Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stanford Treeathlon Race Report (and Weekly Update)

Race Report: Stanford Treeathlon, Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Stanford Treeathlon was my second ever triathlon: a sprint event in Redwood City, California.  The course was a 500 meter (a little over 1/4 mile) swim in a protected inlet off of the San Francisco Bay, three lollipop-shaped loops totaling 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) of  bike, and a 5K run (about 3.1 miles) around the outside of the office park.  The course is flat, which was a good thing.

This race, for me, was more about the mental challenge than the physical challenge, which is why I think it was hard for me to write about it right away.  My first race was different:  I wanted to finish, hopefully in less than 2 hours; I was completely amped for the experience and had trained as hard as was possible for me.  It was a race geared toward women, especially women who were new to the sport of triathlon.  I wanted to have fun.  In the Treeathlon, I'd hoped to finish better than I had in my first race, or at least under 2 hours.  I hadn't trained quite as intensely, but I felt like I'd at least kept up my level of fitness over the winter.  I wanted to have fun again.  It was a race primarily for collegiate athletes and secondarily for age group participants; while appropriate for new triathletes, that wasn't its primary focus.  So overall, I was happy to have raced to the best of my ability, to have not gotten injured, and to not have been TOO sore the next day!  But I also felt somewhat humbled by this race as well.

Oh my gosh, did we luck out, weather-wise!  It's been very rainy this winter, but the day dawned clear and bright.  I think this race would have been a difficult one to do in the rain, especially given the swim.

I popped up a little after 5 a.m., just before the alarm clock, and liberally applied my BodyGlide as I dressed.  I gulped down some coffee and a few leftover protein pancakes for breakfast, and then I loaded the car.  The previous evening, I'd packed what I thought was everything I needed, but I neglected a few items: sunscreen, sunglasses.  Luckily I didn't end up needing the sunglasses, and I didn't get sunburned (miracle + application of the SPF 25 BodyGlide to exposed parts), but good to note for next time.  The night before, I'd asked Mr. Handsome & Handy to take the rear light off my bike, but he felt it was on there securely enough, so we let it be.  I had a hard time getting to sleep, and I kept waking up in the night: a typical night-before-race sleep, in other words.  The Opposite Family bowed out of attending this one, given the early hour and that there wasn't much for the kids to do at the race site for 5 hours.

I arrived a little before 7 a.m., just before transition opened.  The race was due to start at 9 a.m., but I'm glad I got there early and got the essentials taken care of: trip to the portables (only 6 for about 600 people!), body marking, chip pick-up.  (Packet pickup had been the day before, at the race location this year, which was great; I'm not familiar with Stanford campus, and having it at the race site allowed me to see what it was like.)  I assembled my transition area and chatted with some of the other people.  I was surprised by the number of first-time triathletes...I also saw some purple Team in Training jerseys and thought of the folks on Team Shrinking Jeans!  I went for a little walk. (Good move #1: having driven our van with its camping toilet in the back!) When I got back, my bike was parked under the rack.  Turns out that the rack had collapsed!  It's probably one of the few times that I was glad I didn't have an expensive racing bike.  I verified with a race official that it was okay to leave it there, propped up by its kick stand.

Around 8 a.m., I started putting on the wetsuit.  It went much more smoothly than in the store, probably because it was a cool morning.  Maybe the cooking spray on legs and arms helped, too, although I'd read that it was more for helping get it off easier later.  (Good move #2:  bringing rubber gloves for the cooking spray application step.  This left my hands grease-free for the wetsuit tug-of-war.)  I'd been worried that I wouldn't be able to find someone to help zip me up, but that didn't turn out to be a problem, and I was able to return the favor.

8:30 a.m. was race meeting time.  Can I remember now what was said?  No.  Oh well.  I munched my South Beach peanut butter meal bar and milled around some more.  At 8:45, most folks started heading over to the swim start, because they announced transition area close at 9 a.m. sharp.  My wave wasn't due to go until 9:30, but it was still good to watch and learn.

(That's my eager face.)

Swim (22:54.2)
The swim was, in a word, really weird. I guess that's actually two words. The starting line is a short swim from the water entry point, and no wave was allowed to enter the water until the previous wave had started.  The collegiate athlete waves went first, followed by the men's age groups, and then all of the women age groups started in one wave.  I hung to the back, since I'm not very fast, and this is usually a good strategy for avoiding the scrum at the beginning of the swim.  This time, however, it backfired.  The boat ramp into the water was very narrow, and it took awhile for everyone to get in.  The wave was started while several of us were still about halfway to the starting point!  The woman in the starting boat tried to be encouraging, "You're only behind about 30 seconds!"  I didn't much care for that, but tried to shrug it off with an "oh well."  (I read some reviews on, and several folks were hoppin' mad about the awkward start.)

The water was cold, as advertised, but not as bad as I was expecting, since I had the wetsuit on.  It was salty (bleck!) and it was hard to keep my face in the water; it hurt my face to keep it in more than 6 strokes or so.  My rental wetsuit was a Blueseventy, and it worked great.  I felt like I couldn't sink in this thing.  And it wasn't just buoyant, it was buoyant in the right places; it felt easier to swim front crawl with good form.  The suit was definitely not made for breast stroke or side stroke, though.  But in general, I felt lucky that it worked so well, as I had never before swum in a wetsuit.  (Trying new things on race day seems to be a pattern for me.)  The swim felt easier as I got warmed up, and then there was the exit:  strapping young college folks hauled each person out of the water by his or her armpits.  They probably got a harder workout than the triathletes that day!  I did the trick of unzipping a little to let some water in, but I think I over did it, because there was a lot of water in my suit.  I was pulled out and flopped onto the dock like the "catch of the day," and by the direction of volunteers I staggered up the ramp rather than across the dock and back into the drink.  The swim time included an approximately 250 m jog to the transition area, in bare feet over pavement.  Glad it was a winter morning!  (They let us use shoes on the walk out to the start, which was a half-mile walk, much of it on gravel.  Apparently, aqua shoes are considered "flippers" and disallowed in USAT sanctioned events.  Made me wonder whether an athlete with diabetes would get an exception for wearing footwear during the swim, given the danger of complications from foot injuries, but I forgot to ask an official.  Volunteers did a good job of sweeping the course and covering the rough parts, so I wasn't worried.)

T1: Swim to Bike (6:36.7)
I didn't want to damage the rental wetsuit or have it get trampled, so I planted my rear on the ground and neatly folded the thing up and put it in its bag.  I sipped my coconut water, powdered the grit off my feet, donned running tights and shoes (I don't have clipless pedals, so no special shoes needed), and slipped on the hydration backpack with water + electrolyte tablets.  About the only thing I didn't do was powder my nose and apply lipstick.  A race?  Oh, that's right!  I'm racing!  On to the bike....

Bike (52:03.5)

Most people were already on the run by the time I exited transition, but there were a fair number on their bikes when I started...not so much by my 3rd loop.  During the swim, I felt a bit deflated by the start, but intently focused on getting to the docks.  The bike left me with a little too much time to think.  With all those fancy race bikes, with everyone whipping past, I spent a little too much time with my brain tuned in to, as author Anne Lamott aptly describes it (don't have the book handy, so this isn't a precise quote), "the radio station KFKD."  A lot of the bike was spent replacing thoughts of  "Everyone here is younger and faster than me" with "Run your own race", "This is hard" with "Just think how much harder it would be in the rain," "I suck at this" with "So what? You rock for just doing it," and "Why on earth am I doing triathlons?" with "For the fun of it!  This is still fun...right?  RightHellooooo-oooo?"   

Will I ever be able to do a bike leg without *dropping* something?!?  In my last race, I ended up losing half the contents of my purse across the road, and having to stop and pick up hotel card key, lip balm, and the like.  This time, I was in the 2nd loops, when I heard a crack! and saw something bounce off to the side of the road.  *sigh*  I stopped, and one of the police officers trotted over and handed me the back light on my bike with a friendly smile.  It took another minute or two to find a gap in the riders and get back on the course.

On the other hand, the hydration backpack was great:  no fumbling with the bottle.  I think I put it together wrong and that it leaked, though.  Definitely handy on the bike ride.

I did a lot of cheering on other people in the 3rd loop.  Not sure if they considered it obnoxious or pleasant that someone going the other way was cheering them on with a hearty "Way to go!"  I kind of like it myself when other racers cheer each other one, but it felt a little awkward.  I'm still wondering if I can pull it off myself.

The course had its pluses and minuses.  On the one hand, by doing loops, I knew what to expect for 2/3 of the course.  On the other hand, it was starting to get a little bit dull.  It was completely flat, but there were several sharp turns that required people to slow down considerably.  I rode hard, for me, but my time was a lot slower than last time.  With all the spin classes, I thought this would have improved, but real biking is quite a lot different, about 1.5 minutes per mile different.  My bike is a hybrid bike, circa 1991.  (19 years old!  Holy cow, I didn't even think about that until just now.)  It's 30 pounds, with nubby mountain bike-style tires, so I'm definitely doing a lot of work on this part of the race.  I can't help but wonder whether using a road bike would improve my time, and if so, by enough to want to make the investment in one.

T2: Bike to Run (2:32.1)
The advantage of not having to change shoes is that I can cruise right through T2.  Given the rack problems, I figured I'd just park my bike with its kickstand.  I kicked it down, and realized that half of the thing had fallen off at some point without my having noticed. *blush*.  I flipped the bike upside down and trotted off to run.  The disadvantage of having a long, rectangular transition area is that one spends a little more time in transition.

Run (33:33.6)
The run went well, although it sure didn't feel like it at first.  By this time, the course was pretty empty, but I focused on just running my own race, puffing a friendly "hey" to the few other runners left, enjoying getting the feeling back in my legs, and checking out the view.  I think next time, I will ditch the hydration pack: its "slosh slosh slosh" sound made me feel grateful that I didn't feel the urge to take a bio break!  On the other hand, I didn't need to slow down at the water stations.  I felt, by about halfway, that I was really hitting my stride on the run.  I felt awful about passing this one woman; she was wiry, in great shape, and I couldn't help but wonder if she felt that it was a little unfair, that someone who hadn't taken as good of care of herself as she obviously had was passing her in the run.

Then there it was!  The finish line!  I did "quick-feet" across the parking lot and to my intense relief, crossed just shy of 2 hours!  WOO HOO!!!  Total race time was 1:57:40.1.

Ah, all done!  I wandered over and grabbed half a banana and smeared it with peanut butter, then noticed all the empty pizza boxes piled behind the table.  Oh well, missed the pizza feed.  I wandered over to the transition area, and I noticed volunteers were about halfway done with tearing it down.  Now that made me a little seemed disrespectful to people still on the course.  There weren't many, but they were out there.

The last finisher was a large guy sporting a purple Team in Training jersey.  At my last race, I had missed the ritual honoring of the last finisher, so I was glad to cheer and whistle as they announced the final finisher coming into the home stretch.  He even skipped for part of it.  "That," I thought to myself, "is the attitude you need for these things."

I did manage to get someone to snap my post-race photo; I packed up, happily consumed a chocolate Jay Bar (mmmm...tasty!), checked out the preliminary results that were posted, and headed home.


Links to Official Photos
I can't quite believe that I'm sharing these links.  However, children and adult-onset triathleticism have robbed me of my modesty.  These links will expire on May 28, 2010, so if you're morbidly curious, check them out!

wetsuit dorkfest 1     wetsuit dorkfest 2     gah, I look so dorky in a wetsuit!
bike (I rather like this one)
run 1     run 2     run 3

Race Geek Stuff
According to the official results, I was 10th of 10 in my age group (40-44); 78/83 overall of the female age group racers. I was nearly a half hour behind the 9th/10 in my age group, but I don't feel too badly about that: the 40-44 group rocked!  All but one was in the top 50 overall, and 3 were in the top 20 women's age group finishers.  Even more cool?  There were 3 women 60 and older racing, and two of the three beat my times handily.  Yeah, I want to be them when I grow up.

I spent a little time analyzing the See Jane Tri vs. the Treeathlon.  I know you can't really compare apples to oranges, but I really wanted to see if I'd declined, improved, or stayed the same.  Given the following, I'd have to say that I stayed pretty much the same, possibly declined a bit.  I know I didn't train nearly as hard for the Tree as I did for SJT.  (I also didn't do a 5K race with a 5K run/walk trek back to my car the weekend before the SJT, so that might have come into play also.)
+10:52 swim (Treeathlon course was +100 m, with an extra swim out to the start and a 250m jog to transition; at SJT, we emerged from the lake right into the transition area.)
+2:04 T1 (In Treeathlon, the wetsuit removal and putting on running tights took a little extra time)
+7 minutes on bike (+1.4 mile, but Tree was a totally flat course vs. a couple of wicked hills in the SJT.  Both times involved a stop to pick up dropped stuff.  SJT had a stoplight we all had to stop at, too, and a moment where I pulled off to let the crowd behind me pass after it.  Tree course had some tighter turns that needed slowing down for considerably.)
+1:10 T2 (No kickstand and flimsy rack; had to flip the bike to park it.  Otherwise, not sure why it was slower in the Treeathlon, other than the transition area being a little bit longer.  Or I was slower jogging out.  Or both.)
-10:09 run (The only part where I went faster in the Tree.  Tree course was totally flat; SJT course was hilly and hotter, plus I paused a couple of times to call Mr. H&H about where I was on the course.)

So...What's Next?
Yes, I'm still having fun with this sport.  I definitely will do more sprint triathlons.  Sure, this one challenged me, but endurance events aren't just physical, and now I've experienced more of the mental challenge.  I'm looking at a couple of possibilities:  there's one in June in my town, but it's the same weekend as my kids' dance recital, in which we are heavily involved.  I'm also eyeing one in July in Lompoc, to combine with a family visit.

I also learned that athletic performance doesn't follow a linear path.  I'd hoped to get faster, so that I could progress to longer distance events, but I don't think I'm ready for Olympic distance (about double a sprint distance) this year.

I also learned that I want to figure out a way to share the fun; racing is a really rewarding experience for me.  It would be nice to race as a triathlon relay team with friends or family members.  (Any takers???)

And now, back to the regularly scheduled Weekly Update....

Progress This Week

7-day blood glucose average: 107 (met goal of less than 120)
7-day fasting blood glucose average: 112 (met goal of less than 120)

Weight goals: -1.2 pounds.

Food goals: I started tracking again yesterday.  I've heard that the intuitive approach works well for many people, but my weight has been creeping more than I'd like.  I also had a fasting blood glucose level of 119 on Tuesday morning, and while I could try to pin the blame on the allowable 20% inaccuracy of blood glucose meters or stress or something, I think it has more to do with pre-bedtime snacking on Monday night (nuts, 6 raisins, and some ham and cheese, so we're not talking a Twinkie binge here, but I'd had dinner earlier and really didn't need it).  The "what" I'm eating isn't so bad, but the "how much" is what gets out of hand, as well as the eating when I'm not hungry.  So it's back to tracking, if only to make myself think twice about shoveling in more nuts.  (Because then I'd have to add it to the log, and that's too much work. ;-P)

Fiber: Not tracked. Eating pretty much the same things as usual, so I'm probably averaging about 25-30 grams/day.

Exercise goals: I did 5 days of at least 30 minutes/day. I met my goal of 2 strength sessions (not of equal duration, but I'm happy to have fit in a little bit of strength stuff on another day of the week), and I logged over 20 miles (thank you, spin class!).  I suspect that after a week and a half of primarily walking, a hard spin class and a long (for me) run was not the most brilliant idea, but it did feel kind of good to push myself a little harder.
Total mileage for the week was 31.57 miles.
Wednesday - 60 minutes, BodyPump class
Thursday - 60 minutes walking (2 miles), 15 minutes on stationary bike at home (3 miles)
Friday - 40 minutes (1.91 miles) walking
Saturday - 15 minutes strength; arms and abs with 10 pound dumbells
Sunday - 30 minutes (.4 mile) stroll with family and friends
Monday - 60 minutes (20 miles), spin class at gym
Tuesday - 52 minutes (4.26 miles), combo running and walking on treadmill at gym

Sleep: 7 hours just doesn't seem like enough sometimes...

Goals for Next Week

7-day blood glucose average goal and fasting numbers: below 120.
Weight goal: Maintain or make progress toward goal.

Food goals:  Back to tracking, and working on getting more veggies in there. 
Track fiber. Eat the usual suspects (veggies, chia, dry roasted edamame, nuts) and go for a minimum 30 grams fiber/day. (Include both insoluble and soluble sources.)

Exercise goals:
* 30 minutes of activity 5 days/week.
* 20 miles minimum distance.
* 2 strength sessions (BodyPump + something on my own)

Misc. goals:
7 or more hours sleep/night.


Lori said...

Ahhh!!!!!!!! What an awesome recap! I love your eager face, too :D

Bravo to you doing the race. And that woman at the end? Maybe she was just so happy to be finishing herself. You never can tell by how someone looks on the outside what they are physically capable of doing. It's sometimes the opposite you might expect.

Pubsgal said...

Thanks, Lori! I thought of you when I drank my coconut water, because I remembered that was something you used during your tri, too. You know, I almost left that passing-guilt part out, but I really wanted to capture all the nutty things going on in my mind during that race.

Fattie Fatterton said...

And I want to be YOU when I grow up. Damn, girl, you rock!! :D

Hilarious recap, esp. the part about apply lipstick and powdering your nose.

You must feel SO great!

Sagan said...

You... you... wow. You're my hero!

That was definitely one of the most well-written race re-caps I've ever read. And I love that the last guy skipped at the end! That really IS the attitude to have, in everything we do.

So much about sports and exercise is the mental aspect. We are capable of so much more than we think we are, physically; it's MENTALLY pushing ourselves that's the tricky part.

debby said...

I am in complete awe of you for competing in these triathlons. Complete! And with all the little setbacks that you just kept going.

And your writing is wonderful...I just totally enjoyed the whole 'story.'

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

Dammmmmwoman....You're a powerhouse (and a captivating writer). Re: your bike, you're probably right that a road bike would probably improve your time. I have a hybird, and even though it's lightweight, those road bikes pass me like butter in a frying pan on the trails (which is ok because the guys attached to those bikes are fun to watch ride away...if you know what I

Anyway, loved the photos. The wetsuit lady and the bike lady look like two different people, but each one captured your personality and tenacity. I hope you're going to buy them!

Brooke said...

oh where do i start on this post. you sound like me on the bike. i've already started telling myself i have no business doing a tri.

the last finisher made me cry. oh to be that care free! i'd probably sob crossing the line last out of humiliation!

i agree the bike picture is a great one!! :)

woot on meeting all your goals and weight loss!

Christie O. said...

wow. girl, what a race recap! amazing amazing job. congratulations!!! i LOVE your wetsuit photos, i look and feel like a big dork in mine! we all looked like a bunch of wet seals when we took a picture. anyhoo, so many congrats. (i do think a roadbike ROCKS and is a whole nother world, but that's just me. :p) i'm so glad you're stickin with it! it's so so much fun!

there was a guy speaking at my tri meeting last night. he was talking about some of the things that happen to the elite triathletes and not to the "run of the mill triathlete", and quickly corrected himself to say, "although your run of the mill triathlete is still a million notches of crazy above the run of the mill person." LOL you triathlete you.

Anonymous said...

I love reading your race recaps. You are cracking me up with the dorky wetsuit photos (does ANYONE look good in a bathing cap???), but more importantly, you look FIERCE and ATHLETIC in your biking and running pics! Way to go!

Pubsgal said...

*blush* Thanks, everybody! I sure appreciate the comments. I think that's more than half of why I enjoy doing triathlons, is because they're fun to write about.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading every word of this recap - way to go - and under TWO HOURS!

I agree with tearing down the course - my sister did the Chicago marathon one year and by the time she got to mile 17, they had already removed all the water and food stations!

Glad you stuck around to cheer on the last runner - that is a great attitude!