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.

Race Report: Alcatraz II

OK, I know this was like way back on Sunday and no one cares anymore, but I’ve been working 60 hours a week at least, and most of that work is writing things on my computer. Which means I don’t have a lot of time to write on my computer for fun.

The second Alcatraz went better than the first. So, there’s that. And I had a lot of fun — which is a first in a while.

But, it’s definitely one thing to know that your bike fitness sucks and another to actually experience it.

We dove off a boat early, early. Actually, I was going to jump, but someone convinced me to dive. Only, there we were standing on this like 6-inch ledge and then ohmygodfiveseconds and I was like ‘wait, am I diving? am I jumping? am I diving at the same time as everyone else or should I wait?’ So, in the video on TriCal’s website you can see someone sort of wait a second and then bellyflop/dive, then stop and empty their goggles of all the water that filled them. That person was me.

This is the only picture I made it into on Slowtwitch. I’m not sure if I was falling on Courtenay or hitting her with my wetsuit.

The thing that was amazing about the swim was that after I started swimming there were still pink caps around me! It was choppy. I couldn’t see anything, no idea what direction or landmarks or lead boat we were aiming at, then the age-group men started punching us just to add to a challenge. But, I’ll be damned if anyone was going to separate me from those other pink caps!

When the shit cleared, I was swimming with two other pink caps [actually I was swimming into them, then 10 feet to the right, then back into them] and I was pretty sure one of them was Charisa (who I’m 100% sure is faster than me) and I was feeling pretty good. But, after awhile it became clear all those age group swimmers were gone because they were way, way over to the right. And we had aimed straight and were nowhere near the line headed to the actual finish. I tried to head us that direction, but I kept running back into the other two. And, then, I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to worry about the age-groupers to my right (far to my right) or my time. Maybe it was stupid, but these two were my competitors. If I was with them, I was in the race. This was my race.

We finally hit the exit stairs and I’m a super fast getter-out-of-the-water — it’s really my best triathlon skill — and I got to my bike first. But, I don’t (know how to) do flying mounts and followed the other two out onto the bike.

The bike was good for about 20 minutes. Except for the part I almost ran into a curb because I was shaking water out of my ear.

This was right after that:

Then, right after that Charisa passed me. Then, she really, really dropped me on the downhill.

I knew that my bike fitness wasn’t good — I rode like 120 miles all of last month in no chunk longer than 25 miles — but I didn’t realize that my bike handling was also gone.

I braked on the gradual, sweeping descent. I practically came to a dead-stop in a wide open turn, freaking out all the people behind me. Partially, it’s because I haven’t been riding. Partially, it’s because the stupid carbon brakes I put on my bike turned out not to be carbon brakes really at all (which, obviously, is my fault and dumb). Partially, it’s because I got in my own head then and started freaking out.

Charisa dropped me. Lots of age group men passed me. This girl from Navy passed me. At the first turn-around, I saw another PacBikes girl ahead of me and could NOT figure out who it was or why they were ahead of me. Then, Courtenay passed me just after halfway. (And I didn’t realize she was only two minutes behind me after the swim, so I thought she’d made up like three or four minutes in just 12 miles.)

Then, I had a little pity party.

I braked some more at random points where no braking was needed. I whined in my head. I also forgot how to eat a gel while riding and just poured it all over my handlebars instead. I just wanted to get off my bike — a totally understandable sentiment after 4 or 5 hours but not so good after 1 hour. Then, with about a mile or two to go, Kristen passed me too.

I didn’t give up, though.

I knew my biking was going to suck. I didn’t know it was going to be the slowest of the pro field, but I probably should have known. So, I just put my head down and rode next to Kristen. [Evidently, with the pro drafting rules, we’re allowed to ride next to people as long as our drafting zones do not intersect?]

As I rode into the transition, I realized the PacBikes girl ahead of me was Erin and she had like two minutes on me. And I realized, Kristen and I were right next to each other. Which is like a personal nightmare of mine. I hate having people breathing down my neck.

I felt like crying getting off my bike. My legs felt trashed. In the first mile, I didn’t know how I was going to finish 7 miles.

But, I didn’t give up. (This is huge for me.) And I just started running to put as much space as possible between me and Kristen. And, then I just kept running, waiting for her to pass me. I figured it would be any second. Eventually, Erin came into view and I just focused on slowly catching her.

Then, I realized we were running downhill and I was loving running downhill and everyone I saw was cheering for me and I knew lots of people from PacBikes and GGTC and the people I teach swim clinics to and other racers. And, I realized I was having fun. Who knew.

So, I kept running strong and caught Erin, talked to her a little bit, caught this other girl, held off Kristen and finished by running as hard as I could. [Steve says it would be hilarious to show a video of me running ‘as hard as I can’ at the end of a triathlon. It’s be like 7:45 miles and me swearing I was sprinting.] And, sure, I did not have a fast pro run split. But, I don’t know how much I can worry about that. I ran my race and I stayed in it mentally and did what I needed to do.

And I ended up 9th. And I won my first paycheck. And that’s me on the stage:

It wasn’t an amazing race. It wasn’t even a great race. But, I actually raced and didn’t just participate. Which was a nice change. And I felt like the “fire,” so to speak, was coming back. And, considering how shit my biking was when usually it’s my best leg, it wasn’t a bad race to pull out of my ass. (Not really out of my ass, because I’ve been running A LOT.)

So, we’ll see how the rest of the season goes. Or if there is even a rest of the season. Making the judgement calls on a week by week basis.

I live here because it DOESN’T get to be 107 degrees

OK, this is going to be short while I’m lunching, because my site (see, Loren, I linked to it) requires constant attention and work. Fun.

Tuesday we had a record high heat wave here. If I had known it was going to reach 107 degrees I would have actually gotten out of bed at 6:55am and gone for my run instead of laying there for another hour and a half.

Instead, I had a lot of work to do after I did get up and things came up and I almost lost it driving home in the car where the air-conditioning doesn’t work very well. It just kept blowing hot air in my face and the driver’s window doesn’t roll down and my jeans felt so, so heavy and hot and OHMYGOD I just need to get these pants off. I almost took them off at a light because I was so hot, but I didn’t. Oh well.

Finally, I got home, laid on the couch in the cool 80 degree house and tried to motivate myself to go for a run at 1:45 in the afternoon.

In the shade or when there was a small breeze, the run really wasn’t so bad. But, when it died down and the sun was beating, I could feel the heat rolling up and beating me in the face and the air started to get shimmery.

I had originally planned on doing some miles at the track at my half-marathon pace. I’m smart enough to realize that six of them was not really going to happen. But, evidently, I’m not smart enough to realize that none of it was going to happen.

So, I actually ran down to the track. It’s just under two miles from my house. And, after a few minutes standing in the shade to regroup, I actually ran one tempo mile. And I actually ran it in 6:52. And, then I stood in the shade and poured another whole water bottle over my head and drank another whole water bottle. And, then, I revised the goal of ‘run TWO miles’ to ‘ok, run ONE mile and TWO 800s’. And, I actually started the first 800.

But, I made it about 300m and the heat was rolling up off the track and the breeze dies down on the back stretch and it felt like the heat was melting me into the track.

It was nasty.

On my stumble back the two miles home, I stopped at this water playground cooling station for kids and just stood in one of those water play things while the kids ran around the crazy, bright-red lady and the parents worried they might have to save me from drowning in the one tablespoon of water.

In case you were keeping tabs…

I think this picture is before my knee blew up during the race.

It hasn’t gotten better, in case you were wondering. Last Thursday, I rode an hour and a half and it blew out again. Since then I’ve just been a combination of freaking out and icing and going to doctors and freaking out some more.

I figured I’d just get faster at swimming and running, but everything is so sore it feels like it’s just getting worse and worse. My knee had never hurt except the few times cycling. Badly. Then, it was sore some running. Now, I don’t even know — it hurts sitting here.

(P.S. It’s not really my knee. I mean it is the outside of my knee, but it’s really my IT insertion coming down from my hip.)

I think I’ll go back to freaking out now.

Race Report: first half ugly but done

I did my first half-Ironman yesterday in 5:12, which is somewhere between 12 and 22 minutes slower than I was hoping to do it in. I finished, but even that was in doubt for large sections.

Despite worries about how hot it was going to be, it was actually really foggy and cold at the start, which made the 76 degree water feel even warmer. Then, the gun went off without any kind of count-down or warning. I thought briefly about stopping to start my watch, but just started swimming instead.

The swim was really mellow, because there was no sprinting at the start. I found myself in a front group — I thought there might be one girl up the river but then I thought we caught her. I swam the whole race right next to one girl and we were on the feet of another girl, who was on the feet of another girl. At points it was weird, because here we are in the front(ish) group, swimming hard, and the water is so shallow we’re having to swim through and around slower people from waves that started before who were walking and looking down at us.

The swim didn’t even feel hard. I’ve never had a group that perfect and I was amazed I was swimming so well given I’ve only been swimming about 5,000-6,000 yards a week.

Of course, about 3/4 of the way through I started to realized I’ve only been swimming 5,000-6,000 yards a week. I got pretty tired and hot. But, then we were done. And the clock said 29:45 as I came out.

No problem.

I started the bike and felt great for awhile. I thought I was having the most amazing race ever.

The bike was the part I was really worried about. Since getting my time trial bike back two months ago, I’ve been having bad fit problems. I got it fit, then my knee started really bothering me to the point that I hurt it so badly I couldn’t run or ride for a week or so. Then, I was supposed to just ride my road bike and focus on addressing my biomechanical problems. But, if I’m twisting one direction on the bike and I try to force myself not to then essentially I forcing against the limits of where the bike is set. So, that hurt my ankle really badly one week and it hurt my knee to the extent that I couldn’t even pedal the last 4 miles of a long ride.

All this meant that I haven’t ridden my time trial bike longer than 45 minutes. Obviously, planning to ride it for a half was an awesome plan.

I was riding great, though. Maybe too hard at some points at the beginning. There are a bunch of races at the same time — a full Ironman, an aquabike, relays — which meant I was passing lots of people but had no idea what race they were in. I caught the one girl who was ahead of me about halfway through. She would pass me, then I would pass her. We even talked a little: neither of us had any idea how much was left.

Then, I thought I dropped her. And I went up a hill that I thought was “the big hill” at mile 45. Sweet! I was totally on pace for a sub-2:40 bike.

Then, my knee blew out.

I could barely get my leg over the pedal. I couldn’t spin at all. It’s the outside of my knee, which sometimes pops when you walk up and down stairs after a long run, but it just popped and hurt so much. My legs suddenly were done. My wattage dropped.

THEN, I actually hit the hill at mile 45. Crap. And the girl passed me again.

I don’t really know how I made it to the finish. I was pedaling like 130 watts — which is crazy low. Steve was out biking the course and he biked up next to me and was all ‘You look great!’ And I was like ‘I. Have. To. Get. Off. This. Bike. NOW.’

I biked a 2:47. In my slowest imagination, I figured I wouldn’t bike slower than a 2:45. Oh well.

I was waddling after I got off my bike, but was just happy to be done. I’ve been running so strong lately; I figured I still just needed to run a 1:41 to break 5 hours and I was sure I could do it.

I started out running and after a mile or two felt good. I was the 4th woman on the road and could see the women far ahead on me. I ran one down and had made up about 2 minutes on another. Steve was biking around the run course and he kept saying things like, “You actually look like a runner.” I felt great!

Then, around mile 6 I stopped gaining on the woman in front of me, but I was still running pretty strong. I stopped at an aid station just to get some water and all of a sudden I really wanted a cookie.

Then mile 6 – 9 got ugly. I started stopping at every aid station: cookies, nectarines, oranges. I slowed down some for a mile or two. I just wanted to quit, didn’t want to be doing this anymore. I was going to quit as soon as I saw Steve.

I think in the future I may have to make a rule: from mile 6 – 9 no slowing down just because you feel shitty.

At mile 9, we looped back through the start/finish. And I made another picnic stop at the aid station and decided I’d finish. It was only 2 more miles out and then turnaround. I can run 2 miles.

I was still running sub-8 minute miles or so when I was running and I started to feel a lot better. But, then I was spending 3 or 4 minutes at every aid station. And there was an aid station at every mile. Do the math. I did skip one in aid station in the last 3 miles, so that’s a plus I guess.

I was just so hungry. And I did not want any more gels or blocks or Gatorade. I wanted food. I started wondering if the next station would have apples. Or maybe a sandwich. It was bizarre.

On the plus side, I only walked at the aid stations. And I didn’t start crying. So that’s good.

On the down side, it took me 1:53 to run the half-marathon.

I’ve been on such a boom and bust cycle. Train really hard, then out for a month. Do a race massively undertrained. Train really hard, then out for a month. Do a race massively undertrained. Fun.

I’m ready to actually be ready to race for real.


How does one prepare for one’s first (actual) half-Ironman at the same time you’re launching a website? Mostly, you don’t train much this week, eat a lot of desserts and practice your mental self-talk.

The run at the race is two loops and when I was doing my short run today, which was about as far as it’ll be to the first turnaround on Saturday, I started thinking about two loops. Really, when I was halfway through my run I was halfway to the turnaround point, which is halfway through the first lap, but the first lap is WAY more than halfway done with the half-marathon, because the second loop is much shorter. So, really, I was pretty much almost done with the run.

Practice saying shit like that until you almost believe it. Also practice: “I am the slowest person ever, everyone is laughing at me. I will look so dumb if I don’t go faster.”

This guy (for this story in the newspaper about me and triathlon) was asking me what I tell myself during races and I said I tell myself that I am the slowest person ever, no one has ever swum slower than me, I suck, everyone else is already done and I’ve been left out here to drown. And he was like haha, what do you tell yourself then, how do you bounce back? And I was just like uh, no, that’s pretty much it.

Steve and I have also made the scientific determination that I eat more desserts than anyone we know. I’ve realized I probably need to cut back on the bowls of melted cookie dough. I mean I’m not stupid enough not to know why I feel like shit after eating a bowl of cookie dough, but I am stupid enough to do it again. I was telling my dad that all the really fast girls are like 10-15 pounds lighter than me and he said, “But, how fast do you really want to be?”

Fair point.

Races and writing and things

This morning I did my second “race” in three days. Then, I spent the last 6 hours working on stories for the launch of my site (which happens this Friday).

My brain is now fried. I was trying to come up with the phrase “…but after extensive opposition…” but I couldn’t think of the word “opposition,” to the point that I went and made food and came back and still had “…but after extensive concerns…” Hmm, can you extensively concern?

This is, of course, on top of my parents visiting this past week, me trying to write and report a ton, trying to get other people to write (yo, deadline means due on THAT day), and training — sorta.

I did finally get pictures of the lakes where I love running, since we went for a nice walk and I actually carried a camera. Crazy.

Not bad, huh?

And this was before my dad fell down a hill:

We also went to the Academy of Science on Thursday night for Nightlife, which is like ‘Hey, drinks and a DJ, now the museum is a coool place to be!’

The butterflies and birds were going nuts too, because it was night or something. This giant butterfly (the kind with the owl eye on the wing) started swooping and I had to resist not ducking. Like, holy shit, that thing could kill us!

This was not that butterfly:

Oh, and the “races”?

I showed up to a Tamalpa race on Friday without any idea how long it was. Figured they’re all kind of the same distance. I planned to make it part of a long run/tempo workout, so 6.5 miles, then 3.75 mile (-or something) race, then long cooldown. I didn’t win. SIGH. But, it was a good effort and I felt good. Except, of course, for the part where I thought ‘oh my god, I suck, this is really fucking painful, everyone’s passing me, I should just quit, I’m so slow.’


Then, this morning, I did the Tiburon Triathlon. It’s the kind of race where if you want to be in the first wave you have to give them a reason. I think I wrote, “Because I’m fast” when I did the race two years ago.

The race was weird. I never saw anyone else until this guy passed me running 5:30 miles in the middle of the run.

I swam pretty much the same as when I did it two years ago, even though two years ago I stopped and took my goggles off and put them back on, and this time I actually tried to swim hard. But since they say that they don’t measure the course and it’s not accurate, I don’t think I can care too much.

I biked almost the exact same too, even though two years ago I thought I was awesome and this year I thought I was sucking. So. It took me a good five minutes of “OHMYGODTHISISPAINFUL, how am I ever going to be able to keep up this pace, this is stupidly hurtful” then I sort of settled in. Who knows. It’s pretty much a result of not racing at all this year, so I don’t know my pace. Though, it turns out my pace exactly matches the cadence of “Part of Your World” from the Little Mermaid, which I sang in my head the whole time.

The one thing I did a lot faster is run. I ran a 12:03 sorta two-mile at the end of the race and I felt good. My one memory of this race from two years ago is Steve telling me to keep it up and me NOT feeling good and running quite a bit slower.

I went a minute faster overall than before and only 6 guys beat me. I also out-kicked (hard) a 14-year-old boy because I thought he was a girl about to beat me. Then, I almost threw up.

No idea if I’m in shape for a half-Ironman or not — especially given the longest I’ve ridden my TT bike is 45 minutes. Guess we’ll see.