Littlefoot Triathlon – Race Recap

Oh man.

This summer I planned to do no races, to enjoy my summer, and to go to more happy hours. And I have! I have spent a lot of time drinking beers on patios, sitting on the couch, working, and very little time working out. As a result I’m slightly squishier but a lot less stressed out than I was this time last summer.

But a few weeks ago Chris and I went for a bike ride and then I hopped off and did a short run. Just to see. Just to see how bad a brick might feel. But it was fine! I was hot and tired, but really, it was fine.

So on a whim, with no training, yesterday afternoon I signed up for the Littlefoot Triathlon, a tiny sprint tri that was this morning. (There were only about 150 racers.) I had done two random 5ks this summer, not really trained, and PR’d both! Maybe 2013 was one long taper I’d benefited from immensely.

Ha. Hahahaha. Oh, Past Mel. How did you get so dumb?

I actually had a lot of fun today, but I totally face-planted in the race. The very short version with random crappy iPhone pictures…

The approach:

Most of my gear came together pretty quickly last night except for 10 tense minutes spent looking for a stray cycling glove. (I have super crappy wrists, I need them even for a short ride.) My alarm didn’t go off (I set it for PM instead of AM) but Chris’s alarm woke me up and I got out the door on time. On the way there, I hit a bump on the freeway and in the rear view mirror watched my bike bounce out of its fastenings on the bike rack and slide dangerously close to flying off. Pulled over, adjusted, drove verrrry carefully the rest of the way.

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The swim:

Always my favorite leg, and I love the part before we start where everyone’s in the water chatting. I haven’t swam (in a pool or in a lake) in a year so I was impressed that I could swim a half mile with no breaks. It wasn’t fast, but I swam pretty straight and was able to pass some folks.

The bike:

Bleh. I think I have realized I do not enjoy cycling, especially on my crappy Target bike. The course wasn’t as hilly as I thought, but it was really curvy, so you had zero momentum going into the uphills. Also, my heart rate was like “WHY DID YOU JUST SWIM SO HARD FOR SO LONG? IS SOMETHING CHASING YOU?” and my heart rate would. Not. Come. Down. Not when I slowed down, not when I had water, not when I took it easy on the uphills.

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The run:

I got off the bike and my legs felt okay-ish, but again my heart rate was like “THIS IS NOT DRINKING BEER. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING??” And by this time it was really hot, and when I tried to run my heart rate exploded and I felt a little dizzy. So since I had no goals, and I was just here for fun, I decided to just walk the 5k. I could have kept up a run/walk situation but…meh. Meh. I say.

I smiled at other racers, chatted with volunteers, and drank a lot of water. It was hot. Then there were fewer people on the course and I got bored. I kind of wished I’d spent my $85 on a new dress.

The finish:

I realized at some point that I was the last finisher, and I felt badly because I think people really like to cheer for last finishers who look like they’re overcoming some hardship but trying really hard. People like it when the last finisher is really old or overweight but doing their best to sprint to the finish! I was just a healthy lady who was not trained at all and being kind of lazy.

When I got to the finish line I tried to nonchalantly saunter across, but the announcer stopped the raffle/awards to call me out, and I waved to the crowd. “Hi! Sorry. Don’t mind me. Are there any vegetarian sandwiches left?” (There weren’t!)

Maybe 15 seconds after I finished, I was slinking off to collect my stuff when the announcer called out my name for first place! Well, only place. In the sadly neglected Athena division. (That means I weigh more than 150 pounds.) I collected my award and marveled at the math that allowed me to be both first and last. Ah, well.

So there’s that. Ninth triathlon in the books. Kind of made an idiot of myself, but I had fun.

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Three footnotes if I could remember how to actually code footnotes:

One, I think I actually came in last place, which is kind of funny. It’s that thing people dread but it’s fine. No one points and laughs at you, you still get the same t-shirt. I’m kind of happy to fall on this sword if it means someone else who would mind doesn’t have to. But, I was also in the last wave, so maybe someone who started 20 minutes ahead of me actually took more time than I did. Who knows.

Two, I wish the Athena division was really a thing. I always sign up for it if it’s an option because seriously, regardless of how in shape you are, it’s just harder to propel 150 pounds around a course than it is 120 pounds, and I’m a big person! I’d like to compete against other big people. I’m tall and broad and the only time in my life I’ve weighed less than 150 pounds was a brief period after college when I engaged in some somewhat disordered habits. Other than that, I’ve fit into the same jeans since high school.

And there were definitely women in that weight range who beat me today who decided to compete in their age group instead. They should have this cool plaque, not me! I mean, to each her own. Thanks for the first place/last place finish, ladies!

Three, race directors: you always run out of the vegetarian sandwiches or burritos! You should have more. I was starving and made a beeline for a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich when I left the park.

Oktoberfest Sprint Triathlon 2012 – Race Recap

Good morning! It’s 5 am and I did NOT sleep last night because dogs were barkin’ and horns were honkin’ and I took a stupid afternoon nap that I think messed me up. Also, blatant “my hair is getting SO long and I LOVE it” photo.

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Most race mornings I jump out of bed, totally wired. Since this was more of a really really really just for fun race I was less pumped to get out of bed. It felt like my alarm went off right as I had drifted to sleep and I was definitely wanting another 20 minutes.

I ran through my packing checklist one last time, blended up a big smoothie for us to share and we were out the door by 5:45. As we got in the car I saw my neighbor friend putting her bike into her car too! She has been at three of the four triathlons I did this year, and we keep saying we need to organize some kind of club since our neighbors are all swimmers, bikers, runners, or some combination.

We got to Union Reservoir right as transition opened but apparently not early enough because we didn’t get to park in the close parking lot. Oh, well. Three minute walk vs. 20 minutes extra in bed? Easy call.

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Once we arrived we split up. Chris was volunteering at this race, not just spectating, so he went off to body mark and I picked up my packet and set up transition.

I recognized a gal at the packet pickup table from the end of the Harvest Moon (my first half iron distance two weeks ago). She is the nicest lady and we chatted for a few minutes about how I was a crying mess and she said, “I’m going to cry again, I was so proud of you for finishing!” I think the people at Without Limits (the company who put on this race, my last race, and many others) are the nicest. And it feels nice to be able to “shop local” when it comes to races as opposed to doing those put on by giant companies. Anyways.

The t-shirts for this race are like the least ugly t-shirts I have ever gotten. I never wear mine (I give them to Chris) but isn’t this cute? This is the back, and the front just has a small “Without Limits” logo. They don’t have nine million logos on them.

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I didn’t think about the fact that Chris would be up close and personal with so many fit ladies while body marking. Oh, well.

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But since I knew the body-marker, I asked if he could give me some extra art. Which is how this happened…

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So, I set up transition. I was glad we got there kinda on the early side because the line to get your timing chip got really long.

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Said hi to my coworkerfriend doing the race.

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And then I went down to the water and cursed myself for not bringing some throw away flip flops. It is rocky and horrible and my feet really hurt. I got in the water and waded around.

There was a lot of nervous energy in that lake. Before we started they asked for a show of hands for first time ever triathletes and it looked like a third of the crowd were first timers! I admit it was kind of nice to not be the nervous nelly and feel confident that I was going to enjoy myself.

I lined up with my wave and we were off! The buoys were spaced pretty closely so sighting was easy. I tried to push hard on the swim, to the point I got a small side stitch. But it was pretty clear I’d taken the last two weeks entirely off, and I ended up finishing a minute slower than last year. I got to use one of my favorite tricks: sighting off of someone who is breaststroking. They’re definitely going the right way since they can see, and if they’re next to you, it’s easier to see them than something in front of you. (Then again, I always come in close to last, so maybe don’t take my advice.)

I only got pummeled once by a swimmer from the wave behind me. Otherwise people were pretty good about personal space.

Chris was at the Run-Out at transition so I got to say hi on my way out of the water.

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Somehow I sent a ridiculously long time in transition. What was I even doing? It was close to five minutes. Who knows.

Onto the bike! This bike course is nice because it is flat! I really tried to push myself, and it was so different to ride not on hills. I was actually pushing myself to the point where I started to feel out of breath before my legs were killing me, which was different than the past few super-hilly courses I’ve been on. I liked it. I even passed a few people. (Not that many. And they were on cruisers or mountain bikes. But still!) I have to think if I had a non-crappy hybrid bike from Target I could be a speed demon on the bike. Anyone have an extra $1,000?

Off the bike I felt awesome and really tried to push myself on the run as well. I took two one minute walk breaks and tried to push to where I felt just a little uncomfortable. I ended up finishing the run at an 11:47 pace, which was exciting. I haven’t seen that side of 12 minute miles in a while and it felt good.

One thing about this race is that it seemed kind of quiet. Usually on an out and back run there’s a lot of “Nice work!” “Keep it up” and “Looking strong!” but this course was eerily silent.

I wish I had more to say but I don’t really want to say “I really tried to push myself” for a fourth time. I tried to go fast-ish but I didn’t feel like killing myself. I think my lack of soreness today means I didn’t really go full throttle.

I ate a delicious veggie burrito from Wahoo’s when it was done and congratulated coworkerfriend (who also had a great race!).

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Went home and put my new glass to good use.

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Contemplated how wearing a race bib always makes me feel like I’m a star-bellied sneech.

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And Chris poured me a congratulations-on-a-fun-season-ending-race glass of champagne.

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The end. I promised myself no more races for at least a year. I have spent too much time, money, and emotional bandwidth on them this year and I need a break.
I am taking suggestions for new expensive, time-sucking hobbies.

Rattlesnake Olympic Triathlon – Race Recap

I finished an Olympic distance triathlon in 2011, but it was kind of a disaster and I was in tears by the end. I set a goal for myself to finish an Olympic in 2012 with a big smile on my face, and I picked the Rattlesnake Triathlon at the Aurora Reservoir to get the job done.

I was up early Saturday morning! (I love Saturday races and prefer them times ten million to Sunday races.) We left around 5 am, when it was still dark. Sipped a smoothie and a little gatorade in the car. Ate a peanut butter sandwich.

This is my 5 am face.

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We got to the Aurora Reservoir around 6. I was happy that parking was so close to transition.  The sun was just rising, and everyone was hanging out by the water taking pictures of the pretty sunrise.

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Packet pickup was easy enough and then I went in to set up transition. For some reason setting up transition always reminds me of moving into a new dorm room. I guess because it feels so important that you set everything up just so, but it’s still just a tiny patch of the world for all your junk. Since Chris wasn’t racing, he wasn’t allowed into the transition area, so I picked a spot near the rail. So, you know, we could hang out through the bars. Like he was dating someone in prison.

I think I was literally in the worst corner of the transition area (farthest from the bike out) but at least it wasn’t crowded. Plus it was on the edge, so little chance I’d get lost on my way back.

Another sexy facial expression.

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Once everything was set up, we headed down to the water. It was such a luxury to be able to carry my hoodie, sunscreen, and flip flops to the edge of the reservoir but then to be able to hand them off to Chris. (Usually we do the same races, but he injured his back, so he didn’t do this one.)

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The water could not have felt more perfect. It was like exactly the same temperature as the air or something. I normally take a while to acclimate to the water. It’s usually really hard for me to put my face in and I need a long time to warm up. This was just…hop in, start swimming, no big deal. I guess this is the one perk we get from the hottest summer ever, because the Aurora reservoir is notoriously cold.

The swim was a time trial start. They let someone into the water every three or four seconds. The order was elites first, then  women then men, oldest to youngest. This put me about half way through the line. I was happy about that because the last time trial start I did I was almost the last person in the water and I ended up standing around in the sun in my wetsuit forever.

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Big wave and smile to Chris before getting in. Swimming is my favorite leg of a triathlon, so I’m always feeling awesome at this point. The gal right in front of me is actually my next door neighbor! So we are neighbors at home and at this race.

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Hi, I’m Mel! I’m ready for swimming, thank you!

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One more turn around to wave and smile. I really only do races because I love smiling and waving to cameras, and the famous actress gig didn’t work out.

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There was a rope along the first 3/4 of the swim, and I felt like I could move along pretty quickly since I didn’t have to sight at all, just kept looking at the rope to my right. That part was pretty sweet. The downside was that because people were trying to stick pretty close to the rope, the swim felt more congested than I have experienced before. I got kicked and punched more than normal. I usually describe open water swims as feeling more like bumper cars than anything else. You bump up against another swimmer and then you both sort of drift away from each other. Not for this swim. Someone would bump into me and then keep stroking their arms into my back and head.

 

 

Coming out from the first lap.

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Headed into the second lap.

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The second lap finished on another part of the shore. I tried to really swim as fast as I could, but in the last quarter I had to sight, too. It’s funny; I think I practice open water swimming a lot. Probably more than most casual triathletes, but no matter how much time I spend swimming even strokes in Bowles Reservoir, I always feel a little bit like a flopping, flailing mess in a race.

Coming out of the water, looking at my watch.

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Never stop waving and smiling!!

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I came out of the water feeling great! I got a tiny side stitch half way through the swim, but I knew my swim was the best I could do, and I was having a great time. This is also the part of the race where I was around the most people. With my pace, I’m not generally surrounded by a lot of other racers during the bike or the run, so I like having company.

I would like some major authenticity points for posting these extremely unflattering photos of volunteers helping to strip off my wetsuit.  I think I probably could have gotten it off faster myself, but wetsuit strippers are just…I don’t know. They are such a funny and amazing thing, I just can’t pass them up. When else does anything like this ever happen to you?

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Ran up to transition. It felt like the swim finish was about 9 million miles away from the swim finish. It took me about three minutes to get there. I’m generally a pretty modest girl, so running in shorts and a sports bra is my least favorite part of a triathlon.

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Got to transition. Put on my shirt, cycling gloves, helmet, sunglasses, sunscreen, and shoes and socks. Please note the man leaning over here, trying to get his cycling jersey on.

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So, Chris is taking these photos, standing just on the other side of the partition/barricade outlining the transition area. This guy ended up asking him for help pulling his jersey down because, dudes, it’s really hard to pull down your shirt when you’re all wet.

The yellow flags here are the bike out. I had really positioned myself poorly with a ton of stuff to maneuver through on my way out, but oh well. I left the “good” spots for people who cared about time.

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Off to the bike! SMILE! And WAVE!

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The bike is consistently the toughest part of a triathlon for me. Too bad since it’s the longest part.

The course started out on this really bumpy road within the park. I think it’s called chip seal? It didn’t feel good, and since I’m basically terrified of flying off my bike at any moment, I didn’t not enjoy all the bouncing. I felt a lot better once we got on Quincy Road. But though the road was much smoother, there was basically zero flat road on this bike course. Look at this elevation profile! It was all terrifying steep downhills and excruciating uphills.

Even though I have ridden this road several times to practice, it was still tough. And very shortly I was feeling pretty lonely on the course. I sang some songs (Can you pay my hills, can’t pay my telephone hills, can’t pay my auto-mo-hills, then maybe baby we can chill!) and gave myself little pep talks (“Mel! You are going to go up this hill! You are going to keep pedaling! And you are going to friggin ROCK this!”)

The last few miles were tough both because they were uphill but also because I couldn’t remember exactly how long the course was. Iwas like…23? 24? 26? I couldn’t remember the total mileage so I wasn’t sure how long I had left.

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Through the magic of race recaps, I come back into transition after just a few lines of text! But it was really two hours.

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The bike was long, and it was hard. I was happy to be done, and I was happy to be running. Of the three legs of a triathlon the run is just the most simple. There’s not really any special equipment, you’re not jostling amongst other people. You just run.

I was happy there was an aid station at each mile marker. I grabbed some water and Gatorade at each one, and it was nice to break up the six miles into six short chunks.

I used my phone’s RunKeeper app to prompt me to run/walk on 5/1 minute intervals. I can do anything for five minutes if I know I get a walk break. There were a few times when I heard the beep for the walk break and I couldn’t help but exclaim “Oh thank god.” It was hot. I was kind of by myself for the last three miles. I had to pee, and I was getting sunburned, despite applying sunscreen before the race and at both transitions. There is just not shade out there, and it’s draining.

The way the path snakes around the reservoir, it looked like you were very close to the finish line when you still had more than a mile to go. That was such a bummer.

But as I approached the finish line there were these young girls in pink with pom poms. I don’t know if they were local high school cheerleaders or what, but they made me so happy. And come to find out, Chris had enlisted their help along with the spectators and volunteers at the finish line. He told them my name and asked for a little extra cheering and spectator love.

I was so confused as I approached the finish and heard people yelling “GO MEL! Bring it home to a strong finish, Mel! You can do it, Mel!” I teared up a little and ran as fast as I could to the finish line. I felt so good, and knew I had done my very best.  I gave someone a high five and did my best to smile and get a good finish line photo for the race photographer.

I gave Chris a huge hug, raised my eyebrows a little at the medal (a bottle opener on a chain) and devoured some of the awesome post-race food. I ate a bagel with cheese, mini carrots, grapes, and watermelon. I was super impressed by the fresh produce, not something you see at every race.

Overall I felt great about this race. I had fun, I worked hard, and I felt like I did my best. I would definitely recommend it (if you love hills on the bike) and I’m a little tempted to sign up to do it again next summer and see if I can beat my time, or do the “Back to Back” option. There’s an Olympic on Saturday plus a Sprint on Sunday. One summer I will do both. Maybe. Probably. (Definitely.)