This was my first 70.3 I have participated in. This race was truly amazing and I really took the time to experience all that it had to offer (arriving early and participating in the pre race events). I even won something in the Sugoi raffle! Whohoo!
This wasn’t my perfect race. I didn’t finish strong, there were causalities, and several lessons learned.
I set my alarm for 2:30AM. I wasn’t really sleeping anyway so it was easy to get out of bed. I took a shower, ate some oatmeal and sipped on some electrolytes. Once I was ready I loaded my race gear and my bike into the car and drove to my assigned parking lot near T2. At this race, because I had no race day support, I had to park near T2 and then ride my bike one mile to T1. It really wouldn’t have been that big of a deal but it was dark, I had no lights, and I was hauling my morning gear with me, wetsuit included which made the ride to T1 just a bit scary.
T1 (First transition – where you stage your bike)
T1 opened at 4:45. I was the first racer to arrive to T1. Close friends and family wouldn’t be surprised that I arrived to T1 40 minutes before transition opening. It’s an anxiety thing….if i’m on time I feel like i’m late and it creates way to much anxiety….so I arrive early. The major benefit of arriving super early is you get to rack your bike at the front of the rack making it easier to get to when you come out of the water. The other benefit of arriving early is you can get to the porta pottys before there is a super long line; or in my case you get a plethora of porta potty choices. The downside of arriving early to this race was it was breezy and cold at 4:45am and there wasn’t really anything around to keep me warm until the race start at 6:40am. I did put my wetsuit on and that helped a bit.
Not everything went as planned. You would think that with all the detailed effort I went through to be prepared that I would have everything dialed in. Normally I do but that wasn’t the case on this chilly morning. At check-in we were given three bags. A green bag labeled morning belongings, a blue bag labeled bike, and a red bag labeled run. Well, it turns out that the blue bag labeled BIKE was for the wetsuit, goggles, and cap. I had left my blue bag at T2 thinking that once I was off the bike I placed
my bike gear in the bag labeled bike. Slightly annoyed, I reached out to one of the volunteers who was able to find me a plain bag that I put my race number on so my swim gear could get transferred to T2. I really think the bag labeled BIKE should be changed to SWIM….but that’s just my opinion.
Lessons Learned: Bring warm clothes, your support crew to the race, and understand the usage of the bags
I was in the 16th wave. Herded like cattle, we all found our place behind our assigned wave number. I was barefoot not knowing I was going to be walking across sharp asphalt-ouch! This was the first newbie takeaway. Wear throw-away sandals to protect your feet. We shuffled forward at the sound of each gun going off for the start of each wave. This left plenty of time to get overwhelmed with anxiety. I felt so nervous and was beginning to question my decision to race; maybe I wasn’t quite ready to
race. Everyone was nervous though. I could see it on all the faces and smell it in the air. So remember my worries about not making it to the porta potty’s in time. A lady in my swim wave didn’t make it (the lines were too long) so she stood in line and peed in her wetsuit (doesn’t she realize she is going to wear that the entire race!). She thought it was funny to dance around in her pee soiled sandals. This is exactly why I arrive early.
I’m not sure how far we had moved up the line before the first pro came out of the water, Andy Potts. We watched him run into T1 trailed by several other pros. At that very moment excitement consumed me as I cheered for each racer that ran passed. The nervousness was gone and I no longer questioned by capabilities. It was go time!
Wave 16 made their way out to the start line. It was still pretty dark and the sun had yet to rise out above the trees. The gun goes off and I begin to swim. I kept calm and maintained a steady pace. The difference about this race than other races I have participated in is there was someone in front of me behind me or on the side of me the entire race. It felt like we were always clustered together. Some burley guy swam over the top of me. After I came up out of the water from being pushed under I looked up to see him splashing his way through. He was a really messy swimmer and kind of reminded me of how a dog swims that doesn’t like water. About half way through the 1.2 mile swim I noticed that my tongue felt puffy and I had a metallic flavor in my mouth. I wasn’t really sure what it was. I thought maybe I bit my tongue, the salt water perhaps, or maybe even touched a jelly fish. I actually think I was having an allergic reaction to whatever was in the water. I reached the boat ramp and climbed out of the water. It was really bright and sunny and felt so much warmer than when we entered. Peeling my wetsuit down to my waist I raced to the transition. I made it through the swim in 40 minutes. I’m quite proud of that time! It isn’t a pro’s time but coming from where I have come with my swimming abilities I will take it (My first race I doggy paddled with my head completely out of the water).
Casualties from the Swim: two chaffing marks on the right side of my neck (It looks like I have two hickies and I never felt it until after the race was over) and a swollen tongue.
Lessons Learned: Bring sandals
I felt really awesome on the bike. Out of the T1 I continued to pass other racers and I was holding a really good pace. The first hill I could see from a mile away. I think everyone looked at it and was like oh $^*%. I am certain it was the steepest hill I have ever climbed up. About half way up the hill people began to dismount. I refused to dismount and just kept peddling. Peddling at 4 mph was still faster than walking your bike up the hill. As I reached the top of the hill I looked to a lady that was on my
left and asked, “was that the big one?” She thought it was and we both let out a big sigh of relief. Funny thing is it wasn’t the last big hill. The hills just kept on coming. I really don’t remember seeing so many on the map. Toward the end even the small hills felt like mountains. I maintained my nutrition plan on the bike sipping every 15 minutes finishing strong on the bike in 3:19.
Casualties from the Bike: Sore pelvic bone, small chaffing marks at the front of my ankle and a sore big toe (I think it is time for new cycling shoes)
Lessons Learned: Perhaps some more hill work
T2 (Second transition – where you leave your bike and strap on your running shoes)
There wasn’t really anything significant about T2. I dismounted and jogged with my bike to my run gear. Swapped out my cycling shoes for my running shoes, removed my helmet and took off running out of T2.
Oh the run. This was probably the most shameful part of the race for me. I strained my IT band about 5 weeks ago and really struggled to recover and strengthen my glutes and hips for the race. I really didn’t know how I would fare on the run. Heading out of transition I was feeling good. My legs never felt like jello. About mile 2 I felt my right IT band twinge. It didn’t hurt but I was really paying attention to it. I had way too many more miles to go to pull something right out of the gate. I shortened my
stride which seemed to help but I couldn’t get myself up to my race pace. At about mile four I found that the inside of both of my knees were a bit unhappy. The inside of my knees started to scream at me by mile six. At this point I decided to walk at every aid station. I never stop and drink fluids on my running races but I felt the walking provided enough of a rest to get me through this race. It was really hot too so I enjoyed throwing water on my head. When I was running between aid stations (it was more
like jogging with the pace I had going on) I made it a point to find a rhythm in my steps and focused on the beat. I did this the rest of the race.
I saw mile marker 13 and emotion overwhelmed every nerve in my body. I was almost there. I was going to finish. I started to hyperventilate. I’m not really sure why because I wasn’t certainly not winded but contribute this to the surge of emotion that was running through me that I was almost to the finish line. It took every ounce of energy to hold back tears. I crossed the finish line and was greeted by a volunteer – I gave that guy a great big hug. I finished the run in 2:49. On a bad day it should only take me 2:20.
Casualties from the Run: sore knees, sore IT band and a bit of a broken ego
Lessons Learned: Strengthen core, glutes, and hips. Bring more of my own nutrition on the run.
Post Race Thoughts
I finished the race in 6 hours 49 minutes so being this was my first half I now have a benchmark for future races. I traveled alone and really missed my family and friends cheering for me on the sideline. I wasn’t tired or fatigued after the race but I was really sore on Sunday and expected I wouldn’t be able to walk on Monday. Miraculously, I felt better and could even squat to pee when I woke Monday morning.
Finally, this is a really great course. One I recommend and one I will certainly be doing again next year!
I didn’t finish this race on my own. I had tremendous support and there are so many people to thank.
My first shout is to my husband, Rodney Hicks. Thank you for putting up with my crazy training schedule and believing I could finish this race. I truly appreciated the many times we trained together.
I can’t thank my children enough for having the patience to wait for me to finish my training on the weekends before we headed out to do family things and for coming along on several of my long run days.
A huge thank you to my coach from Tri Team PDX, Brian Hain, who helped tailor a plan that fit with my schedule and responsibilities (a.k.a. work and family).
I must thank every single person who donated to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. You not only helped me reach my fundraising goal so I could participate in this race but you also helped to provided funding to people who can’t afford to be fitted with athletic prosthesis and equipment….so they too can live active lives.
Thank you to Marcia from MEMO swim team for providing a “newbie” swimmer a place to train. Sometimes getting up early in the morning was a tough task…but I was always glad I made it. I continue to struggle with deciphering the details of the swim set ….but I’m getting there and appreciate your understanding.
Thank you to Oakland Triathlon Club for providing a place to connect with likeminded triathletes. I’ve met quite a few great people through this club since moving to Oakland a couple months ago. A few were willing to jump in and come along on long rides with me. Forever grateful!
Thank you to Odyssey Open Water Swimming for providing a safe place to practice my open water swim. The practice swims at the Berkeley Marina felt identical to the conditions on race day!
Thank you to Aaron Osborn from Life and Performance Nutrition for providing me with race day nutritional guidance. I know that without you I would not have consumed enough of the right calories at the right times. Your willingness to explain in detail the importance of the timing, the type of nutrition, the backup plans. This all helped me through the entire race. Looking forward to working with you again on my next race.
And of course thanks to my family, friends, twitter followers, and facebook connections for providing emotional support…for believing in me! You were all my rock through the training and the race.
Pre Race Pictures
Post Race Pics