Barb’s Race, July 27, 2013

1044105_565146753524393_1143239417_nChristina’s First 70.3 Distance

In 2010, I first decided I wanted to do a half Ironman distance, and signed up for Vineman 70.3 in 2011 (on the waiting list).  I had done a few Olympic distance races and several sprints, and I wanted to step it up and really challenge myself.   Unfortunately, in April that year, I had a neck injury and had to stop training.  My doctor was never really able to tell me more than “probably a pinched nerve,” but I couldn’t turn my head, was in pain a lot, and bike riding was out of the question.  After several months of PT and chiropractic, I gradually started exercising again – first the elliptical, then spin classes, a little swimming on and off, and finally running about a year later.  I was able to run my first half marathon in Feb. 2013, and felt like I was finally over whatever the neck problem had been.  So in early 2013, I signed up for Barb’s race, trained and raced with GGTC’s TAG to Wildflower program, and did two other training races (Napa HITS Sprint, where I was second in my age group – totally unexpected!! – and Monte Rio Olympic, also a PR for me at 3:05).

By July 2013, when Vineman 70.3 came around, I was anxious to race.  I felt as ready as I was going to get and was afraid of getting injured in the final two weeks.  I really wished that I could do that race two weeks earlier, but had to wait until the end of July for Barb’s.  I started worrying about goal times, and had to keep reminding myself that my original goal had been to “just finish.”

Although the race was on a Saturday, technically what I did on the preceding Thursday morning needs to be included, since that impacted how I felt on race day.

So two days before the race, I was worried because I hadn’t been running in at least 11 days, and running is my weakest sport.  I thought I would go for an easy 3 mile neighborhood run, just to make sure I remembered how to run.  (I was also finally recovered from what was probably a stress fracture that I got right after the ½ marathon, so I was feeling nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my previous pace, which was already slow at about a 10:30 mile.)   Ignoring the advice of my husband David, who always tells me not to run too fast, I set off, thinking, “Well, let’s see how fast I can run.”  I ended up running 3 miles in 27:15, a 9:05 pace – way faster than I had any business running, especially since it was hilly.  I felt winded afterwards, but otherwise OK.  But when I woke up on Friday, I was NOT OK.  My quads were very stiff and sore, and going down the stairs was painful.  How could I have been so stupid?  I know this was not on the Training Peaks schedule and against what Neil had said, especially at the last RST class I went to on Tuesday, which was to take it easy and not do anything to impact my race.  Well, I was stubborn and apparently didn’t listen and now was even more anxious about how my race would go.

On Friday, I went for an easy swim to try to get my quads to relax, but it didn’t really work.  As David and I went to get my race packet Friday afternoon and drop off my run gear at Windsor High School, he asked why I kept doing quad stretches and was walking funny.  He too said that what I had done was not smart – but too late now!  I hoped that another night of sleep would help.

On Saturday morning, at zero dark five hundred hours, I was up and prepping for the race, and my quads felt no better.  I tried to just ignore them and think about something else.  We drove to the Russian River, I set up all my gear, went to the bathroom multiple times, and got into my wetsuit with 30 minutes to spare.  David helped me with some visualization exercises – thinking about completing each leg of the race easily and smoothly.  That helped calm me down, and I was ready to go.

There were only 3 swim waves for Barb’s Race, which went off at three minute intervals, and mine was the third and last.  I got into the water and went to the front of the start line since I am strongest at swimming.  The horn blew and I was off, swimming at a comfortable pace.  I felt like I was toward the front of my group, but in no time, I was encountering yellow caps from the previous age group, and then blue caps from the first age group.  I kept swimming by them – I swam on the inside, directly in line with the red buoys, and every time I had to swim by a buoy on the left, I had to move over into the traffic.  I felt like I was being a little aggressive, swimming between other women and unintentionally jostling them, but I wanted to get away from all these people!  Finally at the turnaround, it thinned out – by that time I had passed about 200 swimmers in the other two age groups!

The swim back was much smoother.  There was another purple cap in my group that I had been jostling with on the swim out, and I thought, “I need to lose this woman.”  At the very shallow part, I felt like I was really gliding strong, so I gave it a little kick and got past her.  It didn’t seem like too long before I was out of the water – 15th overall and 7th in my age group.  I had a 1:30 pace, which surprised me – I am able to do that regularly in my pool swims, but when I go longer distance in the pool, my time is closer to 1:40 or 1:45.  I guess having the wetsuit did help.  And I felt comfortable throughout the second half of the swim, so overall I was pleased with this portion.

In and out of transition, I could have been faster, but got a little slowed down trying to stuff all my gear in the plastic bag.  But my T1 was under 5 minutes, so that seemed OK.

Once on the bike, I tried to keep my pace above 17.5 for at least the first part of the race.  At mile 2 my quads were barking mercilessly, and I wondered how in the hell I was going to ride 56 miles with these legs.  I wanted a bike time under 3:30, and knew that the rolling hills and curves on Westside would slow me down.  Sure enough, it wasn’t too long before I started getting passed left and right.  It felt like everyone I had glided past in the swim was now catching up to me, plus their grandmothers, too.  I just kept going.  Eventually my quads stopped nagging me as much.  My time was dropping into the 16 mph range, and I tried to speed up any time it was straight.  The curves and downhills in the road were a different story – those I took too slowly, but I didn’t want to crash.  At around mile 24, I started obsessing about getting a flat, since I kept seeing competent looking racers stopped.  I tried to change the channel so as not to will such an event and just focused on what Neil says in RST, “perfect pedal stroke.”  I even tried to stand up a few times, and I rode in my drops when I could.

I was looking forward to the second half of the bike course, after Geyserville, where it flattens out some and has long stretches of straight, nicely paved road.  But when I finally got there, it seemed very windy.  My pace kept dropping, into the high 15 mph range, and I tried to pick it up.  Through the third aid station, I tried to grab some food, but dropped it on both attempts.  The volunteer yelled at me to take it with my right hand, but I couldn’t – my hand was feeling numb, and I have trouble steering with my left hand.  So no food for me, but I found half a Cliff bar in my bento box and ate that.  I kept having intestinal pains all throughout the ride anyway, so was worried about eating too much.

Finally I was at Windsor High, with an average pace of 16.3 mph.  I guess I brought it up in the last part, past Chalk Hill, when it becomes downhill and fast.  My bike time was 3:26:42 – not the fastest ever, but under 3:30, and still faster than 34 people in my age group and around 130 women overall.  So I guess not everyone passed me, though I really want to be able to cruise by people rather than always feeling so slow.

As soon as I got off my bike, I thought I was in real trouble.  I started having serious cramps in my quads and could hardly walk to my transition area.  I took my time putting on my shoes and ankle supports, and I almost forgot to put my timing chip back on, but noticed it at the last minute.  It was a slow transition, longer than 7 minutes, but I really felt like I couldn’t go any faster.  I was afraid I might not even be able to walk.

As I passed the start and the Run Aid Station #0, where Neil, David, and GGTC and TRIMORE people were, I felt my spirits lift.  My quads were cramping, but I tried not to think about them and just run.  After about a mile, my left calf started cramping, and I walked for about 15 seconds.  But then I just started running again and told myself that all the Salt Stick pills I had eaten before, during, and after the ride would help me.  And after a few minutes, the run felt easy!  My second mile was even under 10 minutes!  I was breathing fine and felt in control.  At every aid station, I poured water over my head and had something to drink.  I tried a cookie at one aid station, but it tasted disgusting and I spit it out, which some of the volunteers laughed at.

When I got to the first turn around, two women in front of me turned around about two feet short of the signboard.  I thought, “I have not come all this way to get disqualified for 2 feet.  I asked the volunteers there, “Aren’t we supposed to go around the sign?” and they just shrugged.  I went around the sign anyway.  On the way back, I started noticing the hills, and it felt more difficult.  But I kept going, with my pace under 10:30.

I was very happy to make my first lap, see the TRIMORE tent, get a high five from Neil, and encouragement from David, who reminded me that my goal was to finish the race, not accomplish any particular time.  I kept going.  In fact, at every aid station, I got a little boost.  The support throughout the run was so very helpful.  There were multiple people with hoses, and funny signs, such as, “You think this is hard, you should feel my abs” (with a picture of a very toned hunk), and “Never trust a fart in an Ironman.”  I smiled every time I passed a woman that had a sign that said something like “way to go, stranger.”  And I tried to amuse myself by posing for the photographers I kept passing.  That got harder and harder as I went.

At around mile 10, I was feeling pretty spent, but I kept running, even up the hills when I saw people walking.  I put ice in my hat and debated stopping at a port-a-potty, but decided against it.  I was almost done.  The last mile was the hardest.  I looked at my watch and saw I could actually make my goal time of 6:30, so I pushed it as hard as I could.  As I rounded the last straight-away, I saw my heart rate was almost 180 (about my limit), but I just kept going.  I tried to ask some of the people along the way to cheer, but they probably thought I was nuts.  As I turned into the high school, I fought to keep going, and crossed the finish line at 6:29:22!  At that point, my heart rate was 185 (highest it’s been on my Garmin), and I had to lean on a volunteer for a few minutes.  She asked if I needed medical, and I said no – I just stayed with her for about a minute.  Apparently Barb came and put her arm around me, but I have no real recollection of that – I only saw it in photos David took.  Finally, after a few minutes, I was steady enough to have my post race picture taken, admire my run time of 2:19 (two minutes faster than my first ½ marathon in February!), and David led me to a tree to rest.  I was afraid if I sat down, I might not get up again.

Eventually I had some food, and I tried to find Neil and the GGTC and TRIMORE people at Aid Station #0, but by then the shift had changed.  I had a massage, since I was starting to get bad muscle spasms, and my quads were practically immobilized.  Later in the day, I also discovered why I was having intestinal pains – my breakfast came out rather undigested, and I was very thankful this did not happen during the race!!  But I finished, I made my goal time, and I learned lots of lessons along the way.  I really feel like I went as hard as I could, and for that I am happy and proud.

What’s next?  Maybe Ironman Madison in 2014 – we’ll see!  I accomplished something I set out to do three years ago, and I did more than just “finish” – I was 22 out of 62 in my age group, and 100 out of 364 overall.  I’m not winning prizes, but that puts me in the top third – something I never thought possible when I finished second to last in my age group in my first Olympic tri in 2008. And I had fun!  I am thankful for all the support from my family, fellow triathletes, Coach Neil, and David – race on!




One Response to “ Barb’s Race, July 27, 2013 ”

  1. Susan Machtinger says:

    Christina, I thought about you so much on race day. I am so glad that it all turned out good for you. Hope to ride with you again soon. Congratulations!

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