Profane triathlete (@WattieInk, @PowerBarTeam Elite; @DarkHorseTri), architectural historian, fembot, yoga girl, and sea otter enthusiast.

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An Afternoon with Sebastian Kienle

Once upon a time…

This story borders on the such-ancient-history-who-cares-anymore…but after witnessing a spectacular race in Kona, I wanted to revive it, jog my own memory, and share a few pictures I promised so long ago.

Sebi mile 1

April 1, seven months ago, I received a forwarded e-mail from Jordan Rapp soliciting “Extras Needed for *APRIL 2* Photo Shoot in Malibu with 70.3 World Champ Sebastian Kienle.” The extras would pose at Kienle’s training partners, be paid $100, and get to spend the day with the Champ –who two days prior had finished 3rd at Oceanside 70.3 to Jan Frodeno and Andy Potts.

Sebi finish

Yeah, sure, OK!

Living in California is pretty surreal. Just in case it wasn’t an April Fool’s prank, I replied, citing my flexible schedule as my primary credential. I hoped it wouldn’t matter that I don’t look like much of an athlete, let alone one capable of being best bike buddies with The Heavy Favorite for every race he enters. No matter: I was simply told when and where to meet up, and to bring “swim bike and run gear [sic].” ??? I packed up two bikes, wetsuits and swimskins, a few changes of kits and shirts and shorts, and booked through the Santa Monica Mountains to Leo Carillo State Park.

goofballI had no idea what to expect, didn’t do my homework, and never really know what sporty people look like in plainclothes. I basically only know that “Sebi” is a German, and a super athlete, therefore assumed this would be a long, humorless day. When I arrived at the designated parking lot (20 minutes late, as is my way), I found this dude with a huge smile and crazy ass sweat and chlorine-fried hair goofing off and telling jokes. He happily answered dumb questions about his race the prior weekend and his upcoming season, and admitted that as much as he liked traveling and meeting people and fulfilling obligations to his generous sponsors, photo shoots are the pits. He was committed to making it fun, but warned us.

The photographer arrived very much late, and full of questions about what triathlon is –what order do you do the sports in? (He didn’t do his homework either.) We talked a bit about the goals of the shoot (get pictures of Sebastian n’ friends swimming, biking, and running for the German version of a Men’s Health type magazine). I did my best to convince him that throwing us in the 50-something degree Pacific first thing wasn’t really necessary, we could do the sports “out of order,” and according to what locations and lighting conditions were most ideal. Preferably without getting too wet/cold. Young Aussie age grouper Eddy Roche, my fast swimteammate (and general badass on all forms of bike) Eric Marnoch, and Team Timex professional triathlete Matthew Russell also arrived for the shoot. So I was the only girl, which is fine, but I felt like a pile next to these guys.

We started off near Point Mugu for some running shots along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Then we moved up to Deer Creek Road –which has an AVERAGE grade of 10% over 7 miles– for a few more running and biking shots. Very dramatic, but I can’t say you’d catch any of us running or biking up and down something like this, even for a hill workout.

Sebi runs up

sebi runs down

Sebi Matt Eddie run down

https://instagram.com/p/mVpYEylhNz

We then busted out our bikes, and got a few pictures of the five of us riding down the middle of the road.

I just don’t have the skills necessary to pose (or, look like I’m not struggling for long enough), slow, turn on a steep narrow road that drops into the ocean, then head uphill and clip in to pose again, turn again, etc. At one point we waited for a car to pass before heading back uphill. I fully tipped over, low side, smashing my leg and hip and drive train in a pretty glorious, embarrassing heap.

waiting for the next take

I picked myself up in time to coast further downhill where we paused and let the photogs set up for the next shoot up the road. Immediately after the moment pictured above, we shoved off to head back up the hill. I didn’t realize that my rear derailleur had inserted itself into my spokes, so tipped over AGAIN.

I believe the triathlete version of the Walk of Shame is having to hike up Deer Creek Road in your cleats, bike over your shoulder, while the 70.3 Champion asks if you’re OK. (I seriously thought I broke my hand catching my fall. Bruises for days.)

ARE YOU OK?

Sebi, meanwhile, was doing track stands and pulling off multiple takes without ever unclipping.

checking out the damage to my bike, offering a new derailleur hanger, if needed...

He inspected my bike for damage and offered to have someone at Scott (his sponsor) fix it or provide whatever replacement parts I may need.

playing dead

SOOOOO, after the boys got some great shots on the bike, including one where Sebi played dead, we headed to the beach.

It took a while for everyone to get into their wetsuits, and for the photographer to get his camera into a waterproof case. Sebi entertained himself (and us) while trying to keep warm.

figure 8

I get the feeling he can’t stand still for long.

still going

Audi sponsorship, anyoneataudi?

sunset

Matt and Sebastian, mostly, practiced a few beach starts and exits for the camera. The photographer got a few shots of them swimming, then we all joined in for a few splashy running shots and swim exits.

group shot

Sebastian had to turn around and drive to Tucson that night, so we bid adieu when the sun set. I honestly don’t know what became of the pictures we shot that day –Sebi said he would send us copies of the magazine (published in Germany) when it came out, but WHO KNOWS?

At any rate, it was really fun getting to know his fantastic personality. He was genuine and forthright, but funny and a total goofball. I don’t intend to overstate how well I got to know Sebi in one afternoon (not well at all), but he’s like the spazzy little brother I never had –a total delight to be around.

sebi at mile 9

While I’m sure he has forgotten all about this day in Malibu, I was proud to cheer him on to victory in Kona. I think he’ll make a fantastic Champion (I mean he already has, but let’s face it: the Ironman World Champion is a bigger crown than the Half Ironman World Champion) and ambassador over the next year, before he attempts to defend his title in Kona.

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HUGE congratulations to Sebastian Kienle, Ironman World Champion!

And that’s a wrap on twenty fourt-whee!n

Hey! All three of you have asked “what up with the blog?” I confess, it has been three races since my last entry, so I’ll try to blah blah blah here again. They say things happen in threes. I guess this is happening.

This is my third attempt at writing this thing over like three months (exaggeration for effect), so please forgive any confusing verb tenses that haven’t been edited properly.

The reason for the long pause? As you may have gleaned from my previous post about Vineman, I hit a proverbial wall some time in mid-July. This season involved more racing over more months than I’ve ever done in the past, and this during my “comeback.” Maybe someone more fit or driven can plow through so many months of half iron-distance and Olympic-ish-distance races without boarding the strugglebus a few times, but not me, not now.

I think, actually, my blergness had less to do with my strength and preparedness than it did with a rather “poorly planned” mid-summer concentration of travel and racing right when I “should” have been cracking down and refocusing on my A-ish races: USAT Nationals and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. BUT, that’s what happens when you just sign up and do all the races and travel-y things you want, instead of centering one’s entire summer on the sport. I’m OK with it, and things will be different next season.

At any rate, I needed a good kick in the pants and got it in late July at the second edition training camp organized by a Wattie Ink. and Black Dragon Racing partnership. Head Coach (and good friend) Robert “Flanny/Flabby” Flanigan put together another fabulous training trip in Bend, OR for members of the Wattie Ink. team. Opportunities like this are one of the distinct advantages of being a part of such a community.

Watties n' Friends: my roommates in Bend.

Watties n’ Friends: my roommates in Bend.

The first Wattie/Black Dragon Racing camp was held this spring in the San Diego area. It was a fast-paced and kinda scary amount of volume for me so early in the season. Bend Camp, by contrast, was slightly harder to get to, during the middle of the season, and held in a veritable playground of outdoor activities, so was more …erm… civilized. Maybe that’s just because the group was mostly women, many nursing injuries, who were out to enjoy the scenery, not ride each other’s legs off.

Camp agenda. Some workouts were ditched in favor of beer.

Bend Camp concentrated on getting a lot of volume in over five days. Some intensity was thrown in too, as our camp overlapped the Deschutes Dash, a multisport festival held right downtown, on the eponymous River. A number of us raced the Olympic distance triathlon, but trained through it. All Wattie participants did pretty well with the downstream swim, uphill bike, and run that started out great before it went all trail on me. Coach Flanny won overall. I was the 4th woman overall.

The day after the Dash, we went on a long ride. Thanks to some fantastic efforts (very few demonstrated by me) a group of us pacelined about 96 miles in just over 4.5 hours. That’s my longest ride since Kona, 2012, y’all, so I was pretty happy with that.

Major perk of holding camp in Bend.

Major perk of holding camp in Bend.

About ten days after Bend, Dusty and I headed to Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee. We had done the race in 2013 and learned a few things, so made fewer race-week mistakes this time. I was also grateful to show up with more fitness this year, enough to get me off the bike in a position that, even after a parade of women in my age group passed me on the run, I still came up with a World’s qualification. Yaay.

Woof.

Woof.

After Milwaukee, I a) packed up and moved out of my apartment in Chicago –yes I’ve held onto it this whole time— and b) had about two and a half weeks of WEEKENDS AT HOME and JUST TRAINING before my final race of the season, Ironman 70.3 World Championships (aka “Vegas” but we can’t call it that anymore because it’s traveling every year and this year it was held) in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canaadaaaaa.

Mont Tremblant is a ski resort town (it reminds me most of Beaver Creek, CO) in the Laurentine Mountains. I actually went on a ski vacation with my family there as a kid but, well, snow-covered icy dark Quebec in December is pretty different from the lush landscape there in early September, so I had no childhood recollections of this beautiful place. It was really fun. As usual, though, being in a new place for a race means you don’t get to really enjoy it. We watched a ton of movies in the hotel with my feet up instead of exploring the town, eating poutine, or go-carting down the mountain. Le sad trombone.

As for the race itself, I don’t have too much to say. It’s a world Championship, and just being REALISTIC, I’m not there to compete for the win. I could have been more ambitious, and some people did manage PRs there, but being the swan song of my 2014, my only goals were to race honestly and have fun soaking up the atmosphere. Welllll… mission accomplished on the first point. The second part became harder as the race went on. I could have pushed the swim and maybe gone like a minute faster, but the first group was gone and I didn’t see much point in shelling myself before the ½-mile transition run. I found myself side by side with another woman during the swim, so tested some open water tactics with her, namely heading straight for each buoy and making her decide what to do about it. The bike course was challenging, particularly the last ten miles. It was also difficult to have a good time while scolding European men that we pass on the LEFT, here, and ya don’t repass a girl without dropping out of her draft zone, then just SIT UP to show how manly you are. UUUUGH.

Photo Credit: Nick Morales of TriJuice.com.

Photo Credit: Nick Morales of TriJuice.com.

Anyway, the run course had been modified from the full and half-Ironman events held at Mont Tremblant previously. Two loops for the spectators’ sake over the “punchiest” of hills –not my specialty at all. So, I cheered on and high-fived as many people as I recognized for as long as my mood and lung capacity allowed. Temps were cool to moderate through most of the day, so not stopping at each aid station for water and ice, as I’ve had to do at all my other 70.3s this season, helped me keep up momentum when the hills were stealing it all away.

THE BEST thing about “participating in” the World Championship was being on the same race course as some good friends. They also happen to be fierce competitors, but as a tubby mid-packer in this field, I could just race my best and enjoy their success. As we spun around three out and backs on the bike course, I got to watch Sarah Beth Barkley creep up on me and make the pass at about mile 45. Emily Kratz and SheriAnne Nelson were on my heels and made their passes in the las t 4 miles of the race –I was pretty proud of holding off such hard-charging runners for that long. Amanda Wendorff was off in the front pack all day, so I only caught a flash of her once on the bike, well well well wellllll ahead of me, then didn’t see her again until the last mile of her run. She was running faster than anyone I had seen in the previous hour, so I knew she was on her way to winning our age group. My friend Amanda, the fucking Women’s 35-39 WORLD CHAMPION. Blows my mind!

Big ol' Finisher's medal.

Big ol’ Finisher’s medal.

IN CONCLUSION, personally, I’m pretty satisfied with the results this season. On one hand I exceeded plenty of my own expectations while “just” going out there and demonstrating fitness –I mean I really didn’t “race,” as I’m just not “there” mentally. On the other hand, there were a lot of close but no cigar moments. Triumphs but mistakes, results but missed opportunities, you know. I goofed and slacked a bit, traveled way too much (we drove to only one of these 2014 races –no wait, two, if you include driving an RV up to Wildflower). I have zero doubts that iff I can get my shit together and PLAN a season (as opposed to signing up for every race I wanted to do, for fun) I’ve still got a lifetime best in me. Stay tuned.

So, that’s what I have for the quick wrap-up of my season. Maybe I’ll write a three-part miniseries on race-week meals and emotions? LOL j/k (boooooriiiiing).

Vineman 70.3: how you like meh now?

Dusty and I both showed up at Vineman 70.3 last weekend, kinda. ANOTHER race after spending the previous three weekends traveling in San Francisco (for nonstop food and drink a work conference), Chicago (to race), and Las Vegas (Bacchanalia). I was completely exhausted, and even after posting my cathartic confession about my horrible mental check-out at Chicago, I still couldn’t get “in” to Vineman. The fatigue of travel and an already much-longer-than-I’ve-ever-known-before triathlon season was setting in. I was feeling very very meh.

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During the heady days of spring, when I actually spent weekends training, I thought I might be able to do pretty well at Vineman. I suspected that even without peaking for it, my fitness would be in a good place by this time in the season. I also figured that if conditions were really ideal, it could be a great race for me. There are some bumps in the terrain, but much of the bike course is shaded (either by arbor or by a marine layer) and pretty fast. Moreover, Cortney Haile won our age group at Vineman in 2013, and I finished just behind her at our little season opener, the Desert Tri. I’m not saying “therefore I extrapolated that I would be right behind her at Vineman,” but I am saying we thought we would be holding hands on the podium at Vineman too.

vineman

As we were easing in to the famous Russian River before the swim start, I told Cortney I just couldn’t get my head into the game that morning, “but good luck!”

Lucky for ME, I came around pretty fast once the gun went off. After a few swim buoys, I found myself in the lead (there’s an outlier in the results. Don’t believe that “2” by my name). I tried to chillax with long strokes and a steady breathing pattern the rest of the way. The swim course curves a bit with the bends in the river, making for tricky sighting and line-picking, and is extremely shallow in places. Although I generally prefer to SWIM my swim, I did a few dolphin dives around the far turn buoy, while picking a line though the chicane of men in prior age groups who decided to walk a few hundred yards (???). It was like this:

Come on, guys.

Come on, guys.

So, I sprung out of the water at the exit, and clamored up a muddy slope to my transition area. Slowing to a walk, I found my bike before noticing that my left ankle, which has been giving me a lot of trouble, kinda “popped.” I really struggled to put weight on my left foot while gingerly removing my wetsuit, slipping around on a combination of wet mud and neoprene. It occurred to me that day might be over pretty soon.

Move it, dudebro! Custom "Wattie Ink" issue Blueseventy Helix wetsuit. Loves it.

Move it, dudebro! Custom “Wattie Ink” issue Blueseventy Helix wetsuit. Loves it.

Once I got on my bike, though, all my body parts functioned just fine. Or rather, I didn’t feel my ankle anymore, and I had other things to do. Like bike. The opening miles on River Road out of Guerneville are flat and fast. Then there’s a pretty tricky switch onto Westside Road, which skims along the base of the hills, so has some good rollers and twists. Thusly through the valleys we rode, and on these many miles I yo-yoed with dudebros who liked to pass, then coast right in front of me… sigh. At about mile 26 I was decisively passed by “Purple Patch,” the new leader of our age group.

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The second half of the ride is where much of the “flavor” is. Eventually the course finds Chalk Hill –which I biked last year when I came to spectate. Back then I didn’t think it was bad at all, but it is a whole ‘nother animal on race day after 40-some miles. One needs soft hands and catlike reflexes to just stay on top of the crumbly road conditions. The sun was shining by this time, and the calico pavement plus the dappled shade through the trees made my eyes dance. At Chalk Hill, one climbs one incline before descending (and peeing, if *one* were so inclined) and climbing a longer, steeper, twistier, more booby-trapped hill. Interestingly, I saw Purple Patch (#1) just a few yards ahead of me on some of these sections, but couldn’t close the gap as I struggled through these miles. The good news is, once you’re up and over Chalk Hill, it’s just a matter of circling the town of Windsor before coming in for a landing at T2.

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Oh boy time to run! Like I said, I didn’t feel my ankle hurting the whole time on the bike, so kinda forgot about it. It reminded me pretty quickly when I strapped on my shoes and hit a tender spot. Yeeowch! Purple Patch exited transition 24 seconds ahead of me, by my watch. Heading out of transition down Windsor Road, my pace was pretty good –maybe a little too fast— even with an ouchy Achilles. SURELY it would stop barking at me in another mile or so, though. What’s the worst that can happen, permanent injury? PSHAAW.

But seriously, it was extremely bothersome. Also, no one told me about the legit hills in the first five miles of the run. Maybe they’re only considered “hills” if you’re in some degree of pain, so no one I knew thought to say “uh, FYI, there are a few bumps that some people like you may consider walking.” Once I found myself limping up these inclines, things started looking a little bleak. I weighed options. I could have SWORN the run course was two loops (spoiler alert: it isn’t), so I figured I’d do one and see how I felt, and could drop out if need be.

Quitting, man. That is a really tough pill to swallow, even if it’s the smart thing to do. I really didn’t want to deal with the regrets of a DNF, especially after my last race was such a fail. I wanted to give myself as many reasons as possible to cross the finish line, so I adopted the (bad) attitude of “I’ll do this run as long as I’m still in the top five.” It sounds HORRIBLE and petty I KNOW. I was just looking for the proper mix of motivation and excuse, and “as long as I get a trophy” became what I needed to tell myself. IFF four more chicks passed me, I’d drop out.  IFF I didn’t let four more chick pass me, I’d get a trophy. Engage.

Then #2 passed me.

Fuck.

I didn’t like that (but told her “good job, you’re in second now,” etc. anyway). THAT was the kick in the pants I needed to go from “meh” to race mode. Not only did I want to finish, but I wanted to finish as high on the podium as possible. Nothing changed, physically: I was still just doing my best.

There’s an out and back at mile 8. That little tail end of the road they made us run down–that was the only external factor that sealed my fate. One meager mile of road. I ran down it and eventually crossed paths with #2, who raised her eyebrows in shock, maybe, that I was still alive. She urged me to “STAY STRONG!” I spun around the cones at the turnaround and headed back, only to see #4 hot on my heels with Cortney (#5) also running strong and coming my way. I told Cortney to “come on come on, that’s #4 right in front of you!” Half-realizing urging her to pick up the pace meant bad, bad things for me. Cue expletives and looking at my watch for answers. How can I squeeze more out of myself at this point? How fast are they coming? Is there a way to know? Is there anything I can do to prevent the inevitable?

Miles 8-12

Miles 8-12

Dusty was a few yards behind Cortney, also running strong and looking like he might catch me (despite starting half an hour behind us), too. Great, but… GAAH.

I held strong, trying (and failing) to drop my pace. Cortney passed me with a mile left to go in the race. She was now #3, and I was happy for her, and hoped against hope she might be able to catch #2? (Nope.) I could hear #4 on our heels, so knew it wouldn’t be long before that hallowed place at bottom of the podium was mine, all mine. Wooo.

When Faye passed, I let her know she was in 4th, which seemed to pleasantly surprise her. She then urged me along, too: “TOP 5 RIGHT? COME ON!”

LOL, “I’m doing the best I can,” meeeehhhhhh!

Having watched all this unfold, Dusty passed me too. I had no idea what our overall times were, but knew that he must have done pretty well if he was able to bridge a 30 minute gap. Sure enough, he PRd his half-ironman by seven minutes! As for me, I PRd my swim, about-matched my lifetime-best bike split (from 2012), and…whatevertherunletsnottalkaboutit. I got my second-best half-iron time, 3.5 minutes off a PR.

After the finish. Thanks for not mauling me, Cortney and Faye.

After the finish. Thanks for not mauling me, Cortney and Faye.

Sure, it would have been great to come in 3rd instead of 5th. Between battling my own mental and physical handicaps, rooting for the other women in my age group, and knowing mere seconds separated three of us, I *may* have won the day anyway.

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Chicago ITfU

I have difficulty listing things I’m good at. Folding socks, esoteric “bar trivia” knowledge, and giving advice via text message are about the extent of my skills. While running half a mile through transition 1 at the Chicago ITU amateur race the other weekend, I came up with two more: swimming and self-preservation. The problem being that these things, like my other “skills,” only SOMETIMES benefit a gal in life. In that moment, my skills occurred to me more as a curse than a blessing, as in “damnit, why am I *only* good at swimming and not hurting myself? GO FASTER ALREADY.”

Let me backtrack a little:

Since Honu, I took a mid-season week off (I was supposed to “train by feel” … so I bought golf clubs), traveled almost every weekend, have barely swum (and only in open water), haven’t ridden my TT bike indoors or out, and have skipped or scaled back more run workouts that I’ve done. I was limping around on my left ankle for weeks and only got a modicum of relief from this constant, new pain the day before heading to Chicago. I also wasn’t sleeping well, and was preoccupied with “being in Chicago” rather than “racing (at Chicago).” I was stressed about logistics with my apartment and visiting parents… oh yeah, and the race.

My head wasn’t in the game. As usual, I was unfocused and talked myself into not caring or taking it seriously, despite coach’s excitement and race-specific workouts. And HEY, GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? Surprise! Everything went wrong.

Well OK, the swim went well: I started front and center, let things shake out for a few 100 yards, then followed the leader’s feet. After the half-way point (of what would be a long swim –I had it at a full mile), I fell out of her draft a bit, but continued to let her plow through previous waves, and sighted off her red cap. Dusty and my mom and dad walked along the shore the entire way, so occasionally I smiled and waved at them to my right, as the sun broke through the clouds on my left.

T1 was a long, looooooooong run, wherein I had the aforementioned time to curse myself, and a number of people handily passed me, one of whom I learned was Jennifer Garrison: a formidable ginger and former pro who I’ve raced a ton but only beat once (when she was like three weeks post-partum and I was in the best shape of my life).

I hopped on my bike and started out on the unconventional course: the amateur ITU race is NOT draft legal like the pro race is. Nevertheless, due to the expense of road closures, the course was 4 full laps: north on Columbus Drive, scooping around for about 3 miles on LOWER Wacker drive (underground), then back to Columbus. Each lap had three 180-degree turns, four 90-degree turns, and about a billion big seams, manhole covers, or potholes to watch out for. The first mile was dedicated to trying to get my power meter to work (it wouldn’t, again). By turn #1, I had much bigger things to worry about. I ran over a seam followed by a manhole cover and discovered my bars weren’t tightened down enough. They started slipping, and I started going deeper into self-preservation mode.

Quit or keep going? My superaero position was basically ruined, but I could hang on for now. If it got a lot worse, however, I’d have to at least stop and ask around for an Allen key and my day would be as good as over. I communicated as much to Dusty and my parents when I saw them (twice) that first lap.

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Lap 2, more bar slippage, but still kinda manageable. This time Coach Steve was hanging out with my family, too. I waved and shrugged. Quitting vs. keep going was taking up more mental energy than it should have.

Lap 3, WAY more slippage. This was getting dangerous. I was balancing my forearms on the edge of my pads while gripping onto my bar extensions with my pinkies. My between-the-arms water bottle was going to fall out at any minute, and it was taking a ton of effort trying to hold it in place. I really needed to concentrate on, you know, not dying or losing control while braking and steering around the corners and other competitors (the course was getting crowded).

Lap 4. In a dark section of Lower Wacker Drive, I decided to ditch my water bottle. I was relieved to be free of its burden. I only had a few miles to cope with now, but it still felt perilous and like I might not make it to the dismount line safely.

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not happy

Thankfully, I did make it there, (and then some). I wasn’t thinking clearly and was having trouble braking, so rolled OVER the dismount line. The volunteer told the guy behind me “dismount BEFORE the line,” and I was like “oh shoot, that’s right. Sorry!” before moving along.

Another long transition run to my spot, then out on the 3.5 loop run. I really enjoyed the run course –about a mile of each loop overlapped my daily trail from my former home in the West Loop to the Lakefront Path. I ran somewhere close to my goal pace for the first loop, let it slip a bit for the second, and the last 1.5 loops was just about hanging on.

Sigh.

So the good news is that I saw a ton of new and old friends all over the place. The other great news is that I hadn’t been passed since transition 1. Dusty and Steve had spotted for me, and we were pretty sure I came across the line 3rd in my age group (albeit like 15 minutes behind #1 and #2). Woo hoo! I also made friends with #4 in the finisher village. I have so much love for friendly competitors who can congratulate others and for whom I can celebrate if they happen to crush me. So, all in all and despite everything, I was a happy camper at the end of my race.

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Cut to several hours me running around trying to cheer for Dusty, Steve, and anyone else I could spot, dragging my parents around, all while trying to figure out what the race “organizers” had planned for the awards ceremony. When no one handed me a trophy, I went on another quest to find out what happened, and voila, I found out I was penalized twice: once for ditching the Bottle of Potential Death, and once for rolling over the dismount line. Six minutes worth of infractions (all added to my run time in the results) moved me down to 10th place. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to tell everyone what a dumbass I was. I wanted to apologize to Dusty and my parents and most of all to Steve for … I’m not sure what. Letting THEM down, I guess. Suffice to say, I let myself down too, but instead of internalizing it I went into self-preservation mode AGAIN and pretended (and maybe still am pretending) “I don’t care, but am sorry for those who do.” The ultimate non-apology.

So… the really hard truth is that although I haven’t shed a tear about not getting a trophy, I’m deeply disappointed in my race and that I made such stupid mistakes choices. I wasn’t on top of my shit, and though some of that was circumstantial, ONCE AGAIN, I ceded control of even the things I COULD control, giving up before I even started.

All this said, and despite myself, I still had fun. That’s what all this is about, I’ve heard. =)

Honu 70.3 Race Report

I don’t remember when we hatched the plan originally, but Dusty and I raced Honu 70.3 last weekend! He had raced it in 2011 and wanted to revisit the island. I’m never going to turn down a trip to Hawaii (though, I’d love to go there for something not triathlon related one day). We registered for it soon after I returned from spectating the Kona Ironman World Championship in 2013.

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“Honu” (hoe-noo, not ha-noo) meaning “sea turtle” takes place on the Big Island and shares a lot in common with the Kona course. The swim is NOT off of the iconic Kailua-Kona Pier, but rather over 30 miles north in the small crescent of Hapuna Bay. The bike course overlaps the upper portion of Kona’s on the Queen K Highway –or more accurately on the Kawaihae-Mahukona Road, aka the notorious miles of rollers plus seven-mile-climb up to Hawi and back. The run is a different beast entirely, held on the fairways, golf cart paths, and access roads surrounding the Fairmount Orchid Hotel in Waikoloa, about five miles south of the swim venue. Nonetheless, the run still feels similar to, say, the most stagnant and humid portions of Ali’I Drive, the sun-baked miles on the Queen K, or the rough, mind-numbing descent into and climb out from the Energy Lab.

Good times!

But really, if you are a masochist who NEEDS TO FEEL the very same heat and wind all the Mr. and Ms. Octobers do, Honu is the spot. (Kansas 70.3 is also a good simulation, just minus the turtles and sharks and general awesomeness of Hawaii.)

This race was a big one for me, and most of my story about it lies in the eight-or-so month run-up to it. That’s all pretty boring, though, so I’ll just say: with a renewed enthusiasm for the sport, and since there are both Ironman and 70.3 World Championship spots on the line, we targeted Honu as my A-race of the season (or, of the first half of the season). This, plus the general conditions of the race, added a bit of pressure to get fit. I’m far from the best shape of my life, but I’m probably the most healthy I’ve been in a while, both in terms of attitude and injury management.

Sport-specifically, my swim is as good as it has ever been while doing only what I would consider “base yardage.” My bike is probably the fastest setup I’ve ever had, and I’ve made great gains in power over the off-season. My run –my biggest problem area—isn’t too far off where it once was. I’m still hauling around extra weight, which *if* I shed would probably make me better at all three disciplines than I’ve ever been. BUT that’s where the healthy attitude comes in: for the time being I’m not ready to become OCD about calories and body composition. I like good wine and dessert, gluten and bacon, even more than I like winning. Yeah, there’s probably a happy balance I could achieve somewhere in a lower weight class, but I’m not there. Yet. C’est la vie.

On to the race!

Dusty and I arrived at the Hapuna Prince Hotel (near the swim venue) a week in advance. It was nice to be there BEFORE most of the Ironguys showed up. I was already tapering, so my first workout on the island was a 50 minute run in the heat with a few miles at race pace. I felt great, so accidentally did a few BONUS miles at race pace. The rest of the week was less successful-feeling. Swims were excellent, but the wind and temperature kept picking up through the week, so I became increasingly uncomfortable on my rides and runs. Then my back spazzed out, as is its way. I tried to just wait out the days, knowing through experience that the pain tends to melt away sometime during the race.

Race morning was easy: I downed some canned coffee product, took in as many calories as I could chew (only about ¾ of one Pop Tart), and sprayed myself silly with sunscreen. We had already checked our bikes at T1 just down the road, and our T2 bags the day before. Dusty and I walked over to T1 to get everything set up. Part of the new routine we’ve worked up through plenty of mishaps is to swap out the batteries in our Quarq powermeters. We figured it was a foolproof way to not get any whack readings as we’ve both had in the past.

No such luck. I fired up my Garmin and it wouldn’t read my powermeter. It just BLINKED at me all “no powermeter found” herpa-derpa-doo! I rolled my bike out of transition, hoping that getting it away from any conflicting signals would help, but nopers. I waved Dusty over to FIX IT DAMMIT, but he couldn’t. My chest tightened and (I hate this, but) I started crying. I wanted everything to go well for my big A-race but it was already FUCKED.

I attempted to collect myself on our way down toward the water with fellow Watties, John and Dillon Hollinger. Luckily, we also ran in to Joy and Aaron Sherrick, who are both Dark Horsies coached by Steve. Joy was Sherpa for the day, so I asked her to let Steve know MY DAY WAS RUINED! Luckily he was monitoring his phone so texted back (paraphrasing) “it’s okay, just go by feel, no big deal, calm the fuck down.” =)

Dusty and I got in the water and took a few strokes. He had to line up for his wave, which went off seven minutes before mine, so gave me some last minute advice to swim easy so as not to drown (hard swimming+verklempt=certain cardiac arrest). Luckily, I was able to relax during those intervening seven minutes. I lined up at the front and a few yards off the inner buoy line, tried not to bite anyone’s heads off as they “accidentally” drifted forward, and kept pointing at the first buoy: from our perspective, the two turn buoys at the far end of the course were pretty close together and could be confused during the coming melee.

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I finally bought my very own BlueSeventy PZ3TX swimskin. This was the first time I used it. It was great!

SWIM 30:00 (and 1.29 miles), 1st F35-39

The cannon went off without so much as a countdown, so …uh… I guess we’re swimming now? As always, there were some fast women who took it out pretty quickly. I found some feet and tried to hang on while we (already) started weaving through the slower men. As we approached the first turn buoy, I was shaken off. There was a bottle neck of swimmers coming from 180 degrees: it seemed that some of the men swam to the wrong buoy first, then had to backtrack so were T-boning us at the buoy.

I found a few other pink caps to swim near, before we were separated AGAIN by a paddleboarder who took it upon himself to herd us onto a different line. Not your job, dude. Anyway, after the last buoy, I was just trying to find something on shore to sight on. I figured the huge PowerBar blow up was accurate enough –but everything else was washed out in the sunrise. As I got closer to shore I looked under my arms and noticed I was towing like four pink caps in with me. YOU’RE WELCOME LADIES. =/

T1 is a quick beach run, then up a hill over a green carpet. The transition area was TIGHT so there was a lot of “comin’ through! Watch your ankles!” I had to stuff my swimskin into a bag and take a few deep breaths before heading to the exit. I ran to the mount line where a helpful volunteer grabbed my bike and let me put my feet in my shoes before pushing me up the rest of the hill. Kinda cool!

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BIKE 2:50:46

Sooooooooo I had no powermeter and had to use my noggin as to how hard I thought I could push. Steve had assigned many many workouts that involved riding at race pace, so I SHOULD know how it feels by now, except that, as I’ve mentioned, I suck at holding watts outdoors. Meh, as long as I generally know I *could* push harder and still be within my comfort zone, it counts for something.

Two (or more) women of indeterminate age group passed me immediately out of T1. Another one or two from my age group (I think) passed me during our quick 4.8 mile trip to the south before the course turned north toward Hawi. Something like 2300 competitors were streaming out onto the Queen K, and, no, there’s no way to ride legally. It’s the same at Kona (sorry to shatter any illusions): it’s too dense with rollers that bunch people up in weird ways –not necessarily into draft packs, but into groups that yo-yo back and forth with each other as they climb and descend.

And, sorry, but there’s also the male ego to contend with. Some guys fail to realize that I’ve already “beaten” them as soon as I burst into the seven-minute bubble behind them, let alone when I (try) to pass them on the bike. On the way up to Hawi I saw a lot of the same characters over and over again, but one stood out. “CHUCKY” was written across his ass. We yo-yoed several times, him out of the saddle on the climbs, me sitting comfortably in my saddle but pushing over and downhill. We’d almost always meet just as another hill was tipping up. After several miles of this, I was on his left, making a pass. As soon as my front wheel broke the plane of his, though, he got out of the saddle and SPRINTED up the hill ahead of me, on my right.

“Don’t let your ego get in the way or anything, CHUCKY” I called after him.

I met him again at the top of that hill while he was coasting. “Wanna get on my right so I can pass you legally?” I asked, while he blocked the middle of the road. No response.

Another wiggle in the elevation separated us briefly until the road tipped up again. He came along side me on my RIGHT, again, and said “wow, you really can’t handle the hills, can you?” Yeeeeah, I’m not the problem here, Chuckles. Sure enough I came back up on him a few moments later.

“Are we going to do this all day?” he asked.

“Up to you. It’s your ego,” I replied. Predictably, I shot ahead of him on an extended flat section. I never saw him again, and can’t find him in the results, but I’d love to see this guy (Aussie, I think) retired from international competition.

My riding wasn’t flawless either, to be fair. Here’s me passing on the right because I didn’t see any other way to get it done. The fellow behind me was in the Royal Navy and, while he and I yo-yoed quite a bit during the day, he was a perfect gentleman compared to CHUCKY.

To be fair, my riding wasn’t flawless either. Here’s me passing on the right because I didn’t see any other way to get it done. The fellow behind me was in the Royal Navy and, while he and I yo-yoed quite a bit during the day, he was a perfect gentleman compared to CHUCKY.

At any rate, the non-passing-rules part of my bike leg was occupied with grabbing two bottles of water at each aid station, half to drink, half to pour over me, even if I wasn’t necessarily feeling the heat yet. The run was coming!

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Big thanks to Reynolds for the wheels, to Phil at Hypercat Racing (hypercat.com) for the fit.

T2 was extremely nerve-wracking, only because I hadn’t even seen it before. Dusty had told me it’s basically just like Ironman: a volunteer takes your bike, another grabs your run bag, and you can sit down while they cater to you. Cue my shock when I rolled in to T2 and was confronted with racks in a layout I’d never seen. I tried to follow the signs while I called out my number over and over, hoping a volunteer would flag me down. That kinda not really happened, so I had to orient myself and portage my bike over a few wooden racks to my spot –a volunteer had been standing at it silently, just pointing at it, when I was counting on someone saying “HEY CRAZY GIRL! OVER HERE, DUMMY!” I sat down and jammed my shoes on, grabbed my gear and took off.

RUN WOAH NELLY 1:52something.

Usually, your legs just kinda spin and it’s easy to run too fast out of transition. Not here. Transition 2 and the opening portion of the run is on a fairway of the golf course. It’s a little bit like running on astroturf but without the energy return: the grass was soaked with rain and just zapped any energy I was putting into my stride.

Blerg.

Blerg.

I felt pretty good, though. When we got to some annoying roller-coaster like “hills” on the golf cart path, a guy I was running with said “I wish I had your legs” before crumbling into a light trot. I said it was pretty early in the day yet to say that… which was probably not what he wanted to hear, come to think of it. Nice compliment from him, though.

What in the world is going on here?

What in the world is going on here?

The run course is completely disorienting, winding about all over the resort. Kinda like the bike, but without all the illicit excitement, I could only go by feel. YEAH I had my Garmin to tell me my pace, but It meant very little over grass and the cart paths where you can’t carry any momentum. I felt I was just going from aid station to aid station. At a minimum I’d grab two cups of ice and two cups of water. Sometimes a cup of cola would land in my hand and I’d drink a sip. Occasionally I remembered I needed calories and electrolytes, too, so would grab a gel.

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Mercifully, my ice hoarding techniques worked and I stayed fairly cool over the hot and humid miles. Miles 5 and 6 were slight grades on access roads, and I found a rabbit to chase and settled in to something close to my goal pace (!!!). #3 in my age group came screaming by me at about mile 8, and there was nothing I could do about it. Several more miles and I was in what someone on Strava has called “Lucifer’s Back yard,” or the Energy Lab-esque final stretch of the run. I tried to up my pace there, but it wasn’t working. Still, I felt strong and came across the line in a respectable-ish time. …I mean…kinda.

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MOST IMPORTANTLY, I got 4th in my age group, and awards go five deep. I got a beautiful koa wood umeke bowl, and one of two spots to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant in September. Both of those goodies have distracted me nicely from dwelling on any mistakes or regretting only being seven minutes down (all on the bike leg, where I didn’t have the benefit of power) from the woman who took our one spot to Kona. NOPE, not dwelling on it at all. NOPE. =)

I didn't even know there was a baby on stage because BOWL!

I didn’t even know there was a baby on stage because BOWL!

Wildflower Race Report

Hi! I took a little writing vacay and now find myself with too many activities across March and April to summarize. I think I’ll just start with the most recent Big Thing, and fill in the gaps as the weeks wear on and I run out of things to drone on about. Look for such retroblarghing, like, next week –IN THE FUTURE.

So the Big Thing that happened most recently, on May 3, was the “dry run” (pun intended, extended metaphor coming) of my return to long course racing at the Wildflower Triathlon. You see, I’m targeting other races later this season (er…later THIS MONTH), but Wildflower pops up first on our race schedule. I was SUPPOSED to race it last year as my 2013 season opener, and a little over a year ago, Dusty and I came up to Paso Robles so I could preview the course. We swam the swim, and then I hopped on my (new, unfitted) bike and required about seventeen pit stops to make it through all 56 miles of the course. I stumbled through only a small portion of the flattest and most paved portions of the run course, wondering how anyone could possibly complete the eight additional, most challenging miles of it. I came home from that weekend with sciatica-like symptoms, and was told to stay off my bike for about a month, with zero running allowed until further notice too. I could only swim at last year’s edition of Wildflower.

James Adams pitches a tent with Dusty's help. DOUBLE TEAM THAT POP-UP!

James Adams pitches a tent with Dusty’s help. DOUBLE TEAM THAT POP-UP!

The full race isn’t exactly tailor made for me (read on), but it will ALWAYS be on our race schedule. Wildflower is absolutely iconic EVEN THOUGH it isn’t an Em-Dot blah blah blah qualifier (anymore). I think it’s important to support independent races, particularly if they’ve helped make this sport what it is, as Wildflower has. What really makes Wildflower special is the atmosphere and the people. The Wildflower organizers, Tri-California Events, have been amazingly supportive to the little upstart tri team and apparel brand I’m associated with, Wattie Ink. Our little family gets a group of campsites together near the expo, brings in RVs and tent cities, and hangs out and supports each other all weekend. Heather and Wattie have been coming here forever, like even before her (spoiler alert?) three-peated victories, and there’s a little story about how Wattie looked at her results her first year, sat her down at a picnic table in the Wildflower campgrounds, and told her to quit her day job to become a full-time pro. =)

As for the race, Wildflower is a notoriously slow and tough course.

  • The bike features such charming… features as “Nasty Grade” followed immediately by “Heart Rate Hill.” These come at mile 42, just as many participants are having their Normann Stadler moments, fantasizing about throwing their bikes in a ditch.
  • The run is not flat, nor paved. I needn’t elaborate further.
  • Special this year (and maybe two other times in the race’s 32-year history), Lake San Antonio was dry at the Lynch Boat Ramp.
whereza water?

whereza water?

That would be the swim venue. There’s no water there. The boat ramp led straight to silty sand. Soooo THIS is a new race day hitch for a snarky Midwesterner: the only swim venue probz I’ve had to deal with are wildly varying water temperatures and alarming amounts of algae.

See? PLENTY of water (down the 1/4 boat ramp, there).

See? PLENTY of water (down the 1/4 boat ramp, there).

As a consequence of this year’s statewide emergency-level drought in California, water has been drained from the man-made Lake San Antonio and routed along to water crops in “the salad bowl of America.” (So, all you veggie-loving skinny triathletes, YOU’RE WELCOME: my day suffered for your meal.) There were still plenty of hectares of water 2.2 miles downstream, however, at a different boat ramp. The swim was moved to this launch site… but the transition area with racks full of 4500 bikes couldn’t be. Transition 1, therefore, would involve a 2.2 mile run to our bikes.

The great news is the real-run-run was then cut short from 13.1 miles to 10.9. There were a lot of question marks as to whom all the changes would benefit. Runners could possibly make up any swim deficiencies by the time they got onto their bikes, but would they cook their legs too early? Would a swimmer-non-runner like me be able to hold off pure runners for 10.9 miles? QUESTION MARKS???? Dusty and I, with input from our coaches, decided to stretch out the swim, jog the first run, blow the doors off the bike, and just cope with the last ten miles of the day.

Friday. This, all day Friday.

Friday. This, all day Friday.

We arrived Thursday in Dusty’s dad’s giant RV. I shoved off for a shake-out ride with Wattie, Heather, and Wattie Ink. pro Chris Bagg and his wife (on her CX bike). Wattie and Heather stayed with us in the RV. Friday, we all headed to the swim venue, then let the pros in our merry band (now including AJ Baucco, too) scout the T1 run for us. The rest of Friday was feet-up-in-the-a/c time. I have to surmise that a good portion of Heather’s success is due to her ability to sit still for massive portions of her pre-race day. The rest of us were tapping our fingers and wishing we could crack open a beer.  We are an intemperate bunch.

Anyway, here’s how race day went down:

SWIM, 9:25am, a full hour and a half after the pros went off:

The new venue was pretty accurately marked, so I was very happy with an EASY 28-something minute swim. I haven’t been able to prove any swim fitness outside of the pool for a while thanks to too-long long courses =) I started front and center and swam stroke for stroke with another woman toward the first buoy. My mistake was not scouting the course beforehand and noting that the next buoy was YELLOW. Instead, I aimed for a paddle boarder’s red shorts, which took me off the hip of my swim buddy and a bit wide.  After the turn-around I found myself on a way-wide line again, but… was pretty sure I was swimming the straightest, if least popular line back to shore?  The silt was churned up such that the last hundred yards or so was in pitch black, thick water. People were exiting with beards of dirt clinging to their faces. It was entertaining.

HEY! Swim over a mile then run up this, OK?

HEY! Swim over a mile then run up this, OK?

TRANSITION T1a:

I was very glad I left a bottle of water in transition T1a to wash my face off. I took some time slipping on my shoes (while trying to balance on the 13% grade of the boat ramp), then grabbed my wetsuit and tried to stuff it into a marked plastic bag while jogging up the rest of the hill.

Transition 1 run, as seen on Sunday.

Transition 1 run, as seen on Sunday.

RUN 1:

Uphill, downhill, over some gnarly “paved” rollers, then a dip down into the dry portion of the lake bed toward the traditional boat ramp at the traditional T1 site. Nothing was DIFFICULT here except for the nagging feeling that too much sand was slipping through the hourglass (and into the toes of my shoes). Sure enough, superstar and mega runner Sarah Beth Barkley caught up to me by the time we reached for our bikes. That definitively answered the question of who this course benefits, regardless of extenuating circumstances. Runners. Always runners. If you can run hills and trails, Wildflower is the race for you.

TRANSITION T1b:

Went pretty smoothly. I already had sunglasses on from T1a, so just had to switch from run to bike shoes and get my helmet on and mount my bike. I bid Sarah adieu and watched her take off like a rocket. She claims to have not “had anything” that day but it didn’t look that way from where I was watching.

BIKE:

The first several miles are rolling hills and tight turns on the way out of the park. I came in pretty hot to one downhill turn, squeezed the brakes, and did a sweet burnout in front of a large crowd as my wheels completely locked up. But I saved it! Big cheers from the spectators. I perform death-defying feats on race day!

Once we exited the park, there are a few more long rolling hills, where a few people would pass me on the way up, and I’d immediately overtake them on the way back down. Those rollers smooth out to a steady downhill grade on Inter Lake road, then a pretty steady but slightly uphill (and upwind, this year) grade on Jolon Road.

“Coincidentally,” at mile 28, my mind went to a dark place of “seriously…I’m only half way done with this bike right now? 28 MORE miles?” AND my legs started to ache horribly. Like, ACHE, not burn. I didn’t feel like I was working hard, I felt like my knees and quads were being squeezed dry for juice. But then the miles started ticking down. 25 more. 20 more. No big deal more. I get to sit up for a split second around this corner, won’t that be a treat? Then I get to climb up Nasty Grade! WOO HOO! The brain is such a deprecating bitch.

Along with locking my brakes and nearly dying, a few other by-now-typical-for-me things happened: on my way up Nasty Grade, my power meter fritzed out and starting compounding Watts. It’s like the numbers could only go UP and not back down…so by the time I got up to the top I was averaging 700. Then I headed downhill and the Watts were still going UP. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I was averaging 1100. Around the top of Heart Rate Hill, I also picked up a piece of duct tape on my front wheel. [Uphill] thwap thwap thwap thwap [downhill] thwapthwapthwapthwapthwapthwap. This happened to me about 5 miles into the ride at Kona, and I had to stop and scrape the thing off my tire. Well, this time I decided to fuckit, I was almost done. I regretted my decision to let it fly when I hit 50+ mph on the descent, fearing it could get caught on my braking surface… but instead the tape finally fuckedoff. YAAY!

hmmmmmm

hmmmmmm

I’ll also say that the great thing about starting at the back of the race (second to last wave) is that you get to pass people all day. Mentally, this is refreshing, even if it’s pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

TRANSITION 2:

Smooth and uneventful. I had to run all the way across the transition area to reach run out, and passed AJ Baucco chatting with other pros and gathering up his things post-race. I said hey and kept running, then immediately regretted not asking WHO WON? I guess it would remain a mystery for another few hours.

RUN:

So by now it’s like…I don’t know, 1 in the afternoon. The volunteers were totally on point, but much of the mischief you may have heard of (the naked mile, for instance) has died down. I want to skip the miles of parched off-camber trails, the constant “I don’t know what’s next, so maybe I’ll just walk this shady section…or jog it then walk that steep thing I see coming…?” decision making. No, here’s what I want to focus on:

The day before the race, Dusty and I finally introduced ourselves to Matt Lieto. You may know Matt Lieto as the guy I needlessly heckled on social media for a few weeks. Matt Lieto was kind enough to forgive me for being a jerk, but once Matt Lieto heard I was in the second to last wave, he put the Fear of God into me: “OH MAN, you better carry your own fluids and nutrition on the run,” laconic Matt Leito said. “They never have fluids or nutrition for you guys at the end of the day.” Matt Lieto went on to say “I, Matt Lieto, carry a bottle with me. I make a little handle out of tape so I can hold it all day. I fling it ahead to volunteers at the aid station and make them fill it for me, then make them run to catch up to me.” Matt Lieto, ladies and gentlemen. Dusty and I thought maybe as a pro he can get away with that kind of thing, but flinging stuff at volunteers is generally frowned upon.

After left shaking and wide-eyed by my encounter with Matt Lieto, I supplemented my race plan with additional plastic water bottles. One bottle in my shoes at T1a (which I used to wash the silt beard off my face), one in my spot for chugging and dumping on myself in T1b, and another in my shoes for T2. That last bottle I ended up running 10 of the final 10.9 miles with. As I told Matt Lieto later, “Matt Lieto, you’re a lifesaver. I tossed that thing to volunteers (and/or walked up to them and politely asked “would you fill this, please?” like an orphan) at almost every aid station, carried it with me, and blatantly poured it over my head or swished and spat water on the side of the road while other participants were gasping and withering. MUWAHAHAHAH!!!!! THANKS, MATT LIETO! You’re swell.

I ended my day with one of those awesome high-kneed sprints in the finishers chute that I generally mock, but someone further up the road dared me to pass a bunch of dudes. OK! Dusty was there. I didn’t exactly tax myself on the run, so I zoomed through the post-race area and we wandered up to the RV. I just wanted to put my feet up and get clean. He was hungry, though, so downtime was curtailed for food time (BBQ sammiches). Somewhere along the way I asked who won.

“Heather.”

“Duh. But who won the men?”

“Jesse.”

SO GOOD! The legacy continues for those two.

We pregamed with Jesse Thomas, Lauren Fleshman, the Picky/Bend crew (including Jude the Dude), and whoever got the invite (Stanford grads, volunteers, cool kids, non-teetotalers) with some awesome 10 Barrel Brewing yummies, then headed to the awards ceremony.

Oh yeah, I got 5th in my Age Group. That's Sarah in second. Ladies, can we all agree to work on our podium fashion statements?

Oh yeah, I got 5th in my Age Group. That’s Sarah in second. Ladies, can we all agree to work on our podium fashion statements?

Starky was maybe definitely already drunk. He came to our after-party. The air was sucked out of the campsite sometime between when he asked us our names and when I said “Karin… Karin Langer.” And the rest is …a whole ‘nother story.

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hoo boy!

Aside

Just for the Fun of Making It Hurt

Busy weekend!

I filled last week with a missed workout or two, some junky sleepless nights, and just a touch of social media excitement. It all led up to a fun, low-key weekend of local events.

Saturday…

…we participated in the Great Race of Agoura, which actually consists of FIVE point-to-point races held simultaneously, all with one finish line. The races include: two half-marathons –the Pacific which winds on paved roads through the Santa Monica Mountains (hilly), and the Chesebro which follows the trail we train on several times a week (hilly); the 10k meanders through Old Agoura (hilly); the Deena Kastor 5k on some of the same roads (kinda hilly); and a one mile (hopefully not too hilly).

It’s a great event, and one that I would have signed up for and jogged through just to supplement a training day. I thought about participating in one of the half marathons thusly, but Coach Steve is on a mission to teach me how to race. That doesn’t mean go nuts every weekend so much as it means target something, train mindfully toward it (but not to the detriment of the big picture training plan), and focus up at the start line. Basically, I need to learn how to make it hurt.

So, fine, the 10k it is.

10k is a great distance because, like a sprint triathlon, the pain doesn’t last long. An hour of threshold work exhibits fitness and demonstrates progress, but the purple face/pounding heart/angry quads hurt goes away within five minutes and it doesn’t require a ton of recovery time. That means, in turn, I don’t get a by for a three hour ride later the same afternoon.

"running"

“running”

Dusty and I drove the course once, and he scouted it race week during a training run. He devised a pretty brilliant pacing plan for its rather tricky terrain that was basically “don’t try anything for the first half, then don’t push on this hill or you’ll be walking the next.”

Well, I wouldn’t brag about my finish given the course, but it demonstrated good progress. (IT HURT BUT I DIDN’T DIE! YAAY!)

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Sunday…

mbiondi…marked the Inaugural Matt Biondi Masters swim meet put on by my master’s group, the Conejo Valley Multisport Masters (CVMM). Eleven-time Olympic medalist Matt Biondi swims with “us” (well, not ME so much as people on the team who get up for morning practices), having made a return to swimming a few years ago, dropping a(nother) few world records in his division along the way. Thirty years after his first Olympic games, CVMM organized the meet to commemorate Biondi’s achievements in the sport, as well as to raise a little money for our non-profit club.

The amount of volunteer hours poured into making this event a success completely blows me away. Nancy Reno, our head coach, was told to expect around 125 swimmers for a first-time event, but 200 showed up. Among those people were Matt Biondi (of course), professional triathlete and Ironman CHAMPION Jordan Rapp, author/poet/lawyer/PhD/former Czech Olympic breaststroker Sarah Condor-Fisher, and the rest of us! Matt, for one, threw down a 21:8something in the 50 freestyle. Very impressive.

For my part, I registered for the meet in late January, just after our One Hour Swim (which is exactly what it sounds like –swimming for an hour straight for distance). At that point I felt pretty great about my ability to pace and turn my brain off for extended periods of time. So I signed up for the mile.

What?

Once upon a time, between 7th and 8th grade, I was the go-to 500 freestyler on our little summer-league team. I haven’t considered myself a fan or a specialist in it since, though, and neither did any of my coaches through high school and college. Even with all the rote distance freestyle triathlon training I do now, I still don’t think of myself as a “distance person” (a separate classification of crazies).

I almost immediately regretted the decision, but started concentrating on my turns and walls a little more in practice: the mile in a short-course yards pool consists of 66 lengths and 65 flip-turns. Pushing off the wall is up to 20% of the race if you do it WELL –if you don’t, you’re expending extra energy to make up a few yards you could have gotten for “free” with a strong push, three butterfly kicks, and good streamline.*

*most triathletes talk themselves out of a) swim meets, and b) learning how to do flip-turns because of dizzy/water up the nose/weeh excuses, but here’s the fact: a better flip turn means you’re swimming faster. Swimming faster means YOU’RE SWIMMING FASTER. It also means you’re swimming with faster people, who up your game, thus improving your swim split, leaving you fresher out of the water, and biking on a clear course with the front pack. HELLOOOOOOOOOO?

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WELLLLL… I was the 8th seed time in the event, but was spared from swimming in an outside lane during Jordan Rapp’s heat, which was pretty exciting to watch. Instead, I got a center lane in the 3rd of 4 heats. I ended up with a 20:39, which is a 1:15 average per 100, and won my heat, had the fastest lady-time of the day, and was 5th overall in mixed company. And I think I can do better next time. If you have 20 minutes and change to spare, you can watch my heat here (note: I’m in lane 4, but the camera person is obsessed with my teammate in lane 6… at 18 minutes they say I’m kicking butt, and at the finish they’re like “oh…I hope she wasn’t counting on having a bell lap”) or Jordan’s diesel engine vs. Mark Tripp’s “go out hard and try to hang on” philosophy at work, here.

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I also signed up for my old favorite, the Individual Medley (both 100 and 200 distance, but not the 400 thankyouverymuch). The 200 didn’t feel great because I didn’t cool-down or warm-up properly after the mile (and got a major guilt trip for it from teammate and former Wildflower Triathlon champion, Andrew MacNaughton). I went 2:34 (lane 1, farthest from the camera). The 100 as better because even I can talk myself into making it hurt for a 25 of each stroke in 1:10 (heat winner here), which is about as fast as I can usually muster myself to do a 100 free). I also did my best impression of a sprinter in a 4×50 free relay, but I’ll put the result of THAT to you this way: Matt Biondi would have been finished by the time I took my first breath after my flip turn.

I always crack up if people are cheering for me during the breaststroke.

I always crack up if people are cheering for me during the breaststroke.

So, yeah, a fun weekend of single-sport racing. It’s not great for getting in volume, but it’s excellent for mental training. My weekend reinforced a few things I already know, some of which have yet to put into practice: I prefer a sustained, dragged-out 70-80% kind of hurt over a quick all-out effort; having a goal really helps me execute things the way I should be able to; and “excuses are easy to come by, so you might as well do everything you can to do as well as you can,” e.g. scout the course, work on the flip turns, warm-up and cool-down properly, and SIGN UP FOR THE CHALLENGING THINGS.

Make it hurt and move on. =)

MyRealCornfession

I’ve been living a double life. It’s time to come clean. I’m exhausted and uninspired. I hope this confession either reinvigorates me, or at least lessens the pressure that has left me turgid.

The worst part about my double life is that I started it as a cathartic exercise. I felt great, initially; anonymously, I was able to express the things everyone was thinking but no one had the guts to say. You see, the triathlon community is a small one weirdly fixated on being #INSPIRATIONAL and any opinion you vent is less than two degrees away from wounding someone’s feelings or “core beliefs.” So, if you want to get something off your chest, you resort to vaguebooking and subtweeting and hope your subject isn’t self-aware. Alternatively, you do that passive-aggressive thing Matt Lieto is so good at.

There are very few people who can get away with saying whatever they think. Jennifer Lawrence. Vladimir Putin. Andrew Starykowicz.

Who?

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What a charmer. I didn’t recall that Starykowicz (“Starky”) was the Chicagoland guy who spent jail time for hit-and-running over a volunteer at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon. Last year, though, this big Purdue oaf corn-fed “CHAMPION” made news again when he declared that, in his first attempt, he would win the Ironman World Championship in Kona with a record bike split. You just don’t say these things aloud.

Starky went on to excuse away his literal meltdown in Kona with a picture of his hydration system’s straw. It was yellowed, you guys. The on course-nutrition in Kona was clearly “tainted” due to the heat, you guys. How could he be expected to win, when what the rest of us call “conditions” conspired against everyone him, you guys? OH NOT TO MENTION THE RADIOACTIVE WATER FROM FUKUSHIMA, you guys. Seriously, who makes these excuses aloud?

I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, so had my first run-in with the Starkymaniacs (namely, his wife).

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The gift that keeps on giving then screamed at an interviewer (and had the evidence removed), paled around with human rights violators, and expressed dismay that WTC chose to contribute donations to the 3.2 million people affected by the 2013 Philippines Earthquake instead of Midwesterners left without power after a rash or tornadoes. It was hilarious: the non-fanboi tri-world found a ridiculous example of everything wrong with our sport –the most myopic and unprofessional professionals imaginable. Even Matt Lieto pales in comparison.

I adopted Starky’s personality and voice, and started the parody Twitter account juggernaut that is @TheRealStarky92386-medium_StarkyReal

Yes.

I am The Real Starky.

WHAT? YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME? FUCK YOU.

The Twitterverse and I got off to a rocky start: I made the mistake of linking directly to The Actual Starky’s blog, which got me booted off, temporarily. Afterward, it was smooth sailing –Starky kept being Starky; his wife tried to gang up on me, too; followers followed (I currently have 100 more than The Actual Starky); sponsors came on board; and the triathlon season wrapped up.

That’s when the real trouble started. The Actual Starky eventually ran out of things to say and so did I. And for a second there, I thought he found me out and everyone else would too. Panic!

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But nope: false alarm; it was just a coincidence (that has made me seriously rethink my handle); and no one suspected a thing because no one knows who I am. YAAY, AGE GROUP ANONYMITY.

Eventually, I used Starky a mouthpiece to say scream all the horrible things I fantasized saying to peoples’ faces –or at least to their avatars. Things like DID YOU STRAIN A MUSCLE TAKING THAT NONCHELANT SELFIE?

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or JUST DO YOUR WORKOUT! WE DON’T NEED PROOF!

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or STOP TAKING PICTURES OF YOUR TRASH!

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or OH THE MAILMAN CAME!

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or A PICTURE OF YOUR GARMIN IS A WASTE OF AN INSTAGRAM FILTER.

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or “DEAR” ANYONE OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 5 PROS IN KONA, NO ONE KNOWS WHO YOU ARE.

These things cross all our minds, no? But you can’t say them directly to the offenders, right?

It seems surreal, now, that some of the people I’ve sparred with include Sutto and Andrew Messick Hisself. Professionalism doesn’t run very deep in the arena of triathlon, it seems. Still, I could have been better, too. I could have stayed purely satirical and not sunk to, say, Matt Lieto’s level, picking on “sponsored” age groupers and their “elite” teams. Admittedly, TheRealStarky has jumped the shark.

I apologize to anyone I, as TheRealStarky, #UNFOLLOWED or offended. You just annoyed the crap out of me and the very few decent people left in triathlon, and deserved it.

Thanks for reading. It feels good to say all this out loud.

*all photos of age groupers used with their permission. Thank you Amanda, Beard, Travis, Dusty, and Ironmoan for the illustrations.

SLO/Slow Camp with MarkyV

Last weekend I attended my second third camp of the very early 2014 season! That’s one aero and two training-type thingies for those of you keeping track at home. Overindulgent, yes maybe! But I figure I have a ton of free time, a poopload of fitness to attempt to gain back, and, erm… they’ve all been within three hours of Dusty’s because CALIFORNIA IS A PLAYGROUND, YO!

So, my friend Lindsey Heim and her coach, Marky “Mark” Van Akkeren (MarkyV), invited me along up to cycling haven San Luis Obispo (SLO). This is a place-name only Phil Liggett can pronounce with any panache: I get all the consonants and vowels mixed up. BUT ANYWAY we were actually west of SLO in Los Osos, a hillside town overlooking Morro Bay to its north. Pretty spectacular.

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The area is green and coastal and impossible to photograph in all its glory, but we tried. I’ve included LOTS of pics below as a result.

I wasn’t able to join MarkyV’s band of merry triathletes until Tuesday night (having come off a race weekend needing some recovery time, MAT, and clean clothes). The other athletes arrived on Saturday and let’s just say their VRBO 80’s mansion habitat was well lived-in by the time I got there. It was leftover night for dinner (delicious), dirty dishes clogged the sink, and tired athletes were strewn across the couches and floor cushions like so many pairs of used compression socks. They were all exhausted, but happy, and mostly ready for more work.

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MarkyV is all about polarized training, by the way: 95% of the work his athletes do is under Zone 1.5, and 5% is above Zone 4.5. I wish I had taken a picture of the diagram he used to explain this to me, but it involves bell curves of “good shit” vs. “bad shit” and where the good outweighs the bad. Anyway, it helps explain how a group of athletes from around the country can come together and hammer out some happy, slow volume in the March sunshine.

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Wednesday

After a night’s sleep on a cot rolled into the corner of Lindsey and Laura’s room, we got up and headed to the local trail for a run. Seaside, gravel trail giving way to single track, stairs built into a cliff, and an enchanted forest. Gorge-ous. Misty. Awesome.

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We stuffed our faces with second breakfast (a common theme; if we weren’t somewhere for a workout, we were in the kitchen making a mess and eating ALL THE CALORIES), we headed to the pool for a 4k swim followed “immediately” by a bike ride. Once again (as I mentioned in my post about the Wattie Ink. camp), a ladder set is a super sneaky way to get in a ton of yardage.

  • 400 swim
  • 300 pull
  • 4×50 build
  • 100 easy
  • 100-200-300-400-400-300-200-100 alternate swim/pull
  • 200 easy
  • 3x 100IM, 50 build, 50 easy
  • 200 cd

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Our T1 included a long stop at a café for day-old pastries and/or fruit smoothies, of course, before we turned up into the hills for three hours. “Slower, slower, slower” was the refrain of the day from MarkyV.

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That night at dinner, someone casually mentioned that they saw a few sea otters in the bay. Commence freak-ouuuuuuuuut! I had to explain what the strange noises were coming out of my mouth and how I spend my spare time (watching the Sea Otter Web Cam at the Monterey Bay Aquarium).

Luckily MarkyV was game to indulge my obsession and steer tomorrow’s planned easy ride toward the bay for me.

Thursday

I arrived at camp relatively fresh, but others were hurting and saving up for a long run this day and a looooong ride on Friday. We started the morning pretty late, and rolled out to a much-Yelped-about bakery down the road for second breakfast. After satiating ourselves with buttery goodness, we looped through a pass between two of the Nine Sisters on to MORRO BAY!

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That’s where the sea otters hang out.

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No, I was not allowed to pet them: they’re endangered.

After the LIETIME MILESTONE of seeing my first sea otters in the wild, the rest of the afternoon was a wash. We headed to Cal Poly to long-run in their canyon, but the ROTC guys were playing war games back there and the trail was closed. (As an aside, there was an experimental architecture graveyard about a mile up the trail, it was rad.) Then a swim team was in town for a meet and closed the pool to the public. I guess it was a rest day—too bad I packed in about 3000 bonus calories in anticipation of the planned workouts that day. OH WELL, easy days are good too.

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Friday

Another lifetime highlight of a day. But first, we started out with a quick workout on a dirt track:

  • 2x200m with 200m rest
  • 2x400m with 200m rest
  • 800m with 400m rest
  • 1600m with 800m rest

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We downed second breakfast, lunch, and a last minute snack before driving up the coast. Just south of Rugged Point, we parked on the 1, and embarked on a 60 mile round-trip ride.

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Our goal was to make it to a few landmarks, but due to waning daylight, we decided to turn around at the first major sight, the Big Creek Bridge. Years ago I remember asking my sister where this thing was, and she basically told me “the middle of nowhere,” so I was happy to have the chance to see it.

Happy Campers.

Happy Campers.

Speaking of the sights… first, if you ever get here too, get out of your car. There were so many people pulling in and out of the Scenic View areas and not even bothering to roll down their windows. Secondly, fuck the car, ride your bike. A direct benefit, aside from taking in the view properly, is that we were traveling slowly enough to see whale spouts about a mile off the coast.

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Then I spotted more SEA OTTERS!

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We smelled the eucalyptus trees, and craned our eyeballs toward the tops of redwoods.

SLO Camp was slow, and therefore perfect.

"Like!"

“Like!”

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Race Report: Desert Triathlon, Olympic-ish distance, March 2, 2014

Woo, a triathlon race report in early March! There’s a first time for everything.

Obviously, a sport that requires unfrozen water and clear, more-or-less intact roads is a seasonal one. The season of tolerable weather conditions season is SHORT in Chicagoland. It is LONG (if not endless) in California. Although one could pretty much race around the calendar in Southern California, the Desert Triathlon is generally accepted as the season kick-off event in these parts, or at least among the people I’ve fallen in with. It takes place in beautiful Palm Springs –or is it Palm Desert? Or La Quinta? I don’t know; it’s all the same to me.

As a Midwesterner from a specific community of athletes who has never done this event, the analogous race for me is the Galena Triathlon, which takes place in mid-May in very-northwestern Illinois. First of all… BWAHAHAHAHAAAAA, this year I’ll have done at least two triathlons, including Wildflower long course, plus an outdoor swim meet or two by the time Galena kicks off (sorry/not sorry). Galena is usually the debut of shorts, let alone tri-kits. Pale, chapped skin sees the sun for the first time in many months, spectators are blinded, and but for our forgetfulness, someone would make a killing selling sunscreen at the post-race party. Secondly, I could not help but constantly draw parallels between the two events.

  • Both are local destination events, as in you *could* make a really fun weekend of it.
  • Both are basically gatherings of friends/teams pridefully showing off some of the “off-season” work they’ve been putting in.
  • Neither abides by USAT rules in terms of age groups, officiating, or results.
  • For anyone who cares (which should be EVERYONE because EVERYONE knows triathlon results MEAN EVERYTHING), both can be construed as the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Dusty and James Adams, for two, constantly joke about how competitive and serious Desert Tri is, and how the results set you up for the rest of your season. That’s how I always saw Galena, too: for me, a disappointing result at Galena equaled a meh season; a surprising result led to some notoriety and good placing in other events. (I did Galena five times. The first three times I didn’t even place. The fourth time I was bowled over to find myself on the OVERALL podium and that was the season I was gobsmacked to qualify for Kona.)

Well, coming from such a competitive environment, the joke was on me. Yeah, people come out to the Desert and want to race well. The difference is that here they OPENLY throw down challenges to each other because it’s a community of support. Dusty and James had a friendly wager going, as it’s James’ first year in Dusty’s age group. Cortney Haile and I talked about race tactics the night before and tried to figure out if and how I could help her on the swim, where we might see each other on the course, and who else may show up to race. My experience at Galena had always been much more side-eye cloak and dagger “I hope I crush him/her and he/she can’t catch me on the bike…” or “I beat him/her today therefore I’m officially a better athlete!” type BS. I’m embarrassed I ever played into it and am sorry, but winning points in your tri club, beating your crosstown rival, or shaming your teammate over a couple of seconds is S-T-U-P-I-D when you could be sharing a more positive experience by helping each other.

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Triathlon shouldn’t be like this.

Also unlike Galena, the Desert Tri has a pro/elite field with their own wave. More importantly, it has absolutely zero logistics or terrain to deal with: one transition area adjacent to the start and finish line; flat as a pancake. This is helpful in an early-season race, but it does little to shake out the field, so clumps form on the bike, the race comes down to the run (boo!), and there’s no advantage for people who have done the race before (yaay!). The swim course is in a tiny glassy lake with cold, opaque water. The bike course is a series of 90-degree turns, out toward a rectangular loop you do twice before returning back to transition. The run goes twice around the bitty lake, with some sand/gravel/chunky pavement sections. If I had come straight from Chicago to do this event, the run would have been tricky because I’ve only recently developed some sense of footing on uneven ground (says the girl who busted open her face two months ago).

ANYWAY…

After an early morning of getting my chamois properly greased up and my body fueled with caffeine, we arrived at the race site for a generally laid-back pre-race set up. Dusty and I opted to do a warm-up ride straight from out parking spot, then racked our bikes, then went about the business of setting up transition. This may have cost us THE MOST IDEAL spot on the transition rack, but saved us from multiple trips back and forth. It was pretty fun being at such a small race again and watching newbies mark their spaces with chalk and spray cooking oil under their wetsuits.

Speaking of wetsuits, once I finally squeezed into my trusty and custom BlueSeventy Helix, Dusty and I went for a quick warm-up in the lake …uh… just as the race was starting and they were telling everyone to get OUT of the water. The few strokes we managed to get in helped, although the water was pretty chilly.

Happy? Cold? Nervous? Peeing right now? Not sure, but the race is about to start. (Thanks Aaron Hanson for the pic.)

Happy? Cold? Nervous? Peeing right now? Not sure, but the race is about to start. (Thanks Aaron Hanson for the pic.) Custom wetsuits from BlueSeventy

Dusty went off to elbow his way up to the front of his wave while I marfed around for a few moments with Cortney and Erin Maruoka. Cortney and I basically shrugged at each other and admitted we forgot how to do these things. (Cortney, BTW, was 25th in our age group per 2013 USAT rankings, so I take her race-day humility with a shovel full of salt.) I also realized I hadn’t really looked at where I’d be entering transition relative to my bike, so thanks to the newb who marked our row with all that chalk! I usually elbow my way to the front, too, but Coach Steve told me to build into this race –don’t go out and hammer the swim, just find some feet and work it. Although I ended up starting in the front row per usual, I didn’t stress about my position relative to the first buoy.

Good thing, since I heard one woman next to me (we’ll call her “Sleeveless” after her wetsuit) turn to her friend and say “I’ve never swum 3/4ths of a mile before!” I made a mental note to get around her as soon as possible, but the gun fires and Sleeveless TOOK OFF. I was actually stuck to her for the first five minutes of the race –as though our wetsuits were conjoined or something. I couldn’t get far enough away from her, or from the woman on the other side of me, and we all breathed into each other’s faces. It may have been the most contact I’ve ever had at a swim, which is crazy.

After sighting for the far buoy caused me to crisscross over Sleeveless’ kicking feet several times, I just paused a beat and let her go. I’d rather chase her from a distance than be stressed out about our proximity for the next 10+ minutes. Sleeveless continued to pull ahead, though, and I knew there were maybe two more white-capped women from our wave ahead of HER, so I chased Sleeveless for the remainder of our swim, letting her plow the way through the waves of yellow, green, and silver caps ahead of us.

I trotted through transition at a relaxed but strong pace, although the pavement was a little ouchy. I took a few deep breaths while I put my glasses and helmet on and wiping my feet on a towel (note to self, why not bring a plush bathmat next time?). Finally, I grabbed my bike and swung around toward the bike out.

Here’s the part I need work on: my pride. I leave my shoes clipped into my pedals—because SO PRO!—even though I cannot fathom ever being coordinated enough to do a flying mount. Instead I haul my leg over my saddle and shove off, never fast enough to get a foot on top of either shoe before the crank turns downward again and my shoes start dragging on the ground. I seriously lost like five places while staring at my feet, trying to get my act together. DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE.

(Thanks Aaron Hanson for the pic!)

(Thanks Aaron Hanson for the pic!)

Off on the bike we went. Dusty and I had warmed up on the opening four miles so I knew it would be a good place to catch my breath and settle in. Although there are a few tiny bumps in both the terrain and the road surface, I got down in aero position almost immediately and slowed my breath rate down. I chose a Reynolds 58 front and element disc in the rear, by the way.

As I described, the bike course is two loops over a straightforward series of 90-degree turns. The roads were fine except at these intersections where gravel, asphalt patches, and poorly placed traffic cones –and sometimes other competitors— forced me to slooow   wa a a  a   y     d   o    w     n. The first loop was relatively uneventful except for White Unitard Guy who I caught up to and passed, then he passed me back and slowed down, then I repassed just as Hammertime was passing me at a pace not that much faster than my own. And again, there’s no terrain to break up the field, only the turns in the road, where I could see some women who passed me out of transition working together to bridge forward, and another woman almost within reach, again and again, after each turn.

Did I mention that USAT rules don’t apply to this race as it is both unsanctioned and unofficiated? Meaning… you’re on some unspoken honor system when it comes to “the rules.” Whatever they are here, I know it wasn’t the strict honor code thing to do, but Hammertime was right in front of me and I didn’t make a big effort to drop back out of his draft zone. OK? Sorry. During the second loop, the course became much more congested with competitors of various abilities. As they merged onto the course, there were many road bikes, a hybrid or two, maybe a mountain bike, young and old, men who hate getting passed and women who seemed confused about where I came from. I pedaled on, this time more concerned with watching out for various obstacles (a few bottles, more bumps in the road, speed differentials) than with interpreting the rules. No one was following any rough guideline of road etiquette at this point.

I turned off the loop to head back toward transition and a woman I kept seeing rounding the corners ahead of me was just ahead –I finally caught up to her. As I did with Sleeveless during the swim, though, I made the executive decision to stay behind her instead of blowing out my legs over the last few miles just before the run, my weakest leg. Between her branded water bottles, I recognized her as “Jen,” someone my friend Amanda told me to look for. Actually, Amanda told me to grab on to her feet during the swim (YEAHSURE, she swam at Tennessee? I was DIII, yo!), but I missed that train and was only catching her now. Amanda said she was really good… but maybe she was a swim/biker like me and couldn’t run? I took my chances.

Whereas T1 showcases my weakness, T2 is where I rockit: I got my feet out of my shoes, came to a stop right on top of the dismount line (no flying dismounts for me either), and ran straight to my rack. I tossed my bike onto the bar, and took some relaxed breaths as I carefully but quickly slipped my bare feet into my running shoes (first time using these ones barefoot), making sure to keep the tongue straight and not get any pebbles stuck inside. I scooped up my race belt, Garmin, and visor in one hand and took off running, putting them each on on the fly.

Although near a few men, I saw no women during the opening mile of the run. I concentrated on settling into a sustainable pace, thinking that I’d try to drop the hammer the second time around the lake. The opening mile, which I hadn’t scouted, was up a sand dune, down into a gulley of cruddy pavement, over a concrete culvert, and around a few blind turns before settling into the circumference of the lake. Amanda’s friend Jen-of-Tennessee-Swimming passed me like I was standing still at that point, and we said breathless “good jobs” to each other before she passed me and I added “I think you know my friend Amanda Wendorff…?”

“OH YEAH AMANDA! She’s a rock star!”

“Yeah. So are you. Go get it!” Bye, can’t talk anymore, running. Sorry.

We rounded the lake and several men came by, but I still didn’t see any women. At the completion of the first loop, the lead woman from the elite wave came by me. I pretended her cheers were for me and kept chugging.

Rumble Bunny chugging along with the lead elite woman's biker coming up behind me. I don't know what happened to Nytro there.... (Thanks Tyler Olsen for the photo.)

Rumble Bunny chugging along with the lead elite woman’s biker coming up behind me. I don’t know what happened to Nytro there…. (Thanks Tyler Olsen for the photo.)

Over the dune, through the gulley, onto the culvert, and around the blind turns, then I finally had a chance to see what was coming behind me. Cortney. CORTNEY! CORTNEEEEEYYYYYYYYY! Nooooooo. Well OK fine, INEVITABLE: she’s a phenomenal runner. I tried to maintain my pace, or preferably drop it instead of just rolling over and giving up. There were also several women with Cortney but I couldn’t get a feel for their pace out of the corner of my eye. I tried to act on the resolutions I made at my last race in November: don’t give up until the finish line. Don’t give in just because I’ve convinced myself “I can’t run.” Keep going because YOU NEVER KNOW.

Over the next half mile I started to wonder if Cortney plus the other seven women I thought I saw back there would pass me all at once, like a pack of wolves? Or…wait, this is a two loop run course, maybe the non-Cortneys were just starting their first loop! I just came up with that little silver lining when I heard a familiar voice huffing behind me. Here she comes. CORTNEEEEYYYYYY!

She passed me with something less than two miles to go and said “we’re almost done!” I didn’t have a chance to ask her about the other girls before she disappeared over the horizon, so I just kept chugging. Several friends were spectating near the finish line and for once I DIDN’T make funny faces or yell something dumb back at them, I just focused on the finish line until I crossed it.

Results:

Swim (billed as .75 mile, actually .88ish): 18:02 (1:14/100yards)

Bike (24 miles): 1:04:31 (22.3 mph)

Run (5.86 miles): 44:12 (7:32min/mile)

Total: 2:08:59. 3rd F35-39, 10th F overall (including elite wave), 212 women participating.

The post-race scene was typical: lots people and dog-watching, congratulating, hovering around the results table, meet-n-greeting, repacking of all the tri shit, and the ever-important food foraging and water guzzling. I talked to Jen a bit, rehashed the race with Cortney, said hello to friends and friends-of-friends EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE ON OTHER TEAMS (gasp). When awards time rolled around, Cortney and I held hands on our way up to fetch our medals, and Jen, Cortney and I “cheersed” our podium medals together. Good times, great fun, excellent support.

Desert Tri National SoCal World Champs, I like the way you roll.

Podium!

Podium!

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