Sunday, June 08, 2008

Showdown at Sundown Race Report

The Showdown at Sundown Sprint Tri is a Vineman event held at McNears Beach near San Rafael. The swim (400 y) is in San Pablo Bay, the bike (9 miles) follows a rolling, winding road through China Camp State Park, and the run (3 miles) is mostly along a flat stretch of road in San Rafael. It is held at 5:00 pm, hence the Sundown reference. It was a really well-organized and fun event, and it was so nice not having to wake up at 4:00 am! The course was tougher than it sounds though and it thoroughly kicked my ass.

We left our place out in the east bay about 1:00 and it took about an hour to get there. We were among the very first to arrive, which meant we got sweet transition spots and had lots of time to lounge around the beach area and relax. My mom is in town visiting from Montana and came up with us to cheer us on. We checked in, set up our transition area, and then just hung out for a couple hours. We walked around and scoped out the bike and run entrances/exits and they were gnarly. The beach where the swim and transitions were is a couple hundred feet lower than the land above it where the bike and run courses were. Therefore, there was a STEEP hill you hit immediately on the bike. There is a series of stairs and steep dirt trails leaving on the run. At least we knew so we could be in the right gear and mentally prepared. There was a pre-race meeting at 4:15 which lasted 20 minutes our so. That left us just enough time to don our wetsuits and get in a warm up swim. I took a couple hits of my inhaler and we headed to the beach. The water was advertised as 71 degrees but felt chilly at first. And of course it was salt water, which is gross tasting. Other than that, I felt really comfortable in the water and not nervous at all. I was ready to race!

The swim

There were 3 waves- the team division, all men, all women. I watched the first two waves go off and then lined up toward the back of the ladies wave. The gun went off and we ran into the water. I realized right away that I made a mistake seeding myself in the very back. I was passing people! And it wasn't easy. The swim course is a half moon shape so you were always turning a little. I finally found some open water but I was rather towards the outside of the curve. I suppose I ended up swimming a little extra but it was worth it to get into a groove. Before I knew it I could see the beach again and I ran out of the water. I hit the lap button on my watch and was psyched to see 6:xx. Under 7 minutes! Smokin! I ran up a few feet and stopped to remove my wetsuit. I find it comes of sooo much easier if I do it right away rather than at the transition area. I had some trouble, you know how it is when you come out of the water, but I got it. I passed the timing mat into T1 with an official swim split of 7:50.


Threw down my wetsuit, swim cap, goggles and nose clip. Put my socks and bike shoes on, helmet and sunglasses on. Somehow in this process I took off my watch. WTF? Suddenly I just saw it lying there on my towel. Shit! I tried to put it back on but my brain was not cooperating, so I threw it back down. Grabbed my bike and ran out. Official T1 time: 1:39

The bike

I knew the hill was coming, I was in my easiest gear, and I had "Think UP" going through my head. Seriously, this thing was vertical. Of course there were people struggling but I just stood up and hammered. This was a bike path too so there wasn't much room to pass or maneuver. I heard a crash behind me, and thought "sucks to be them." After the steep hill, you make a sharp right and have a gradual hill on a bike path. Finally, we got out to the roads and I just went for it. My heart was racing from the hill and the excitement. The course was pretty rolling and winding. There was a headwind at times, too. It was not an easy bike course! I passed a couple people and a few passed me, but not a lot. I stood up on several of the steeper climbs and passed people that way. I found it was easier than pedaling in an easy gear, plus you got up it faster (I'm sure this is obvious to veteran triathletes, but it was a revelation to me!). I passed a few male stragglers from the wave before me. One girl passed me and said "pretty bike!" haha. We girls encouraged each other a lot the whole day too. :) I love how female athletes treat each other! I did see Zach and he was flying. He appeared to be near the front of the pack. I was so thirsty so I managed to drink a few times from my bottle, even though I don't do that much in practice. Turns out, when you are working hard, your mouth is dry and tastes like salt water, you figure it out. The downhills were a little scary at times, but I maintained my focus and control. I hit 26 or so I think, fast for me. I was getting pretty wore out from all the climbing and my heart was pounding. I had a slight side cramp too, which worried me. There was a downhill then a sharp left turn as we got back to the beach, then we made our way back down the bike path. NOT the steep part though, they make you dismount and walk your bike down. That wasn't comfortable, I tell you. Steep downhill walk holding onto your bike, in bike shoes with shaky legs, yikes. I should have taken off my shoes, but oh well. I got to the bottom and saw my mom right before I turned into transition area. Official bike split: 36:34 (15 MPH)

T2: Racked the bike, helmet off. Changed shoes (easy laces rock!) and threw visor on. I saw my watch again, so I grabbed it and my race belt. Ran out of transition waving to mom on the way. I lapped my watch as I left so I would know my run time. Official T2 time: 1:24

The run

As I mentioned, you have to climb again up from sea level. This time it involves stairs. A lot of them. With steep dirt trail connecting the sections of stairs. My heart was already pounding and that side cramp was lingering, so I walked this steep section. I noted on my watch that I walked for nearly 2 minutes. That's gonna kill my run time! Finally I reached the top and started jogging up a slight hill. Ugh. It finally flattened out but my side was aching and I was feeling tired. I tried to loosen up and relax but it just never happened. I started passing people right away, even though I felt like a snail. After a few minutes, a girl passed me. Drat! It's ok though, she would be the only one the whole run! I saw Zach again, and we high-fived. He still looked strong and he was ahead of a lot of people. I was happy to see the turn around point, and I grabbed a cup of water there. I drank as I ran and poured the rest over my head. I think I picked up the pace a little on the way back, but there were no mile markers to confirm this. My side ache went away but I had a new problem: I couldn't freaking breathe. Well, I could, but let's just say people knew when I was going to pass them. I was wheezing real loud. It sucked. I might have had the energy to run faster but I couldn't get the air. I don't think I've had such a hard time breathing before. I kept passing people (guys and gals) and some were encouraging me. I could still see the girl who passed me but I couldn't catch up. Of course there had to be another long hill right at the end so I wheezed my way up it. Ugh. Finally I could hear the announcer and I wound my way down the driveway into the beach area. The grassy lawn with the finish chute came into view and I spotted Zach. He yelled at me "Go Jen!" and then told me to catch the guy ahead of me. His daughter jumped in to run through the finish chute with him, but I have no shame and blew by them both. Whoo hoo!!!! Official run split: 24:29 (8:10 average pace).

Finish time: 1:11:48

I was so spent, I nearly collapsed! I wandered around and found my mom and mauled her with a salty, sweaty hug. Zach found us too and we congratulated each other. He said he had a great race and we broke it all down. We both had a good feeling about Zach's finish so we stuck around for awards. It was a beautiful evening on the beach and with all the excitement I didn't want to leave anyway! Finally they printed out the top finishers and Zach went to take a look. Sure enough, he walks over holding up 3 fingers. He got third place in his Age Group! He points at me and holds up 5 fingers. No way!! I got 5th in mine!! It was cool cause they didn't put up all the results, only the top 5 in each division, so it was neat to see my name. They started announcing awards and they gave out bottles of wine to the top 3 in each division. It is a bottle of La Crema 2004 Pinot noir in a neat Vineman souvenir box. Zach also won in the unofficial "Biggest Tattoo Division" haha. The announcer said that as he ran through the finish and also when he got his award. Hilarious. We watched the rest of the awards and then made our way to the car. It was getting dark and cool by this time, it was weird. We drove home in the dark and had a celebratory burger and beers for dinner in Danville. It was definitely a different kind of race- usually when we finish we go out for breakfast! :) It was a great day. I learned a lot (don't start so far back in the swim, use the inhaler in T2, just for a couple of examples) and I know I'll do better next time. It was very awesome to have my mom there watching. Here's some of the pictures she took of the day. Thanks for reading! Go check out Zach's race report for his details and finish times. :)

Official Results: 5th/29 Age Group (F 20-29)

18th/98 Females

75th/211 Overall

(also, not that it matters, but by clicking through the individual female results, I think I had the 9th fastest run time of women!)

Results link (if that doesn't work, I'm bib #225)

Picking up our numbers early in the afternoon:

Setting up transition next to my new friend Kendra. I like this picture cause my arms look ripped. :D
Pretty bike! :P
There's the swim course. This is the exit.
The swim. This is Zach's wave finishing and my wave beginning. We zoomed in and that is actually Zach right in the foreground there (that tattoo is so helpful):

Zach entering T1:

Zach in T2:

Zach heading out on the run:

Just came down the steep hill, heading into T2:

Leaving T2:

Zach finishing:


Best mom ever:

Award presentation:

3rd Place in AG! (And biggest tattoo division winner!)


*aron* said...

WOW that just sounds crazy to me! CONGRATS!!! you are so awesome :)

Wes said...

I love afternoon triathlons. Unfortunately, the one I did in October of last year was too damn hot :-) Great job on the race!!! You've come a long way since the last time I came by!!

Mir said...

Wow, awesome race!!! You really pulled through. I thought that with the walking and general exhaustion the run time would have been slower but no, you still ran an awesome 5K. :) Great, great job.

P.S. Thanks for your thoughts on my last post!

ShirleyPerly said...

How cool to have an afternoon race! And you did fantabulous despite the hills and steep sections. I'm amazed how fast you've picked up cycling. It took me nearly 6 months to get used to bike shoes and over a year before I could stand up and ride out of the saddle. You are a NATURAL!!!

21stCenturyMom said...

Great job! I should have done that instead of climbing Diablo. The climb was cheaper but definitely not as fun! Congrats to Zach on his podium finish.

Gotta Run said...

How cool is that to have an event so late in the afternoon!!! You both rocked it!!!!! Even with your short walk break you were smoking the run with a pace like that after those hills on the bike. Still can not believe that a portion of it was on a bike path. Not good.

Love it... and all of the pictures. great that you both could do this event and see each other out on the course.

IM 2009?..... are you thinking it??

KK said...

Wow, Jen, you are AWESOME! I was getting nervous reading your descriptions of the hills and narrow paths, I can't imagine how you felt racing that. Way to overcome that for a kicka$$ time and place in your AG!

Don't feel bad about the wheezing, I do it too and can't help it (I've tried to fix it to no avail, and it only happens in the run portion of triathlons, don't know why).

Also, If I lived in CA this would be my favorite race for the start time, prizes (wine) and scenery (LOVED your first picture with the light streaming through the trees.

Oh yeah, way to pass people on the swim too. So long, suckahs!

You are seriously a stud. Congrats!

Debbie said...

That is so awesome! Congrats to both of you!!!

Anonymous said...

Jen, wow that was a great swim, bike & run. You two make a good team for training & cheering each other on. Soul mates for sure!
Dragonfly on the Water.

Michele said...

What a great race report. the pics are great too.
I knew you would make an awesome triathlete. Next race you will be getting some hardware.

Nitmos said...

Great job. Don't know much about the first 2 stages but that's a nice run considering how you went into it. Congratulations!

Ewen said...

You both did well! Enjoyed the report. You had a great run split considering the 2-minute stroll up the stairs.

The only thing missing is a photo of the print-out "evidence". Your pretty bike is having a sneaky effect on your rivals - they all slow down to take a geek when they go past - or maybe they just ease off on the gas to admire your ripped arms ;)

The 311 Boys Mom said...

Great pix!!!

The 311 Boys Mom said...

. . . . sorry to leave 2 msgs; I can't believe how great you guys are doing in this!!!

looks like you're a natural!! Great times!!!

I didn't know you use an inhaler, I just got one.

Judi said...

You did really well! I told you that you will always pass everyone on the run. All you need to do is pump those legs on the bike and GO FAST!

I got my highest speed average this week, 19.3 for 30 miles. It hurt a lot but I did it. So can you!

Marathon Maritza said...

A little late in commenting but YAY! Great job!!!

And holy moley, your arms are TOTALLY ripped in that pic!!!! Don't beat me up!