Triathlon Race Report: L.A. Triathlon 2009

My fancy tri bikeWhat a race!  This is my favorite triathlon so far for many reasons: #1 It was my first tri two years ago, so it’s all sentimental and stuff. #2 It takes you right through the middle of the city, #3 It’s a big race where the pro athletes come, so I get to see the best in the sport.

Since I’m just starting up with my race reports, let me start by a run down of my “season” (in triathlon world, that usually lasts from May-October).  I raced in Newport Beach on two different courses, San Francisco as part of the Anchorman series, and Las Vegas at the Irongirl again.  Races are expensive, so I’ve learned to really limit it–I was really challenged this year with HILLY bike courses, so my finishing times weren’t always the best.  It’s caused me to really focus on hills at the end of the summer, and I’m really improving.

L.A. tri is perfect for me because it is relatively flat (not completely, there was some definite gear-shifting going on for sure).  The run is downtown & I feel really comfortable running downtown as it is where the marathon usually starts and/or ends–I work there, so I know the streets pretty well, too.  The swim: ugh, the OCEAN.  I’ve discovered that Venice is relatively rough compared to other beaches, so this is not the part I’m dying to do.  But, I was pumped for the race.  The past 2 months have been pretty spot-on in terms of training, so I knew I could potentially have a great race.

I woke up at 6am, had some coffee (i usually do half caff, but went full force this morning!), banana, energy bar & biked about 5 miles to the start of the race at Venice Beach.  I set up my bike stuff, put my wetsuit on, and had an amazing view of the pro athletes coming in from the swim to transition to the bikes.  It is so awesome that we get to race alongside of the best in the world, although they got to start about 3 hours before me–so were finished before I began.

I slowly made my way to the sand.  I avoided it because once your there, you will stare at the ocean until your wave starts.  You can’t help it.  You will watch each wave (there are about 15 or so waves of age groups, etc, going, so there is a lot of waiting) group to see what happens–what the current is like, how the waves are swelling, etc.  Today was the worst I’ve seen for a race.  The waves were huge, but more than that, they were never-ending.  No lulls, no small waves…it was scary to watch.  It doesn’t help that everyone is getting scared all around you.  There was also a really strong current, which meant when racers started–we ran along the beach 100 yards or more past our first buoy because the current was pulling people so fast and far.  Several swimmers went out into the water & returned back to shore when they couldn’t get past waves–giving up on their race.  I’ve never seen this happen & really hoped it wouldn’t happen to me!  When you see the lifeguard boat look like it’s about to topple over, that is a bad sign.  The lifeguards were smart and increased the time spent in between group starts–so one group completely finished before a new group of swimmers went out.  It did mean that we started almost an hour late–around 9am.  Luckily, it was a cool day, so I didn’t worry too much about the heat during the run.

So–it’s my wave’s start time.  It’s like night and day how I feel now compared to how I felt two years ago.  Even with the scary conditions, I wasn’t that nervous.  I knew once I got past the waves, I would be fine.  We ran way past the first buoy–I couldn’t believe the current would take me back–but WOW–did it ever.  The waves themselves were overwhelming.  We dive under them, but as soon as you dove and came back up, there was another one–so powerful it took you almost back to shore.  I’m sure people who have spent their lives in ocean water could feel comfortable in this situation, but it was pretty freaky.  Pretty soon, I look up, and I see I’m headed directly towards the buoy–the water pulled me all the way over in just a couple of minutes!  Crazy.  But lucky for me, I was able to stay in a straight line until I reached buoy #1 and turned (the course was a rectangle)–and pretty much stayed on course the entire way.  My swim lessons have helped calm me down in the water & be able to focus on technique/my stroke–instead of worried about other racers.  The crazy waves actually split us up more, so I didn’t have to worry about many arms or legs in my face–which was awesome.  The way back to shore was harder than I imagined–instead of the waves shooting you to shore, they would take you and pull you back–so it was a bit hectic.  But I felt pretty great coming out of the water and excited to be getting on my bike.

The transition went really well–found my bike quickly, saw that many of my neighbor’s bikes were still on their rack, which was a good sign–and I was off on Venice Blvd.  It takes several minutes for me to transition from one event to the next, to get my breathing down–but I started fast and kept the pace.  I love this bike course because the road is so wide and entirely shut down.  Some races are so crowded with bikes that the whole race you spend passing and being passed, but here the passing rules are not as strict because there’s so much room.  I passed several girls on the bike–two who had passed me, but I caught them around mile 9 (of 15), passed them & didn’t see them the rest of the bike.  My goal was to stay between 16-20 mph as much as I could–and it turns out I averaged around 18 mph, sweet.  This was the best bike split I’ve had–I felt really great going into the run knowing I had really worked hard & excelled on the bike.

The second transition went smoothly, too–though right away during the first mile of my run, I had stomach cramps.  I knew it was because of the gatorade I had been downing late in my bike ride.  I thought I learned this lesson in Vegas–but I figured I needed something besides water and an energy gel.  WRONG!  I wanted to run 8 minute miles, nothing crazy–but I swear my first mile took about 12 minutes.  Terrible!  There’s nothing you can do with that horrible cramping, other than run through it.  I wasn’t feeling great (but better), so picked it up more in mile 2 and then in mile 3 I was running a respectable pace & even sprinted in (but where was that in mile 1?!?!).  I was a little bummed because running is my strong suit–but even with my slow run, I didn’t see too many girls pass me (and passed about 5 in the last mile).

I finished with my work buddy and her daughter cheering me on at the end–went to get my bike, checked my time–and a 3rd place finish in my divisi0n–I was pretty shocked given that I think I could’ve easily done the run 5 min. faster.  I stayed for the awards (and the free goggles!) & was on an incredible high the entire time.  I was most proud of this medal because 2 years ago I was 12th, last year I was 5th–it’s good to be able to see improvement.  But the best part is how comfortable I feel with racing now.  I don’t over think it or get overwhelmed.  My race today was always steady–even when my run started to fall apart, I walked for  a minute–had an energy gel & pushed along, telling myself it would get better later on.  These moments encourage me to really see myself as a capable athlete, not just in it for the fun (because= yes, it is SO much fun!!!)–but also in it to be competitive, to have big goals, to take my training seriously–because I love every aspect of racing.