Monday, July 4, 2016

California International Triathlon: race report

Posted by Rachel

So this is the race I signed up for two weeks beforehand after watching a bunch of super fit people do the Escape from Alcatraz Tri. What can I say... it was really inspiring!

Two weeks later I'm scrambling around the night before the race trying to organize all of my things. Having not done a triathlon since the Ironman last July, I forgot the ridiculous amount of stuff you need for this sport. I shoved an entire gym bag full of tri crap and I still had to carry some of it separately. It's actually mind boggling to think that a crew of us drove 16 hours with cars full of full IM gear just last summer. Not sure how we all pulled it off. Travers had decided not to race CIT so I actually had some help with my stuff there anyway :)

I work right near the race venue, so I had no issues getting there. I was pretty much on autopilot and actually almost drove to work. Luckily the only other cars on the road all had bikes attached to them and I realized I should be following them. The lake was calm, e coli levels had come way down since the previous weekend's unacceptable levels (whew) and I had plenty of time to set up in transition.

 Right before the race start

Of the things I hadn't done in a year, putting on that wetsuit and open water swimming were on the list, so I decided I should probably warm up. Luckily everything felt good and I got ready to start.

The men and women ages 30-39 started together. My last 2 tri starts were miserable, washing machine-like experiences, so I decided to start to the outside this time. After about 300 m I realized I was seriously on the outside, but at least I had clear water. I adjusted so that I was actually swimming toward the first buoy, and other than that the swim went really great. I felt good and came out with a PR of about a minute for this distance (not including current-aided swims). After uploading the data, I was able to notice that my stroke rate has increased 2-3 right armstrokes/min since last year, which is probably how I dropped the time. Good to see that swimming 3x/week vs. 2x is actually doing something!
Official time: 22:35, 1st AG

I swear I was really happy about my swim, even though I look miserable in these photos

Being disoriented after getting out of the water (as usual), I first turned the wrong way. I realized I was running away from transition, so I turned around, got in, and found my bike. I had decided not to wear my shirt under my wetsuit, and my first mistake was to put my helmet on before putting on my shirt. My second mistake was thinking that I could put on a shirt easily while wet. Needless to say, T1 took me FOREVER.
Official time: 2:38 (slower than pretty much everyone else)

I have been training really hard on the bike but didn't put my aero bars on until 6 days before the race. Lesson learned - if you want to race in a position, it would be a good idea to train in it. The first 12 miles or so felt fine. There was a little bit of a climb (maybe 300 ft over 3 miles) and I was able to push fairly hard up it. After the downhill was where I started getting a bit uncomfortable. First of all, my inner thigh muscles on both legs were KILLING me. I kept shifting positions because I was almost worried that I might be injuring myself, although I might be mentally hypersensitive to that coming off a groin pull earlier this year. Then there were times when there was nobody around and I was wondering if I was still on the course at all. Even though I work in the same town as the tri, there were point in the race when I had NO IDEA where I was. Miles 19-25 seemed to take FOREVER, but finally I made it back to T2 without permanently injuring anything. Don't worry, I've been training in aero ever since! The other disappointing thing about cycling is that I rode my fastest speed ever- 18.6 mph, which is really fast for me, versus 17.9 mph last year- and it only equates to about a 1.5 minute drop in total time. That means if I want to drop a several minutes I have to improve by a few miles per hour. I have a long way to go on the bike :p
Official time: 1:20:28 (18.6 mph), 10th AG

In both of these photos not only am I not aero, but I'm smiling like I'm on a Sunday ride. I do NOT remember the bike part being that fun!

Another horrible transition. When I got back, someone had put their bike in my spot and the rack was somehow full (or at least the bikes were spaced such that it seemed full). So I kept trying to inch this person's bike over, inch by inch, and each time mine still didn't fit. I finally got sick of that and shoved their bike over and managed to rack mine and everything was fine. Why didn't I do that in the first place?
Official time: 2:26 (really slow again, but at least I remembered my run number belt this year)

I forgot to mention above that the CIT triathlon was my first ever tri in 2011, making this my 5th anniversary of my first tri! In addition to that, one thing I remembered about my first tri was that this run course was brutal - it was hot, with several short steep hills and mostly on gravel. I also remember cheering for people on this course one year with Chen and her trying to tell everyone "you're on the best sport!", and everyone looking at her like they wished someone would tape her mouth shut. Anyway, it wasn't long before I was reminded that this IS a pretty tough run. The course itself isn't what you'd call fast and the heat only makes it worse. I felt terrible after about mile 2 but my running has been solid lately, so I somehow just kept chugging along. 

Not smiling

Finally, as it always does, the run ended. Once I got back onto the pavement I pushed it into the finish where I was rewarded with a washcloth soaked in freezing cold water - the best.
Official run time: 46:12, 2nd AG

Can't tell if I'm happy, miserable, relieved, about to fall over, or what's going on here. 

Total official time: 2:34:20, 2nd AG (F 30-34)

This was my first triathlon podium, so I made Travers wait around with me for the awards ceremony :p  USAP gives pint glasses as their awards, which is an excellent prize. 

Kudos to USA Productions for having free race photos - very cool. I would definitely recommend this race, although if you're going to be serious about competing or going for a PR you should probably check out a loop of the run course beforehand so you know what to expect.

For me, next up is the Oakland tri. I'm not sure how much time I have to make improvements to my cycling, and the OakTri bike course is a little bit abnormal in that it has TONS of turns and the pavement quality is really sub-par. I'll just have to hit the trainer hard, actually practice in aero, check out the course a few times since it's in my backyard, and see what I can do!

[PS - You know you work with data too much when the first draft of your race report says "error bars" instead of "aero bars".]