Tri Adventures in Photos

Tri Adventures in Photos
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As stated by Andrew Defrancesco, they say photos are the receipts for our experiences — which is why I take dozens of them at each race. They’re digital keepsakes, viewed often and appreciated more than the actual keepsakes (medals, shirts, the like).

But triathlon is different: other than the few transition pics before the start and after the finish, there is no way to document the experience. That is, unless you’re lucky to have a friend or family member who’s willing to play photographer on race day, in addition to cheerleader. And, if you’re particularly lucky, is pretty good at the photography part.

I could myself among the particularly lucky, because one of the coaches at our tri-training club, in addition to kicking our butts in the pool, spin class and TRX, happens to take pretty kick-butt triathlon photos. Especially candid ones; the best kind! So with his permission – Vinnie Fernandez, who will unfortunately be leaving the Bay Area at the end of the month and taking his talents to LA – here is a glimpse at our triathlon adventures so far this year:

Early morning on April 20, 2013. Our little group’s first triathlon. Getting ready. It was freezing cold; I briefly considered leaving my jacket on under the wetsuit.
But clearly, it was near impossible to squeeze into that thing without it, not to mention zip it up. Good thing I had help. And clearly found it – something? – very, very funny.
My favorite photo of all time. Our coach Marni decided to leave the wetsuit in transition and brave the 64-degree water in skin and strappy swimsuit. Freedom!
Can you tell I’m enjoying my day so far?
Alright dudes, let’s do this. Does this wetsuit make my butt look big? I mean tight? I mean all squished up like a sausage? Don’t answer that.
Not sure what’s happening here?
We’re going in! The lake bottom feels mushy, sticky and sorta gross. Ew.
Deep water start. Some warm up swimming nearer the start, others just hang out – I mean float around – and relax. Peaceful.
Out of the water. “I solemnly swear to never again wear a wetsuit, if it can be avoided.” [Too bad it’s a vow I’ll have to break, come California 70.3 next March!]
T1. See the dude in the background? He dances while sending the athletes on their way to the bike/ run. Groovy!
Here, I must share a photo of my club-mate Joni, who did a modified sprint tri a few weeks later (0.75m swim – 15m bike – 5m run). She actually sat down on her butt in T1 to put on her clothes. Her time in T1 was five minutes and she now knows better.
She was sitting down for so long, that I actually brought her water. (I volunteered at that race.) Valet service for your team mates!
Back to SVST: reeling it in on the bike. Fun!
And run; that is, sprint to the finish line of our first Sprint. I’m almost sad that it was all over so quickly!
I don’t know. Happy dance?

And finally, victorious once more, this time after our second sprint tri six weeks later. Here’s to many more! [And I promise I won’t forget the team shirt in those.]
A million thanks to Vinnie (far right in the photo above) for the memories — and the high-definition receipts. If you ever need an awesome photographer to document your next race, I’m sure he could be persuaded.

Wait, It Was Supposed to be Flat! California International Triathlon Recap

Wait, It Was Supposed to be Flat! California International Triathlon Recap
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I don’t know about you, but I tend to obsess entirely too much about a race after it’s done. Study the results. Think about the course. What could I have done better? What was the best part? The worst?

CIT (California International Triathlon, for those of you thinking I just misspelled CIM) was no exception. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to reflect in the four days post race, and have thus far come up with several accurate – if questionably useful – descriptors for it:

  • the much a-poo about nothing one;
  • the one that was supposed to be flat;
  • the one that was hot.

Yes, I worried too much about the water in the days before the race. Yes, the water was just fine. Contrary to what some people told me, the bike course was NOT flat. (Why didn’t I look at the elevation chart?) The run was incredibly, excruciatingly, unbearably hot.

That said, it was all tremendous fun. It was my first Olympic distance triathlon – and my third triathlon in three months (also, ever).

But let’s start at the beginning. Here is my CIT story:

Arrived shortly after 5:30 a.m., the sun was just rolling out from behind the lake where we would swim. Beautiful:This is Shadow Cliffs lake, with a cool sandy beach on one side, where we would enter the water. One big advantage to the setup was that the transition area was immediately next to the large parking lot where we all parked. Super easy to walk the bike over and start setting up:Another bonus? No porta-potties!! Instead, we used the beach bathrooms — actual bathrooms, which flushed and everything. Posh!

At 6 a.m., it was already 70 degrees and getting hotter by the minute. Better spray on some extra sunscreen! The organizers provided a stack of sunscreen spray bottles, too, to anyone who forgot theirs. Thoughtful!

I picked up my race packet (available on race morning; good thing, too, because pre-race packet pick up was in Pleasanton, an hour’s drive away). Then I set up my transition area (near the swim-in entrance, as usual) and started dawdling around with an hour to spare and not much to do, other go to the bathroom three times.

Body marking: check. One last walk to the beach: check. The race announcer told us the official water temperature was 77.1 degrees – wetsuit-legal – and everyone exhaled a collective sigh of relief.

I don’t get the whole love of wetsuits thing, as I’ve said before, I’d rather swim longer and not suffocate. So I joined the wetsuited crowd into the water, where we patiently waited for the sound of the starting gun — and I, of course, kept wondering how many poo germs and e-coli are in there. “Must not swallow any water. Oops, too late!

The Swim

As many poo germs and e-coli may have been in that lake, they were luckily invisible to the naked goggled eye. The water was warm, calm, my age group wave was relatively small and “beeeeeep!” — we were off!

As is becoming my habit, I started off to the side, so I wouldn’t get kicked, hit or crawled over. Success! Very uneventful swim altogether, except for a few things:

1. I kept swimming off course. That was possibly because I sighted not nearly often enough, but once I found my rhythm, I just wanted to keep going – not have to look up and mess it all up. My Garmin says I did this:[Not that I took any walk breaks mid-swim :)]

2. The water did get pretty shallow as we were swimming along the shore in the last third or so of the swim — to the point where I could see the bottom and it was all covered with pointy lake-bottom plants. Grossed and slightly freaked out, I started closing my eyes when my head was under water so I wouldn’t look at them. “Please, merpeople, don’t grab my feet and drag me under!

3. Like I’ve said many times, I’m a terrible swimmer. I started off with the orange caps (my wave), then got passed by the light blue caps (female 40+, started four minutes later), and then by the white caps (relay and aqua bike). Honestly, though? It was so nice and cool in the water, why not enjoy it a bit longer?

I kid. Promise I’ll try and get better at this swimming thing.

For now, I came out a good 8-10 minutes behind most in my wave, clearly not tired enough to manage giving the photographer a dirty look:[First time I’ve purchased official race photos in a very long time!]

Swim time: 38:42
T1: 1:42

Transition would’ve been much faster if the wind hadn’t blown one of my socks off to the next bike rack over! I spent what seemed like forever looking for it, good thing I picked a bright (neon) green color for this race. [Note for next time, stick socks in bike shoes.]

The Bike

I came to this one expecting a flat course. Yes, the elevation chart has one very pronounced climb:But look at the numbers, a total elevation gain of 755 ft over 24.9 miles, that’s nothing!

Except it turned out that half of that gain was piled up into one 1.2-mile section of road, with a 5.2% avg grade. My average speed was 8.4mi/h. (Garmin data! So glad my 910 functioned properly this time!)

There was one more climb after that, a 183-ft gain over 0.8 miles. It sounds like nothing now, but back then I had some very unladylike thoughts (possibly voiced out loud) about it!Here I am, passing someone near one of the many turns along the course. {Does my helmet looks ridiculous on my head or what???? More importantly, is it the helmet that’s weirdly shaped… or is it my head?}

On the bright side, there were good stretches of flat, straight road that I used to drink and eat GU chomps: two bottles of liquid went down + a packet of chomps. With not much breakfast, the calories came in handy!

Bike time: 1:28:11
T2: 1:55

[Had to do more walking from bike dismount to my rack this time. But at least I had both my socks on!]

The Run

There really are only two words for this run: HOT! HILLY! The course was two loops of a strange 8-shape with one out-and-back thrown in. All while having to climb short, but steep enough hilly parts that had everyone around me walking. On 95%+ dirt roads with some trail mixed in.

I’m not even kidding: it never got boring! I started out too fast, my Garmin showed an 8:45 pace… in this heat, no way. But I figured I’d wait until my legs slowed down naturally, and they did soon enough. It was so hot out, by the time I reached the first water station my clothes were completely dry. (Remember, I’d been swimming just an hour and a half earlier.)

That was quickly rectified at the water station – and at each one that followed further out. Thankfully, the hydration stations were less than a mile apart. I was grabbing two cups of water to throw down my head and back, then one more to drink. How do I look?

I can’t really tell you if the course was scenic or not, I wasted no energy looking around. Eyes ahead, breathe in and out, one-two, one-two, one-two. Kind of a bummer running past the finish line, to the sound of wild cheers for those wrapping up their triathlon (in 2 hours 30 minutes, no less!!) – but I told myself I’m just toughening up my mental game.

One more awkwardly shaped loop on dirt and trail with multiple climbs and walk breaks, and I crossed the finish line myself:Happy grin at the clock! Because this was my first Olympic-distance race, I really had no idea what to expect time-wise. I was hoping to come in under four hours… but really hoping for under 3:30. I had calculated a best-case scenario of 3:20, based off of my times (speed, pace) at Uvas; then scaled it back to 3:30 when the heat wave hit.

So when I saw the clock at 3:19 (and quickly subtracted 12 minutes for my wave start), I was more than happy!

Run time: 57:07 (9:12 min/ mile)

AG place: 12 (out of 34)
Gender place: 71
Div place: 329 (out of 694 participants)

I’m Pretty Sure That’s Not How You Taper for a Triathlon

I’m Pretty Sure That’s Not How You Taper for a Triathlon
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Can I just say that I really hope no one takes anything I write here seriously?

I have no idea what I’m doing.

OK, I may know a thing or two about running, but triathlon? Clueless.

Case in point: my training plan for the Olympic tri I’m doing this Sunday, or rather the lack of it. I just figured, I can swim two miles… as of yesterday; gosh that took me long enough:

I can ride 46 miles in a day, I can run, natch… and I’ve done not one but two (2!) sprint-distance triathlons (as of last week)… surely I can swim 0.9 miles, bike 25 and run 6.2 in – let’s hope – under four hours?

Let’s hope!

Oh, but a couple of weeks ago I did look up an olympic triathlon training plan (just one; more would’ve been stressful). I even wrote down what I’m supposed to be doing every day of the last two weeks pre-race.

Like today, I was supposed to run for 27 minutes. But that collided with my regular tri-club workout at the gym. Like most days, I ran there (3 miles), then another mile to officially “warm up”: An hour of TRX, then another mile, more core conditioning, then three miles back home. Eight miles plus some torture: done and done.

And not that I’m complaining (it ain’t New York City in August), but what is wrong with California weather these days? It rained a little yesterday – in June! has that even happened ever before? And today, it was humid!

Not that you could tell by looking around:But seriously: I was sweating at 5x my normal sweat rate. (No photos of that; you’re welcome!)

Anyone know what I should be doing the week before my first Olympic-distance triathlon?