Race Report: Alcatraz

Long story short: It sucks losing 5 weeks of run training to tendinitis. It sucks knowing you’re not really prepared for a race, but having a game plan that include “toughing it out.” It sucks trying to run 8 miles for the first time in 3 months in a race. It sucks more when that run is really hard and takes longer than 8 miles normally would. It sucks when it, then, takes REALLY long.

Ok, pity party over.

Long story long: Even though I came in last of the pro women, it wasn’t as much of an ass-kicking as it seems in the results.

We sat around in our special section in the boat, after parking in our special section, and no one really talked to me. I felt pretty stupid until Dahlz showed up. (Yay!) Then, I had someone to talk to. And, for some reason, everyone got really fidgety and started getting dressed and arm swinging and jumping with 45 minutes to go. So, then the boat is full and you have to watch the swinging arms and it starts to make you kind of tense and you’re ready to just go already. And ahh.

[Side note, some of the famous, important people were impressed I was wearing a sleeveless wetsuit. I was, like, oh man, you are not going to be impressed when you swim 10 minutes faster than me.]

Then they hustled us out to the deck and people were cheering for us. Ok, really, they’re cheering for one of the 7 world champions doing the race. Not me. And we were supposed to line up. Except there’s only so many corral opening and the pros all want to start together. Solution: climb over the railing, be careful not to slip, and hold on to the side of the boat while you wait some more.

And thus my first pro race started.

When the horn blew I jumped into the water (no diving) and by the time I surfaced the pack was already gone. I was 10 feet behind before I’d taken a stroke. I thought I would five minutes or so of struggling at the back and I tried to catch back on. But that was the last I saw of them. And all I kept thinking was oh my god all the people on the boat are watching and pointing and laughing at the dumbass who is already losing.

I swam completely, totally, utterly, by myself. I was following the lead boat that was leading the pack of pros, which I could see up ahead for about half the time. But they were taking a pretty aggressive line and so before long I was running into the outside edge of the kayakers. (The kayakers that mark the boundaries of where you should swim. The ones you should never, ever see if you’re on course in the middle.) I mean, really, swam into a kayaker. He yelled at me to go more left. The kayakers kept yelling at me to go left. When you’ve had 3 or 4 conversations with the kayakers you have to figure your swim isn’t going so well. Then I got caught up in a ton of chop and swallowed a ton of water. I never saw anyone until the last 100y. I was convinced, convinced that every single person in the entire race had passed me and I was actually in the dead last place. It took so long. I was so sick of swimming. I just wanted out of the water!

I was so convinced I suck that when I came out of the water and saw a zero on my watch, I figured it was 40 minutes. But, actually it was 30 minutes! I really only swam 2-3 minutes slower than most of the girls. I lost 5 minutes to the winner, but that’s not terrible for me and swimming.

Then, coming out of the water, I ran where all the volunteers were pointing and yelling, into the fenced area to grab my shoes and take off my wetsuit. But where was #17? Where? I started yelling? The volunteers were like, uh? Then Steve yelled, Kelly! Kelly! And pointed to the pro’s bags — on the other side of the fence. I swore a lot, then jumped the fence, in my wetsuit.

Eventually, I got on my bike. After the slowest transitions ever. (That’s what really lost the race for me…Hah.) And I biked ok. My bike fitness was there, but my endurance wasn’t. About 20 minutes in I was panting and wondering when this was going to ever, ever be over. I passed a couple of girls who must have swum faster than me and I didn’t get passed by anyone, besides a ton of 25-year-old guys.

I knew I was biking decently well, but I also knew I wasn’t biking amazing. I didn’t feel like I was nailing it. And, most importantly, I haven’t been biking enough in the last month or two to have the handling skills. I had to brake and slow on turns that I wouldn’t have had to before. That was really, really frustrating. And then one of my aerobars came loose in the last two miles and started slipping up and down — stupid sandpaper not doing its job — but it wasn’t really a problem since we were almost done.

And as I was biking into transition, a whole bunch of girls were starting the run. See! I’m in the mix. They’re only a couple minutes up on me.

After the second slowest transition ever (my toes were white when I pulled off my shoes, which made it hard to get the second pair on), I headed out on the run. I felt strong. I knew I needed to just keep running strong and that I wasn’t going to do anything super fast or amazing. I just needed to run a 1:01 to break 2:40 overall and that would have landed me 10th — my 2 goals.

I did pretty good for the first 2 miles. Then, we ran uphill for a mile and a half and I felt weak. I was just running hella slow. But I tried to push it again on the downhill. Then, we ran through sand for a mile. And that’s when I got passed by two age group girls. I just couldn’t run in the sand. It takes leg strength and it’s hard. And it was just sapping the energy out of me. Every part of the race that was hard was just taking it out of me and I did NOT have a lot left to be taken out. I hit the turnaround on pace for a 1:03, which I was disappointed in, but I told myself I would pound it on the mile and a half downhill back.

Then, we hit the sandladder, which obviously I walked (hey, that doesn’t count, every pro walked it too). And I got to the top, ready to run, and just had nothing. I don’t know — it’s almost like I didn’t have the run volume to be dealing with this.

The last 3 miles were ugly. I ran. I didn’t walk. I kept decent form. I tried to push it. But even the downhills I just didn’t have the legs to push. At one point, I even thought, you have to tough through this pain, you have to learn to run fast when it hurts, it’s going to hurt no matter what. And I tried to pump my arms and pick up my legs, but I think I still ran 9 minute miles.

With about a mile and a half to go, the one pro girl behind me, Rachel, passed me.

The last mile and a half was ugly.

And then I crossed the finish line and sat down. And it wasn’t like any of those times I had to go to the med tent. I didn’t collapse. I just didn’t want to stand anymore. I sat for 10 minutes and then I was like, you have to get up! Getting up involved a roll-over. My legs just hurt.

I was really disappointed. But, I don’t think I was surprised. And, then, the more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t too disappointed. First pro race done. Swam not terrible. Biked faster than some of the girls. Transitions awful. Lessons learned. Get ready for next race by running more than 10 miles per week, which really shouldn’t be hard.

10 thoughts on “Race Report: Alcatraz

  1. Great job Kelly! I’d imagine the first one is the hardest and you got through it just fine! When I was looking at the swim times I was like “man – she rocked that swim!” because I’m sure it’s just not the same when you have to swim the entire swim by yourself. Anyway – it will only get better with more run training under your belt!! So congrats!!

  2. seriously, why did you wear a sleeve-less? They are slower, you know. There’s a reason no other pro was wearing one. Good job anyway, it’s a tough race under any conditions, and especially yours.

  3. Way to go, Kelly! Nice recap of your race. Good attitude and thoughts on what you learned. Sounds like there should be a class that teaches/practices transitions. Sounds super hard!

  4. well done! i am super impressed since you were injured for so much of the pre-season. and you just got your bike back! we need to bike sometime when you are fully recovered!

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