Race Report: Pacific Grove (+ Steve’s race + a helicopter ride)

I’ve been thinking about it for over 24 hours and I’m not sure if I raced better this weekend or at Alcatraz. It’s tough to compare slow v. also slow.

(OK, Courtenay, I’m kidding. Positive thoughts!!)

In reality, this race was always going to be rough because it’s draft-legal, which meant I needed to swim fast enough to be near someone to draft off — not totally likely — and chances were I was going to bike slower than I had as an age-grouper — mentally demoralizing — because this time I couldn’t ride my time trial bike with a disc wheel and all that fancy shit. And I would be trying to figure out what exactly was going on with the drafting and groups, etc, around me — since I’ve never done draft-legal shit before.

So, I decided not to wear a watch. No good could come from it.

We started swimming and for the first couple minutes it actually felt really easy and I found my swim partner. And all I needed to do was stick with her was the plan. But, then we hit the kelp. And we hit it again and again and again. I’ve done this swim before and I know the kelp is rough and difficult and not AT ALL like cute little seaweed. But, it felt worse on Saturday. I’d be working so hard and using all my energy and just be getting more and more tangled. It’s like quicksand, right, the more you fight the faster you drown. I even had to stop and unwind it from around my neck.

We finished the first lap and my swimming partner had like 20 seconds up on me. And I just couldn’t believe they wanted me to swim a whole other lap.

At least, I thought, I’m swimming so hard this has to be pretty fast, but I forgot hard and fast are different things.

That’s why it’s good I didn’t wear a watch.

My swim partner came out like 45 seconds up on me and I had a couple minutes on the girl behind me. And I assumed the other girls all swam a few minutes faster than I did.

[I thought about this later and realized that when I swam this course in the age-group race there were so, so many other people swimming right before me that it broke the kelp up and created a reasonably clear path. Saturday, not so much. In fact, I had four kayakers following just me. So, maybe, at least there’s a logical reason for why it seemed like I was drowning. Also, I found out later that one of the girls I swam with at Alcatraz and came in with the exact same time there, swam 3 minutes faster than me this weekend. So, eh, I’ve done better and I’ve done worse.]

I had the most un-ITU transition ever. I even got confused and disoriented from swimming so hard and forgot where my bike was. Bystanders were yelling at me to get a move on it.

So, I did. And immediately got blown sideways. It was so windy it was hard to control the bike and the wind just got worse. And I was really struggling. I know, I know, I know everyone has to deal with the same conditions. But, obviously, some people deal better. I suck at biking in the wind and I use up a ton of stupid, wasteful energy trying not to crash. Obviously, I should work on this, because not everyone is as stupid.

When I had the wind at my back, though, I was almost as proportionally better at that as I was worse at the other part. So, half the time I wanted to cry and half the time I felt like I used to feel on the bike. I made up the gap just after the end of the first lap and worked hard to bridge up to the girl in front of me. Time to try this whole drafting thing!

Conclusion: drafting and trying to work with the girl was definitely easier, but I don’t think it was actually faster. And I could see another girl behind us closing in. I was pretty sure the girl behind us was a fast runner — they had been talking about how she ran in college — and I wasn’t sure if my biking partner was or not, but chances were she was a faster runner than me. And I didn’t want to just sit in on an easy bike and wait to get beat on the run.

So, when I gapped my partner on the second lap, I decided to go for it and try to hold off the other girl.

Not only did that not work, but the girl who caught me on the fourth/last lap also brought the girl I had dropped with her for part of the way. That was so not how I was hoping that would go. AND, just to prove what a dumbass I am at this draft-legal racing, I couldn’t stay on the girl’s wheel when she did catch me — even though I KNEW SHE WAS COMING.

Double-sigh. Here, at least I looked fast(ish):

Basically, I biked 7 minutes slower than I did here last year and 9 minutes slower than 2 years ago.

This is why it was good I didn’t wear a watch.

I started the run a little over a minute down on one girl and a little over a minute up on another. I felt like I was running fast, I thought I looked like I was running fast, but unfortunately I wasn’t running fast. A fact that only became apparent towards the end.

There were lots of turnarounds on the three-lap run and I could see that I was maintaining the gap on the girl in front of me who was supposed to be a good runner, so I felt good about that. And for the first two laps I could tell the girl behind me was running a little faster, but not closing quite fast enough. I was trying to calculate and add and guess when she might catch me and pick it up all at the same time. At the end of the second lap, it seemed like she was still 30 or so seconds back and would probably catch me with a half mile to go. I tried to prepare myself mentally for a sprint finish.

But, I think she could smell the fear. She closed that last 30 seconds really quickly and with a little over a mile to go I was caught. And, officially, in last place.

I made a really piss-poor attempt to stay with her, then I said fuck it, then I got really discouraged about the last place motorcycle following me, then I really didn’t want to totally embarrass myself, so then I tried to at least pick it back up a little.

The results say I ran a 43, but the results also say I had a 6 second transition. Shockingly, that isn’t entirely true. My guess is I ran more like a 42-something. Still, if you had asked, I would have guessed it was faster than that. So, I don’t know why exactly it wasn’t. Maybe I didn’t want it enough. Maybe I’ve been doing too much longer, half-distance training. Maybe I just need to get faster. But, eh, I’ve done the run there slower and I’ve done it faster.

In conclusion, I have completed this course 9 minutes faster. I also biked 7 minutes slower than last year (which, come on, was at least a little bit the wind), but only finished 3 minutes slower overall. So, improvement in other parts?

And, this race beat the shit out of me. I have cuts in places I didn’t even know you could have cuts. I have two big bruises on my forearms from gripping the tiny little draft-legal aerobars so hard. I got sunburned in Pacific Grove, where it’s only sunny like once a year.

During the race, I shoved a gel in the top of my sports bra during the race — something I have done pretty much every race for the last three years. It’s never caused a problem, not once. But, of course, this time it left a giant check mark-shaped cut on my chest.

Because that’s the type of race this was.

Then, I laid on the couch at our lovely beach-side homestay. And Sunday morning we drove to Steve’s race. It went much better for him than me and I tried not to fall asleep — fortunately, he won a beer that I got to drink. Which might not have been a good idea when we went up in a helicopter on the way home.

We were supposed to go up in the helicopter earlier in the week, but it got cancelled because of the weather.

More, cooler pictures (even better than Jessica’s) to come later.

Then, we came home and I passed out.

3 thoughts on “Race Report: Pacific Grove (+ Steve’s race + a helicopter ride)

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