Last year I made a few topics about the triathlons that I did last summer so I just wanted to report on my latest race!
The Santa Barbara sprint triathlon was my first ever race last year and I had an absolute blast participating in it. Last year I got third in my age group which I thought was a pretty good result for a first timer, so I decided to come back this year and give the race another go.
This time around I had a training partner who was recovering from an ACL injury that she had three years ago. Up until this summer, she had been completely inactive but she used to be a swimmer in elementary school and in high school she was a sprinter in track so she at least had some former athleticism to work with.
The build up to this race was different for me. Training with a partner every day was pretty fun, but at the same time somewhat frustrating due to the differences in our athletic abilities. For instance, my partner had not swam in years and so I was about 30 seconds faster than her in every set that we did. Likewise, she was (understandably) very concerned about re-injuring her knee so we often had to take it easy on the run just to be extra safe with not aggravating it.
So going into this race I wasn't as confident in my fitness. Last year I would basically swim, bike, and run, hard every day, while only making small changes in my volume and intensity each training day . This year it was like starting from scratch. I had days were I would only ride six miles on the bike simply because that was all my partner could handle (even though I could easily do around 20+ miles on my own), but as we progressed my partner got quite strong at each discipline and gladly went with me on 40 mile bike rides, and 4,000 yard swim workouts. What I think really helped me was the fact that I went quite hard on the days that me and my partner couldn't train together. This changed my training dramatically as I went from someone who would basically attack each day at a very consistent intensity, to someone who would have periods of being well rested, with only a few days of peak intensity. I am not used to only having a few days at "peak" intensity, because almost all of my swim training in high school had been at a threshold pace day in and day out.
To make things worse, I had to fly to Vegas for a business trip the week before the race which made it very hard for me to get a consistent and meaningful taper in. I also had a lot of work the week before Vegas so I had very little sleep/training in the lead up to that week. So as a whole, I was a little concerned about how I would do at this race just because I was expecting to be really tired and under trained.
I woke up at 5:30AM to head over to the transition area to rack my bike and otherwise set myself up for transitions. After doing a couple of triathlons last year, I learned that it is best to keep things simple so this year I only brought my running shoes, cycling shoes, helmet, sunglasses, and bike to the transition area. Last year I tried to bring socks, arm- warmers and all of this other junk that just took too long to get in and out of.
After setting up for transition, my training partner and I went to stretch for a half an hour and then after that we went to warm up in the water. Last year I made the mistake of jumping into the cold ocean water without a proper warm up and it was kind of a scary experience. When you enter cold water quickly the blood vessels in your lungs rapidly contract and it basically makes you gasp desperately for breath during your first few strokes. In a sense, you feel like you are drowning which is never good. I still had that same experience when warming up, but it was better to experience that while warming up as opposed to racing.
We then headed over the pre-race meeting and national anthem. At about 4 minutes away from the start, I noticed that my time chip had fallen off of my ankle, and in short I was screwed if I started without it because my times would not count. Because my wave started so soon, I had to choose whether to freak out and try to find it, or just to lineup and have fun. I decided to do the later because I was almost positive that I was out of shape, and what was more important to me was my training partner having a good time with her first triathlon. At the last moment though, my training partner runs up to me, timing chip in hand, saying that she found it randomly in the sand. What good luck!
The gun goes off and the wave rushes into the water. The first 200 yards of any triathlon swim are always really bad because everyone is really close to each other and are basically swimming on top of each other. I accidentally hit a few people with my arms, but managed to avoid getting hit myself. After a while the group began to separate and I found myself passing people on the swim. Even though I am not necessarily the best swimmer, it never ceases to amaze me how much my high school swimming has helped me in my triathlons. I am just a much better swimmer than the majority of triathletes out there, and it is so helpful because the swim is the one part of the race that I never worry about.
I reach shore and run past a few guys on my way into the transition. My legs were really cold and stiff, but they felt really strong (hence me passing people on the way to transition) I quickly got into my bike shoes, on my bike, and away I went. For the first few miles there were about 4 cyclists in front of me but I eventually passed them once I settled into my pace. A guy with a really expensive carbon fiber bike costing $10,000 flew past me in the last mile or so, but I decided not to chase after him since my big mistake from last year was over doing it on the bike and being burnt out for the run.
I made it into the transition area, and got into my running shoes. An athlete from the Santa Barbara triathlon club was ahead of me for the first 1,000 yards or so but I caught up to him and asked
"How's your race going?"
"This is the crappy part"
"I know what you mean"
I then passed him but he was pretty close behind me, using me as someone to set his pace. Now my legs were really cold, and my shoes had some sand in them, so my feet basically fell asleep when I was running. It was a weird sensation, but I figured I would pull out of it after a few minutes.
I We reached the turn around point and there were two cones. One cone was closer to us with an arrow looping around it, and the other cone was about five yards behind it with an arrow also looping around it, which of course confused me greatly. Fearing the possibility of cutting the course too short, I went to the cone that was further away, but as luck would have it, I could have gone to the closer one. Of course, the guy behind me uses that opportunity to "pass" me, but in a few seconds I catch up to him and begin ramping up my pace because I know I am on the home stretch of the race.
I only counted four or five people ahead of me in the run course so by this time I realized that I was in a good place. The guy behind me couldn't hold my pace and he fell behind and for a period of time I was all alone, as dozens of other triathletes streamed down the opposite side of the run course. I made it to the finish line and saw my time of 42:03, which was about three minutes faster in comparison to my time last year. I heard the announcer say something about me finishing within the top dozen or so athletes in the race, but I was too concerned getting a good spot at the finish line to see my training partner come in.
Fifteen minutes after I had finished, my training partner came in and posted a wonderful time for the female division of about 50 minutes. After grabbing some water, and some much needed breakfast we went to the results board and saw that we both got first in our age groups.
At the end of the day I got 1st in the 20-24 age group 13th overall in the race and finished within the top 5% of athletes. It was a very surprising result and I am really happy that the race ended so well. Next year I am going to try a full iron man distance event, which should be quite the experience, but I am confident that I will be able to pull it off with a year's worth of solid training.
Anyways, sorry for the Luca-esque post but I just wanted to give everyone a recap of what I did this weekend!
There is nothing uglier in this world than a parent riding on the success of their child.