I’m competitive. Yes, I know – what a shock! That said, my biggest competitor is myself. That’s why preparing for the 2013 Santa Barbara Long Course triathlon (1m swim, 34m ride, 10m run) was challenging for me. 2012 was my first season of racing and this year is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to repeat races and compare performance. The nice thing about repeating races is that you get to compare how your performance is changing and, hopefully, improving. However, going into Santa Barbara I knew that this was not likely to be the case. I was sick in the weeks leading up to the race – 8 days on my back and over two weeks off the bike. I returned to my bike just one week prior to this race.
Less than a week before the race, I decided to go ahead and participate figuring that I would benefit from the race “practice”. Due to the illness, my mental preparation for this race had to be a little different than for other races. I knew there was a good chance that I wouldn’t better last year’s performance and I had to be okay with that. In advance of every race I remind myself that I do this for fun (and so does my husband). I had to commit myself to this attitude even more fully for this race. In fact, I changed the settings on my Garmin so that the only thing I saw on race day was the time of day – I was going to do everything possible to prevent myself from obsessing over how I was doing compared to last year.
We got to Santa Barbara the night before, had a nice dinner with some friends who were also doing the race, shared a giant ice cream sundae at McConnell’s and turned in for the night. I had no pre-race jitters or broken-chain and flat tire nightmares – what a relief!
I woke up earlier than I needed to, but that was okay – I had my coffee, ate my breakfast (Greek yogurt, honey, almonds and a banana) and took my time gathering my stuff. I got to transition around 6:00 am and got a prime spot on the rack. I like to talk to people and found myself in conversations with several women – I love the friendliness of triathletes and really enjoy hearing the stories we tell!
Before the swim start I did my dynamic warm up (shout out to my SCAR pals) and did a short swim to get ready for the cool water and make sure my goggles weren’t going to leak. It’s been a while since I’ve done an open-water swim and I regularly have problems with my goggles. All seemed good to go and I lined up with my group for the start.
The swim remains my strongest leg of the triathlon (but not my favorite). I learned after my first couple of races that I need to line up in the front of the pack to reduce my exposure to the “washing machine.” I’m usually pretty calm before races and get butterflies just as I line up for the swim. I hate the swim start – I’m not a sprinter, I’m a steady swimmer – my pace doesn’t change much from the beginning of the swim to the end. My whole focus during the swim is to breathe, reach and stay calm. I count strokes and coordinate breathes to the counts/strokes. At the beginning of the swim (and my other races) I breathed every stroke – then after I got out of the melee I slowed my breathing and focused on a long, smooth stroke. I actually imagined myself gliding through the water. I feel like I did a better job of spotting this year (a life guard didn’t have to direct me back on course this year!). Towards the turn-around point the water became a little choppy but it wasn’t too bad.
Last year I got in with a group of strong swimmers and was able to benefit from a very nice draft. I didn’t have that opportunity this year but I still felt like I had a good swim. When you get out of the water you have to run up the beach and most the length of transition. I am always so out of breath after getting out of the water! This time I actually started to feel a little nausea so I slowed to a walk for a few moments to catch my breath. Then, I was off again.
My swim was about 2 minutes slower than last year but my overall place improved significantly so I think the current was stronger this year.
The bike is my favorite part of the triathlon – I still have a lot of room for improvement but I love my bike and I love the feel of going fast.
My hamstrings felt tight when I got on the bike. I was worried a little about cramping which is unusual because I don’t generally cramp. I focused on spinning my legs out and warming up. I tried to put all those people passing me out of my mind. My internal chorus for the first part of the ride was “stay in your box” and “race your own race”. I eventually felt my legs come to me and that’s when I really started to have fun!
I missed my calling…. I really should have been a cheerleader. Being noisy and encouraging on the race course is part of the way I have fun. The Santa Barbara bike segment has three climbs in it with the third – Toro Canyon – the most challenging. I was hooting, hollering, encouraging and complimenting people all along the way. I played see-saw with a few riders and we were having fun going back and forth with each other. Up the final climb there’s a sign that says “Left Turn 500 feet” – I had good banter going with the other riders around me and I shouted “only 500 feet left” and before I had a chance, the rider behind me said “you can do anything for 500 feet”. I laughed out loud – this is what triathlon is about – sharing cool experiences with like-minded people. After the Toro climb I felt awesome and hit the gas pedal all the way to transition.
My bike leg was only a couple of minutes slower than in 2012 and I’m really happy with how strong I ended up feeling through the climbs, especially after not doing any challenging rides for the three weeks prior to the event.
My husband David was cheering me on through the race. I ran into transition for T2 and he was at the fence asking me what had happened to my sunglasses. I had NO IDEA what he was talking about so I took the sunglasses off and found that the left lens was missing! Early in the ride I felt something fall but I couldn’t figure out what it was – my race number was still on my helmet, my bottles, nutrition and chapstick were all in place. Turns out it was my lens! I can’t believe I didn’t notice! There are going to be some really funky photos of me from the bike course – I’ll look like some type of freakish triathlon pirate.
And that’s the thought that I started the run with. I was laughing out loud for the first two miles of the run thinking about how funny those race photos are going to look and what the people around me on the bike must have thought! I swear the other runners and spectators must have thought I was suffering from hysteria.
The run is my least favorite part of the triathlon. I had a crazy good run in 2012, I got off the bike and my legs just wanted to go – it was an amazing experience. This year’s run was what I would consider more typical – I was ready to run but my legs needed time to find their rhythm. The first couple of miles are flat and then you start a steady climb and then you run into a residential neighborhood for the turnaround. You run past the pier and up through a long park overlooking the ocean – it’s beautiful.
I was very happy about how good I felt on the run. I haven’t looked at my pacing yet but I feel like I did a reasonably good job of pacing myself. I felt really good for the first 7-8 miles of the run; then, it got hard. Just like last year the last two miles were very challenging – but I kept going. I say things to myself like “two miles is nothing,” “you’ve got less than 10 minutes of this left,” and “you can do anything for three more minutes.”
And yes – I’m pretty noisy on the run too. I smile at everyone going by and when someone smiles back I thank them. I tell other racers how good their stride looks, how strong they are, what a great job they’re doing pacing themselves and so on.
I followed the same two racers for the last several miles of the run – I had fun shouting from behind telling them that I was still there and they hadn’t lost me yet. At the final water stop, one of the racers stopped – when he caught back up to me he asked me why I hadn’t closed the gap with the other racer yet and I admitted that she was just too strong. He jokingly offered to go and slow her down for me. Again, it is so important to me to have fun doing triathlons and these types of interactions with other racers makes the day.
My run was much slower this year but I think I had more fun. The thing is, I felt good and the run felt like it should. Sure – I would have liked to have done better but it wasn’t to be. I am very happy that I was able to complete the race feeling as good as I did.
I felt good until I stopped. Once I stopped, my legs got tight – nothing horrible but definitely tight. I waited for a couple of friends to come through the finish line and then went back to the hotel. Walking out of transition I was stopped by a racer who recognized me from the course and he thanked me for the encouragement, he said that I helped motivate him when he was feeling tired. That’s so cool – now I’m sure I’ll be even louder at my next race!
Once back at the hotel I did something for my tight legs – I jumped into a tub of ice for 20 minutes. It was horrible for the first 5 minutes but after that I was just numb. I really think the ice bath helped, the next morning my muscles felt good and I had only some tenderness in my left knee which is pretty normal for me after long runs. I did a recovery ride the next day and it felt really good to get out and spin.
Overall, this race experience was very good because it helped me understand what amazing feats our bodies are capable of even when we’re not at our best. The experience also helped me put the sport of triathlon and my performance into proper context. I do this sport because I enjoy it, I want to perform well but not at the expense of enjoying the experience. I hope I can remember this lesson in the future. One other final thought – be sure to inspect the wet suit you pick up off the ground and pack in your bag or you might just go home with someone else’s suit : )
Oh and if anyone has had their 910 record all their legs as a swim in the multi-sport function and knows how to fix it – please let me know! It’s happened twice now – the first time I chalked up to user error but the second time I’m not so sure.