Bummed about your race? Add a race to your calendar!*
*As long as it fits your goal plan!
USA Production’s California Sprint and International Triathlons were not originally on my calendar. But after a disappointing day at Monte Rio, I was itching to race again. Turns out, as a sponsor of USA Productions races, Topo Athletic had a few free race entries to give to their ambassadors (me!) – so I took advantage of that and entered the California Sprint Triathlon on June 26. Thanks, Topo!
The sprint triathlon serves as USAT’s Southwest Regional Championships – so there was some fantastic competition! And as always, fantastic race organization and volunteers. Shout out to the volunteer leading the T2 exit, probably the most engaged volunteer I’ve ever seen!
That’s always funny because I do not like the track.
I was bitten by a yellowjacket on the way there (jerk, and you’re not even dead because there was no stinger left behind) and then I tried to eat a bug on the way back.
But the workout was good, so at least there’s that?
Big weekend: masters swim / OWS with OTC / Oakland Tri bike preview / Pokemon Go with the sister all happening before 1 pm on Saturday. Plus I need some saddle time on the ghost pepper. I don’t know what’s in store for Sunday, though!
I have procrastinated massively in writing this up. It isn’t short. I’d like to say I’ve moved past this, but I can’t lie – I haven’t. I’ve had ten flats in less than two months, and now every time I ride I feel the anxiety pit in my stomach: will I flat again? Will I be stranded in the hills? Will I be forced to walk to my destination?
It’s been a little rough.
I’m going to attempt to get what I need out of this, and still enjoy looking back.
First of all, the Monte Rio Triathlon holds a special place in my heart. This was the first triathlon I ever raced (…a whole year ago). It also is the first race I’ve ever repeated – raced more than once – so far. The course is beautiful, Monte Rio is a quaint and quintessential California vacation destination, and the organizers are pros (ran/run Ironman Vineman 70.3 and [independent] Vineman 140.6, now both Ironman races). Despite what seemed like perfect conditions, my day did not go as expected. If you look at race results, I’ve got a super strange (..slow) bike split – and that’s due to my first-ever flat (and first-ever flat change under pressure).
Second of all, I hate to fall on ‘excuses’ for why a race didn’t go the way I pictured it. Unfortunately, a flat derails anyone’s race – from beginner to professionals – and I’m learning that it’s how you react that makes it into an ‘excuse’ or ‘race day condition.’
Last year, this race required you to pick up your timing chip in the morning at the parking lot (four miles away from the start) – they fixed that for this year. Packet pick up was just as easy, timing chip included, as last year. I scoped out the swim, and my teammate confirmed what I’d been hearing: there was most definitely a current in the Russian River, but it was also much deeper than last year!
And then… I wandered over to the finish line.
I knew it existed, and I really didn’t want to remember that it existed. Especially after my body’s reaction to a finish line sprint at Half Moon Bay.
I signed up for this race with an ulterior motive. I didn’t want to feel pressured to go out and party on my birthday, so I signed up to race the day after I turned 25! I couldn’t have asked for better weather, better support and teammates, or a better birthday.
Date: April 17, 2016 | Location: Half Moon Bay, CA
Weather: Sunny, clear skies. Started around 55 degrees and warmed up to 70
I learned a big lesson from this race. Without support, you cannot succeed.
You may have read about my blister. Or maybe you saw my post about my flu-turned-cough? Ya. One of those turned out to affect me a whole lot more than expected. Had I not started the race with a group of teammates, and been found by another teammate, I probably would have written this as soon as possible and literally left it at “I am never running again” – oh ya, that good.
This year, runners had the option to attend an Erdinger-hosted Happy Hour on Friday for packet pickup. Since I live in Oakland, I decided that I’d run to the Expo as a tune up on Saturday. That worked out really well! Nice 2.5 mile jog (that’s a soft ‘j’), picked up my packet, strolled through the vendors, and caught the bus home. Uneventful, easy, well-planned. Corrigan knows what they’re doing.
One of the best parts about the half marathon in the Oakland Running Festival is the start time – 9:10 am. Well, ok, maybe that’s a tough part on hot days in March, but this year it was going to be cool outside so no complaints. This also means that there’s an option to tackle the “Run the Town” Challenge and run the 5k at 7:30 am and then head back to the start for the half marathon. I am crazy, but I am not totally crazy, so no, I did not participate in this challenge. But! I was able to warm up before my own race by heading down the hill to Peet’s, grabbing a coffee, laugh at cheer for the marathoners at mile 3, and make my way to the start with plenty of time!
After the flu and blister setbacks, I decided I’d push my pace back a little bit. I didn’t want to blow up at the start and have to walk in the second half of the race. I lined up with the 11:10 min/mile pace alongside a bunch of OTC teammates – it was one of their birthdays!
We heard words from the Oakland Mayor, Libby Schaff, the National Anthem, and the race started. I was very happy joining my teammates through the streets of downtown Oakland – they were following a run-walk plan and I was just cooling my pace down a bit while they were walking. Another teammate found us (we’re pretty recognizable) right around mile two, when the ladies ducked into Taco Bell for a pit stop. I could not stop laughing, but *spoiler alert* they had the right idea.
My teammate and I continued on our way, pretty solidly on pace. I felt great as we looped back toward downtown and passed my mom. We were really doing pretty solid! Then my buddy broke off for a pit stop, and I continued on, starting to feel really really warm. I took my long sleeves off around mile five and tied the shirt around my waist.
Then I hit mile six.
Out of nowhere – place your bets on blister or flu here – I could not breathe. It felt like I was having an asthma attack, which hasn’t happened to me since I was swimming at Tufts in Hamilton Pool. So, I walked. Felt a little better, started running, and then couldn’t breathe. So I walked again.
If you wanted to read a post inspired by a broken record, I could outline the rest of the course for you. Instead, here are some highlights:
First, this glorious shot:
My buddy caught back up to me at mile six. Unfortunately for him, his calf was starting to really act up, because he had raced the 5k that morning. Fortunately for me, he had raced the 5k that morning and his calf was acting up – otherwise I would have been left in his dust. This also meant that he was 100% in support of run-walking.
The birthday crew caught back up to us shortly after, and carried us in their wake to the Crucible – definitely a highlight of the Oakland Running Festival. Sorry to my teammate who I totally blocked in the pictures…
At West Oakland BART, a bunch of people were handing out daffodils to the runners. It was cute and a nice gesture, but I can’t imagine running with a flower! I’m sure the photos were awesome.
There’s a long straight stretch on Mandela Parkway, and at the end someone had set up a giant mister to cool all the runners off. It was definitely warm for me at that point, so that was very welcome.
THERE WAS ALSO A MINIATURE PIG on Mandela Parkway. Yelling “PIG ON A LEASH” will definitely get your competitors attention!
Lots of churches had people outside handing out water – that was also really nice of them, since we ran by during a probably fairly inconvenient time on a Sunday morning!
At mile twelve, the sky opened up and it POURED. It was like an East Coast rain storm! We got to run in the rain for the next 1.1 miles.
My buddy and I managed to run up the last hill to the finish – at least we didn’t have to walk over the finish line.
Like I said, I learned a lot this race. Had I not had a teammate next to me for the last seven miles, I would have DNFd. There’s no shame in a DNF – and I should have taken one. How do I know that? I got to take my first trip to the medical tent after the race because of…well, dizziness? And maybe some return of liquids that I didn’t think I’d see again.
I really wanted to stick around and enjoy the party, but I couldn’t. I knew I needed to get home and warm up, get in bed, and let my body calm back down.
Was I sore? No. Was I tired after my nap? Not really. So that tells me I was pretty prepared for my race – my lungs just couldn’t handle it after that flu.
Lesson Learned 1: Listen to your body. I refused to believe my body when I was sick. I kept going in to work (new job and all) and kept having to leave early. If I had taken care of myself day one of feeling crappy, I may have had a shorter cycle of the flu.
Lesson Learned 2: Race with what you’ve got. If there were a 10k in the ORF, I think I would have dropped down to that. But that wasn’t an option. So I should have either deferred or dropped to the 5k. But I was (unreasonably) determined and pushed too hard.
Lesson Learned 3: Look at the bigger picture. So despite being sick and walking the second half of the race, I came out of it only four minutes slower than my first attempt. That first attempt had me walking, too, and I could barely walk the next day. This year? Stayed on pace, walked, had dealt with the flu, and I could walk the next day. I’m pretty happy with where my fitness is, but now this race will just be looming as something I need to conquer (still)!
Time flies. We’re officially less than a week to the Oakland Running Festival.
And somehow, my blister is healed and my flu is now just a little cough (oh KJ, ye of little faith). I’m terrified that I’m not ready because I basically missed the past two weeks of training (eff you, blister and flu) but at least I know I can finish the race. I know what to expect, I know there are lots of turns and long straight aways, I just have to make it through!
My favorite part of this race is that it finishes around Lake Merritt. If you follow me on Strava, then you know that Lake Merritt is included in…what, 90% of my runs? And that when I’m adding volume, I front-stack that volume so I’m wrapping up my run around the lake. My last long run was nine miles – I figure that if I can make it through that (yes, KJ, you can do that), then all I have left is my regular old Lake Merritt route, and I can do that in my sleep.
I’m also planning on running with the pace group. Originally, my goal was to run with the 2:20 group and hope to hold on in the last mile. After the month I’ve had, I realized I needed to adjust that goal to the 2:30 group at the least. That should land me comfortably around 11:30 min/mile, which I should definitely be able to keep up with. I’ve never run with a pace group before, though, so I’m a little unsure of what to expect! Any suggestions?
Are you racing this Sunday? Either in Oakland or elsewhere? If so, good luck!