Week 30: Santa Cruz is pretty too I guess

Warning: There is a gross picture at the bottom of what my screwed up feet look like after all this racing. I was just going to post it at the top here because #realtalk, but trigger warning, you guys.

I raced Santa Cruz 70.3 (formerly Big Kahuna) yesterday, mostly because Steve was racing it and I’d already be there and I needed to get a big weekend in for Louisville in five weeks. But holy shit I wasn’t excited about it.

Continue reading “Week 30: Santa Cruz is pretty too I guess”

Race Report: Big Kahuna Triathlon

Won a trophy -- if not THE trophy.
Won a trophy — if not THE trophy.

 

Short version: It turns out that if you don’t really train for a half-Ironman, then it’ll go pretty much how you’d expect it to go. My legs stopped working with 2.5 miles left to run. Between then and the finish, I went from second to fifth, which was excruciating — physically and emotionally. On the plus side, my legs worked for a lot of miles before that point. And, it turns out my five hour finish (5:08) may not have been as super slow as I thought; the race, itself, was also slow and long. (For the Big Kahuna aficionados, they’ve extended the bike course slightly.) Bonus miles!

Long version: When I’m really not excited about a race and can’t think of any possible reason I want to do it, I tell myself just to go through the motions. Just go through the motions of getting ready, setting up transition, warming up, standing at the start, and eventually the rest will kick in. It usually works.

Sunday, I went through the motions like I’ve done this before and eventually we were running down the beach to the ocean. I am, apparently, really fast at that, because I hit the water first. The crowd sorted itself within the first 20 feet. Then, it was me and a girl who was swimming quickly away from me. Right after I lost her feet, another girl went by me, and then it was just me. But, I knew I was swimming well. I could tell from the amount it hurt my arms and by how many guys I was passing from the earlier waves. I, actually, maybe for the first time ever, didn’t hate my life or the sport of triathlon during the swim. I knew I was swimming a PR, so at least there’d be that high note.

After coming out in 28:30 (yay!) and running the half-mile to transition in bare feet on concrete, I started the part of the race I was second-most worried about: the bike.

It wasn’t awful. It wasn’t great either. My heartrate monitor stopped working — no matter how many times I pressed “Find” on the computer — and I don’t have power in my race wheels, so I went by feel. Going by feel works really well if you know what that effort is supposed to feel like. I have no idea right now. Instead, I kept asking myself: Does this hurt? But, in a way you can sustain? Should you pass that guy up there? Probably, you should.

About 10 miles in, I saw someone up ahead hanging on the wheel in front of them, to such a degree that this person was coasting at points and at other times sprinting to jump back on the wheel. Typical, I thought, 45-year-old male behavior. Because that is who I usually see drafting. I rarely see the front women go deliberately out of their way to draft. For the most part, I see women just trying to deal with the men they’re catching and the men catching them and the general chaos that is triathlon when you’re a fast female in a mass race. Then, I realized this was a woman. It took me another 10 miles to catch her, after which she tried to hang on to my wheel for a bit.

At the turnaround, the woman in first came blazing through from farther up the road, past the turning point, yelling about having missed the police cars and cones and volunteers. Trying to keep her in sight was a new motivation, but it only worked for so long. Then, things got blurry for a bit. I’m not sure if it was partially the fog that was literally making things blurry or partially that we had reached the edge of my fitness, but I was struggling with that classic battle: I just want to be off my bike, but then I’d have to run. Lose-lose. Also, I was actually literally having a hard time seeing.

I was enough out of it that when I got to transition, I swung my leg over the back to dismount, still coasting in slowly, and I got my leg caught on the seat. I’ve never done that, even in practice, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to save it. The whole bike came crashing down on top of me as it, and I, tipped over and semi-skidded to the dismount line. I’d like to think at least some of the time in my not-so-awesome 2:47 bike split was used up by me pseudo-crashing and picking myself up.

But, still I was fine. Everything was fine. The run started out strong enough. I focused on high turnover and running steady. I told myself that I’d finally nailed my nutrition and wasn’t going to collapse in a heap somewhere in Santa Cruz — as has happened before. I just kept ticking off 7:15-7:30 miles. It was fine. Even when it got ugly around halfway, which happens for everyone on this course as you run around a never-ending field, I was still running in the 7:00s. Heading back up the long hill in the sun around 9 miles in, I rationally knew that I didn’t feel any worse than anyone else and, in fact, I felt far better than the last time I had been crying while stumbling up this stupid hill. No, everything was fine.

See, everything is fine. I'm obviously have a better race than that guy.
See, everything is fine. I’m obviously have a better race than that guy.

 

Obviously, abruptly, it wasn’t fine anymore. I’ve heard the phrase “the wheels came off” and I’ve even used it, but I don’t know that I ever fully appreciated what it meant before Sunday. I went, very suddenly, from running 7:30s to running 9:30s. My legs simply hurt. Every step the right leg screamed in pain, especially on the downhills. My legs wouldn’t bend. They wouldn’t move forward. They were done. I was still pretty fine aerobically, completely aware of the women closing on me from behind, but there just wasn’t much I could do about it. One woman, who actually started five minutes after me, passed me with 1.5 miles to go. She then put more than another three minutes on me in that last 1.5 miles. And, she wasn’t running that fast.

Eventually, it ended. I didn’t even walk, not even through that long stretch in the sand at the end, though walking might have been quicker at points.

I'm actually right at the point when it went bad here. It just looks like I'm still running, because things look faster from behind.
I’m actually right at the point when it went bad here. It just looks like I’m still running, because things look faster from behind.

 

The extra added bonus fun of doing a race you’re not physically prepared for is that when you push your body to that point, and it hasn’t had the appropriate amount of time to get ready, it really hurts. I have been in more pain since Sunday than after any race except possibly the Dipsea that first year. My dad said that I just wanted to see how far the tank could run on empty. And, I guess now we know.

Race Report: Santa Cruz Triathlon

When I was trying to push it and actually going slower. Sigh.
When I was trying to push it and actually going slower. Sigh.

Short story: I never felt totally in it — not even from the night before when I was at a pub with Steve. But, I kept it together enough to win my wave (29 & under). I just didn’t keep it together enough to win the race, with a fast 31-year-old and 34-year-old beating me from the next wave. Not that I would have beat them no matter how in it I was, since they ended up 7′ ahead.

Between PacGrove and this, though, not a bad start to remembering how to race triathlon.

Long story: We left our house at 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning to watch my high school kids at Stanford, which was fun, but made for a long weekend going from there to Santa Cruz and made my legs hurt (watching other people’s races always makes my legs hurt). By Saturday night, when we walked from the house we were staying in to the pub on the corner in Santa Cruz, I was seriously considering just staying out and sleeping through the race.

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Things didn’t really get more focused in the morning. I barely made it to the start after failing to successfully pump up my tire, deciding to use a different wheel, getting the chain stuck in between the derailleur and the frame, etc, etc, long morning. When I say I barely made it to the start I mean the announcer said 2′ until my wave and I had just jumped into the water, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to swim in the ocean without knowing how cold it is. I got to the start line and she said 30″ to go. I was still breathing heavy from running through the sand to the start.

I told Steve the other day that I need to stop messing myself in the head during the swim. I always am 2nd or 3rd out of the water — no matter how fast or slow the first girl is. Clearly, this is all in my head then, so I need to pull it together. Yesterday was not the day I pulled it together.

Pretty quickly, I was swimming second with another girl and one person way up ahead. Then, I was swimming second by myself. My goggles have been sucking lately (Speedo Vanquisher – both of the last two pairs I bought) and they got completely fogged up by a few minutes in. I actually stopped three times to wipe them out so I could see anything. Around the turn, I realized there were girls right behind me and then shortly after that there were girls next to me and in front of me. I went with them, for the most part. But, not well.

On the second half of the swim I started dry-heaving. I must have swallowed a stupid amount of water, which is ill-advised. I kept swimming as I dry-heaved (I don’t think anything actually came up), but I wasn’t swimming well. I really didn’t want to have to get out and run to my bike. I was pretty sure I was going to throw up in the sand when I stood up. But, I didn’t want to swim either. I just sort of wanted to lay in the water and try not to throw up. And, then, I couldn’t see anything again; time to clean the goggles out. It was not my best swim.

By the time I got out of the water — which I also did super shittily, like I forgot how to run out of the water — I knew I wasn’t doing great. 24:30 is NOT a great swim time. It’d be hard for me to make up that time later. But, I told myself: You never know. You never know in triathlon if everyone is going slow too, if you’re really doing great. You got to just keep going forward.

They make you run almost half a mile from the beach to your bike (and I totally bruised my heel doing this apparently). I got into transition as the second woman, but someone beat me out on to the bike — also not a good sign, when was the last time someone beat me out of transition?

Once I was finally on my bike, I tried to just drink and rinse my mouth out. It didn’t work great. I still had a nasty taste in my mouth late last night; something about the saltwater and the bile and who knows, probably best to not think about it. I passed the girl who was just ahead of me in the first 10′ and saw the girl in first a bit over 2′ up. Then, the rest is a blur.

I biked ok, but not great. I tried to just keep pushing hard and moving forward, which I was relatively successful at. Still, it was a lot of time riding by myself and trying to care and not throw up. A few minutes after the turnaround I passed the girl in first and then I really started to push it. I still didn’t feel with it, but I was in first now and I tend to do better when I’m scared I’ll get passed than when I’m hoping to catch someone.

Killing it? Not exactly.
Killing it? Not exactly.

The end of the bike couldn’t come soon enough. I kept staring at my watch and thinking, “It has to be soon; it has to be soon.” Doing shitty race math I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to win overall. I was pretty sure my 1:08 bike split (1:09 in results, because they counted where they made you dismount and run down a hill, whatever) was ok, but not good enough. I was pretty sure I couldn’t physically run fast enough with the not great swim + bike to hold off whoever was fast in the 30-39 wave. But, I thought: You never know. You got to just keep going.

So, I did.

For the first four miles I ran 6:45ish pace. Not great, but fine. (Steve says I don’t have to run a 37′, I just have to make it so they’d have to run a 37′ to beat me.) I felt strong. I felt like I had this, like I was going to win my wave and who knows, right, who knows what other people are doing.

A bit before the four mile mark, I saw two women flying the other direction. They were definitely going faster than I was and it seemed like they were probably from the wave that started 10′ after me. That didn’t bode well, but maybe not. You never know. I tried to pick it up. Oh man, I tried to push those last two miles so hard. I told myself it’s only two miles, then it’s only 1.5 miles, then it’s only a mile. I told myself no slowing down. Everything hurt. I wanted to throw up again and I had a cramp so bad in one side that I was leaning sharply to the side as I ran. I really wasn’t seeing super straight anymore either. Yet, somehow, I ran slower the last two miles. My pace dropped to 7:15. Then, I don’t even know the last mile. I didn’t look. But, it wasn’t good.

I crossed the line in 2:21 after running a (admittedly long/not fast 10k) 43′. I didn’t do anything bad or wrong, but I didn’t do anything great either. It takes a certain amount of pain to race the people that are right there racing against you. It takes a whole other level of hurt to beat people you can’t see. And, I just didn’t come ready for that yesterday.

It turns out it was Sonja Wieck and Christine Bare who beat me, so I don’t feel too bad about that. And they beat me by a lot. If my prediction was that I would do 2:15-2:21 at this race, then yes, I was at the slow end of that range. But, they went 2:13:55 and 2:14:05. So, that probably wasn’t going to happen anyway.

At first I couldn’t figure out how they put 7′ on me. Nothing I did was bad or that slow. But, if you swim two minutes faster and bike three minutes faster and run two minutes faster, well, it adds up. Which is how things work, right? It adds up.