Olympic Distance Triathlon – Check!

Yesterday was the Louie Bonpua Memorial Triathlon – named for a TNT athlete who succumbed to cancer, as I understand it, about 9 years ago. H and Dad were volunteering – well – DAD was volunteering. H was “volunteered” by me, and he was not all that happy about it. It started about a week out, when Dad sent an email that he would meet us at the Ferry Terminal “at 6:00” but of course that’s the middle of the night to H. We picked up Dad around 6:20, so Dad was a little pissed we were “late” (though I had told him he would be sitting in the car), and H was a little pissed because were so “early.” Ah. Life.

sunrise louie tri

We watched the sunrise over a snowy Mt Diablo, and arrived at the location with plenty of time. Since I had 2 Volunteers, I got the prime “close parking lot” location, instead of having to hoof all my gear from quite a distance away in the “Athlete” parking lot. Yes!

It had been raining for a week – I’d dutifully done training while we were on vacation in Carmel (including 2 hours 10 minutes on the trainer instead of the 35 mile ride on the calendar – watching lightening play over Pt Lobos), but wasn’t totally sure I was prepared. This was my first Olympic Distance tri since Chicago in ’88! Sure, it was supposed to be practice, and it was a pool not an Open Water swim, but it was still Olympic distance (1500 swim/60 laps; 27 mile bike; 6 mile/10k run).

sunrise 2 louie triMy “fear factor” really only surrounded things I couldn’t control – like bike flats or bike-wheel-swallowing ruts in the road (which we were warned of). I wasn’t afraid I could “do it,” because bar none, TNT has the best system to prepare an athlete for their event. It includes coaches, captains, mentors,volunteers and of course, our honorees, a few of whom I met at the tri. Everyone is there to get you over the finish line. If they thought we could all do it – we could all do it.

I was just about the first athlete there (volunteers had to check in an hour early), and the bike racks weren’t even set up when we pulled in. H and Dad helped the South Bay team get them in place, and I picked my spot. Nothing like getting the primo positioning! I messed around laying things out, including various “I might need this” items. A true plus that I threw in at the last moment: A shoe horn. A minus: I had a tiny sample of Chamois Butt’r instead of the big tube . . . I thought I was being clever and saving space, instead, I forgot to apply it. YOWCH!

setting up transition louie tri
Setting Up Vlad At The Transition Area - Note My Big Swim Parka!

We were separated into 3 “groups” for the Swim. I had started in G1 in November and had moved up to G2, but I knew that my bike was going to be slow with Pig Farm Hill, so Sedonia allowed me to swim with G1. The best part was that she also found me a spot with Cory (we were 2 in a lane) next to the stairs, as I have not been able to successfully “hoist” myself out of the high lip of that pool even once in training!  Normally we do a 300 warmup then about 450 worth of drills, but this was just Jump In And Get To It!

When we started, there were only people standing on the “starting side” of the deck (coaches and our lap counters, plus the next group of swimmers). As time passed, more folks gathered on the “far” side of the lane as well. As you couldn’t just rely on the counter for 60 laps, I figured it would be easy to know if I was “going or coming back” because I had people on one side, none on the other. My poor little mind got confused when folks started gathering at the “clear” end, too! Luckily my counting stayed on target, as my counter shouted out “last lap!” just as my brain said the same thing.

Peeling Off My Cap And Heading To The Transition
peeling off my cap and goggles and heading for the bike!

I think I was about the 4th person out of the water in the G1 group. I was almost sad to leave the water, as it was nice and toasty and it was about 42 degrees on deck!

I did the 1,500 yards in 31 minutes 1 second – close to a PR for me – counting back into the ’80s when I was doing tris! In my “trial 1500” the week before I had done 32 minutes; my 100 averages when we did the 12 x 100 were right in the 2:06/2:07 range, so I was right on track. OK so I’d hoped to go sub 30 minutes (and get a PR), but I was glad I was under 32. I have been listening to a podcast and receiving emails from Coach Kevin a Tri Swim Coach, and if you are a newbie to triathlon swimming (or, well, what am I, and “old-bie” starting up again?), you gotta check these out. His podcasts are particularly nice to listen to (I usually listen on my runs) because he keeps them to a good length, and he always has good info and is just, well, cheerful. I have incorporated some of his tips and I know that, combined with our TNT coach’s watchful eyes, this is why I am counting down towards that PR in the 1500!

Coach Dave gave me a big cheer when I got out of the pool, and I heard some other folks yelling my name which always feels so great! I was really concentrating on not slipping though, as I headed out of the pool and into the transition area, so I couldn’t show my appreciation. I hope they all know how great it made me feel!!

My transition time (including of course the ubiquitous Potty Break – Teammate Janice and I want Tshirts that say “I Race 2 Potty”….) was 9 minutes 17 seconds. Yes, I have figured out the Lap Timer on my circa 1988 Timex Ironman watch! It was sooo hard to get the swimsuit off and the bike shorts and long pants, socks, etc. on while damp. I was just glad that I had thought out my “bra strategy” and wore a tri bra under my swimsuit. I had to help Tiff into hers (she was out of the water before me), as she had the “stuck on the shoulders/back/rolldown” problem. I am glad my strategy worked. I definitely need to check out trishorts, as I think that would make a huge difference. Other women had on trishorts, just pulled the bike shorts on “over” them, then pulled the bike shorts off to run. Finally, I strapped on the helmet, gloves, Camelbak and of course started my TUNES! Yes, I had my iPod in my little $12 stereo speaker case in the top of the Camelbak. Only headphones are illegal on the Ironman – not speakers!

I caught up to Tiff and Liz as we were on the first longish straightaway after all the traffic lights and turning to get out of the more populated area. They each loved the fact that I had my Tunes – then as faster folks passed me on the bike, they commented on it too. It was fun since there were South Bay folks that I’d never met before. Everyone was super nice. I was riding for a first time with Mentor Margaret’s borrowed Bento Box. I learned something very early on…if you don’t flip the “top” of the box back, Bento Box plus Bump In Road equals Nutrition On Road.  D’oh! I also wound up “dumping my chain” on one of the hills before the infamous Pig Farm Hill – I got it back on (thank you, Iron University “chain dump” class!), but wow, it was hard to get back going on the hill. I didn’t cry though! ;-) (I felt like it.)

The ride was the same one I wrote about a while back – out and back from Pleasant Hill to Pinole with a pass up and over Pig Farm Hill. Dad and H were at the first Bike Aid Station which was at about mile 9 (on the back side of Pig Farm Hill). It was great to see them. Since I had been in the G1 swimmers, I was one of the first people they saw.

Funny story (or, not so funny) – the ONE thing that I wanted to be sure I had was my bike computer. I hadn’t had it when we did Pig Farm Hill the previous time, and I had a whole “Are we THERE YET?” experience. This time, H was really careful to zero the computer out, make sure it was on ok, etc. – but we didn’t check the magnets! During transport (or perhaps when we took the bikes to Carmel), the magnets got misadjusted – so once again, I was in an “Are we THERE YET?” situation. Argh! Actually, it worked “a little” which was worse. When we’d gone about 3 miles I looked down – and it said 0.8. I was very surprised/depressed/freaked out! It wasn’t until a bit later when I looked down and it STILL said 0.8 that I realized the problem. OK, so, the story. There were about 7 guys at the first Bike Aid Station (including H). I saw him, and met his eyes, and shouted: “The computer doesn’t work!” as I flew on by. Apparently the guys all just stood around, and H didn’t say anything. They were waiting on the next biker to show up (which was a while). H said he finally said, “That was my wife.” The other guys started CRACKING up – apparently they were all trying to figure out why this girl had shouted out about the computer at the Aid Station – and what they were supposed to do to help if I didn’t stop! That got them talking though, and sort of “bonded” the Aid Station #1 Group!

The ride was an out-and-back, and of course at the 2nd Aid Station there was supposed to be a Port-A-Potty – but I couldn’t see it. Coming down the hill and slowing down I shouted to the guys manning the Station: “Restroom? Restroom?” They looked very quizzical (oh come on boys, you are GOING to have to know this…there are lots of older women on this race LOL!) and finally I just shouted “POTTY?” and they pointed to the 2nd driveway. I was quick, but just that one bit getting off and back on the bike made my legs tighten up.

I had fun with Teammate Brian K when he whizzed past me on his bike on the 2nd 1/2 of the bike ride. I always tease him that the REAL reason that I ride is so that I can see those cute boy “badonkadonks” when they pass me by! He is such a great guy he must have had a great race, since he was a G2 swimmer and SMOKED past me on the bike. I liked cheering everyone as they came down the hill towards me. I could pretend I was in the lead since I was on the 2nd 1/2, even though I knew a lot of them were G2 and G3 swimmers, so “time-wise” they were way in front of me!

Coach Les picked me up on the last hill before Pig Farm Hill, and coached me up that hill and then part of the way up Pig Farm. I didn’t get as far as I got last time (the Speed Limit Sign), but I hadn’t of course swum 1500 laps before last time, either. It was a lot easier to keep going when I could just keep my eye on his back wheel. I’m still a little leery of really ‘drafting’ or riding close, but that was so much easier than actually looking “up the hill” as I rode. When I said I had to get off and walk, I watched as Les charged up the hill, picked up another Teammate on their way down, and then I’m sure he rode another one like me up, back, up, back. That’s how giving our coaches are! It was an amazing thing just to watch. Coach Mike K. also ran down Pig Farm Hill when it was obvious I was really flagging – in his bike shoes! – to “Atta Girl” me up and over the top. I love our coaches. SOME day I’m going to have a photo of myself RIDING up Pig Farm Hill! (They take the photos at the crest – I already have a pushing one from last time!)

The one really good thing and goal that I met was to drain my entire Camelbak on the bike. I actually finished it right over Pig Farm Hill, so that was about 2/3 of the way through. I was happy with that, as I generally come back with it 1/2 full and I KNOW I have to practice “hydrating.” I used the Accellerade that has worked for me before (Big Sur Marathon). I also did my best to try to eat – I got a couple GU down, a few Margarita Shot Blocs, but I didn’t feel much like eating and had to figure the Accellerade would give me what I needed. Of course, the fact I had jettisoned some of the food out of the Bento Box didn’t help!

Dad and H caught up to me driving back when I was just about done, and gave me some Atta Girls. Dad started offering me food out of the passenger window (Date? Apple?) which was pretty funny. I was afraid to try anything that I hadn’t actually prepared. Come to find out the dates looked like they had peanuts on them – !!! – nothing like anaphylaxis to ruin the day!!

The ride took me 2 hours and 21 minutes. The transition was quick – 2 minutes – because I literally just threw off the Camelbak and the helmet, threw on my race number and shoes (thank you shoe horn!) and headed off. Yea, in the padded bike shorts. Frankly it didn’t really feel that bad.

I had decided I would do a 5 minute run/2 minute walk pace, and headed out doing that. I was definitely a little stiff starting out, but that 5/2 pace really works for me. When I’m near the end of the 5 minutes, I am SO READY to stop – but when I’m near the end of the 2 minutes, I am ready to go again. I ended up running the 5.5 mile course in 66 minutes. I think that’s about the right pace – I’m in somewhere around the 13 minute/mile “category” in the runs, and I felt I was right in line. I carried another bottle of fluid replacer (NUUN) with me, and told myself I had to have it emptied by the turnaround. I did and at the 2nd Aid Station I went to fill it, but they only had water (which doesn’t sit in my stomach well) and the powder mix separate, not mixed. As it wasn’t a widemouth bottle, they tried to pour the water in then the spoonful of mix – ugh! Pink goo on my hands. Ah well, we all tried. I downed that on the way back, and chucked the bottle. NOTE TO SELF: Have widemouth bottles (or get them to mix the stuff in a cup, first)!

They had set up a Finish Line with a “tape” to break through, which was fun. (Total time 4 hours, 10 minutes.) Merla from LLS went to put my “medal” on my neck as I crossed the Line, but I sent Coach Dave into a fit of laughter as I just ran straight by her and into the bathroom! Yes, as I said, “I Race 2 Potty.” Well  at least I know that my hydration levels were up!

I saw Dad, but unfortunately H was nowhere to be found. Dad told me that, as we were running, it had really started to rain in earnest. H was concerned, as he knew I only had my bike jersey and pants – no waterproofs. He set out to try to “meet” the run course and find me, to get me the jacket. (Nice, eh?) Well, the run course actually was “crossed” by a few roads, but it was mainly what I guessed was an old railway – as it was not really on roads at all. So what did this mean? That I had to wait around in very wet clothes for about 10 minutes, until H got back…since he’d very considerately packed up all my clothes/transition gear in the car to keep them from getting wet! (Oops!)

Though H wanted to leave and it was definitely chilly, we all stayed around until everyone was in. It was a while, since of course we had had that staggered start. It was fun though, especially as the last 3 we got to cheer across the “line” were from our North Bay Team. Dave had gotten us some awesome burritos from Chipotle, and there were cookies as well.  OK maybe I race for the potty AND food at the end!

We got home, and I headed immediately to a bath with the special Tired Old Ass Soak that Dad had gifted me with that morning. I then headed in for a “nap” that lasted 6 hours (oops!). Got up a little groggy with a hankerin’ for grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato basil soup – neither of which were in the house at 8:00 p.m.  H was a SERIOUS trooper and actually hauled out in the rain to Safeway to get me some. Dinner, a little TV, then back to bed again!

So, what was the best part of the day? It was actually this morning, when I get up to get my arse to the chiropractor to try to get something done about These Knees. I opened up my email over a cup of tea, realizing that it was also the first day of our 40 days of Lent and my trying to match Will McCormick’s weight loss feats! The first email that I got was from H, which he’d written at midnight:

Subject: thank you…

 …for signing me up as a volunteer for today’s event. I learned a couple of new things, met a few people, had a tiny adventure, and certainly not such a terrible time.

That is a wonderful email from my Austrian! Who also informed me that after watching all my teammates and the South Bay team roar past him on the bike (and experiencing the “horror” of Pig Farm Hill – even bad in the CAR), that he would fund my New Bike For Sandy fund. Who-hoo! I already emailed Teammate Will McCormick to see what we might be able to do with the money.  Yippee! A friend for Vlad!

Oh, and, in case you were wondering, the world record in the Olympic Distance triathlon is 1 hour, 39 minutes, 50 seconds. My previous PR (in 1988 of course) was 3 hours 16 minutes. I have to admit when I added up my times and saw I was over 4 hours, I got a little depressed. NO, we are not supposed to compare ourselves (even to ourselves!) and all that jazz…it just felt really REALLY long to me. Of course, H pointed out that I did my PR in Chicago, on a totally FLAT course for the bike – there is DEFINITELY no Pig Farm Hill there (and no chain dump). That made me feel a little better. I still want under 4 hours though! :-)

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