Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Yoga With a Triathlon Tale

Since most of my recent training time has been spent on triathlon training, not yoga training, I thought my loyal six person readership might be interested in reading (or skimming, it's LONG) my official "race report," which we're encouraged to put together by our coaches so that we can compare past experiences to future ones. We'll return to yoga next week, I promise!

Race Report: See Jane Run Triathlon 9/25/2010
This was my very first triathlon, and I’m so glad that I decided to take the leap, spend the time and money, and join the San Francisco SJR training team.  Noel and Kyle were phenomenal coaches and the mentors were warm, helpful, and lovely people.  Also, my team was full of rockstars, so that helps.  My race goal was “Don’t Drown.” Here goes!

Triathlon weekend began as I loaded stuff into my car Friday morning and for the first time, got some butterflies in my tummy.  I'm really doing this!  I drove to Club One Yerba Buena, home of my warm little overchlorinated lap pool, and did my usual sad little pre-work laps.  Okay, I thought.  The race is the equivalent of sixteen pool lengths without stopping.  Let’s do at least six to make sure this is going to work.  I think I got through less than four.  Okay, I thought.  That’s okay.  I can stop during the race.  Whatevs.

I work in an office of primarily twenty-something women, all of whom have all been hugely supportive…after all, at the actual tri I was riding a coworker friend’s bicycle and wearing my boss’s wetsuit.  But when they surprised me Friday afternoon with a cake that said “Keep Swimming!” and colored Finding Nemo printouts with good luck notes from everyone, I was beyond touched.  AND I found the perfect $5 silly, shiny pink sunglasses to complete my race look at Ross that afternoon.  So far, so good.  I spent the unusually warm San Francisco evening at The Plant CafĂ© on the waterfront, eating mushroom tarts and crab and lentil burgers and other yummy rich things, drinking bourbon and gossiping.  Perfect race prep, right?

I spent the night at my friend Laura’s parents’ house in San Ramon, less than 20 minutes from the race site.  I’m what they call a “sleep slut” – I’ll take sleep wherever and whenever I can get it, on the couch, on the plane, in the back of the car on a ten minute trip to the grocery store.  Nevertheless, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep in that quiet suburban house.  Was it nerves?  Was it the silence?  I read a little of my cheesy Charlaine Harris True Blood novel and mentally ran through my transitions.  As a result, my dreams were full of broody vampires pulling on bike helmets.

I woke up groggy but rested around 5:15AM, and Laura, playing the role of the honorary boyfriend with aplomb, woke up soon after.  We hopped in the car and I munched on a white chocolate macadamia nut clif bar; we stopped at Starbucks, singing and dancing in line, as I bought a tall coffee with a little soy & sugar.  We were either giddy with anticipation, sleep-deprived, or both!

We got to Shadowcliffs in the dark.  I found the SJR transition corner with no trouble, picked up my packet, set up my transition area, stared at the ominous looking water in the slowly rising sun, obsessed over the fact that my swim cap was the wrong color, finally decided to trade it in for the right one, and got my race number on my arm and my age on my calf, both in permanent marker (homeless man in the Mission this morning as I strutted to work in my summer dress: “what’s the 29 for?”  Oops…).

Renata, Laura and I eventually ended up nervously perched on a picnic table, watching the first waves run off, trying to identify competitors around us by their colored caps and marked up calves.  Laura had the most amazing sign – a big piece of posterboard that said “GO DANIELLE!”…and on the reverse it said “WHERE ARE ALL THE MEN??” Laura held up that side for other competitors’ amusement when I wasn’t passing by (just to clarify...it was an all women's triathlon).  Who needs a real boyfriend to drive you to the race and hold up a sign and cheer for you when you have friends like these?

When they called our wave, I splashed into the water and started to feel pretty antsy, so I moved to the back of the group, where I fully expected to stay.  Off we went!  I reminded myself just relax, take it slow as I swam, and it's true, I may have been singing this song.  I made it to the first buoy real swimming…but halfway through to the second buoy and I was already gasping and breaststroking.  I looked behind me and saw maybe two other ladies of the forty in my heat behind me.  Whatevs, I thought.  As long as I’m not last.  I saw my swim buddy Rita chillin’ at one of the lifeguard rest stops and shouted “RITA!” and tried to wave.  When another lifeguard shouted “Are you okay?” and looked like he was going to start paddling towards me, I realized a slow, sad breaststroker shouting unintelligibly and waving her arms was most likely a drowner, so I gamely swam on. 

I clambered out of the water and decided I was going to start making up for my swim time NOW, sprinting to the transition area. Coach Kyle shouted “you weren’t last!” Clearly we were both very happy about this.  My bike transition went well enough, although I almost forgot to put on my racebelt – luckily it was stuck to the bottom of my muddy sneakers as I started to run off.  They were right about the whole “practice with ALL your equipment” thing!  I popped a little strawberry electrolyte chew in my mouth and rolled my bike out of the area.  The start of the bike route was very confusing, so I had to scream “WHICH WAY!?” to two scared little middle school volunteers in giant yellow t-shirts who weren’t paying attention.

The bike ride was AWESOME.  I’ve been training with my heavy little mountain bike so to be on my buddy’s hybrid on those flat roads felt like flying.  Unfortunately I hadn’t tightened the seat post quite enough that morning, so my seat s-l-o-w-l-y sank as I rode along – but it didn’t affect my race.  I felt like a badass and really pushed it – I passed 20 or 30 people and NOBODY passed me.  I had to scream ON YOUR LEFT! in a mean voice to get slowpokes to move, so I’d chirp “Thank you!” as I passed.  I wonder if they thought well, that was considerate, no one else is thanking me, what a polite young lady or oh sure, rub it in that you’re passing me with your cutesy little thank you, screw you!

Transition from bike to run was easy enough.  A swig of sun-warmed water, another strawberry chew (I almost ate the one that fell in the dirt rather than struggle with opening the package, then thought…is a few seconds saved worth the dysentery?), and off I ran.  I felt STRONG right away, my legs were fine, and I didn’t start to tire until Mile 2.  Greeting Janes on the route and hearing Noel at the start and finish of the run egging us on made me realize how grateful I was to be a part of this team.  I also realized what a significant effect training has had on my physical capacity – this time last year I barely made it to the finish line of a lousy half marathon, and now only a few folks were passing me, including a hardcore runner I still managed to keep in my sights the rest of the run (passing wasn’t an option – that girl had thighs of steel!)

Somewhere along the third mile I heard them announcing the first person to cross the finish line.  I’m almost there! I thought.  I was struggling to catch my breath, presumably because I wasn’t used to the heat (it was over a hundred degrees by midafternoon, and I run in San Francisco where I need long sleeves!), and most of the aforementioned passers passed me at this point.  I would glance at their calves, mentally cheering on those that were older than my age group, and mentally cussing out those that were in mine.  But when I was close, I thought screw it! and started to sprint.  POW like Sonic the Hedgehog I zipped along faster than I’ve ever run before…so naturally, I ran out of steam in about 30 seconds and realized the finish line was NOT so close after all.  Oops!  As my pace slowed I finally saw it looming ahead of me, hazy in the heat and getting hazier by the minute.  There were a group of mentors and coaches cheering me on but all I could do was gasp “I’m gonna pass out!” Alyssa  said “you can make it!” and I soldiered on.  I believe it was also Alyssa who told me later that that was a good thing – passing out meant I gave all I had to the race, and wasn’t holding back.  I like that way of thinking!

After stumbling past the finish line I grabbed a bottle of water and searched frantically for shade.  I spotted a tree just past the massage tables, barged through their calm little area, sat my ass down, drank the whole water, and felt better.  Scratch that, two minutes later I felt AWESOME!  I just ran that whole freaking thing! I didn’t drown AND I didn’t stop!

Because I went straight from blacking out finish line to shade tree, I have no idea what my time is, and it hasn’t shown up on the SJR results lists yet...apparently there have been some administrative issues.  Phooey!

But in any case, I LOVED running the race, and have already started figuring out how I can do a full triathlon (maybe San Diego in March?) with minimal additional resource expense.  Whose road bike can I borrow?  I wonder if people sell used triathlon wetsuits on craigslist?  Maybe I can barter proofreading for swim lessons?  Can Laura and I sell baked goods at our office to raise the entry fee?  Because oh yeah…my honorary boyfriend is now considering becoming a triathlete herself! 


  1. Aaaaa!! So cool! Thank you so much for posting this! I was dying to hear all about the race. Congratulations, Danielle. You are awesome. Maybe when we´re finally living in the same place at the same time, you can train me, and we can do a race together! ;) ...maybe then I can be equally as awesome? if only...

  2. Yeah Danielle!! you are a trooper!
    so proud of your healthy life style-good for you literally
    Love, mom

  3. You are so inspiring! Love to hear about ALL your healthy exploits. I'm looking for someone to climb Mt. Washington with me next summer...

  4. Hey Danielle! This is Dave, Pat's roommate. Came across your blog when I was looking up class schedules at Mission Yoga. Your life sounds oh so exciting!

    If you're thinking about doing another tri let me know! I got Pat to commit to doing the Wildflower Olympic course in May, and I'm doing the half Ironman. We could use another training partner!