It's been four days since I finished the Pacific Crest Olympic Triathlon, and I am just now starting to feel "normal" again. I guess that means I left it all on the course, which is all I can ask for. But, the race was not without its, err, hiccups.
About the Course
Pac Crest is a point-to-point triathlon, meaning it has two transition areas, and starts and ends in different places. The swim is in Wickiup Reservoir (1500 meters); the bike goes between Wickiup and Sunriver (28+ miles); and the run is on the trails around Sunriver Village (10 km).
Race Day: Sunday, June 26
After a fitful sleep, my alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 4:45 a.m. I'd packed and prepped everything the night before, so my race kit was ready to go. I wore it under some sweats and a warm sweater, as it was still barely 40 degrees outside, and I had another 3 1/2 hours before the race started.
I grabbed my pre-packed peanut-butter sandwich, banana, gatorade, multiple water bottles, and TWO transition bags, and headed out to meet my triathlon teammates at a friend's house. I'd left my bike at her house the day before, so that was one less thing to forget in my dawn stupor.
Starbucks coffees in hand, we loaded up her Sprinter with our gear and jumped in. A couple of us reclined in the back on the bed and enjoyed our pre-race snacks and coffee. It was definitely the best way to begin a long day of racing. We headed down the parkway to Sunriver to set up T2 (transition from bike to run).
The setup process was pretty easy; T2 is always the easier of the two: running shoes, hat, race number, and gels. I wasn't there early enough to snag a great spot, but it wasn't as crowded as T1 was going to be. I made sure to bring a unique towel so it was easy to spot, and scoped out the transition entry and exit points so I wouldn't be completely lost in a couple hours.
After we were body-marked, we piled back into the RV and rested for the 45-minute drive to Wickiup.
Our wonderful driver (the wife of a racer) dropped us off and headed back to Sunriver. We headed into transition to set up T1, which is always a bit more involved than T2. My rack was already packed with bikes, so I had to move bikes 1/2 inch here and there to squeeze mine in. I knew it wasn't going to be the fastest transition, but that was OK.
After a not-so-quick trip to the bathroom, I put on my body glide and slipped (OK, squeezed) into my wetsuit. Ah, warmth. The day was heating up, but it was still chilly in the shade and at elevation. I headed over to the start to hang out with my teammates until my wave was called to line up.
Swim (1500m ... make that 2000m)
I did two things differently this time on the swim: I wore two caps for warmth, and I put myself in the front-center of the pack. I figured I had what it took to break away from the pack enough to have some breathing room, even if I wasn't the fastest swimmer in the group.
My plan worked. I was "free" in a matter of a minute, and able to settle into my own rhythm. However, as is typical for me, it still took me a good 10 minutes to truly warm up. Until then I felt like I was in a constant state of hypoxia. I knew it would eventually get better, so I hung in (not that I had a choice!). I also struggled with a good seal on my goggles for the first few minutes, and feared I'd lose a contact, but eventually adjusted them to just be "good enough."
After I rounded the first buoy, I scanned the horizon for the second. It seemed really far away, but then, I was used to pool swimming, so I had no eye for distance in open water. I swam toward it, trying not to confuse orange caps with the orange buoy. I kept feeling as though the current was pushing me to swim wide, but then I remembered that there was no current in a reservoir.
I finally rounded the second buoy, searching for the third, and again felt as though it was on the other side of the world. I put my head down and kept swimming, knowing I had 1 1/2 more loops to go; now was not the time to be questioning buoy placement.
This whole time, I was passing countless people in the waves in front of me, boosting my confidence. I got passed by just a couple people in the wave after me, two of whom were my insanely fast competitive swimmer friends, who were doing the Aquabike (swim+bike).
When I finally entered the last straightaway toward the boat ramp, I put my head down and picked up the pace. I swam as far as possible up the ramp, and dizzily ran toward transition. I looked at my watch: 34 minutes. 7 minutes slower than last year. WHAT the ...?!
Bike (28 miles)
After a smooth T1, I jumped onto the bike with my heart rate in Zone 4. My coach had me easing into the ride, so Zone 4 was not a good starting point. I tried to take it easy for a few miles, but my HR didn't go lower than the high 3s on the flats. Eventually, as I found my rhythm, my HR slowed down.
The first 10 miles or so went swimmingly. Lots of rollers, not too much effort. I'd borrowed some fancy, fast wheels for the race, and I could already feel the difference.
At around mile 11, my chain fell off (literally, not figuratively) on an uphill. I got off my bike and put it back on as a dozen people I had just passed, passed me; at least they all asked if I needed help. Demoralizing as heck, but it was better than a flat tire.
Miles 11-14 or so were what we lovingly called The Big Hill: a slow, painful slog. I managed to keep a decent pace while not killing myself. Knowing the course helped a lot, because I knew the pain was just temporary.
The last half of the bike was a blur. I took coach's advice and let gravity do most of the work, and managed to keep my 18+mph average overall. Unfortunately, I seemed to forget coach's advice to ease up for the last few miles in anticipation of the run. I kept up the effort, trying to PR, which I think cost me on the run.
Let me start out by saying this is one of my least favorite run courses. For anyone who's been to Sunriver, you know how twisty and windy the paved trails are ... and how every turn looks the same. Well, this kind of course is incredibly mentally taxing for me. Spectators are few, and lookalike vacation home are around every corner. The best thing I can say is that the run is sheltered from traffic and--most of the time-- the sun.
Anyway, as I started the run, I looked at my watch. I had only 47 minutes to do 10k in order to beat 3 hours overall. Umm, not gonna happen, even on the best of days. So I went through the 30-second grieving process and moved on.
I ran the first two miles of the run at 9:30 pace, which was fast for me in a triathlon. But my HR was good and I felt OK. I actually tried to slow down, but I couldn't figure out how. My legs refused to slow down. I think they thought I was still on the bike pedaling at 90rpm.
As expected, this didn't last forever. I started to break down around mile 4. I fought the urge to walk with all my might, but I finally caved. Every 4-5 minutes, I walked for 30 seconds. It helped, but I definitely felt defeated as I watched several women in my age group pass me in the last mile.
In the end, I did PR in the run by just a couple minutes--not the sub-hour I'd been hoping for but an improvement nonetheless.
Putting It All Together
Overall, I had a GREAT race. I PRd in the bike and the run, and enjoyed every minute of it, at least until the last couple miles. I learned the hard way about going too hard on the last part of the bike and first part of the run. I ended up finishing around the same time as last year, even though the bike and run were a few minutes faster.
Turns out the swim course was 2,000 meters instead of the standard 1,500. A couple friends had measured it during the race. Not sure what happened--the crew may have forgotten to move the buoys from the long-course tri the day before. The organizers were beyond apologetic for it the next day; my heart went out to them, because they must have received a hundred complaints. This race has about a million different moving pieces, so things get missed.
My nutrition is still a work in progress. I felt nauseated in the swim and much of the run. I'd used Tailwind on the bike, and hadn't had problems before, so I need to figure out where I went wrong. While I felt good on the bike, I didn't have much left on the run, which could have been related to my nutrition.
I could only manage a couple sips of the free Deschutes beer in the post-race beer garden (a real indicator something was wrong with me!), and none of the hot meals they provided. My stomach wasn't quite right until the next day.
The worst effect of the race was the brain fog--I was forgetful, spacey, and exhausted the rest of the day. I hadn't experienced that after a "shorter" race like this one before, so it was concerning. Again, I think it could be tied to nutrition--in this case, post-race recovery food. I just didn't eat enough.
What's up next? The Rolf Prima Olympic Tri at the Grove in mid-July, which is a new one for me. Stay tuned!