Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ironman 70.3 California Race Report

Oceanside has been on my bucket list for a long time so being able to race it was a dream come true. Like many others, the main purpose for doing this race in the beginning was to judge how I was doing on my training so I could make any adjustments in the coming weeks leading up to Ironman St. George. This race always brings some of the most elite Pros and competition is stiff. When I signed up for the race I knew that a top 10 finish as a first year Pro would be a great accomplishment in itself. There were some that told me that I needed to be more selective in my races because finishing towards the back of the pack can be a morale crusher and mentally drain me for the rest of the season. I have a tendency to feed off of the competition and would prefer to take it head on. Plus, what a better way to see firsthand how my competition has been doing on their training. Git’R Done!

The weather forecast for the day was to be cloudy and cool with light winds. It was in the mid-50s at 5am as I made my way to drop off my run bag and set up T1 and there was a blanket of fog hanging heavy over the swim course. I was hoping for at least a little bit of sun during the race to keep things from being too cold.

The analogy “Trish is to water as a jellyfish is to a sandbox” probably paints a pretty good picture of how graceful I felt during this race. As I stood on the beach and listened to Mike Reilly as he counted down the start of the Pro men’s race, I could feel my heart jumping out of my chest. This was not my first rodeo, I’ve done this dozens of times yet I still can’t help but feeling the excitement and pre-race jitters that come with the uncertainty that lay ahead. My plan for the swim was simple…stay with the pack. I wasn’t trying to lead out of the water, just hang on their skirt tales it would help carry me through the rest of the disciplines. Seldom are races won because of the swim so I wasn’t going to gut myself to be first out of the water. The cannon sounded and we were off. I kept with the pack but then started to fall off little by little as we swam beyond the protection of the pier. Living in Idaho I don’t get much opportunity to swim in the ocean so I’m not experienced with swimming in swells and can say that the pace that Meredith was setting for the day didn’t help me much.

As I swam I was amazed at the comfort of the TYR Freak of Nature. This was my first race with this new suit and had only put it on for the first time 2 days earlier as I took it out for its maiden voyage. I was overwhelmed with how comfortable it was to wear. No hickey, no chaffing and no puckering. Were I to have named it I would called it my “Birthday Suit” because how natural it feels but since TYR opted to name it after me I’ll stick with the Freak of Nature.

In case anyone was curious, yes, the water was freezing. It felt a lot like swimming at the Boise 70.3 with temps in the mid-50s. If you don’t get out quick, your hands and feet go numb and then it’s like swimming with clubs. I couldn’t figure out how to swim and sight in those swells. It seemed like every time I was trying to sight I was in the bottom of a swell and couldn’t see and then it was a very overcast day so the light was flat which made it hard to see. The constant up-and-down motion made me nauseous and when I came out of the water I felt like I had just spent the week as a deckhand of one of the crab boats on Deadliest Catch. I had to focus myself to keep from dry heaving as I drug my frozen feet into T1. I felt like I was wearing mittens wrapped in duct tape as I attempted to put on some arm warmers. My hands were not functioning enough to buckle the chin strap on my helmet and as I ran out of transition the official told me I needed to buckle my helmet and that I needed to have my race number on. Dumbfounded I gave him a blank stare like I couldn’t understand what he was saying even though it was registering mentally. He resorted to hand gestures like I was playing a game of charades…discount double check…Aaron Rodgers…what? I knew I had buckled my chin strap and put on race belt during my transition but as I looked down it was not where to be found. I had to turn around, with my bike, and run all the way back to where it had fallen off. Then I couldn’t get my hands to work to buckle it so I just stuffed the end of the belt in my shorts so the bib would hang out and called it good. I was so cold my teeth were chattering like a 2-stroke engine with the throttle stuck wide open. With a 4 minute transition time I probably could have had stayed a couple more minutes for a pedicure.

Now on the bike I flailed along unable to feel what my legs were doing. Hoping that riding hard would help warm my core, it seemed like the faster I went the more the wind chilled me. I was still nauseous from the swim until about mile 20 but then there was this thing they kept talking about at the athlete meeting that they were calling “marine mist”. Not until I got onto the bike would I understand that this is what those of us in Idaho call fog. It was so heavy it was like someone standing in front of you with a spray bottle misting your face as you rode. The drizzle made the roadway slick and you had to remove your glasses just to be able to see. The heavy mist was dropping the temperature and I realized I was not dressed right for this kind of weather. I wanted to keep at least some of the girls within sight but you couldn’t see anything very far off with as heavy as the fog was. Since I was not able to pre-ride the course, I was essentially riding blind minus some information that I was told that the first 30 miles were extremely hilly. Well, I hit mile 30 and still hadn’t hit any “real” hills yet so I decided I had better pick up my purse, hike up my skirt and kick it in gear or I am going to freeze out here. I guess everybody’s interpretation of a hilly course is relative and what I had envisioned as a lot of hills were actually a couple of rollers in my book and in the end I didn’t ride hard enough on the entire bike.

One thing I really enjoyed about the bike, I bought a new pair of the Bontrager RXL Hilo Tri shoes. These are the nicest, most affordable cycling shoes I’ve worn. Whoever designed these must have done a couple of Tri’s in their day because there are many aspects that make these more of a Tri shoe and less of a roadie shoe. These are at least worth trying on. Yes, I said bought. I am not sponsored by Bontrager but like a lot of their products and these cycling shoes are top notch. George’s Cycles got a couple of pairs in before most of the Sales reps had some and of course they knew I’d be interested in a pair once they came in.

Coming into T2 I could tell I hadn’t worked hard enough on the bike and I was still freezing. I had to sit down to put my shoes on so I could physically watch my feet go into my shoes because I couldn’t feel them going in. I started out of T2 and figured I would give it a couple of miles to see how my body felt and in case you’ve never run with frozen feet, it actually hurts. I cruised along the course and did my best to ignore the perverted comments from spectators about my race number. How is it that I always end up with #69 or some combination of it? Even numbers people! I have to wear even numbers!

Crossing the finish line was one of the most anticipated of my career. As soon as I crossed the finish line I was wisped away to the medical tent where they had warm blankets waiting for me, apparently I looked as bad as I felt.

I want to give a speacial shout out to Adam Ster from masterbodyworker and his Fascial Stretch Therapy [FST]. FST is a unique stretching technique that focuses on lengthening the fascia, or connective tissues, that surrounds all structures of the body. By involving the body as a whole unit instead of individualized muscles it helps improve muscle strength and flexibility and decreased injuries. If  you remember, I introduced you to Adam in my ITU Long Course Worlds race report and once again he worked me into his busy schedule on Thursday, Friday, and then after the race on Saturday. It's amazing how good I feel after each session with Adam and his ability to repair injuries is worthy of athletes at every level. If you live in the San Diego area, it would be money well spent to get on Adam's client list.

All-in-all, a tough way to start off the first race of the season. The bright side is it can only get better from here, right? I'll definitely be back next year to give this course another go now that I've been here and am familiar with the course. I'm already working on my swim so that should only improve as this year progresses. I'll certainly bring something more insulating to wear on the bike that can be shed if temps get warmer and pre-riding or driving the course is a "must". I'll certainly come back and race the whole thing with a different strategy. I won't change my fueling, that was perfect! I had the best host family...Alexis, Charlie and Michael, thank you for putting up with me and my crazy ways.

Next up for me…Ironman St. George the first weekend in May. I enjoyed racing there 2 years ago and have been itching to get back for another go. I didn’t have one of my better races there so this season is redemption time.

One other thing I’ll change for next time, the day before the race TYR announced their latest creation to help you swim faster, the FastStache. I wasn’t able to get one before this weekend but now I’ve gotten the hookup and will be better prepared for the swim at St. George. Get more details on this innovative swim aide here.