Monday, May 16, 2011

Pacific Championships

I've been trying the XTERRA thing for a few go-rounds recently. Learning to swim has been no small feat, but finally I feel like I've got a little grasp on it and have been cranking out consistent times in the pool. It has certainly taken a toll. I can wake up at 5:00 and get my funky self to the pool before work, or get a good workout in before a ride on my off days...but how people actually train well for three sports and work full-time........let's just say running has fallen short lately. My plan for the Pacific Championships was to pull a decent swim, blaze it on the bike, and suffer through the run. Sorry, suffer fast through the run. At least, suffer fast enough to get first or second in my age group, and somewhere in the top 3 overall. It was a great, great idea, but I forgot the part about training to run if you want to Whoops.

I took Friday off from work and Benji and I headed north. First stop after crawling through HelLA was San Luis Obispo, where I was hoping to get some help from the Fuzzy teammate. I had picked up my bike, (the new lightening cruise vessel) from the bike shop without realizing that the tiny bits and pieces we had been missing meant my bike was still far, far from ready to ride. Awesome, another whoops! I proceeded to feed Fuzzy beer and watch him work some magic, weaving shifter cables through my carbon frame and checking derailleur tension. There's something highly ungenious (note, not ingenious) about a last minute bike build two days before the race. It's so not recommended, yet, somehow I always find myself doing just that!!
I planned to pre-ride the new bling on Saturday while checking out the bike course. I figured it would be perfect for working out any kinks.

Oh the best laid plans, the best laid plans.... (maybe it's the whole reason I avoid them so) The drive up to Santa Cruz ended at Wilder Ranch State Park, where the 2nd transition and race finish were set up. Five miles down the coast, the swim and transition to bike were waiting for race day set-up. XTERRA races are so much more complicated than a good ole mountain bike race. 3x the gear and the prep and the training and the blah, blah, blah, why am I doing this??? I suppose it looked like an interesting race course. The 1-mile ocean swim would be followed by a short, but supposedly fun 20-mile mountain bike course which would be followed by a 6-mile coastal jog along the beach (see where my brain was at? I said "jog"). I was certain my lack of running was going to hurt, but was hoping the flatland would work in my favor.

We parked Benji's Nissan on the coast highway, thinking the $10 day-use fee was a bit steep for packet pick-up and pre-ride. We got the bikes out, loaded our pockets with wallets and cell phones, and rode into the venue to get our free t-shirt and coupon bag. While picking up our number plates and learning about the race course, we got distracted by the pre-race meeting. An hour passed and we decided we needed to get back to the car and gear up for our pre-ride. We approached the car with our weekend hosts (they had ridden road bikes to the venue), chatted with them for a few minutes and bid adieu as we turned to the vehicle. As soon as Benji opened the rear hatch, we knew something was wrong. My bike kit and towel were strewn across the back with a handful of other items. It took a few seconds to register, but we both realized at once that the side window had been broken and the car broken into. Benji's race bag with his wetsuit, race kit, bike and running shoes was gone along with my purse, courier/clothes bag and laptop. The GPS that had been in the window was missing as well, and I thought what a fool I had been to forget to take it down. I started crying because I knew instantly that I had not backed up my computer in some time and there was a slew of pictures, poems/writing and music that would be impossible to retrieve. What a knuckle head. Benji's race gear, wetsuit and my laptop were the greatest insults materially, but the invasion went well beneath the surface of what was taken and all the anticipation of doing a race went with it.

The next few hours were spent talking with the policeman assigned to our case (an angel no doubt) and trying to get our heads around what to do next. I really wanted to skip the race and set up a stake-out for the thieves. I thought they would come back the next day, tempted by all of the geeky triathletes and their posh gear bags. But I realized the stupidity of my plan and decided not racing would be Letting The Bad Guys Win. Plus, with my current luck, I would heroically jump out of the bushes to do something savvy like take video of the burglars on my cell phone and end up getting my ass kicked. That was one sure way to make the weekend even worse. Sigh, it was on to plan B (formerly known as plan A)- racing.

Fortunately, the bikes were in working order, so the option of racing was still viable, but we had some items to replace. As little as we felt like shopping, it was the next step, so hi ho, hi ho, off to the bike shop we go. We spent the afternoon borrowing and gathering the remaining pieces we needed to race, trying to get some food and relax. I ended up spending the afternoon insanely hungry. Eating just wasn't working into the know, 11:30-get broken into, 12:00-2:30- hang out with cops, 2:30-5-quickly spend a few hundred dollars on mediocre replacement gear, 6 or so- get to our friends house, set-up bikes and number plates and new gear...and, oh yeah, eat dinner (thanks for cooking Polly!!!). At some point we were finally heads down, eyes shut, getting some sleep, grateful that we live in a country (and a part of this country) where this kind of thing doesn't happen everyday....or worse.

Woke up Sunday morning to 43 degrees and rain. Too drained from the day before to be nervous, the idea that I was racing finally started to sink in as I waited for the swim to go off. I stood on the beach with a couple hundred other humans in seal suits and stupid looking colored caps. I jumped in the ocean to get as "warmed up" as one can in 57 degrees and got raked down by the first wave I ran into. It knocked me down on my back with my feet straight in the air and sand swirling around my head. Nothing like a solid rookie move to get the morning going. I smiled big and dug the sand out of my ears.

The swim was surprisingly fun. I had to get well past the break before I could keep my head in the water without my breathing reflex kicking in. Once my face adjusted to the cold I melted into a nice rhythm and was pleased to discover that I mostly swam in straight lines and covered the mile distance without breaking my aerobic gate.
I came out of the water in 6th place and fumbled my way through the transition. My fine motor skills were zappo with my body heat and my fingers stumbled clumsily across my jersey zipper, helmet and shoe buckles. Finally I boarded my never been riden white Niner and headed off for my favorite part of this silly XTERRA thing.

The mountain bike course was just as I like it. Plenty of climbing and fun singletrack descents, with enough technical aspects to keep it interesting. It could have been twice as long and I would have been stoked. But it was long enough to let me pull into the lead and get a little gap on the other women. I made it through the bike-to-run transition smoothly and headed out in first place. Stoked. Now I just had to hold onto my momentum and not lose too much time.

I started trotting along the coast and within a single minute felt the first twinges of cramping down my inner quad muscles. I cringed with concern and tried to convince myself it would soon pass....deep breaths, deep breaths. Five minutes later both legs were entirely consumed with spasms and it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. This is where I usually give up and start walking. I am a mountain biker at heart, not a triathlete. That means I like my races to have a strong element of FUN in them and full-on leg cramps don't make me think, "Fun!" This time though, I wouldn't let myself give in to the pain- I knew that if I started walking, I probably wouldn't start running again. Plus I really wanted some beer. And salty chips. Walking would really extend the time between now and beer+chips.

About 2 or 3 miles into the run, 1st-place-woman-to-be passed me- and she was jamming! Damn runners, I thought. She was followed by 2nd and 3rd in short order. Then there was a nice lull where I thought I might be able to hold on to some semblance of dignity. I even tried to run faster....which lasted about 15 seconds til the cramps returned. Then, somewhere between miles four and five, 4th and 5th place came by all at once. Finally, in the last half-mile, I was passed one more time, sealing my 7th place finish. I limped through the finish line, hurting. I could barely make it to the car, let alone to the beer! Yikes.

I would say I was embarrassed, but my training regime had been to dumb for me to allow myself any embarrassment. I just felt like a pathetic, slow, mountain biker, who thought she could do a triathlon and found out it wasn't a joke when they said "tri" means "three." It also means "do all three well."

In the couple of weeks since, I have found this (surprising?) motivation to run. I've been finding meditation in the leg pounding and gasping for breath (still talking about running). The last 2 Fridays I've enjoyed a steady 8 mile "base" run resulting in decent legs the next day and am trying some track running. I suppose the long and short of it is: I'm not much of a runner. Edit: I'm not much of a fan of running. I can pull some fast times and distance when I put myself into it. I guess there's only that many hours a day I want to spend hurting myself. Blah, blah, blah.....

I'm signed up for another one of these stupid things in a week. My goal for this one: no goal. Finish, finish, finish. And finish with enough leg strength to get to the beer tent, no cramps. I guess I'd like to have fun on the trails in RVA too, and hanging out with my teammate, Donna. Then get back to some straight up mountain bike races. That is, unless I qualify for National Championships.


Lisa T said...

So cool to read about your experience. I'm trying my first Xterra next weekend, but I opted for the "du" so I don't have to be good at all three!

Cameron said...

Crap!!!Did they catch the thief, or recovery any of your stuff???

Good job on the race! 7th place, with leg craps is still awesome!

I would try one of the Xterra's,but can't swim well at all....I sink pretty good though. Growing up in Socal around the beaches one would think I would be a decent swimmer. Nope. I'll stick with mtb!

Later on,