Early March, I wrote an email to my coach, telling her that I had the itch to race. Her response,
"I was waiting for you to say something."
After only three months of working with me, coach Liza was on to me. With two racing options in the coming weeks, the Stanford Treeathlon, and the South Bay Duathlon, I decided to do my first duathlon. Besides, water is still cold. Very very cold. Coach's instructions were clear though - I would need to do the Olympic distance Duathlon (run 6.2, bike 24.8, run 3.2), and I would need to ride my bike for 2 hours after the race. The South Bay Duathlon would be a training day more than anything, but I was secretly hoping for some podium placement - I mean, no one races this early in the season, right?
I found my way to the transition area so early that I parked my car right in front of the finish line. After packet pickup, I set up my gear in the transition area. My friend, Paul, laughed that I had chosen to wear an aero helmet with winter tires still on the bike. I reiterated, "This is a training day, Paul!" :)
At the starting line before the first 10k run, there was a female competitor in her USA Triathlon jersey. I might have underestimated the talent pool just a smidge. We were off, and I settled into 5th or 6th place in the run, and was only passed once by a woman running a relay (score). I kept the words of my friend, Deirdre, in the back of my head, "Most people go out too fast on the first run, and they kill themselves for the bike." I knew this was true, but decided to go with the Chicago Marathon method. Basically - go fast, and if I die, I'll deal with it.
First 10k was my fastest 10k ever.
The bike was quite interesting. I had never practiced biking after a fast run, so my legs were shot for the first of four loops. They finally started cooperating on the second loop, and I settled in. The bike course was SO FLAT. One hill in the last turn, which was annoying after doing it three times. Overall, my aero helmet and winter tires did just fine.
The final 5k was definitely an experiment. I was just glad to be running marathon pace most of the time. Instead of worrying about it, I focused on the upcoming two hour joy ride after the race. I did think I still had a chance at the podium. There couldn't be any more than five or six women ahead of me.
I was correct - there were 6 women ahead of me, and 3 of them were in my age group! So, I finished 7th overall, and 4th in my age group. Never underestimate the power of women ages 35 to 39.
My first duathlon experience was a positive experience. If I really wanted to do well in the duathlon world, I would practice more run to bike transitions - and I probably would heed the advice of a wise friend and not go all out on the run.
After trying to convince all of my friends, and a few strangers to ride with me after the race for two hours, I ended up going out by myself. But, it was one of the first really beautiful spring days in south Santa Clara county, so I was grateful to be out there!
First official race of the season, the HITS Napa Valley Olympic Distance Triathlon is one of my favorites. A few friends and I signed up in 2012 when it was in it's first year - because it was $50. The 2012 race was my second Oly tri ever. It was so early in the season, that I just wanted to finish. That year, the water was in the low 50's, and the course was much hiller than expected. The bike course has around 1,600 feet of climbing. The run course seems straight uphill most of the time. My friends hated it. I was neutral.
I revisited Lake Berryessa in 2013 much more experienced, and completed the race in under 3:00 hours - a first. It was very exciting to PR on a "not easy" course.
Fast forward two years, and I was back! 2015 baby! Lots of training under my belt already. I was ready to kick some ass.
There is definitely something to be said for experience.
The swim this year - a mild 60 degrees. I laughed (in my head) as others referred to it as "too cold." Har har har. With one open water swim experience this year, I wasn't sure what my sighting abilities would be, but figured the swim wouldn't be my forte anyway. My goal was to kick butt on the bike.
The swim was a swim. I swam further than I wanted to because I tend to pull right (away from the buoys) but I didn't feel alone, so I knew I was still in the competition. Most importantly, I don't spend the first five minutes in a panic, and I don't feel like I'm drowning by the end of the swim.
Transition 1 took forever. I got stuck behind a few people who were walking out of the transition area with their bikes, and could not pass them because the sprint athletes were coming down the other side. Very frustrating, but after looking at the T times, it must have been shorter than I thought.
The bike was rad. I kept my pedaling cadence as high as possible, even on the climbs. As usual, I passed a lot of people on the bike because I am so far behind on the swim. It was when I started to pass some pretty fit men that I felt like I was among my equal cycling competition. The bike is an out and back, and I had decided that I would try and pass at least six women on the way back. I passed eight. Most of my racing competition was with the men, who would come past me on the climbs, but I would come back blazing on the downhill. So fun.
At the start of the run, I followed a very quick gal who I had passed at the very end of the bike, and she was full speed. I knew I couldn't keep up. Then, the shin cramps started. I don't call them shin splints, because they eventually go away, but man my shins really cramp sometimes at the beginning of a run. I'd almost rather run a half marathon - longer, and gives me more time to catch up. Because the course starts with a few uphills, my shin really gave way about 3/4 of the way up the second long hill and I stopped to walk and stretch. About 4 women passed me, and I felt defeated.
The rest of the run was fine. The cramps subsided, and I found myself getting comfortable in the competition again. I passed a couple more women on the way back, and was relieved to have the last 1.5 miles of downhill to pick things up. Overall, my run was pretty solid, even with the stop at mile two.