Below is the text that I wrote a few days after the 2010 Carpinteria Triathlon discussing my experience with this year’s event. I decided that it was quite emotional for me and I put a lot those emotions into the story. I debated about changing it before posting it here as my race report. You know, triathlons are emotional, so why should I change that? Besides, a number of people I shared this with found it incredibly inspiring. So, from the heart, here is my 2010 Carpinteria Triathlon race report:
The 2010 Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint
Carpinteria Triathlon… those two words mean a lot. This triathlon is not only one of the best triathlons on the central coast due to its stunningly beautiful location, but because it presents many challenges. Challenges that include weather, ocean conditions, venue layout, and topography.
In the days before this triathlon, I became quite nervous and saddened. For much of the 2010 triathlon season, I dreamed about the awesome finish I was going to have at this event. But on 9/4, I was stung by a bee and discovered that I was highly allergic. Not only did this nearly kill me and knock me on my butt for a week, but my body took a long time to recover. It felt like I was just getting back into normalcy in the days leading up to the event.
With the lost dream, the passion to compete, and the possibility of merely finishing this event, I arrived at the transition area at 5:30 only to discover that the I had to wait half an hour before it opened. Yep, they moved everything back half an hour compared to last year.
Once in transition, setting up took no time at all thanks to my Gyst Transition bag. I met some friends and had some great discussions. Then I realized that I was surrounded by the pros. Yep, this year, the amateurs stayed home… it sunk in that I might actually finish last in my age group. Yeppers, I was the slowest by far of the people standing at my age group rack… standing among Ironmen, personal trainers and triathletes who have been this at least twice as long as I have.
The good news was that our transition rack was in the middle of the REALLY, really long transition area. Last year, I got stuck in the far west side of the transition area, meaning that I had to run nearly 1/3 mile with the bike before exiting. This year, we were in the middle, so swim in, bike out, run out were fairly equal. Still, the transition area was nearly a full city block long and barely two racks wide.
As the started to rise, we were all treated to a cloudless sky, a fog-free coastline, and mild temperatures. An already beautiful location was basking in the best weather we have seen in months. The low, blinding sun was one of the most awesome things I’ve seen in a long-time.
As time ticked by and the race start time approached, I disappeared to my own little corner of the park and started my stretching. Rumors began to fly that the ocean temperature was somewhere between 53 and 64… of course rumors are never accurate, but both numbers would turn out to be true. I purposely avoided visiting the beach early that morning. I knew what waited for me and while I traditionally greet the ocean, I decided it would be best if it didn’t know I was coming.
At the crucial time, I forced my way into the wetsuit, turned on the GPS, did one last visual check of the transition area, grabbed a last minute handful of almonds and began the walk to the ocean.
Much to my surprise, the ocean was quite calm. Much to my shock, the buoys were placed on the outside of the swim markers. What I thought was already a long swim, just go longer, a lot longer.
Stepping into the surf as I walked the length of the swim course to the start line, I was pleasantly surprised to feel such warm water wrap my feet. Wow, 64 was about right. But that wasn’t necessarily true. Heading out for a practice swim with 10 minutes to start I discovered two problems, 1) we were swimming into the bright sun and my goggles weren’t tinted and 2) after swimming past the break, the water dropped at least 10 degrees, so 53 was about right. My hands, feet, and head were frozen in seconds.
Lining up at the start, I was pleasantly relaxed. Not only was I telling countless jokes to those around me, but I wasn’t afraid of what was about to happen. I was simply enjoying the moment, so happy to be alive to enjoy the moment and stand on the beach that morning.
The horn blew and the wall of men in front of me disappeared. While I was really tempted to take off after them, I wanted to enjoy this. I calmly walked down the beach to the water with a few others and made a slow, calculated, and calm entry into the water. I started side stroking, crawling, and doggy paddling my way to the first buoy. Half way there, I wondered where it was and how anyone could possibly put the damn buoy so far out to sea.
I reminded myself that not everyone has GPS, can read a map, nor could they be sane, and instead concentrated on keeping my breathing under control and not over exerting myself with each successive stroke. In previous triathlons, I would try to swim so hard, that I would quickly wear myself out.
You see, the more you exert yourself, the more oxygen your muscles need and the more oxygen you need to take in and the higher the heart rate. Since in swimming, the object is to breathe as little as possible, swimming at a moderate, calm pace is the key to keeping my body calm. So, I focused on enjoying the moment, enjoying that fact that I could only see one small yellow buoy at a time, and that some of swimmers were dropping like flies in a pesticide aisle.
But the ocean wasn’t done with me. Moving toward the last few buoys the swell kicked up, trying hard to interrupt my breathing pattern. As hard as it tried, it didn’t succeed and I happily rounded the last buoy to nowhere and headed toward shore. Just when I thought I was on the home stretch, the ocean said, ‘no way.’ About 1/3 the way toward shore after the buoy, riptide. You can see it, you can feel it and it sucked. It was like time stood still and the other swimmers had the same confused look. Ah well, time is meaningless.
Getting smacked by the final wave as I stood up, I suddenly felt every stroke of the last 18 minutes. I felt like I had swam to Kona and back. Taking off the head gear, and making sure I still had all my body parts, I began walking up the sand feeling like I was near a heart attack. Sure, the other youngin’s and more fit triathletes RAN by me. My only thought was, ‘who’s bright idea was it to invent sand?”
Reaching pavement and the transition area, I started to focus on how much fun this bike ride was going to be. Finding my bike was easy, it was the only one still racked (see there are advantages to being last out of the water!!).
Stripping off the new, one size smaller and therefor tighter fitting wetsuit took a little longer than I expected. In fact, I kept trying to rip my timing chip off with it. Oh well, time is meaningless.
Toss on the shoes, the helmet, shorts, grab the protein bar, bike and run… overall, not bad for T1, still pretty sorry compared to the Pros that were miles ahead of me.
Mounting the bike and feeling the warm air pass over my wet body was like going to heaven. I love cycling and I love being on the bike. While I felt tired, the quads made it extremely clear that I had side stroked too much and protested every movement with the pedals.
The first hill was painful and I kept my cadence high, around 85. Still the quads protested. I knew that if I could make it up to the top of the hill on the SR192, I had this made. The first part of the bike was uphill and the last few miles was a gradual hill back to transition.
Surviving the hill climb and coming down the backside of the hill to the open fields below, I saw the second most beautiful sight of the day. THe first was the bright, morning sun over transition, but the bright moon, blue skies and green fields and open vista was nearly as breathe-taking. It is moments like this that really make those long, hard, sweaty, painful workouts worth it.
Cruising back toward the left had turn onto Linden Ave, I fell into a happy zone and actually passed a number of people. Of course, I was getting passed frequently by those professional cyclist that have high seats and solid rear wheels that sound like a freight train coming by. Yep, I can’t compete with those guys, but someday, I will be one of them.
Setting my eye on the intersect of SR192 & Linden I debated about slowing down. Sure, I could slow down and take it safely, but that wouldn’t be fun. So, I cranked harder and picked up a little more speed. The volunteer shouted “sprint left, olympic right.” I nodded and noticed that the deputy was standing right in the middle of the intersection. Boy was that the wrong place to stand and I already decided I wasn’t slowing down. So, I began to left and felt the energy start to shift. I pushed the handlebars left and suddenly realized this was going to be a lot closer than I thought. Realizing this as well with about 10 ft to go, the deputy wisely took to giant steps backward and I went whizzing by him, smiling an nodding in appreciation of his service.
I was on home stretch, but instead of keeping myself from over-exerting, I pulled back and simply enjoyed the last obstacle, crossing Carpinteria Ave at Linden. The setup was for bikes to stay left and traffic to stay right. This meant that cars and bikes had to share the same space. Of course, drivers in a car panic everytime a fast moving cyclist approaches, especially when they are suddenly surrounded by cyclists. The Honda Element driver strangely decided to gun it across my path, which resulted in a loud yell and finger being pointed by the deputy at this intersection. Luckily he saw what was about to happen and prevented myself and two other cyclist from colliding with the impatient Honda driver.
Coming down to the dismount, I was quite sad. It was such a beautiful day and this ride was short, only 9 miles. But it was time to finish this out. T2 was long because the transition area was long and I also took an extra moment to gulp down some protein shake I had left at transition and take a bite of bar.
Heading out for the run, my legs were sore, heavy and uncooperative. Strategy here was simply to take it consistent, which meant slow. The worst part of the run was running on the crowned street. The difference in running surface between the two legs is about 1/2 inch, which means that my right leg has to travel farther than the left. This was extremely problematic last year and it was again this year. About 3/4 mile in, it happened. The inside of my right calf seized along with my right ankle. I was done for, this was going to be slow, painful, and dorky.
Running along the Carpinteria neighborhoods provided some much needed shade from the sun that was now overhead. The great thing was running with a few people I knew. They came up from behind, but i couldn’t keep up with them, which shortened our conversation. It was still great and made me push a little harder.
After asking the water girls if they had beer, it was time to turnaround and head back. Still painful and now running out of energy, I could feel the stomach acid building, the nausea starting and the right leg hurt like it never did before. I ran on the sidewalk as much as possible, which really seemed to help.
The finish wasn’t as impressive as in the past. I finished at the tail end of another group and got lost in the crowd. Still it was over and I was sad.
Total time was 1:36:15, about five minutes slower than last year. In fact, with the longer swim, one could argue that this was a wash with last year’s finish. As content as I wanted myself to be, that dream of a grand finish simply didn’t happen and now it was a reality. That voice in the back of my head wanted to cry, but instead it lit a new fire in me. A fire that wants 2011 to be what 2010 was supposed to be. This time I have a bonus, I have the opportunity to set the best foundation possible over the winter to make sure I can kick ass next year. I have time to get the nutrition planning figured out, I have time to get the support network re-established, I have time to find a trainer that can help with workouts, and I can continue to build the relationship with my tri coach.