This was truly a great 2 days of racing. The age group race Olympic distance race (mine) was sandwiched between the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) professional men’s and women’s races.  The outcome of the American performances in both races determined which American, if any, won an automatic spot onto the US Olympic team……talk about pressure! Regarding my race, this was one of my better races I’ve had since moving to San Diego almost three years ago.  Aside from a couple of tiny errors, I stayed focused and in the moment the entire time.  I know that I’m getting older, but I plan to stay pretty close to the racing the times I’ve raced even as I inch my 50s (Now that I’ve said that, I’m going to catch he$$ for it;….LOL).  Regarding focus, I’ve been known to drift off in thought during the bike portion and do things like stop and pet a puppy on the run. However, during this race I pushed myself and stayed competitive the entire time.

Me and Kat Donatello pre-race and looking calm!

Swim There was a little confusion as to what time the swim was starting.  At first, our wave was scheduled at 6:45, then it was pushed back to 6:30.  At 6:10, I decided to warm up.   Then the swim starts were then pushed back so I stood on shore, looking like a dork and making an effort to staying warm as I executed a series of Richard Simmons”esque” aerobic movements.   I always get a little nervous about 10 minutes before the gun goes off, but once our wave of all of the 45+ women started and we raced into the water (Kat, who was starting 15 minutes later, noted that I “won” the sprint into the water-HA), I was fine.  I swam with another women side-by-side for 500 yards. The surprising thing was that after a calm 500 yards, she decided to show her aggressive side and “swam” over me while pushing me back and under by the head and shoulders. I was so surprised and mad that I surfaced and yelled something to the effect of “you b*$#%!  Her move is usually that of one I reserve for men trying to pass women during an Ironman race-aggressive, dirty, un-sportsman-like and ultimately ineffective since I was so mad, I swam right past her and never saw her again. I did, however, get her race number (I noted that during this swim “tango”, the timing company-supplied race number sticker surprisingly stayed adhered to her cap…number noted!).  After the race, it was the consensus that the swim was long—close to two tenths of a mile long–as times were on the slow side.

Bike This was a two loop bike course heading north along the streets of Mission Bay and Pacific Beach with a two kilometer 18% grade-at-some-point climb up to Mt Soledad. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad and I kind of found it fun.  I was more worried about the turns and descent although, in hindsight, they were also fine and I actually enjoyed them.  Am I finally starting to like biking?   The roads were very bumpy and I saw lots of water bottles (including mine) get launched from people’s bikes.    I was nervous that my computer was going to get jiggled off my bike by the bumpiness on the roads, so I stripped it off the Velcro and shoved it down my bra.  During the 2nd loop, the course became very congested and there were a number of racers walking their bikes up the hill.  After we hit the top of the 2nd climb, my teammate, Gina, passed me.  I was determined to keep her in my sight.  She went flying down the hill and gained some time ahead of me. I bridged the gap to within about 10 seconds as we powered through the last 5 miles on the flats (thank you Kurt, the disc wheel choice was a fine selection) and we headed in to transition.  I was pleased, as she had biked about 11 minutes faster than me at the Oceanside 70.3.  Thank you Meredith and Darcy for dragging me along on all of those hilly bike rides over the last 6 weeks.  I think that my biking, while not strong, has improved.

Run The run course had the only GLARING race course set-up error of the day.  Sure we all knew that the bike course would be hilly.  Sure we all knew that the roads were bad.  Sure, we all knew that getting to and from the race site was somewhat of a logistical nightmare……but on the run course THERE WERE NO MILE MARKERS TO BE HAD. ANYWHERE. Maybe the race organizers were thinking that we all bring our GPS gadgets to race with?  I dunno.  I do own a Garmin but I don’t usually break it out for racing as it is too clumsy.  Anyway, before I started the run, I really had to pee and I made a half-hearted attempt to do so while putting on my running shoes. Transitions are what I call “free speed”, meaning that you don’t need to be genetically gifted to make them speedy-and I didn’t take advantage of that “free speed zone” entirely and lost about 30 seconds to the other racers while fumbling with my shoes and deciding if I wanted to make a run for the porta-potty. Glad that I didn’t because starting out on the run, Gina was just in front of me and another local racer, Kristin Mayer, about 20 seconds back.  About 5 minutes into the run,  I see Jodi Hayes (on my team but not racing).  I look down and there is this “box” on my chest—I still had my bike computer stuffed down my bra…..Whaaaaaaa?  I handed it off to Jodi-who took it gamely, knowing where it had come from (Jodi, I owe you….big time ).   I caught Gina and didn’t look back to see where Kristin was.  I reminding myself of a Runner’s World article I had recently read about running a fast 5 K and it had suggested repeating a mantra.  I found myself repeating in my head “relax….cadence….relax…cadence”.  I stayed ahead of Kristin; passed a couple of people who had started in my swim wave, and took in a couple of cups of Gatorade at the first two stations.  I was definitely running out of my comfort zone and thought briefly about slowing down.  But I knew that I would kick myself later if I lost a place or two by doing so.  At about mile 4.7 (my best guess), I rounded the last aid station and headed toward Mission Avenue. From there, we had another two turns to the final 500 yards.  With 300 yards left to go, I looked over my shoulder and didn’t see anyone behind me.  I ran as hard as I could run past the grandstand and through the finish line with a huge smile plastered on my face.  I had given this race everything and had dug deep to hold off getting passed during the final mile.   Redemption….finally, and a 2nd place age group finish.  When I looked at the results later; my swimming “buddy” had finished a few places behind me.  At some point, I had passed her toward the later stage of the run but I’m not sure exactly when or where.

Up on the podium after getting a kiss and a hug from Greg Welch

Now the food part.  Which I love love love to talk and write about.   The first breakfast at 3:30 a.m. was 2 slices of GF brown rice toast slathered with Artisana Coconut Butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. People, if you want a healthier version of cinnamon toast, this is it.  Coconut butter is easily converted to energy; brown rice bread becomes a crunchy-soft treat when transformed in to toast; and I love anything flavored with cinnamon.   I also had 10 ounces of green juice, a big green tea with steamed almond milk and an Immodium.  Immodium basically (and this only my opinion, not fact) counters all of the potential GI distress(es) that can happen during a race usually because of  1) the ingestion of more sugar than you are used to and 2) the stress of racing. One Immodium = No Intestinal Strife!  Yippee!   Breakfast #2 was at 5:30 am was a baked potato—I baked a large russet potato when I first woke up; stuffed it in to a portable container; split it open and doused it with lotsa salt and Earth Balance.  I ate that in transition area and that was, by far, the BEST mini meal that I have ever had before a race.  I’m going to continue with this potato streak for my next races.  I also ate two the day before.  Breakfast #3 was at 6:00 a.m. and consisted of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Bonk Breaker bar.  I got turned on to these bars at the Oceanside 70.3.  Apparently WTC has switched from Powerbars  to Bonk Breaker Bars as the official bar of Ironman and it is a welcome change.  They are vegan—awesome—and unlike Powerbars, you can quickly pronounce all ingredients.

Artisana Coconut Butter-Can't get enought of it

Cool things about this race:

Race number tattoos-way cool!

  • Temporary tattoo race numbers I almost forgot to put mine on before I headed out the door-these were cool
  • Racking We were assigned individual spaces on the bike racks as opposed to first come first serve general racking areas. Good call
  • Handwashing stations next to porta-potties….’nuf said (and all the while wondering if anyone actually dropped their Iphone into the toilet-ugh, can you imagine?)
  • Awards Up on a ginormous podium complete with hugs and kisses from Greg Welsh and USAT big wigs handing out awards.  Jeff Donatello was quick to point out that 4 out of the top place finishers OVERALL were men in the 45-49 age group. Now that is IMPRESSIVE
  • Men’s and Women’s ITU pro race on either side of Age Group Race This was great and amazing to be so close to who’s who of Olympic distance triathletes

Things Race Committee should change for next year:

  • Race Shirts Light blue for ladies is not the most flattering color (I’m biased given my coloring-maybe that isn’t totally fair); and the main logo was placed on the back by nape of the neck.  Any women wearing it with medium to long hair will cover it; thus defeating the point of having a race shirt at all….a shirt advertising your race that a racer might actually wear
  • Race Information Website was devoid of things like description of awards and placing for regular people (is there a master’s division? are awards three or five deep? are there “overall” awards?); a line-by-line description, in addition to, the course maps for the bike and run (particularly for the bike as there were so many turns and roads)
  • Swim Course Long (was it measured in nautical miles?)
  • Run Course MUST HAVE MILE MARKERS
  • Results Since most of us couldn’t get to our phones/lifelines for information and communication quickly post race (due to fact that the transition area and finish area were in two different places), the timing company needs to be more expedient about posting these. I think that I didn’t see any until after 2 hours after I had finished.

A great day and solid race in the books. Thank you to Darcy, owner of HERevolution and awesome triathlete, for sponsoring a team this year and providing me with an awesome kit—it was great to see the other members out there racing in such fine apparel. I can’t tell you how many times I heard some variation of “OMG, I love your race kit”.   Thank you to coach Kurt Perham for sticking with me over the last few years.  I also got to hang out some great people; including Kat and Jeff Donatello who flew all the way from Maine and provided humor and camaraderie before, during and after the race (and a place to take a much needed hot shower after the race).  When Geoff finally joined me at the end of the day, we capped off their stay with a drink at George’s on the Cove followed by a tapas fest at Roppongi in La Jolla.  A shout out goes to Meredith Stumpo for volunteering for 14 hours for both the age group and ITU race. And to Tri Club San Diego, for winning the large Tri Club challenge.  Finally, it was great to see all of the HERevolution gals rocking it on the course.

A post-race tapas fest with Kat and Jeff Donatello and Geoff

As for the professional racers; Laura Bennett persevered on the run and held on for third place overall and 1st American for the final women’s team spot. On the men’s side; Hunter Kemper and Manny Huerta finished in the top 9 and punched there ticket to the Olympics.   Manny had the most emotional finish as he wasn’t sure until he counted the racers who finished ahead of him that he secured a spot on the team.  He broke down in tears.  Both were phenomenal races to watch.

When I grow up, I want to race like them.