Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oceanside Ironman 70.3 ~ A race report from the other side of the fence

I went with my friend to Oceanside, California. She was racing the half Ironman and her family couldn't go with her. She asked if anyone would be able to go with her and I quickly volunteered to be here Sherpa and photographer. We left on Thursday, March 26th, at 6:00 p.m. She drove so I was the navigator. We arrived at our hotel at 11:00 p.m. and went straight to bed. 

On Friday, the 27th, we met up with some other friends that were in town for the race as well. We went to their rental house for an easy bike and run. I had brought my training gear in case I was able to get in some training over the weekend. We biked about 7.5 miles which included the entire run course. This allowed the racers to get a feel of what to expect on race day. We also rode to the harbor to look at transition and the swim. We saw sea lions while there! After the ride we went for a little more than 2.5 mile run. It was along The Strand which is where a lot of the run would take place. After the run, my friend and I decided to play in the surf. We borrowed some boogie boards and had a ton of fun. 

After the fun in the sun, we went back to our hotel and cleaned up. We then went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. We had planned on meeting another friend for the 2:00 p.m. Athlete Briefing and packet pick-up. We then walked through the Ironman Village and the merchandise store. My friend picked up here race backpack and bought a t-shirt. Next we took her bike and gear to the transition area so she could have it set up instead of having to do it in the morning. We then decided to drive the bike course. We had heard that there were some serious hills so my friend wanted to see what they looked like. We followed the race map that we had been given in order to figure out the route. We found the two to three big hills and made lots of jokes about them. My friend said later that she wishes we hadn't looked at them ahead of time because they looked pretty bad and you can't fear what you don't know. Once we finished the drive, we stopped for a quick dinner and then headed back to the hotel. We got all of our gear ready for the next morning since we were going to get an early start. We were in bed by 9:00 p.m.

We woke up at 4:30 a.m. with plans to leave by 5:15 a.m. We got ready and ate a light breakfast in the room. I drove that morning since I needed to drop her off at transition and then search for a parking spot. The closest I could get to transition was still about a half mile away so my friend decided to walk from there. I told her that I'd find her in transition in a bit. I ended up parking near the finish line in a residential area. Then I walked roughly a mile back to the transition area. It was very busy and buzzing. I hadn't seen where my friend's transition area was at and trying to find her among the 2500 athletes was impossible. Luckily, we both had our cell phones and were able to coordinate a meet up. We finally found each other and spent about half an hour chatting and mixing with the other athletes.

Her wave was scheduled to start at 7:24 so she headed off just before 7:00 a.m. to get in the start line. I then made my way to a rocky point to watch the swim. There was no way to see my friends individually but I knew what color their caps were so I kept an eye out for that. The swim was in a harbor so it was pretty protected. There was a small amount of current or movement near the turn around point. The swim was basically a triangle. I saw sea lions pop their heads up several times in the middle of the triangle and look around. It was funny! Once I started to see the colored caps I was looking for, I made my way to the transition area. 

I placed myself in a great spot to see them enter transition and waited. I was able to see four of my friends as they entered. I made sure I yelled loud as they passed. It was fun to see them recognize that they were being cheered for and the smiles that would come on their faces. 

Once my friends were all off on their bikes, I walked a mile back to the car to drop off my friends backpack and tire pump. I then made a quick bathroom break and walked another mile back to the transition area. I wanted to watch then come in on the bike and out on the run. I was amazed that by the time I was almost there, the male pros were already starting out on their run. They had started the race at 6:30 a.m. and it was about 9:00 a.m. The leader ended up having a 24 minutes swim and a 2:10 bike. That is insanely fast!

I found a good spot along the guard rail and waited for my friends while watching others race. I had a group of ladies next to me that were cheering as well. They had made a sign that was cracking everyone up. They were ringing cow bells and yelling. I loved it and so did the athletes. 

Soon I began to see my friends roll in! The bike course was no joke so I was so proud of them for having conquered such a challenge. 

I was able to catch several friends as they both came in on the bike and left on the run. It was a perfect spot. Once again, I loved how they would light up when they saw me and heard me yelling. Being a racer myself, I know how important it is to have a cheering squad. I was even able to cheer on one of our local pros, Angela Duncan Naeth!

I was also able to see some truly inspiring athletes. This blind athlete and his guide rode a tandem bike and then were bungied together for the run. I would have loved to see how they did the swim as well. This was amazing to watch. I was also inspired by Fireman Rob who ran the entire 13.1 miles in his full fireman gear. 

After my last friend left on the run, I made my way closer to the finish line to see them on the run. It was about another mile away. It was starting to get warm and I knew that the heat would become a factor for many of the racers as well. I was able to see all my friends as they passed me several times since the run was a two loop course. 

I was so proud of all my friends who raced. It was the first half Ironman for some and I was so amazed to see the determination and dedication of them as they pushed towards their goal. My friend was aiming for a 6:15 finish time. She finished in 6:13:59! She did amazing! 

After the race, we went back to the hotel to clean up. We then went back to my other friends rental house for a post-race pizza party. It was really fun sitting around hearing the different race stories and experiences. Everyone was tired, sun burnt and a little sore but they were all so proud of their accomplishments. We returned to our hotel after a few hours and went to bed. 

On Sunday morning, we checked out of out hotel and went back to the rental house for a few hours of boogie boarding. The waves were huge and we had so much fun. We showered there when we were done and said our good-byes. We stopped for some fresh seafood for lunch and then started our drive home by noon. The drive was supposed to be 4.5 hour but ended up being 7 hours due to bad traffic and a few wrecks. 

My husband had told me to use this as a scouting trip to determine if it's a race that I would like to do next year. When it opens for registration, it sells out in about 2 days so I need to know before then if I want to race it or not. I think that it would be a fun and challenging race. I haven't decided for me yet but I would suggest it to others. It seemed to be a well supported race that held a few surprises (which I won't share to keep them secret) for the racers. 

My friend had warned me that being a spectator is almost as hard as racing. I don't know if I'll say that but I will agree that it is a hard job. I walked about 6 miles total, didn't eat, stood for almost 12 hours, and only had one bathroom break. Even with all that, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love this sport and I love my friends. If I'm not racing, I might as well be their support. It's the next best thing!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bayshore 70.4 ~ March 7, 2015

I raced in my first half distance triathlon on March 7, 2015. I wanted to do a race that was hard but not so hard that I would never race that distance again. So after lots of research, I decided that Bayshore 70.4 would be perfect. The swim was 1.3 miles long instead of the normal 1.2, which is how it has the strange number of 70.4 versus the customary 70.3. The swim was two loops in a sheltered harbor, the bike was mainly on a bike path, and the run was on the boardwalk and sidewalk along the beach. The cost was also great for a half at only $125. 

I began a 12 week training plan at the beginning of December and followed it pretty closely. I really liked it as it used times instead of distances for most of the workouts. That way I could train at a level that I was used too. Many of the plans had me starting out too low. 

I rented a house that was about three miles from the race location and traveled down there on Thursday with another family that was sharing the house with us. My family drove down on Friday evening after work and school. There were several friends from my local triathlon club that were also racing so I had them over for a pre-race dinner on Friday night. It was a great way to socialize and calm some of my nerves. 

The transition opened at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning with a race start for 7:00 a.m. I arrived at about 5:30 a.m. The bike racks were first come, first serve. I was able to find a pretty good spot on the third row and set up my transition. As I exited the transition area I received my body marking. I then went to packet pick-up to get my shirt and timing chip. I had gone to packet pick-up on Friday to get the main packet. I returned to the transition area to meet up with some of my friends. There were no bathrooms near transition so we decided to walk about a quarter mile away to the bathrooms on the beach. After that, we stopped to get a few pictures.

As soon as we returned to the transition area, it was announced that transition would close in five minutes. Talk about panic! I quickly threw on some body glide, put on my wet suit, kicked off my flip-flops, grabbed my swim cap and goggles, took two ibuprofens and headed to the beach. Once there I was able to talk with a few more friends and get a family picture and then it was time to line up. 


The start was a mass running start from the beach. I had never started that way so it was very interesting. I had somehow made it to the front of the group when it started so that meant I was mixed in with the men. There was a short countdown and then we were off. I ran into the water until it was about thigh high and then dove in. It was crowded and jumbled but not too bad. I got bumped and hit but not like I had always heard about in mass starts. I found my sight line and stuck with it. We swam straight out for about 100 feet and then turned left. There was a buoy line in place in the harbor and we were to keep them on our left shoulder the entire swim. 

The turnaround was just before the bridge and then we headed back to the beach. Once there, we had to exit the water, run up the beach, run around a cone, re-enter the water and do the exact same swim again. The water was very smooth and pretty clear. I had been worried about the salt water and it making me sick (because I had heard of it doing that to others) so I chewed some cinnamon gum just before the swim and tucked it into my upper gum line. It seemed to help because the salt didn't bother me. Wes was able to stand on the end of a pier which was at the very end of the swim. This allowed him to take some great swimming pictures. It also made sighting super easy because he was really easy to spot. 

As I exited the water, my youngest son ran up to me and began cheering me on. He even ran up the beach with me to transition. I handed him my gum as I entered transition. He thought that was gross. I ran to my spot, threw down my cap and goggles and wrestled my wet suit off. My family was next to the fence so I asked my oldest son what my time was and he said about 40 minutes. I was happy with that. I dried my feet off, put my socks and bike shoes on, put on biking gloves, grabbed my sunglasses and put my helmet on. As I was heading out of transition, I heard my husband's encouraging cheers and it warmed my heart. 

The bike consisted of 56 miles. The first and last 2-3 miles were on the road and the remainder were on a bike path. The bike path was two lanes and paved. It had several areas were it went under bridges, into tunnels, or over bridges. It also had several 90-260 degree turns. Luckily, I was aware of this fact so I made sure to always look ahead and adjust my speed and gears accordingly. It was an out and back course. I was passed by a few men on the way out but not many. That is always a good feeling because that means I am holding my pace. I also passed a few people. I had enough hydration on my bike so I did not need to stop at the one aid station which was located at the turnaround. Shortly after the turnaround, I ate a little of my energy bar and drank some of my UCAN. At mile 42.5, I was finally passed by a girl. It just happened to be my very good friend who was also racing. She slowed up for a second and asked how I was doing. I found that really sweet of her. We chatted for a few seconds and then she was off. My legs were burning but I was getting closer to ending so I continued hammering away. Once back on the streets, I had to deal with car traffic and stop lights. Luckily, I was able to hit all the lights as they were turning green. At the final light, I realized that I had caught back up to my friend. It was a great surprise. We ended up riding the final 0.5 miles back into transition. We train a lot together so I loved being able to race with her. 

I entered the transition and stopped my Garmin (I had it hooked onto my bike so I could see the time and distance of the bike portion). It showed 3:07. I began to get excited because I had goal times before I started and so far my swim and bike had been around those times. I quickly, took off my helmet, gloves and bike shoes and put on my visor and running shoes. I grabbed a pack of chews and headed out on the run. I had my water bottle in my hands so I could take a few drinks before I started. As I passed my cheering family, I handed the bottle off to my husband. 

The run had originally been mapped as a two loop run along the beach but due to construction, they had to change the route to a three loop that included boardwalk, beach and into the town. I knew that it was going to be hot and hard. The run was what I had been worried about the most. As soon as I started, my left forefoot began to hurt. It had a stabbing pain that occurred with each step. I had a hard time imaging the entire run with that much pain. Luckily, by the second lap, the pain was no longer bothering me. The good thing about the three loops was that I was able to see my family two times on each lap. I was also able to see my racing friends several times as we passed each other along the course. 

Once I started the third loop, I knew I was almost home! As I was finishing the boardwalk section I remembered something a friend had mentioned to me. She said to make sure I look up and appreciate what I'm doing and where I'm doing it at. I was tired and ready to be done but I looked up. The Long Beach skyline was ahead of me and the ocean was beside me. I took in the beauty and thanked God that I was able to participate in something I loved. I was running slow but I was still moving forward.

There were two aid stations along the run course. I allowed myself to walk through them as I drank the water. I had told myself that I would drink a cup of Coke on my last lap so that gave me something to look forward to. After the final turnaround, I had a downhill back to the beach. I had a new spring to my step (even if an outsider couldn't see it). I made my way out of the town section and onto the beach path and I could see the finish. It was still about 3/4 a mile away but it was there. I saw another one of my friends who was hurting. She needed a hug so I stopped to give her one. It had to be a brief stop because my calves were getting really tight and I was afraid they were about to cramp up. I made the final left turn and ran passed my kids as they let out loud cheers. I saw that my training friend, who had already finished, was waiting for me across the street. She didn't have shoes on but turned and ran the final 100 yards with me. She asked me again how I was feeling. At that point I was feeling great. I was about to finish my first half! I made the final right turn and sprinted to the finish. My husband was waited just passed the crowd taking pictures. I crossed the line with a huge smile on my face. I was handed my medal and walked straight over to my husband and fell into his arms. I started to cry and he told me that he was so proud of me. 

I was hot and just wanted to get in the water to cool down. I returned my timing chip, took my shoes and socks off, and sat in the ocean. It felt amazing. I sat there looking out across the harbor and thought about what I had just accomplished. It was a bit overwhelming. Three years ago, I was over 250 pounds, sedentary and unhealthy. I decided to change my life and take control of my happiness. I have had the support of my family and friends and without them, none of this would have been possible. I am truly blessed. 

Final results were: swim of 1.3 miles in 39:54, T1 in 2:44, 56 mile bike in 3:07:57, T2 in 1:51, 13.1 mile run in 2:41:49 for a total time of 6:34:17. I placed 9/38 for women and 75/135 overall.