Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TCSD (almost) Half Ironman RR part 2

WARNING: LONG! (But you already knew that)

Transition 2:

I got my bearings as quickly as possible and located my transition towel. The giant POWERBAR logo did wonders and I carefully deposited my bike back to its safe locale on the ground. Glancing around I saw a few bikes - some laying as mine was, but a few others upright in their special stands. Oh well, next time for my bike, perhaps.

Even though I was RACING, I still took my time to make sure I had everything that I needed. I had planned on carrying three Powergels (even though I would probably only consume two. I just wanted the extra for "just in case" something went awry and/or I found myself totally and utterly lost, running for 2+ hours or something disastrous like that), a container of salt tablests, and a full, 24 oz bottle of water.

And before you say anything, YES, I could have worn a fuel belt OR Camelback (which I have worn on two occasions during half ironmans). But 1) the fuel belt makes my mid-section feel jiggly and that's NOT conducive to positive-mental-thoughts while racing and 2) my Camelback valve is broken. Note to self: get it fixed!

So the water bottle carried football style it was!

Again, Nathaniel was right there - taking pictures and talking to me. I know for a fact that we DID have a conversation. For the life of me, I can't remember any of it, though. I can't reiterate how surreal it was to have him right in transition with me. That never happens. It's like wearing shorts on Christmas: it's just not supposed to happen that way. Unless you live in Florida. Or North Carolina. Or California. Humph! I miss my snow flakes and white-covered ground!

One last check confirmed that I had everything that I needed. All that was left was to run approximately 13.1 miles. Super!

But as I paused for thought - the task at hand seemed near impossible. Don't get me wrong - I love running, have always loved running, and even though I miss my short course speed from a few years back, I love the run segment of triathlon. But the relative safety of transition was downright appealing. And I was pretty convinced that I was going to get stupidly lost and mixed up on the run. I looked over and saw the guy that I rode into T2 with, sitting on his transition mat having a chat with his significant other.

If only he would get a move on and exit with me, I thought. Then I could follow him - safety in numbers! Two head are better than one! But he seemed totally unmotivated to leave and continued to sit...and chat.

Okay. Need I say that this was a VERY relaxed race?

Time to get a fire under my ass and GO!

The Run:

This picture - my absolute FAVORITE of the race - totally sums it all up.

I'm standing on the timing mat (yes, this time I DID run over it on my way out), asking for and verifying the run directions. I know for a fact that I'm giving the RD an incredulous look while he points one way with one hand and another with the other. I think the guys watching was highly amused, as I only repeated myself four or five times.

"Left, right, left, right?"


"Oh. Okay - right, left, take a right on the path as you hit the canal, left on the street, and another left a few blocks down. It's marked...? Okay. Got it. Um...yeah. Okay. Right, left, right on path, left...."

It sounded awful - but what could I do, except for run out?

I bid farewell to Nathaniel and started running. Not super fast because I was convinced that I would go the wrong way and then have to back track in front of the RD who had just given me directions and everyone else in transition.

I looked down to make sure my watch was working and set off to run the best that I could.

So far, so good. I'm just running...and running...and running... Okay - made the right turn, now the left.... I see a woman on a bike....and what I think is the path...are there markings? Okay...I can sort of see what I think is an arrow and "TCSD" so I think I'll follow that.... Okay...running...I think I'm going the right way...running.....oh good! There are the basketball course that I recognize from Google Earth. I MUST be going in the right direction.... Running...running...running....

I am totally fucked.

A few minutes later the path emptied out onto a pretty busy road, and I took a left, even though I didn't see the chalk markings. From studying Google Earth, I knew that I was supposed to take a left on Onvly Street. Or at least that's what I think the name was. But I remembered it because I "only" have another 13 miles to go. Or some mind trick like that.

Took a left on the street and kept running. Running...Running....

And then - came to a "T" in the road.

Now - common sense would dictate that I SLOW DOWN and look for chalk markings. Race sense would dictate that I KEEP GOING FAST. But I was so petrified of going the wrong way that I actually stopped and scanned the sidewalk.

I looked ahead.


I looked behind.


Right, left, further back...further ahead....



Zip, zero, zilch.

Meanwhile, time was ticking away and I could feel the desperation mounting.

To my left loomed the bay, or at least an offshoot of the bay. Weren't we supposed to stay on or close to the bay at all times?

To my right were neighborhoods, but I could see Mission Bay and its marshes stretching off in the distance. I knew that was the general direction, but what if the path I was supposed to take was on my left....?

I looked down again, hoping that through some miracle of sorts, the wonderful chalk markings would suddenly appear and I would see something. Anything.


Straight ahead there was a chain-link fence that had a small opening, and a semi-visible dirt path extended beyond it. Maybe we were supposed to go through there? But I didn't remember any urban-extreme-challenge-bit to this triathlon. And besides, the links looked a little rusty, and I didn't think having my tetanus shot bolstered was a prerequisite for this race.

I looked behind me hoping for the appearance of anyone from the race.

No one.

I was alone. And lost.


I choose the left, the road that went down towards the water. After a minute or so, it just didn't seem right. And I hadn't remembered anything about running towards transition, even if there was water between me and the race site. So - for the first time EVER in my race career, I turned around and ran back - retracing my steps.

Okay, back at the "T". This time I took the road on my right and after thirty seconds or a minute, decided that this too was totally wrong. I saw some guys grilling on their balcony a few stores above, and was tempted to call out to them, "Hey - did you just happen to see any people in spandex running semi-fast and/or shuffling in this direction? They're probably carrying water bottles or some form of liquid with them.... Do you know if they passed by here within the past twenty or thirty minutes?"

But I didn't.

Instead I went back. Again.

I am totally fucked. Totally and utterly screwed.

And then, I did something that I NEVER EVER though I would EVER do. I started running back towards the transition. Hell, I had only been running (at this point) twelve minutes, with probably less than a mile covered. Maybe I could ask for more directions or - with some luck - see another racer running towards me.

Within a block, I saw someone turn off the busy intersection, running with a fuel belt and sporting spandex. BRILLIANT!

"Which way?" I shouted, probably loud enough for everyone back at race site to hear.

He pointed towards the right and I looked dubiously down the road that lead away from the bay.

I waited for him to get closer.

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure," he responded.

And then I did my best to keep him in my sights.

We covered three blocks fairly quickly, passing by the grillers in the process. At the top of a small hill, we saw a "road closed" sign on the left. "So this is where the detour must be," he commented. I think I grunted and commented that I was happy that he were there with me.

Another block down and we took a left.

The bay stretched beautifully out ahead of us, blue waters sparkling in the bright sunlight, and I could see a pedestrian path that snaked its way through the sand. My friend upped his tempo, and I did my best to keep him in my sights - if anything, for the peace of mind of knowing that I was probably going in just about the pretty much correct direction.

The next few miles passed pretty much uneventfully, except for the fact that I just didn't feel like I was going fast. Come to think of it - pretty much the only thing that I knew for sure, were that 1) my lifeline was running somewhere ahead in the distance and 2) there was supposed to be an aid station around mile 5.

I think my fear of being lost and total unfamiliarity with the area really slowed me down. My race became more about survival and just "getting through" rather than pushing at the extent that I'm used to. I could see pedestrian runners ahead, and I did whatever I could to pass them by.

My salt tablets were making a distracting rattling noise, so I pulled them out of my rubber-banded-group-of-3-gels and slipped them in my back pocket (along with the salt tablets from the bike). Oops. So I was carrying roughly 4X the salt that I needed - oh well. Who knew what I would actually need during the course of the day?

As I ran along, I could feel the sun beat down on me, and heat sizzle up from the sidewalk. Having Mission Bay on my left side - at some points within two or three feet - was downright distracting. I was very close to chucking my uber-heavy water bottle, salt pills, and gels away into the nearest trash container and splashing headlong into the cooler waters. Seeing beach revelers only ticked me off more, and for a few moments I thought about how completely stupid this sport was.

Which - I tried to reason with myself - was totally the wrong thing to think about while racing a half ironman. Hello? Racing! Let's go!

The minutes ticked by and I convinced myself to not turn off my watch. I already figured my run time would be slow and I just didn't want to recon with the numbers. However, I DID need my watch to gauge my Powergel ingestion, so for that reason, and that reason alone, I kept it running.

Finally, just under 38 minutes into my run, I saw a chalk marking for "TCSD aid station".

Even though I still have 8+ miles to go, I was absolutely ecstatic. Contact! Human contact with other people who knew what I was doing and that I was out there and who cared enough to take the time and volunteer and support this race! YEA!

Another race first for me when I (again) STOPPED at the aid station and chatted with the two volunteers. I thanked them profusely, while asking one guy if he could 'please fill up my water bottle'. I immediately drank two cups of water, dumped two more over my head and looked for the trash.

The girl said, "You're doing great! First girl to run by and tenth overall. Keep it up! Its a scorcher out there!"

I think I babble incoherently because the guy handed me my water and asked if I needed salt. But I was already thanking them and running away, afraid that if I stopped much longer I would never start again.

I quickly did the math. 10th place meant that there were 9 people ahead of me. I had already seen one and knew that I was a strong enough runner to catch a few. Just keep running...

So I did.

Gradually the time ticked by, and I found myself running over bridges (where yes, the though of jumping over the rail into the water DID occur to me, but obviously I kept going), trying to desperately stay on course. If I could just get to the aid station at or around mile 10 close to Fiesta Island, I was pretty sure about the route back.

At the bottom of one of the two bridges we crossed, I came upon another confusing bit. I could no longer see the runner ahead who had been so helpful when I was lost, and there was a stop light with a semi-visible "TCSD" arrow pointing LEFT.


To the left brought me back towards the water. Hhhhmmmmm..... but the half block that it would take to get me there didn't seem right.

However - maybe I was supposed to hang a quick left and then a right? I wasn't really sure....

Not wanting to waste MORE time, I took the left and made an immediate right. And then kicked myself because I thought (again) that I was going the wrong way. Okay - I rationalized - the road HAD to lead back to the bay...Right... All drains lead to the ocean!

But after a few minutes, I realized something was horribly wrong. I was running against traffic - that was actually pretty heavy with people going into restaurants and shops and other touristy-places along the bay. I was pretty certain that the race organizers wouldn't deliberately put us in this situation.

I tried to reach back into my memory and picture the run course on Google Earth. But it just didn't work - I DID know that this road would eventually re-connect up with another bridge that we were supposed to cross, but I just wasn't sure when. Oh well - I may be running a little more than I had anticipated. Oops.

Eventually I wound my way back around (through parking lots and a very very busy road) to the bridge that was to be the only out-and-back section of the course. And then.... Then I was greeted with THE BEST SIGHT I HAVE EVER SEEN!


I saw two guys running shoulder-to-shoulder down the bridge on the other side of the road. I didn't even care that they were a mile or two ahead of me. Seeing them made me feel so much better. Ahead in the distance I could see another runner trudging up the bridge, and I figured either 1) he was going super slow or 2) I had come upon him from a very different direction.

Running over the bridge didn't physically feel great - but just knowing that I was actually semi-on-course did wonders for my psyche. I think I doubled my pace, assured that I was going the right way.

Over the bridge, past one person, and seeing a few others in the distance, rounding a stop light and seeing the "TCSD" arrow marking was great. I upped the cadence and wasn't even jealous when I passed a group from the Korean Church Congregation getting watermelons out of their church vehicle in anticipation of a picnic. Before I hit the bridge on the return portion, I passed another guy and commented, "Boy - are you a sight for sore eyes."

I didn't wait around for his reaction.

I was more curious about whom I would see running towards me; interested if there was anyone else close by. Half way over the top, I saw two other men - but no women. But I still upped the pace - partly because I didn't want to be passed, but mostly because I thought I pretty much knew the rest of the way back.

Running past Seaworld and its subsequent mile(s) of parking lots was interesting. I could hear people screaming on the roller coaster and only got one or two honks from motorists as I ran the opposite direction of traffic. Unbeknown to me, Nathaniel was somewhere in that mess, hoping to catch a glimpse of me running. The poor guy was just as lost as I was, and eventually gave up and headed back to the race site. What a trooper!

I felt that I had finally found my stride - and my pace was something that I would normally try to hold for a half ironman run. I was still taking sips of my water every few minutes, along with 4 salt tablets at the one hour mark. At 1:15 into my run, I took (what I figured) would be my final gel. I knew that I needed the calories and salt that it offered, and the berry flavor tasted great in my mouth.

And then.... just ahead up the road....was the final, 10-mile aid station. For the second time, I actually stopped and chatted with the volunteers. One guy refilled my water bottle while another recorded my race number. They offered me salt and gatorad, bananas and water - but I only dumped a few cups of water over my head. I thanked them again and set off down the path.

Suddenly I heard them screaming, "GO TO YOUR LEFT! TO THE LEFT!!!"

Looking down I could see the chalk marks and TCSD arrow pointing towards the left path, while I had been ready to run headlong down the right.


"I'm directionally challenged!" I shouted back. I heard one guy laugh. If they only knew....

"Just under three miles to go!" was the response that I got.

Okay - I quickly did the math and figured that I could pretty easily go under 1:40, in spite of all my wrong twists, turns, backtracks, and stops. I picked up the pace (again) and kept going, satisfied that I would be finished soon.

I recognized the blue gazebo from the Google Earth map and - for the first time - knew where I was. SCORE!

Up ahead, I could see runners and pedestrians, families out enjoying the day and couples walking their dogs along the bay. A few sail boats and watercraft dotted the bay and I made sure to keep the cadence up as I passed a fellow racer - telling him, "Good job! We're almost there!" in the process.

The last three miles were uneventful. I chased down a few people, but kept running. And running. And running. 1:40 came and went and I figured that either I was really REALLY slowing down, or perhaps the course was a tad bit long. Whatever. I couldn't affect anything at this point, except for how I choose to run my race. IF I wanted to finish, I had to keep going.

Eventually I recognized De Anza cove off in the distance, and I worked hard to dodge kids on bikes and excitable dogs on the running path. Rounding the final turn and within sight of the disgusting rest rooms, I saw a familiar figure in red sitting on a park bench.

"Hi Nathaniel!"

I waved and actually smiled, holding my water ball football style as I passed my hubby on the way in. I was so relieved to see the finish line, happy that I had actually FOUND the thing that I slowed to a walk on the way in.

I didn't even see my time until a few minutes after I finished. I chuckled - IF the course had been accurate, I would have just set a monster Half Ironman pr (whatever that means - because all courses are different, given the terrain, wind, temperature, etc...). As it was - my swim and bike were super fast, while my run was, well, slower-than-I-have-ever-run-but-I-found-my-way-back-so-YEA!

But seventh overall (I think...I haven't seen the official results yet), and first amongst the ladies was great. More than what I could ask for on a day like today.

I removed my chip and told Brian the race director that he didn't have to touch it and that I would be MORE than happy to put it somewhere. But he (bravely) took it by the plastic and after that, I'm not really sure.

After chatting with Nathaniel and Kevin Korsky of Finishline-Multisports, I did my best to gather my things and cool down. I managed a quick shower - where I found most of the other guys who had finished ahead of me - commenting on the course. We all had similar stories to tell, and I profusely thanked my friend who had pointed me in the right direction when I was lost the first time. He actually laughed and commented that, "I can't believe you were actually running BACK to the start!"

Desperate times call for desperate measures, my friend.

I waited around a short while for Elizabeth to finish, and cheered in a few other athletes along the way. It was really great getting a chance to chat with other SD Triathlon Club members (who I really don't know all that well), and I loved the laid back atmosphere. Nathaniel had a great time too - walking through transition and chatting with a few people.

Finally it was time to head out. I thanked Brian one more time for a great race, congratulated Elizabeth and a few other athletes, gathered my stuff, and huffed my way back to the car.

There were important things to do!

Post-race festivities:

First up: Mama Testas. Nathaniel wanted authentic Mexican food and I just wanted to make the guy happy. He had been so supportive throughout the day - driving all over, shouting encouragement, taking pictures... If that's what he wanted to eat...well....I would do my best.

In the car I chatted with Jen and recounted my race. She groaned about getting lost on the run, but was happy with the swim and bike. And in reality, it WAS my responsibility to know the run course. If I had been more comfortable, I probably would have gone faster - just knowing where you are, I discovered, is half the battle.

But that - my friends - is knowledge tucked away for the next big race.

Mama Testas was fun...but fried fish tacos within 45 minutes after finishing (almost) a Half Ironman was...well....just disgusting. My stomach flip flopped a few times and I found myself running towards the bathroom. Thank god it was unoccupied, but I felt awful as I got some pretty weird looks from fellow eaters. Sorry! If you only knew!!

But just because I couldn't finish my fish taco, did NOT mean that I wasn't up for sheet cake. So Nathaniel and I made a quick stop off on the way home for the ever-important-post-race cake and I was very happy.

Post shower and recovery food (ie recovery bar and chocolate milk), this was my happy smile. Sheet cake and all!

Yes, I'm slightly sunburnt and yes - that was the piece with the MOST frosting available.

Later - and here's the real topper: Nathaniel made me a home made beer sampler. Very carefully, he made his beer selections and this was the result. Before you get too worked up, no I did NOT drink all the beer. Rather he poured me a few ounces of each to "sample".

Up close and personal with the selection. My favorite was the Stone Pale Ale, but I was also partial to the Boont Amber Ale. The chocolate porter was interesting (albeit a bit heavy) - but as you all know, I love beer samplers. So...there you go.

In addition, I made my favorite Amy's cheeseles pizza. Because - let's face it: sampling beer on sheet cake, one fish taco, 8 oz of chocolate milk, and a recovery bar is NOT a good idea.

Finally - at the table and ready to go! YEA! South Park smile and all...

We eventually polished off the pizza and then beer. And were soon joined by a friend who made it seem as though SHE had eaten her fill and was passed out from overindulgence. (And no - we keep them off the table. We didn't have the heart to kick her off. Would you?)

And because I can't post a picture of One without the Other. Here's the House Monster in all her glory, having reclaimed the Ugly Green Recliner by throwing up on the cushion last week. Hard as I worked, I couldn't quite get the cat barf out of the upholstery. This won't matter, as I'm outvoted 3-1 by Nathaniel and the kitties who all love This Thing.

She must have been pretty close to this position when she threw up in the first place.

In the end, I had a great day. I am GRATEFUL to the Tri Club of San Diego for putting on this race, and doing such a good job in its first year. Nearly everyone who I met or spoke with (except for the Green Wheeled Drafter) was really positive and nice. They make it easy to see why I love the sport so much.

And for the record - I'm totally not upset about getting turned around and hopelessly lost on the run course. Bottom line: it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to know the course. And in the future, I'll take a little more time to study the course and make sure that I really REALLY know where I'm going. Had it been a higher priority race or one where I was really passionate about the outcome or time - then maybe yeah...I would be kicking myself more. But I'm actually happy that things turned out the way they did - because I still learned a lot in the process, still had fun, still really enjoyed myself.

Thanks to everyone for your support AND (for those of you who stuck with me through TWO stupidly long race reports) patience. And congratulations to all who raced and who supported-people-racing this past weekend!


Beth said...

Oh man!! I would have been so flustered not knowing where I was going. But you handled it GREAT!! Way to get through it and finish strong! And that sheet cake - YUM!!!! :)

D said...

First, I would like it to show on the record that I read BOTH installments of your RR at once. I need a nap now.

Second, what the hell is up with the WHITE sheet cake? You're fired!

cherelli said...

Great race report marit - congrats on finding your way "out of the woods"! all the best for Kona!

Missy said...

OMG, no joke, I'd still be out there OR it would have been an ironman distance race for me, one or the other. I always count on others to point me on my way..I know, wrong and just a bad plan! Yay first chica.

Ryan said...

OMG! That was so long that I got lost reading it. I totally spaced and wondered, "where am I and what am I reading?"

Wow I'm a little dizzy now and you are the one drinking the beer.

I need to lay down now.

Mama Simmons said...

Well I'm glad you had a good day! You have a great attitude. Getting lost like that would have thrown me over the edge.

Don't worry, I do think it is IMPOSSIBLE to get lost in Kona. ;)

GoBigGreen said...

Awesome race Marit, and I assure you that there will be snow for you to prance in soooner than i wish. As for the fish tacos...you are a trooper. I have barely gotten an appetite for more than peanut butter after the race. YUM sheet cake.

Stef said...

Holy Todelo! You totally handled that run course with grace and aplomb! I would have been livid! Hee hee.

Directions are not my strong suit.

GREAT job out there -- I admire your speed and tenacity on the bike and good for you for putting that beyotch in her place. Did you see her finish (way behind you -- lol)???

Finally love the post race eats and drinks! Your rrs are some of the most fun to read because of all the detail.

Take good care during your recovery and upcoming training!

Elizabeth A. Rich said...

Ummm... I couldn't read your whole race report :-) But I LOVE the added pictures because I still feel like I read it by looking at the pics! I am very proud of your white sheet cake, but its missing ice cream.

ADC said...

Yay, great race. Even with getting lost you did great. I am glad to see you have been sampling some Newcastle ale - :))) Say hi to Nate from us.

Train-This said...

You should have run the whole course twice! YEAH! Way to go!

Kim said...

way to make the most out of that run situation! you still nailed it! great job marit! and i love the christmas tshirt while enjoying the beer sampler! you totally deserved the yummy frosting cake and beer.

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job on the poorly marked course!! "Onvly" = Only: I LOVE it!! Ha!

Way to go!

Herrad said...

Came by to say hello and wish you well.
Hope you are having a good day.

Kim said...

Love it! I laughed out loud when you said - buller?? So funny! Sorry you got lost but no biggie on a day like that. It won't be possible at the big show so you won't have to worry about it! You did great! Congrats Marit!!

kerrie said...

what an adventure! well, now you know that it's really not a race unless you think "i'm totally fucked" at some point, lol. good to get that in and test your legs, kona is sneaking up on us!!

Greg Remaly said...

ha, great read - getting lost on the run is everyone's fear, mine especially, and you told your story with great detail, i felt like i was right there with you. congrats on the victory, and cheers to Nathaniel for being such a great sport.

Damie said...

Mar- What a funny race report. So funny with the twists and turns...makes life fun. Glad you kept your cool and had fun with it! (plus, I don't think I have ever heard you use the f word! ha ha!)