I started my drive down to Long Beach on Friday morning after dropping the kids off at school. I made pretty good time until I hit the lovely traffic in Los Angeles. This was my first time driving to Southern California. There really isn’t much between the South Bay Area and Los Angeles. Mostly farm fields. I arrived in Long Beach around 4pm and check into my hotel. I drove to the race start area to pick up my packet. Parking was fairly simple and so was packet pick up. There was an optional open swim time on the course, but I decided to just skip it and swim in the morning. I walked thru the transition area to check things out and crossed the street to check out the running path. My stomach was a ball of nerves and I texted my coach. He told me that if I was nervous, it meant I was ready! I watched the sun set, took a few deep breaths, and then found a place to eat some pizza at a nearby brewery! I ate dinner by myself and looked over the course map. I was really missing my family at that point and it felt so strange to be eating dinner by myself. After dinner, I went back to my room and got all my stuff ready. Man, there is so much to get ready for a triathlon! I waited for my sis-in-law, Erin, to arrive…. well, waiting…. I actually fell asleep — this lady is used to going to bed so early!!
The alarm went off just after 5am and after the usual pre-race night before restless sleep, I got up to get ready. My stomach was still a ball of nerves – I was afraid I was going to forget something or put something in the wrong spot.
I got to transition and set everything up, forgot the body glide to put on my neck so my wetsuit wouldn’t rub so I jogged back to my car in flip-flops (Nice warm-up, huh?). Got back to the swim start just in time to get in a quick warm-up before the National Anthem….. had my first taste of swimming in salt water – yay!! THAT was fun! Can’t wait to swim in the salt water at Kona for twice as long! I lined up a little too far to the right at that start and had to swim further than I should have to get lined up on the course. The swim start wasn’t really crowded with only 114 athletes competing. Much smaller than 3000 Ironman swimmers in Wisconsin! I didn’t get bumped around too much during the swim but as usual my sighting wasn’t the best and I found myself swimming too far to the right for most of the first lap. Before starting the 2nd lap, we had to get out of the water and run around a cone up on the sand – that was fun! NOT! I hate that feeling when you try to stand up after swimming hard for a while. I never really got my bearings and had to get back in the water again. I did much better on my sighting for the 2nd lap. After the race my sis in law, Erin, told me that I was 3rd female out of the water on the first lap and 2nd female out of the water on the 2nd lap – so apparently I passed someone out there in the water!
My transitions always seem slow and this one was no different. I think I need to set up some practice transitions this summer. I hopped on my bike and headed out on the course. This race was an open course which complicated things a bit. Fortunately on the way out, I hit all the stoplights green and found my way to the bike path. I felt like the course could have been marked with a few more directional arrows where the path veered off to the right at times. I almost took a wrong turn in the first 5 miles, following a group of bikers that were out for a Saturday ride. I got back on course and put my head down to work. My coach gave me a goal of 190 watts for the ride – which I honestly thought was going to be impossible for me to maintain a number that high. (I ended up with an overall power of 191 for the day!). Since the path was open to the public, there were many groups of bikers to try and pass on the path, this was difficult at times with big groups of bikes moving in both directions. I didn’t encounter too many racers on the way out and it made me a bit nervous that I may have taken a wrong turn. At one point, we had to go through a small pedestrian gate on the path – now THAT was interesting! I kept trying to catch the person in front of me, not knowing where I was in the race. I got within a mile or 2 of the turn around and saw the first female! I thought to myself – “she’s not that far ahead, I can catch her”. I got to the turnaround and the aid station people told me that I wasn’t that far behind the first female and to go catch her! Before then, I was trying to maintain my power while taking in nutrition … still getting used to the set-up of my new bike. But it was at that moment that I knew I really had to do some WORK. I felt it was possible for me to catch her. I took note of her tri-kit, it was blue and black — then as I made my way back to transition – I would look ahead on the path to see if I could find the blue and black tri kit. I passed many bikers and thought to myself – “where is she? she’s got to be here somewhere!?!” I kept going and finally with about 8 miles to go – I spotted her ahead! I took in some nutrition, my last salt tab, a big gulp of water…. and I hovered back just a little bit….. I knew I needed to be strong when I made my move to pass her ….. I took another gulp of nutrition and then I passed her….. passed her like she was standing still …. well, not really but I made sure I was going strong and I kept going after I passed her. I knew I needed to put some distance on her so she wouldn’t pass me . (I had that happen in a sprint tri a few years ago – I played leap frog with the first place female for several miles). I didn’t want that to happen here, so I kept my head down and stayed focused. All the while, I kept thinking to myself “Did I really just pass someone on the bike in a race!?!?! this never happens to me!!! – I usually have to do this on the run!”. The last few miles were stoplights and I kept hoping that I wouldn’t hit a red light that would allow her to catch up to me!
I came into transition and held my lead. My bike to run transition was again …. SLOW. I stood there and put on my visor and race belt – I know better than to do that! I struggled to get my shoes on – I had tied them too tight and couldn’t seem to slip them on quickly. But soon I was out on the run – my favorite part! I wanted to try and maintain a pace between 7:15 and 7:30. I was doing really well the first 7-8 miles with the 7:15 pace but I started to fade after that. My pace at first felt really good, I felt strong despite having to dodge the 5k charity walker/runners/wagons/dogs that were on the same running path and the Saturday strollers out at the beach. The run course was basically out about 3 miles then a turnaround almost back to transition and then back out the same 3 miles and back to the finish. I was really hoping to maintain my lead as the first woman and the out and back course design helped me to see where I was in the race. I counted about a 4 minute lead at the first turnaround but still never took my lead for granted. I kept pressing on. By the last turnaround, I calculated about a 6 minute lead but still kept pressing on even though my body settled into a bit slower 7:45ish pace for the last few miles. The headwind coming back the final 3 miles didn’t help my fading pace either. It wasn’t until about mile 10 on the run that I actually looked at my overall time to see how close I was to my sub 5 hour goal. I did a little math in my head and realized that my sub 5 hour race was within reach! I held on for the last few minutes and rounded the corner to finish the First Female Overall and I finally broke 5 hours finishing in 4:55!!! I was so excited! I couldn’t believe I did it. This was a great way to start my 2016 racing season. After some lunch at Seal beach with Erin, I drove back home arriving just after 2am and got up at 6am so I could go and cheer on my kids at their swim meet in Napa. The Boston Marathon is up next in about a month – I’m planning to run that at a little easier pace since I’ll be preparing for Ironman Texas in May.