Monday, June 22, 2015

Race Recap: Clackamas Cove Triathlon

I've been too busy training to blog about my training. The highlights:
NW Open Water Swim Series (1500 m race every Tuesday night in May)
Portland Triathlon Club's Mock Tri May 9th
McMinnville Sprint Triathlon May 30th

1:24:53, 2nd in my age group

I was feeling good and confident in my training for my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. My A goal was to finish, B goal was 3:30 and C goal was 3:15.

The weather was perfect on Sunday morning. Comfortable and cloudy, but no sight of rain. As I was in line for body marking, I was informed that the low river had created dangerous rapids near the swim exit. As a result, the course would not be a 750m loop (2 laps for the Oly) and end a quarter of a mile down a paved road from the transition area. We were given garbage bags with our race numbers in case we wanted to shed our wet suits at the swim exit.

I got through body marking and was setting up my transition are when I realized that I had been marked with the number "202" instead of my actual race number, "220." This caused a major panic attack. I ran back to body marking and cut in line to the nearest volunteer. Nothing could be done about the permanent marker on my body, but I got the right timing chip so my time would be right.

I have been battling allergies all spring and a chest cold from last week so my pre-race ritual now included a preventative puff on my inhaler. I was too stressed to eat more than a few bites of my Cliff Bar. I met some nice people in transition (I always do) and found someone with whom to trade sunscreen application.

The swim start was a quarter mile away, so I put on my wet suit halfway and slid into my socks and shoes to make my way down. The first wave was warming up when I got there, so I had plenty of time to set out my garbage bag and gear. This was essentially T0. For the Olympic distance, there were 3 heats of men and all the women and relay racers were in the final heat together. We had a chance to warm up in the water for a few minutes before the race started. The first two men started their second lap as we lined up.

The horn sounded and the triathlon started. I was jostled as usual, but my open water training served me well. I stayed composed, put my head down and swam. The weather made it easy to sight. The currents were strong enough that I got slightly off course a few times when I went too many stokes between sightings, but it wasn't bad. I noticed the first wave of Sprint Triathletes lining up as I prepared to round the last buoy to begin my second lap. I definitely did not want to get caught up in their scut. Fortunately my first lap was quick enough and I was probably 200m past the start when I heard their horn. I had another strong swim lap, even passing a few men from the wave ahead of me. I had another perfectly timed lap as I finished just before the last wave of Sprint Triathletes started.

The Clackamas Cove is pretty rocky at the jetty where we entered and exited the swim course. I had to exit the water pretty slowly to navigate it safely. I had forgotten my body glide for my wrists and ankles so my wet suit was a it of a pain to get off. I had a pretty big advantage with the "T0" though. Most triathletes have bike shoes that clip in, but I still ride in my sneakers. I stripped my wet suit and put my shoes on at the swim exit and didn't have to change my shoes when I got to T1. On the road I saw Dan, Lacey, Liam, Rosie & Carter set up under the underpass cheering on the athletes. Lacey made cute matching shirts so they were easy to spot!

Swim: 39:49 (1500m swim + stipped wet suit + put on shoes + run 1/4 mile)

All I had to do in T1 was put on my sunglasses and helmet, throw some nutrition and Halls in my pocket and grab my bike. Because I didn't have to change my shoes like most other athletes, I had one of the fastest transitions. 

T1: 0:56

The bike course was well directed & marked. I waved hello to the family again and I was off. The first mile or so was through town and the roads were closed for the event. Then we made our way out to the country. I'm not a strong biker, so I got passed quite a few times. It started getting demoralizing when the Sprint Triathletes started to pass me. There were 2 sections to the "out and back" bike course. The Sprint turned around halfway through the Olympic course, which continued 6 more miles to the turn around. There were plenty of other bikers until I passed the Sprint turn around. Then it was empty except for the occasional athlete on their way back. I resigned myself to the fact that I was in last place, told myself that I was going to stick to Sprint Triathlons from now on, and kept turning the pedals. 

The course was billed as flat for the first half, with one significant hill on the Olympic course. This was true for the first half. I stayed in the big ring and had plenty of flat stretches to drink and eat some Sports Beans. Not long after I passed the Sprint turn around, I came to a hill that required me to put my bike gears into the small ring and lower my cadence. Then another. No big deal. As the course wore on, I started looking for the turn around. I was directed to make a turn and then I saw it. The mother of all hills. It looked like those pictures you see of hills in San Francisco. I may have let out a curse or two. Then I powered through the remaining flat to get some momentum. I could see a few other riders way ahead. This hill was about 3/4 of a mile. I tried to get out of my seat and climb, but the road was too uneven and I couldn't keep my bike steady. I just had to sit and slog and pedal and pant. I noticed the other riders coming down the hill were not pedaling, just cruising. I told myself that I was going to pedal down and not rest my legs. When I got to the top, it was only a few hundred yards to the turn around. When I started to go down the monster hill, I realized that I could not possibly keep up my cadence with my wheels. Even though I was on my breaks for part it, I don't think I have ever gone as fast as I was going down that hill. It was fun and terrifying. 

As I flew down the hill I also realized that I wasn't actually in last place. There were a couple men and several women who were still on the "out" as I was coming "back." This made me feel good. I even started thinking about placing in my age group. There were not many women in the Oly and the 19-29 category is usually pretty light anyway. I pass a few of the back of the pack Sprint Triathletes and made my way back towards T2. It was so nice to see my family again and hear them cheer me on. 

Bike: 1:43:06 (24 miles) 

My second transition was also fast since I, again, didn't have to change shoes. I dropped off my bike, helmet and glasses and put on my hydration pack, race belt & visor. 

T2: 0:54 

I saw the family again on my way out and gave high fives to the kids. They had their shakers and bells and the made the other athletes smile, too. There were a lot of runners on the course and it was, again, well directed and marked on closed roads. The course is mostly and out and back 5k (2 laps for the Oly.) I knew that the end of the course was at the top of Oregon City's Grand Staircase. I had visited it a few days prior and realized that my occasional run of the high school bleachers had not prepared me to run up these 4 flights of stairs twice, so I planned to walk them when I got there. 

I was still feeling pretty good at this point. I had to pee and the sun had come out, but I kept it up. I tried to drink, but my stomach rolled and bladder protested. I managed to run the first set in the stairs, but walked after that. I was glad to find out that the course actually went down a different path so I didn't have to run down the stairs. 

I didn't see my family at the overpass where they had been set up before. They had already moved to the finish line. My sister came out and ran with me for a little bit as I rounded the park to start my second lap. I gave her my hydration pack as we parted and was glad to not have to carry it anymore since I couldn't drink anyway. 

I started calf-stalking on my 2nd lap. Anytime I crossed paths with a women, I checked her leg to see if she was in my age group. I had already seen on woman in my age group heading to the finish as I was finishing my first. I saw two more running back not long into my second loop. "There's the podium," I though. I still wanted a time of which I would be proud and kept running my slow and steady run. At some point in my run a guy told me I was "smooth." I took that as a compliment of my run form and kept that comment in my head whenever I felt myself getting lazy. 

The course had thinned out and the traffic cops were getting ready to open the roads as I wound down my final stretch. I got a small second wind, but was a little defeated when I head the award ceremony going on as I was finishing. They were too busy calling award to call my name as I finished. That was a bummer. But the empty course meant that Liam could join me as I crossed the finish line, so that was awesome. 

Run: 1:08:08 (6.2 miles) 

Total Time: 3:32:51

I selected a medal and took a finish line photo with Dan & the kids. Dan gave me my chocolate milk and told me my approximate time was 3:47. I knew that the extra 1/4 mile run before T1 and monster hill were going to cost me a little extra time, but 3:47 was much longer than I had expected. I went to the results booth to get my print out only to find out my real time. It was still over my B goal, but with the weird day, I was pleased. I also learned that I had place 2nd (of 3) in my age group. Not really anything to brag about, but it came with a nice certificate and a liter of Ale. 

I made a random stranger really happy when I gave her my prize.

This is my post-race pint of choice.
I washed the sweat off my body and lake water out of my hair and got a little rest before the kids were up, I couldn't really justify a nap on Father's Day even if I had raced that morning. Dan was such a good sport in taking care of the kids at the park while I was racing. The kids are having a great time with their cousin though, so I got to put my feet up a little. 

I am thinking about another Oly on July 18th and another swim series in August. I'm also registered for Sprints on Aug 1st and Sept 19th. I'm toying with the idea of a half marathon as my A race for late fall. We'll see. 

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