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.

Harvest Moon 70.3 – Race Recap

In the car on the way home from this race I thought to myself, “I should just brain dump right now, go home and make a video and just talk about this race before I start to to forget things.” But instead when I got home I took an ice bath, then a hot bath, then a shower so I could wash my hair, then was in bed asleep before 9 pm. And now it’s over a week later, but here we go. 

This is like the longest thing. You should go grab snack.

To begin, the entire week leading up to this race whenever I thought about it, I felt sick to my stomach with dread. I was terrified and so nervous that it would be too hard or I wouldn’t make the cut off time and they would ask me to get off the course. I was a total wreck. 

The day before I decided to start panicking over silly things. I texted Chris “I think my bike needs new brakes.” (It didn’t.) And I somehow I suddenly owned zero pairs of sunglasses, so I made a Target run for a few new pairs and stopped at 7-11 for gatorade. The guy who rang me up asked, “So…are you going to the gym?” “Nope! Just really thirsty.”

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By race day I’d sort of…I don’t know how to explain it. You can only maintain a state of utter panic for so long. When my alarm went off at 4:30 I thought, well, one way or another, in 12 hours it will all be over, and that will be a relief.

I’d set out all my gear the night before and prepped a smoothie. I managed to sleep a little, but shot out of bed, gear in the car, and we were out the door shortly after 5 am. We got to the park too early, the gates didn’t open until 6 am. Chris was a race day rockstar in many ways,  the first being that he was definitely doing his best to keep me chatting and to try to distract me from being so nervous. 

 

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We had to sit stopped in the car for about 20 minutes before we could go into the park. We sang some songs but changed all the words to be about riding your bike up hills. We tried to come up with a triathlon related word for every letter of the alphabet. (A for awesome, B for Bike, C for Chip timing…) 

I picked up my packet and got to work setting up transition. I was glad we got there super early and I had plenty of time because my brain was not working. I spent a lot of time just sort of staring at all my stuff. Should I drape my shirt over my seat? Put it on the ground? Guh. I…what do I do now?

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We went down to the water and I commenced panicking. This is a picture of a girl who really feels like she’s about to puke. And then the crying started. Not full on, but quite a few tears slipped out while I was braiding my hair and then getting on sunscreen, body glide, and my wetsuit. It was kind of embarrassing, sitting on a picnic table, getting suited up, just quietly sniveling. But what can you do? I am a cryer. I cried into Chris’s shoulder a little bit and then tried to get myself together.IMG 2161
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When the announcer called one minute until my wave started I could just feel my whole body vibrating with nerves. I tried to release nervous energy by shaking out my hands. It didn’t work.
 
But once I actually started swimming I felt amazing. For one thing, it felt so good to be actually doing something rather than standing around and fretting. On top of that, there is no time for nerves when you’re swimming. It engages all of your senses, leaving no room for anything else. 
 
I love swimming. It’s my favorite way to work out and it’s my favorite leg of  every triathlon. I love it so much, well, I decided to do a little extra swimming I guess.
 
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The course was essentially an out and back, a long extended triangle. There was only one set of buoys, though, so the way back was pretty tough to sight. One the way back I found myself way to the right of the other swimmers.  It took me about 24 minutes to do the first half of the swim and a little over 30 minutes to do the second half. Whoops.
 
I came out of the water and tried to be hardcore and run up the short hill to transition. But then I was like…I think this race is hardcore enough, thanks. I’ll just walk through the sand. Peeled my wetsuit off and darted into the Porta Potty.  
 
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The announcer was encouraging spectators to scope out transition techniques noting that some athletes would be in transition for less than 60 seconds. Meanwhile. I got tangled in my shirt.

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The guy next to me had essentially overlapped his towel onto mine and the nice girl inside of me didn’t want to step on it  so I kept weirdly leaning over to grab my stuff. Eventually I managed to get myself out onto my bike and out on the bike course. I only have one bottle cage on my bike so I wore a waist pack to hold another bottle. I had a veritable picnic in my sports bra with shot blocks and cliff bars chopped up into little pieces.
 
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The first half of the bike course felt amazing. Really amazing. There was a slight downhill out of the park and then it was onto Quincy Road. Quincy Road is a crazy roller coaster of straight up and down hills but I had ridden this thing four or five times by now and I was ready. I pulled over for just a moment around mile 10 to open my shot blocks (I always forget to tear open the package ahead of time) and to tuck my shoelaces into my right shoe, a step I’d forgotten in transition.
 
After the up and down hills, we turned on Watson Road. Watson Road felt like cycling heaven. It was a long stretch of slight downhill. Not steep enough to be scary at all, just enough to allow even a slowpoke like me to cruise along above 20 mph. “I’m doing it!” I thought. I am a CYCLIST!”
 
After Watson we turned right onto Colfax. Not still in cycling heaven, but it was mostly flat with just some very slight uphills. I was approaching the hallway point of the bike and I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I was above the average pace I needed to be, and I was feeling silly for ever worrying this was something I couldn’t finish.
 
The second half of the bike course was my worst nightmare. If I had known how this would feel when I woke up that morning, I’d have stayed in bed. Honestly. It was terrible.
 
Around mile 30 we started to head uphill again, but with very little downhill or flats to break up the climbing for about ten miles. My pace slowed way down, and around mile 32 we turned onto a road with ridiculous wind. It was getting to be midday and the sun was out in full force. Riding uphill, in hot sun, with a nasty headwind, with 20 miles to go, I was losing all confidence. My pace slowed and the miles felt longer and longer. 
 
I watched my average pace drop on my Garmin and watched as my goal time slipped farther and farther away. My legs ached, my head drooped, and I started to feel a little panicky. I think it was around mile 35 or 36 that I passed a girl in an ambulance. And I was so jealous. She was smiling, she wasn’t on her bike anymore, and she didn’t have to run 13 miles.
 
Along this tough stretch, I was passed by a white car a few times who was leapfrogging a racer so they could cheer her on. The first time I passed the car, a man and two little kids leaned out of the windows and started cheering their heads off “YOU CAN DO IT KEEP GOING DOING GREAT!”
 
Aaaand of course I burst into tears because I was not doing great and I wasn’t sure I could do this and I was so hot and tired and it felt like my legs were going to fall off.
 
But they kept leapfrogging, and as long as they were out there cheering for someone else they cheered for me, too. And it made me cry, but I called out the most sincere “Thank you!” I could.
 
At one point a woman passed me and commented “Ugh, this wind! This just feels endless.” And it did. That’s exactly how it felt. For those ten miles, it felt like I was going to be riding my bike for the rest of my days and that I was never going to turn onto Quincy and I’d never do anything again except ride my bike uphill in the sun.
 
I started bargaining. Okay, Mel. If you finish this race, I promise you will never, ever, ever have to ride your bike again. You can throw this bike into the dumpster when you get back to the park. And even, Okay…whatever’s up there. I don’t believe in this, but if there is a higher power out in the universe that can hear me, if you give me just one minute of downhill or heck, even flat, I will become a believer. (I actually did get a short downhill after that but I did not hold up my end of the bargain. Sorry, Universe.) 
 
Eventually I turned back onto Quincy Road and, for the most part, out of the wind! I never thought I’d be so happy for those roller coaster hills, but at least scary fast downhill broke up the steep uphills. I knew I could do this, and I only had 16 miles to go. At this point the ride was still tough, but felt less like death. More like a bad cold.
 
I grabbed a water bottle from the aid station at mile 46 and squirted it all over me. That was probably one of the best moments of my life. I wish I had done that earlier, but I was only carrying and drinking Gatorade, and I didn’t want to splash that all over myself and get sticky. 
 
In this last stretch, there was a race official on patrol on a motorcycle. He pulled up to me a few times and asked if I was okay and advised me to drink water if I felt dizzy. I put on my biggest, lyingest smile and said “I feel just fine, thanks! I’m just slow.” I didn’t feel dizzy or anything, but I did feel like the smart thing to do would have been to just stop.
 
Once I turned back into the park, I was so happy to be almost off the bike. The last three turns/uphills were brutal, though. They seemed suddenly much steeper than on my way out. It’s funny how your body really starts to protest when you know you’re almost done.
 
As I came to the end of the bike course, I saw Chris standing next to a volunteer, cheering his head off. Once again, I promptly burst into tears. At that point I didn’t even care. I wasn’t trying to smile or pretend I wasn’t sobbing like a baby. Volunteers were encouraging as I came into transition and shared some good news “You’re off the bike!” I managed a “Thanks” in between ragged breaths. I parked my bike, took off my helmet, and stood in transition for a solid 60 seconds at least, and just sobbed my eyes out.
 
I’m not a huge fan of the term “Lose my shit.” It’s crass. And not usually very descriptive. And I once knew someone who so overused the phrase that it’s still a joke in my household.
 
But guys, I lost my shit. Poor Chris is standing on the other side of the railing, “Are you okay?”
 
“Yes.” Sniff. “I’m fine.” Sob, sob. Chris was kind enough not to take pictures of this low moment, but I almost wish I had some. I just put my face in my hands and cried because I was so disappointed and so tired and hot and I was just sad.
 
I didn’t really think I had a run in me, but I grabbed my hat and some shot blocks and walked out of transition. Chris walked next to me for a few minutes and I blubbered to him “That was SO HARD. That was the HARDEST thing I have ever made myself do.”
 
“Do you want me to walk with you?”
 
Sigh. “No. I don’t know. I think I can do it. Okay. I’m gonna go run now.”
 
I tried to run a little but I mostly walked to mile one. I grabbed two cold cups of water, downed them, and realized I needed and wanted way more. I texted Chris and told him I wasn’t sure I could finish and asked him if he could bring me a full bottle of water.
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I think he caught up with me around mile two. I drank water, filled him in more on how I was feeling, cried more for good measure, and then, realizing I had several hours ahead of me, that I didn’t really want to carry the gallon jug of water he had brought, that I was dehydrated, emotional, and very tired, I think I said something like, “I think I need you to stay with me.”
 
And that was that. He rode his bike slowly next to me for the rest of the race. (This is certainly not something that is allowed, but when you are that far in the back of the pack, they don’t really care. We actually saw another couple doing the same thing.)
 
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I didn’t really decide I was going to finish until around mile 4. I was running for as long as I could stand it (maybe 2-3 minutes) and then taking a walk break. But by mile four it was like…even if I quit I have to walk back. So I can turn around now and walk back or I can go another measly two and a half miles and then turn back.
 
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I felt stronger as we went along. I drank water whenever I walked and poured tons of water on my self to cool off.
 
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I got to the turnaround right as they were taking it down. They actually were putting the cone away but put it back so I could run around it. I joked, “I don’t know why they give medals to the people who finish first. I’ve been at this for twice as long, that’s WAY harder.”
 
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I literally would not have finished if Chris wasn’t hanging out with me. I wouldn’t have had enough water, and I’m sure I would have been way too much in my head. Having someone to talk to made all the difference in the world. I just took it mile by mile. I really didn’t even think of it as 13 miles. I never thought “I’m on mile 9.” I just thought of it as six miles out, a little extra to the turnaround, and then counted down on the way back, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 
 
As we continued I felt better and just tried to run until I felt like I was going to fall over and then take a one minute walk break.
 
Company kept my spirits up, but it didn’t keep my feet from hurting. I ran as much as I could, but with three mils left I had stabbing pains in my feet and my hip was hurting again. At that point running didn’t really feel worse than walking so I tried to run for five minutes before taking a one minute break (my original plan for the whole run).
 
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With two miles left I was feeling a lot of pain. Obviously I wasn’t going to give up with two miles to go, but I was done.
 
I was glad I’d done the Rattlesnake on this same run path, so I knew that the last two miles were deceptive, especially around the one mile mark. There are two spots where the finish line looks just around the corner but I knew there were wide loops and turns left before I was actually done.
 
As we approached the finish, Chris rode ahead to get some photos, and I geared up for the best sprint to the finish I could muster. The volunteers/staff at this race were awesome and they cheered me all the way in and put a medal around my neck. 
 
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And then I cried again. Less than I did on the bike, but it was an emotional day. Home to an ice bath, pizza, not even a quarter of a beer, and then bed.

And then I teared up as I wrote this, as I read over it again, and just a little now as I’m hitting post. I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe it’s over. I’m so glad it’s done.

I will have more to say about this, but there it is. My first and only half iron man. I told Chris if I ever even think about signing up for another one he has my permission to squirt water on my face, grab my computer out of my hands, and throw it across the room.

 

 
 
 

Rattlesnake Triathlon – Odds and Ends

There are always a million little details from any race that I want to remember but that would make the race recap nine million pages long. In roughly chronological order:

I chatted with a guy before the swim who was really nervous about the swim. This was his first Olympic distance, and he was worried because he was one of the only people not wearing a wetsuit. He was so nice, and I saw him after I finished, shook his hand, and was delighted that his race went well.

The Elites got in the water before any of us, and then…several of them went completely off course. It’s not very kind to make fun, but I think it was nice for all us amateurs on the shore to feel a little less intimidated.

At one point in the swim I kept getting boxed in by two swimmers. I couldn’t quite get around them and finally I just came up for air and tread water for a moment to let them get ahead of me. A volunteer on a paddle board called to me, “Do you need help?”

“No, I’m just waiting for the damn traffic to clear.”

I reiterate: the swim felt somehow very narrow and crowded. It wasn’t unbearable but there was a lot more contact than I am used to.

As we were packing up I realized that my goggles and swim cap somehow went missing. Blargh! Those were my favorite goggles, and they were really nice swim caps (for free race swim caps).

The woman parked next to me in transition said she hadn’t seen the wetsuit strippers or the buckets to rinse off feet. I saw both, so maybe she was just going too fast. There are some advantages to being a little slower, I suppose. She also said she really had to pee but planned to wait after the bike was over. I wonder how that decision played out.

Oh! And I opened a portapotty to see a dude peeing AGAIN. Guys, seriously. I know it’s a race but you do have time to lock the door.

As I headed out on the bike, I passed a woman who looked quite old. She was actually the only person I passed on the whole bike ride, and she ended up passing me back towards the end of the race. Oh, well.

As I was headed down a long scary downhill part I got really freaked out and slowed way down. A woman on the other side of the road, in the middle of a long hard uphill climb, shouted out to me, “Keep pedaling, number 238! You can do it!” I frigging love triathletes. They are the nicest people. It amazes me that someone in the hardest part of the route would toss out encouragement to someone on (ostensibly) the easiest part.

As I turned back into the park a volunteer commented to me, “It’s really nice to see someone smiling for a change! Everyone looks so sad.”  That makes me sad. I guess most folks probably put their Serious Race Face on when they’re pushing hard, but isn’t smiling and thanking volunteers an essential part of the day?

When I came back into transition from the bike I couldn’t mentally deal with re-racking my bike so I just sort of parked it off to the side. That doesn’t break any rules that I know of.

I used the runkeeper app on my phone to prompt me to run and walk on 5/1 minute intervals. The GPS on this thing kind of sucks, though, so it kept reading out really ridiculous average paces because it thought I had gone like 13 miles instead of 6. I don’t know why but I found this embarrassing and I kept trying to muffle the sound.

I came up on a guy who was clearly struggling on the run at about mile 3 (out of 6.2). He said, “There better be a timing mat at the turnaround or else I would have just turned around and cut the course a long time ago!”  He looked sad. People who are at the back of the pack are either just cruising along being happy and not caring (like me, maybe 5%) or they’re having a bad day and they are pissed.

I had to pee really badly on the run but didn’t see a portapotty until mile 5. Bathroom location is really something I need to add to my race recon.

It was really fun knowing other people who were racing. My friend Megan was there and my neighbor Meg was racing as well. The longer I live in Denver, the smaller it gets, and it feels like you really can’t turn around without bumping into someone you know.

The finisher’s medal was a bottle opener with a rattlesnake on it (cool) hung on a dog chain (ehhn). What can I say, I like my finisher’s medals. I can’t hang this on the wall because it doesn’t look like a medal.

And my pictures came out kinda cute! I usually find official race pictures to be extremely unflattering but these are pretty okay!

I think that’s all I have to say about that. Twelve days until Harvest Moon. Ack!

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.)

Boulder Sunrise Sprint Triathlon – Race Recap

  •         Race day prep started the night before. Our super sweet semi-permanent houseguest made us a carb-loading dinner, pasta and homemade tomato sauce and a giant baguette with goat cheese to snack on.

  •        And yes, that is a beer the night before the race. Nothing new on race day!
  •        My alarm went off the next day at 5:00, set to “Perfect Day.” One of my favorite treadmill songs. “I’m in the race but I already won/Cause getting there can be half the fun.”
  •         I felt like I was going to vomit and was shivering like I had a fever. Still not sure if this was race day nerves or if I actually felt sick. Either way, that sucked! Tylenol and water helped.
  •         We arrived around 6:15, race started at 7:00. It was a long walk from the parking area, then there was a mix up with Chris’s bib number, I forgot to tell them I wanted to drop down to the sprint and had to go back. Packet pickup drama! We were rushed, and that wasn’t fun.
  •         Chris’s wave took off at 7:05 and mine wasn’t until 7:50. I swam a little to warm up. I chatted with a guy I know from my gym and then with other women in my swim wave. I have said it many, many times: triathletes are the friendliest people in the world.
  •         Time to line up! Realized I had been given the wrong swim cap color, but I was with the right group. A guy in front seemed really nervous and asked the race director a lot of questions. He was also the only man in our wave, I think because he was a relay-er.
  •         We were all struggling to see the buoys since we were staring into the sun. Such are Boulder races.
  •          My swim was kind of all over the place until the first turn. I was trying to see and breathing every stroke and letting my heart rate get way too high. After the first turn, though, I wasn’t looking at the sun anymore and I was able to remember how swimming worked.
  •         On the home stretch of the swim, I ended up right next to another swimmer for a solid two minutes or so. We were both breathing every other stroke, but I was breathing on the right and she on the left, so every four seconds we were facing each other, our faces maybe two feet apart, gasping in air. It made me laugh.
  •         On the way out of the water I remembered advice from a friend to keep swimming for a few strokes after your hand brushes the ground. I saw people around me standing up, but I kept swimming until the water was very shallow and then got up and scooted out of the water.
  •         Stopped to give a thumbs up to the photographer. And solicited some high fives from spectators waiting at the water exit.

  •         Pulled off the top of my wet suit off, but kind of held it up still because I feel immodest sometimes wearing just a sports bra on top.
  •         I had to pee so bad. Yanked the first “vacant” portapotty open but it was occupied! By a man peeing. “Sorry!” “SORRY!” Awkward. Darted into the next one but also yelled “Dude, there’s a lock!”
  •         Made sure to lock the door. Peed.
  •         Ran towards my bike but I didn’t see it! I had specifically laid my yellow shirt on the seat to make it easier to find. Panicked for half a second, then realized it had been knocked onto the ground.
  •         Cursed the mean girls on either side of me who had knocked my bike over! I had put my sunglasses, clif bar, shot blocks, and cycling gloves into my helmet and hung my helmet on my handlebar. My helmet was on the ground and all my stuff was scattered several feet away.
  •         Very, very briefly considered…I don’t even know what. Leaving a note to scold them? Waiting there for them to return so I could give them dirty looks?
  •         Instead, I pulled on my shirt, sunscreened up, helmet on, gloves on, clif bar in my back pocket, shot blocks in my sports bra.
  •         Looked up and felt silly for feeling self-conscious in my sports bra. After earlier seeing a man peeing, I was now seeing a guy directly across from me who was wearing only wet tighty whities and was pulling on shorts for the bike. Triathlons are a fairly naked sport.
  •         Took off for the bike ride. A nice volunteer told me to “keep that smile on your face!”
  •         Remembered from last year that the first few miles are gradual uphill. I was going slow (sub 12 mph) but I knew I could make up time later.
  •         Passed and was passed by the same gal a few times. We chatted a bit at each pass. Her name was Stephanie and this was her first triathlon!
  •         Started to make up time on the flats/downhills. I was staying between 15 and 20 mph. My garmin was on the wrong setting so it was showing me minutes per mile instead of miles per hour. Doing the math in my head kept my brain occupied at least.
  •         The bike went by quickly. Since this is usually the part that drags for me, I was glad. No kicking my bike to make it shift either like last year. Yay!
  •         There is one last short, sharp, steep hill right at the end of the bike course. I rode right up to it, hopped off, and walked to the top. I’m not hardcore. I don’t mind walking for 20 seconds.
  •         Came into transition. The guy in front of me wiped out on his bike while trying to dismount, but he seemed okay.
  •         A different girl who had passed me a few times and who I had passed a few times came out of nowhere and darted into transition just before me, and that kind of made me mad, but I passed her on the run so whatever!
  •         I couldn’t find my stuff (I was on the wrong aisle) so I just left my bike where I sort of thought it should be, took off my helmet and gloves, and trotted out towards the run. Luckily, I wear the same shoes for biking and running, otherwise I’d have panicked. For me, T2 is only drop off, I didn’t need to pick anything up.
  •         I did kind of want more sunscreen. Since I didn’t see mine, I admit I grabbed someone’s random bottle off the ground, put a squirt in my hand, and then put it back on the ground where I found it. Thanks, fellow racer! My nose got a little burned but not bad.
  •        I felt slow but good on the run. I know I wasn’t going fast, but I didn’t feel like I was dying to walk either. Walked through the aid stations. Cheered on my new bike friend, Stephanie, who took off on the run way fast!].
  •         Saw Chris and cheered him on! He passed me and I gave him a hard smack on the bottom for good luck. The run was an out and back, so I ended up seeing Chris three times on the course, which was really fun.
  •         We also saw our friend Meghan! She was killing it.
  •         As I came up to the finish Chris hopped back on to the course with me and we ended up with this awesome finish:
              
  •         Our friend Jenna came up to watch us race and ran the 5k. (Her first! And she came in ninth place!) Unfortunately she misjudged how much time she had between her finish and ours and ended up completely missing us finishing. Oh, well.

  •         We waited to see Megan finish and made lots of noise for and the other folks coming in. The one downside to this race is that the finish line isn’t really set up so you get a lot of crowd support. It’s kind of off to the side, which is too bad.
  •         Sat down in the grass and drank a damn beer. Well, I drank half a beer and then decided I was way too dehydrated to enjoy it, and we had to drive back to Denver.
  •         PS, Avery IPA after a race instead of crappy Michelob Ultra Light, who seems to sponsor a million races? Yes, please.
  •         Megan and I tried to pitch our respective neighborhoods to Jenna, who is considering buying a new place soon.
  •         We gathered our stuff from transition and headed back to the car. The walk from transition to the car, lugging my wetsuit, bag, and pushing my bike was the hardest part of the day. I was hot and tired and started to feel the effects of the morning. 

Some things that don’t quite fit into a timeline:

  •         I won 3rd in my damn division! I sort of go back and forth about whether to register for the Athena division when it’s available. I just do because…I wish it were a more legitimate thing. If all of the women who qualified registered in this division, I think it would be better. I think a lot of people don’t because they are embarrassed. Which is dumb. You’re doing a triathlon! Clearly you’re not a lazy bones sitting on the couch eating junk food. So, I came in 3rd out of the six women who bothered to register for this division. Which is not really that exciting, but there you go. (For reference, if I had raced in my age group, I still would have come in 3rd. 3rd to last! Ba dum bump.)
  •         I have heard of some women not going up to stand on the podium to get their medals in the Athena division. That would not be the case for me. If they had called my name I would have made a damn scene and screamed my head off. But my chip didn’t work! It didn’t register at all. They were able to give me an overall finish time a few days later, but no splits. Such a bummer! And I admit I am sad that I didn’t get my special…whatever they give you when you place. A plaque? I don’t know since it’s never happened to me before. I was pouty about it for like a day, and then I just figured, first world problems. I had fun.
  •         My best estimate is I did a 23 minute swim, a 1:16 bike ride, and a 38 minute run, assuming 3 minutes for transition one and 90 seconds for transition two.
  •         I have some sexy sunburn “wings.” My top was racerback but my sports bra wasn’t, so I have these lovely crescent burns from the gaps between, despite putting on sunscreen three times.

  •         This race was a first for me in the sense that it wasn’t a first. I felt relaxed the whole time because it wasn’t my first triathlon, it wasn’t a new distance, not my first open water race, not my first mass swim start race.
  •         And final thought:  I loved my braids! I’ve never worn braids while working out before (I know, I know, nothing new on race day. But I had an extra hair tie on my wrist for a pony tail if needed.) And it was so nice to have tangle free hair when I got home. Usually between swimming and running my ponytail is a rat’s nest.

Okay! That’s all she wrote. This has been open sitting open for six days.

I have no idea why I had so much to say about this, but I had a great time and it has me eying races coming up in July and August for reals.

Colorado Half Marathon – Race recap

I think my brain is still a little fried from this morning, so maybe I shouldn’t necessarily call this a race recap as much as it’s a mishmash of thoughts on the past 24 hours:

  • I did it!!!
  • The medal is heavy and awesome. Except that it pictures three runners…all dudes…in short shorts.
  • Running 13/1 miles is hard, y’all.
  • Until about the nine mile mark, I was feeling awesome.
  • By the 11 mile mark I wanted to die. I was very ready to be done. Maybe I should look into more ten mile races.
  • Spectators and volunteers who cheer for the super speedy marathoners but who didn’t cheer for the slow and struggling half marathoners can bite me.
  • If you’re standing around waiting to see your family or your friends, why not just cheer for everyone?
  • One more thing about spectators: someone I know told me the whole last mile would be cheering spectators. Au contraire, mon frere. Try the last….0.1 miles maybe.
  • Sorry, really one more thing. There were people who were nice and cheery and gave awesome words of encouragement, and I appreciated it.
  • My right ankle did FINE. I was so stinking worried and after all that, not a peep out of it.
  • My left hip, on the other hand, was a whiny bitch from mile 6 on. It is still aching now.
  • I wasn’t hungry until we were halfway back to Denver and then I turned into a starving, grumpy beast.
  • I am using all my will power not to crack open the champagne Chris got for me to celebrate since I have plans to hit up yoga at 4.
  • Running with my cousinfriend was awesome! She was originally going to drop down to the 10k but last minute decided to stick with the half and I was so happy we did the whole thing together! We had so much fun. I think I would have been sad and lonely on my own, though I had Dan Savage podcasts on my phone as backup.
  • We didn’t chat the whole way but we did stick together, laughed at some folks, sang to each other a little, and had fun.

  • According to my Garmin, I covered 13.18 miles in 2 hours and 48 minutes for an overall pace of 12:48.
  • I finished in 1200th place. Seriously. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not.
  • Oh! I almost forgot, The Edwards House was the B&B where we stayed and it was incredible. The people there were so nice and welcoming! They packed a breakfast to go for us in the morning. And I think they thought we were a couple, which is more funny since we’re related, not so much since we’re both ladies.

Probably more to come. Not much more, but a few more photos and anything else I’m forgetting.