Sunday, April 10, 2011


Sunrise over the transition area
After months of training and fundraising, I competed with my Team in Training team in the Lavaman triathlon last Sunday. My goal was to finish in under 3.5 hours, and I'm happy to report that I crossed the finish line in 3:08. I grinned through most of the race, feeling giddy to finally work out in warm weather after many rainy, cold Seattle workouts!

The team met up in front of the hotel at 5:30am on race day and rode carefully in the dark to the transition area, where we had plenty of time to set up our gear, get our race numbers stamped on our arms, pick up our timing chips, and goof around a little for the camera.  

running up the beach to the bike transition and trying not to fall on my face

The swim was beautiful. I'm told the water was 65 feet deep in some parts of the course, and I could see the bottom the whole time. In fact, several times I had to remind myself to quit watching the fish and swim. I had hoped to finish the swim in 40 minutes, but having never swum in open water before, I didn't have a realistic goal in mind. I came at 32 minutes, and I'm thrilled with that result.

The bike course covered a roughly 11-mile section of the Queen K Highway, comprised mostly of long gradual hills in both directions, surrounded by fields of lava rock covered in Hawaiian graffitti (white chunks of dead coral laid out on the dark rocks to spell out names and messages).  The only trees in sight were those planted in the resort areas.  Aside from landscaping, there were only small tufts of grass here and there, reminiscent of a high desert.  As soon as I turned onto the highway, I felt the headwind and was glad that I had to fight the wind in the first half and that it would be behind me on the way back. My goal was to finish the bike leg in 1:30 or less, and I did it in 1:28. Hooray!  Because the course was an out-and-back, I saw the faster people on my team heading back before I'd made it halfway to the turn-around point.  Nearly every TNT person who passed me on the bike leg said "Go Team" as they passed, and I did the same.  Whenever someone called me by name, I picked up a little burst of speed.  I started thinking about coming back and doing this race again next year before the end of the bike leg.

By the time I started the run portion of the race, the sun was high and hot. The first short section led us across a field of gravelly lava rock - tricky footing when you've just gotten off a bike and your leg muscles are still adjusting! By the time I reached the first mile marker, I was definitely ready for the water station awaiting me there. Miles 2 & 3 were the hardest, with a short hill that led to a long, flat section of blacktop without even a hint of a breeze.

rocky trail just beyond mile 4 of the run
Around the 3.5-mile mark, I went to grab a cup of ice at the aid station, and my left foot slid out from under me on the wet pavement and wham! Suddenly I was on the ground with a bloody elbow and a sore butt! I wasn't hurt badly, mostly just startled to be flat on the ground after a few hours of constant motion. I was up and running again within a few seconds, clutching my paper cup of ice and feeling tough having bled on the course.  In the 5th mile, the trail led past one of the swimming pools on the Hilton grounds, then down along the water's edge on a narrow rocky path.  I was really glad that I'd taken the time to walk that section the day before, taking the "nothing new on race day" mantra to heart.
approx mile 4.5 of the run

Back on the sandy stone path through the resort, I dodged a few unsuspecting guests near the pool and watched my footing, having slipped in my flipflops on just such a section the day before.  Coach Cathy had pointed out the last little uphill section on our course preview, and I was excited to pass that and round the bend to the final water station and the 5-mile marker.
approx mile 5 of the run

Mile 6 followed the shore along a path that varied from golfball-sized chunks of coral and rock to sand to gravel and roots, and again I was glad I'd walked this part the day before.  With less than half a mile to go, the trail crossed a short stretch of deep, dry sand, and I tried to stay on my toes and maintain my pace.  Then it was back onto a winding paved path, where beachgoers kindly jumped to the side of the trail when they saw runners approaching. 

start/finish area at upper left of this photo, from last 1/4 mile of run route

The last hundred yards or so took me back into the sand, and I tried my best to speed up.  However, I'm a poor sprinter at the best of times, so I didn't have much left in the tank to get me across sand after 3+ hours of intense activity!  My goal was to finish the run in less than an hour, and I did it in 1:02, which is close enough for me.  There's always next year...

Finishing in the middle of the pack among my teammates was an added bonus.  There were many friends there to congratulate me at the end, and I got to see plenty of my teammates cross the finish line as well.

We did it!

By far my favorite part of the whole Team in Training experience was having so many people on the team.  In addition to my group of 60+ from Seattle, more than 500 other TNT participants from around the country took part in the race, so every few seconds I looked to see if the purple-clad person passing by was one of my Seattle teammates, and even when it wasn't someone I knew, the face was friendly and encouraging.   It was a particularly good course for this, since there were several overlapping sections on the run course where I saw teammates who were a few minutes ahead of or behind me. 

Completing my first Olympic distance triathlon would have been amazing on its own, but doing it for a good cause with an amazing group of people was incredibly uplifting.  Our WA/AK Team raised over $315,000, and Team in Training Lavaman participants nationwide raised over $1,000,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society leading up to this race.  It's not too late to donate and nudge that figure a little higher: 

Thanks to everyone who donated and to all the friends & family who listened to me ramble on about training and fundraising all winter.  I couldn't have done it without you!

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