Yesterday, I did what I’m pretty sure is going to be my last triathlon of the year. I wasn’t intending for it to be my last, but I don’t think I can do one more much less the three originally planned.
Santa Cruz was my first triathlon ever 5 years ago about 3 weeks after learning to ride a bike. And, on the plus side, I went 20 minutes faster today than 5 years ago. But, I would have preferred more like 25 minutes faster.
I love racing in Santa Cruz. I swim fast there. I like the weather. I thought if everything went right, it could be a great race. Nothing really went right, instead. It was just one of those days that involves a lot of swearing.
The start was delayed because of fog. And delayed, and delayed. Erin and I waited until we could see the fog was clearing to warm up, but we still had a long enough time standing around waiting after getting out of the water for me to start freezing.
The swim started and it felt fine, easy — probably because I wasn’t swimming hard. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Erin or the first couple girls, so I sort of mentally checked out and didn’t even try. I was swimming next to a couple girls with 4 or 5 people in front of us and glanced at my watch at the halfway. I was on pace for a 24-ish. Eh, shit, I can do better than that. So, I made a conscious decision to stop being lame and dropped the people I was swimming with. I, then, swam a zig-zagging line back to the beach. I could see two girls ahead of me and, of course, I was swimming the same speed just farther behind them. Sigh.
I hit the beach and my watch said 25 minutes. SHIT. I have never swum a regular Olympic distance race (like without kelp or anything crazy) that slow, not even when I started triathlon. Then I ran up the long hill — which I had forgotten about — and didn’t get out on my bike until about 29 minutes. Well, there goes my time goals. Sigh.
We biked through a bunch of residential streets for the first few miles and over a lot of bumps and I could hear my brakes rubbing on my front wheel. So, I reached down and opened the brakes up. After a few minutes, it was rubbing again. So, I reached down and pulled the brake caliper to the side. (The brake calipers — the piece that holds the brakes, Mom — had been knocked sideways/loose and were rubbing on the wheel.) And after a minute, it was rubbing again. So, I pulled it to the side again. This went on for like 10 minutes or so. But, I decided I didn’t want to spend the whole bike half-assing it and using this as some kind of excuse. So, I stopped and tried to fix it. One guy passed me while I was stopped, but it mostly seemed fixed. Sigh.
Eh, it is what it is. It’s certainly not the main reason I went slow.
I got back on my bike and tried to actually push it and get in a rhythm. I was kind of up and down and struggling. I couldn’t get comfortable on my seat. I knew I was riding crooked, with my knees pointed all crazy directions. My leg was hurting and not in a good way, in a I think my hamstring is ripping way. And it seemed way hillier and longer than I remembered. It just sucked.
And I saw no one. Not a single person. Where did those girls in front of me go? In a race like this, I would expect that a couple people who swim faster than me wouldn’t know how to ride a bike. They must still be in front of me. I must suck, etc, etc.
I got to the turnaround and there was only Erin and another girl from our team about 3 minutes up on me. Which meant I had made up about a minute, even with all that bullshit. And I thought (mistakenly) that the turnaround was actually halfway, so I thought I was on pace for like a 1:07 bike, which isn’t terrible. So, I started to feel like I could actually do this. I also almost went past the turnaround point before someone was like ‘hey, you should turn.’ Uh, ok.
I felt a lot stronger on the way back. Which was mostly in my head, because in retrospect I really wasn’t that strong. I struggled to hold any decent numbers and there were so many damn hills. I stood a lot on the hills to try to keep my knee from giving out. Apparently, when I passed Steve he thought I was crying, but I wasn’t. It was what it was. Then, when I thought we were almost done, I reached a sign that said 20 miles. I may have almost started crying then; I forgot about this stupid out and back section.
Those last four miles were shit. I don’t even know what I did. At that turnaround, I was still around 3 minutes back on Erin. I was riding so, so crooked, my leg was hitting my chain ring and my knee was hitting my top tube. My knee hurt, my hamstring hurt. I hated my bike.
Tyler Stewart passed me at this point. Which was really not encouraging, since she started 10 minutes behind me.
Finally, after a 1:10 bike split (SHIT! I haven’t biked that slow in a regular Olympic distance race since like my first year of triathlon), I got off my bike and got disoriented. I stopped in the middle of the transition and couldn’t figure out where my stuff was. I let out a string of swear words the likes of which have never before been heard in triathlon. Sigh.
After I grabbed my run stuff, I started sprinting before I had time to think about it. Then, I decided, screw it, I was going to go for it. Run as hard as I could for as long as I could and maybe I’d make it to the finish before that time came. I don’t think I really thought I would actually be able to finish.
I was running fast. Not ‘fast for a triathlon,’ not ‘fast considering the rest of the race.’ I didn’t feel strong and like this was a solid run. I felt like I was in a 5K, where I was about to PR before passing out.
I caught the one girl from my team who had been ahead of me right before the 3 mile mark. Then, I stopped. (Steve has video of this, which he thinks is hilarious.) While I was running, I had no real intention of stopping. And once I was stopped, I had no real intention of starting again. But Steve started yelling at me to come on, I was only a minute behind Erin now. And the girl I passed said, come on, Kelly. So, after 15 seconds or so and some more swearing, I stood up and started running fast again.
[I just thought I was done, ok. I didn’t think I could keep it up anymore, my side was really hurting, I was having trouble breathing, I thought I might throw up. Steve says these are things I should think about while still running. Yes, well.]
I made up about 2 minutes on Erin in the first 5K, which may have been too fast. She still had just over a minute on me at the halfway. But, she picked it up then, and I slowed down a little. It was like now that I could see her, I just wasn’t getting any closer and I couldn’t close the gap. And now that I had decided I was finishing, I wasn’t running with the same abandon. With half a mile to go, I was only about 15 seconds behind her and I should have just gone at that point. Put my head down and kicked as hard as I could. But, I didn’t think I had anything left, I didn’t think I could, I thought we had farther to go, and I didn’t think I would make it to the finish if I tried.
And then the self-doubt passed and she was kicking and looking back at me and I tried to go too, but it was over.
I think I’m done now. I laid down on the ground after crossing the finish line and closed my eyes and just wanted to lay there. In retrospect, my swim was shit, but other people who are similar speeds to me swam similar times, so maybe it was what it was. My bike was certainly not good, but I don’t know how good I could have expected it — maybe 3 or 4 minutes faster. And my run was the second fastest of the day. It was definitely not a fast 10K course, looking at times, maybe it was slightly long? I ran a 41:30, but only Tyler Stewart ran faster, and, well, she’s Tyler fucking Stewart. I was a minute faster than the next fastest run split and some of the people I ran faster than are faster runners than me usually, so that’s good I guess.
Now, I just need to solve this bike/injury/bullshit problem before next year.