About Me

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Austin, Texas, United States
I'll make you laugh, or break my neck trying. This is usually accomplished with daily bouts of swimming, biking and running. A former "chub-a-holic," I got fit and healthy the good old fashioned way and went from a mid-pack athlete to top age group runner and triathlete. I'm a Writer and USAT Level 1 Certified Triathlon Coach. I guess that makes me part Tina Fey and part Jillian Michaels. Visit my coaching site at www.fomotraining.com

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Oceanside 70.3 Recap- (A.K.A. "Yay! I Finished a Major Race with a Smile on My Face!"

I can't believe I made it. No, seriously. I can't believe I made it to the start AND the finish line of this race. Since last Fall, I've had to bail out of the Redman Half-Ironman in September 2009, the California International Marathon in December 2009 and Ironman St. George next month. Three major races...Three "Do Not Starts." Too much hip pain and the ever-frustrating knowledge that even rest wasn't making it better. I needed this race for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I needed a goal and something to keep my mind and body active while I weighed the pros and cons of injections, surgery or a lifestyle change to knitting.  Second, I needed this race as a vacation and an example to my brother-in-law. He had signed up for this event--his second triathlon EVER last year. We signed up for our own benefit, of course, but it was also a family bonding thing. We wanted to be there to support him and race with him. Thirdly, I needed it for ego. Yep, I admit it. I wanted to feel relevant and capable. So many of my friends are out there training and I didn't want to be left behind to wither away on the couch. Sad, but true. Plus, we have all of these blingy toys like fancy bikes, wetsuits, sponsors and computrainers and I didn't want to watch them gather dust. (Now I know what it must be like being a washed-up pop star trying to remain relevant. I won't mention any names.)

So, just getting to Oceanside and feeling healthy going into the race was monumental for me. For the last month or so (pretty much when I decided to have surgery), my hip joint has been feeling decent. Ironically, the "healthy" hip and knee have been squeaking a little louder than usual. Can you say "over compensation?" When I have massages (like every week right now), I really have them focus on my psoas, illiacus, low back and hip flexors. Basically, they massage the muscles that make my legs move! This seems to have helped loosen things up a bit. I also think hitting yoga 3-4 times a week is helping as well because I'm working on strength and blood flow to the joints-not just a constant pounding and grinding from running and cycling. Regardless, life was good when our plane finally touched down in Orange County.

So, a few days prior to the race I outlined some feasible expectations based on...well...nothing, really. They were basically goals that I wanted to hit, but not sure if I could. I guess I was predicting them on a combination of what I've done in the past  (sometimes a mistake especially on an unknown course), my training levels and confidence (or lack thereof), and how I had been feeling lately. I feel like my training has been minimal the last several months. No "real" run workouts to speak of...No track, no hills, just running.  My cycling has been mostly indoor training rides with a couple of outdoor rides (and one small duathlon) thrown in to prove that I still knew how to switch gears. Basically, I had no idea what I was in for, but I'm certainly glad I chose this scenic backdrop.

First of all, the race site and location is phenomenal. I mean, seriously, right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean near San Diego. Both the bike and run had sweeping views of the ocean. Of course, the swim did too because we were IN the ocean...Actually, we were in the calm harbor which made it even better! No major waves to deal with, but still plenty of salt water to swallow.

Race conditions were great--cool morning, high in the mid 70s, sunshine...Let's do this. 

Water temps on race day?  OFFICIALLY 58 DEGREES! Yowsa. I ended up wearing wax in my ears and three swim caps. You know what?? It worked! The water didn't feel that bad--especially after I peed in my wetsuit while we were waiting for the gun to fire. Oh c'mon. You've done it too!  We swam out to a buoy and then treaded water until the gun went off. I kinda liked the deep water start, but that was the only time I got cold...the waiting...the countdown...and finally...THE AIRHORN! I guessed somewhere between 34-36 min as a goal and came in at 38:06...I'm cool with that because the swim is just so unpredictable depending on how many times I get kicked in the head, how strong the current is and how close I swim to the buoys or draft. As usual, I ended up swimming by myself for a while and losing the pack. I could see them when I would breathe, but I just seemed to be swimming in my own space. I ended up 33rd out of 88th in the swim, which is so much better than I used to be. Seriously, being in the Top 50% is where I always dreamed of being because I am so piss-poor at swimming. While I'm still just average (ok--a little better than average at this race), the important thing is that I feel good when I get out of the water. I'm not expending as much physical and mental energy as I used to trying to survive. I'm very calm and comfortable with breathing every 3-5 strokes once I get going. I used to have to breathe every other stroke just so I wouldn't die. So, for that, I'm happy to be where I am with swimming. I'm calm, comfortable and mediocre. 

Coming into transition on the run...Excuse the copyright watermark on the photo! The proofs were JUST emailed. Always a sense of relief and, "Let the real race begin!"

T1 4:38
It's a long run up to and through transition, which is huge. 2500 bikes that all pretty much look the same when your heart rate is sky high. Of course, my bike was somewhere in the middle of it all! No official wetsuit strippers, but plenty of volunteers in transition to help with whatever. I actually did have a volunteer rip off my wetsuit for me. Heck yeah, I did. I was pretty calm in transition and took time to actually put on a long sleeve pull-over and gloves since it was still pretty chilly that morning. Probably not necessary, but the 30 extra seconds gave me peace of mind...and a reason to throw the gloves away later.

Leaving for the bike portion in my winter-weather gear!

What an interesting course! I had practiced this course on the Comptrainer numerous times, but it's always so different when you are actually in the midst of it all! The Computrainer just basically makes you feel like the one dimensional mountain climber from the "Price is Right" game (cue music). Nothing can prepare you for the actual ocean views, twists, turns, breeze and eventual hills that come along with this 56-mile ride.

This is embarrassing to admit, but my best effort on the Computrainer was an average of 15 mph. So, going into the race, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to average 15mph or 20mph. Based on last year's results (I always look at other people's times), I didn't think 20 mph was feasible for me, so I just randomly said I'd like to average between 18-19mph.  Guess what? I ended up average 18.4 mph. Not bad, eh?  The course is challenging because the first 25 miles or so are relatively flat, but windy. The temptation is to fly, but you also are aware that 15 miles of hill climbs are coming once you enter Camp Pendleton. So, the challenge then becomes riding comfortably hard, but saving energy for the hills and the ride back to transition. I was averaging 20.0mph when I hit the hills. I could've gone faster, but at what cost? It was definitely an 80-85% effort.  I had no idea how much I would lose in the process of the climbs. Turns out, it was a fair amount. There are three pretty major climbs and one of them is laugh-out-loud steep. You see it coming from about 1/ 2 mile away. It's like knowing you're going to get hit. You see it coming and all you can do is say a silent prayer and brace yourself.  The great thing about going so slow on the Computrainer is that the hill climbs on the computer seemed endless. I had in my mind that I would be climbing this bastard of a hill for 10 minutes. In actuality, the climb was much faster. Thank goodness.  Grown men were walking their fancy $5,000 bikes in their aero helmets. I wanted to say HTFU, but I couldn't really breathe. This was the first test of my right leg. It felt weaker and more stiff than the left, but it didn't lock up on me.  As if the hills weren't bad enough, there was also a gusty wind blowing around. Grrr...wind AND hills. I will say this. The scenery was spectacular. We were on a very private Marine base on some of the most beautiful real estate in the country. Mountains, valleys, wildflowers, tanks, pistol ranges, helicopters, you name it. It was all there.   I left the "hill stage" averaging around 17.3. From 20 to 17.3 average. That's how slow some of the hills made me ride. 

Not sure where this was taken, but I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have been out of my saddle. Maybe I was doing it for photo effect of being a tough biker chick...Nah.

I've heard horror stories about the headwind on the last 10 miles, but Mother Mary had mercy on us because we had an awesome tailwind that I used as best I good to ride hard, fast and increase that average to where I wanted it to be. 

I said I wanted to finish around 3 hrs and I came in at 3:02, good for 26/88 in my age group. I passed a few beeotches in my age group and now it was time to see what my hip was going to do.

T2 3:12  Again, a long run into transition, but I could've sped it up a tad. I was just so damn happy to be off the bike!


Typical unflattering race photo that makes me look like an overweight dude. The white shorts aren't flattering either. At least I was passing people...and my Garmin looks like a PC on my arm!

Whoever said it was pancake flat kinda lied. It's more waffle-flat. On a normal run day, you wouldn't even feel the climbs. After 56 miles on the bike, you feel every step that takes you from beach level up to the neighborhoods. It was awesome seeing every type of person out on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon...spectators who were clearly there to enjoy the race, surfers who were too stoned to care, teenagers who just wanted to hang out in their bikinis and couldn't care less what we were doing, families on Spring Break, creepy guys with their bellies hanging out, drunk people watching from their balconies, kids running to and fro...It was a Saturday afternoon at the beach. What more can I say? My goal was to start between 8:15-8:30 pace and pick it up if and when I felt ready. Mile #1 7:42, Mile #2 7:45...I swear, it felt like I was running S-L-O-W. I very consciously was telling myself to ease off. It felt like I was, but I was still clocking sub 8:00s. By the half-way point, I was averaging around 7:48. I was starting to fade, but the hip was not locking up on me. I was just getting plain old tired.  Damn it. Just hang on. I looked at my watch and realized if I could continue to run sub 8:00s, I could break 5:30, which was not even on my radar prior to the race. Remember, I was just happy to strap on a race number at this point. Well, it didn't happen...The gas was running low and I was mentally giving myself permission to ease it in instead of pushing with all my might. Plus, I could feel a monster blister forming on the bottom of my foot. (see previous post for lovely pic) It was really starting to hurt to run at this point. The last few miles were in the 8:10-8:20 range, but how could I argue with a solid race performance?! (and a whopping 5 second PR).

I did the 13.1 miles in 1:44, which was 10th out of 88 in my age group. Take that, ladies. This gimpy old bag still has it. 

Finishing with a smile! The 6:22 time reflects when the pros started!

Mentally, it's probably the best race I've had in a long time. OK--so it's also the first long-course race I've had in a long time. A half-Ironman distance is so different than a full Ironman. The full Ironman is all about comfort, endurance and aerobic effort. The half for me is also about pushing those comfort zones. How long can I withstand the discomfort before my body says, "Enough." I have to say, I timed this one perfectly.

Official Time was 5:33:01 19th/88 in age group
See you in 2011 Oceanside!


As for Hubster and Bro-In-Law, they also both had great races! Shawn finished with a 6:27 (major PR for him) and Bro-In-Law finished and wasn't in last place :-)  At first he swore he would never do this again. By the next day, we were visiting local tri shops to get him on a proper tri bike. How quickly the mind can erase the pain!

Thanks Oceanside 70.3 for making me feel like an athlete again. I heard an interesting quote from someone on a triathlon podcast. He said something like, "I'm not a great swimmer, I'm not a great cyclist, and I'm not a great runner. However, when you put them all together, I'm a pretty decent triathlete."  I know what he means. We are the sum of our parts and I'm glad all my parts were working last weekend. 

They were working so good that I signed up for one more Half-Ironman before my May 19th surgery. Tempting fate?? You betcha. 


michelle said...

thanks for taking me along for the ride!! and yeah, I thought the same thing about your Garmin!

shubbe said...

You are such an amazing, inspirational badass. :)

amybee said...

congrats Carrie. I'm glad you are feeling better, kicking a$$ and taking names....

IronSnoopy said...

You're so friggin' fast! Congrats on such a great race. I'm glad you were able to get out there and tear it up!