Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Wish I Were Salmon

The rules for the Race for 50 States challenge were two-fold: 1) it had to include family either as one or all of us participating in a race or at least traveling together and 2) had to include different types of races from 5k to 50k, trail races, a century bike ride or two, and triathlon to further challenge our physical selves and to step out of our racing comfort zones while learning (and maybe enjoying) a new sport. So far, we have collectively acomplished a 5k, 10k, 10 mile trail run, half marathon, marathon, sprint triathlon, Olympic triathlon, and a half ironman. We're moving right along in reaching our goal. And with this past weekend's sprint triathlon in Portland, Oregon, we managed to check off our19th state! Now, on to the race report.

Swim. I wish I were salmon because then I could naturally swim upstream in a river. As you know, a triathlon race begins with the swim portion. Not only is this not my strength, but I started practicing 4 weeks ago on my lunch hour, with the pool facility being closed one of those weeks. Not surprisingly, I was not speedy in the water. It's hard to even begin describing all that went wrong during
my swim portion, but I will try as this also serves as a learning tool for improvement. We had to jump in the river from the marina dock and then tread water till our start time. The outside temps were 60-61. The water was 67. Can I just day brrrrrr. No wetsuit because I thought the water couldn't be much cooler than Lake Erie (mistake#1). I think I might have panicked at that point because I was so cold before getting into the water, then was shocked at how really cold I could still become. When the gun went off, you would have thought this was my first time in open water. I had to back stroke it until I could relax myself enough to attempt the freestyle stroke. Thank goodness I am no sissy and was able to pull myself together, although I swear I saw "things" swming alongside me! I managed to finish in 30:51, about 5 minutes off my goal time. Based upon the little training I had for the swim portion (9 pool sessions and 1open water practice), I didn't fare too badly for swimming 750 meters. The Transition is another story (can you say train wreck?).

T1 - I got out of the water by placing my foot onto a 2x4 and climbing out of the water using a net like a Navy Seal, only clumsier. Ran up the hill to the Transition area where I couldn't quite figure out how to put my helmet on. I could see Meg & Greg watching my confused motions wondering how long does it really take to strap on a helmet. According to my T1 time, it takes 3:59 to slip on socks, shoes, strap a helmet onto wet hair and ride off into the sunset (or Naito Pkwy).

Bike. It was hilly and challenging, yet a beautiful ride overall. I had set my goal at 1:04 and ended up with a very acceptable 1:19 for the 16.4 mile bike ride. The first 3.5 miles were uphill with an additional 1/2 mile up a very steep hill before cresting atop Terwilliger. The big learning lesson here is that I should have practiced climbing hills on my rented Fuji road bike to get a better sense of shifting gears. Learning how to ride a bike DURING a race is not the time to master your gears. Terwilliger was quite scenic with lush foliage and breath-taking views of Portland. The crowds and volunteers were wonderful. And I loved hearing my two girls yell "go mommy go" while I was rounding the corner on my bike. Not only do I judge a race by their pre- and post-race activities, but also by how family friendly it is. So even though my quads and calves were cursing me, I totally enjoyed the race and gave it my best. I also loved the ride, fit and feel of my rented Fuji Finest 2.0 road bike.

T2 - I racked my bike, took a giant gulp of HEED, ponytailed my hair, added a hat (partly for sun protection, partly to hide the poor ponytail job!) and off I went on the run. Time in T2 was 2:17.

Run. Thank goodness something my body understood. Believe it or not, I actually ran one of my faster times and probably would have broke 30 minutes if my quads hadn't locked up twice on me. I still managed to run 32:36, and was quite pleased. We ran along the banks of both sides of the Williamette River and across 2 bridges. Once again, great views of the city and a fairly enjoyable run with only a few short climbs.

Post-race. Hell yeah this will go down as one of my favorite races! I got a fantastic bamboo long-sleeve race shirt with 3 chickens - each one reading flail (swim), flap (bike) and flee (run) - triathlons are not for chickens. Loved it! At the finish line, every finisher received a stainless steel water bottle with Portland Triathlon Finisher on it. Each race participant also got gelatto from Staccato Gelatto and a delicious microbrew ale from Deschutes. The line was too long, but there was also BBQ as well. There was also a kids painting activity area and great open green spaces for families and supporters to relax and wait on their athlete.

Final Thoughts. Overall, I finished in 2:29:14 and was happy considering the training effort put forth. I would like to do another sprint triathlon sometime, but I'm not committing to one anytime soon. I was very happy that I tackled a sport that was definitely outside my comfort zone (open water swimming) and, best of all, had my favorite cheering section with me through the whole race!

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