The Russian River is an amazing place. The past two winters, while California struggled in a long drought, rainstorms upstream turned Guerneville (former home of the swim start for the Vineman) and Monte Rio into Atlantis – that is, they were momentarily underwater. These towns are used to the river overflowing its banks, however, and are resilient. Monte Rio was quiet as ever (though overrun by a bunch of triathletes) as I prepped for my second Olympic distance race.
USAP’s Half Moon Bay triathlons are a great season opener. Dust off the cobwebs, get out the creaks and cracks, and remind your body how to move fast.
For me, HMB was my first race after the first off-season filled with consistent training in my life. I started working with Mitchell Reiss and ETPA last fall and pushed to relearn how to run over the winter. By April, I wasn’t expecting miracles but I also wasn’t quite sure how to set a goal for the race – especially when it came to my weakest leg, the run.
Here we are! A year after what I had originally planned as my first triathlon. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned since that decision!
First off: huge thank you to Topo Athletic, the incredible team behind the shoes that have taught me that running isn’t the WORST and that it is actually kind of fun and the team that has supported me since I met them at the Oakland Triathlon last year. What a wonderful group of people!
Secondly: thank you to my mom who has supported me at every race she can attend and all throughout youth sports, and my sister who attended her first triathlon – slightly reluctantly, but she was lured by the presence of PokemonGo in Jack London Square.
Thirdly: thank you to the fabulous members of Oakland Triathlon who allowed me to bounce questions and ideas off them (Chris, Karolina and Rachel), practiced shoe exchanges in Oakland parking lots (Lydia), and kept me training hard (Chavon).
And last but not least: thank you to USA Productions race organizers, volunteers, and spectators!
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
The race was fantastic, but I’ll be honest with you – I was miserable.
Not through anything the organizers, volunteers, or other racers did. I have no idea what happened, but I was in pain, I was exhausted, and I hated every second of that run. I was unable-to-walk-sore for a full day, literally parked it on the couch for a full 36 hours afterwards, and have absolutely no explanation for it. Check out Brazen Racing’s Bay Breeze Half Marathon/10km/5km. Finish: 1:03:07.
Well, maybe one explanation: I told myself I was going into this as a training run.
Was that my mistake? Was my mental game SO off that I psyched myself into this? Was it that my body just physically exhausted and because my mentality was not hyper-competitive, I couldn’t muscle my way through it? The world may never know…
So, as you can see, my pace died. I died. It was really hard!
Parking: Well, this park simply isn’t made for this many people all driving separately, so parking is a little tight. The organizers warned participants that there’d be a walk, and a walk there was. Doesn’t bother me when it’s a running event – were this a tri, it may be a different story (multisport equipment weighs…a little more than running gear!!). I got there early (well, early enough), found parking, and had time to pick up my bib and get going. No biggie.
Venue: San Leandro Marina Park is pretty cool. The day of the race was pretty overcast and chilly, but it’s a huge park that I had no idea existed. There’s some hotels, restaurants, and golf courses nearby too. The venue itself seemed plenty large for all the participants.
Course: A little background: Brazen is typically a trail run race company. Is the Bay Shore Trail a…trail? Kind of, but it’s paved, so I wouldn’t count it as a real ‘trail’. The organizers offer a hiking division, which is supposed to start before the half marathon for all distances. Then the half marathon starts, then the 10 km, then the 5 km. The out and back course is flat as a pancake, which was pretty nice considering I hate hills with a passion. The trail was wide enough for the most part. But, as I hit mile 5, I realized I was in for a huge surprise: walkers. Lots, and lots, of 5 km walkers. Walking in 2-, 3-, and yes, I counted, one 7-across packs. Considering I had been on the course for nearly 50 minutes at that point, and they had started 10 minutes back, this seemed like pretty poor planning. But, not race director planning – the organizers had the ‘walking’ division, so maybe it was laziness of the participants? The 5 km started so much later than the walk division they maybe just didn’t want to get up early? I don’t know. I already felt awful and I was upset by this. Otherwise a great course, and if it were more convenient to my house, I’d probably train out there.
Volunteers/Support: Fantastic as always. We hit three aid stations on the 10 km, and the volunteers were super nice and surprisingly talented water-passers. Thanks!!
Expo: This was my first race with Brazen, and now I see why they have such a following.
Their post-race expos are incredible. Ok, maybe this one was extra special because it was easily accessible to vendors (and not in the hills), but I have never seen a post-race spread of food this huge before. Major highlight? An It’s It before 11 am.
I definitely plan on racing in another Brazen event! Super chill, great organization, and they treat their participants really well. Just need to get my new Topo Runventures in the mail! And, I’m sure my teammates will too – several members of OTC were there, including one woman who demolished her goal time of breaking one hour in the 10 km!!