Monday, May 21, 2012

ITU San Diego Race Report!

It's been a little over a week. That's not too bad of a turn around, right? :)

First of all, we had an awesome time in San Diego. The weather was perfect, we got to hang out with the DC Tri Club and make new friends, we did a bit of the touristy thing and went to the zoo. I have cousins in CA who were awesome enough to drive down the San Diego and play with us after my race. The whole thing was great. It must have been fun for me to have an entirely positive attitude, even after sunburns, a mountain and a wasp bite!

Erin and I got to SD late on Thursday night. The airport is so close to everything, it didn't take us long to get our car and get to our hotel (literally 5 minutes away). We crashed hard, but even managed to sleep in to an (almost) normal hour on Friday. Packet pick up and bike racking, as well as the expo were on Friday, so we headed over to the race site to get all that started.

Highlight #1: My bike had arrived in San Diego on a truck full of other DC bikes and was waiting for me at the race site. Sing it with me: HALLELUIAH!

Picked up my bike, which was no worse for the wear, and headed out for a little ride before heading to packet pick up and then taking it into transition. ITU packet pickup means a sweet shirt and lots of goodies in the bag. Woot! Also met a friend in line, a CA guy named Morgan. Once I was through the line and had racked my bike, we explored the expo and found the DC Tri tent where we ate free food and made new friends.

Highlight #2: The women's pro race was AWESOME to watch. The Tri Club all watched together, running around to see transition, the bike course and the run. The multi-loop course made it easy to see what was happening, and you were right next to these people as they ran by. Superheroes, arms length away from you. Apparently Erin even met Sarah Haskins the next day while I was racing. GRRARR!

I have lots of photos of the women's race, but I'll save most of them for another post. I'll just summarize by saying how awesome it was to see Laura Bennett qualify for the Olympic team.

After a quick jog around to see the run course a bit, Erin and I headed home to get ready for dinner and deal with the sunburn she had endured. I burnt my forehead and part of my hair (Now I know where I miss with my sunscreen...) but Erin roasted her arms and was pretty upset with herself for it. We then headed out to dinner with the DC Tri Club to a place called Luigi's at the Beach.

Highlight #3: Meeting awesome DC Tri Club people. I know they all live right here, but it's been hard for me to get to club events, so I really didn't know anyone going in. Now I know about 43! YAY!

Luigi's new we were coming, and gave us a patio to ourselves, but they had a hard time with our volume once we arrived...Anyway Erin and I were smart and got cash, so once we were finished we left our money and went home to go to bed. I can be a bit of a diva about my food and my sleep, especially on race weekend, so Erin averted disaster by getting me home early.

Saturday morning arrived at 3:45 am and I began the pre-race routine prescribed by my coach. Hot shower, and breakfast first. Note to self: make sure your hotel room has a microwave before buying the non-instant oatmeal at the local grocery store. Pouring hot water from the coffee maker in only sort of works for the regular oats... Once I got Erin up we headed over to the race site. There was a remote parking lot and a shuttle bus to the site, but the whole thing took very little time. Still, I had Erin drop me off at the race site and then go back for the parking etc. Our hotel was super convenient to the site. Most of the Tri Club actually stayed at the hotel on the race site, but it was too expensive for us, so I'm glad ours worked out so well. Anyway, I set up my transition area on a very tight bike rack and scoped out my competition who were all racked right next to me. I'm a little confused about how it all went down, but I think because the pros were there there was non-pro elite wave? I think the elites were racing in age group? Question marks? Either way, the girl next to me was wearing a team USA suit with her name on it, and she looked pretty darn elite to me. If she becomes famous one day I can say she loaned me her pump :)

After a warm up run I got my wetsuit and headed down to the beach. The venue was so amazing, btw. We were on Mission Bay, and the swim was in Ventura Cove. We had a beach start into calm, bay water. The water and the air were a little bit cold, but I tried to time it right and get a swim warm up in without having to stand around too long afterward before my wave started. I'm glad I did, too, because otherwise the long, stringy kelp-like seaweed hitting my arms and face would have been a big surprise! Erin found me in the sea of wetsuits on the beach just before I started, looking like a class-A race sherpa (complete with long sleeves to avoid more sunburn).

I went with my sleeveless wetsuit, by the way, instead of renting a long sleeve suit. I was very happy in it. The water temp was 64 or 65.

The little horn went off for my wave and we sprinted down the beach and into the bay, or into the seaweed I should say. The swim course was a large, backwards, upside down L with a left hand buoy turn followed by three right hand buoy turns. I honestly felt great in the water. My breathing was even, I was excited but not too amped up, and I never had that "omg I might not make it" feeling. My time ended up being slower than I thought, but my coach said not to sweat it because all courses and conditions are different. I thought maybe I was too comfy, maybe I should have pushed harder, but then again I came out of the water feeling good and not too spent, so maybe that's a good thing?

Theme for the season: MY TRANSITIONS NEED WORK. T1 was horrifically slow. I swear, I do not know what I do in there that takes so much time. Usually Erin is outside transition, watching me and kind of saying "Um, hurry it up Babe!" haha. But I got out onto the bike course and started mentally preparing myself for...dun dun duuuuunnn...the MOUNTAIN!!!

As a side note, the Mt. Solidad was not the only significant obstacle on the bike course. The road quality on the course was...well quite poor. They warned us to look out for potholes etc and they were not kidding. They were everywhere, and they were huge. I was weaving around the first few miles of the first loop like I was drunk. Once we got to the mountain, I just buckled down. Everyone around me was going slowly. Very. Slowly. So slowly you would be riding next to someone for many many minutes, just grunting it out together. It was a long, steep climb at at least 10-12% grade for more than a mile. Half way up was a dude in a pop tent yelling at us through a megaphone to hammer. He kept saying "Another Kilometer to climb at 18% grade! Hammer till it hurts and then hammer some more!" We all grumbled to eachother about wanting to kill him. And then we kept climbing. Those of us grinding up the hill passed several people off their bikes, walking. After the race one of my friends from the DC Tri Club said that she thought about walking, but she was going so slowly that if she tried to unclip and get off the bike she would just fall over.

I've never gone so slowly, for so long in a race before. Ever. I hope I never do again.

Finally at the top, just before the long, crazy descent, I turned to my neighbor and said "Let's do that again!" You know why? Because we were going to climb it again.

The descent had more potholes. Just what you want to encounter going over 30 mph. After winding around the rest of the first loop at a much more respectable race pace, I headed back towards the start of Mt. Solidad again for round 2. This time I knew what was ahead and how far I really had left to go. I may have screamed at the guy with the megaphone to "Shut the hell up!!" as I passed him the second time. More walkers this time up, but I actually felt better because I knew I didn't have to save my energy to go up again. I did wonder how my legs would feel on the run though, given the screaming they were doing on the bike course. I also don't remember ANYTHING from the scenery around the course. I had my eyes glued to the road, looking for the hole or crack that would end my race day or at least send me to the side to fix a flat.

Meanwhile a evil little creature, likely a wasp, managed to land on my stomach while I was riding. I have no idea how long he was there, but near the end of the bike I felt a horrific stinging sensation. I attacked the area with my hand and biked on. After a while I had totally forgotten about it. In fact I didn't remember the sting again until the next day when I found a HUGE, very itchy welt on my abdomen. That lil' sucker may have had a shocking and upsetting ride on my belly, but he managed to upset my sleep for several nights after so I hope he thinks he got his revenge.

Good thing I never saw him though. I can imagine seeing a wasp land on me and freaking out and crashing. Just like a shot, it's not the sting itself so much as the anticipation of the sting that is the worst part. I managed to avoid anything serious and finished the bike course (after being out there for much longer than 40k ever had a right to take).

T2? Slow again. I even was yelling to Erin about how insane the bike had been. She told me to cut it out and hurry up. Once on the two-loop run I took an inventory. I didn't feel anywhere near as bad as I thought I would. The first 5k loop went by without a hitch. At one of the aid stations a volunteer dropped the cup she was handing to the guy in front of me, so I drank half of mine and gave him the rest. I had a Gu. I felt good. Once the second loop started I decided it was time to pick it up, and I started really cranking the miles out. I was passing people and my form felt fantastic. The course was along the paved "boardwalk" and there was beach on one side of us and back patios on the other. People were on their decks drinking mimosas and I chatted them up a bit as I blazed past. I was on fire. At mile 5 I finally felt like maybe I was loosing steam, but I willed myself to keep the pace up and even managed a nice sprint to the finish line. My 10k time was a PR by far, although it was only my second official 10k.

I finished 11th in my age group (just out of the running for extra team points) out of 32 and 108 in women out of 331. My overall time was NOT a PR at 2:57:01 but that was likely because of a slow slow bike time (1:30). My takeaways from the race?

2. Having conquered that mountain twice and then having been able to pull out a good run, my training has set me up to be pretty darn strong
3. Not totally wiping myself out on the swim and bike sets me up to run really well. This is a super-super good lesson to take into my half-ironman, especially given that last year I killed the bike but then totally bonked/tied up on the run. hmmm.
4. I race just fine without caffeine in my race-day nutrition and my heart thanks me afterward. 

Just like all lessons, it doesn't matter how many times someone else tells me these things, I have to experience them myself before it ever sinks in.

Overall I had hoped I would be faster and I had hoped to be top 10 in my age group. It was serious competition though, and I think that there were elites racing in my category, in which case I can forgive myself. I had a blast and I feel good about my fitness. I'm excited to do another Olympic distance race later this season, though (without a mountain...) to see how quickly I can go...

Post race celebration? The San Diego Zoo with my cousins Sarah and Mary, their fiance and boyfriend respectively, and Erin. Then dinner with Sarah's fiance's uncle at an authentic Mexican place. A weekend very well spent in SD.

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