I raced the Folsom International Triathlon yesterday and had a pretty successful day. In fact I had a big PR and I owe it all to Chris Lieto who gave me some really valuable feedback for my bike ride. I didn’t get this out of a magazine or off of a DVD or a web site – I got it from the man himself.
I spent most of Saturday obsessing about this race. The event organizers didn’t have elevation maps so I went to MotionBased and found an entry for the race. I went nuts with the pace calculator trying to figure out how not to DFL. I looked up results. I fretted and wrung my hands. Then I got the brilliant idea to go for a bike ride and see how fast I could go if I really tried. That tempered my expectations a bit but it was still a good thing to do.
I spent the evening at an event held by my race club. It was an Evening with Chris Lieto. Chris is represented by a guy in our club named Chris McCrary and I am embarrased to admit I had them mixed up – twice. I need to spend more time watching Ironman shows because although McCrary is a very accomplished triathlete himself he is not featured in IM videos.
Before the thing started I walked up to Chris Lieto and asked, “If you were racing a triathlon tomorrow and you maybe didn’t really train that well and you wanted to go much faster than you’ve ever gone on your bike before what would you do?” I could tell I pretty much lost him at “didn’t really train” and he was thinking “lady, you must be kidding” but he’s a really nice guy so he hemmed and hawed for a moment trying to get past that and then told me I should focus on cadence – hold a good 90 rmp cadence. Always looking for the magic in sports I responded, “Oh – so lower the gears until doing 90 is comfortable?” and he said, “Oh no. Don’t do that”. It was like being mentored by Yoda. “Easy path there is not. Pedal hard you must” I thanked him and sat down to listen to his presentation which was very helpful. After talking about training plans Chris told a funny story about Kona last year. You probably had to be there to get the humor but the lesson learned is pretty accessible.
At the end of the bike portion of IronMan Lieto was just behind Norman Stadler. At the beginning of the bike he was just ahead of Stadler but not by much as the swim had been particularly difficult due to the currents which cut down his expected lead. Not too far into the race Chris decided to do a strategy check so he asked Stadler “so what’s your plan? You going to hang back for a while or are going to head out sooner?” In telling the story he dropped his voice about an octave and in a perfect Stadler impression he says “I go now”. So Stadler took off and Lieto decided to hang with the group for a while. Long story short Stadler got way ahead of him and he had to work really hard in the second half of the bike and that resulted in GI issue which screwed up his run. He said he would never let that happen again. I got it at that point but that lession really came home at the end of my event the next day.
Race morning I got to the race venue, found some other FoMo members, got a rack spot close to the swim transition and also pretty close to the bike and run out. Life was good. I went down to the shore to watch the elite guys go off. Just as the first couple were coming in (16 – 18 minutes after the start!!!) a guy in the water started yelling “Help me – I can’t move!” Everyone nearby mobilized and swam to him, a kayak went over and he grabbed on and that’s when I notice he had no cap and no goggles. They got him into shore and he was wearing cut off blue jeans. The medics were there to help but of course it turned out that he was homeless, crazy guy who needed some attention. He got plenty, a reality that came back to haunt me later.
Swim – The swim seemed fine. I had company all the while which meant that I wasn’t the slowest person out there. My sighting was good and I did not bump into a single boat – Hooray! It seemed very long, though – much longer than Wildflower even though I didn’t veer off course over and over. Coming around that last buoy there was a little pile up and some guy gently and accidentally kicked me and my left calf got a little cramp. The bottoms of both feet started to cramp a little, too. I wasn’t too worried because this happens to me in the pool at almost every workout. I tried to flex my feet while kicking to work out the cramp just as I do in the pool.
The shore finally arrive under me and went to stand up. It is really rocky right there so you have to find your footing over these big and small river rocks. As soon as I tried to stand my calf cramped up – hard. It hurt like hell. I fell down, on the rocks (hey ART for the hips right on the course!) I pulled on my foot and sort of got it under control and tried to stand again and then it really cramped up. I fell down again and started screaming “OW!!! My LEG!!! I nedd HELP!!” My leg was so visibly contorted that people coming out of water and running over me would look down and say “Oh- whoa. Ow” and things like that. Meanwhile I’m yelling, hoping someone will get a medic over to me to help me straighten out my leg. Then, this guy standing behind me says, “oh – do you have an annoying little cramp in your leg”. As I live and breath the only reason that guy is still alive is because I couldn’t stand up and kill him. I screamed again “I NEED SOME HELP!” One very nice woman stopped to help me and by then I had gotten things under enough control that I figured I didn’t need to ruin another person’s race so I thanked her and told her to get going. I wish I had gotten her name – she was the bright spot in a very dark moment. Finally, through the process of stretching and massaging my calf I managed to be able to stand and run out to the applause of all the people who stood there and watched me suffer. That cramp cost me about 2 minutes.
T1 – I was totally pissed off about not getting any help in the water. In that moment it was Crazy Homeless guy 2, Pamela 0 and it made me mad but I had a race to finish so I dried my feet, put on my shoes, sunglasses and helmet and headed out for what I wanted to be the ride of my life.
Ride – I spent pretty much the whole ride trying to ride harder than I have ever ridden before. For a while I watched my speed and just kept trying to get up and over 16 mph. That worked okay but not great. Then I heard Yoda Lieto in my head and switched the computer over to cadence and just focused really hard on staying at or slightly above 90. I got passed – a lot. I got passed over the entire race course. I got passed by all kinds of women who apparently swim slower than I do. I got passed by Clysdales and Athenas who started 6 minutes after me. I was already pissed off from the cramp incident and now, when I was giving it a lot more than I had ever given it before (notice I did NOT use the expression “my all”) I was being passed repeatedly.
I was so hating on Triathlon. I was hating on continuing to beat myself up doing something I am just no good at. Then I let it go. It wasn’t about me and them it was just about me and what I could do better than I had done before. I carried on. I drank water and pedaled and watched the cadence and worked it. At the halfway point I decided to see how I was doing timewise so I looked at my Garmin and realized that although I had managed to put it on in transition I had failed to push the start button. Nothing but zeros. I decided that was also a good thing because I didn’t need any more disappointment and I was already trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear so I just told myself to carry on and keep those cranks going!
T2 – could not find my spot. I knew exactly where it was and yet I didn’t recognize it. I wandered back and forth, freaking out and finally gave myself a virtual slap across the face and went to the spot I knew to be mine and looked a little harder. Of course everything had been kicked around but there were my shoes, my towel, etc. I swapped shoes, helmet for hat and headed out. oops – forgot the thermotab and Gu so I went back, took the Thermotab and grabbed the Gu and headed out again. Of course there were all kinds of guys who had long since finished and lots of people telling me to ‘finish strong. just find your pace and have fun’. Right – it’s so fun when you are so far behind.
That little transition problem cost me another 2 minutes.
Run – I was running. I had on the Garmin and it was turned on but I decided not to look. I was running at a pace that I felt was sustainable and that’s what mattered to me. What I really wanted was to run the entire run and not give up and walk as I had at Wildflower. I felt pretty good so I just stuck with that mantra – run, don’t walk. I made it, too.
About 50 feet from the finish I was passed by a woman with a “52” on her calf. DAMNIT! I thought to myself, “you must pick it up and pass her – DO NOT LET HER GET AWAY!” Sadly, I am not a born competitor and I was just glad to be finishing and I let her go expecting she would beat me by a minute or so. If only.
Swim 37:44.0 T1 02:43.6 Bike 01:38:24.7 T2 04:12.7 Run 1:10:36.5 Finish 03:33:41.6 9th out of 10 in my age group; 153 out of 164 women. I’d like to thank the poor girl from Sacramento Triathlon Club who flatted out and let me come in ahead of her. I did ask her if she had everything she needed as I passed her and she said she did.
That woman who passed me at the end of the run beat me by 18 seconds. 18 SECONDS!! All I had to do was find a little more strength – just a teeny bit of fight and I could have passed her and come in 3rd to last instead of 2nd to last in my age group. Like Chris Lieto, I will never let that happen again.
Overall I’m happy with the result. This is a 62 minute PR over Wildflower and although the Wildflower course is much tougher than Folsom not too many people enjoy a 25% improvment in time at their next event. It was definitely as much me as it was the course and the advice I got from Chris. So maybe I don’t owe it ALL to Chris Lieto but he was and will continue to be a definite factor in my races. Thanks Chris!
ps – I already have an appt with my friend at Chez Marquis de Sade to get my calf worked on.