I don’t even know where to begin. This race was epic for me for several reasons. It was my first Olympic distance triathlon, it was the first one I’ve done out of state, and it was one where I’d get to watch Olympic athletes from around the world compete in the last qualifier for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Since my Giant Avail was fairly new and I’m not yet comfortable disassembling it, I decided to rent a bike there and not ship mine. So glad I did. We went straight from the airport to Zumwalt’s bike shop in San Diego and they took super care of me. I had called ahead and they reserved a Specialized Ruby for me and it was perfect. They swapped the pedals for mine (which I brought with me) and took lots of time to fit and tune the bike. They even let me return the bike on Sunday (they aren’t even open on Sunday!) We called the manager’s cell phone and he met us at the shop on our way to the airport.
Next we checked in at The Dana hotel, a beautiful hotel on the water and less than a mile from the race. Friday night was mainly about getting ready so we didn’t take a lot of time to relax and sightsee. Ate dinner at the hotel restaurant and they were nice enough to customize a pasta dish with no salt. Too much salt in the days before a long race can contributor to dehydration. It was hard to go to bed early but I tried. I spent most of the night waking up every hour wondering if my alarm was going to go off in time.
Spent the rest of the evening packing and re-packing my bag, putting race number stickers on my helmet and bike, and managing being nervous. The hours/day before race are worse than the actual race. All the “what if?” questions run through my head. What if I get a flat? What if I throw up? What if I can’t clip out during transition and fall? What if I get kicked in the face during the swim? What if I didn’t eat/sleep/drink enough yesterday? What if there is no place to pee? What if I get lost and make a wrong turn? Seriously, these are the things I worry about.
(4:45am – setting up my transition area)
All the worry gets replaced with focus as soon as the horn goes off. The water was pleasant and the women in my wave seemed super nice. We had scoped out the swim course the night before and it looked pretty straight forward. Keep the first buoy on your left and the rest of the buoys on the right. It took me a while to get my breathing rhythm and after that, it seemed to go by pretty quick. I learned that I pull to the right if I am not paying attention and sighting. I normally try to stay on the left outside of the pack so I don’t get kicked or overwhelmed. But since I pull to the right, I kept finding myself smack in the middle of the pack, fumbling my way around. Headed back to the left and decided to sight every other stroke instead of just once in a while. This helped a lot.
(waiting for the horn)
Transition 1 was easy but took a long time. The bike is the biggest opportunity to drink and eat and if I missed it, the run would be miserable. Even if it cost a few minutes, I’d rather take the time to eat a Clif Bar and chug some water while I’m trying to get everything ready for the bike. The bike was the funnest part, mainly because the big hill everyone had been stressing about (up the south side of Soledad Mountain) wasn’t so bad after all. The bike route was two big 12-mile loops and when I did the first hill pass and realized it wasn’t so bad, I was literally giddy the rest of the ride. I saw people walking their bikes and one person throwing up on the side of the road during the hill climb. I figured training in the Colorado mountains at altitude had worked in my favor.
The run was a flat course along a beach path that passed lots of beautiful beach homes. It was fun to run past and imagine what it must be like to live right on the beach in Mission Bay. It was sunny but not too hot, lots of water stops, and people-watching became a fun distraction. The finish line was huge and intimidating and I was a bit loopy as they took my timing chip and put a finishers medal around my neck. What an absolute blast!
Dave met me at the finish line and we wandered around for a bit watching other runners come in and checking out the expo. I knew I should eat something light and keep drinking water, but all I wanted were salty French fries. Luckily, they didn’t have any. We walked back to the hotel, quickly cleaned up, and headed back to the race to watch the men’s Olympic triathletes run their race. It was humbling and inspiring to be so close to some of the world’s best athletes.
The weekend ended too soon and we said goodbye to San Diego. I will never forget this incredible experience!
Things I learned:
- Wear a hat for the long runs, not just sunglasses (my scalp was sunburned for a week).
- Don’t be afraid to wear a fanny pack, even if you think it makes you look like a newbie. I carried a small water bottle and filled it up at the water stations so I could drink it slowly and not have to guzzle a cup of water while running. I also carried chapstick and a Clif Bar. They sometimes give out gels or Gu at the water stops but I don’t like to eat something new during a race and prefer to carry my own fuel. Do what works for you – it’s your race!