Sunday, September 23, 2007

Santa Cruz Sentinel Triathlon

Saturday morning, Leslie, Pam, and I loaded our bikes and our mountains of gear into Pam’s truck and headed down to Santa Cruz for the Sentinel Triathlon. We somehow managed to get the bikes tacked down in the back – the rack only held two bikes, so we had to get creative to make mine and the three front wheels stay in place – and then we stuffed poor Leslie in the back seat with all the rest of our junk. Side note here…this is what I like about marathons – all you need is a pair of running shoes and one outfit. Makes traveling quite a bit easier! Anyway, the drive down was a long one. Not only did it pour most of the way down, but there was also an accident on the highway through the mountains that had us sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for about an hour. All the training had us quite hungry, and the Wheat Thins, while tasty, weren’t really cutting it.

We got to Santa Cruz and magically convened with the rest of the SFRRC members who would be joining us in the race, and we all picked up our race numbers and chips at the “expo”. The reason I put this is quotes is because it was a rather pathetic one. Other than the usual check-in areas, there were just three tents selling random gear. I was actually pretty happy about this lack of hype because I didn’t have time to get all nervous thinking about the race. We picked up our numbers and swim caps, got our cool tech shirts, and then headed to the hotel to check in and get some lunch. After a tasty lunch (I had a great chicken sandwich with avocado and bleu cheese!), we went back to the rooms to rest and go through our stuff and make sure we were ready for the race.

Later in the afternoon we met up with Karl and Wanda and their adorable kids, Taylor and Isaac down at the boardwalk. We got some chocolate and watched the kids on some of the rides, made a quick stop for some bottled water, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We had made a reservation at a place near the boardwalk, but at the last minute, we decided to change it because there weren’t a whole lot of pasta options (and those that they did have were served with cream sauce – not exactly ideal for a pre-race meal!). The eleven of us – Pam, Leslie and Chris, Bob and Judy, Karl and Wanda and their friend Patrick and the kids, and me – ended up back at the hotel restaurant. Most of us had pasta or some other carb-loaded meal, and we talked a little about the race. We also got some unsettling news about the bike course (something about hairpin turns and potholes) that had Leslie and me pretty nervous. But we figured there’s nothing we could do about it until race time, so we tried not to let it bother us too much.

After dinner, we headed up to our rooms where Bob was nice enough to help us pump up our tires a bit – something that we all seem to have some trouble with because all of us had low tire pressure! It was still early, so Pam read and I watched “The Wedding Date” and tried to fall asleep. Fortunately, I managed to sleep pretty well, so the 5am wake-up call wasn’t too much of a shock. We both made it out of bed by about 5:15, and soon after, Leslie came over for breakfast. We got creative with the coffee makers, and we had some oatmeal and coffee (but not without making a HUGE mess!).

We finished getting our stuff together to go over to the transition area where we staked out a good spot that was pretty easy to get in and out of. We all set up our transition areas, and then we headed back to the hotel to chill for a while before going through the whole wetsuit ritual. After watching a little bit of CNN and chatting with Harriet who had come down for the race, we slathered tons of Body Glide on our arms and legs, pulled on our wetsuits, grabbed our caps and goggles (and that was the easy part – see how complicated this tri thing is???) and headed down to the beach. The sand was incredibly cold, which I think was a good thing, because my feet were numb before I even got in the water. We listened to a few instructions from the race directors, and then jumped in for a quick swim.

The water wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d expected, and after a few strokes, I knew that I was going to feel pretty good about the swim. After 5 minutes or so, we got back out and waited for the race start. The first wave was guys 29 and under, which didn’t include any of us, but Karl was in the second wave, and Bob was in the third. As we watched their waves start, this girl next to me leans over and asks, “Is there a reason you all got in and swam before the race?” I tried to hide my shock at her question, and just told her, “Um, to get used to the water before we have to start.” (DUH!!!) She’d obviously never been in the water, or she would know that it basically makes you hyperventilate if you don’t have a strategy that works for you. Then she asked me if I tuck my hair into my swim cap – I was beginning to wonder if she’d ever even been into the pool – so I told her yes, and then, just to be nice, I suggested that she go wet her goggles and make sure that they suction to her face. Salt water in the eyes is not fun! That conversation took my mind off of my upcoming start, and shortly after, it was my turn to line up in the corral.

1.5k (.93mile) SWIM: 30:17

Before I knew it, I was running down the beach and wading into the water. Like I said, the water wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d expected, which was nice. I soon got into a good groove, and did my best to keep my eye on the end of the pier (where we’d make our turn) while avoiding all the flailing arms and legs around me. A couple of people swam right over me, and I think I did the same to a few others, but I managed to get through without any serious injury. I got kicked in the head once, but thankfully I didn’t lose my goggles. The way people were cutting in front of me, I wondered if they had ever learned to sight when they were practicing…I don’t think they ever looked up to see where they were going, and they probably ended up swimming a heck of a lot farther than they needed to (either that, or I was totally off!). It was a really beautiful morning for a swim- the pier looked really cool from the water, the sun was shining, and the sea lions were barking. It felt kind of surreal! We rounded the buoys at the end of the pier and came back on the other side. I thought I had the water exit in my sight, but it turns out that I was a little too far to the right. When I finally made it close enough to stand up, people shouted from the shore to watch for the waves coming from behind. A small one gave me an extra push toward shore, and I took off running through the sand. I made the mistake of taking off my goggles and cap before I took off the top half of my wetsuit, which made it a little bit tricky to take off, but I managed okay. Too bad I look so scary in my picture!

TI: 4:51

I knew this would be a long transition – the distance from the water to the transition area was pretty far, not to mention up a big hill. And we would be running it barefoot! I crossed the mat and ran around the side of the hotel and up the hill toward the transition area (without stubbing any toes). I ran through the kiddie pools to rinse off my feet, and headed toward my bike, but the area was so crowded with bikes that I got stuck behind this older guy who was taking his sweet time, which frustrated me a bit. At my bike, I stepped out of my wetsuit, pulled on my shirt, struggled with my socks and shoes – my feet were still damp even though I had dried them off – and then put on my helmet and sunglasses. It all seemed to go pretty quickly except for the socks part…I definitely need to work on that for next time! I threw a couple of Clif Shot Blocks in my mouth, took a drink, and ran out of the transition area with my bike.

40k (24.8 mile) Bike: 1:22:14

This section went by a LOT faster than I remembered last time. Maybe it’s because it was actually a nice bike course this time around! We did a few twists and turns through Santa Cruz, and then we headed out to Highway 1. We rode all the way out to Davenport on the shoulder of the highway, which I expected to be a little scary (the course was not closed to traffic), but the shoulder was pretty wide in most areas. I was a little wary of passing other cyclists because of the traffic, but most of the drivers were respectful and gave us enough room to get around. I did see a couple of drivers honk at cyclists, which was totally uncalled for, and a few big SUVs seemed to come dangerously close to us, but none of it was enough to completely freak me out. I got passed by a few intimidating cyclists with their super-expensive tri bikes (most of them probably weren’t great athletes, they can just afford $8000 bikes to make themselves SEEM intimidating!), but otherwise I felt like I did alright. The “rollers” that people had talked about looked more like Mount Everest, but I soon found that if I got a lot of speed going down the hill, it was usually enough to get at least halfway up the hill without having to shift into a lower gear. At the turnaround in Davenport, they handed out cool water bottles with the race logo on them, so I grabbed one and stowed it in my extra water bottle cage. That was the only time I felt the least bit uncomfortable on my bike…I almost fell over trying to put the stupid thing away! But I didn’t have time to think about it, because I still had more than 12 miles to go! When we got back to Santa Cruz, we had to do an extra loop, out to some beach, and it would have been nice except that the road in that particular area had, at one time, been cobblestone. The reason I know this is that half of it still IS cobblestone, but they’ve covered it up with asphalt. Trouble is, it still FEELS like cobblestone the entire way, which is not exactly comfortable on the bike. Let’s just say that my hands and my backside were not happy! I really picked it up after that section, and soon I was back at the transition area.

T2: 2:02

I got off my bike and hobbled over to my spot to change my shoes. I threw a couple more Clif Blocks in my mouth, changed my shoes (it’s really hard to tie your shoes when your fingers are numb!), drank some Cytomax, grabbed my race belt, and ran out of the transition area.

10k (6.2 mile) run: 50:26

As soon as I had gotten off my bike, I knew I was home free. I was a little tired, and of course my legs felt like lead from the bike portion, but I know the run is my strongest of the three events. I don’t think I was going particularly fast, but I immediately started passing people. A lot of them I recognized as people who had passed me on the bike. Not it was payback time! I passed a 17-year-old kid who was walking, and I almost told him, “Come on, man! You wanna let all us old ladies pass you???” But I decided I would rather not refer to myself as an old lady, and, well, I wanted to beat the kid!!! The run course was beautiful…most of it ran along a small cliff that sat above a beach, and the slightly rolling terrain was good (especially because it gave me the chance to smoke some dudes on the uphills!). At the turnaround I ate half of a GU, had some water, and headed back into town. I saw Pam, looking strong, shortly after the turnaround, and I knew that Leslie couldn’t be too much farther behind. Surely enough, a few minutes later I saw Leslie and Chris come around the corner – she was looking great too! I kept my sights on the little lighthouse up ahead because I knew that it was less than a mile to the finish line from that spot. I really kicked it into high gear, and I passed a whole group of guys in their 40’s (who actually cheered for me as I passed them!). I knew that if I kept it up, I’d make it in under 2:50. As I approached the finish line, I saw Bob and Harriet, and Adam from Club Run SF yelled at me that it wasn’t worth it if I didn’t sprint across the finish. That final push (Thanks, Adam!) put me across the finish line in 2:49:50.











































Everyone finished really strong, and for the most part, we were all happy with our performance. After the race, we got cleaned up and went to lunch at (guess where??) the hotel restaurant. The burgers and fries never tasted so good – and they were well deserved!

More pictures HERE!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Run Forrest Run 5k

This morning Jack and I got up bright and early and headed down to Santa Clara for Bubba Gump Shrimp Company’s 5k at the Great America theme park (to raise money for the United Way). The drive down was quick thanks to almost non-existent Sunday morning traffic, and we got there with plenty of time to get our race numbers and warm up. I ran 18 miles on Saturday, and so I was planning on making this a pretty easy run - my quads were tight, and I was just plain tired - but as we were standing at the starting line, looking around, we noticed that there weren’t a whole lot of “competitive-looking” runners at this event. Jack helped me size up the competition, and before I knew it, he had talked me into racing the thing. I could only see one woman who was a definite threat, and a few others who looked like they might be hard to beat, and I figured that most of the younger kids would peter out before we made it to the end.

The course: This consisted of a loop through the park, a loop around the parking lot, and another modified loop through the park. It was a pretty easy course, with just a few rolling hills, although it was a little tough running through the park, never knowing when you were finally going to turn the corner that would take you home!

After the national anthem and a cheesy send-off from “Forrest Gump,” we were off.
About a quarter mile into it, I was wishing that I had just taken it easy – my quads were burning, and I really just wanted to stop. I knew that the one woman I had suspected as a threat was in the lead, and there were a couple of teenage girls in front of me too. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to catch up to them, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let a bunch of ten-year-olds kick my butt! So I dug deep and somehow found it in me to run through the burn. I spent a good quarter of a mile trying desperately to lose one little girl…she kept cutting me off, which just fueled me even more. If it had been the end of the race, it might have been warranted, but it was still the first mile!

As we exited the park, I realized how much I was going to hate the parking lot portion of the race. I could see way more of the course than I like to see at once – little rollers all the way around what looked like a never-ending expanse of asphalt. Granted, at this point I could finally count all of the women in front of me – I picked off one little girl and a teenager, which left three more: the one fast lady, a young girl, probably 10 years old, and another girl who was probably 13 or so. The father of one of the little kids was out there, yelling the whole time we were in the parking lot – I can’t be sure if he was yelling at the little girl that I had picked off or at the little boy who managed to pass me in the parking lot, but either way, I wanted to hunt him down after the race and kick his ass. He was one of THOSE parents. You all know the kind - the obnoxious ones who always show up at sporting events. Sooo annoying!!! But once again, it gave the fuel I needed to make sure that those girls didn’t come back to pass me.

When we came back into the park, the guy was up on the hill, yelling at his kid to watch his form – "Shoulders relaxed, head straight, pelvis forward!!!" – and as much as I wanted to knock him down on my way past, I was grateful for this reminder because I was getting pretty tense. Now all I had to do was make it back through the park one more time. I was happy to see that the route had been modified, and that we didn’t have to do the full loop that we had done before. Unfortunately, with about a half mile to go, this woman came out of nowhere and passed me. I tried to latch onto her, but I knew I didn’t have it in me. A few guys surged past me in the final stretch, and after one more push, I came through the gates and saw the clock ahead of me. Mind you, I didn’t have a watch this whole time – I ran purely on feel and the determination not to get my ass kicked by a bunch of kids! When I saw the clock, my jaw dropped. “No effing way!” The final sprint put me across the finish line in 21:10 – a TWO-MINUTE PR!!! That’s a 6:48 pace, and my first sub-7:00 race ever. Needless to say, I was in total shock!

After I crossed the finish line, another guy came from behind and slipped in front of me – the finish line people and I yelled at him and one of the guys was nice enough to make sure that my tag got collected first since I had crossed before him. I caught my breath, got some water, and went back to the finish line to wait for Jack. A couple minutes later, he came barreling through, finishing in around 25:14 (still waiting on the official time for him because neither of us can remember what it was!). It was a great performance on his part too!

After the race, we got some food and stuck around for the awards ceremony – I ended up coming in 5th overall for the women and first in my age group. I think I need to do these smaller races more often! The prizes somehow got screwed up, and they made ribbons for the 20-39 bracket rather than doing 20-29 and 30-39, so I didn’t end up bringing anything home, but they said they would send my ribbon and prize later. I’m hoping I get the Run Forrest Run license plate instead of a flashing cup or box of chocolates (God knows I don’t need those)!

Jack and I spent the rest of the morning hanging out at Great America (we got in free as part of the race entry) – he even managed to get me on ALL the roller coasters, which weren’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated (I used to be terrified of roller coasters, but these were fun!). I hear they’re not as good as most other theme parks, but it was a good intro anyway!

It was a great day, and this run was a huge boost for my confidence with CIM coming up in a few months. The next five weekends are going to be super busy with the Sentinel Oly Tri in Santa Cruz, a possible appearance at the TI2Y swim under the Bay Bridge, my high school reunion, the San Jose half marathon, and Nike Women's Marathon. Once that's over, I'll peak for CIM, and then it's taper time. It's going to be here before I know it, and I can't wait!