I Owe It All To Chris Lieto

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.

Final result:
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.

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26 Responses to I Owe It All To Chris Lieto

  1. Bob says:

    Great Job, that cramp sounds painful, I have gottn them but only when I try to go to hard on the bike in the trainer. Not a good plan. I think you did great. And that cadence thing is exactly how I tried to race. 88-98 was my goal. But I still sucked on the bike. I think it takes time to start adding power. Congrats on the PR!!

  2. stronger says:

    Yay for PRs! Awesome Mom! Now I better show up at SOMA so I can be your personal massage therapist support crew.

  3. waddler26.2 says:

    Great job and what an improvement. I think we need to bike together and get it figured out. Even if you did DFL it was alot better than those home in bed did. You gave it your all at that time-Kudos

  4. waddler26.2 says:

    So sorry – my fingers are not typing correctly today. I meant I know that you didn’t but even if that did happen you did awesome.

  5. jeanne says:

    congrats! and ugh about the leg cramp. next time, wear cut off jeans, and um, act homeless. that is maddening.

    you are looking hot in that photo there!

    excellent report. and well done race!

    Now, just IMAGINE what you could have done had you trained REALLY WELL!

  6. fe-lady says:

    Man…you DO write a race report! But it was gripping to say the least! How does your calf feel? At least it didn’t hamper your run. You too 62 min off your time? AMAZING! Keep chippin’ away…..congrats to you again!

  7. A 62 minute PR? Crazy!

    And this weekend I too was only 20 seconds away from coming in 3rd to last instead of 2nd to last in my category… Oh well!

  8. IronJenny says:

    That’s awesome! Way to go!
    — I love your race report… 😉

  9. Tammy says:

    Awesome Lady! Congrats to you!!!

    I had to click the link. There should be a massage place called “Chez Marquis de Sade”. LOL. Hell, I’d go there 😉

  10. Jeanne – you do realize that picturs is of Chris Lieto, not me – right?

  11. Love the report!!!

  12. Laurie says:

    Great job overcoming adversity! The leg cramp would have done many people in but you carried on. Well done.

    Congratulations on a huge PR!

  13. Irongirl says:

    I was at FIT too. Watching, not racing. My boy raced.
    I Next time you race in Sacramento let me know. It’d be awesome to meet in real life. 🙂

  14. Phoenix says:

    Whoot, Whoot! 62 min PR?!?!?! Girl, you are the sh*t! Don’t even sweat the 18 seconds, she was probably doping.

    Yay for you!!!

  15. bold says:

    great race, great report!



  16. Bigun says:

    aww, I know that cramp feeling – you just sit and wait for the pain to go away….and so early in the race, makes the rest of the day…tentative. Sounds like you did great, though – and an hour pr – that’s just got make you feel Good!

  17. Don’t worry about those 18 seconds… you did great!!!

    (p.s. I’m “Mr. Pharmie”)

  18. IHateToast says:

    25% improvement? you deserve to see yoda lieto nakey nakey. no touchy, you can’t do that. … yet.

  19. Julia says:

    Wow! What a PR! I’ve had that cramp thing happen a few times, ouch. It lasts a few days too.

  20. wow – you did some hard work out there! and you’re totally right – significant improvement over your last effort. 62 minutes doesn’t grow on trees! I’m really proud of you!

    Light the fire in your belly and keep going – all the things you didn’t like about this race you can apply to your next one, ‘cos you did awesome – you started, and You Finished.

  21. momo says:

    i think this was a great effort and a great race and a great report, mom. i hope when you look back at it you can see how great it really was.

    each race is a stepping stone to the next. each race gives you the opportunity to learn things about racing and about yourself, and those things are invaluable. just look at what you learned in this one! honestly.

    you’re going to have a blast at soma. 🙂

  22. comm's says:

    some races are just not fun. But finishing vertical is always a reward, a smile is icing on the cake.

  23. comm's says:

    some races are just not fun. But finishing vertical is always a reward, a smile is icing on the cake.

  24. Pharmie says:

    Wow! That is one heck of a PR! Keep up the great work! And don’t worry about those 18 seconds. You’ll get em back next time!

  25. david says:

    I liked your story very much. I could well imagine watching you reeling on the stones after the swim with a cramp; cruising along at cadence pace on the bike; and chugging on in on the run. You didn’t get a DNF and you PRed by a ton.

    Weren’t you cussing triathlons there for awhile? Now what?

  26. Dori says:

    Congratulations, 21CM. Great race report; fabulous PR! And way to turn your attitude around. I found that the only thing that cures a charley-horse for me is to relax, but who can relax when their leg is all twisted in pain!

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