Sunday, August 23, 2009

SB Long Course Report: Ouch

It was bound to happen at some point this season: A race to truly kick my @$$ and leave me in tears. Santa Barbara Long Course did just that. Although it was a great race venue and I got through it without completely blowing up--even podiumed in my age group and got within my predicted goal time--the race was definitely a "low" point for me this season.

But I'm so glad I had this experience. It taught me a lot about myself, racing, preparing for races and the power of mind over matter. It's the bad race days that make the good ones that much better, and I'm thankful for everything that SB did for me as a triathlete.

I think my problems mainly stemmed from not tapering enough given the big volume I've been putting in. I had the hardest three weeks of training that I've ever done then only sort of tapered for five days... that simply wasn't enough for me. A couple other issues I was battling during the week had me out of sorts, but nevermind that. I buried all the baggage as best as I could--I refuse to be "that person" with an excuse. Unfortunately, you can only pretend so much, and physically I was beat up... amongst other things. In short: My mojo didn't show up for the weekend.

But it definitely wasn't all bad. I was in good company (and fast racers) so that made everything more enjoyable, especially the spectacular meals we shared together. Food was a big part of the weekend, and WOW I ate well--thanks Sean, Trish & Ian. Eating with triathlete friends is always a blast.
Eagerly awaiting our pre-race dinner at Natural Cafe:

An example of the great food... Post-race Mexi meal y Corona con lima. Muy bien.

The Race
We headed to SB at late Friday afternoon from LA, just in the thick of traffic. We weren't trying to torture ourselves, but work duties call (for some, not me) so we had to make due. It wasn't so bad--made packet pickup in time, had a great dinner on State Street and were in bed at a decent hour.

Before I knew it, the 4 o'clock hour arrived and given that we had an elite-division triathlete in our group, we had to get out there early... my wave, on the other hand, was the last of the day. Crap. I hate still racing when I know everyone else I'm with is done.

I ran into Tatiana before the race, we shared the same bitterness toward our last-wave luck, and then we headed out for a warmup swim... if you can call it that. Glad she was with me because I wasn't the only one who thought the ocean felt abnormally freakin cold. Ice cream headache style! We took a little beach run after to stay warm. Plus, the weather was already very gloomy, overcast and on the verge of rain.
THE Swim
Finally, Wave 10 went off and from the get-go I knew this day was going to be a battle--with myself. As always, it took me a while to find my groove in the swim, and once I did, I struggled to hold a straight line. Then each calf conveniently cramped up about 3/4 way through (cold water symptom?). My only saving grace (aka excuse) to my ridiculous time was that we apparently swam the majority of the mile going against the current. Regardless of the circumstances, however, the reality is: I need to work harder on my swim. Period.

THE Bike
Right away my legs were not responding to the speed I wanted. The course was very hilly, with many long climbs (which means fast downhills too), and it's constantly changing directions and swerving with bumpy roads so you have to be cautious. It was an extremely beautiful ride though, and anything but boring. By far the high point of the race. The scenery and challenging route served to help distract me from the burn in my legs. Plus, being in the last wave meant that the course was nearly empty by then. Pretty cool. Another curve ball: Due to a last-minute Aerodrink purchase, I was sans-Cateye so didn't know mileage or speed at all--God forbid! That did teach me me a good lesson in not relying on the numbers but rather "the feel." I managed to average over 19 mph overall for 34 miles, and I'm ok with that, but I'm not ok with the fact that I felt like death through it all.

10 miles to go in the Zoots. By this point I was shooting for sub-8 min miles, and thankfully I did that. But within the first 5k, all I wanted to do was sit down, curl up in a ball and cry. It was raining by then and windy, but not terribly cold. Still, I was on the verge of a breakdown. The out-and-back course goes from some coastal flat to pretty much all uphill out then all downhill and back to flat. I think my recent long training runs & 70.3 races are the only reason I got through this without succumbing to the "ouch" factor... I was mentally prepared for 10 miles and just took it one at a time, I even mustered up a sprint finish. Avg'd abt a 7:45 pace overall.

My total time was 3:42:02, putting me 2nd in my AG to the speedy 1st-place Tatiana (I hope to see her go pro, she's got it.) And, I would have been 8th 25-29... yea I'm looking at that. My goal was to finish in 3:30 to 3:59, so mission accomplished.

Crossing the finish line, Ian's dad, Larry, was right there waiting--I cannot even describe how happy I was to see a familiar face, it literally kept me from falling apart right there in the crowd.
After some food and chatting, I went over to my transition alone, sat down and the tears just came. I had a good 5-10 minute cry. My body was just drained. Not in a bonk, nutritionally-deprived way, but in a "every ounce of me begged to stop for nearly 4 hours but I said go hard" way. It was a mental/physical battle that I'm glad I won, but it had clearly gotten to me emotionally. I needed that cry to let out some of that @#%$* I was feeling. It worked. Post-sob fest, I got my act together, hid any signs of tears and found my friends for awards.
Speaking of awards, once again, I was the only 20-24er to show up. Ahhh!
Soon after, we packed up to go eat and then hit the road back LA. Meanwhile, the rain was coming down... random!
The rest of the weekend was a combo of more great food (I pretty much over-indulged), good people, a few drinks, an easy Sunday morning spin in Manhattan Beach with to-die-for pumpkin pancakes after and a little couch time before heading home. All the while, my mind was caught up in thoughts of my race performance, why I hurt, how to taper better, blah blah. I do not let myself off the hook easily. This race was a wake-up call, and I won't forget it.

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up for the start of a new semester: Grad school starts Monday! Life, as I know it, is going to be even more hectic. As if I weren't already a hermit thanks to triathlon, my social life is about to get a lot more NOT interesting. But I don't mind. It's all part of the plan.
And there are only two more big races on my agenda for the year. Ahhhhh


  1. Ok, I can't read the whole post. I'm much too ADD for such things. BUT... way to get through. These are the important races that make you who you are as an athlete. Good work.

    And why aren't you wearing a T3 sweatshirt? I call bs.

  2. Some races are just harder; way to stay in the game. It sounds like this race helped to highlight some areas which you can focus on for Clearwater.

    You did great. Oh, and the pumpkin pancakes sounds fabulous!!!

  3. Hey there. I somehow stumbled upon your blog and have really enjoyed reading it. I'm also a grad student and endurance athlete so while nowhere near as competitive as you are, it's nice to know there are others like me out there.

    Your race sounds like my first triathlon. My first. Cold water caused a bronchospasm. I was so slow on the swim as a result that I was lapped on my first loop of a two loop bike course. Thankfully my run was strong, but it started pouring buckets at the end. Truly miserable. The only reason I'll go back to tris is because of my background as an endurance runner.

    It sounds like you were able to place this race in the context of other races, learn and move on. And what else can you do? Well, if you're you then you can place, too! What most people wouldn't do to place- girl, keep up the good work.

  4. Some races are just like that...heck, i have training days like that. You made it through! And it sounds like you're learning some very important lessons about rest and adapting your schedule for YOU!

    Great job!

  5. way to stick it out... they all can't be good races. that's why when you nail one if feels so good.

    just let yourself recovery and you will be stronger for it.

  6. 1st off: Agreed: Great Weekend
    2nd off: I don't think you had a "bad" race, it was a "hard" race and one that will make you better.
    3rd: There is a difference between "tapering" and "recovery" (a wise man told me that) and you did the latter.

    You did Awesome! No 2 ways about it.

  7. Absolute rock star, Tawnee!! Nice work toughing it out and pushing through.

    I agree with your friend, Ian: it wasn't a "bad" race, but a "hard" race. You are so much better off for it!

    I am so stoked for you and Clearwater!!!!