Saturday, September 6, 2014

Two Triathlons in Two Weeks + Two Days


Then two weeks and two days later, I finished my second triathlon. How did that happen?

I trained for my first 10k, half marathon, and full marathon (see race recaps) with good friends in graduate school, who fairly quickly followed those accomplishments by completing several triathlons. I wasn't interested at the time, as I wasn't that into swimming and biking pretty much served to get me to campus and back on Jersey's less humid days. But I thought well, if they can do it, I can do it. I just prefer to RUN.

Then I moved to Los Alamos, where a crazy high percentage of local friends have done the Los Alamos Triathlon, the oldest continuously running triathlon. A large percentage of that group does half or full Ironman races. When one is immersed in this environment (or just deprived of oxygen for long enough up here), one starts to think, "You know, I really do need to try a tri."

First step? Start swimming once or twice a week. I had breathing issues and mild panic attacks in the water at first, but I built up slowly (and made sure I never forgot my inhaler). Once I made it up to more than four up-and-back laps of the long course (50m), I knew that leg would be fine. Plus, I learned to love my 6:30am mornings at the aquatic center. Such a refreshing way to start the day!

Second step: Get a decent bike. I had my heavy hybrid commuter bike from NJ, which stinks the most on these mountain-town hills. I had a Lotus road bike from 1984 that my sweet friend Jenn helped me tune up, which worked for me for a while, until one too many things needed fixed. Other friends combed Craigslist for me and helped me find an excellent deal on a pretty Scott Contessa (her name is Scotty [she beams me places]).

Third step: Actually ride the bike. I am not very good at it! I have these phenomenal cyclist friends, though, who teach me so much. They've patiently ridden with me to Bandelier or the Back Gate up these horribly long hills (which happen to be part of the tri course), done emergency work on it two days before the race, and given me lots of shifting tips. To be honest, I never felt that the bike leg would be fine. Once I realized that I might have to FIX SOMETHING on my bike during the race, I almost panicked. Beholden to a machine for race success/completion? Please just hand me my running shoes and set me free.

Fourth step, speaking of: just keep running. Not a problem. I'll never win for speed, but I'll keep moving.

All the way along, I had my friend Linda, from the Atomic City Roadrunners pace races. While she's been swimming and biking for a lot longer than I have, this was her first tri, too, so we obsessed about what to wear (we didn't want to buy special clothes without knowing if we liked it), what to have in transition, how to do transitions, and whether we'd be the worst ever (we probably weren't). 

40th Los Alamos Triathlon, August 16, 2014

The race was seriously so much fun. So chaotic. So hard, but I made all my goals (finish, have fun, be strong) and better than I predicted. 


Linda and I are marked up and ready to go!

The Los Alamos triathlon's order is bike (12.4 miles), swim (400m), run (5k). The mass start of bikes was pretty concerning, but I hung back until we spread out and settled in for a difficult ride. I wouldn't say it was all fun…but it was exciting! I know a lot of fast people, so I got many encouraging smiles and words when they passed me on their way back. I couldn't keep the smile off my face when I got to the top of the final hill coming back on the bike and had almost two miles of downhill to the transition area--I built up so much speed! I was so relieved: my bike had no mechanical issues!!!

Thanks to Lori for the pictures!

Transition 1 was fine--a friend was there cheering and followed me over to my spot, encouraging me while I changed. I stripped down to my swimsuit, threw on my goggles and swimcap, and jogged into the aquatic center. I couldn't catch my breath for the first 100m, but settled into a rhythm for the final 300m and thought, "Dude, I'm actually doing this…" I passed one person and got passed by one. Another worry was totally fine: no panic attacks! It was over quickly, then I climbed out and jogged back to my transition area (grabbing some water on the way from a nice volunteer). 

Transition 2 was more awkward, because pulling spandex shorts over wet legs? Yeah...this is why people spend the big(ish) bucks on a tri suit. :) I will invest in one for next year. My friend was there again for encouragement and laughed when I got out my inhaler ("You and me, sittin' in transition, takin' hits off our drugs!"). I had spray-on sunscreen to reapply, but I was so excited to run that I left it off. Ah well--I was done by 9am, so hopefully I didn't do too much damage. 

All ready to run! I'm so happy to have one sport left!

The run was THE BEST. My legs felt very heavy and I couldn't physically move faster than I was going, but the volunteers were terrific (a friend had a cowboy hat on and was shaking a cowbell with the most enthusiasm EVER). There was shockingly only one real hill on this route, and I thought to myself, "well, I could say I ran the entire thing, or I could honestly get a better time by walking fast up the hill and recuperating a bit." So I walked that hill! The gal in front of me ran the whole way, but the distance between us actually decreased while I was walking. I chose well. From the turn-around, it was pretty much all downhill or flat, and I started to feel better, so I picked up speed. The last 0.5 miles were really painful for my quads, but I managed to sprint across the finish line!

Tony, Jessica, Linda

It was an amazing experience and everyone was so nice. I knew several of the winners (overall/age group/team), which was fun, too. It's such a sweet little local race (there were 131 finishers this year). We stayed for most of the award ceremony, enjoying Cokes (which I never feel like, but it sounded perfect) and bagels. 

My time was 1:50:42 overall. Bike (12.4 miles): 58:12, T1: 1:53, swim (400m): 13:49, T2: 2:58, run (5k) was 33:48. :)

Las Campanas Compadres Mini-Triathlon, September 1, 2014

I'm not sure I had even finished my bagel when Linda said, "I found another tri. Let's do it." After a tiny bit of skepticism, I admitted that I couldn't think of a compelling argument against it, so I signed up for the Labor Day mini-triathlon (even shorter than the LA sprint tri) in the beautiful Las Campanas neighborhood of Santa Fe. 

Bear in mind: our pool closed after the tri for a three-month renovation, so we couldn't swim again before the race. But it was only 200yds in a short-course pool. That's totally flail-able. I also took about four days off of everything, except hiking, when my sister visited. Malish. 

At least I felt that chill about it for a week, and then I got a nervous. But it was too late to do much, because I didn't want to overdo it. Oh well. It was just for fun.

And we got great swag!

This one was in the regular triathlon order, of swim (200yds), bike (11.4 miles), run (5k). That meant that transitions were all new to me again. I got there super early, though, and was able to set up without feeling rushed.  USAT apparently makes you run in the group for the age you'll be at the END of the year, which means I ran in 30-34. I am looking forward to turning 30, actually, but having a huge 3-0 in sharpie on my calf was a bit depressing. I'm still 2-9, people. Let me have my last month and a half in my 20s.

We both enjoyed singing the national anthem with the crowd at the start, and were only mildly confused by the athlete briefing.

This is my mildly confused face.
The swim was once again in a pool. A very small, four-lane, 25-yards-long pool. They had us estimate a swim time when we registered, numbered us from fast to slow, and started everyone ten seconds apart. I was skeptical, but the wait wasn't too bad. I was the 85th out of about 180 people to start. Once in the pool, I noticed that a) it was salt water, b) it was at maximum depth only five feet, and c) it was insanely choppy. I swallowed so much water. Again, I passed one person and got passed once, so even though I predicted 6:49 and swam it in 5:04, it was successful! 

Transition 1 was pretty slow. I was a little out of it--I pulled my spandex shorts on halfway, then sat down on the gravel, then put my socks and shoes on, then stood up and pulled the shorts on all the way. That's not how I planned it, exactly. But it worked. I did feel bad for getting some dirt on my neighbor's towel--notes for next time. Soon I was off biking, and MAN did it feel good!


The course was a huge loop around Las Campanas, and started off blissfully downhill and then had really easy rolling hills for the first half or so. The uphills got a bit worse near the middle, but I kept reminding myself that they're all shorter than the ride to the Back Gate from the Los Alamos tri. We got this, legs. Keep pedaling. The views were fantastic--mountains at every horizon, bright blue skies, red dirt, green scrub.

Transition 2 was amazing. 36 seconds. I just had to drop off my bike, remove my helmet and gloves, throw on a hat, and go. 

This run wasn't the most best. It was an out-and-back course that was uphill all the way out, and my legs missed that little swim break they got in the LA tri! Right off the bike is hard! I had really given it my all on the bike, too! I hadn't done any bricks that were bike-run, because my training was for bike-swim and swim-run legs, and this was a surprise race. So the legs were in shock for a little while.

Still, I sure enjoyed it. It was pretty, people at my pace are really friendly for the most part, and one of my favorite race pictures ever happened:
HIGH FIVE! Or something... 
Yes. Linda and I remember successfully high-fiving, but you wouldn't know by checking the photos.

I had enough in me to flat-out sprint to the finish, received my fancy medal, wolfed down some oreos, and scarfed a breakfast burrito. 


 We stayed for the kids' race (so presh) and awards. Good thing, because Linda won first in her age group!! Amongst my fellow 30-34 year olds (NOT 30 YET), I was first or second in the bike (one person doesn't have a time listed), last in the swim, fourth in the run, and fourth overall, out of six women. Not too shabby! I plan to work extra hard on swimming this winter.

Final numbers: overall 1:26:11, swim (200yds): 5:40 (faster pace than LA), T1: 3:07, bike (11.4 miles): 42:53 (faster pace than LA), T2: 0:36, run (5k): 34:28 (slower pace than LA).

next year!

I want to bike with clip-ins, buy and wear a tri-suit, do a sprint tri with an open water swim, and if and only if I like all that, maybe try an Olympic distance. :)

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