October 19, 2017

Newport Beach Triathlon 2009

My pre-race preparation for the Newport Beach Triathlon on Sunday April 19th, 2009 started the day before the race. This was only my second triathlon ever, so at this point I was a little nervous.

On Saturday after I picked up my race packet, I decided to go down and check out the bike course in Newport Back Bay where I would be racing. Once I got there I pulled out my trusty light blue/hot pink, 1980s looking Trek 1100 road bike. It doesn’t look like much, but it gets the job done.

A few days prior I had upgraded from running shoes on flat pedals to actual cycling shoes with clip in pedals and cleats. I messed around with them for a few minutes in my neighborhood and WOW what a difference. I couldn’t wait to try them out on a longer ride, and what better time to practice with them than the day before a race right?

The bike course was FAST and AWESOME! There was only 1 steep hill on the whole course, which is something a 6’1” 185 pound dude likes to see. I wasn’t using much effort and I felt like I was flying. My first triathlon race ever was the Orange County International Triathlon in which I wore my running shoes on the bike. Needless to say my quads were fried after the bike portion, but on the bright side I did have the fastest T2 time.

My fast practice ride through the Newport bike course was abruptly paused when I happened upon a gathering of people on the side of the road standing around 2 women lying on the ground scratched up and grimacing in pain. Apparently a cyclist was coming down the hill and collided into somebody running along the path. Somebody was already on the phone with 911 and nobody seemed seriously injured, so I decided to continue with my ride, hoping this wasn’t a foreshadowing of events to come the next day.

I was almost done with the ride when the unthinkable happened. I was passing by an older couple and for some reason I decided to get out of aero position, just a gut feeling I guess, or maybe God trying to save my skin. Right when I was about to pass them, the lady decided to make a sharp left turn and investigate something on the opposite side of the path that interested her. She did not look both ways. I vice gripped my brakes and the only thing I could think to say was woah woah woah. My woahs must have got her attention because she stopped at the last second and I was able to narrowly avoid her a foot or two at best.

I’m a pretty nice guy so I didn’t bother turning around and yelling anything. Her husband was already doing enough yelling at her anyways. It was like he read my mind.

After my ride, I proceeded down to Corona Del Mar to make sure my open water swim capabilities were still lurking somewhere within. I hadn’t swum in open water since my first triathlon 7 months prior. I swam for about 20 minutes at a moderate pace. The water was freezing, but I felt comfortable with my stroke. I felt less comfortable walking down the crowded beach in a full body wetsuit with a bright yellow swim cap and goggles. Apparently this isn’t the “normal” thing to wear to the beach these days and I got quite a few looks. Oh well, now it was time to go rest for my race the next day.

I have a hard enough time falling asleep at night as it is, trying to sleep the night before a race is a battle I will probably never win.

I planned to be in bed before 9am the night before the race. Seems easy, but difficult for a night owl. To follow through with my plan, I had to decline an invitation to a friend’s barbeque so I could go through my pre-race checklist and make sure I had everything in order.

While I was going through my checklist I decided to pull my bike back out of the truck that I left there from the previous ride. Good thing I did because the front tire was completely FLAT. I had just put a brand new tube in that morning and it held up fine during my ride, so I still have no idea what happened. What I do know is that I am probably the worst tire patcher on the planet. After a few attempts I gave up trying to repair it and luckily found a spare tube lying around the garage, pumped it up, and everything was golden. I did get in bed early, but falling asleep was a different story.

I woke up the next morning with only about 4 or 5 hours of sleep, but felt surprisingly refreshed. For breakfast I had a protein shake with oatmeal, a banana, a little milk, and a tablespoon of peanut butter all chucked in the blender. It was only a Sprint triathlon so I didn’t bother packing any race nutrition. At this point I was actually less nervous than the night before.

I got to the race around 5:45am only to find a line of cars about a half-mile long, scrambling to pay $10 to park in the lot next to the race. I decided to park up the hill a ways and just walk/jog to the transition area for a good warm-up.

Saw a few people I knew while setting up my transition area. I felt relaxed at this point and just wanted the race to start.

After waiting at the waters edge for what seemed like an hour, the gun finally went off. I’m still new to swimming so I decided to go to the far right and stay out of the congestion. I may have to rethink this strategy since I caught up to the main pack quickly and got a few face fulls of feet and many mouth fulls of polluted sea water. About halfway through the swim I could have sworn I swam over a body floating below the water’s surface. It turned out to be some kind of drainage tube in the bay that caused the race officials to move around the buoys after the first wave had gone and make the course a bit shorter from what I hear, LAME. I must have not been the only one to hit it.

Heading around the 3rd buoy back towards the start, I probably had the largest and brightest object to site with known to mankind, the Sun. When I looked up to site and went blind for the next 15 seconds, I knew I was headed in the right direction.

Besides running into rogue pipes and slow swimmer blockades, I had a decent swim. I didn’t realize I was even tired or winded until I got out of the water. The everlasting run to the transition area didn’t help matters. It literally felt like a half mile.

I threw on my fancy new cycling cleats and headed out on the bike portion. What was probably my least favorite event in my first race turned out to be my favorite in this race. I felt great on the first loop of the two-loop course and passed a handful of people. Only about 5-10 people passed me the whole bike portion. By now I’ve grown accustomed to the buzzing whoosh sound of fast approaching disk wheels. Man I need a better bike.

Besides climbing the one steep hill on the course twice, the only time I felt really tired on the bike was on the way back from the final loop. There was a shirtless dude in front of me that I had been swapping position with the whole ride. I set my ego aside and decided to take it easy to save my legs for the run. Good decision.

After getting my foot caught in my shoe and narrowly avoiding a tumble at the dismount line, I ran into the transition area for a fast T2. Thank you Zoot Ultras.

Now its time to run. My legs felt like tree trunks….. Redwood trees…..Two General Shermans strapped to my hips.

I had done quite a few transition workouts, but I don’t remember the pain being this bad. I also thought my toes would need to be amputated from frostbite I had developed on the bike. I’m not sure which pain was worse. Not to be outdone in the pain department, my gut decided to develop a side stitch that would just not go away no matter what I did. I told myself I wasn’t going to walk, but I had to slow down 2 or 3 times from the side pain. The pain in my side didn’t leave until the very steep hill right before the turning point. Yes, running up the hill made my side pain go away, go figure.

After that large hill I was cruising. I guess running on flat ground after a very steep hill tricked my mind into thinking it was cake. I pushed pretty hard for the last mile and a half, not wanting to leave anything on the table. In my first triathlon I felt like I was setting the world record for the 100 meters in my sprint to the finish line. I wanted to make sure I was not going to have that much energy left in this race. I didn’t.

I ended up placing 7th in my age group (20-24) and was very pleased with my results considering the limited training time I put into this race (less than a month) and my ghetto equipment. I had a lot more fun at this race than my first one and I think Sprint triathlons are my new favorite distance.

Overall time: 1:23:19
Overall place: 107/661
Swim time: 13.13
T-1 time: 1:51
Bike time: 43:57
T-2 time: 1:04
Run time: 23.11
Age Group Placing (20-24): 7th

by Jarrett Pflieger

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