Monday, November 10, 2008

RACE REPORT: Catalina Triathlon

Words cannot describe how amazing this past weekend was. I'm still in shock! I did the Catalina Island Triathlon on Saturday -- 1/2-mile swim, 15k bike and 5k run -- and pulled off 1:14:38, good enough to get me 3rd and podium in my age group, 6th female and 49th overall out of about 500. It was a very hilly course, ideal weather and extremely cool people. One of the highlights was the winds got so bad the day after the race that they shut down ferry service and no one could leave the island until Monday, so we all got an extended vacation. Let's just say the celebrating was very memorable.

Here's my mom and I before the race. If it's not obvious, I'm very happy here...

So here's how it went down: We got to Catalina Thursday so we could take our sweet time and not be rushed (mom's idea). Being that it's November, the weather could have been cold and wintery. Last weekend, for example, I got rained on 15 miles into my bike ride (still went my intended 40 miles). Not the case at Catalina, though. It felt like mid-July! Luckily it stayed like that through race day and changed all worked out perfectly in a odd, surreal sort of way, actually.

Out hotel room was super small, but cheap and right in town -- on the street that the race finished in fact -- so no problem. The beachfront part of the island reminded me of Cozumel, but there were major hills, and that reminded me of the Mediterranean.

Here's one thing I love so much about tri...everyone's like family even if you don't know each other: We met a guy on the ferry who was doing the race solo (his tri-travel friend had a last-minute emergency and couldn't go), so we became friends and all ended up having dinner together, and even hanging out over the weekend. As I always say, the more the merrier.
On Friday morning we did a bike ride on the course route, and it totally calmed my nerves. I was expecting some major hillage, and though it definitely was not flat, it wasn't anywhere as gnarly as I thought. Met some interesting people that day, including a man fishing with pizza dough. That night we did the traditional pre-race pasta fest (and chicken and dessert) at a legit Italian restaurant -- Villa Portofino, a must if you're ever out there. Some restaurants even advertised "Runner's Special" meals. Got to bed around 9:30 or 10 and slept like crap. It was loud outside -- lots of drunks out it seemed -- every hour I thought it was time to wake up and I was sharing a bed the size of nothing with my mom.

But on race morning I was ready to go. When I first signed up for this race, I was stoked it didn't start till 9 a.m.; however, I of course woke up super early and had way too much time to kill. Had my oatmeal made from water heated in the coffee pot (which happened to be in the bathroom), as well as coffee, bread (not toast) and a banana. Oh yea, an FRS drink too. I was one of the first out on the transition area, which was on the sand, but I got a good spot on a brick wall. Then my friend and I went running about 2 miles, I took pics, talked to people I knew, etc. Did a short swim before the race, and, oh man, how amazing! The water was clear to the bottom, a nice 65 degrees, lots of fish and I forgot how much wetsuits make you float -- love it!

I was in Wave 3 and pretty calm even down to the 10-second countdown to start. I knew I had to pace myself on the swim given it's my weakness, but I was feeling confident. We ran into the water and got going. I found my rhythym pretty soon into it, but that got screwed by run-ins with chicks and whatnot. Also, my spotting was really poor, and I know I veered off course several times, which inevitably made my swim longer. That's definitely something I need to work on. Did it all in about 15 minutes, wish I had done better.

T1 went smooth, and I knew my bike had to be strong to make up for the swim, as usual. The bike course involved three loops: going up a hill, then back down, around town and repeat. My heart rate was ridiculously high going up the first hill right off the swim, but I pushed through and tried to suck down Cytomax in between heavy breathing. Got a break coming down -- while getting up to 43 mph on the downhill. That whole hill scene was sort of sketchy cause there was one narrow road with people trucking up on one side and others hauling ass on the other side. Mix in people passing -- lots of "ON YOUR LEFT" -- and geez... There were some crashes that day! At one point during the bike, I heard my boss shout out my name and cheer me on (he happened to be on the island for a different event, ironic).

T2 was so-so, I couldn't get my socks on cause my feet were numb and I also got a stomach cramp unlike any I ever had; it was a twisting knot and it scared me. But drinking and breathing eased it, and my legs felt great going into the run. I knew to expect a big hill so I went fast on the flats to balance my pace. Notice: I thought there was one hill -- so coming down that I thought I was in the clear to finish on flats. (All the while, I noticed there weren't too many girls around, so I was stoked!!) But then reality hit: Coming back into town, I turned right to see the mother of hills in my immediate future. CRAP. But I got up -- my friends were walking by at the time and later told me I was looking strong still (yay). Then turning the corner to the finish line was awesome, I "sprinted" to the end and felt great. I knew I had to be one of the top female finishers. Turned out, I was only 3 minutes behind the 1st-place overall female. Not too shabby.

My mom also did amazing: 2nd in her division (50-54 F) with a 1:23 finish!! Not too bad for a 51-year-old riding a mountain bike! Dang.

We both medaled, so that was very special and unexpected, to be honest. I went into this race not putting pressure on myself to podium. I guess that stress-free attitude paid off.

After we got our medals, we grubbed and drank some celebratory beers. The rest of the day was so fun, talking to fellow racers and hearing their stories and later that night going to the bars where a lot of the 21-and-older crowd got pretty crazy at El Galleon. Goes to show: triathletes work hard and sacrifice a lot to perform well, but they also love to let loose when the racing is over!! I'm definitely in the right sport :)

And to top it off, the weather made a 180-degree turn Sunday. It was so incredibly windy they canceled all the ferry shuttles, which meant we all got an extra vacation day!! We found out that only happens maybe two or three times a year; the swells were up to 15 feet in the channel. Quite crazy. One: I'm so glad we didn't have that weather race day; two: I was forced to stay on vacation... amazing! Talk about lucky...

To see more of my pictures click here; for race results click here.


  1. One heck of a performance at any time, not to mention the fact that it's your first triathlon back from injury. Huge congrats! Your hard hill work obviously paid off. Tell your mom she rocks. What a cool and memorable trip for you two.

  2. Hey girl, I tried responding to your comment, but no such luck. Email me offline: