Monday, July 21, 2008

Camp Pendleton International Triathlon 2008 Race Report

The Unintended Taper
Sometimes rest can be a good thing. A very good thing. I hadn't planned on a rest week. I had planned on a 17 mile run this weekend. Full speed ahead. But last weekend's workouts left me wasted (80 mile ride, 16.5 mile run). I had nothing, no gas left in the tank. My body demanded a recovery week. Reluctantly, I took Thursday and Friday completely off. It was an unintentional taper.

Of course, I didn't really sit around the house. I got a little stir-crazy. I hung up paintings and curtains (yea for power drills!), went on a shopping spree at Best Buy, dragged a 70 lb. tv stand upstairs, put it together, moved an even heavier old tv into the bedroom, dragged an even heavier video cabinet from the living room into the bedroom, and set up a new flat screen tv in the living room. At some point, my lower back started complaining. Loudly! I'd like to say I had all this extra energy from not working out, or that I was just feeling particularly industrious but the truth is, Brent was out of town, and I was just trying to keep myself busy. So I went a little nuts. And threw my back out. The low point was on Friday when I hooked up the new tv, and it didn't work (it's a lemon; they have to bring me a new one). Ugh! Talk about a let-down! I was so frustrated, I threatened not to do the race on Saturday at all. "That's it! I'm not doing it. My back hurts, the new tv doesn't work. I'm out." That would show them! Punish the defective tv by not racing.

Brent flew back into town and was so excited about coming out to spectate my po-dunk little race that he inflated me with enthusiasm. And my sister was coming to watch. They pumped me up a little. I cleaned up the bike, packed my stuff, changed out the race wheels, and put my sticker on the bike. I guess I was doing it now. Once you change the wheels, you're pretty much in. But I was not excited. I felt emotionally drained. However, because of the rest days, I felt fresh physically, and I knew it. I knew I would regret it if I didn't do it.

So when the alarm went off at 5 am, I dragged myself out of bed (plus, getting showered in kisses by someone who keeps saying, "Aren't you excited?!" over and over helps too; how could I not at least be a little excited?).

The Start:
As soon as I got there, I was glad I decided to show up. I had done this race 2 years in a row and loved it so much, I was back for my third. I've decided to make this my annual race every year; I love it so much. Plus, I saw tons of friends and was instantly chatting away. Afterall, what's a race if not an awesome social event? It was cool, overcast and misting, a nice reprieve from the previous 2 years of brutal heat. I decided right then and there to just go out and have fun and not care about my time at all. I took all pressure off myself and decided it was okay to be slower than my previous year's time. I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Michelle, Solene, Monica and me in transition beforehand

The Swim:
Michelle came back after her warm-up swim doing the full body shiver. "Ittt's coooold!" What? In July? I dipped a toe in. Crap! It was about 65. I was thankful for my wetsuit. We waded in and jogged in place to keep warm for several minutes. I think all of us were very happy when the horn blew. Finally, we could get going and warm up!

--me, Michelle, Solene, and Monica freezing our asses off

--Tri Grrls Gone Wild!

I took off quickly, trying to stay in the pack. Generally, I'm a slow starter so beginning the swim a bit aggressively was not a bad decision for me. However, zig-zagging all over the place was (actually, it was not my decision; that's just how it went down). I tried to use the orange buoys as a line to lead me towards the big yellow one but, unfortunately, they were crooked and didn't help my swimming dyslexia. Luckily, the first 500 meters was over very quickly, and I hit the first turn buoy and dog-legged to my left.

Then, I started falling apart. There were a lot of gaps between 1 buoy and the next. Much sighting was required, which apparently, I couldn't do that day. I lost my rhythm and was a bit disgruntled when a few girls from the wave behind me zipped past, totally demoralizing me. However, they also offered a free draft and line to follow. I took it. For a few minutes at least. Until I lost it. And swam straight into a backstroker. Who kicked me square in the face and knocked my goggles off. I quickly squeezed my eyes shut in a valiant attempt to keep my contacts from popping out. I would have been blind without them. I heard the backstroker weakly apologize but I was too focused on getting my goggles back on and back into the game to respond.

Somehow, I got everything back into place and continued onwards. Found my rhythm. And finally reached the turn-around buoy. Since I couldn't trust my suddenly spaghetti arms to swim straight, I sighted more frequently, enabling me to swim the final 500 meters much more smoothly. I hit the beach and tried something new--taking my wetsuit off while sitting in ankle-deep water. Hey, it's a "C" race for me; I gotta try new stuff sometimes. Where's your sense of adventure? Anyway, I'm not sure it was any faster, and I was giggling about it with another girl in my wave who attempted the same maneuver. At least we had fun trying it!

Slightly disgruntled at my disorienting swim (after 2 years of doing this race and all my racing and swimming, you'd think I could master the swim at this race! For some reason, the CP International swim gets me EVERY time--3 years counting--swim 3; Rachel 0), I ran up onto the beach and huffed and puffed the long 1/4 mile run in sand and on pavement to the transition area. Glanced at my watch as I crossed the mats--:34. Really? Could it be true? Last year was :42 (both include the long run to transition--my watch out of the water last year read :40; this year :31). Regardless of how you look at it, that's an 8 to 9 minute improvement! Holy smokes! (And I know I could do better.)

The Bike:
Grabbed Torch with his race wheels and I, donning my Star Trek aero helmet, darted out of transition. I sprinted up the hill out of the saddle, pumping blood into my legs. I'm a slow starter so every little effort to jump start my legs is helpful. Realizing I was hungry and thirsty, I spinned for a minute or two to digest 2 Cliff Bloks and down some H20+InfinIT. Yummy. Plus the Bloks were Black Cherry=CAFFEINE! Watch out, here she comes!

--Out of T2; Torch and I aero'ed out (like the Star Trek helmet?)

It took me about 5 miles to get my bike legs. Soon, I was chasing people down. I passed a girl in my age group. She didn't like it and sped up and passed me back. Then slowed down again. Argh. I held my pace and rode side-by-side for awhile. She wouldn't budge. I pushed it slightly and pulled ahead. She sped up and passed me back. The whole time, she refused to meet my gaze, smile, not even a wink. So. It's going to be like that, eh? Didn't bother me any. I let her stony competitiveness fuel my pace a little. This is going to be grrrreat. I was salivating. We played musical bikes for awhile until I refused to waste any more energy on it. It was just the first half of the bike. Wait until the second half, I kept telling myself. She passed me again, and I let her get in front. Fine. She wants to let me draft? Whatever. That's cool with me. A few miles down the road, another girl passed me, pedaling furiously, breathing in sharp rasps. Hmmm. I wasn't breathing hard at all. Maybe I should pick up the pace?

We hit some hills, and I attacked. I broke each one into thirds--attack at the bottom, find a rhythm in the middle, and power up to the top. I used the momentum from the downhill dipping below the climb to push me to the middle, found a comfortable rhythm and allowed my breath to follow my cadence, then when I wanted to fade as the grade lessened at the top, I pushed it...hard, amping up the power, finally allowing myself to recover at a much higher speed on the flat road after the hill. It worked like a charm. I passed a TON of people (including high-cadence girl and musical chairs girl). Sure, I was redlining...gasping for air but no worries. I trusted that there was flat road or a descent up ahead, and I knew I could recover quickly.

--tearing it up on Torch

Another girl in an ugly pink tri outfit passed me on a hill and blew a snot rocket in my direction, narrowly missing me. Actually, I don't know how she didn't hit me. Thanks. Here, let me mucous all over you as I pass. Of course, that was all the encouragement I needed to zip ahead and get the hell out of Dodge. As I headed back on Vandegrift, I was hit with the familiar headwind. But in my aero helmet on my tri bike with my race wheels, I felt totally protected. And after the 30 mph winds in IMAZ, no wind has ever felt as brutal. I focused on holding my rhythm steady and blasted onward.

Zoomed into T2, quite pleased with my ride. It had been zippy and fun, and I had felt strong. Plus, my average was 19 mph (2 mph faster than last year's), which shaved 7 minutes off the bike compared to last year. Bring on the run!

The Run:
The clouds were still holding, and the weather was still blissfully cool. I didn't even need my visor or sunglasses. I couldn't believe it. I grabbed my race belt and was off. I downed a cup of water out of T2 and smiled for Brent and my sister, enthusiastically cheering me on from the sidelines. Thanks, guys!

--out of T2

I saw a guy up ahead with an IMAZ jersey on, and I picked up my pace to catch him. We started chatting.
"That was a rough day out there."
"Yeah, it was. Did you do it?"
"Yup. It was my first."
"And you finished? You should be very proud."
"It was so awesome. I can't wait until the next one!"
"When's your next one?"
"I'm trying to get into IM Canada."
"Ooh. I hear that's a good one."
At this point, a girl running with us blurts out, "You guys are crazy! I'm just trying to get to the end of this one!"
I laughed. She was right. I had become one of those people.

--negotiating the sand at the turn-around

I ran on ahead, keeping my pace in check. I wanted to negative split the 2 laps. I cheered on other people wearing Tri Club San Diego uniforms. If I didn't recognize them and they were running in my direction, I started chatting with them. "Hi, I'm Rachel. How are you?" One of my friends saw me doing this as he ran the other way and was cracking up about it later. What good is racing if you can't socialize and have a bit of fun out there?

--All smiles on the run course. Oh, right! I LOVE running!

On the 2nd lap, I let myself go a little. It was harder to carry on long-winded conversations now. Damn! We all know how much I hate to talk. Now, others were cheering me on, and I barely heard them. I was the zone. I downed another cup of water and pressed onward, preparing for the 1 short, steep hill. I pumped my arms and maintained my cadence up the hill, allowing my breathing to increase sharply. "You can recover at the top. At the top," I kept telling myself. Plus, I knew it was the last hill; after that, it was all flat or downhill.

I reached the final turn-around and headed back for the final 1.25 miles. A refreshing breeze hit me, and I picked up the pace. I just felt good. A girl passed me, the number "33" blatant on her calf. "Oh no you didn't!" I thought. I wanted to beat her. Bad. I picked up the pace but she was going at a good clip. I made a quick assessment; she seemed a very worthy competitor; I wasn't sure I had it in me to catch her. I resolved to keep her in my sights, which was proving hard enough to do. Just when I thought I was going to have to let her go, I began passing other girls in my age group that I hadn't been able to muster enough steam to get ahead of before. Okay. Just a little longer. 1 more mile, 1 more mile, I told myself. Even if I couldn't pass Miss 33, I could use her to get a better time for myself. That was motivation enough. At the final turn towards the chute, the final 1/4 mile, I decided to lay it all on the line. Was it me, or was she fading? Couldn't be. Must be my imagination. It was time. Now or never. I began my sprint, blasting past her, bracing myself for her final kick. It never came. She never even rallied with me. I was disappointed. Nonetheless, I was also ecstatic; I had passed the fearsome, Miss 33! I crossed the finish line in a full sprint, fully satisfied, fully ecstatic. It had been a glorious race.

Camp Pendleton International had been wonderful the previous 2 years, and I wasn't to be disappointed for year #3. In addition, I was later to discover I had run the 10k in :48 minutes (about 7:48 min/miles), which is my fastest 10k EVER (even when compared to a straight 10k without a swim and bike beforehand). My long-standing goal had been to run a :50 min 10K, which always had seemed to escape me, and I had finally surpassed it! Compared to last year, I shaved 20 minutes off my overall time. In addition, I raced at an intensity that was enjoyable. It didn't feel like I was trying harder. I was also calm and relaxed and just having fun, which I've learned is where my best performances come from. All I can say is I am more than grateful for the little push I needed to get my ass out the door.

Previous CP International Race Reports:

Thanks, Brent and Russ for the awesome pics!


Wes said...

Yay! Nicely done Rachel! It is no surprise that you are much improved over the last couple of years. Taking the pressure off of yourself helps. This I know!! Congrats! Big time!!

Alinda said...

Great job Rachel!
I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now and you've totally inspired me to at least try a triathlon someday. So thank you for getting my butt to start exercising and keep up the good work.

CVSURF said...

Congratulations on your PR. Sounds like you had a blast.

beth said...

really awesome job! sounds like a fun race....and nicwe to have some good supporters and friends out there :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful race entry! Keep it up!

Marcy said...

AWESOME JOB CHICA!! Good God you're getting so speedy!! I am LMAO at the convo on the run. You ARE crazy ;-)

Sara said...

Congrats for getting out of bed, for PRing all 3 and the event and for killing your 50min 10k goal!!

Again a great and inspirational read!!

Leah said...

Sounds like a great race! And fun! Congrats on the PR.

Unknown said...

It sounds like just having fun paid off in so many ways! Great job on the swim, a PR in all three, chasing people on the bike and run - sounds like a lot of fun!

SM said...

#33 Has nothing on you!!!! Great job! Chasing people makes racing so much fun!

GetBackJoJo said...

Awesome race report! Congrats on a super race. A couple days rest--always does the trick.

Sherry said...

As usual, awesome post-race report... I'm just so sorry it's taken me so long to catch up on all of my blog reading. So... belated congratulations! :o)

I had to LOL when reading the part about making conversations with others during the run. During my last tri, I tried to strike up small-talk with just about everyone that I either passed or who passed me. Few answered back, many smiled, but I think most thought, "why are you TALKING while I'm RACING???" Since I was so disappointed with my run time during this race, I told my husband that perhaps I ought to take their advice next time around and clam up a bit! LOL!

Congrats again!!!!

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