These pictures don't really capture the giant horizontal snowflakes, but I assure you, it was a treat to leave. I'm told that it continued to snow the entire week that I was gone and admittedly, it was a bit disconcerting to fly back to a completely white landscape when I returned. It's supposed to be spring!
I was given a hint of things to come when Shelby and Steven came to pick me up at the airport along with Steven's Buddha, which was secured in the backseat (seatbelt and all) due to lack of space in his bedroom.
I'm trying to remember how exactly we stayed occupied during our pre-race week, and I pretty much just recall laughing a lot. We swam in her parents' retirement community pool, which was lovely despite it being a bit like a game of frogger with lots of people meandering around with their noodles. There were some mean ping pong games and I was slaughtered in my first ever game of Wii Tennis (and still have a nagging shoulder injury as a result). I also met my first ever hairless cats, which were at once scary-looking and surprisingly affectionate. I was lucky enough to run into the runwithryan.com crew, who appeared to know where they were going as I ran aimlessly around the Balboa Park trails. Thanks for letting me tag along guys. I'll find you again the next time I'm in San Diego.
We visted the velodrome hoping to hop into one of their "come try it out" sessions and also managed to leave the car unlocked and running (with radio blasting) in downtown La Jolla for the better part of the evening. Who does that?! Things got even better when Phaedra showed up, with more hilarity and, unfortunately, less sleep. I forgot, during the off-season, how annoying pre-race anxiety can be. I'm not a particularly nervous person, but this was my first ever race as a pro, and the field was stacked. It sounds negative, but I was really scared that I would come in last.
Four-o-clock am wake up calls are never welcome, but when I woke up Saturday morning, I knew that the only way to calm my nerves was to actually get the race done, so I slipped into my new ZOOT Ultra Team race kit and headed to Oceanside with Phaedra. Shelby had left the house at 3 a.m. because she foolishly volunteered to work the transition area. It turned out to be a great for me - she was my body-marker and she put the first ever "P" on the back of my leg. Phaedra caught my attention just as I was about to walk down the swim ramp for some last minute encouragement. The terror almost felt like Kona all over again, except that the water was about a million times colder this time around.
The swim was rough. Something funky has been going on for the past several weeks in the pool (not to mention that I was really struggling to fit swim sessions into my schedule at all), and it showed in the race. It's amazing how lonely a race can be when you're in the first wave and the entire swim pack drops you in the first minute. I never even saw them again. I didn't come out of the water dead last though - just 4th to last. The best part of the swim was my new ZOOT Zenith wetsuit, which was awesomely flexible. For the first time ever, my shoulders didn't feel at all fatigued at the end of the 2000 m wetsuit swim, even with my Wii injury. I didn't know that was possible. (34:00)
The first 25 miles of the bike were equally lonely and very interesting. I never saw anyone, with the exception of the odd male age-grouper who whizzed by. When you're a good 6-10 minutes behind the majority of your competitors, it takes a while to catch back up to them. It did ultimately happen, however. I passed a pair of women at the 25 mile marker and then proceeded to tick off at least another dozen during the rest of the ride. My SCOTT plasma was absolutely dreamy and smooth. I've only had it a for a few weeks, but I'm getting dialed in fit wise, and am enjoying (most) every moment I spend with my new bike. I probably should have ridden a little harder, but the 25 mile solo time trial was a good experience (2:42).
The run was okay. I never felt like i was pushing terribly hard, but my pre-season fitness isn't yet high enough to allow me to run much faster. I did get passed by a small handful of women managed to pass one, but for me a 1:31 half marathon is decent for my first race of the season. I certainly felt like my legs wanted to run more quickly, and I'm confident that that will come as my training starts to include more speed and strength endurance. It was also my first time racing in the new ZOOT Ultra shoes, and T2 was awesomely quick and smooth as a result. It was fun to notice Shelby's (Charmin's) chalk art along the run course. She was the best course volunteer of the day for sure!.
Phaedra started the race almost an hour after I did, so I had plenty of time to take advantage of the post-race massage service while I waited for her to finish. The thing I didn't manage to do was eat very much (Katie at the Metabolic Institute will be so disappointed in me!). When we finally made it to a restaurant around 4:30 pm for my first solid food in 12 hours, the only thing they could bring out asap was french fries, and we absolutely devoured them. So much for trying to get in a 4:1 ratio of carbs:protein in post-race. How about fat? I don't even think there was much potato in the fries. They were really just the crispy outside part. Sorry Katie!
Then Shelby and Phaedra dropped me off at the new Sheraton in Carlsbad for the ZOOT Ultra Team Camp, which was probably the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed in. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend much time between the crisp, clean sheets, but the five hours that I did spend in bed were blissful. The reason for the lack of sleep was the ZOOT/Timex/Triathlete Magazine party which probably would have been mostly tame had Phaedra and Shelby not come to liven things up substantially.
Flattering, I know.
I give myself credit for outlasting the rest of the Zoot-ers, but those Timex athletes put me to shame. Granted, they didn't have to walk home in the rain or get up for a 6 am team run the following morning, but I nonetheless must credit their stamina. I was sad to have to leave camp early the next day, but I'm glad I got the brief opportunity to learn more about the products I'll be using this season (Zoot, Fuelbelt, GU, Scott, Zipp, Suunto). It was especially nice to meet my teammates, as we'll be surely seeing each other at races all over the country this summer. Until then I'll be cranking through my last quarter of organic and biochemistry and braving through the snow that continues to fall. Many thanks to those who made this week surpremely fun and memorable.