Race Report: Righteous Richland Sprint Triathlon 7/2/11
2011 is the year for me to try new things, and it has been so much fun. I did not want to register for the Righteous Richland Sprint triathlon until I successfully rode around the Chamna Preserve, the off-road section of the bike course. I rode about 8 miles around in there and survived. I hitched up my LUNA saddle to my husband’s mountain bike (which means it is mine until he takes the initiative to put his seat back on) and signed up. I was really excited for this race because it was something new, and as such I didn’t have any past results to compare myself with. Sometimes trying something new is easier than doing something again and trying to get the same or better performance!
I haven’t done much off-road riding, and I was picturing in my mind 6 miles of excruciatingly slow single track. I knew I would not be breaking any speed records, but that was okay. My goals were to finish in one piece, and have fun. On race morning I found out that the off-road section was only 2 ½ miles. Okay, not as “off-road” as my first “off-road” triathlon could be, but I’ll take it!
I was super relaxed race morning. We had stayed at my dad and stepmom’s house, and we had a nice, chill evening. In the morning my husband and I grabbed the mountain bike and headed to the start at Howard Amon Park in Richland. I got all set up, and chatted with my friend who was doing her first triathlon EVER! We had a good time setting up, and then it was time for the race talk.
The race director said one thing that made me laugh. He looked out at the crowd of 200 or so athletes and said, “Well folks, I hate to say this but the sad truth is that not all of you are going to make it out of the water today.” Great!! “I mean, statistically speaking, maybe a dozen of you are going to panic and not be able to finish the swim. “ Awesome, and confidence boosting all at the same time. “If that happens, we don’t want your day to be over. You’ve put in the training, so go ahead and hand in your chip and finish the race. You’ll still be marked DNF, but you can participate.” Okay, that is actually kind of nice. At least they let people back on the course to do the rest of the race!
So, the swim. We had to walk upriver about ½ mile to the start. The starting spot was in a weird kind of eddy where there was a back current that made the water as you enter totally still. So, in order to get out, I heard some people saying that you have to swim out at a 45 degree angle to get past the back current. When the horn went off, I started swimming. Howdy-how-how it was freaking COLD! My face was totally numb. But I did swim a good line out to the current in the middle. I only had one moment where this guy drifted over to me and started pounding me on the head and back with his left arm. I kept thinking he’d move over, but he didn’t. I started to feel my mortality and lose my breath. I had to stop, tread water, and say outloud, “I’m alive!” Gasp, gasp, gasp. I floated for a minute to let him make his way to the left like he was determined to do. As I was being carried along with the current, I realized I could probably just float the rest of the way and have a pretty decent time! But I started swimming again because it was so cold I wanted out of there.
There was a very large riverboat parked at Howard Amon, otherwise known as the “Big Ass Boat.” The director had said once you get past the Big Ass Boat, start angling to shore or you’ll miss the exit buoy and have to swim upstream to get back. I am nothing if not a champion rules obeyer, so I did just that. As I was sighting, I saw that most people did NOT, and were trying to swim back against the current to the buoy exit. I made my way over to the exit with no one around and got up out of the water.
My time was something freakishly fast like 8:21 for 800m. When I told my super fast swimmer friend Jenny about my time she didn’t even miss a beat before she said, “No way!” Can’t blame her because that would be faster than her, and there is no way I will ever be faster than my super fast swimmer friend Jenny. Yeah, the current helps just a little, and I got a time that is almost twice as fast as usual.
I got to high-five my husband before heading into transition. T1 was uneventful. My hands were a little frozen, but my time was pretty good.
So then I headed out on the bike, without a doubt my weakest leg in a triathlon. I did wear a Garmin just for grins, because this was trying something new! Who cares how I do! But it would be interesting to know my speed. I was actually going along at a pretty good clip for me, and I even passed a few people before we got to Chamna.
And then we got to Chamna, the single track. I really enjoyed the off-road part but I was so much slower than everyone else. I was passed in Chamna countless times. Most people were really nice, encouraging even. I got more than a few, “You’re doing great! Go luna!” I think people there recognize my kit because I’ve raced there so much in the last few years. So that was nice. There was however, one jerk. I tried to stay to the right as much as possible because I was getting passed continuously. I was in a section where the left side of the trail was the better side. The right was all rocky. So I kept left. This guy comes up, “ON YOUR LEFT!” But I stayed where I was, like everyone told me to do. The rule with mountain biking is that if you’re getting passed, move over if you can, but take the easiest line. If someone is passing, they are ostensibly a better rider so they can take the more difficult line around. I said shakily, “I have to stay left!” He was all, “PASSING ON YOUR LEFT!!!!!! MOVE OVER!” And I said in a high pitched voice, “I’m holding my line!” We got to a place where the right side was clear and I moved over. He passed all huffy, “I SAID, on your LEFT.” But geesh, what could I do? The next person to pass me must have seen and heard what had transpired because he said, “You’re doing awesome! You’re doing great! Keep it up! You did the right thing!” He was still saying nice stuff as he disappeared out of sight.
I was feeling pretty good on the bike, though. I was almost done with the 2 ½ mile loop and I was feeling so triumphant. I did it! I’m making it! Look at me and my bad self, almost done with the single track! Then I turned a corner and came to a sandy patch. Because I was going so slow I didn’t have enough momentum to carry me through the sand. So, kersplat. Down I went. I fell on an embankment so I managed to face plant in the sand as well. My left ankle felt a little twingy where the bike fell on it, but I was otherwise fine. Unfortunately for me another 30 people were trying to pass me, but it was still all sandy. So I ran my bike about 25 yards to a spot where I could get back on.
Once out of Chamna, I re-passed some people. That felt pretty good! And then it was time to roll into T2. I got to see my husband again and I asked him, “Did my T1 transition look fast?” He said yes of course, because that is his job. It is also his job to answer all of my minute questions about the brief times he sees me as a spectator. Here are just a few of the leading questions I asked him later: How did I look coming out of the water? Where do you think I was in the field after the swim? Toward the top or the bottom? About how many women came out of the water before me? Did I look steady? How did I look in comparison to how I’ve looked before? More or less steady? Did you see my stroke coming in? How was it? Did I look like I was swimming straight? How was my dismount from my bike? Did I look organized in transition? Would you say I looked more or less fresh than I usually do coming off the bike? How was my run form heading out of transition compared to my finishing run form? This means he has to pay very close attention in anticipation of getting all of these questions. It is tough work being my spectathlete.
So I had one more question for him as I ran by: “Was this my fastest T2 ever, do you think?” He shouted after me, “Yes!” And then I was on the run.
The run was a nice and flat run along the river towards the Pasco bridge. I had my Garmin, again just for fun. I didn’t obsess over it at all. The run was great. The water stop at 1 and 2 miles was perfect. They even had cold water, which felt so good. I only had one little bit on the run where my left ankle was hurting, but I ran through it and it was fine. I saw a guy on the course who was running in this suit: http://www.splish.com/products/briefs/koi-sunset-briefs. That of course made me smile, so I yelled, “Go Splish!!!!”
Pretty soon I was back in Howard Amon, heading for the finish. I was super shocked to see my time was in the 1:28 range! It was about 20 minutes faster than I had dared hope with my bike calculations.
Overall, I’m very happy with this race. It is a beautiful place, and one of my favorite places to run. I raced happy and strong, and as a very unexpected bonus I got 2nd in my Age Group! I’ll be back to do it again.
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Join a group, stay motivated.
We’re all in this fitness thing together. One surefire way to stay motivated is to work out with a friend or join a group, like a local team LUNA Chix, that meets to run, cycle, swim, whatever. Not only is more fun to exercise with some pals, it also gives you a sense of obligation to get your butt out the door on even the nastiest days.
Drinking while cycling.
When you’re on the bike, 12 ounces of water every half hour is a good rule of thumb, so make sure your bike has room for a couple of bottles. For longer rides where you’re not planning to stop (woo hoo!) you’ll want to kick your gear investment up a notch with a large hydration pack.
For long races, change is not good.
For an endurance race like a triathlon, fueling well is essential, but DON’T eat or drink anything during the race that you haven’t already practiced with during your training. Think of long training sessions as “race simulations” for your fuel plan on the big day. This will help you avoid indigestion and “potty issues”.
Triathlon fashion tips.
While having a lot of clothing options is great for a weekend in Vegas, in a triathlon you really want to shoot for something you can wear throughout the race to make transitions as easy as possible. Tops and shorts specifically designed for triathlons are a great choice—they’re made to go into the water, on the bike, etc.
To clip, or not to clip…
Clip in pedals are a better choice for power efficiency, but they can be a bit intimidating for newbies. Go with flat if you are really uncomfortable, you can always switch to a clip in pedal later. If you do get clips, it should only take a few rides to master how to quickly twist your foot out.
Turbo charge your run.
If you always practice at the same pace, you’ll always run at the same pace. You need to do intervals if you want to get faster. Start with 30 seconds hard every five minutes and work your way up to five minutes hard and five minutes easy. Play AC/DC, Jack Johnson, AC/DC, Jack Johnson…
Running requires patience.
If you are really new and running doesn’t come naturally to you (and really, it doesn’t come naturally for most of us!) start with a combination of running and walking. Run for four minutes, walk for one. Keep repeating this until you get to 30 minutes and then add in longer phases of running the next time you work out.
Building endurance for a triathlon.
If you are ready to try a tri, each week of training you’ll want to do one longer workout in each sport, to build up your endurance.
Be kind to your knees.
Running on dirt trails provides the best cushion. Concrete is the worst because there’s no shock absorption. Asphalt is somewhere in the middle. Choose wisely if you have problems with your knees.
85-90 leg strikes per minute (count on one leg) is what you want to aim for to work on improving your running speed and time.
Be a stronger swimmer.
To improve your swim performance, practice rotating from the hips, and dragging your fingertips on the recovery. Use a kickboard to focus on strengthening your leg. A pull buoy and paddles can help you work on your arms.
Land with your foot flat.
If you land on your heel when you run, you’ll put a lot of strain on your knees. Landing on your toes strains your calves. Land with your foot flat, and more importantly, land it under your body for good momentum and shock absorption.
Let’s get this (cycling) party started!
Looking for a group to ride with? If there’s local LUNA Chix team in your area, you’ve already found a great way to connect with other women who ride. You can also find out about groups at your local bike shop, in cycling magazines, or just ask other cyclists—they usually know.
Glide out of your wet suit.
Wet suits can leave nasty hickey burns on your neck, and really, who wants to explain that? Before a long swim, lather your neck and ankles with Body Glide and you’ll be much more comfortable while swimming and get your suit off with ease. Plus, you won’t have to show up at work the next day looking like you’ve been mauled by a vampire.
Another great way to stay motivated? Enter an event. Whether it’s a charity ride for a cause you really care about or a competitive race, having a goal to work towards can really give you that extra push to pull on your workout gear and go.
Riding with turtles and hares.
Whether fast or slow, ride with people you know! It’s more fun that way. Fast friends will push you a bit more, which is great if you’re prepping for a race, and you can draft off them on big climbs. If you’re the quick one, get out in front and give your less experienced friends a break!
Have you checked your tire pressure and brakes? Did you give your bike the once over to make sure nothing’s cracked or otherwise out of whack? OK, now you can go.
Chasing those elusive zzzz’s.
Hard-core trainers will tell you that 8-10 hours of sleep a night, plus a daily nap, is optimal while training for a big race. Back in the real world, those of us with busy jobs or little kids can only dream about this much. Shoot for as many hours as you can and stick with a consistent schedule—quality rest will help your muscles repair and protect your immune system.
If your knees are sore after a ride…
It could be that your saddle is too low. Try putting your saddle at a height where your knee is soft, but not locked at 6 o’clock.
Cycling time, optimized.
If you have an hour or less and want a good cycling workout, crank it, sister! You can go high intensity by hitting steep hills hard or by going out with a riding group that challenges you speed-wise and hanging on as long as you can. If you’re feeling really feisty, get out in front and “take pulls” every chance you get. Just don’t forget to warm up for 15 minutes first.
Keep those hands where they belong.
On your bike’s handlebars. Road cyclists don’t use hand signals much, aside from pointing out hazards like potholes or rocks. It’s also polite to indicate a turnoff. Otherwise, give a yell if a car is coming or if there’s a need for a quick stop.
Let your bike do the work.
When riding off road, your bike should be moving more than your body. And unlike road cycling, you’ll need to use your upper body as much as your legs to absorb those bumps. And don’t forget to look ahead… that way your body will have a chance to anticipate changes in the terrain, like that tree.
Tired muscles need a little TLC. Massage is great as a recovery aid, and working out extra hard is the perfect excuse to indulge. Yoga is also wonderful for increasing flexibility and focus. Distance runners can benefit from 8-10 minutes in an ice bath. If you are brave enough to take the plunge, have a tall Starbucks on hand.
Say no to saddle sores.
Think only cowboys get saddle sores? Nope, they’re also a problem for cyclists. Finding the right bike saddle can help, but if you ride long enough, you’re occasionally going to end up with a sore butt. A good chamois cream can help soothe those sores, but many bikers swear by a cow utter cream called Bag Balm. Who cares as long as it works!
Cyclists are drafting when they line up behind one another to conserve energy. The rider in front breaks the headwind, those behind get a break. Mastering this move can be tricky: the closer you ride to the person in front, the better the draft, but you also risk a pile-up! While learning, stay at least three feet away from the tire ahead.
Building tri strength with “bricks”.
A “brick” is a workout where one activity is directly followed by another (a bike ride + run, for example.) Training this way 1-2 times a week is a great way to gear up for a triathlon.
New to the dirt?
Go out on easy unpaved roads or wide fire trails with a more experienced friend who can show you the ropes. Relax your arms and legs, and let the bike do the rest. And remember, there’s no shame in getting off and walking for a stretch if the terrain gets hairy.
Dust off that road bike.
Been a few years since you’ve cycled on the road? Before snapping on your helmet, take your bike to a local shop for a safety tune up. At minimum, have them check tire pressure, brakes, the chainring and gear shifts to make sure everything works and that all connections are snug. Now you can feel the wind on your face without worrying about your brakes giving out!
Shape up for cycling.
A hour long ride once or twice a week is just about right for a beginner looking to get her legs (and butt!) in cycling shape. And if you want to enjoy that post-ride high all day, set your alarm and head on out there when the sun is coming up.
Climbing with conviction.
Positioning yourself for a big climb can be tricky. Common mistakes are leaning too far forward, putting too much weight in the hands, and straining your quads. Lean back a bit so you’re centered over the saddle, let your glutes and hamstrings do some of the work, and go easy on those handlebars.
Aching arches in the morning?
Most likely it’s Plantar Fasciitis—an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. Caused by increasing your running volume too quickly, bad shoes, or poor foot mechanics, this annoying injury requires some TLC, ASAP. Slow down for a few days, do some stretches and apply ice. And see a doctor if there’s no improvement.
Training for open water.
There’s no black guideline in the ocean. To prepare for an open water swim, practice in the pool with your eyes closed. (No cheating!)
Surviving the inevitable tumble.
If you mountain bike long enough, there will come a time when you will dismount and tumble unexpectedly. The good news is that most crashes happen at low speeds, either when clipping out or on switchbacks. But if you are really moving, let go of the bike, tuck your arms and legs into your chest and try to “roll” with one shoulder in and your back to the ground.
Pain while running means one thing: STOP.
A mild pain can turn into a major injury over the course of a single run, so listen up when your body says “ouch!” Most problems can be alleviated with a few days rest. If you still feel bad after taking a break, it’s time to call the doc.
Time to go shoe shopping.
Running 300-500 miles is the perfect excuse for a new pair of shoes! Once you’ve gone that far, they lose their support, shock absorption and the wear can mess with your foot biomechanics. Might as well throw in those new wedge sandals too—you’ve earned them.
Lycra or baggie shorts?
Well, that depends on whether you are casual girl at heart or like showing off that booty! Some mountain bikers like the non-racey, looser look of baggie shorts off road, but there is one caveat: when you are bouncing around coming downhill, they can get stuck on your seat.
Try a bike ride.
When giving cycling a try, the objective is fun! Borrow a bike, keep it under an hour and don’t let your Lance-obsessed neighbor talk you into some crazy 100-mile loop. Bring a helmet, water and LUNA Bar in case your energy flags. Also important: a portable pump, tube and repair kit for flats that hopefully the more experienced friend you’ve invited along knows how to use.
Beyond the obvious helmet, no cycling woman’s wardrobe is complete without a pair of tush-friendly chamois shorts, a lycra jersey, gloves and sunglasses to deflect bugs. Any kind of soft-soled athletic shoe will work for flat pedals, but cleats are a must if you clip in. A light jacket is a great accessory for colder climates, as is a safety light when riding after dark.
Stop that stitch!
While the cause of the always-annoying side stitch is up for debate, deep, full belly breathing can help chase it away. Namaste!
Buying a mountain bike?
Before hitting the shop, ask yourself how you want to ride. If you just want to have some weekend fun in the dirt, a bike with full suspension will ensure maximum comfort off road. A more light-weight cross country bike is best for climbing and racing. And if you like tearing it up in the mud, disc brakes are must!
A bike that fits.
Like your favorite black bra, a bike performs best when it’s fitted specifically for your body type. Many pro shops offer this service, so check in with your favorite local outfit to find someone who can take measurements and help make the proper adjustments to your bike.
Saddle up your bike.
Just like a too-soft mattress can be bad for your back, a too-cushy bike saddle can be bad for your butt. Flat and slightly wide is best, with a women-specific slot up the middle. (Trust us on this one—you’ll be thankful.) It doesn’t hurt to check out what the pros use—they definitely put their tushies to the test!
Tart up your transition towel.
Triathlon transitions can slow you down big time if you’re wandering around like a doof looking for your stuff. Buy the loudest, brightest towel you can find (think 80s neon) and park your gear near an obvious signpost in the transition area. Even if your mind is still rehashing your last leg, you’ll be able to transition quick.
Ah, the simplicity of running gear…
Not much is needed to get up and running. Good shoes are essential, of course, and a running specialty store can help you with the best fit for your foot type. You also might want some socks, shorts and tops that can help wick away sweat to keep you cool. Add one iPod for cool tunes.
Fueling for a ride.
Carbs are what you want—about 30-60 grams of carbs per hour, depending on your weight and pace. This can either be in solid or liquid form (try a LUNA Bar or some Clif Shots) but be sure to eat before you are hungry. Forgetting to fuel means you’ll run out of gas mid-ride and have to call your roommate to come pick you up in her car. Embarrassing.