After the disaster that was Achorman, I needed a good race to get my confidence back. The Silicone Valley Mountain Bike Tri was a bit of an unknown. Given that I’ve never actually ROAD true ‘mountain bike’ style, it could go really, really badly. But, since it seemed to be a more ‘everymans’ race then Achorman – it could be ok.
The night before the race was the usual for me. Carefully laying everything out. Going through each part of the race in my mind and making sure I had everything I needed. I also spend some time making food for myself to take along in order to make sure I didn’t have any excuses to eat ‘crap’. By the time I was done, it was 12:00AM! Ack!
Packet pickup was slated for 6:30AM and I knew I wanted to be there about that time. Since I live over an hour from San Jose where the race was held, that meant leaving at 5:30 and getting up at 5:00.. ugh!
Luckily I had no trouble falling asleep and no trouble getting up in the morning. In no time we were all in the car and on our way.
We arrived just after 6:30 and my hubby dropped me off in front of the park. I was quickly unloaded and rolling my bike to transition while he went off to find a parking spot. I walked through the racks and finally found a spot I liked. On the end so I didn’t have to fight people on either side of me. I hooked my bike on the rack to save my spot, dropped my bag off and went to find the packet pickup table.
I was really surprised at the line at packet pickup. There was probably already 20 or more people in line, at it wasn’t moving quickly. Because this was a USAT sanctioned race, everyone needed to either have a day, or a year membership, so almost every person was going up to the table, then having to fill out paperwork, pay, then wait for them to find chip, packet, t-shirt, swim cap… it was taking, FOR EV-ER! Finally, they opened another line and while the process was still slow, they were at least getting twice the number of people through. Since I already had my Yearly USTA membership, I just flashed my card, got my stuff and was out of there (although I had to correct the guy when he tried to hand me a ‘mens wave’ swim cap. I mean seriously, I’m not the prettiest girl around, but there are two undeniable marks that I am a chick... they sit on my chest J
Anyway, once that was cleared up, I headed back to transition and started setting up my stuff. They seemed to have plenty of room for the number of athletes which was really nice, and my ‘end position’ on the rack let me hang my swim jacket up as an extra marker to guide me to my spot later. I was feeling really good about the day so far. I checked my watch and I still had plenty of time… unlike last time at anchorman – whew! But, I wanted to be able to warm-up and test he water on the swim so I went ahead and climbed into my wetsuit, always a workout in and of itself.
Once the wetsuit was on, I headed down to the water. The beach was nice and clean. The water was… lake water not very clear at all, but clearer then the bar, not too cold either. I was feeling good. I swam around a bit to accustom myself to the temperature and then got out to await my wave start.
The starts were nicely spaced and seemed to be a good number of people. The ‘men 30+’ might have been a little large, but overall everything seemed to be going smoothly. As usual, my wave was last and I got into the water and headed out to the starting line. I had decided that this time I wasn’t going to hang back. I’m a strong swimmer and it’s time to stop putting myself behind from the start. I floated up to the front of the pack, and took a spot on the edge with a clear shot to the first buoy . The countdown started and whoosh we were off. And MAN was I off. I set myself a pace like I had never set before and was happy to feel that I was holding my own fitness wise, and looked to only have only one person in front of me speed wise. That lasted until the first buoy . It seemed to take forever to get around the stupid thing, and people were catching up and passing me while I floundered! I finally got around it and soon was headed toward the second marker. Still I couldn’t seem to get a rhythm going. It felt like I was swimming in slow motion. I had no idea where I was in the pack anymore, but it felt like last! About half way through the straightaway I felt the muscle in both my gluts cramp. I couldn’t believe it – this was not how I wanted to start this tri! I relaxed and slowed down a little, grinding my teeth as more people passed me. Slowing down seemed to ease the cramping so I put my head down and started swimming for real again. It seemed to take forever to reach the second buoy , and I was so glad to finally reach it. I had a line on the buoy and was swimming toward it when suddenly I was on the wrong side of it! I still don’t really know what happened. I don’t know if a gust of wind took it, or someone kicked it, or what but I had to quickly reverse in the water in order to go around the correct side. But, as I tried to swim around it, it just kept moving – at one point it actually went over the top of me! I was so frustrated! I finally got it straightened out and got around the stupid thing and headed to shore. When I turned to shore I could actually see how many people were in front of me and I started to get discouraged. The swim is supposed to be my strong suite, and yet here I was limping in at the back of the pack (or so it seemed). I swam a bit to shore and that’s when it hit me. My form… it sucked! For some reason I had started focusing so hard on going fast, that I had let all I had learned about body rotation go out the window! I quickly shifted into correct form and everything seemed to ‘click’. I was breathing easier, passing people, and my stroke count was down. I could visibly see the shore coming closer when I sighted. I was kicking myself for screwing up something so simple, but at the same time, I was glad to have found the problem and had learned a valuable lesson.
Once out of the water it was a short run to transition. I stripped the top half of my wetsuit off and jogged in, easily finding my bike. I grabbed my swim towel and draped it over my head while I finished stripping my wetsuit. Then I rinsed my feet, stood on my second towel, before packing my swim towel around my lower body to absorb some of the moisture while I put on bike shirt, helmet and sunglasses. Then it was quick jump into bike shorts, socks, and shoes and I had my bike out and I was OFF!
I felt good on the bike. My husband and I had walked part of the bike course and I felt good about it. I had talked to one of the other athletes while waiting for the swim start and she had said there weren’t many hills. Just a short one about half way through and then it was all down hill from there. Whew! So I felt great, felt confident and best of all felt strong! My bike seemed to be just EATING through the miles and a quick check of my GPS showed that to be true. I had only been on the course for 12 minutes and I had already gone more then 2 miles! This was going to be an epic bike day for me, I just knew it! And the best part of all? No one was passing in me! Finally, I could see the hill in front of me. It didn’t look bad, not bad at all! And I faced it with confidence. It didn’t even have to downshift all the way to get up it. “Now it should be downhill” I thought to myself. Only, hmm there was another hill. To my surprise I caught up with a girl and passed her!? And she said something to me about being “half way” I checked my GPS. “Not Quite… we’re just past 3 miles”
I kept rolling and soon found myself catching up to other people! OMG I was actually catching people on the bike! I put my head down and pushed and found I was closing the gap without wasting myself. Then there was a turn and then I saw something that made my stomach drop. It was a hill. Not just a hill but a HILL. It was steep, steeper then anything I’ve climbed before and it long… some claimed it was over a mile, I was too busy trying to survive it to clock it.
I quickly downshifted and put my heart into making it to the top of the hill. There were four people almost to the top of the hill that were pushing their bikes and two people who were right in front of me who, like me were down shifting and pedaling furiously. The first one gave up about half way and started pushing. The next made it just a little past her before she started pushing too. I made it just past both of them before I couldn’t do it anymore and I stepped off my bike too. We all put our heads down and gutted our way up that hill on foot. It was brutal. Even on foot I was barely managing a 23 min/mile pace!
But the end did come and the reward – an amazingly steep downhill! I hopped on with a feeling of joy and hit the decline with all I had… only, crud, there’s a 90 degree turn at the bottom.. BRAKES!!! I made the turn without a problem but was bummed that I didn’t get to use all of the hill the way I would have liked. There was another wonderful quick decline with another 90 degree turn at the bottom and then the entire race changed!!
Up till now the race had been on wide fire roads and even surface streets. I had laughed a little at the “Mountain Bike” name of the tri up ‘til now. But then, we were over a curb, back into the park and on a trail. A REAL trail. “this is interesting” I thought, before pelting through the brush and down the trail. The trail widened a bit, went down a hill and, whoa! There was water! I slowed down and tried to see where the trail turned, but it didn’t. There it was, on the other side of the rather wide, deep creek! Did I mention I’ve never really road on trails before, much less crossed water on my bike! I shrugged mentally and went for it. I figured if I crashed, hey it was water, no biggie. I did ok, actually. But the water was deep enough to get my feet wet as I tried to pedal through. And unfortunately I bogged trying to get back up out of the water and ended up having to put my food down, soaking both shoes and socks!
The rest of the race was just a blur of, ‘Oh Crap’ and ‘Weeeee!’ moments. Every time I turned a corner there was something else I had never done before. Ride my bike through river rock – done it now. Down a hill with a ninety degree turn, that if you miss dumps you in the creek – done it now. Over roots – done it. Duck under trees while pedaling for your life – done it. And through it all – I stayed ahead of the few people I knew were behind me! I have to say, it was the most fun I had ever had on a bike, and while I won’t trade in my road bike, I can certainly say that there will be some single track in my future!
Once out of the trails and back on fire roads, I knew I had this bike ride beat. I just tucked into my handlebars and road it the rest of the way into transition.
The transition to run was made very easy by wearing the same shoes for bike and run. For modesty sake I stripped off my bike shorts and threw off a running skirt, but other then that, all I needed was to grab my Garmin and I was off. Only... uh, where’s the run? I wandered around a little bit losing time before someone showed me where the run out from transition was and I was on my way.
I had no deletions about the run. I knew I was tired and that most people would be outpacing me, but I was determined to hold noting back. I settled into a pretty comfortable run/walk pattern that served me for the remained of the race. The run was actually really nice. With an out and back run you get to see people as they are finishing and most are friendly. Smiling, nodding, cheering you on. I just focused on keeping my feet moving and trying to relax to the finish. I did occupy myself a little bit with noticing that the race seemed to be miss marked, and that the mile 1 marker was actually at 1.25 according to my Garmin, and every other mile marker was off a similar degree. What really surprised me though was when I actually caught up to (and passed) an man and his son! I had seen them during the ‘out’ portion of my run. So I knew they had been quite a ways in front of me. But here I was, passing them! It was a GREAT feeling. They eventually passed me again, as we came into the finish, but the fact that I had made up that much ground was enough to satisfy me.
I literally charged into the finish and was rewarded by loud cheers from everyone as I headed into the chute. It felt fantastic to hear people yelling “Way to finish strong!” and “Go Go Go!” And better yet to finish and know that I had given EVERYTHING out on the racecourse.
I needed a day like that…
And best of all was finding out I finished in 2:02:35!!! (My last sprint finish was 2:21:17) Not a number I ever expected to see. My training (and weight loss) is paying off!