Monday, June 16, 2008

Summit Solstice Triathlon Race Report

Well, I did it. A triathlon. Whodda thunk?!

Okay, the setting: Sunday morning, clear blue skies with a few scattered white fluffy clouds. Gorgeous. Green grass and trees shining in the sun. Temp on the way there: 43 and rising.

My nerves: totally calm.

Arrived at the race site. Found a spot for my bike and gear. Learned to use a bike rack ;) Checked out the new swim course and transition areas. Talked to other folks from my class. Got body marked with my race number. Smiled while getting marked—ha! now I look like a triathlete! Stood in line for 10+ minutes to use one of the two bathrooms at the start.

Warmup: rode my bike a mile or so up the road to Heron Park. Hopped off and ran for about 10 min. Returned to my bike and had no wait for the bathroom there! Poo #2. Rode back to the starting area, racked my bike, and suited up while at the pre-race meeting. Feet were cold walking around on the bare ground, but rest of me was plenty warm.

At the start, the men went first. It was sweet to watch some of the faster guys. They looked like they were swimming so effortlessly, so smooth! And sweet, too, to see a few guys doing a doggie paddle or breast stroke. Women were supposed to start 10 min after the men. So once the guys took off, I hopped in, peed in my suit to warm it up!, reluctantly stuck my head in and swam around a few strokes. Warmed up okay. But then we waited, waited, waited. Got cold waiting. It was a long 10 min.

Finally the gun went off. Splish, splash, 80 or so women took off swimming. Bodies here, bodies there. Got swam over. Swam over someone else. Was totally cool about it all. I just hit my rhythm right off the bat, took a good pace, and ignored everything else. Just as I’d planned. 123-breathe-456-breathe-789-sight, 123-breathe-456-breathe-789-sight… Turned the first buoy in a mid-pack group. Started off for the 2nd buoy. Had a bit of a hard time getting something to sight off of, was a little disoriented watching the sea of bobbing pink caps ahead of me (all women were issued pink swim caps with their number written on it). So I doggie-paddled a few seconds to get my bearings, swam a bit more, and repeated the doggie-paddle another time or two until I neared the buoy. Turned, and kept it steady towards the swim exit. Passed several people at the end. They stood up and tried walking/running out of the deeper water. I just kept swimming past their legs, touching bottom with my hands, until the water was barely deep enough to float in, then stood up and ran out of the water (don’t remember where I picked up that tip, but was glad the others hadn’t!)

Ran up the hill out of the lake and across a freshly-mowed lawn. Unzipped my suit and took off my cap and goggles and was taking my first arm out before I got to my bike. Sat down and took off the rest of my suit in the methodical order I’d practiced, and used a bottle of water to try to wash the grass clippings off my feet. Put on socks, shoes, shirt, then sunglasses and helmet (I’d worn my tri-shorts and a sports bra under my wetsuit). Ran with my bike out of the transition area. Hopped on smoothly and started pedaling.

THE BIKE View Interactive Map on
First little bit was flat. Started spinning fast, gearing up, passed two girls in the first half mile. Then a climb up a good hill. Good gearing, legs were working. Then began the downhill. Pedaled fast and got up some speed. Or so I thought. But then I started getting passed. On the downhill! Several people. People I’d beat on the swim were now passing me going downhill, and I was pedaling. Not cool. That’s it, I’m buying a road bike. Cruised along, not at all-out, but at a pretty good clip. About 15 minutes in ate a Hammer Gel. I’d taped it to my handlebars with masking tape and had written my theme for the day on the tape: “Celebrate!” Ripping it off reminded me to look up and appreciate where I was. Cruising down a winding mountain road, with wooded hillside on my left and on my right a pasture of tall green grass and black cattle in front of a little farm house. Gorgeous. Other bikers in the other lane headed back up the hill. I’d been worried I’d be cold on the first part of the bike, but the sun just felt great. Only my feet were cold. They felt weird, and I tried wiggling them around to warm them up. To no avail.

Hit the flats and cruised along, geared down for the 180 turn, powered thru it. Then started back up the hill. Tried keeping the gears low and the revolutions high. But before long I was getting passed. By yet another group of folks. One couple encouraged me “Way to go on the mountain bike… You’re really gutting it out!” And that’s exactly what I was doing—gutting it out. I just couldn’t hang with the road bikes. “We did our first one on mountain bikes a few years ago; we know how much harder you’re working,” the road-biking couple continued as they gained ground on me.

I hit the one flat spot and gained a little ground on the group in front of me. But the big hill came up quickly. I geared down. And down. And down some more. Not the granniest gear, but the second lowest possible. I tried to focus on spinning, making good circles, not mashing. Passed one lady, which felt good. But my legs were getting tired. And all the getting passed had me feeling a little down.

Crested the top of the last hill and enjoyed a short downhill spin-out, then cranked along the flats to the transition area. Spun it out for a few seconds right before dismounting. Didn’t biff the dismount! Then heard “Go Carly!” from friends Craig and Amy, who’d left their cozy camp in Glacier early that morning to come watch me race. Thanks guys, you rock!!!

Ran down 5 racks to where my spot was supposed to be, but it was full of bikes. I must’ve miscounted. So I stopped, counted again, and realized Crap, someone put their bike in my spot. Screw it! I said, partly to myself, partly to Craig and Amy who were photographing me from the other side of the fence. I dropped my bike along the fence, then located my pile of gear, tore off my helmet, popped on my visor, and took off at a pretty good clip out of the transition area.

THE RUN View Interactive Map on
For the first hundred yards or so, running actually felt kinda good. I was glad to be off the bike. And glad to get the chance to finally warm up my feet, which had been cold the whole race.

But the good feelings soon left. As my feet started to thaw, I got the sensation that two large sticks were running lengthwise down the bottoms of my shoes. Ow! It hurt! And I also realized that I was breathing pretty darn hard already. Slow down a bit—you’ve got three miles of this! But I soon hit a small hill, and the heart rate soared. The gal in front of me started walking, and I followed the siren’s call. But upon reaching the top of the hill, I took off running again. I made the first turn and headed up through a neighborhood of high-dollar lakeside houses. My feet continued to thaw, and reached the stage in which they started sending sharp pains from my toes all the way up my legs and into my hips. Mother-f-er! This hurts! Additionally, my chest felt a little tight, and there was a pain in my back between my shoulder blades. Owww! And then to add injury to insult, I was hit with a super steep hill to run up for 200 yards or so. This time, though, when the siren started walking, I resisted the urge and just kept grueling. At the top, we turned a 180, and headed back down. She passed me, though, when I stopped to walk a few steps to catch my breath. That hill got me. I never caught her again.

After winding back down out of the shi-shi neighborhood, I hit the main road, and was just out on my own for a while. I saw Amy and Craig walking up the road towards the finish line, and chatted with them as I passed. This is the hardest 5k I’ve ever run, I reported. Everything hurts! They just took pictures. Thanks—I’m sure those are stellar…

More uphill. Not steep, but up. Another turn, and yet more uphill. At this point I could see the finish line. People gathered all around. Runners hauling down the last hill. How easy it would be to hop the fence and run down there and be done! Yet I still had a little over a mile to go—out farther up the hill, then looping around the park. Ugh!

One last quick walk break towards the top of the hill, then I hit grass. The softer footing felt good, and my legs finally started feeling okay. The pains were subsiding, I finally got a rhythm. Two girls sped past me, but I didn’t mind. I was enjoying feeling halfway decent at last. Not fast, but not in pain. I even started to look around and appreciate the scenery again. The sound of the finish line grew nearer, and I made up my mind not to push it hard to the finish. My goal for the day was to Celebrate, and I knew that if I pushed hard, I’d finish feeling pukey, and wouldn’t be able to smile and raise my arms in a cheer like you so often see people do. So when I heard footsteps approaching behind me, I turned my head and shouted encouragements to the girl who was about to pass me, rather than try to outrun her. There’ll be other races for being competitive… I’m just going to enjoy myself. Finally, there it was. The final 100 yards to the finish. I spotted Amy standing right behind the finish mats, camera in hand. Finally—I’ll be able to smile at the finish! Then folks started calling my name… “Way to go, Carly! Whoo hoo!” Folks from my tri class, from the gym, and Craig and Amy were all rooting me on. I crossed the line with a big grin and hands in the air. I’m a triathlete!, I hollered.

So it’s official. I’m a triathlete. That feels great to say.

So how was my first triathlon? Hard. I’m not gonna lie. It was harder than I’d imagined—harder than any of the single workouts I’d done in preparation. Duh, you say. But for some reason, I just didn’t expect it to be quite so hard. I expected the run to be my strongest part. But instead, it was way, way tougher than I’d mentally prepared for. And obviously tougher than I’d physically prepared for. Damn. I see more hill workouts in my future.

The swim, however, exceeded my expectations. Again, it wasn’t fast, but it was smooth, calm, and confident. Go figure. Looking back, I know that I was out of the water before 4 of the girls that I'd trained with, plus several others (who all went ahead and passed me on the bike). So that was cool.

And I supposed I shouldn’t be so disappointed in the bike. But I kind of am. It was disheartening to get passed by so many folks. I felt like I did much better on some of the practice rides of equal or longer distance and similar difficulty. But, of course, I hadn’t done a swim before those. And I wasn’t filled with race-day jitters. So maybe I should just take it and be proud for now. I really only started doing bike workouts in Feb or so, but only on the open road in April. So I’m very much a rookie. And I’ve always taken it for granted that anyone can ride a bike. Apparently they can… but not anyone can crank out a fast ride on a very hilly course. Again, I see some more hill climbing on the horizon.

There were definitely a few highlights of the day:
- Hanging out in the water with girls from my tri class before the swim, and starting the swim knowing I was amongst friends.
- Hopping out of the water feeling strong, and keeping my planned method for the transition.
- Seeing so many face I knew on the bike, and cheering folks on by name. I probably hollered out for 20 people throughout the bike, including my instructor Ted who was in 3rd place when we crossed paths (about two miles into the bike for me!)... he subsequently won the whole thing!
- Getting "Celebrate Good Times, Come On!" stuck in my head once Nikki (one of the gals from my class) sang it to me when we crossed paths on the run
- Smiling across the finish line… so much nicer than puking!
- Giving and getting congratulatory hugs at the finish line. Yay, I was psyched to see several of the girls I knew already there, and had fun cheering on others who were behind me.
Running across the finish line a second time with Kip, a gal from my class who came in nearly last, after most folks had left. Amy, Craig, and I were already heading back to the car, but then I noticed Kip rounding the last turn. So I ran down the hill and joined her for the last leg. “Thanks!” she said, “I think I’m the last one.” Who cares, you still just completed a triathlon. Woo hoo!!! I was super proud of her!!!

After loading up my gear and slipping into my hot pink cotton sundress, Amy, Craig, and I headed to McKenzie River Pizza for lunch. We shared some cheesy breadsticks, and I had a giant "Taos salad"—mixed greens, carrots, green onions topped with ranch dressing, chicken chili, and crushed blue corn chips. Yum! I’d never had chili on a salad before, but it was most excellent. Yeah, I love post-race meals... they're always SO good, regardless of what you'd think on any other day.

I spent the next few hours shopping for an outfit to wear to a wedding in a few weeks. It was a great day for shopping. I’m usually not much of a clothes shopper, but was having a great body-image day, so it was actually fun to try on lots of dresses. It was also fun to have other ladies in the store give sideways glances at the big black “”119” written on my right upper arm and left calf. Yeah, that’s right, I’m a badass triathlete, I wanted to say. But said nothing and just kept searching for the perfect shoes. Which I found. And accessories. Yes, folks, I bought a dress, heeled sandals, AND accessories. I guess being a triathlete makes you do crazy things. Yeah, I’m a triathlete. Tee hee. I can’t get over saying that.

I got home and cleaned off my bike and hung my gear out to dry. Then I popped on my swimsuit and headed down to the pool at my apartment. I dove in, and was amazed how much warmer it was than Foy’s Lake! I floated around for a few minutes, enjoying the lack of gravity on my legs, then plopped down on a lounge chair to read a magazine and soak up the sun for a few hours. Ahh.

Now I’ve showered, eaten, and spent the last hour or so typing. It’s time for bed, dear friends. Thanks to all of you who’ve supported me in my training for today’s race. And Happy Father’s Day, again, Dad!

In retrospect, the race was great. I went there to experience my first triathlon, and to celebrate my accomplishments. So in that way, I won.

Now here are the stats (drum roll, please......):

Total Time= 1:44:45

Overall Rank Amongst Females: 52 of 79
Rank in Age Class (30-34): 11 of 14
Rank Amongst Girls I'd Trained With: 6 of 12
Those Who Beat Me Did It On The: Bike=4, Swim=1
Amount of Money I Now Need to Raise for a New Bike= $500+
Donations Can Be Sent To= ha ha!

They haven't posted the break-down yet, but here's my approximation:
I forgot to start my watch for the swim. Oops.
I remembered to start it sometime between T1 and the first 1/2 mile of the bike... don't remember when exactly. But pushed it going out of T2, so total bike and some transition time= 50:31; so that would mean a MINIMUM average of 15.7 mph
Run time (ugh,) was 31:39, an average of about 10:12 min/mi (not so bad, I suppose, given that a year ago I was pushing to do 10 minute miles in regular 5k's)

I'll post the break-down times when I get them. This should give you enough to chew on for now, though. And more pictures, too-- for some reason they're not uploaded for me right now.


Robyn said...

I think that you have A LOT to be proud of. Believe it or not triathlon is a learned skill -- tough for those of us who are used to being pretty good at most anything we try, I know! :) It's also very different than doing any one of the three disciplines as individual sports. You will improve with training and racing practice(and a new bike!)

Anonymous said...

I wish I could have seen you race Carly, I'm so proud of you! (Also wish I could see your hot new girly outfit!) Think how far you've come in the past year. I loved reading your breakdown of the race, I got tears in my eyes at one point! I'm a sap, I know, but mostly I'm so proud of your dedication and how awesome you are! Way to go! ~Wendy