Tran is officially half an Ironman… and the “glass half full” kind of half, too, not the pessimistic “half-empty” half. Here comes the race report (for the 2010 Rohto Ironman 70.3 California)..
The original plan was to get to bed early the night before the race, so that I would have a full night’s sleep and be well rested. Unfortunately, plans almost never turn out the way I expect. My sweetie-pie, Minh, went out in search of a bicycle shop shortly after we got back from the pre-ride. By the time he got back and fixed the flat and made sure the CO2 valve worked, it was already 7pm.
Here’s picture of Minh working on my bike in the hotel room:
We were meeting my sister’s friend, Henry, for dinner at Karl Strauss at 7:30pm. So.. by the time we got back from dinner, it was already 9pm (I wanted to get to bed by 8.. yea right). Dinner was yummy. Minh and I split the Dirty Bird Mac’n'Cheese. It was better than I thought it would be. Minh also ordered the beer sampler, which he finished.. on his own.
Pre-Race: Where’s the sun?
It had slipped my mind that regardless of whether or not it’s daylight savings time (which it is, yay!), the sun is never out at 5 o’clock in the morning in Southern California. Minh packed a headlamp and I packed a flashlight, but we didn’t mount lights on the bike, so it was an interesting walk/ride to transition in the morning. I opted to not wake up until 5am race morning because that would still give us plenty of time before the race started to set-up and get my wetsuit on. Minh carried the gear while I rode off with my bike to get a good spot on the rack. Even at 5;30am, there was still plenty of space on the rack, so it was easy to get my transition area set-up. After that, i went to get body-marked and wait in line for the port-o-potty. It was a long line, but it moved fairly quickly since there were tons of toilets there.
After my pitstop, I grabbed my backpack to give to Minh (keeping the transition area minimal) and then went to put on my wetsuit. Then it was into the swim start corral with 2000 other athletes. That was quite uncomfortable. The nice volunteers stood with their signs a little too closely together, so we were all bunched together with a lot of people running at the last minute to make sure they made it out with their swim wave. While waiting for my wave (7:25am) to go, we got to see the pros coming back in from their swim… that was pretty cool.
Just keep swimming
I liked the way they staged the swim start. It’s an in-water start, which means that we’re all treading water before the gun goes off and the time starts. The actual swim start was about 75 yards away from the boat launch area (which is where we enter and exit the water). So when the next wave is at the start waiting for the gun, the next wave is at the boat launch waiting to swim out to the start. It was like a little warm-up before the race start, which was nice because we weren’t allowed in the harbor at all before the race. I think some people didn’t understand that the swim from the boat launch to the swim start wasn’t part of the race, because some racers were booking it to the race start. I just swam easy, thinking to myself.. “You’ve got 1.2 miles of this, just start slow.” Minh had positioned himself at the edge of the floating dock.. perfect place to take the perfect pictures of me out on the swim.
Actually.. I took most of the swim slowly, considering that it was the farthest I swam ever. I topped off my swim training with 2×800 for the last few weeks before the race. Swimming is by far my weakest of the three legs, so my goal was to finish the swim and get on the bike. I was ecstatic to get out of the water. The swim out felt like it lasted FOREVER and I may have swam a zig-zag pattern on the way back in because I couldn’t see the buoys until they were right in front of me (we were swimming into the sun). I ended up having to sight off the other swimmers and just hope that they knew where they were going. There were times during the swim where the water smelled like gasoline, which was uncomfortable, and it also felt like my chipstrap was going to fall off.. but I just kept swimming through it. Another thing that freaked me out a little bit was the other people swimming past me (not around me because, face it, I’m a slow swimmer) because I’ve never swam with other people before. It was weird to be swimming along and then have someone appear to my left or hit my leg or kick near my head (thank God not actually kick my head), but eventually I just remembered that this is a race (not a training session) and that I just need to get to the end.
T1: One leg down, two more to go
Mom, Dad, and Anni were there at T1 waiting for me to get out of the water. That was super up-lifting. I wasn’t too tired, but I did swallow a bunch of water during the swim. So it felt really good to get a swig of fresh water at transition. I took my time at T1, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off, but also because I needed to adjust to being upright again.
I knew I was slow on the swim, but I didn’t realize how slow I actually was. My bike was the last one on my rack. I didn’t notice, but it was probably the last out of the other racks around also. I did, however, notice that it was not the last in the whole transition area.. that was a good sign.
The bike leg started off like a dream. The first half (28 miles) was flat and fast and I think there was a tail wind. I hit that first hill with my legs feeling great and only 1 hour and 30 minutes down. If I was smart, I would have trained on hills, then I would have been on my way to a 3-hour bike split. Unfortunately, I hate hills, didn’t train on them, and hadn’t biked more than 40 miles in over a year.
Luckily for me, you don’t DNF a triathlon for getting off your bike. So, when I hit that first hill, I did my very best to get up it. Knowing that I had a little over 26 miles left on the bike (and knowing how I would feel when I got to the top of the hill… i.e. not enough energy to take full advantage of the descent), I opted to walk my bike about 2/3 of the way of that first hill. That was just before mile 30. From that first hill at mile 30 to about mile 52 (or so) it was all hills and cross-winds. Some of the hills I made it up slowly without getting off the bike, a couple others I had to walk (but I wasn’t the only one, so I didn’t feel so shameful about it). The cross-winds were BANANAS!! I was totally getting thrown around on my bike and it made it hard to keep a straight line. I think there were a few racers who probably got knocked over by the wind and pretty banged up (I saw some bloody bandages on the run). I’m lucky that I have no problem going fast on a descent even with a cross-wind (maxed at 36 mph, which is unheard of for me).
The last few miles were easy and flat. A little bit of a headwind, but nothing too bad. My neck and shoulders were killing me, though, from being on my aerobars for so long.
T2: Two legs down, One to go
I was happy to see Angie and Anni when I rolled in to T2. I didn’t take any special notice of how many bikes were around me, but it didn’t look like my rack was full, which means there were people still out there on the bike who had come in from the swim before me. I quickly changed my shoes and grabbed a gel as I ran out of T2. I also opted to wear the hat because it was a hot, bright, sunny, cloudless day in Oceanside.
Run, Tran, RUN!
The run leg was much weaker than I had hoped for. This wasn’t because I hadn’t run more than 8 miles since the Surf City Marathon in February (over a month ago). And it wasn’t because my legs were sore from getting off the bike. It was because I had this painful stomach ache right at the beginning of the run, which lasted the first 7 miles. I had a hard time shaking it, and it just got worst as I jogged along. So I did a lot of walking and breathing and just sticking it out, taking in water and Gatorade in the hopes that it would go away. I think it had something to do with the lack of solid food and continuous supply of gels and water/Gatorade that I was giving my stomach. Or maybe the Powerbar I thought would work for breakfast in lieu of a real solid meal. In any case, I just had to try to ignore it and fight through it, but it made for a painful (and pathetic) run split.
The run felt like the longest 13.1 miles of my life. It was a two-loop out-and-back course, but the “out” part (which was just over 3 miles) felt like hours. The run was pretty flat, which was very relieving. The worst inclines were nothing compared to the bike leg we had just completed. A funny thing happened to me on my first loop, on the way back to the turn-around… I got pooped on by a bird. Just on my left shoulder. At first, I thought that it was just some water that had dripped on me from a nearby runner, but I turned to look, and there it was. A little brown lump on my shoulder. That had never happened to me before. It was rather humorous, I thought. I didn’t have anything to clean it with, so I just flicked it off with my hand, and wiped my hand on my (already dirty) trisuit.
I mustered up all the energy I could towards the end of the run to finish strong. I didn’t do a mad dash to the finish line like I was hoping to, I just didn’t have the energy left. But I was so happy that I stuck it out the whole way through and finished. Sure, my time wasn’t anywhere near what I wanted it to be when I had first signed up for this race, but I still finished. And I think I had a pretty decent time for my first Ironman 70.3 (and only my third triathlon ever).
Here are my stats:
1945th out of 2152 finishers
58th out of 64 in my age group (Women 25-29)
Post-Race: I can WALK!
After the race, I immediately got in line for a massage. That felt good. I was surprisingly not as sore as I thought I would be. I thought I was be incapacitated like how I was after the marathon, could barely walk even the next day. But I was totally fine to walk right after I got a little stretch and massage. I grabbed some pizza from the Athlete’s Food tent, and went to transition area (where they were already starting to break down the racks) to pack up my stuff and meet up with my cheering fans. I packed it all up, and Minh took my backpack and my bike, Nick took my bucket, and we all walked back to the hotel.
We cleaned up, and rested for a little while before deciding to catch a movie. We grabbed a sushi snack (no one was super hungry except me), killed some time at the military supplies store (per Dad’s request) and then saw Repo Men (which is not bad or good, but an action film). Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and went to bed (I was tired).
Rest: Almost peaceful
A funny thing about sleeping that night after I had finished the race…. Dad didn’t snore at all until the early morning. The night before the race, it was difficult for me to fall asleep for three reasons: (1) Dad was snoring all night. And not that consistent sound of snoring that you can eventually get used to and ignore. No, Dad’s snoring went in phases throughout the night and changed every hour or so, which meant just as you were getting used to the sound of his snoring, he changed it up on you. (2) The couple next door (or somewhere nearby enough) were having loud sex for half the night. Anni even said that she heard slapping. I only heard moaning, but it was still annoying. (3) Some people across the hall from us (who were obviously not participating in the race) were having a party, or something. They were being loud. So.. those three reasons made my pre-race sleep not very restful or peaceful.
The night after the race, I was able to fall asleep easily because (1) I was tired and (2) Dad didn’t snore at all. Oh.. and we turned the air on, so the room wasn’t crazy stuffy like it was the night before. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards that we should all have a good night’s rest. At about 1am, a group of men (most likely Marines on leave from Camp Pendleton) came back to their hotel room butt-drunk (and probably smelling of seedy bars and strip clubs), yelling and running up and down the halls, wrestling and knocking over stuff in their room, and just generally being loud… and they were in the room across the hall from us. One of them, in particular, was really really drunk and happened to be the loudest of them all… we heard him yelling at his buddies, calling for his friend “Diego”, making up a rap of some sort.. Eventually (after about half an hour or so) I called the front desk (both Mom and Anni protested when I wanted to just go over there and ask them to keep it down because they thought it wouldn’t be safe on account of how drunk they sounded), and they sent someone up to ask them to keep it down. They were much quieter after that, just sitting around and talking (which, with the paper thin walls, still is loud enough to keep us up but not loud enough to warrant another complaint). Unfortunately, after we were all awoken by the ruckus, it was difficult to fall asleep again. And.. the first one to fall asleep was Dad, who almost immediately began to snore. I eventually was able to drown it out and fall asleep, but Anni was awake for at least another 2 hours before she could fall asleep.
The Morning After
The next morning, Minh got up early to try to get a bike ride in before we packed everything up and headed home. He was out for about an hour and hooked up with a couple groups going on Sunday morning bike rides. I got up and started packing things up and cleaning up things around the hotel. We were out of there by about 10am.
We met up with Nick and Angie for breakfast at Buccaneer’s Beach Cafe. It was a surprisingly good breakfast for a little shack by the beach. We got there just in time too, because while we were there eating our breakfast, the kitchen ran out of food and had to close down until lunch time.
After we ate, we said “bye” to Angie and Nick, who were off to Legoland for the day, and then staying the night in San Diego, to spend Monday at Seaworld, and then fly home on Tuesday. I wish I had more time to spend with them while they were down here, but I’m sure they had a great time just the two of them.
Looking back, I had a great time racing, and I’m looking forward to my next races. The first couple triathlons I participated in didn’t nearly give me this feeling of anticipation for my next race. Maybe because I was even more ill prepared for those first two than I was for this one. In any case, even with my lack of proper preparation, I think I did really well. And with a time over 7 hours, I can only improve. I’m definitely looking forward to next year.. And I’m hoping to smash this first race time by at least an hour and a half (10 minutes off the swim, 40 minutes off the bike, 40 minutes off the run). We’ll see if I can live up to my goal in a year.
Till next time… keep smiling.