Now seems like the time to get this down in words before I forget the blur of last weekend! There were a lot of memorable things about this race and it marked several firsts in my triathlon experience.
- First Olympic distance tri
- First time traveling a significant distance to a race
- First wetsuit swim in a tri
All of these were firsts for my husband too. Given that fact, I don’t have much to compare the HITS Havasu City race to. All of our previous triathlons were in the same lake in Pleasanton, CA and didn’t even involve timing chips.
Going into the Havasu tri, I expected more people, slicker, more professional infrastructure, and a more experienced triathletes than at our local Tri for Fun’s. This was indeed a much more professionally done, formal race but there were actually many participants than we’d competed against before. I think close to 1,000 people showed up to the largest Tri for Fun. Even with the starts broken down into heats by age and sex, that made for a busy racecourse. Now that I’ve experienced another triathlon, I’m extremely impressed with how organized the Tri for Fun races were.
HITS also put on a good race. Only 58 people participated in the Olympic distance race, making the transition are and racecourse seem pretty unpopulated. Everyone had an assigned rack, gear area, and stool for the parking lot transition area. There was a kiddie pool for rinsing feet at the entrance.
Lee and I picked up our packets when we arrived in Havasu City the night before. I’m glad we went through the effort to do that because otherwise we might have had a tough time finding the race in the morning. We also wouldn’t have been able to apply all the race number stickers and tattoos to our gear and ourselves ahead of time. It took all my brain power to get those stickers in the right places and I totally failed with one of the tattoos the morning of the race. At 4:30 am, I ended up placing the leg tattoo upside down on the wrong leg. Oops.
Back to the night before. Lee and I drove around in the dark looking for the start/finish area for 15 minutes before finally asking one of the volunteers that was still on course for the full Ironman racers. It gave me the chills to see runners out there in the dark, still not done with their race!
Our first choice for dinner, Chipotle, was closed so we had a crappy dinner at some chain Japanese restaurant. I guess stir-fry veggies and white rice wasn’t too terrible of a pre-race meal. It didn’t give me any problems the next day.
Our dog, Doc, came along on this trip and stayed in the hotel room during the race. We had a hotel room full of 2 bikes, a small dog, and lots of gear. My maniacal organization tendencies kicked in, as they always do for activities like this, so i had everything packed up, laid out and ready to go the night before. The bed was comfy and I slept well, although I don’t think Lee did the same.
We both started the day with peanut butter and bananas (plus half a bagel for Lee) from home. I also had a cup of caffeinated tea and Lee had his usual instant coffee drink. Doc ate the English muffins I’d brought (bad dog!).
I was so, so glad to have my down jacket that morning! It was chilly and the sun didn’t rise till right before we started our swim! We had thought about biking over to the start from our hotel, which was very close, but that would have deprived us of a car to stash things in so we drive instead. There was plenty of parking, thankfully.
After setting up our transition areas, visiting the bathroom several times, and scoping out the lake, we donned our wetsuits and I stashed my jacket and uggs in the car. The remaining time before our start was pretty unpleasant. We could either stand on cold sand, cold cement, or cold grass. The 65 degree water ended up being a toastier choice. It was fun to watch the sprint swimmers go out. Most had even finished their swim by the time we started ours.
I wouldn’t say I warmed up in the water before the start. I mostly tested it out by taking a few strokes. Then it was time for the real thing! Lee started first and the women were off a few minutes later.
I think one of the biggest areas I could improve on is the first 5 minutes of the swim. The cold water and race butterflies really messed with my stroke and speed in the first two sides of the triangular course. I swam way off to the side in the first leg, giving myself extra distance to swim and killing any chance I had of staying with the faster swimmers. On the plus side, my De Soto wetsuit was fantastic! I wasn’t used to all the floatation so I had to remind myself to keep kicking! I have a separate bottom and top and the top did ride up a little. I think i just didn’t have the sleeves pulled far enough up my arms so when reached out to stroke the arms pulled the torso part of the top up. I was toasty warm…except for my feet.
The swim was two laps around a triangle, with the third point marked by a bouey on the beach that we had to run around. I was really in the groove by the end of the first lap and the second one flew by…not that I was actually swimming very fast. My swim time was 34:36.
I felt a little disoriented at T1. Maybe it was my frozen feet! The wetsuit came off easily but it took me longer to get out of there than usual. I’d better work on that.
Ah, the bike, what can I say? It was painful. I was cold (thankfully I had arm warmers, which I almost didn’t bring). The road was rough!!! It felt slow and my poor body was rattled to death by the end of the ride. There were cops out directing traffic throughout the course and not nearly as many cones/volunteers as at our previous races. Signals for cars and triathletes were often crossed and I approached intersections without any idea where to go many times. There were also so few people near me on the course that I sometimes thought I had made a wrong turn! I guess it was just a big course.
We mostly climbed up into the local neighborhoods for the first half of the bike. None of the hills were too steep and they were broken up by little downhill segments. If the pavement hadn’t been like solidified gravel things would have been much more pleasant!
It was an out and back course so plenty of super fast people passed me going back the other way. They blasted down the hills on their bikes that sound like jet engines, looking like they were barely tired. I wasn’t too tired, actually, and should have pushed myself harder on the bike. I think a couple of people passed me and I passed a couple too but I certainly wasn’t going fast. My watch wasn’t on. I almost crashed into a curb trying to get it set up in the beginning. In the future, I don’t think I’ll bother. I don’t need to know how slow I’m going.
I passed Lee going the other direction shortly before the turnaround point. He was lookin good!
By the end of the bike, I was more than ready to get off and run. My feet were still frozen and numb. I wanted off that bicycle seat! Oddly enough, I think the transition from bike to run is my favorite part of the race. My legs are completely warmed up and just want to keep moving after the bike. I know I’m almost done and running feels so liberating!
The run course started with a jaunt up some stairs to the famous London Bridge, across the bridge, down more stairs, under the bridge, upstairs on the other side, and then finally back across the bridge to the rest of the run course. All those stairs were tough but it was a fun way to start!
The rest of the course was a flat, out and back run on a paved road. I chugged along and tried to take in the scenery. The view from the bike course had been gorgeous but there wasn’t as much to see down in the flats on the run. I took water at the first aid station, more water at the turnaround point, and third cup at the aid station on the way back. I passed one woman early on in the run and counted all the women ahead of me coming back the other way. It looked like I was the 11th or 12th one out there.
Oh yeah, fuel. I had a Gu shortly before the start of the race and a couple of Gu Chomps in the beginning of the bike. I tucked the package in my arm warmer for easy access and ate 3 more chomps on the run. They were tasty and I think they helped but it sure is hard to chew something gummy when you’re trying to run and breathe.
My legs just kept going and going and going on the run. I was getting tired but I could have run farther, which surprised me. I was totally under trained on the run and don’t remember the last time I actually ran 6 miles!
One particularly speedy woman passed me right before the finish, which I saw coming. She was blasting out towards the turnaround about a mile behind me and I knew she’d pass me eventually. I didn’t have it in me to match her pace with a sprint at the end.
Lee met me at the finish line, having crossed in 2:58.39, well ahead of my 3:10.03. I was done and I was proud!