Monday, July 16, 2007

2007 Camp Pendleton International Triathlon--Race Report

I was so nervous. The last tri I did was the 70.3 in late March. I got so sick afterwards. Plus, although I did this race last year, I remember it being hard. And hot. Knowing I wasn't in my best of shape and totally amped up, I decided my goal for this race would be to get through it and use it as a tough workout.

Woke up with my alarm Saturday morning. Took me no time at all to get ready. Even had a half cup of coffee. Even though I was nervous, I was excited too. Could it be that this pre-race ritual is becoming familiar? Got to Camp Pendleton's gates early, entered the base and found a primo parking spot. Pumped up tires, strapped on transition bag and carried Torch through the sand of the parking lot (not risking a flat here!). Rode Torch in the rest of the way once I hit the rode. Eased him into a gear I liked for the race.

Found a primo spot in the transition area next to a hula girl balloon. Nice. Set up my transition area, got body marked, made sure I could easily find my spot from the swim and the bike and realized I had tons of time to kill! Went to the bathroom. Went again later. Saw lots of people I knew and chatted. This was fun. I'm actually beginning to remember people I see at all the races! Headed down to the swim area with my wetsuit.

After scoping out the confusing, circuitous swim route and watching the first wave, I knew this would be tough. I had a lot of time to kill since I was one of the last waves to go (I hate that). It seemed to take the fastest swimmer a long time go finish. Sigh. This was going to be tough. My swimming is definitely out of shape, and I've lost a lot of fitness in this department. However, I had done some 1500-1600m swims in the pool and ocean in the previous weeks for practice so I knew I could muscle my way through it. I reminded myself to find a relaxed rhythm and settle in. Be patient.

Once I got in the water, I was relieved I had worn my wetsuit. The water has been so warm lately (~70) that I almost went without. Especially because my hips are too high anyway. I don't really need extra help (although it does seem to help save my legs). At the last minute, I had decided to wear it (thanks to the recommendation of several friends). Once I stepped into the chilly water, I was so glad. It was waaaay colder than I had anticipated! I jumped up and down and ran in place to warm up. Peed. Put my face in, tested my goggles. Dove under to get a good funnel of water running through the wetsuit.

It took forever for the gun to go off. When it finally did, I started my watch and started swimming. Negotiated my way through a bunch of thrashing arms. My wave only had ~30 people so we spread out pretty quickly. I was surprised at how quickly I found a comfortable pace. I focused on relaxing, good technique, and counted strokes. 10 to the left, sight, switch, 10 to the right, sight, switch, etc. It helped me focus like never before. I knew it was going to be hard to sight because there were so many confusing buoys. I just focused on the big yellow triangular one up ahead. A girl to my right kept swimming into me, trying to push me to the left. I had to stop and let her go ahead. Where was she going? She continued to turn left, veering 90 degrees off course. I let her go, and focused on finding my rhythm again.

Had no problem reaching the first yellow buoy, turning left 90 degrees and focused on the 2nd buoy. Here, I started having a problem. I had planned on swimming straight to the 2nd buoy, like the lead swimmers had but everyone in my wave was veering to the left, next to the line of small, orange buoys that lined the way to the big one at the 2nd turn-around. Nervous and in race-mode, I followed everyone else, not wanting to be the lone swimmer to the right. This caused me to zig-zag significantly, adding extra distance. It was difficult for me to find my focus again. Finally, I remember picking out the telephone tower from land beforehand as a sighting target and started focusing on that. This helped a lot, and I began to straighten out. Finally reached the 2nd yellow buoy after forever and made the turn-around.

I thought it would be all downhill from here. The final leg of the swim seemed to take forever. I was experiencing a lot of fatigue in my arms and shoulders and couldn't maintain my form. I tried to focus but ended up zig-zagging a lot. I just couldn't seem to swim straight. Focused on the sail of a big boat near the end of the swim, and this seemed to help but I had to sight a lot more to make sure I didn't veer off course. I was too tired at this point to trust my stroke. Reached the last buoy on my right and knew I was near the end. All of a sudden, my stroke evened out and I picked up speed, feeling the final surge. Lots of people, seeing the shallow water, stood and began wading out of the water. I waited, still stroking. Touched land once. Touched twice. Managed a pathetic dolphin dive and rose out of the water, easily skipping up onto shore.
Time: 39:40
Much slower than last year! Argh. If I hadn't gone off course so much, my time would have been a lot better. At least I had some good moments where I could settle into a relaxed pace.

Remembering the long, 1/4 mile run to transition, I stopped on the beach and wriggled out of my wetsuit. Harder than I had thought. Slogged up the hill through the deep sand, huffing and feeling frustrated with the swim. Marine volunteers lined the path, cheering us on. One said, "I'd still be out there drowning, ma'am." That was all I needed. Such great encouragement. And so sexy too. Reached my bike, put my bare feet into the bike shoes, strapped on my helmet, put on my sunglasses and trotted off. That was easy! Smoothly clipped in, and I was off.
Time: ~3:30

Focused on spinning easily the first few miles and hydrating. Ate a Cliff Shot. Yummy. No need to go crazy yet. Let a lot of people sail past at a maddening pace. About 2 miles down the road, got aero and began to pick up speed. Settled into a nice 20 mph clip. Torch felt so smooth and fast. I felt like a jockey on a racehorse. Saw the hills up ahead. I had ridden the course before so I knew what to expect. There were hills and they were steep but they were short and there were downhills on the other side. Because they were short and the bike was only 25 miles, I decided to push it up the hill. And I did. I threw heart rate and breathing out the window and throttled up the hills. Went redline. The Marines volunteering on the sidelines yelled at me last year to "Push It!" so I expected the same this year. Guess I was huffing pretty hard like I was going to lose a lung or something b/c this year, the Marines told me, "Take it easy, Ma'am." What? I don't think so! It felt soooo good to go sooo hard. At the top of each hill, I let my heart rate settle down a little, drink a little of my cocktail, and then gear up and get aero for downhill. I pretty much stayed aero the whole time--no back problems! It felt very comfortable. At about the 20 mile mark, I began to fade a little. I shifted down and spun a little to settle down, knowing I needed to save my legs anyway. Because the course wasn't closed, there were throngs of cyclists on the road, out for their usual Saturday morning ride. About 30 of them zoomed by me, waving hello and shouting, "good morning!" as I was flogging. Their energy was injected into me, and I snapped out of my reverie. My legs started turning over faster, and all of a sudden, Torch was cruising again. I didn't fade the rest of the time and actually felt I was still accelerating as we sailed into transition.
Hydration/Nutrition Side Note:
(Graphic description warning!)
My stomach always seems to act up so I had really been focusing on hydrating and getting calories in. I could tell it helped. I felt pretty fresh. I drank about every 15 minutes. Only problem was, after about an hour, my bladder started filling up and I was getting that bloated feeling. I have read over and over again that you need ~1 large bottle of water (32 ounces)/hr and 300 calories. My bottle had water + electrolytes +200 calories. By the end of my ride, I had only managed to drink about 2/3 of it and take down a 60 cal. Cliff Shot. Luckily, it seemed if I could burp a few times after each swig, the air went of my belly, and I felt more comfortable. Guess I swallow air as I drink. Bummer.
However, my bladder still felt full. How could this be possible? It was a hot, humid day. I had peed before my swim and at the end too. I was drinking less than the recommended amount? If I was hydrating properly, I shouldn't need to pee, right? I had heard on an Ironman Talk Podcast that the pros pee on the bike. I began to entertain the thought. It would save me a ton of time to pee on the bike and not have to waste time in transition. Plus, I could get instant relief. I decided to give it a try. I found very quickly, to do this successfully, you have to wait for a properly timed descent where you can coast. Spinning the legs and peeing at the same times is simply impossible. However, I was successful while coasting downhill and felt instant relief. Even though it was gross, I felt so much better and was able to maintain a much higher speed because of it. So the pros outweighed the cons. Learn something new every day.
Time: 1:24 (~17.5 mph)
(not too shabby)

Although I hadn't needed socks at all for the bike, I knew I need them for a 10K run so a I had to put them on. Laced up my shoes (still haven't switched to the quick ties) and ran out, putting on my visor and clipping my race belt with number on as I ran.
Time: ~4 min

Started out too fast. As usual. My legs always feel good off the bike. It just feels so good to be running! I love to run so this is the best part. My stomach felt good and my bladder was empty so I felt fresh and light. I reminded myself that I had 6.2 miles to run so I tried to slow down. It was hot and humid too. Some people zipped past me on the first lap and I let them go. Too fast for my pace. I walked quickly through the aid station to get some water down me. Took a 2nd cup and dumped it over my head. Aaah. Muscled my way up a short, steep hill and began picking up speed as a nice breeze hit me. I began to see lots of people I knew and waved to them and cheered them on as I went. They all cheered me on too. That's the best part. Especially in the run when you're hurting the most.

Hit the turn-around and began my 2nd lap. I felt very patient. Surprisingly calm. My stomach felt good, my hydration felt good, my legs felt good. I decided to pick up the pace a little. I began passing people. People that had passed me on the bike. People that had passed me on the first lap of the run. This only made me surge on more. It was so fun to pass people! Passed some of my friends. They said, "You are a good runner!" almost in surprise. I had told them running was my strongest leg but this was one of the first tris ever where I felt I could demonstrate this strength. I just felt good and the farther and faster I went, the better I felt. Someone asked what pace I was doing. I had no idea. I was just going with it. All of a sudden I could see the finish line. It appeared so quickly. I pushed for a final surge. Began to fade a little. Than a gal passed me. I glanced at her calf. 28. She was in my age group. I don't think so, sister! I began to sprint and passed her. She urged me on: "Go get 'em!" I crossed the finish line, out of breath, totally in the red zone, all out, and close to puking. It was FANTASTIC!!!!
Run time: 0:52:33

Total time: 3:03:30
I PR'ed!! Shaved 4 minutes off my previous year, despite my horrible swim!

It was a fantastic race. For the first time, Olympic distance was easily attainable, and I could actually push the pace instead of just slogging through the whole thing.

Things I Learned:
1. Being a little out of shape is much better than being overtrained. Really!
2. Riding the bike to the transition area from the parking lot is much better than walking.
3. Sighting on the swim is important (duh). Sighting when tired is really hard.
4. I don't need to drink as much as the "recommended" amount. Everyone is different.
5. If I drink too much, it is possible to pee on the bike. Even though it's gross, it made me feel so much better!
6. A pre-race Pepcid makes all the difference.
7. Riding carbon = fresher legs for the run!


jameson said...

congrats on the killer race and PR.

Anonymous said...

I think I learned a lot about shaving time off on a tri. Perhaps I won't pee on the bike, but hey, whatever works!

This would be a great post to share with the community. We have some cool features like upcoming live chats with top athletes, and on-site articles and advice from Dave Scott. I think you'd feel right at home on the site!

Hope you'll come by and visit, and post content like this!

Anonymous said...

hey, what a wonderful posting. Really enjoyed reading about your experience. Good job! Li

Unknown said...

Great job, Rachel! I'm so happy for you, especially after your previous struggles. That was quite a run you put together. I know how hilly that Camp Pendleton area can be from doing the March 70.3 race several years ago. That's a good job on the bike, too. I hope your recovery goes well and you are back at it with renewed confidence.

You rock!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I'm so glad you had a good race! It's supposed to be FUN, or why do it?


Anonymous said...

It's good to hear you had such a great race! Congrats on the PR and learning some valuable lessons!

Kewl Nitrox said...

NO NO NO... Please tell me that you didn't really pee on Torch! ;-) Man, you are HARDCORE.

Fantastic run, you really are a good runner! I have my 1st ever O.D. Tri in less than 2 weeks and I am getting nervous... Thanks for sharing the detailed race report. It helps.

Dances with Corgis said...

Ha :) I had my first pee on the bike this weekend too.

Great race! You cruising along "slowly" at 20mph is too funny because that is like my fastest speed ever. :)

Kate said...

Nice work!! You and Torch will make a super team. Good work on that run- blazing fast for off the bike!

Erin Nicole said...

big congrats, rachel!

a favor to ask of your readers: can anyone suggest a good runner's sports bra? i'm a slender girl with a 34C chest and i'm having a really hard time finding a sports top/bra that supports me enough. i'm to the point where money is not really a consideration -- i just want something that doesn't make me sore by mile 4. :)

Fizzgig said...

I always wondered how you use the restroom doing these marathon races! I'd have done the same thing!

jp said...

nice work out there! Glad you had a good race!

bari said...

Peeing on the bike is very cool. Don't laugh, but it took me forever to learn how to pee in the water while warming up before the swim start. Now that I've mastered that, I guess I need to learn how to pee on the bike!