Chula Vista Challenge: Blood, Sweat, and Mucus

Alright, here’s the recap from my first Olympic distance triathlon! If you want to read my pre-race thoughts first, check out my last post.

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So Saturday, Brian drove down with me to check in, drop off my run gear and my bike. We had a good time cruising south and it allowed me to see where I’d be swimming and what transition one looked it.  This was a point-to-point race, meaning we started down on the bay, then biked up into Chula Vista, and then ran up there. It makes logistics a little more complicated but this race was amazingly organized. Brian and I also checked out road bikes in the store where I registered… and I definitely need to get one. But that’s a story for another blog. It was nice to have company for the 1.5 hour round-trip drive, and I was happy to see how easy everything was going to be in the morning.

Sunday morning I got up at 4 am, drove 45 minutes down to about eight miles north of Mexico. I parked by the finish and hopped a shuttle bus down to the start with my dry and wet drop bags (I’ll explain). Then I had the technicians fill my  bike tires with air, got marked with my race number (216) and my age, and organized my station. There were only 305 finishers, which meant the fleet of volunteers could really be helpful to everyone. I packed up the clothes I wore that morning over my swim suit, put my camera and phone away, and dropped off my dry bag to be sent to the finish.  Then I set up my bike clothes and gear with my empty wet bag, which I would put my goggles and wetsuit in after the run.

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Waves started off at 6:50am, and I was wave four, going off at 6:58am. Going into this race, I was most nervous about the swim… and I hadn’t tried my wetsuit out yet (oops!). So the first few meters of the swim were a little funky as I got used to my wetsuit. I’m not sure it’s the best wetsuit for triathlons, but I am sure it was helpful. I still SUCK at swimming in a straight line in open water, lol. But a lot of my training was “heads up” so I could look for the next buoy while still moving forward.  The water was really calm, which helped, and I wasn’t crowded by other swimmers, which is always good.  I was expecting to finish just under a mile swim in about 45 minutes, but I came in at 35:43. Yay me! Swimming is honestly what I worked on the most for this race and I really was happy with that.

Running out of the water and transitioning, I had to remind myself to slow down. My plan was to spend a little extra time in transition one to make sure all my gear was set and then I could roll through transition two. This is possible for me because I ride a hybrid bike still and thus don’t have clip-in shoes to change. So I bike and run in identical gear, with the exception of switching out my helmet for my watch and Ipod.  That being said, my first transition time was only 2:52. Way faster than I expected, but I’ll take it.

Heading out on the bike, I knew I was going to struggle to keep up with all the road or race bikes. So I just set out to do my best and use the hills to my advantage since I had more gears. The course was slowly rising from the bay up to the city of Chula Vista… mostly going up. And I should mention that my thumb was throbbing this whole time, but really hurt when I had to switch my left gear with it. OW. We biked around Sleep Train amphitheater (more on that in the next blog), we biked through Otay Ranch and Rolling Hills Ranch… which I just thought “Really?” when we went past the sign.

I should also mention at point the disease that was plaguing me through this whole race. I’ve sounded like a man for days due to my throat and my stuffed head and my running nose. The salt water really felt great with that. And on the bike I was just dripping the whole time, lol. I even coughed up chunks of gross, which I never do, but they were keeping me from breathing! Other than that, I felt strong through the ride, used my bike to help me, and tried to keep my average above 14 mph, which I barely did.  That was right at where I thought I would be considering the course and my bike. My final time for the 25-mile ride was 1:42:43, which beat my goal by a little over 2 minutes!

Here’s where the race got a little less calculated and physical, and a little more mental. So my transition time in T-2 was 19 seconds. Thanks to the volunteers who took my bike from me, and handed me my drop bag. I grabbed what I needed, threw my helmet in, and left it there for them to handle. The first mile my calves were pretty tight from the ride, but I worked through it. At the first aid station, I glanced at my watch and it said 9:38, which would make me close to my hour goal for the 6.2 miles… But then five minutes or so down the road it said 9:43. And I realized I was looking at clock time and not run time. So I had no idea how fast I’d gotten to mile one. My chrono was running, I just didn’t know my pace. And there weren’t mile markers for the rest of the run…

But there were a lot of hills. A lot. We wound above a gorgeous lake, which helped. And we were on dirt trails, which helped. But man were there hills. At an aid station around 35 minutes on my clock, I asked the volunteer what mile we were at. He responded, start of 3. Which I assumed he really meant the 3 mile marker, which would be the end of 3. So I just kept plugging. A number of my fellow runners were starting to walk up the hills, and I decided right then that no matter how long it took me, I would at least jog, but not walk. I should mention that we were also winding through parts of the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center for archery, field hockey… and other sports that I honestly wasn’t paying a lot of attention to 🙂 But those of you who know me know I LOVE the Olympics, so that was really cool.

Then the tricky, dirty, nasty, mean-spirited race directors made us run UP a Rocky Balboa-style flight of steps. Six flights of twelve. Up. At mile 4.5-ish of our run. After swimming and biking. Really? That was my first thought. My second was, “Alright fine, I’ve come this far, so let’s do this”. Ugh. There wasn’t even a photographer at the top to take a sweet pic of me posing in front of the Olympic rings! But honestly, if I’d paused for a picture at that point, I might not have continued. So off I continued to trot, still not really sure my pace or time. I figured it was going to be close to an hour for the run, but I certainly wasn’t breaking any records. Ultimately, it was 1:00:52. So just over an hour. I was fairly happy with that time though, especially since by now my lungs were heavily protesting this whole thing and mucus was draining out of everywhere (sorry that was a little graphic).

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The finish was in a nice park, but running up to it, all I could see was a big hill and lots of steps. I even asked a volunteer I ran past if I had to make it up there, thankfully she said no. I then rounded a bend and saw the finish shoot! Overall, my time of 3:22:30 was under my goal of 3:30 and I was really pleased. I knew it was my swim that saved me, but really my bike and run were where I expected. This was even in spite of running on about 70% breathing capacity, lol.  I met all of my goals, had no equipment malfunctions, no panic in the water, and felt mentally pretty good. I even enjoyed the scenery on the downhills! I would absolutely recommend this course to other triathletes too, because they really were organized and it’s a small enough race that you felt the personal attention. As a first-timer, I really appreciated that. I could go on and on with little stories, but I’ve drawn this out enough as it is… and now it’s time to shift my focus to my third half marathon of the year. Which is in six days, lol. WHAT?!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Raymond Oliver
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 20:48:49

    Great job , Karen. You did wonderfully, we are proud of you , your dad would be also. Love & Blessings, G-Dad & G- Mom O

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