Race Report: Los Angeles Triathlon 2011

It’s my 4th time doing this race! It all started four years ago–me riding a cheap bike, swim suit & bike shorts, having never really been for a swim in the ocean & placing 12th in my age group. I never thought I’d fall for the sport as I have, certainly never thought I’d buy a bike with aero bars, or real cycling shoes, or even a wetsuit. Not me, a simple runner with only running shoes, capri running shorts, and an ipod shuffle to entertain me. I have this specific race to thank for getting me excited about the prospect of getting better at racing–which continues to motivate.

As I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of urban races. I love to move through the city I live in. I love when they shut down a street, and you can travel L.A. a whole different way. I think especially because it’s L.A., a city that’s horrible to drive in, where your daily commute is more than a grind & people are less than forgiving (especially if you’re on a bike). It’s also fun to do a “big race” once in awhile–that brings out the pros, that has a really big finish line/crowd support, that has awesome finisher medals.

My training this year has been less than ideal, but I just kept my mind focused on the one week I spent in Arizona doing some pretty consistent, awesome workouts. It’s hard not to think when you are at the starting line, “Man, I should’ve gotten in the ocean at some point to practice…I haven’t been in there since my last race.” But I’m working on my positive thinking, remembering back to the early mornings I actually made it to the Culver City pool for some slooow, half asleep laps. That had to count for something! My big brother was running his first 10k, and I told him my motto is “Let’s do this!”–so I was trying to tell myself the same thing. FOCUS. But I was there so early, and there is so much time to build anxiety. Especially when I was 2nd last year in my division, I know I secretly wanted first & I’m not used to having those kind of expectations! The night before, I decided to focus on goal times for each leg of the race, so I wouldn’t be as focused on competition (something I really have no control over).

Instead of riding my bike from home to the race start, I decided to drive there & park–I mean, riding 5 miles on my bike with a huge backpack on seemed like a little too much of a warm up. I was there too early. It’s good, because you get a space on a bike rack, but bad–because racers have so much nervous energy & are really chatty. I’m the loner who walked as far away from the start as I could get & just sat down and relaxed. Everyone else was warming up, but I had an hour until race. I wasn’t about to jump into the ocean and freeze or even jog around. I attempted my usual swim warm up 10 minutes before our wave went–which means me thinking I’m really going to get past the waves & warm up my arms/shoulders/etc, but I walk in about waist deep, wipe my goggles off & then decide that’s enough. This happens almost every race, and it still makes me laugh. Who wants to swallow more ocean water than necessary? No thanks, waves.

My wave is lined up. Nervous chatter among strangers. I line up in the front. I’ve discovered even though I’m not a fast swimmer, in the ocean starts–the front is an OK place to be because you get split up pretty naturally early on–just running into the ocean & getting through the waves. It’s completely different in a lake swim, where people are in your face & if you start in the front & aren’t that fast, everyone just runs over you. Although I can’t say I’m much faster, I am enjoying the swim more and more. I have to remember back to the first swim–where I was doing the backstroke just to remain alive & couldn’t control my breathing. Now I can do the entire swim freestyle stroke & my breathing is just fine. Towards the end, I’m passing the guy’s wave that went before us, so I end up fighting my way through a crowd & waves bringing us to shore–a little more hectic than I like, but I was done–so I didn’t care!

The bike: not much to say. Pretty smooth throughout. Didn’t see too many girls, so I really had no idea how I was doing. My stomach was not reacting well to any kind of calories–gatorade or gel, so after trying some of that–stuck mainly with water. This is definitely something I need to explore because it’s happened multiple times (but not always) on race day. I’m sure it has to do with nerves or the jostling in the ocean, but it totally affects the run later on & it would be nice to get some calories down to help me power through. As I came into the transition downtown, I saw hardly any bikes in my area–which is the BEST feeling! It meant as long as I made sure a dozen or so girls didn’t pass me on the run, I had to be doing OK.

The run: Ugh, stomach cramps again. Side-stitch kind of pain. It’s the worst! You can run through it, but it feels like someone is stabbing you over and over again as you run–not the most enjoyable way to spend 3 miles. I knew there was the big uphill coming, though, so I ran-walked it to try to alleviate the cramping. I ran it conservatively downhill until I saw others booking it, so I did the same (I mean, it’s only a mile to go!). I found a guy who was running faster than I currently was, but not so fast I couldn’t catch him–so I stayed beside him the final mile. He was nice about it, telling me we’re almost there. I just kept yelling “Which light do we turn on? The next one?” And he kept saying, “No, the next one!” I swear that dialogue was repeated at least 3 times. Finally we turned, headed towards the finish–ugh, does it have to take so long to get there? Lines of people yelling/cheering, but all I was interested in was finding the finish chute. Passed “Hope Street,” thought “there’s some inspiration, Kristy.” but my positive self talk wasn’t working anymore. And 30 seconds later–I was done. My time was 2 minutes faster than last year, 3 minutes shy of my ambitious goal time. I was happy! And cold! (Did I mention we were competing in cool, cloudy weather–perfect, except we’re still soaked from the ocean at the end of the race!)

I soon checked results to learn I was second. Although 1st would’ve been nice, I was just happy that I had beat my previous year’s time & we determined since first was a Canadian, I’m the real first place :). I waited for hours for that medal, biked the entire race course back to Venice, stopped at Freebirds for a burrito (life-saving) & made it back home about 3pm. A long, wonderful day. It is supposed to be my last race of the season, but I’m thinking of doing the Playa Del Rey one in a couple of weeks. This stuff is addictive!

Thanks for sticking with me through all of these race reports. I’m sure I say pretty much the same thing in every race, but I get such a kick out of reliving it. Post-race blues this week, & I wonder how I can spend more of my life doing all the things I love to do outdoors.