June 24, 2011

Sac International Triathlon (Race Report)

On Saturday I competed in my second triathlon and my first Olympic distance! It went so much better than expected and I had a blast out there. After so much training it was nice to finally put it all together and race! It was the perfect way to kick off the tri season and got me so much more excited for my other upcoming races : )

Leaving off from the night before, I had all my gear ready to go and so I could run through my normal race routine in the morning without feeling stressed. I was a bit nervous as I was getting ready, and the nerves only grew as my dad and I headed out to Rancho Seco. It was a bit of a drive, but finally we spotted the trademark twin towers of the power plant and made our way into the park where the event was being held. Total Body Fitness (TBF) puts on a ton of shorter triathlon races out there, but this was my first time there. It didn't look like anything special, and from what I'd heard it didn't make for the most scenic courses. As we drove past the lake, I looked for the buoys marking the swim course and had a mini freakout when I saw how far apart they were. We didn't have a lot of time to spare when we got there to I went straight to the registration table to pick up my packet. I was fortunate to get a comped entry into the race (saving me $100+) thanks to working at Fleet Feet (man my job has it's perks!), which is one of the main reasons I chose to do this race. I hurried into transition to set up where I randomly ran into a coworker from work. Seeing a friendly face helped calm my nerves a bit, and we chatted while I set up my gear. After a quick trip to the bathroom it was time to pull on the wetsuit and head down to the water!
 setting up my gear in transition
prepping for the swim
heading down to the lake...
I was extremely nervous about the swim leg of the race. I've swam the distance before in a pool several times, but after a less-than-stellar practice open water swim earlier in the week I was afraid this might be a struggle. And man did those buoys look far! I didn't have much time to freak out, though, because just minutes after getting in the water my wave began. As I already mentioned, the swim went remarkably well. As in, it was my favorite leg of the entire race (wait, did I just say that?!). Ultimately I think I was just able to stay calm and relaxed, but I have a few ideas as to why things went so well. The water felt like bathwater, which was a huge difference from Lake Natoma which was quite chilly. I put my face in the water before we started, and it didn't shock me at all. I also wore a different wetsuit this time. It was the same style and size as I wore in my first triathlon, but - and I think this made all the difference - it was sleeveless. I still got the benefit of buoyancy, but I had so much more range of motion than before that I could get into a rhythm with my stroke and not think about what I had on. The water was smooth with no current, and my wave was small so there was little crowding. After my practice swim on Monday, my dad suggested taping my fingers together on my crippled hand so I could get more pull, and it made a huge difference!
 ready or not!
The swim course was a big rectangle, and during the first stretch I was able to latch on to some feet to follow which made sighting less of an issue. But of course the field soon spread out, and by the time I turned at the first buoy there were no more swimmers near enough to follow. My sighting sucks, so much so that during the next stretch I veered off course and had to be redirected by a kayak! Despite this little detour I felt extremely calm and strong. When I did look up to try and sight I had the sun directly in my eyes, so I often had to stop completely to refocus on which direction I should be moving in. Besides that, I never stopped, never floated, never even breaststroked! I was quite proud of myself and thrilled by how things were going. When I made the final turn and headed back to shore, it looked so far away. Once again I was swimming a little crooked, but soon enough I could see the bottom. I followed a tip I picked up at some point and swam until my hands scraped the bottom before standing up. As I ran out of the water I had a huge smile on my face - I wasn't the last out of the water, and I felt great! When I spotted my dad he told me it had taken me about 30 minutes, and I was thrilled that I had come in under what I'd hoped. But things weren't over yet so off I went to transition!
 coming in to shore
haha I love how I'm so happy and I tell my dad it was better than Lake Natoma!
all smiles : )
swim time (1.5k): 31:46

Unlike more competitive folks, I don't really like to rush my transitions. I don't lollygaggle (yes, that's a word) either, but I don't want to forget anything either. I stripped off my wetsuit, threw on my tank top, put on my helmet and sunglasses, put on my socks and bike shoes, and sucked down a Gu and salt cap.
**A note on my transition times: TBF lumps in transition times with the bike time, but based on my Garmin and overall times, I can estimate that both took me about 4 minutes. This obviously means that my bike time alone was better than the time I'm posting here, since it includes T2.**

T1 time: approx. 4:00

The bike was a simple 12ish mile out-and-back on some country roads. The morning was still pretty cool, perfect for riding. We made our way out of the park, which including several speed bumps - not fun - then headed out on the open road. I've never rode my bike anywhere but the bike path here in Sacramento, so I was a bit nervous to be out on an open road. Luckily there weren't very many cars out there, and they were all pretty courteous to us. The road itself wasn't in very good shape and I consider myself very lucky not to have gotten a flat while out there. Unfortunately I did see a few others dealing with them : / It wasn't the most scenic, but it wasn't totally ugly either. The course had lots of rolling hills, and while there wasn't anything too steep, it was still more than I've been training on. I had a nice average going on the first half (around 18 mph), but slowed a little in the last 10 miles. I still managed to pass a few people on my way back in, and finished the 24 miles in 1:21, an average of 17.6 mph, according to my Garmin.
ridin' in the country!

bike time (40k): 1:29
As usual T2 was a bit quicker than T1. I racked my bike, switched my Garmin from my bike to my wrist, changed shoes, swapped my helmet for my visor, and sucked down another Gu. I grabbed my iPod as well, but was told to ditch it by a race official as I headed out. Boo : /

T2 time: approx. 4:00

My legs felt a little heavy at first, but loosened up pretty quickly. The run course was probably the worst of the three. It was a kind of loop on a mix of dirt fire roads and single track with absolutely no shade. While it wasn't a total scorcher, it was definitely hot out there and I could've used a couple trees! There were some short hills early on, which slowed me up a bit at first, but I seemed to fall into a rhythm after a while. I kept the same women right in front of me and told myself not to lose them. One thing I will mention is that TBF had plenty of aid stations out on the course. I didn't carry any water with me, but they were stationed frequently enough that I was able to hydrate adequately. I also made sure to dump a cup of water on my head at each one, too. After the turnaround we hit the single track which kind of made me zone out a bit. Once again, I latched onto the feet of a woman ahead which helped. Soon, though, I needed to pass her and made my way solo the rest of the run. And then before I knew it I was back out on the fire roads with about a mile to go. I checked out my watch and saw that as long as I ran that last mile under 10 minutes (which was slower than my average at that point) I would make it under 3 hours - which was sort of my secret goal : ) As soon as I saw the finish I kicked it up a notch and crossed that line with less than a minute to spare and a huge smile across my face.
part of the ugly (and hot) run course

run time (10k): 58:35
I felt surprisingly good after finishing, and besides being super thirsty and hot, I felt like I could keep going! I hung out for a while and discovered that I had actually placed second in my age group (20-24)! Although I have to add that there were only two people in my age group, haha.  Hey, I'll take what I can get, and in this case it's a lovely plaque that makes me feel like a badass : )
finish video
 1st & 2nd (F 20-24)
 me & dad

total time: 2:59:21
All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better race. This was only my second triathlon, but I've learned a lot and trained a lot since my first, so I was eager to see it all pay off. Especially with the swim, it was nice to see all my time spent in the pool has been successful. And like I mentioned before, this race gave me a nice confidence boost going into Vineman next month. More than anything, I had fun! It's easy to lose track of things when were putting in hours of training day after day, but to finally get to execute all that hard work and put everything together on race day is totally worth it. While I'm still super nervous about tackling 70.3, there's now a smidge of excitement thrown in there, too!


  1. Good job! I'm sorry I missed it. I'm excited, however, about the Vineman next month and cheering you on there. I'm very proud of you. l, mom

  2. Congratulations on a great race! You look so happy coming out of the water. I'm doing my first Oly tomorrow & the swim is my hardest leg, this post has really inspired me!

  3. Congrats on the strong race and your age group place! No need to tell people how many were competing. :)