Friday, April 20, 2012

Tri-ing Times

Napa Valley HITS Triathlon Olympic Distance. Completed. 3 hours, 22 minutes, 12 seconds.

Last week's weather was foggy and rainy, so the week leading up to the triathlon was completely nerve-wracking. My goal for this race was really just to complete it, and take my time. This is the first time I've done a major event in the spring. The winter is a difficult time to train: I still have some winter weight, I've been taking spin classes in lieu of actual bike rides, running on treadmills, wearing extra clothing because of the cold, etc. This winter has been more about maintaining than trying to reach new goals. That comes later.

My tri-friends and I carpooled out to the pre-race meeting and packet pickup on Friday night, and it started to hail. Yes, for those of you in the Bay Area, that is ice falling from the sky, or the closest thing you will ever get to snow. My biggest concern was, of course, jumping into 53 degree water then transitioning from the water into half-wet cycling gear for the bike. Brrrrrr. . . . On Saturday morning (ahem, night if you consider if was before 5am), the triathletes drove about an hour outside of Napa to Lake Berryessa, parked, brought out bags of gear, bikes, and carefully set up their transition areas. I met a kick-ass woman from San Francisco, a really douchy guy from Las Vegas, a couple from Chicago, and a sweet older gentleman from the area (the calmest person there).

I decided to wait for only 10 minutes before race start time to "warm up" (LOL!) in the freezing cold Lake Berryessa. Seriously though, I'm aware that 53 degrees is not freezing. I put my toes in first, and they instantly went numb. I watched some of the older women dipping around in the lake like polar bears for awhile until I decided it was time to get my neoprened ass into the water too. After a few minutes, I actually felt kind of refreshed! "I can do this!" I thought. The swim seemed to take forever. I would look up every couple of minutes and I was in the exact same place, or so it seemed. The Sheriff was out on his jet ski, blowing exhaust in my face as I passed. That was not pleasant. But, overall I was glad to be back in open water and just to finish a long swim gave me a sense of accomplishment. 1,500 meters: 41 minutes, 47 seconds.

By the time I got back to my bike, I had completely forgotten that my toes were frozen and was more concerned with how many layers to put on over my wet tri shorts. I stood there for a couple of minutes, deciding on one layer or two, pants or no pants. I opted to stay in my wet tri shorts, layer two jackets, put on socks and shoes, helmet and two jacket layers, put on socks and shoes, a helmet, and I was out the gate with my trusty bike companion. (Oh yes, I saw my friend Lindsey come through the transition area after her sprint distance bike.) Cold-ass transition: 6 minutes, 27 seconds.

The bike course was hilly. It rolled up, and luckily also rolled down. Driving into Lake Berryessa the evening before, the tri-friends and I realized that the HITS Triathlon folks were not messing around. As I started *down* the course, I saw my friends Karen and Monica coming *up* the course in their last mile of the sprint race. There were some rather slow and grinding parts of the route and I still have issues figuring out gears, but in general - it was lovely. Napa in the springtime, people! It reminded me to take my time, and enjoy as much as possible. Because we were riding in a rather remote location, there weren't any onlookers to cheer us on, so I thought maybe people needed a little encouragement. I tried to yell "Good job!" and "Almost there!" to people as we passed one another. Bike course: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

It was during the transition for the run that I realized how cold my feet still were. All I had to do was put my bike away and change shoes. As I started out the run transition, I thought I had something in my shoe, so I pulled over to the side, unlaced, and felt around in my shoe. There was nothing in my shoe; my middle toes were just frozen solid. Feet are still frozen transition: 3 minutes, 1 second.

After the first mile the run course started to go uphill, so my feet thawed rather quickly. Mile 2 and 3 were rolling hills, the turn around was a steeper uphill, and the end of the 6 mile run was fast and furious downhill. I felt awesome during *most* of the run, and I passed a lot of people. It really made me realize how much most of civilization does not like to run, and it made me sad for them. Running is awesome! Run course: 53 minutes, 57 seconds.

I had a few takeaways from this event:
#1 - Just get in the damned water. It's not going to kill you.
#2 - Bike clips are great because you can still pedal with frozen toes.
#4 - People don't like running, so this is definitely where I have an advantage. I don't want to lose my running abilities while getting stronger at swimming and biking, so I'm going to have to put in some extra time to keep it up.
#3 - I can't believe I'm still working off the winter pudge, finished a tri, and feel pretty good about it. I'm looking forward to being in better shape for the next one.


  1. Are triathlons always done in the same order - swimming first? I would think you would want swimming last when you are all heated up and want to cool down. Also, then you don't have to do anything else after when you are wet.

    1. The swim is first because you don't want to be tired an in the water - or you might drown. It's not a refreshing swim because the distance will actually cause you to sweat underwater. The run is last because it is the highest imapact on your joints. This has always been my understanding.