I think I wrote fairly often about how anxious I was about this race and how apprehensive I was about it. As the week leading to the race drew near I went through every emotional state possible and I felt hopeful, fearful, dread, excited and just plain anxious. It was kind of a relief to just get there and get registered and get race ready.
First of all I’d like to offer a shout out to my traveling companion and roomie Melinda. We had only ever met once before on a ride and you just never know what you’re going to get when you’re about to spend 16 hours in a car and a couple nights in a hotel room with an almost stranger but she was great. We had a really good time together so thanks for being my bud, Melinda!
Second of all I had a brief blogger meet up with Don of Studio YVR who I spotted at registration.
The Swim – I have a signature move!
It was really cold and windy in the morning. I think everyone was pretty concerned that our hands and feet were half frozen before we’d even stepped in to the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean but it was show time so oh well! They send the waves off in 3 to 4 minute increments so you all have to line up in a chute by a sign that has your wave number on it (mine was 13) and then you are herded into the water. Much to my delight that water felt warm and it didn’t occur to me that it was because I was so cold. I figured so many people had peed in the harbor they had raised the water temperature and on that delightful thought I swam out to the starting buoys.
BLANT! the air horn goes off and for the first time in my history as a triathlete I had not one shred of panic. I was just swimming in a crowd, trying to find some space and feeling good about my abilities. I should have savored that moment quite a bit longer and remembered it later in the day. I was doing great sighting, sticking close to the buoys and just counting to 100 over and over. Then we got to the turn around buoys -yay! I knew I was supposed to be sighting on the jetty to the right so why I took off to the left is any one’s guess. I went from being in a crowd to being all alone which should have been a clue to look up and see where I was but no – my signature move is to get chased down by a kayak dude who is there to tell me I’m way off course. And so I was – signature move accomplished! I just wish that kayak dude had seen me sooner and been faster because by the time he caught me I was at least 50 yards parallel to the rest of the pack so I swam back that way and blindly made my way into the sun and back to the ramp. As I approached the ramp I saw a big round bouy on the right and bunch of triangular buoys to the left of that which clearly meant swing right and head between them. So I keep heading left until some guy is yelling ‘SWING RIGHT, SWING RIGHT!” Signature move dos! I finally find my way out and the swim is done in roughly 45 minutes – same as Vineman. I was okay with that but clearly I need a new signature move.
T1 – Out of the water and the wetsuit helpers got me unzipped. I should have asked them to strip me on top because as I started to run I pulled down the right sleeve which promptly got stuck on my stop watch. And I mean stuck. My left hand was frozen and inoperable so I just started running along shaking my hands in front of me like a nervous Nelly with stage fright. By the time I got to the bike I had just enough dexterity to claw my sleeve off and get stripped and suited up for the bike. FYI – I swam with my arm warmers under my wetsuit and that worked great. I didn’t need them but I think I saved myself some sunburn. Suited up and ready to rumble I was off. T1 – 5:34 and I had no idea how it compared to Vineman.
The Bike – SCREW YOU WIND!
The bike started out great. I felt like I was flying and in retrospect I must have had a tail wind. I didn’t know that, though and I was pretty high on my speed. I got passed plenty because the waves behind me had all kinds of men and much younger women and I knew I’d be passed and I didn’t really care about that because I was doing a fair amount of passing myself. Most of the ride is kind of a blur. It was fun and pretty and speedy for quite a while. I just kept anticipating ‘the hill’ which I knew would come at about mile 40. Only that wasn’t ‘the hill’. The real hill – the one that kind of sucks the life out of you is the first little steep thing at about mile 28 and steep it is. You can see it well ahead of time and you see a line of people snaking up it like ants. I was still sort of naive when I got there because I was still thinking that ‘the hill’ was at mile 40. I also thought this hill was about an 8% grade but no. Turns out it gets as steep as 13% according to Melinda who has a Garmin with a really good altimiter in it. I stayed on my bike and just ground it out and passed quite a few people – especially the ones that bailed and were walking their bikes up the hill. Admittedly I used the small chain ring because I had it so why not?
After that the other hills didn’t seem like such a big deal and I just kept going. I never needed to resort to the little chain ring again and I was passing people like crazy on the climbs. However, once the hill climbing was done I found that I wasn’t going very fast and I was pretty upset about it. Were my legs that trashed? Was I on a false flat? What the hell? None of the above – it was the wind. The in your face, frustrate you to death wind. I hate wind. Hills I don’t mind because I get gravity and I know I have to fight against it but wind is invisible. It makes noise and it pushes a little but mostly it makes you work really, really hard to keep up your forward momentum and I find it maddening. I could feel my 16+ mph average speed slipping away and it really bothered me but there was nothing to do but keep plowing through and get to the end of the ride and I finally did.
As I approached the chute I noted my time on the bike (a temptation I resisted the entire ride) and was totally disappointed to see that my time was the same as Vineman. Seriously. In spite of the hills and the wind I was disappointed because I wanted a big PR in this race and so far the swim and the bike had been even. This was the start of my undoing.
T2 – I was quick! I got out of there in 2:22 but had no idea that was 2 minutes faster than Vineman which, had I been thinking about it, would have meant that I was set for a PR.
The Run – SCREW YOU SAND!
Out of the chute, down the road and into the sand. Boy did that suck! We had to run for about 1/4 of a mile on the beach 4 times. Most of it was wet and packed but part of it was dry, fluffly sand that could easily have caused you to rip your knees apart. I think I high stepped it the first time but after that I just walked that part in the interest of not getting hurt.
Anyhow – I had already given myself permission to take the first 3 miles to get my legs back which was good because they were really tight and hurting. It seemed like it took forever to get to the first turn around and just before I got there I started thinking about how slow I was going and about how I would not have a PR and that lead to “I hate triathlon, I hate me – I suck, I have no business being out here, no PR for me today, Who do I think I am, I hate myself” and the tears started to well up in my eyes. “Oh no you don’t! You do NOT get to cry and feel sorry for yourself. You are doing a 70.3 mile race and you will finish and YOU WILL NOT CRY!” and as I started to supress the tears something very bizarre happened. I could feel my airways all slowly constricting like a deflating balloon and it freaked me out. I’ve never had an asthma attack but I figured that’s what it was and was gasping for air so I started walking and forcing myself to relax and open up my airways. Fortunately I was successul and I was at the turn around and that meant my 3 miles were up and it was time to run.
I ran – I picked up speed and I was doing great but now I was in pain and I was freaked out about the asthma thing. I think I was wheezing for a little bit but then I seemed okay and I was just trying to run a 10 minute mile. My plan had been to hold a steady 10 minute pace. This was not to be, though. I finally resorted to walking for 1 minute every once in a while. I walked every other aid station. I walked the sand. I ran slower than a 10 minute pace and just kept going. At that point my goal was to finish in a reasonable time. I also realized I had no idea what my Vineman time was but I thought it was about 2:20. Turns out it was 2:24 so had I known that and had I known that my T2 was 2 minutes faster I might have worked a little harder but no – I allowed the ugly inner voice that says “you suck” to have it’s way. I hope it enjoyed that experience because THAT WAS THE LAST TIME, BUSTER! In the future I WILL NOT BE BALKED!!
Finally I was off the sand for the last time and on my way in. I ran because the crowds were thick and walking just didn’t look good. I ran across the first set of mats that give the announcer the heads up that you are coming in. I ran down the chute and they called my name and I gave a little hands in the air what what and I finished! I had no idea what my time was. As it turns out it was 2:29 – just 5 minutes off Vineman and net 3 minutes down from Vineman.
I had a crowd of team mates cheering me in and giving me hugs. To Dana, Julie, Kate and Maggs I say thanks! It’s so nice to have a welcoming committee just on the other side of the line. I got my medal and shirt and hat and got my chip off and then went back to wait for Melinda to come in. Later when I went to check the results they were up to 7:07 and I couldn’t find my name so I was sure my time was at least a 7:10 and I was really and truly bummed. It wasn’t until later I found out that I came in at 6:59 – just 4 minutes behind my Vineman time.
Lesson learned – no more stinkin’ thinkin’. Had I known how close I was I would have worked a little harder and suffered a little more to at least meet my Vineman time and I would have been happy. At this point I am happy. I raced well and I raced hard and I’m a real rock star for doing it.
I’m re-energized about Vineman, too. For a while there I was sorry I had signed up and just wanted to quit pretending to be a triathlete. Yes – that’s how I was feeling. Now I’m ready to train hard and just kill it up there so look out you 55-59 year old ladies. The new me is coming to get you.
I need to focus on always, always, always working as hard as I can no matter how I think I’m doing, no matter how bummed, no matter the pain. This is racing and racing hurts but when you get done and you know you have given it everything it feels great and the pain is all worth it. I think I’ve come this way before but I just didn’t grok it and I had no confidence. I’m finally, finally coming to a place where I believe in myself as an athlete and if I’m going to race I’m going to make it good. This is particularly important given how expensive these races have gotten. I can do a personal tri any time I want but entering a race means it’s business time.
The aid stations and the crowds were great at Oceanside. They put your name on your bib and so many people called out “Keep it up, Pamela” “Looking strong Pamela” Only 2 people called me Pam. The kids at the aid station were very enthusiastic which, it turns out, is because they had a contest to see who could get the most votes. They worked hard and it was great. The military was great, too. This race goes through Camp Pendleton and makes a mess of traffic so a huge thank you to the people of Oceanside who had to endure long waits to cross the road and to law enforcement and the military for directing traffic.
Forward Motion Race Club had a great day at the races. We had 2 Kona qualifiers and 4 people on the podium. Congratulations to Dean, Kim, Steve and Kate, all members of our Elite Team. Well done! Everyone had a good day and a great time.
Oops – I sprayed myself with sunscreen but forgot that the new kit had a different cut and I missed spraying my back. That was my last lesson learned: