Monday, July 20, 2009

Tri for Fun - Pleasanton - Race Report

I knew, coming into the tri for fun that it was going to be a good race.  My training has been right on of late with three open water swim a week I haven’t been in such good swim shape since I was in synchronized swimming in Jr High!  My bike rides have been intense, but I’m easily powering up hills that used to leave me stopped and gasping for breath.  And my running, well the time at the Skyland run showed that I’ve made huge improvement there too.  It felt like it was all coming together for this race.  You add on top of this that the bike is almost completely flat – and yes, I knew I was going to have a good race!  I set my goal high – under 2 hours.

(for reference – I finished the Napa Valley Sprint tri – this same distance – on May 3rd in 2:21, and the Mountain Bike Tri – a little shorter but on single track – on June 20th in 2:02)

I started prepping Friday night.  I had a good dinner w/the Orca swim team and Forward Motion Racing Club out at the lake.  We had good food and I enjoyed trading stories with others who would be racing the next day at the Tri for Fun and/or at Vineman 70.3 on Sunday.  It seemed to relax me even more. 

I got home at a reasonable time and it was a relaxed evening of hydration, fueling (with MRD) and packing my transition bag.  I even got to bed at a reasonable hour!

Of course, there was a reason for getting up at a reasonable hour.  Even though this race was practically in my own back yard my teammates had warned me that the place filled up quickly, so I was up at 4:30 and on the road by 5:00 (ish).  The drive over was pretty uneventful and we got in easily and got prime parking.  I was happy to see a few teammates already setting up in transition when I got there, and I dumped my gear off and headed over to pick up my ‘race packet’.

Because this was a Tri for  ‘Fun’ there wasn’t much to packet pickup.  Basically I just signed a waver and received my race number, no timing chips, it was very easy and very well organized.

Then it was back to transition to set up my stuff, gab with teammates, stretch a bit and basically wait for the sun to come up.  As it got closer to race time I headed over and got body markings, my race t-shirt, slapped on some sun screen and was ready to go.  Given the air and water temperature, there was no way I was wearing a wetsuit for this race… No Way!

As the 7:00 AM start time approached I headed down to the water and tried my ‘new’ warmup technique.  I swam sprints with short recoveries for about 10 minutes.  My goal was to get my heart rate UP and then recovered before the start.  It worked and by the time the race announcements were over I could feel the little ‘buzz’ that comes from a body ready to do some serious work. 

Of course, I’m a 40 year old women, so in this race of 6 waves I was in wave 5.  That meant I had to work a little to keep that buzz up, but adrenaline did a little of the work for me.  Before too long the first 4 waves were off and in the water, and I was standing waist deep waiting for the signal to go.  A quick countdown from the announcer and we got the go, and I DOVE in, literally.  Where a lot of people were wading into deeper water before starting I used a little of my prior pool racing experience and did a shallow water dive right into a hard fast stroke as soon as we got the go signal.  It served me well as I stayed right up with the front swimmers.  My warm-up had served me well too because I was able to maintain the pace I set throughout the entire swim – two BIG bonuses.  The only thing I would have changed on the swim.  I set myself on the far right of the group.  I pull right a little when I swim.  The first buoy was at an angle to the left of the swim start.  So, when I finally sighted, about half way to the first buoy, I was abreast of the front swimmers, but I was also far to the right of them, and I lost a little time having to cut across to the left.  Still it was obvious I was in the front of the pack and I didn’t let the miss calculation get to me, I just kept on swimming.  Once around the first buoy I started passing people.  I could tell that things were going well, it just was hard to tell HOW well – it always is when swimming.  I made it around the second buoy and headed to shore.  The area here seemed to have a lot more swimmers in it – probably as people had slowed down – tired.   Plus it was a little narrow, up against the edge of the lake.  There were two ladies swimming side by side in front of me and both were doing the breast stroke – the ‘frog kick’ of the breast stroke takes a lot more room then the crawl and I was kind of stuck.  If then had been doing the crawl I probably would have swum between them, but I had no desire to be kicked in the head if should misjudge the space.  So, I slowed a little and tried to pass on the right.  Just as I did, the girl on the right started drifting to the right… dang!  BUT, when she did she opened the space between the a little and with a little juke move (who knew you could do that in the water!?) I squeezed between them and started pouring on the last burst of speed to the swim finish – whew!

I don’t have any ‘official time’ for my swim, I knew I had done ok when I glanced at the people who were getting out of the water around me and most were under 40  - the wave that had started before me.  

The run to transition was really short and it was a straight shot to my bike.  It didn’t take me long to switch over to bike gear – no wetsuit to strip – and head out.  I was now on the part of the course where I planned to see the biggest improvement the bike.  I climbed up the hill out of the park and hit the roads.  It didn’t take long for my new found bike speed to show itself.  I was passing people almost faster than I could shout out “On your LEFT”.  And it was EASY.  One after another I set my sites on girls with 20 or 30 something written on their calves, chased them down, and passed them.  I was almost giddy with joy!  Yes, I got passed a few times.  But the 4 people who passed me in the 11 mile ride were nothing compared to the 30 or so that I left behind.

The turn around of the short out and back portion of the race, was there before I knew it and I took the corner easy and headed out again. 

I would like to say “SORRY!!!” to the few people I passed during that short time when we were riding on the wrong side of the road, to whom I called out “On you LEFT” and then I passed you on the right.  Passing people is new to me, and I got a little confused.  Thank you to the one girl who pointed out my error.  Seriously, I felt like a complete dork, but I was glad I didn’t do the same thing to too many other people.

About mile 8 or so I saw what would be the one and only hill other than the one at the start.  It was steep, but short and I hit it, focused and got up and over it without dropping my cadence – a huge victory for me.  I did get a little grumpy when the little girl who I had passed at the bottom, passed me at the top, looked over at me and said “That was easy!”  I’ve come a long way, but not THAT far!  I got my revenge though when I passed her on the downhill like a large lightning bolt :)

The end of the bike ride came so much faster than I expected and before I knew it I was swooping down the hill into the park, unclipping, and dismounting back at transition.   Again, I knew I had a good time, I just didn’t know how good, and the hardest part was yet to come, the run.

I came back to my transition spot to find – someone had taken my spot!  My stuff was still there, but someone else’s bike was parked over the top of it.  I grumbled a bit, but one of my teammates who had already finished (thanks for being there CHRIS!!) calmed me down, pointed to an empty spot further down the rack and got my head back into the game.  I did a quick change and headed out onto the run course.  This was it – this was where I would make or break my race I was sure of it.  My legs were feeling the bike as I trotted to the start of the run course – could I do this?  I just kept repeating to myself – 2 hours!  2 hours!

The run started off frustrating.  I was tired, my legs were rubbery and the first thing off the bat was a gnarly hill.   Yes, the bike had been flat, but the run was anything but!  But I gave myself permission to walk the up hill and just kept swinging my arms to keep my momentum going.  It took me about a mile to settle into a comfortable pace and by then at least 15 people had passed me.  But I didn’t let it bother me.  I knew I lost time on the run – I just had to focus on running my race, my pace… 2 hours… would I make it?

The run was a funny little clover leaf thing that I really liked.  You got to see a lot of people as you were running and it made the whole thing seem really friendly and fun.  It was also good for someone like me who tends to get stuck running alone a lot.  Not on this race there was always someone coming and/or going and not just people who were leaving me behind :)

I hit the water station at the center of the leaf at the end of the first mile and finally started to feel as if I had my legs under me.  It was cool to see so many of my Forward Motion teammates there handing out water and that helped to boost my confidence just a little.  Still there were a lot of hills left to go.  About mid way through the second mile I was feeling it.  It was hot, I was tired,  I was worried I had spent too much on the bike and mentally I was starting to crumble just a little.  I dropped to a walk even though I wasn’t going uphill, that’s when I heard a voice behind me.  “Don’t give up!   Keep going, just take small steps, they conserve energy.  Small steps, keep going”

I have no idea who my angel was, but THANK YOU!  Your tiny little bit of encouragement got me going again.  Got me thinking positive when I wasn’t doing so hot on my own…  I did start moving again.  I focused on finding a ‘happy pace’ and maintaining it… and I continued to maintain it, even up some hills!  I hit the end of mile two feeling pretty good and started on the last ‘loop’ of the clover.  I still had no idea if I was meeting my time goals but I knew I would finish with a smile on face, and knowing I had given it my all. 

I hit the top of one hill to cheering from one volunteer.  “You’re doing great, almost there – go there”

There, was down a hill and off the ‘ridge’ we had been running on.  I pounded down the hill expecting to have to climb up again only to find another volunteer at the bottom pointing me across the grass.  “Head across the grass to the finish”  she told me… I literally WAS almost done!

I started to pick up the pace my heart pounding with excitement.  I was almost done – the finish like was up there, I could hear the music and cheering.  I jogged a bit faster, and then faster, would I make it!?  I knew that the big clock over the finish line had started with the first wave, and that I had started 20 minutes behind the first wave – so to be under 2 hours I needed to see less then 2:20 on the clock.  I saw the finish and spotted the clock… I squinted trying to read the numbers… it says… something 40 something... darn it!  I kept running, pushing myself to the finish, that’s when I realized – the first number was a 1!!!  I was not only under two hours I was WAY under two hours!!  I sprinted to then end and passed across the finish line at 1:50 which made my official time 1:30!!

I swear I was on cloud 9 the entire rest of the day!


  1. Shawn, that is so AWESOME! I love reading your blogs. This is a great accomplishment. Keep up the great Work!

    Ray from TNT Lavaman :)

  2. Thank you Ray Ray! Great to hear from some of the 'old team' :)

  3. Congrats!

    It's amazing what a difference a short swim warmup will make prior to a tri.

    Good luck this weekend!