Monday, April 06, 2009

2009 CA 70.3 Race Report

Waking up the morning after a half-ironman is a bit like waking up after a hard night of drinking. You lay in bed and feel fine. Maybe you're body has escaped the vengeful curse of the alcohol. Then, you get out of bed. YEOW!!! You hurt in places you didn't know you had. You have strange cuts and bruises you can't seem to remember incurring. Your stomach hurts and your pee is a funny color. Maybe the solution is the same as it is for drinking--tri more?

Actually, I'm not that sore. But I do have strange, minor cuts and bruises. Probably from the rough swim. Afterall, I always like a good fight. I am, however, tired. Good thing it's a recovery week. But let me start from the beginning...

Race week went well except I could have used more sleep. My front tubular was flat and had been glued on 1 year ago for IMAZ. The desert heat must have created an industrial-strength bond because, try as we might, Brent and I could not get the damn thing off. I finally wedged a kitchen steak knife between the tire and rim and started sawing away at the bond. The knife suddenly slipped upward, cutting the tire from the bottom. So much for trying to use it as a spare. I swiftly cut the entire thing crosswise with a sturdy pair of scissors and peeled the whole thing off like a banana. There goes $100. However, I learned an important lesson: old tubulars will not come off. I now carry a pocket knife with me in my flat kit. Additionally, I will be freshly re-gluing my tubulars before IM-Canada, just in case. At least I got my flat issues over with before race day!

My poor tubular after I'd had my way with it.

We picked our packet up on Thursday to avoid the crowds. I spent waaaay too much money at the Expo, including an extravagant pair of Zoot recovery compression tights that makes me look like a superhero (Ginormica from Monsters vs Aliens, anyone?). A windy system started blowing through, bringing a worrying chill in the air. The forecasters promised perfect weather for Saturday, however.

Brent posing in front of the road closure sign on Thursday. So cute in his work clothes!

Luckily, the weather forecasters were accurate this time. Saturday morning broke with a peaceful silence, peppered by the beautiful voices of mating spring songbirds. I sipped on my coffee and slipped a pair of tights, sweats, thermal undershirt, sweatshirt, jacket, gloves, and ear muffs over my "racing silks" and we were off. I was prepared for the early morning chill (mid 40s). The transition area was teeming with activity. I had to wait to get to my rack similar to waiting to board a plane. How come it was so crowded? How come my rack was so full? My wave didn't leave for another 2 hours! Jeez, people! My friends spotted me in my heavy winter gear and a rumor quickly sprouted that I wasn't racing. I helped Brent zip up his wetsuit, and he was off (40 minutes before my wave). I felt calm and relaxed. A few butterflies but mostly just excited. I opted for my arm warmers under my wetsuit to save time in T1. Grabbing my 2 caps, goggles, and ear plugs, I lined up in the chute. I felt toasty because I had been clever enough (actually, it was Brent's idea) to wear "throw away" socks while waiting for our wave to start.

Suddenly, it was time for our wave to take the plunge and make our way to the start. The 60-degree water wasn't that bad. I had taken 2 practice swims in the Cove the last 2 weeks, and the 57-degree temps had more than prepared me for race day. I seeded myself in the middle of my pack. I felt strangely calm. Confident. The gun went off, and we started swimming. There was a lot of scuffling and scrambling as we all rallied for the best position. Wham! An elbow to the ribs. Bam! A fist in the eye. Slam! A kick in the back. WTF? I started kicking and pushing and hitting back. Thus, the cuts and bruises. But you should see the other guy. We started evening out, and I quickly found my rhythm. I felt so calm and relaxed. The chop hit me like a ton of bricks at the turn-around, where the ocean water fights against the harbor water, creating strange and fierce mini-currents and waves. I had to fight hard to ward off sea-sickness. I will not swallow water, I will not swallow water, I repeated over and over. Luckily, I had popped to pre-emptive Tums right before, just in case. I lurched and bobbed my way back towards the protective waters of the harbor. Suddenly, swimmers from the wave behind (Men, 20-25) tried aggressively to swim over me. I fought back viciously, and the perpetrators quickly retreated. You want some of me? You want some of this? All of a sudden, the swim was over. That's it? That's all there is? I couldn't believe it. I've never had a 1.2 mile swim go by so quickly. I glanced at my watch--40 minutes, right on target (and 10 min faster than 2 years ago!). I was happy.

I peeled off my wetsuit as I ran and felt the gentle warm sun on my arms. I wasn't cold at all. I wouldn't need my bike jacket! Yippee! All I needed was my sunglasses, helmet, race belt, and shoes. I ran to the mounting line with shoes in hand. Why run in my bike shoes? I slipped them on, mounted Torch, and we were off.

running out of T1, happy and in good spirits.

My goal was to pace myself well, hydrate and eat well. I immediately popped 2 Tums to settle my finicky stomach. It worked. I was ravenous. I ate and drank and drank and ate. The first half of the bike was flat and fast. I drank in the gorgeous ocean views along the way. The sun was out and temps were in the low 60s with almost no wind. I spun at a conservative effort, which ended up ~18 mph (thanks Torch, Zipps, and aero helmet!). About mile 30, the hills began. I saw the first and steepest climb, dotted with athletes struggling up the ascent like ants. Many were walking. I felt calm and relaxed. I focused on maintaining a steady effort up the hill, alternating comfortably between seated and standing the whole way up. At the top, I quickly geared up and enjoyed the screaming 38 mph descent on the other side. I didn't have to take one pedal stroke (and it was a good opportunity to pee--apparently, I had been drinking too much). The rolling hills in Camp Pendleton were a soft, velvety green. Cannon fire ricocheted from the nearby artillery fields. Songbirds were having singing duels with each other. It was too beautiful not to notice and was an especially nice distraction as I battled yet another hill. The race director had promised there would be 3 major hills but I knew from last time that was a lie. There were more like 5 or 6. I was so glad I was prepared. I didn't feel flustered or worried. I did catch myself talking to myself at one point, however, questioning my sanity.
"I think this is the final hill," I muttered.
"I think so too," I answered back.
Okay, fine, we all talk to ourselves. But do you answer back? Who the hell answered back?
I turned down Vandegrift for the final 10 miles, expecting a wicked headwind. I heard a whistling wind but my speed was still holding steady. Hmmmm. Must have lucked out and gotten a crosswind. On Torch with my wheels and aero helmet, I zipped easily past several other athletes. As I neared T2, I felt victorious. I had consumed 750 calories (my goal was 250/hr) and 72 ounces of water. I felt fresh. I could have gone another 56 miles. Hmmm. Maybe I didn't push hard enough?

However, when I rode into T2, my elation plummeted. Torch was one of the last bikes to return to the rack. I know it shouldn't have mattered but it did. I know I should have been happy about my personal improvement but it was tough. Very tough.

Overall my bike was 3:24 (16.5 mph) and 6 minutes faster than 2 years ago. Even if it was only faster due to my fancy equipment (helmet, bike, wheels), my perceived effort was much lower. I think my only mistake was not going hard enough. I went at my IM pace, not HIM pace.

I slipped on my shoes and socks, grabbed my visor, tampon and Fuel Belt (stowed in a cooler with ice packs) and ran off to the Port-a-Potty. It was disgusting but that's okay. I didn't have time to sit down anyway. I had to pee like a racehorse. I can't believe how much I overhydrated. WTF? Feeling much, much better afterwards, I trotted off to begin the run.

The Run:
I had written my splits on my arm to prevent myself from running the first half too fast. My legs felt stiff and heavy and for some reason, it makes me run the first few at waaaay too fast a pace to sustain. Right off the bat, I had to battle the deep sand. 1/4 mile of deep sand at the beginning and end of each lap (1 mile total). I thought it would be horrible. Everyone was walking and griping. It actually wasn't too bad (thanks, trail running!). I focused on picking my feet up high to avoid getting sand in my shoes and maintaining a rhythm. I zipped in and out of people and was back on the concrete in no time. Yes, concrete. Ugh. That was by far the worst part about this race. 12 miles of pounding on concrete. Not even asphalt. My knees were not happy on Sunday. Reached mile 1 in 8:45. Too fast, too fast.

At the TCSD "Love Stop", Darrell ran with me a bit. He really pumped me up. Such a nice guy. It was soooo wonderful seeing all my friends out there on the course or cheering me on from the sidelines. At no point, did I feel lonely or unsupported. One of the perks of racing in your backyard. I was so busy looking around for all my friends, I didn't even realize I had to run! Great distraction. It really took my mind off the pain. The run was almost like a social hour for me (okay, 2 hours). Every time I spotted another athlete in a TCSD singlet, I cheered them on. This made it really fun. Mile 2 came and went. 9:00 on the money. I did a silent, internal victory dance.
Thanks, Darrell!
Miles 3-4, I hit at 9:10s, 5&6 were 9:20s. I'll take it, I'll take it. I'm slowing down, but I'll take it. I focused on drinking a shot of InfinIT from my Fuel Belt, chased by a cup of water at each aid station. It was getting harder and harder.
Mile 6.5, the turn-around for the 2nd lap was my low point. I was prepared. It's always deflating to watch other athletes run off for the finish line (and their pizza) while you still have another lap to go. Bummer. Miles 7-10 were by far my hardest. My stomach started acting up. I should have popped more Tums right from the start but I had been lazy. Now, my stomach was rebelling against the InfinIT. I was down to just a cup of water at the aid station. That wasn't easy either. I think the only reason I convince myself to take the water was because I got to walk through the aid station and rejuvenate a bit. Walk for water? Sure! You bet! I wasn't eating enough now, and I was starting to feel tired. Shooting pains were stabbing through my knees and a blister had risen between my toes. My legs felt dull and heavy. Caffeine, I need caffeine. Mistakenly, I grabbed a Coke from the next aid station. A very bubbly, very not flat coke. Isn't Coke at races supposed to be flat? My stomach protested dangerously but my re-energized legs fought back. Once that dangerous moment had passed, I swore off Coke for the rest of that run. I found that if I slowed down, I could still run. I was now struggling to run 10 min/miles. Argh.

Stomach vs legs--Who will win?
I battled with my demons. I'm so slow. I'm no good. I suck. Why do I waste my time on this? This time, talking to myself came in handy.
The other voice talked me down: Can we talk about this later?
"Is this train of thought helpful right now? Are we worrying about something we can control or can't control?"
"Can't control," the demon voice whimpered.
"Okay, then it's wasted energy thinking about it. What can we think about that is within our control?"
"Eating, drinking, pace, running form."
A strange calm came over me. I thought about nothing else but eating, drinking, pace and running form. One leg in front of the other. I broke up the course into half-mile sections: half mile to the next aid station, half mile to the next mile marker sign. My mind quieted, my body relaxed, and the pain subsided. My rhythm returned.
Mile 10 came and went. I started feeling better. 3 more miles, I can run 3 more miles. Mile 11--20 more minutes, I can run for 20 more minutes. At mile 12, I wanted to do a little dance, I was so happy. I ran through the sand one last time and headed down the cute. I picked up the pace, my legs catching sight of the finish. With a final kick, I zipped in and out of a few stragglers and blasted across the finish line. I had forgotten how tough half Ironmans can be!

--down the chute, happy to be nearing the end.

--final kick. I'm not going to let that guy in red pass me!
At the finish, I couldn't eat or drink anything. Typical. I was tired. Very tired. I had only consumed 125 cals on the run. Oops. I was soooo tired. It took me forever to get back to the car. I kept having to sit down to rest. I don't think I would have made it if it hadn't been for the Ensure. Ensure, it's not just for old people anymore.
I felt/feel very deflated. Still battling some of those demons. However, deep down, I'm happy with my race. It went about as well as it could have gone. When it was all said and done, my run was 5 minutes faster than 2 years ago. T1 and T2 were both over a minute faster too. Overall, I shaved 25 minutes from my 2007 race, finishing in 6:19:30. No, it's not 6:00, yet. Stress the yet. However (big however), it's a PR by 25 minutes!!! Why can't I be happy?


don said...

Congratulations on your race Rachel. I saw you and Brent in the transition area before the race. I was going to say hello but you were having this intense conversation!

Bob D said...

"Overall, I shaved 25 minutes from my 2007 race"

Awesome result, congratulations!

hstryk said...

Yay! Congrats on the 25 minute improvement! Wow! Again, a great race report. Every time I read about the fighting during the swim I wonder how I will EVER be able to stop the urge to fight back. If I had it my way, there would be full contact triathlons. My swimming sucks, but my hook is pretty spot on ;)

Steph said...

Congratulations!! And what a well-written report! You did great!

Sherry said...

A 25 minute PR... Rachel, that's AWESOME!!!!

You had a wonderful swim and a wonderful bike; so your run may have been a little 'off' for you, but the combined package... a PR! Jump for joy girl... you totally deserve it!!

Mucho congrats!

Colleen said...

WAY TO GO!!! A 25 minute PR is amazing! Great race recap!!! Rest and enjoy yourself! :)

Krista said...

Great race recap!! It is so helpful to hear that others have pain when training. Pain scares me when I'm biking/running (I'm terrified of injury). You've got me psyched for my very first tri in May!

Caroline said...

Wow, down 25 minutes, that's awesome!!!!!

For a moment there, thought you peed on whilst descending that hill on your bike :)

Love the race report!

teacherwoman said...

Congratulations! You did awesome! 25 minutes of your PR is SWEET! Enjoy it!

Diana said...

How fun to read of your day! You make it sound so easy ;-)

Congrats on the accomplishment!

Rainmaker said...

Nicely done with the PR! Congrats!

And btw...I'd be very afraid if I was a tubular. ;)

Grey Beard said...

Congrats on the 25 PR, and a big thanks for the Tums tip. FWIW, I find cold riding makes is almost impossible to judge proper hydration.

I was thinking that with 20/20 hindsight you could have raced more where your PF made you train, on the bike, and less on your feet, but I don't know how anyone could know that on the first race of the season.

When climbing that very long & steep approach to Pardee Dam I passed a woman who was built just like you. There was no way I was going to let her beat me to the top! heee, heee, too funny. Thanks for the absentee motivation! :D We had a great chat at Rest #3 later.

I still have sooooo much to learn, I really appreciate your many training and racing tips. These performance targets are always moving? Do you ever get this stuff really dialed in? As long as you keep improving, does it matter?

bunnygirl said...

Congratulations! You did great, and better is yet to come.

Sara said...

25 min PR - that is awesome!!! I think you should be proud of yourself, everyone has off days and even with a not perfect run you still rocked it out!! That is pretty amazing! Congrats!

Buck said...

You rocked it out there girl. Way to push through the run.

Shawn said...

Wow...awesome...Great Job on kicking butt!

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

The Strand closed for the race AND no wind coming back to T2? I'm so jealous.

By God you should be happy with that improvement. You did great!

untpawgal02 said...

25 minutes... OMG... that is so awersome! Way super proud of you!

LG said...

Congratulations!!! Way to power through the run!! Great job on the PR, but moreso, a very successful MENTAL race as well! And don't give so much credit to the gear, yes, I'm sure it helped, but I think you did most of the work yourself!

Leah said...

Congrats on an amazing PR! You know, I think it's OK to feel the way you do about it. Sometimes we want to achieve more than we do. But know that you inspire a lot of us with your determination, tenacity, and ability. Great report!

Doc John said...

Great job and achievement and will soon feel even better once setting a PR sinks in!

RoadBunner said...

Congratulations! I love the bit where you talk back to yourself on the bike :)

Mary said...

Great race! Way to PR too! It's going to be a great season for you!

Anonymous said...

Well Done!! Sounds like a great event. You did brilliant!

Wes said...

That is GREAT progress. Its OK to be happy, but not satisfied! You keep getting better and better!

Benson said...

Wow, nice job.
PR by 25 minutes!

Michael said...

Congratulations on a great race!

Renee said...

I love your comparison of doing races to a hard night of drinking! That made me laugh. You had a great race!

Formulaic said...

Sweet race! Don't feel bad that you are depressed. I am too!

I can't figure it out. You and I both had great PR's, why can't we be happier?

donnamc said...

Way to go on your PR! Your race recaps always get me excited about my upcoming races.. Thanks for the inspiration!

Teenage Tri Queen said...

hi! my name is chloe, nd i just started a blog about triathlons! please check it out ..

Pam said...

Yahoo!!! Way to PR!!