Mommy Wants a Timeout

In which I contemplate absurd moments in parenthood, occasionally attempt to refer to myself as a “triathlete” while keeping a straight face, and maybe post some random pictures of stuff I’m knitting

Archive for the tag “race”

Whew…Thank Goodness THAT’S Over!

I did it! I finished my first Oly tri! With a smile on my face, no less…and in spite of yucky weather and a major crisis of confidence the week before.

If you want to read my detailed race report with times and everything, look here.

Here’s a more emotional, long-winded summary:

After a night of fitful sleep, I got up, got dressed, and forced some breakfast and coffee down. I packed up my bike and headed to Cathedral Park, which is less than 20 minutes from my house. (Finally! A race I don’t have to drive an hour for!)

I'll be swimming under this, then running over it!

I’ll be swimming under this, then running over it!

Since we weren’t supposed to park IN the park, I found street parking approximately 17 miles away, unloaded my stuff, pumped up my tires, and plodded to the transition area. On the way I ran into a couple ladies I’d done a training swim with, and we swapped hellos and well-wishes for the race before parting ways at the body-marking area. Since it was chilly and windy out, this race required our arms to be marked, instead of just the legs like I’m used to. I held up the line for a minute while I struggled out of multiple layers of clothes, got marked, then headed over to transition to set up.

The weather forecast had called for rain, so I had brought along a couple large plastic bags to place my socks, shoes, and jacket in to keep them dry while I was swimming. As it turned out, it didn’t rain much during the race, but it was a good thing that my shoes were pinning down my bags, because the wind was blowing…hard!

After pretending to listen to the pre-race briefing while putting on my wetsuit, I headed down to the boat ramp. I had a pair of throw-away flip-flops on, which meant I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the dagger-like texture of the pavement underfoot. I debated whether or not to even warm up in the water, since my wave wasn’t scheduled to start for 18 minutes after the race started. I did the smart thing and got in, got used to the water temp, then got out and shivered for what felt like forever until they announced my wave. I kicked my sandals off to the side near the boat ramp and tried to find a promising-looking area to start. It was a big wave, though…At least 60 people, and we were all sort of crowded together like cattle.

Needless to say, when the swim started, it was a madhouse. It took forever to make any forward progress, and I was struggling to find any place where I wasn’t swimming over or into another body for at least a hundred yards. After we rounded the first buoy, it started to thin out, and I found a rhythm of sorts. It was pretty windy, and the water was choppy, but I concentrated on keeping my breathing and my stroke as even as possible. It seemed to take forever to get to the turnaround, but it seemed a little easier on the way back. (The race directors had said to expect the opposite, due to an incoming tide, but maybe the wind direction had something to do with it.) I eventually made it back to the boat ramp, and climbed out of the water feeling like I’d done pretty well. I glanced at my watch and was surprised and a little disappointed to be about 3 minutes slower than what I’d expected, but I was soon distracted by the tiny knives of pavement that were trying to shred my feet on my way up the hill. Running wasn’t an option; I just sort of tiptoed, saying “Ow, ow, ow,” until we were on soft grass again.

When I got back to my bike I did a pretty good job of shedding my wetsuit, but could not for the life of me figure out why my helmet wouldn’t go on my head right. I took it off, looked at it, put it back on, took it off again, and finally realized my ponytail was too high and the helmet wouldn’t fit over it. Obviously the cold water had slowed my thought processes. I adjusted my hair, jammed my helmet on, and headed out for the ride.

The bike is by far my weakest event. I rode as fast as I could comfortably, and as usual was passed by a multitude of people of all shapes and sizes. I was able to pass a few myself, but they were almost exclusively on mountain bikes wearing running shoes. On the positive side, I was able to eat a few energy chews and drink lots of Gatorade, so I felt well-prepared for the run. Besides that, I was able to tolerate the ride pretty well, without too much “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” running through my head (though there was some, to be sure!) There was a mean headwind for most of the ride, which seems impossible, but I swear, the wind shifted about halfway through, and I was riding into it all the way out, and most of the way back.

My second transition went smooth enough, then I steeled myself for the run. It should be my strongest leg, but I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up after a long ride. Also, the run course had a long, steep uphill climb pretty near the beginning, which is just not fair. (Seriously, it was about a quarter of a mile of around 18% grade. Cruel.) This is the only place I walked during the run leg, and it was only about 15 steps, to keep me from crying. But when I hit mile marker 1, my pace was near 9 minutes/mile, which was way faster than I’d expected! I contemplated slowing down to conserve energy, but my legs felt okay, and I wasn’t huffing and puffing, so I decided to roll with it for a while. I started noticing the spectators along the course, and had enough breath to compliment them on their signs. (My favorite one said, “Hey! Where’s everybody going?”) I also chatted a little with some of the runners I passed and who passed me. The course stayed flat for the next couple of miles, and my pace stayed strong. Then it was time to climb over the St. John’s bridge. I was demoralized for a little while at how tired the climb made me, and I almost lost my hat in the wind. I thought about taking a walk break before telling myself I didn’t need it, I wasn’t that tired, I was strong, etc. etc. The positive self-talk worked, and pretty soon I was crossing back over the bridge and heading downhill again.

Remember that 18% uphill? Well, the course came back down that same hill. A runner I’d been exchanging leads and jokes with since mile 2 finally blew by me for good at that time, and I told her to go crush it. But my quads (and my nerves) can’t handle a downhill sprint, so I took it a little slower. Good thing, because I still had almost a mile of trail along the river and through the grass of the park before I was in the finishing chute. I passed a young woman who looked like she was struggling a bit, told her to push hard and finish strong, and then ran hard the last 50 yards to the finish. I’d run the best 10K time of my short career, and I knew it! I also couldn’t bend over to take off my timing chip without falling down; thank goodness for kind race volunteers. I traded my chip for a medal and a slice of watermelon, and wandered aimlessly in a post-race stupor…”Must text husband…Need water…Call mom…Where’s phone?…Hey, chocolate-chip cookies!” I ate some of the post-race food and eventually packed up my stuff and headed out as the gusts of wind started lifting up tents and knocking over fences. I walked the 17 miles UPHILL to my car (Seriously, not cool…) on tired legs, and headed back over the bridge just as a torrential downpour opened up. Whew…Thank goodness THAT waited until after the race!

Notice how that tree is blowing sideways? It was seriously windy!

Notice how that tree is blowing sideways? It was seriously windy!

So now it’s time for some rest and recovery. I know this was no Ironman race, but it did require a significant amount of training time, especially in the last couple months, and I’m a little burned out. I’ve got a few body parts (hip, back) that are begging for some time to heal, and frankly, some long-neglected housework to attend to. In time, I’ll set some race goals for the winter and next year, but right now I’m just going to enjoy having nothing to train for!

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10 Reasons Why…

10 Reasons Why I Can’t Run My First Olympic Triathlon Tomorrow:

1. My back has been aching like crazy for over a week.
2. I’m afraid of drowning in the Willamette River
3. The water will be cold.
4. The weather will be terrible.
5. I’m afraid I won’t be able to take in enough calories without feeling sick to have the energy to complete the 10K run.
6. What if I fall off my bike in the transition area?
7. Speaking of bikes, what if I get a flat tire? I’ve still never changed one entirely on my own…My husband has always been there to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and take over when I get frustrated.
8. Speaking of husbands, mine has to work that day, so he won’t even be there to cheer me on.
9. Did I mention it will be raining, with a possibility of thunder? Seriously, who schedules a triathlon at the end of September, anyway? (A bunch of Oregonians, that’s who!)
10. I’m burned out from all the training I’ve been doing, and VERY ready to veg in front of the TV for a while.

10 Reasons Why I WILL Run My Olympic Triathlon Tomorrow:

1. I’ve swam in cold water before and it didn’t kill me.
2. For that matter, I’ve swam in the Willamette River before and it didn’t kill me (though I might be growing some mutant parts…)
3. I’m an Oregonian…I don’t let a little inclement weather spoil my plans.
4. Gatorade, Shot Blox, gummy fruit snacks…They’ve all sat well enough during my training, and no one ever starved in 3 and a half hours, so even if I don’t eat much, I’ll probably live through it.
5. I paid a lot of money for this race…And there are no refunds. (I’m a total cheapskate.)
6. I’ll earn a cool finishers’ medal to put on my wall.
7. Swimming under my favorite bridge in Portland and then running over it should be pretty awesome!
8. Lots of people have supported me in my training so far: my mom and dad have babysat my son while my husband worked so I could fit in a group swim; my friend brought her kayak out to the river to paddle alongside me while I swam; and countless other friends and strangers have given me words of encouragement and support. I can’t let them all down!
9. As a coach said to me last weekend, “You’re as strong as you want to be.” And I want to be just strong enough to finish this race with a smile on my face.
10. I’ll feel SOOOOOO much less guilty about spending 90% of the next week sitting around and doing nothing if I can tell people “I’m taking it easy for the week…I just did my first Oly tri!”

Yep, unless circumstances beyond my control intervene (like a cancellation due to thunderstorms) tomorrow at 7:48 a.m. I will be running into the Willamette River. I hope I will be tough enough to deal with whatever comes after that, but I know at least that I am tough enough to get to the starting line!

A (Belated) Race Report and A Plan…

June 8th, 2013: Well, first of all, what a great weekend it was for a race! It was my 3rd year in a row at the Blue Lake Sprint Triathlon (though last year I was limited to the Aqua-Bike because of my foot injury), and the first of those years it’s actually been warm and sunny for the days leading up to the race. And this meant…water that was warmer than the low-60s!!! Yay for me!!! (I’m such a cold-water-weenie…)

If you’re interested in my splits, standings, or other race info, here’s a link to my online race report. But the following is a more general report about the experience.

First of all, I’m working towards the goal of completing my first Olympic-distance triathlon at Hagg Lake in July (more about that later), so this race was more of a tune-up/progress check than anything else; hence, I was MUCH less nervous about it than in my first season. (I’m pretty sure it’s just because I’ve been obsessing so much about the Oly that I actually forgot to freak out over this one.) Regardless, I was pretty relaxed coming into the sprint tri, bolstered by the confidence that I’ve been training for TWICE the distance, so this should be no problem!

I also had the benefit of having attended an open-water swim clinic at the very same lake the week before, which did a lot to settle my nerves after last year’s famous panic attack.

So when race day dawned, I was surprisingly at ease. I got up, ate breakfast, loaded my gear into the car, and followed the single handwritten instruction I’d left by my water bottles the night before: “Don’t Forget Your Bike.” I drove the 45 minutes to the park with the radio blaring, singing along to my favorite songs with the abandon that can only come from knowing you’re alone in the car and the traffic is minimal because most sane people are still in bed. I got to the race site plenty early (in contrast to the previous year, when part of my panic was probably due to the fact I showed up too late to warm up properly.) I set up my transition area, walked down to the lake with a 15-year-old newbie to show her the course, and jogged a little to get warmed up. I shared the comical experience of getting into my wetsuit with a couple of rack-mates (nothing fosters instant friendship like squashing someone into neoprene while forcing their zipper shut, does it?) I made it back down to the beach in plenty of time to get in the water and get warmed up, time made even more plentiful by an announcement that, due to the traffic jam of cars waiting to get into the park, the race start time would be pushed back 15 minutes.

I said this to a couple first-time triathletes, and I will echo it to anyone reading this post who might ever want to do a tri: NOTHING helps ease the panic of an open-water swim like getting in the water ahead of time, and getting used to it. Swim a little, swim a lot, but make sure you get your face in it! I probably swam a total of 150 yards, and splashed around a little more, before I felt ready to go.

When my wave waded in, I found myself near the front; not necessarily where I wanted to be, as I know I’m only an average swimmer, but looking around, I couldn’t figure out who looked slower than me (it’s really hard to tell, you know?) so I just stayed where I was, and dove in fast when the horn blasted. There was a little contact in the beginning, but nothing too major, and I settled in to a rhythm pretty quickly. I even managed to draft a bit off someone in front of me, until she veered off in a direction other than the one I was following. I found a pace that felt fast but comfortable, and actually enjoyed myself as I rounded the first bouy and headed towards the second. After I rounded the third and headed into the last 200 yards or so, the water felt a little choppy and I got a bit queasy. Not sure if it was nerves or seasickness, but I talked myself through it and made it to the finish in what turned out to be a tie of my PR of 17:17.

Transition went smoothly enough, and for the first time I managed to get my wetsuit off and my bike shoes on without sitting down! The little accomplishments mean so much…

The bike leg…I said it a couple years ago, I said it last year, and I said it last fall, before completely ignoring my own advice and blowing off bike training: I REALLY NEED TO GET BETTER AT THE BIKE!!! I’m on my way to building up endurance since I’ve been riding consistently since March, but it’s going to take awhile for the passee to become a passer on the bike course. Once again, I don’t think I passed a single rider, and I got passed by so. many. people. I consoled myself with the fact that I’d probably gotten out of the water faster than some of them, and I might catch one or two on the run.

T2. It happened. Wasn’t interesting.

The run. I opted to go Garmin-less so as not to be annoyed by trying to remember to turn it on, wait for it to find a satellite signal, etc. Consequently, after pounding out my bike leg as fast as I could so as not to be TOTALLY humiliated, my legs felt pretty rubbery, and I had no idea whether I was running fast, slow, or somewhere in-between. I did remember to hit the “lap” button on my stopwatch, and was shocked to note that I hit mile marker 1 at about an 8-minute mile! In other words, about 36 seconds faster than my mile pace from my previous 5K PR. “Better slow down,” I told my rubberlegs, but I don’t think they were taking in any messages from my brain at that point. So I concentrated on ignoring the side cramp I’d developed (probably a result of breathing harder than I ever had on a run before!) and not falling down as I navigated the course through some long grass and a treacherous downhill dirt-and-rock trail that led to a (fenceless, unprotected) walkway along the lake. (I’d really like to talk to the mastermind of this particular triathlon run course…It’s very strange.) I crossed the finish line with nothing at all left in my legs, then probably caused massive internal eye rolls to the teenage worker collecting timing chips as I fumbled with the safety pin holding the velcro of my timing chip strap in place. (Hey, I was being extra cautious, you know?)

After the race, I walked straight down to the beach to reclaim the neoprene swim socks I’d ditched at the last minute outside the starting corral, then headed over to the food tent. I met up with my transition-buddies, shared race reports, glanced at my official race results, then packed up and headed home just in time to shower before heading off to my son’s T-ball game.

Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished!


All in all, I was pretty proud of my performance at this race. It was an overall PR, a tie for a PR in the swim, and a HUGE PR in the 5K. The only thing it was missing was a lightning-bolt style revelation to tell me whether I would or would not be ready to do an Olympic-distance triathlon on a super-hilly course in just a month. In fact, the only revelation I got was that I can run a 5K much faster than I thought I could, and I’m definitely solid on the sprint distances.

So the next step is to keep building up the bike volume, and maybe do a test ride on the course I will be facing in July. If the distance and the hills don’t seem too daunting, my Olympic-distance debut will happen July 6th at Hagg Lake. If I’m not feeling ready, or if it seems too stressful and anxiety-provoking, I’ll do the sprint and try not to beat myself up about it. After all, this is supposed to be a fun hobby, right? There’s always another race in the future…Like maybe the Portland Triathlon on September 22nd? An opportunity to swim (upstream) in the lovely, less-polluted-than-it-used-to-be-but-still-not-pristine Willamette River? Sounds good to me! I’ll keep you posted…

How To Win An Age-Group Award

I’m not an overly competitive person. Sometimes, during a race, I’ll see someone running a few yards ahead of me, and contemplate passing them. I’ll even accelerate a little. Then, when my legs start to burn and I’m breathing a little fast, I’ll think, “Nah, not worth it.” I’m just missing that killer instinct that the great competitive runners have. Also, the speed. I’m definitely missing the speed.

I’m not particularly concerned with where I finish in the standings most of the time, either, as long as I gave the race my best effort. I like to see improvement in my times, but I don’t care too much for my ranking. I have, however, lucked into a few age-group awards, which were a nice ego boost for me…There’s something about a colorful ribbon that is satisfying in a different way than seeing a new PR on the race results sheet. When people congratulate me on an age-group placing, though, I usually feel obligated to explain why I didn’t really deserve it…or try to convince them that they, too, could win one without necessarily being super fast. So I’ll share them with you, too: my tips for taking home an age group award.

1. Pick a race with a small field. I avoid the mega-races, and it’s not because I won’t place in them; huge throngs of people just freak me out a little. Plus, it’s hard to find parking. I prefer a race with 150 or 200 people, which feels more friendly and personal to me. And it definitely improves the odds.

2. Pick a race that’s called a Fun Run, or even better, a Run/Walk. If it’s a Fun Run, you can hope most people aren’t taking it too seriously…Put your game face on, and you might beat some of the more casual runners. If it’s a Run/Walk, and you run it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to finish ahead of a big part the field, drastically improving your chances of placing!

3. Pick a race where they give age-group awards 6 deep. The race’s website usually mentions this, since people really like taking home awards! (Pretty ribbons…I want more pretty ribbons!) Races sponsored by local running clubs are great for this…And the entry fees are usually pretty affordable, too.

4. If all else fails, be really old. Or really young. In my most recent 5K, there was one runner in the 80+ category. He won first place. There were two in the 75-79. Even the last-place guy could claim a top-2 finish! Also, the 10-14 year-old category tends to be sparsely populated. (Though if you’re reading this blog, good luck getting there again! Better to just stick with your running program, and know that when you hit 70, your competition will thin out considerably.)

This is all for fun, by the way. Except for an elite few who have the God-given talent to be really fast, most of us should be focused on our personal goals, not beating other people. But it’s really hard to get your nonrunner friends excited about the fact you just beat your 5K PR by 10 seconds…Better to just show them a pretty ribbon. Take a picture, post it on Facebook, and wait for the congratulations to start rolling in!

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