September 20, 2017

Orange County Triathlon

Orange County TriathlonThe Orange County Triathlon in 2008 was my first ever triathlon, so I was excited to see how I have improved over the last year. This would be my first time ever repeating a race in my young triathlon career. My training was anything but consistent over the last year, but I was confident that I had improved a little in fitness and a lot in knowledge, pacing, and race strategy, not to mention the quality of equipment I was using. Last year I rode the course on an old Fuji road bike with running shoes and no foot straps.

A few months out from the race on September 27th, I decided to dedicate my training and make this my “A” race and last one of the season. For a month, I was doing very well, then we started getting busier here at Triathica (definitely a good problem to have) and I had less and less time to train. About a month out from the race my training routine fell apart and I really only trained here and there when I could. I was still pumped for the race and excited for all the Triathica members who would be racing that weekend for the first time.

The night before the race I actually felt the best I ever had. My expectations were not high for the race so I was able to relax and have fun the next day. I got the best sleep I ever have before a race.

For breakfast I powered down a few snickers marathon bars that I got the day before at the expo. Those things are great! They literally taste like candy bars. I loaded all my stuff up in a borrowed truck (can’t really fit a bike in my Miata) and headed over to the race. Got to transition a little early and found a pretty good spot in transition. I brought my wetsuit just in case, but I thought it would be too warm to wear it. This turned out to be correct.

I walked around transition a bit and chatted with a few Triathica members I found. I felt really relaxed which is weird for me. I’m always pretty jacked up on race morning. One thing I was worried about was my goggle situation. I have a pair of dark and clear goggles. Clear goggles were the obvious choice for an early race start, but they got a little warped and I was worried about leakage. I brought both pairs down to the water and tested the clear ones. They seemed to hold up fine so I went back to my T1 area and put away my dark goggles. Probably something I should have tested days ago, live and learn.

It was very different not being the first wave since I’m usually in with the pros and the 29 and unders who normally start first. This time I was in the fifth wave, which was cool since I actually got to watch other people start.

I’m usually cautious on the swim start and try to stay away from the congestion. I’m gaining confidence in my swim so I decided to just go for it. When the horn blew I sprinted out in front and did a few dolphins. I was in front for probably the first minute of the swim until I settled into a good pace. I started to see people pass me, but I just stayed on my pace and tried to follow some feet.

After a while I started drifting to the right towards the course markers. Once I got right up next to them I adjusted and just used them to sight with until I hit the big buoy out in the middle of the lake. The rest of the swim went pretty smooth and after I rounded the first buoy, I started passing people in caps that were a wave or two ahead of me. Once I rounded the last buoy, I started seeing caps from the 2nd wave. I was sure I had a pretty good swim.

The bike portion went pretty well for me. I’ve had a problem in the past riding at too low a cadence and hammering too hard, wearing my legs out very quickly. This race I was concentrating on keeping my cadence high and spinning up the hills instead of hammering. I passed a lot of people on the bike and didn’t get passed all that much. There were a few guys I was going back and forth with almost the whole course. Guy in the pink jersey, you know who you are.

When I was nearing T2, I started getting ready to dismount and tried to move a Gu packet from my shorts to the back pocket in my tri top. Instead or reaching back and slipping it in the pocket, I slipped it under my race belt and it fell, skidding along the ground behind me. I didn’t panic because I felt pretty good and had downed a bottle full of Gatorade on the bike. The Gu was just for emergencies anyways.

I got off the bike feeling the best I’ve ever felt for the run. The first mile or two I felt really good. I held back a little because I knew what lay ahead. Even though I held back, once I hit those hills, I fell apart. I started getting these sharp pains in my lower quads and left hamstring. I had to walk/run up the steep hills and even walking was painful. I had no idea what was going on, but I kept thinking about my Gu packet sitting on the bike course by transition. It could have been a nutrition problem, but my body felt good, just my legs were killing me.

I struggled up Vista del Lago and once I got the top, my legs had had enough. My lower quads were searing and I felt like I needed to stretch them out. I lifted my left ankle up so I could grab it and stretch the quad. BAM! My hamstring tightened and I promptly fell to the ground, rubbing the grapefruit size ball on the back of my leg and trying to stretch it out. After a few minutes of rubbing and stretching I was able to straighten my leg. It sucks to watch people pass you, as you lay helpless on the ground. I think one or two people asked if I was OK, but everyone else was distracted with their own pain.

When I got up, I felt a little better as I started hobbling along. It still felt like I was going to cramp any minute, but it wasn’t as painful. I started to pick up speed and passed a lot of people that had passed me. One guy I ran past offered me some extra drink he had in his race belt. I thanked him and guzzled down a bottle in about two seconds. I’m not sure it helped, but it gave me the mental boost I needed.

I continued on and started to pick up speed on the downhills when I started having pain again. It was weird because the pain was only below my shorts, so I started moving them around a bit. It worked and the pain subsided temporarily. I came to the conclusion that my strategy of wearing double layers for the extra compression actually was cutting off circulation in my leg. I was almost done with the race so I just powered through it for the last mile.

The fact that the last half-mile of the course was all downhill made my day. I just cruised to the finish line and from my watch it looked like I beat my time last year by about 15 minutes.

I stuffed my face full of nutrition, got a sweet massage, and talked to bunch of other people about their race. I hated when people asked how my race went, I didn’t like explaining I was an idiot and died on the run, which could have been prevented. Oh well, I still had fun and there is always next year.
I ended up getting 18th in the 25-29 age group and finished in 2:33:13. I beat my time last year by about 15 minutes and lost a ton of time to cramps. Needless to say, I was very happy with my performance considering. Now it’s time to dedicate my training this off-season and come back with a vengeance next year.

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