri/Du that was happening – in like 4 days. GULP.

I went through SO many mental contortions this week leading up to the race. First, I thought I’d like to do the duathlon (my first) because I just didn’t have time to get a practice swim in. It was in the Bay, and could be sort of choppy and salty, and who knows how that would go, especially given my not-stellar swim performance at Wildflower. So I was thinking, cool, I’ll just bike and swim.

I have never done a duathlon before. I think I was pretty unclear on the concept. The website had course descriptions for “Duathlon First Run” and “Duathlon Second Run.” I thought… we got to choose which one to do. Hahahahahha! But no. The first run is in place of the swim. Then you bike and run again. OOHHHHH.

I didn’t figure this out until Thursday night, when I proceeded to have some kind of weird tantrum meltdown. I didn’t wannnnt to run twice! Even if it was only 1.5 and 2.5 miles!  So then I started contemplating changing my registration to the tri. I went to race packet pickup on Friday afternoon and they told me I could change even at the Very Last Minute on Saturday morning. I decided to go over and check out the swim course. I saw a bunch of VERY gnarly looking waves and I decided right there, NO WAY.

I was very happy to get up this morning (at 5:00am) and know I was only going to bike and swim. Mr. McBody was feeling kind of low because of a recent bug he’d had, so I told him to stay home and rest. (famous last words) Last night I had packed my little gym bag with all my stuff, but then this morning I thought, I have a tri bag. Maybe I should bring my tri bag. (“But you’re not doing a tri, isn’t that overkill?”) and on and on. I transferred the stuff into the tri bag, put the bike in the car and took off.

I was about halfway to the course when some synapses smashed together and I remembered the little tiny manila envelope with my RACE CHIP in it. Which I did not remember putting into my tri bag. AGHH. I pulled over to the side of the road and frantically pawed through my bag. NO ENVELOPE. I called Mr McBody who was enjoying his rest, and started caterwauling about not having my race chip and that he HAD TO BRING IT TO ME RIGHT AWAY. My friend Christine happened to be working as a registration volunteer at Mermaid, so I also frantically called her and she said they would not give me a replacement chip, that it was coded to me, and I needed mine. So poor Mr McBody got in the car after locating the little envelope in the gym bag.

I was a bit of a basket case when I got to the course. The parking lot was filled up at that point, so I had to park several blocks away. This was ALSO one of the first local races I was doing all by myself with no support crew or person to drop me off. Of course at that point I was infinitely grateful that 1) I had a tri bag; and 2) I had practiced biking with it on at Wildflower. Yay! I very comfortably strapped it on and rode the few blocks to the transition area. I racked my bike and got my stuff all set up and then went to the intersection to wait for Mr. McBody. He got there about 15 minutes before the start and then went back home to rest for real.

This was a smallish race, so things were not one hundred percent clear. I wasn’t quite sure where the Du run was supposed to start, but I followed what looked like a semi crowd and got to the inflatable start thing. I was a little concerned that there was no timing mat underneath it. I still don’t quite get how that works. A bunch of women all crowded together under the thing on a very narrow path that fit about 4 across. I was in the “over 40″ start. Then they counted down and the air horn went off, and… there we went.

The first run was actually pretty pleasant. I was going at a nice pace and nothing hurt. It wasn’t bad at all. Sometimes I have a lot of pain in the first mile and I was worried that might be the case, but it was pretty comfortable. I got back to transition and got ready to get on the bike. I knew that my transition was going to be longer than some peoples’ because I was changing from running shoes to bike shoes. Now that I’m used to wearing clips, I’m pretty attached to them (no pun) and didn’t want to risk getting my dumb shoelaces caught, which has happened to me more times than I can count. So I sat on the ground and changed shoes. Changed headgear. Found my gloves. ARGH. They were inside out from the last time (Mt. Diablo?) and all knotted up and I probably wasted two minutes untangling them and getting them on my hands. (NOTE TO SELF!!!!!! Put the gloves right side out before the race!!!!!!!!!!!) I saw Christine cheering for me as I ran toward the bike mount area.

Got on the bike. The route was two loops of absolutely flat road. Which sounds lovely on one hand (it kind of was) but also, flat courses means no downhill and less chance to rest. (my butt) I remembered doing this EXACT course when I was training for the first tri, and it was really, really hard. I remember having the hardest time stopping, starting and turning. I got really tired. It was super hard. I may have almost cried. And I almost cried again this time because I could see how very far I’ve come in less than a year. That was pretty awesome.

The bike ride was good. I enjoyed it. AND I got to utter three words that I have NEVER ONCE SPOKEN during a bike race, ever: “On your left.” Yeah, I passed people! Sure, a ton of people (more than I can count) passed me, too, but people, I have NEVER passed a SINGLE PERSON on a bike. Ever. Until today. So imagine my shock and thrill when I realized I was going to actually do so, maybe a dozen times. It was exhilarating! Woo hoo!

I rode into transition and saw my buddy Lily with her sweetie and sweetie dog, jumping up and down and screaming my name. That was so awesome. Then I changed shoes and headgear AGAIN and went to do the second run. OMG. I had to pee so bad! SO BAD. I knew I wasn’t going to make it but a few hundred yards. Thank goodness for portapotties. But that was a minute or two. Then I got on the path and started running for real. OH the pain! I mean pain! My feet and calves were cramping up and just felt like they were saying “oh hell no you don’t!”

The 1.25 mile out before the turnaround were really, really uncomfortable. I was hobbling, walking, running like a penguin, just trying to find any kind of comfortable position. I just knew I had to run it out and let things loosen up. I stopped and stretched out my Achilles against a light pole. I took more walk breaks than I wanted to. But damn. Then I got to the turnaround and I was like, Come ON, just a mile more, you can DO this. I fiddled around with my iPhone and tried to find the most uplifting, motivating music I could find.  Found the song “Safe and Sound” that had been the soundtrack to the video I did with Big Blue Test last year. I think of this as my “Lily” music. I knew she would be at the finish line with Ed and Mosely.

It wasn’t until I was almost at the finish chute that I started feeling good, I mean without pain. I felt like I was going to be able to bring it in strong. So when I got to the last 100 yards I just poured it out. I finished under 2 hours, which seemed like a good thing. Better under than over, right?

Instead of a medal, they gave out cute little necklaces. I like! Very much!

adorable finishers’ necklace

So that was it, my first duathlon. I’d say it was pretty good! It was definitely a heck of a lot more challenging than last week’s 5k. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t killer. And it made me think about what people have said, that there are truly no “easy” races. The faster you get, the more challenging it is because then you’re wanting to place (I do not see this in my future). But no matter what, you’re always pushing yourself to do your own personal best. I put my best out there today, I had fun for the most part (except for a few unfun moments) and I was really glad I’d done it. Another first, done!

Have you had any recent firsts lately? Tell me all about it!

 

Do Race Results Matter? June 5, 2012

Today I saw the official race results for the See Jane Run 5k I did this weekend. They made me happy.  Overall, I came in #681 out of 1,475 runners in the 5k. That was in the top 50%!

I mentioned this to the family and stated that it felt better than my results for Wildflower, where I came in 776 out of 786. That’s right, I was tenth from dead last. While people can say all they want that I was miles or millions ahead of all the people who didn’t do a triathlon at all – still, it feels psychologically different. I know I’ll never WIN a race, and part of me certainly does believe that “finishing is winning” – but damn, I don’t really ever want to come in last. And I don’t like being that close to last, either. I like feeling like I am in the middle of the pack, and if I am just a smidge toward the front, then all the better.

These things are all so silly and arbitrary but at the same time, they DO mean something. Otherwise people wouldn’t be so hot to see their results, and they wouldn’t use computer chips and all kinds of fancy technology to track it all. It does matter to someone. It matters to me.

During (and after) I ran this “little” 5k on Sunday, I felt strong. I felt capable. I felt proud of myself. When I’m struggling with all my might and I’m so close to the end of the pack, it’s just that… a struggle. I have to talk myself into feeling proud. I’m physically beat and NOT feeling strong.

This weekend I vowed to mostly participate in races where I can have that strong feeling. Which means not getting in over my head, or going in undertrained or unprepared. I think it just does more harm than good. I really wish I could do See Jane Tri in September, but darn it, I just found out it’s the same weekend as Fitbloggin, which I can’t miss for anything. So.. maybe another time. And maybe another tri.

What do you think? Does it matter to you what your results are when you run a race, or are you truly just in it for fun? Do you even LOOK at your results?

 

Race Recap: See Jane Run 5k June 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Susan @ 9:43 pm
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ImageThe See Jane Run 5k Race today was great for so many reasons. First, it was the very first race I’ve ever repeated. My first SJR was in 2009, and it was only my 2nd race ever. So it was cool to have a repeat experience.

It was also great because I decided to do it just about a week ago. It feels great to just be able to decide on the spur of the moment to do a 5k race, and to know that I am pretty much “race ready” any time. That. Is. Awesome.

Last weekend I went for a 5k run with the Team, and it just felt wonderful – effortless and pain free and just GOOD. So the next day when I saw that my friend Mary had posted on Facebook that she’d run 5k for the first time and was looking for a race to do, I quickly suggested See Jane Run. It’s so wonderful for a first race: flat, with beautiful views, all women, and ending with champagne and chocolate AND a medal. Can’t beat that, right? So she signed up and I was probably more excited about HER having this experience than myself.

In the back of my head I was thinking I probably would not be as fast as I was in 2009. I was lighter then, and focusing more on running than other stuff, and younger (heh). So I didn’t have huge expectations. I was just happy to be there and to support Mary.

As great as it was for her to be accomplishing this thing she thought she’d never do, it was so meaningful and emotional for me to know that  *I* had been her inspiration to start running in the first place. What! Me! She had come to my Healthaversary party in January, and there were so many people who were runners and triathletes, it got her thinking she wanted to start it up. We told her about the couch to 5k app, and she just went ahead and DID it without me knowing, and voila, last week she completed it! I was so impressed and proud of her.

One of the thing I love about See Jane Run is that it actually openly allows music and MP3 players. I think that makes a huge difference for me. I ran the race with my Runkeeper app, and every 5 minutes it told me my pace, time, distance, etc. I thought I wanted to be close to my last SJR time of 36-37 minutes. (OOPS I thought it was 39 until I just checked!) Anyway, I learned from last time. I didn’t start off with a rush near the front. We started toward the back of the pack and it was just relaxed. There were LOTS of runners! And walkers. And strollers.

The weather was gorgeous and perfect – starting out cool and foggy and then sunning up as time passed. It was just so comfortable. I went out slowly, and then as I warmed up I felt stronger and stronger. We got to the halfway turnaround before I knew it, then it was over. I wasn’t struggling at all. At the end, I sprinted with a burst and that just felt GOOOD. I was so happy!

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We celebrated with champagne and chocolate and hugs, then Mr McBody and Mr. Mary took us out for a great brunch. Then home for a nap. It felt so awesome to do this race for FUN. 

And, well, I didn’t beat my record but I matched it, and that was good enough for me. Yippee! More fun to come!

 

Race Recap: Wildflower Triathlon/Mountain Bike Course

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30th anniversary bling

So my second triathlon is done. This experience was so very different than the first in so many ways. Starting with the training. When I did my first tri last fall, I was so religious about completing every single assigned workout, both the coached and OYO (on your own) ones. This time, not so much. Not so much at all. This season was plagued by illness, injury, travel, job changes, distractions from every direction. So about halfway through the season I decided to switch from the Maui Olympic Tri to the Wildflower Sprint (aka Mountain Bike).

I’d heard scary stories about Wildflower – mostly about its brutal hills and the sheer size of the event. The Marin Tri had about 500 people total, and Wildflower was something like 13,000. YIKES. I’d heard that the Mountain Bike course was as hard as an Olympic anywhere else. But it felt like my only option other than dropping out completely, which I did not want to do.

So I entered Wildflower Weekend with no small amount of apprehension, but determined to give it my best shot. Did I mention that Wildflower has been dubbed the “Woodstock of triathlons”? That’s because there are thousands of people camping out the whole weekend, with kids and dogs and Port a Potties and the whole works. Which makes it unique – on one hand, it’s kind of rough not having all the familiar comforts of home in which to prepare for a race. On the other hand, it IS a totally bonding experience.

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it takes a (tent) village

Saturday had two events: the Sprint/Mountain Bike course, and the Half Ironman Long course. I was (no doubt) doing the first one, which consisted of a 450 meter swim, 9.7 mile trail/road ride, and a 2 mile run. I’m going to be honest and say that training for this event has been kind of lonely and a tad demoralizing. Out of our team of 40+ participants, there were often only 2 of us training for the Sprint at any given time. So it felt “uneven” to say the least, and even though nobody ever explicitly said so, I often felt “less than” the people who were training for the Oly or the Long Course. It wasn’t until I actually entered race weekend and knew that there were 500 other MB course participants, that I felt like it was a legitimate event.

As it turned out, there were 4 of us from our team doing the Mountain Bike course. One of my buddies, Ayala, who is also doing Maui, decided to sign up for the MB course at the last minute. She has an incredibly big heart and generous spirit and has been a huge encourager for me during our workouts. I met another woman who lives far from us and so hasn’t been at a lot of our team trainings. She turned out to be awesome and we have a lot in common. So it felt exciting to load up our bikes and tri bags and head out of camp together on Saturday morning. The whole team gathered around to see us off and cheer us, and the energy was just great.

here we gooooo!

 We got down to transition which was super huge and crowded. At Marin Tri, we basically had what was equivalent to a walk-in closet for our transition space; and here, it was more like a shoebox.

a little crowded?

But I managed to organize things pretty neatly. Then we got our race numbers (and ages!) marked in permaSharpie on our bodies. We had a good couple of hours before the race started, and it was beginning to get HOT, so we waited a good long while to put on our wetsuits.

When we had done this swim at training weekend, it had been “just right” – not easy, but not impossible. I was able to keep swimming, swimming, and it just ended pretty quickly. So I was feeling maybe a tad overconfident about the swim. I had never been in a situation where I was swimming with SO many people who are thrashing around in the water. The swim start at big races has been compared to a washing machine, a blender, etc., and I never had experienced that.

That was what happened this time. First we got to splash around, get water in our suits, pee (hah!), and otherwise get warmed up for a few minutes. I was feeling pretty good. Then we splashed back to land to wait for the air horn. BLEEEP. I dove in to start out my “gentle-kind” routine. So far, so good. I was going slow, but I was relaxed.

Then, when I was almost at the turnaround buoy, the horn sounded for the Blue Group behind us. I don’t know what their age group was, but they were FAST. And they overcame me within a minute. Suddenly there were bodies coming at me, and when I turned my head and saw them like a pack of sharks, something inside me just flipped. I was momentarily paralyzed. I started panting and then wheezing and then, well… you know. I headed for shelter at the first kayak I could find. I tried to find my calm happy place but it was not readily findable. The young woman in the kayak was very patient and kind and at some point I knew I had to push off. But I was rattled by that time and I pretty much spent the rest of the swim going from kayak to kayak. I lost a lot of time, and I think I got a little seasick. By the time I got out of the water I was feeling pretty demoralized and a little woozy. Not to mention the fact that I had to keep my goggles on back to transition because I’m blind without my glasses.

“Which way is transition?”

I stumbled back to transition and saw Ayala and Liney waiting for me, all ready for the bike portion. I just didn’t want them to wait around for me because I was feeling so shaky I wasn’t sure how long transition would take. I knew they had been ready to go for a while. So I waved them on and began stripping off my wetsuit and booties. I think I was a little out of it. I kept putting on my running cap instead of my bike helmet. I was moving very slowly. I was there for more than 10 minutes (ouch) but then finally I was on the bike and ready to go.

I was very nervous about the bike portion but it turned out to be not so bad. It was slow, but I just pushed through pretty slowly and steadily. I even passed a few people. (which absolutely never, ever happened during the swim) I didn’t get off and walk on the road hills, even when I saw other people walking (I always assume if anyone has to walk, then I do). I only walked during the very last hilly trail part that was kind of on loose sand, very hard to get a grip on. It was when I was walking that it hit me again, that I was feeling kind of hot and sick. I took a minute to stand under a tree and drink some water from an aid station. Then it was the long steep hill DOWN (wheeeee) and back to transition.

Transition #2 took me less time – 6 minutes – still SUPER slow but at least not in the double digits and I was off for the “run.” Haha. At this point I knew I was near the tail end of the sprint field. I could just tell. The run portion was only two miles – a mile out and back – with a few little short climbs. I decided to just try my best to jog/run as much as I could during the flats and downhills, and to walk the ups. That plan worked fairly well. When I was going out, I ran into Ayala and Liney who were on the way back to finish. I was so happy to see them! Since I had taken SO LONG on the swim, I had felt like I was doing the majority of the course alone out in the wilderness. At the mile turnaround, there was a great volunteer with a water hose who sprayed me down. That felt awesome.

The last mile in to the finish wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. I alternated walking and running and I could pretty much hear the announcer the whole time. One of my feet was hurting but it wasn’t like agony. I wasn’t DYING. I just didn’t feel super sprightly. By the time I got to the finish chute (longest finish I’ve ever seen!!) I felt like I was able to keep up a steady jog and enough to raise my arms and have a happy crossing of the line rather than crawling over half dead.

I finished! I was happy to see my coaches and a bunch of my teammates at the finish line. They had these awesome towels soaked in ice water which they draped over our heads. That felt SO GOOD. I mean, SO GOOD. I think that towel was one of the highlights of my day.

ahhhh icy cold towel!

I was happy to get my finisher’s medal knowing I had finished every inch of that course. I had endured, I had completed every part of it, albeit slowly, and I finished. That felt good.

The entire thing had taken me about an hour and a half. I wasn’t brave enough to look at my results until today, but they pretty much confirmed what I had thought. My swim was by far my slowest portion, and the part where I really, really fell way behind the pack. It was all that stopping and wheezing and hanging onto kayaks. I was pretty much one of the last ones out of the water. The bike portion fared just a tiny bit better, but again, I was so behind. The run was my strongest as far as comparison with other participants went. I guess maybe some people walked the whole thing but I did pretty much a 50-50 split.

For someone whose training looked more like holes than cheese this season, I think it was not so bad. It certainly could have been a lot better and I only wonder what would have happened if I had trained as consistently as I did last time. But I didn’t, for a variety of reasons both in and out of my control. I’m not gonna beat myself up over it. I just finished my 2nd triathlon!

One thing I feel proud of is dedicating my triathlon to the amazing Christie O., who inspired me when I was first thinking about doing a triathlon in the first place. She was just diagnosed with the “cansuh” and this weekend had been dedicated to swimming, biking and running in her honor while she underwent surgery. Christie had sent me a superhero cape after I finished my first tri, and I wore it proudly this weekend. This one was for you, Christie!

Christie is MY hero

This weekend has given me a lot of time to contemplate and think about what I want to do next, and how I want to do it. In many ways this tri was better than my last, and in other ways it was much worse. Here are my thoughts for the next time around (and yes, there will be a next):

  • My next goal is to ENJOY every minute of my next triathlon. Which means choosing an event that is not out of my range of comfort and ability. (Marin was really probably too long for me, and Wildflower probably a tad too big and hilly, given my training) Of course, no tri is ever EASY, but I would love for it to be an enjoyable challenge, if that makes sense. I’m thinking of doing a sprint-distance ‘Tri for Fun” and really focus on the fun. I did this at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon – I wanted to enjoy it and have FUN, and it really was.
  • I hereby solemnly swear to only do events that I have appropriately trained for. Enough said.
  • I love Team in Training- I really, really do – but this season was a challenge on many levels. There were only a miniscule fraction of people training for Sprint distance tri this time, and that made for a kind of lonely and weird experience. I often felt like I had to stretch to do the Olympic workouts, even after I had decided I wasn’t doing an Olympic event anymore.
  • I think that TNT Tri training, in its current form, does not really truly have a well-fitting program for novice/beginning/developing/SLOW/older/weaker triathletes. I think about the Walk Team program that they have. (and which I participated in) For many people on that team, it is a LIFE GOAL to WALK a half marathon. It’s a crowning achievement. And they take those people, and they train them to start at square one (walking a mile) and they slowly work up to Walking a Half Marathon. They don’t have them doing the same program as full marathoners or runners.
  • In (my) ideal world – and I have no idea if TNT will or would ever offer this – there would be a separate team, and coaching, JUST for Sprint Triathletes. Who are starting from square one, much like walking half marathoners. And the whole idea would be that their culminating event, their big Kahuna, would be a sprint triathlon. There would be no 27 mile bike rides or mile long swims. Maybe a practice sprint tri to put it all together. And they would be SO well prepared for a Sprint, it could be that challenging but joyful event.
  • As it was, I always felt like I was in over my head and I often felt embarrassed or ashamed to be “only” doing the Sprint. The training workouts were never really designed for a Sprint distance. Sometimes a Sprint workout would show up on the calendar, but that was mostly for the OYO (on your own) workouts. The big coached workouts were long and grueling and pretty much designed for the Olympic and Half Iron distances. It could be a chicken and egg thing – there is not a real emphasis on Sprint training because 95% of the participants are doing Oly and HI. But I bet if TNT put a real emphasis on “Everyone can do a triathlon!” and really invited beginning athletes to give it a try/tri, I think it could happen.
  • I’m not blaming any of the coaches or staff. They were patient and encouraging with me and my neverending Issues. Nonetheless, as a sprint distance athlete I often felt like a second class citizen, and either invisible or ignored. At the campfire the night before our event, there was a great rallying pep talk about the Long Course (half Ironman) the next day – what to expect, what it would be like, how to psych up for it, etc. There wasn’t a word mentioned about the Mountain Bike course and what the four of us should expect. It was really all about the half-iron athletes and this huge thing they were facing (true). I felt invisible and again, ashamed, for being Less of an athlete. In a team where EVERYone was doing the MB course, that just wouldn’t have happened.

This ended up going much longer, and more philosophical than I’d planned, but there ya go. I think that’s what happens when blogging falls off for various reasons – when you start up again, there’s just too much to say.

What else? I love my 30th anniversary Wildflower medal. I love the bonding experience of that intense weekend with my teammates. I love the team and the fact that people are doing this for so much more than their own selves. I loved being a mentor and seeing the amazing changes that individuals underwent. On balance, it turned out to be a wonderful experience, but it’s given me a lot to contemplate for the future.

 

 
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