Monday, April 27, 2015

IM Canada: Week 11 – Chen’s version (i.e., It’s all about the Benjamins, baby… just one, though. One Benjamin.)

Posted by Chen

Well, if last week was an unintentional cutback week, this week was anything but. The last seven days included nearly 18 hours of training, including a solid tempo run, a weekday brick workout, my fastest swim yet, and my highest volume weekend yet (20 mile run and 100 mile ride).

On a related note, this week also included consumption of approximately 26,000 calories, and no, that is not an exaggeration. I’ve been tracking my intake throughout this training cycle, and I pulled that number straight from my spreadsheet. If competitive endurance eating were a sport, I might have a chance to go pro at something.

As Rachel mentioned, the week concluded with our first century ride on Sunday. Primavera is a pretty low-key event, but it’s extremely well organized (thanks, volunteers!) and well stocked with lots of supplies and delicious goodies. I was actually quite nervous going into the event given that my last long ride (85 miles) was six weeks earlier, not to mention the fact that I had just completed a 20-mile run less than 10 hours beforehand.

Aside: If you’re wondering why I made such an irrational life choice, it’s because 1) if you know me, you’ll know I’m generally pretty good at making irrational training decisions, 2) I had wanted to run 20 while I was in NC, but as you saw, the battle between myself and the triple threat of heat, humidity, and hangovers ended in defeat, and 3) it was either this weekend or next weekend, and I have plans to be reuniting with my high school friends in Nashville next weekend, where I’d prefer to be drunk and happy. So Saturday it was – these are the choices we make while IM training :-P.

Anyway, back to the ride, we kept our pace relatively conservative knowing that a nice long climb would be waiting for us between miles 85-90 (good practice for the final climb at Whistler!), and overall, I felt pretty good. Much to my surprise, the 20-miler never took much of a toll, which I credit to the 4000 calories I ate on Saturday and the additional 2300 I ate while riding. If only the water stops at Whistler included custom-made sandwiches, fresh strawberries, and ice cream bars…

Looking ahead, May will be an extremely busy month on the traveling front, which means that my usual weekly pattern of build-build-build-cutback may need to change into more of a workout-whenever-you-can-slash-whenever-you’re-not-hungover methodology. I’ve been spoiled so far and have been able to plan my life around my training, so it will certainly be interesting to see how I fit everything in!

IM Canada Week 11 Recap:

  • PM: Trainer ride with speed intervals (20-min warm-up; 80-min of 1-min on, 1-min off, where speed intervals increased in speed over time, starting at ~15mph, ending at 19+mph): 26.2 miles 1:40:33 (15.6mph). I liked looking at my data afterwards because it looked like an oddly-shaped comb #datanerd

  • PM: Bay Trail run with 2x3-mile tempo. This was by far the best run I’ve had in the last couple of months. I was afraid tri training had somehow erased any speed I’d previously had, so this run helped reassure me that I’m not yet a total turtle. 9.15 miles total (~7:33 average pace); Splits: 8:03 (warm-up), 7:32, 7:22, 7:17, 7:59 (recovery), 7:27, 7:16, 7:11, 7:54 (cool down), 7:30 (0.15, cool down)
  • Immediately followed by swimming 3000 yards (swim/pull ladder, average pace of 1:52/100yd). This swim was downright COMICAL. Given my travels to London and NC last week, this was my first swim in 10 days, and it was as if I’d just undone many, many weeks of work with my time off. Everything felt ridiculously wonky, so much so that my first pull time was faster than my first swim time (context, I’m the worst puller ever, and my times rarely come close to my swim times). Luckily, this setback would be short-lived…
  • PM: Swimming 3000 yards doing the same swim/pull ladder as Tuesday (average pace of 1:48/100yd). While still not back to normal, this was already a considerable improvement over the previous day’s disaster.
  • AM: Very easy brick trainer ride: 14 miles 1:05:30 (12.8mph – I wasn’t kidding about the “very easy” part)
  • AM: Brick run including 3@GMP: 5.1 miles (~8:19 pace, GMP miles: 7:55, 7:57, 7:56)
  • PM: Swimming 3000 yards doing the same swim/pull ladder (average pace of 1:47/100yd). At this point, I deemed myself recovered from the great swim drought of 2015.
  • PM: Swimming 3000 yards, including 4x500 in 8:52, 8:43, 8:46, 8:41 and 10x100 in 1:39, 1:38, 1:38, 1:37, 1:37, 1:37, 1:37, 1:36, 1:35, 1:34 (average pace of 1:43/100yd) – fastest overall swim yet!
  • PM: Golden Gate Park long run: 20.2 miles (~8:33 pace)
  • AM/PM: Primavera Century Ride: 100.3 miles, 5500+ feet of gain, 14.8mph

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rachel's IM Canada training: week 11 (of 24)

Posted by Rachel

The (training) highlight of this week happened today- my first 100 mile ride! It was an organized ride in Fremont that I would highly recommend to others (Primavera Century). In terms of volume, it didn't seem that much longer than 85 miles, although having 4 rest stops and several meals worth of food during the ride probably helped. In addition to 940 cals of energy food that I carried on the bike, I ate half a banana, 3 bags of chips, a pickle, a sandwich, a cookie, and an ice cream bar. The great thing about biking is that you can eat a lot of solid foods and just keep going. I'm not sure if runners can do this- although, ultra runners, am I wrong?

We love biking on Vineyard Rd!

The rest of the week went well, but I'm looking forward to the step back.

am- 5000 yard endurance swim (felt great, even at the end!)
pm- 1 hr trainer ride/ Trainer Road Owl (15.2 mi)

8 mile run @ goal marathon pace (7:49) {I have a goal of breaking 3:30 in the marathon someday in my life. However, I will not be running a marathon in 2015 (except in the Ironman)}

Commute, 29.7 miles, ~2400 ft, 13.7 mph. This is the third week doing this ride and each week, the wind gets worse and worse and my pace gets slower and slower. Oh well :)

am- 45 min spin class (13 mi) + 15 min core class
pm- 6.5 mile run (8:24)

master's swim practice (3800 yards). The coach did something really interesting- put a bunch of sprints up front then gave the workout. Normally sprints are at the end; the change-up was challenging but good!

12.5 miles (8:26)

100 mile ride (~5600 ft, 14.8 mph, 1 billion calories).

Foods eaten after biking that will not be consumed in T2:
Kimchi tacos.

Next week is a multiple of four... which means STEP BACK! I'm going to cook dinner, actually shop for some much needed work tops, and go to Target for some things we're currently lacking (basics such as toothpaste, etc (we're not completely out, don't worry)). It will be glorious.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

IM Canada: Week 10 – Chen’s version (i.e., the unintentional cutback week)

Posted by Chen

Sorry for the delay, folks – I was traveling all last week to London (for work) and Holden Beach, NC (for a good college friend’s wedding). Since I’m still catching up from a week away from the office, I don’t have time for a lengthy post, but what I will say is that IM training while traveling is… an adventure.

I’m actually pretty happy with what I was able to fit in, but when all was said and done, last week was essentially a cutback week. A really light cutback week. Four runs; 2 easy bikes; no swims. But when you consider that I instead spent my time checking out one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever been to and reconnecting with my closest college friends, I’m A-OK with my choices.

This week is a new week, and it has already seen some pretty solid workouts. And it will conclude with our very first century ride on Sunday! Recap to come, but in the meantime, I leave you with a pictorial summary of my travels:


Took this picture of a random building while I was walking home from a work dinner the first night. But look! The British flag!

Quintessential phone booth seen on my morning run around Hyde Park on Tuesday. One of my favorite pictures ever taken.

I took a walking tour of the area on Wednesday afternoon. Trafalgar Square was stop #1.

Stop #2: The River Thames

Stop #3: Tower Bridge. Turns out I always thought this was the London Bridge. Incorrect. The London Bridge is actually pretty boring looking.

Stop #4: The Mall. It was unusually warm and sunny that evening, and seemingly all of London was outside either in parks or in outdoor pubs with drinks in hand. Well played, London. Well played.

Stop #5: The Eye

Stop #6: Buckingham Palace. Yeah, I'd live here.

Holden Beach, NC

The college boys playing football while the girls chilled in the ocean. Literally. It was really cold.

View of our beach house while walking back from the ocean. Each house had its own private walkway out.

The reception area for the wedding. And yes, people did end up in the pool by the end of the night, but only intentionally.

A (small) part of the awesome crew. Love these guys!

IM Canada Week 10 Recap:

  • PM: Easy stationary ride (at an LA Fitness in London – who knew LA Fitness was international??): 15.5 miles (17.3mph)
  • AM: Easy run around Hyde Park: 6 miles (~8:31 pace). This was a hybrid of running and being an obnoxious tourist, as I was stopping seemingly every five feet to capture the next “OMG I NEED A PICTURE OF THAT” scene.
  • PM: Easy stationary ride (again at the Piccadilly LA Fitness): 18.6 miles (16.6mph)
  • (I also walked over 6 miles in flats that weren’t yet broken in, so I figure that has to count for SOME kind of training :-P)
  • AM: Easy run around Hyde Park: 5.55 miles (~8:45 pace). My legs were SUPER heavy the whole time, and I was definitely feeling the effects of travel / jetlag / minimal sleep.
  • PM: Long run in Holden Beach, NC: 16 miles (~9:01 pace). This was one of the hardest runs I’ve had in a long time. It was hot; it was humid, and I was moderately hungover (thanks, college friends). I thought the flat road and beach house scenery would be quaint and charming, and it really was… for about 2 miles. That got real old real quick-like, and soon I was looking at my watch every 0.1 miles wishing I were done. At some point, it started down pouring, which was a welcome relief from the heat and humidity, but it turned the path I was running on into a straight up river. That combined with the fact that I only had 16 ounces of water on me for the whole run made me call it quits at mile 16 instead of 20. Still glad I toughed it out for as long as I did, though, because it’s runs like this that I’ll have to pull from when I’m grunting through the marathon in Canada.
  • PM: Group run in Holden Beach, NC! 5 miles (~8:25 pace). My college friends and I somehow manage to do some kind of group workout at every gathering, no matter what our hangover level. These are always my favorite.
  • Rest (unplanned). I had originally planned to ride the trainer upon returning home from SF, but I somehow got a really gnarly calf cramp as I was getting off the plane at SFO. Not wanting to be the one who held up the deplaning efforts, I continued to walk really quickly down the jet bridge. This resulted in the calf cramp not going away all night (and a bruise the next morning!), and I couldn’t even walk without limping, so I finally conceded to the hectic week and took a rest day. You win this one, life…

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rachel's IM Canada training: week 10 (of 24)

Posted by Rachel

This week was relatively uneventful in terms of training-related things. My weekly summary:

6.5 miles easy run (no watch). Decided to skip track/tempo to thank my body for a great job at the swim meet :P

Bike commute home from work- 29.7 miles, 14.0 mph, ~2400 ft. The headwind was brutal this week.

am- 5000 yard endurance swim
pm- 1 hour trainer ride/ Trainer Road Bird. I actually had a work dinner at 5:30 pm (3 hours earlier than my normal dinner) and did this interval ride after. I learned that you can bike much easier than run or swim after a large meal. Actually, to be honest, I didn't even notice that I had eaten- no cramps or stomach discomfort.

am- 45 min spin class + 15 min core class
pm- 6.5 mile run (8:25)

3500 yard swim @ master's practice

71.7 mile bike ride w/ 6200 ft climbing, 13.8 mph, including the beastly section of Pinehurst TWICE. It actually wasn't that bad, but I began the ride very conservatively.

Since this blog entry is pretty boring, I'll throw some food blogging in. We made some homemade pizzas Saturday that turned out great!

20 mile run @ 8:34 pace. I decided to run "hills" (~700 ft total climbing), despite the draw of a gorgeous run along the water (Bay Trail). I should probably have gone slower because my legs were TIRED at the end, but it's too late now. I can try to be more reasonable during my next long run- lesson learned for the IM.

To replace some calories, I ended the week with some chocolate chunk cookies.

One more week until step back- I'm looking forward to it this time but have to get through my first century first! I hope this post didn't put everyone to sleep. I'll leave you with the following question: how many cookies eaten in one day would be too many?

Monday, April 13, 2015

IM Canada: Week 9 – Chen’s version (i.e., Napa HITS 70.3 Race Recap; AKA, that time I helped file a police report in the middle of a race)

Posted by Chen

I’m officially a triathlete, folks! I’ll get to the police report in a bit, but first, let’s start at the beginning… (Warning: this will DEFINITELY be my longest blog post to-date, so grab a bottle of wine or two).


I worked from home Friday morning, and then Paige and I left SF at noon to start the journey up to Lake Berryessa in Napa. We had to stop at Sports Basement first to get some Honey Stinger Waffles as well as screws that were long enough to secure both my water bottle holder and bike pump. That’s right, kids – I’ve been doing all of my rides to-date without a bike pump. And now you know why I don’t bike alone.

Anyway, the journey up to the race site was a lot longer than I’d anticipated, as it primarily consisted of small, local, winding roads. The roads were so winding that they started to make me nauseous, which made me nervous, considering we’d have to traverse the same roads in order to get to the race the next morning (Lake Berryessa is pretty far away from civilization, so the closest hotel I could find was 45 minutes away in St. Helena).

On the bright side, I got to preview part of the bike course during the ride and was able to scope out the hills. Lots of large rollers, but no crazy climbs like the ones we do in the East Bay every weekend. Good sign.

The drive ended up taking so long that we arrived just as the athlete’s meeting was ending. Slight bummer, but we couldn’t have left any earlier given my work meetings, so I didn’t let it stress me out. After I picked up my race packet and dropped off Bert the Bike, we walked to the water to scope out the buoys and course. I also felt the water to see how cold it was, and while brisk, it wasn’t any worse than Aquatic Park was a few weeks ago. Excellent.

All racked and ready. Except not, because I would soon learn that I had racked incorrectly.

After browsing the expo for tri gear (nabbed myself a new Coeur tri kit that I’ve been eyeing!), we headed to our hotel to check in and get some dinner. Our hotel happened to be right next to a Chinese Restaurant that turned out to be delicious and was just what I needed pre-race.

All of the noms.

After dinner, we settled in with a bottle of wine and got sucked into watching “A Time to Kill” on TV. I had somehow never seen it before and really wanted to see how it ended, but I decided that getting some sleep before 70.3 was probably a good idea. I set my alarm for 4am and managed to fall asleep very quickly. It was weird to me that I didn’t have any pre-race nerves, but I wasn’t complaining.


Race morning

I slept really well but snapped awake at 3:30am, and I could tell I wouldn’t be falling back asleep. So instead of trying to get 30 more minutes of half-@$$ed shut-eye, I instead started the process of getting ready. I had packed everything I needed for the race into two bags the night before, so I just had to do my thang in the bathroom, eat baguette, and sunscreen and Body Glide the crap out of myself.

We hit the road around 5:10am and arrived at the race site at 6am, which I thought would be plenty of time. Turns out you need a lot more time before a tri than you do before a run. Duly noted for next time.

I got to my area and started to set up, and as I did, another racer who was in my row arrived and started looking quizzically around. I realized that I may have placed my crap in the wrong spot, so I asked him if he knew how things should be arranged. He also had no idea, but then another racer told us how things were supposed to go.  Bench to the left; bike to the right; bin with the bike in it is yours. I had put my bike across the way from my bench, which in retrospect didn’t make any sense and was all wrong. And that’s why everyone should attend the athlete’s meeting :-P.

Once that mix-up was resolved, I quickly laid everything out, hit the porta-potty one last time, got body-marked, and put my wetsuit on just in time before the transition area closed at 6:40am.

The race-provided swim cap was way smaller than the one I normally use, and I feared it would fall right off. My noggin is gigantic.

I had heard from others that warming up before the swim can help prevent panic attacks, so I headed down to the dock, walked right into the water, and swam a few dozen yards before coming back in. The warm-up was fine, and I felt surprisingly calm.


The swim

After a brief athlete’s meeting to review the course, it was time to start. I had wanted to start in the back / outside to avoid all other forms of human life, but because of where I stood for the athlete’s meeting, I got stuck right in the middle of the pack (still on the outside, but in the middle between the fast and slower swimmers). I would have just waited for everyone else to go in, but then I would have been blocking people, so I decided to just go.

Lake Berryessa. We took off to the right of the right dock and came back to the left of the left dock. One big loop around 4 big buoys.

I followed my fellow swimmers into the water, started my Garmin, and started swimming. Everything was going just fine for the first few hundred yards, and I felt confident and happy that I had put so much time in at the pool. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe left. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe right. I could do this.

At some point near the first buoy, though, I sighted and realized that I was way to the right of the pack. My plan was always to stick to the right (since the course went counter-clockwise), but not this far right. And for some reason, being that far away from everyone surrounded by the vast expanse of the lake started to really freak me out.

I redirected myself and started swimming back towards the pack, but I was still freaking out, which quickly led to a racing heart and shallow breaths. I tried to just keep swimming in the hopes that I would naturally calm down, but the panic continued. At that point, I seriously thought I would have to flag down a kayak and pull out of the race.

I was so frustrated and confused as to why this was happening, and all sorts of thoughts were racing through my head. How could I start strong and then randomly devolve into panic? Did I really swim 10,000-12,000 yards a week for the past 3 months, only to result in this fiasco? What if no one notices that I’m out here panicking? What if this is how it ends for me?? It was a very scary collection of feelings that I don’t much feel like experiencing again anytime soon.

Just as I debated looking for a kayak, though, I remembered my TI coach’s advice: If you start to panic, just flip on your back, keep kicking, and take as many deep breaths as you want. So I did that for maybe 30 seconds until my breathing slowed back down, at which point I flipped over and tried again. I started swimming by breathing every other stroke, breathing left so that I could keep the pack in my sights. Feeling more in control of where I was going helped tremendously, and within another couple minutes, I was back on track. Crisis #1 averted!

We made our first turn, and I stayed close to the pack, trying to become more comfortable swimming with others around me. I smirked to myself how ironic it was that I thought swimming with a ton of other people would freak me out, but it was the exact opposite case that made me panic. Go figure.

Just as I was finally getting into a rhythm, my timing chip all of a sudden came undone and slipped right off my ankle. I had tried to prepare myself for all that could go wrong during this race, including the aforementioned panic attack, but this incident was most certainly NOT one of them. Luckily, I managed to catch it with my foot and quickly grabbed it with my right hand. At first, I tried to swim with it in my hand, but I soon realized that was a dumb idea. So after thinking for a minute (while still swimming), I decided to shove the whole thing down my wetsuit. Everything is secure when it’s in your skintight wetsuit! Crisis #2 averted!

The rest of the swim went off without a hitch, and I came out of the water around the 40-minute mark according to my Garmin. I started my Garmin late (when I entered the water, instead of when the gun went off), and it was a long uphill walk to T1, so my official overall swim time was a bit longer, but right in the realm of what I was expecting. And with that, my first official open water swim was over.

Swim: 42:06



I entered T1 and was immediately approached by two volunteers who started stripping my wetsuit off of me. I didn’t know there would be “strippers” (I thought those were reserved for official, full Ironman events), so I hadn’t prepped ahead of time by unzipping. So I just stood there while they did everything for me, unzipping the back, taking my arms out, and then telling me to sit down while they ripped my suit right from my body in one fell swoop. Such service! It takes me SO LONG to get my wetsuit off by myself, so this was much appreciated. Thanks, volunteers!

I took my sweet time in T1, paranoid that I was going to forget something important like my helmet and then get disqualified. I had worn my tri shorts but only a sports bra for the swim (it was a brisk 45 degrees that morning, and the thought of biking in a wet top was daunting), so I took some time putting on my tri top, jacket, gloves, helmet, socks, and bike shoes. I then proceeded to just stand there and stare at my area for a minute or two while I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle and drank some water. People were moving quickly all around me, but not me. I just stood and stared. Once I had convinced myself that I probably had everything I needed, I finally sauntered out of transition with Bert the Bike in tow.

T1: 6:41


The bike

We turned left out of the park where T1 was and then soon turned right onto Pope Canyon Road, one of two out-and-backs. This is where I thought there would be a lot of huge climbs, and there was indeed a moderate one almost right away, but everything after that was actually quite reasonable and felt a lot more flat than I had been expecting.

Don’t get me wrong: the course was still quite hilly, and my Garmin measured over 3300 feet of climbing. My Garmin tends to underestimate elevation on the bike for some reason, so if I average out what Garmin tells me and what tells me, it was somewhere around 3500 feet, which certainly isn’t insignificant. Still, there weren’t any long, huge climbs like the ones we’ve been doing in the East Bay for the past few months, so the effort here felt quite a bit easier.

The bike course, according to

My main focus for the first 5-10 miles was making sure I wasn’t drafting off of anyone or doing anything “illegal.” I actually found it really hard not to “draft” when someone would pass me but then continue to go at my same speed, but this only happened a couple of times, and eventually, one of us would go faster and leave the other behind.

Because there were less than 300 participants out there, the bike course never felt crowded, and I often found myself somewhat alone for long stretches of time in the first half. I’m so used to following Rachel on the bike, so I didn’t quite know what to do with my pacing. My legs were feeling really good, but I kept repeating to myself: “Take it easy. Save it for your favorite sport. You know, that sport that you actually know how to do.”

Rachel and I typically average around 13.8 mph for our rides, so I kept getting nervous whenever I looked down at my Garmin, which consistently read out a speed of over 15mph, often in the 17-18mph range. But I also knew that I wasn’t building up any lactic acid and that the effort felt easy, so given my inexperience with biking, I just had to hope that it would be OK.

I thought a lot about my training ladies out there, and I realized that I could channel each of them for different parts of the ride.
  • On the climbs, I channeled Rachel. Rachel is a super strong yet also super smart climber – she can power up at a great pace while simultaneously ensuring that she still has gas in the tank for the rest of her workout.
  • On the flats and gradual inclines or declines, I channeled Sandi. I’m usually afraid to go into my big gear, but Sandi likes to stay in her big gear for everything, including the really tough climbs. I forced myself to stay in my big gear whenever it was reasonable (while still ensuring that the effort was easy).
  • On the downhills, I channeled Katie. Katie is by far the fastest descender among us and somehow isn’t slowed down by irrational fears of flipping over one’s handlebars. She seems to just let gravity do its thing and always looks really graceful and skillful while she descends. I, on the other hand, often come to a nearly complete stop when going down switchbacks.

Come to think of it – unite my three friends and their powers together, and you might just have the ultimate cyclist. Way to go, ladies!

We reached the turnaround point of the out-and-back at mile 15, and I stopped to take and drink a bottle of water. The volunteer there was super energetic and was bouncing around, making sure everyone had everything they needed, even though he himself had a broken foot and was in a cast, on crutches. Volunteers are the best. I started up again as soon as I finished the water bottle, losing maybe 30-45 seconds at that stop. Not bad.

At this point, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get to that police report reference. So here we go.

Everything was going well, and I even found myself enjoying the ride until around mile 19, when a large pick-up truck majorly sped by me, leaving only inches of room between his truck and my left arm. There were two cyclists up ahead of me riding side by side since one was trying to pass the other in that moment, and the pick-up driver proceeded to speed up even further towards the cyclist who was on the left before braking at the very last minute, presumably to try and scare him and prove some sort of twisted point.

The driver then veered to the left to pull up next to the cyclists, and they all proceeded to exchange words. I couldn’t hear anything, but whatever the cyclists said to the driver (presumably a notification that, um, there was a triathlon going on?) just angered him further, and he proceeded to veer right into the cyclists and nearly ran them off the road. At this point, I realized that this guy could seriously harm someone, so in my hyper-confused and shocked state, I tried my hardest to remember his license plate as his car veered back and forth (and as I wobbled back and forth myself).

Sadly, everything moved so quickly, and with all of the movement and my gawd-awful memory, I could only remember a handful of the digits before the @$$hole driver finally sped off.

Note to self: consider downloading one of those memory-improvement apps.

I pulled up to the two cyclists to make sure they were OK. While justifiably pissed off, they were both physically fine, and we all continued on. There was a turn at mile 20 where a police offer was controlling traffic, and I watched the two of them pull over to file a report. I decided that providing the information I had was far more important than the 60 seconds I was about to lose (duh). After giving the officer everything I had, I went on my way.

I couldn’t believe that had just happened in the middle of my first tri, but I was glad no one was actually hurt. The incident had me super fired up, though, as I thought about what a d*ck that driver was and that he was willing to take someone out just because a race was going on in his neighborhood. In situations like that, I always just hope that karma will play out in the end.

I was soon distracted by the moderate climb that we encountered early on (this time going the other way, of course), which was quickly followed by a right turn onto Knoxville Road, the second out-and-back. Interestingly, I thought this would be the easier stretch, but it ended up having some pretty considerable rollers. Still nothing compared to the East Bay climbs, but we were always going up or down; never flat.

It was also during this stretch that I realized I really had to pee, which I took as a good sign, since it meant I wasn’t dehydrated. Luckily, having to pee while riding isn’t nearly as dire has having to pee while running, so I continued on.

After riding mostly solo on Pope Canyon, I found myself surrounded by racers on this stretch, and thanks to the rolling hills, we found ourselves leap-frogging each other back and forth. Another girl and I would get ahead on the uphills, and then we’d be passed by a bunch of dudes on the downhills.

I thought this kind of back and forth would be annoying, but it was actually a nice distraction, and before I knew it, we were at the turnaround point. I stopped for yet another water bottle and also switched out my own bottles on my bike (I still can’t use the back bottle mid-ride). I considered using the porta-potty there, but I decided that I could make it 13 more miles, where I would finally take a pee break in transition.

The final stretch back consisted of more leap-frogging, though I found that towards the last several miles, I was doing a lot more passing than being passed. It occurred to me that others were tiring out, and I was happy to realize that I felt just as fine then as I did when I started the ride. Staying conservative (and eating 900 calories on the bike – finally some proper fueling!) had paid off.

Another cyclist even pulled up next to me in the last few miles and said, “I just wanted to let you know that you are a VERY good climber.” As an extremely inexperienced cyclist who never feels like I know what I’m doing, those words certainly put a smile on my face. Thanks, biker dude.

After a few more rollers, I finally pulled into T2 and was eager to get to the run.

Bike: 3:36:43



I quickly racked Bert the Bike (good job, buddy – you did well out there), removed my helmet, and switched out my biking shoes for my good old Saucony Kinvara 4’s. Ahhhh – felt like home. I then untied my hair and flipped my head over, and I noticed a volunteer walking over to me. I stood back up and saw that he had a somewhat concerned look on his face, and I realized that me hunching over likely made it look like I was about to vomit.

I smiled at him and said, “Sometimes it’s just time for a hair change, you know?” He laughed and wished me a good run. I may have been the only person who spent time re-doing their hairstyle in T2, but I couldn’t possibly be expected to run 13.1 miles with a <gasp>… LOW ponytail. My gawd.

After grabbing my running water bottle and two Honey Stinger waffles, I headed to the porta-potties and finally got my pee on.

And then FINALLY, it was time to move onto the best sport around.

T1: 6:21


The run

I exited the park again, but this time, the course turned right onto Knoxville Berryessa Road for a single long out-and-back. While I haven’t done a ton of brick workouts in my lifetime, I have consistently noticed that I tend to run relatively fast off the bike, even though it feels like I’m moving in slow motion. I kept seeing sub-8:00 pace on my Garmin and kept trying to slow down, but it was as if my legs were disconnected from my brain. My first mile clocked in at 8:10, and I thought I might be setting myself up for disaster.

My legs soon calmed down, though, and as we started up the hills, my second mile clocked in at 8:55. Much more reasonable / expected. At this point, I was realizing just how hilly this course would be, and I thought I might have to re-evaluate my sub-2:00 goal. Still, I felt good at that point, so I told myself to continue at a steady, reasonable pace, keep fueling, and see what would happen.

This just may be the toughest run course I’ve personally experienced. Look at all that orange / red / purple!

What’s nice about an out-and-back is that you can scope out what you’ll have to face on the way back. I saw that we would have some pretty gnarly climbs in the second half, which motivated me to continue with my reserved strategy. Given how slowly I thought I was running, I was a bit surprised to find myself passing people left and right. After flailing around in the swim and being passed a lot on the bike, it was motivating to finally be the one doing the passing.

In fact, throughout the entire run, only one guy passed me, and I would end up passing him back in the last mile. I looked up my results later, and out of 260 total participants (men and women), I was 154th on the swim, 173rd on the bike, and 56th on the run (12th female!). One of these things is not like the other…

At that point, I was very grateful to have running as my strength. It was getting really hot out; it had been a long day for everyone, and I could tell a lot of people were struggling. I made a point of saying “nice job” anytime I passed someone (which I never do in running races, usually for lack of oxygen), and I often received kind words in return. What they say is true – triathletes are a friendly bunch!

After the turnaround point is when I started to get really excited. I was still feeling good; I knew what I had ahead of me, and I was about to finish my first tri! I stayed strong through those gnarly hills and finally let myself pick up the pace a bit. So much so that during one of those hills, where seemingly everyone else was walking, I passed a guy who looked over at me and said, “Jesus. Are you serious?” I think there may have been some anger behind that statement.

In contrast, I next came upon the dude who had passed me early on, and as I passed him back, he looked over and said “Alright! Nice job!” I told him that this was the only sport I knew how to do, and he responded with “Well, it’s the one that counts.” Thanks for being gracious and supportive, runner dude.

After a nice final downhill / flat stretch, the long-awaited turn back into the park came into sight, and I kicked myself into high gear. The crowd support in this final stretch was great, and I’m pretty sure I had a $h!t-eating grin on my face the entire time. I ran up the last mini hill to the finish line, and with that, I was officially a triathlete!

Run: 1:51:21

(Turns out the run course was quite short at 12.85 miles, at least according to my Garmin, but given that my overall distance was 70.7, I guess I’m OK with it)




I’m really happy with how this race went, and while it’s still somewhat daunting to think about doubling that distance in less than 3.5 months, it helps to know that eating a lot and staying conservative can work wonders. I’ll definitely need to do more open water swims (and maybe even another tri) before IM Canada, and perhaps I should consider spending less than 13 minutes staring at my transition area, but it’s encouraging to see that all of these long training days are paying off.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Paige for being the best race sherpa around. With the hours of driving, waking up at 4am for a race that wasn’t his, and waiting around in the hot sun for 6+ hours for me to finish, he should have been a grumpy cat, but instead, he was super excited for me. You’re the best, Paige!

OK. This blog post is now 11 pages long in Word, and you probably fell asleep 5 pages ago, so I’ll fare thee well. Thanks for reading!

New HITS biking jacket to commemorate my first tri!

IM Canada Week 9 Recap:

  • PM: Very easy trainer ride: 15 miles (14.8 mph); after a tough cutback week in Week 8, I decided to keep this effort very easy and save my energy for Napa
  • PM: Swimming 3200 yards, including my fastest swim/pull ladder yet! The ladder consisted of 500 swim, 500 pull, 400 swim, 400 pull, etc. down to 100 swim, 100 pull. Times were 8:50, 8:59; 7:00, 7:15; 5:15, 5:26; 3:30, 3:35; 1:39, 1:45; concluded with 200s in 3:28 (average pace of 1:46/100yd)
  • PM: Running 8.5 miles (7.5 progression, 1 cool-down): 8:07, 8:02, 7:53, 7:53, 7:47, 7:41, 7:30, 7:29 (0.5), 7:55 (~7:50 pace overall)
  • Immediately followed by swimming 2500 yards, including swim, pull, and paddle work (average pace of 1:46/100yd)
  • PM: Swimming 2500 yards – continuous. I wanted to get another continuous swim in before Napa without wearing myself out, so I kept the pace very easy. This workout felt good, and it was definitely a confidence booster, but as we learned, open water is clearly a different beast (average pace of 1:51/100yd)
  • Immediately followed by a 65-minute ride on the stationary bike with resistance intervals
  • AM: Easy shakeout run in Golden Gate Park: 5 miles (~8:48 pace)
  • AM: Napa HITS swim: 2183 yards (1:54/100yd)
  • AM/PM: Napa HITS bike: 56.47 miles, ~3500ft gain (15.8mph)
  • PM: Napa HITS run: 12.85 miles, ~900ft gain (~8:40 pace)
  • PM: Super easy recovery trainer ride: 8.3 miles (12.1mph)