Race Report: Playa Del Rey Triathlon

Mikey and I getting ready to rep USC

Mikey and I getting ready to rep USC

What happens when you unexpectedly get the chance to race for free the day before the race? Well, apparently you have an AWESOME race! At least, that’s what Michael and I found out at the Playa Del Rey Triathlon yesterday.

Both the USC and UCLA Triathlon teams volunteer at the Playa Del Rey Triathlon every year. We bring volunteers, we get fundraising points for our teams. So, naturally, on Saturday I was out there setting up transition for three hours with Eric after our long ride through Palos Verdes. Right before we both left for the day, I was casually making jokes that I wished I was racing. Marcus, the race director, looked at me and said, “Haven’t you volunteered all four years?” “Yes.” “Want to race in the WCCTC division? I’ll comp your entry.” “Hm. Well, I guess I’m racing tomorrow then.” And then I went and signed up and made my traditional pre-race packing list.

Now, going into this race, I knew it probably would not be my best race ever. Since the group ride that I did Thursday (which I need to write a post about…), I had been feeling REALLY tired. I hadn’t taken a rest day since Alex was visiting two weeks ago, and I’ve been working my butt off at every work out. Sure enough, I was pretty beat during the race. However, apparently being really tired was still enough to place 6th overall, only about three minutes back from the leader. Oh, and it was also enough to put up the 3rd fastest bike split and 5th fastest run split of the day for the women. (Apparently I need to get faster in the water…)

Swim: I tend to have issues with entering the water in ocean swims, and this race was no exception. It was REALLY wavy, so I felt like I was being swallowed for a good chunk of the swim. For the first time, though, I actually made a point to try to draft in the water, which turned out to be mildly successful. I just couldn’t get the proper feeling of the water under my hands! Ah! Eventually, I finally found a rhythm and just went with it for the rest of the swim. The current was NOT fun, however, and the swim times that everyone put up show it!

T1: I did like a 1:30 T1. Enough said. BAM. My abilities to strip are getting better and better. I did have a little trouble with my helmet, since I forgot to loosen it before the race. Whoops. I guess I should also start really practicing my mounts, too…

Bike: I knew I’d be tired on the bike, but I still decided to go for it with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Within the first two miles, I was close to an all-out sprint. Even better, one of the CSULB kids and I kept playing picking games, so whenever he got ahead of me, I went right ahead and passed him back. As we approached the turn-around, I started counting the girls ahead of me. There were three. And they weren’t far ahead; about a mile at most. I HAVE to catch them, I thought to myself. Luckily, after the turn-around it was a false flat with a down-grade, so I used the speediness of my beloved Felt DA4W (Mark) to push me the rest of the way. I couldn’t catch them. NOOOOOOOO.

T2: I had decided before the race to wear my Garmin on the run, in order to try to beat whatever pace it said I was going. Apparently this was a poor choice, though, since it took what felt like FOREVER to take my watch off and put the Garmin on. My transition time wasn’t that bad, so I guess it really didn’t take forever. Still. I should’ve thought that one out better.

Run: Since I knew ALL of the volunteers, there were a lot of cheers for me as I went out on the run. Aka I started the run at almost an all-out sprint. And held it. Kind of. I knew the girls weren’t far ahead. I knew I had to catch them. I just prayed they were slow runners, so I’d be able to catch them. I didn’t. I gained quite a bit of time on them, but it wasn’t QUITE enough. And one girl passed me. After she passed me, I tried SO hard to stay with her, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen, so I just stayed strong the rest of the way, right through the finish. Overall, my run was an average pace of about 20 seconds faster than my average pace at Long Beach Tri a month ago. SUCCESS. SIX MINUTE MILES, I’M COMING FOR YOU.

Lessons learned: racing on 12 hours of “taper” does not lead to a winning race, but when you’ve been working as hard as I have, it can still lead to a pretty awesome race. 6th woman overall. Rockstar bike split. Awesome run improvement. Swim, meh.

Time to take a rest day where I do little more than leave the couch, and then time to get back to work.

Next stop? RENEGADE RACE TURKEY TRI IN SAN DIMAS! See you all out there!!

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Thinking About Next Season…

Taken from during my long run at Lake Tahoe

Taken from during my long run at Lake Tahoe

Now that I’m officially in the off-season, it’s time to start thinking about what I want out of next season. Furthermore, it’s time to start thinking about what I want out of triathlon for the long-haul, since I’m on my last season with the USC Triathlon Team (tear tear sad sad). I’ve been gearing my training towards an Olympic and Half-Ironman mindset. Honestly, Sprints can be fun, but I don’t take them as seriously. I don’t really like Sprint training. Too many 400s around the track. Too many 100s in the pool. Too short of bike rides for my taste. Too much feeling like I’m going to hurl for an hour straight. I like to ENJOY my training and take in the sights a little and empty my mind of all the day’s stress. Sprint training doesn’t let me do that.

HOWEVER. I still have to do a few more Sprints before my career is ALL mine. Because I’m still part of a team, and I will do anything for my team. They are my family. So. A few more Sprints to go.

With all that being said, I would like to announce the tentative race schedule, as well as a brief description of why I want to do each race.

UCSD Tritonman Sprint: First USC team race of the season! And good fun in San Diego at Fiesta Island (Fiesta Island is actually kinda gross…no offense UCSD).

UCLA IronBruin Sprint: Another team race. I don’t take this race too seriously, because the bike course is downright DANGEROUS. Ambulances are always around the corner for when people crash from taking turns too fast.

March Triathlon Series: HECK YES LAKE LOPEZ AND CAL POLY!! One of my favorite and toughest Olympic courses. And WCCTC Championships! And mustaches! And the coldest water I’ve ever swam in.

USAT Collegiate National Championships: It’s my last year, so I gotta go out with a bang. I won’t be able to go back as a grad student, since I won’t be a grad student for at least a few more years.

Wildflower Long Course: Last year in California. Gotta live it up. And yes, I will take that shot of Tequila at mile 10 of the run or whatever it is. Carlie wants me to do the Double…aka Olympic the next day…we will see about that…

Virginia/Maryland Triathlon Series: Just a few fun summer races to do! Not to take too seriously; just get some cool t-shirts and good race experience with my DC friends!

USAT Age Group National Championships: It’s time for me to qualify for ITU Worlds. It’s time for me to make a move on the international scene. Let’s go.

And then I go to Kosovo for a while….bye bye racing for at least 6 months…

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It Sucks to be Sick

I’m sick. My nose feels like it’s going to fall off my face. My sense of smell has temporarily ceased to exist. My lymph nodes are swollen, making my mouth hang slightly open in a weird way, because it’s the only way I can breathe right now. I’ve used a full roll of toilet paper as tissues in the past 24 hours. My eyes are watery, and even sitting here looking at this computer screen makes me feel extra light-sensitive. My sinuses are on fire.

It’s a silly little cold. However, you know what one of the worst things to do when you have a head cold is? Train for triathlon.

Three years ago, I had bronchitis for a week straight. I was SO fed up with it, and I wanted to mentally convince myself that I was feeling better, so I went for a run with my friend Chris. Two miles later, we had to stop at a stoplight. Everything went black, and I woke up on the ground. Terrified, Chris basically carried me back to campus, where I proceeded to be poked and prodded with weird electric pulse therapies at the Health Center. Following this ordeal, I had to take a full four more days off.

Last year, I did three long, hard bike workouts in a row. After day 2, I could tell something was up, but I ignored it. After day 3, I guess my immunity shot so low that my lymph nodes swelled to what felt like the size of golf balls. In a painful agony, I picked myself up and walked the 3/4 mile from my apartment to the Health Center. I passed out at the front desk. No working out for five days.

One week ago. I was too lazy to go grocery shopping for my normal immune-boosting diet. I eat A LOT of spinach. Like, I consume the volume of two gallon-size milk jugs of spinach in a week. A LOT of spinach. And pears. And sweet potatoes. And other green things. And eggs. And milk. See what I mean? Immune-boosting. BUT NOT LAST WEEK BECAUSE I WAS TOO LAZY TO GET MY BUTT TO THE GROCERY STORE. And now I’m sick.

Yesterday was day 2 of no working out. As much as it pains me and brings me agony and makes me want to claw my own eyes out every time I look at Mark, I know better. I know that my body is demanding rest. I know I need to continue going to sleep at 9pm (normal bedtime is 10-11pm) until this passes. I know I need to just give it time, and use this little break to re-focus and get ready to get back in the game. But ughhhhhhhhhhhh I want to go swim/bike/run SO bad. Today is day 3. Hopefully, I’ll feel better this afternoon, so I can go on an easy ride. EASY. But, I will respect my body, and if a ride is not in the cards, I will let it be. So tomorrow will NOT be a day 4.

Oh, and I restrained from consuming massive amounts of my favorite sick foods, aka vanilla ice cream, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and macaroni and cheese. Score!

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The Importance of Spectating Triathlons: Ironman Lake Tahoe

Start of Ironman Lake Tahoe, picture by Jazmyn

Start of Ironman Lake Tahoe, picture by Jazmyn

This past weekend, I went up to volunteer at Ironman Lake Tahoe, as well as watch my AMAZING friend Daniel complete his first Ironman that day. Before I begin on the experience and what it was like to be a spectator at this race, I would like to note that the race had a published 20% DNF rate. Personally, I’m convinced it was higher than that. Aka, Daniel is amazing. Along with all of the other strong and brave triathletes out there that day.

More than any race I have been to, this race showed me exactly how important spectators are to a race. The cold weather, long and steady hills, altitude, and eventually darkness must have been the most mentally challenging combinations of a race experience EVER. Without all the spectators out there on the course, imagine how much harder this race would have been for the athletes. I barely can.

The day before the race, I stood out in the cold, biting wind and rain for four hours, assisting competitors with checking their bikes in for the night, as well as explaining how T1 was going to work. By the way, T1 was not figured out until 10:30am that day. Whoops. I was bundled up in about three layers, with a death grip on the travel mug full of blazing hot cocoa in my hands. I was miserable. The best moment of the day was when I was reassigned on a whim to guard the volunteers’ free lunch under a tent, next to a “heating pole” (is that what they’re called?). When my shift was over at 1:00pm, I could not wait until I could cuddle up on the couch in my grandparents’ cabin, reading the Tahoe Rim Trail book that has been there ever since I can remember.

What. A. Baby.

I was curled up there, feeling sorry for myself because I had to stand out in the cold for four hours under three jackets. It really didn’t occur to me what the athletes were about to endure the next day out on the course.

It snowed up on the mountains that night. IT WAS SO COLD THAT IT SNOWED. And at 6:20am, in sub-30 degree (F), the pros stood out on the beach, gearing up to start their long day of racing. By 8:00am, a good number of triathletes were emerging from the 60 degree water, jumping back into the frigid air. Thick cycling coats, leg warmers, toe covers, the works. All of us in the crowd roared, cheering them on while holding lattes and hot breakfast sandwiches in our gloved hands. The athletes’ hair was probably freezing solid. Daniel came by, in only our USC kit. Brave, child.

Jazmyn, Carlie, Bryan, my grandparents, and I hopped in the van to head up to Squaw Valley to begin our day of following him around everywhere on the course, cheering as much as we could. Everywhere we looked, shivering cyclists smiled as spectators shouted in their direction. Signs waved, smiles big, and spectators even parked cars in completely random locations, just to make sure that the athletes never went more than ten minutes without being cheered at. At least it was something to keep their minds off of the maybe 40-degree temperatures at this point. Oh, and by the way, certain small portions of the bike course led to a maximum of 9mph paces, due to steady graded hills that must’ve gone on forever. Mental game.

At around 6:00pm, a few of the top pros had finished, but most of the field was still out there, beginning what would end up as a long, cold, dark, grueling 26.2 miles. Temperatures had peaked at about 60 degrees, but by nightfall, they dropped right back down into the 30s. The Daniel Fan Club stood out near mile 16, waiting for him to go by. It was dark. Athletes were running on pure adrenaline, a glazed-over expression in their eyes, with only their will power and the ever-strong cheering section guiding them through the darkness towards the finish. We had sparklers for the occasion. Once again, all spectators were bundled up, holding in their desires to complain about the temperatures as they cheered on the silent mass of athletes. I especially admired the cheering section across from us, bedazzled in 80s work-out attire and Avicii or Britney Spears blaring for at least 2 hours. That must’ve given at least a few athletes the motivation to go on.

Until the very end when the last finishers crossed the finish line, the spectators stayed strong. Looking back, there is NO way I could have finished that race. I’m too much of a baby in the cold for that. But they did. And we cheered them on the whole way. We yelled silly things. We happily screeched at anyone wearing an LA Tri Club kit. I saw the President of the UCLA Triathlon Team (Greg) go by, and I went wild. (Greg got 2nd in his age group and qualified for Kona, by the way. Fight On, UCLA.) Every single spectator did their part in making sure the athletes were smiling through this grueling ordeal. And we admire them so much. The people that finished this race are TRULY Ironmen and Ironwomen. If you are one of the select few that completed this race, frame that medal. Put it above your mantelpiece or above your couch. Brag. Forever. Because you are AMAZING.

If you have never watched a triathlon, Go. Now. Make a sign. Make an athlete smile. I promise, a little bit of the pain goes away when someone is holding up a silly sign or is dancing on the side of the road to a silly song. The athletes love it. The End.

P.S. If you were one of those boys at mile 4 of the 2013 USAT Collegiate National Championships during the girls race, with the SuperSoakers, YOU BETTER BE THERE AGAIN NEXT YEAR. It was one of the most satisfying things to shout, “SQUIRT ME.” 

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The Little Things

Skyline Drive. My favorite ride of all time.

Skyline Drive. My favorite ride of all time.

For those of you that know me pretty well, you know that the “little things in life” are what make me the happiest. For the most part, I could not care less about dream resort vacations, fancy cars, expensive clothes and jewelry, etc. (Okay, I do have expensive taste in bicycles, but we don’t need to include that…) I do not need a all-inclusive EuroTrip, or a 5 carat diamond (is that a lot of carats…?), or a shopping trip where I try on every knick knack I see. I like the little things.

I have been thinking about these things a lot lately, because I have been struggling with a strange identity crisis regarding what I’m EXPECTED to like as a 20-something girl and what I actually like. All around me, I see girls (and boys) that have very high-class, materialistic tastes. They all think they look fabulous when going to class, with their dresses, perfectly curled hair, glittery eyeshadow, Marc Jacobs bags, and heels. They think they look fabulous. I think they look dumb. Who are they trying to impress? Their professors? Somehow, I doubt the professor cares WHO you are wearing…

My beloved truck with its roll-up windows.

My beloved truck with its roll-up windows.

My dream vacation is backpacking or mountain biking around the Tahoe Rim Trail. My dream car is the Honda CR-V or the ’94 Ford Ranger that I already have. My favorite clothes come from Nordstrom Rack (RACK, PEOPLE), SwimOutlet.com, Nike, and Under Armor. NOT Lululemon. Ew. (I’ll save my Lululemon rant for another day.) The only pieces of jewelry I wear are my simple diamond necklace that I’ve had for 4 years, my high school class ring, a bracelet from Uganda, and my running watch. I do like painting my nails. Pink. I like shoes, but I always have an internal debate between cute shoes and my Nikes. The Nikes win about 95% of the time. I do like expensive jeans, but that’s mostly because Lucky Brand happens to fit my “soccer thighs” best. (I learned that phrase last night on a fashion website. I thought it was great.) Oh, and I haven’t bought new jeans in three years, and I don’t feel the need to.

Above Ka'ena Point, one of my favorite work sites.

Above Ka’ena Point, one of my favorite work sites.

I love sunrises and sunsets. These are by far the best when sitting on the beach in a sweatshirt and bikini bottom, right on the invisible line where the foamy water rises up to the sand. I love REAL hikes. (The Hollywood sign is NOT a hike. Get real.) I love long runs with a good friend. I love biking up to the peaks in the Malibu canyons and overlooking the ocean and barely seeing Catalina Island in the distance. I miss Hawai’i every day. And I’m referring to Yokohama Bay and Makapu’u and Waianae and Ewa Beach. Disneyland and Lake Tahoe are my two favorite places in the world. I secretly love it when I’m working on Mark and bike grease ends up on my face. When I decide to travel around Europe, it will be on a touring bike and staying in hostels. That way, I can get a pure taste of what each and every culture is like throughout the various towns I’ll go through. Not once will I go to a touristy location for more than a picture. I make a point to compliment a stranger every day.

Fancy restaurants tend to make me feel out of place. (I can fold my own napkin on my lap, thank you. My mommy taught me well.) I could not tell you the first thing about fine wine. Actually, fancy events in general make me feel out of place. I would rather not wear make-up. (I also have really good skin, so that helps.) In fact, I have NEVER worn foundation, concealer, or blush. I feel awkward in dresses and hate the stickiness of lipgloss. I don’t know how to curl my hair. Mousse and hairspray smell bad. I can’t wear heels due to a long-standing foot problem. Goddammit, let’s be real, I feel the most beautiful in a running top, spandex shorts, and a tight ponytail.

I think this weird rant has just helped me a lot. It’s reassuring to see the things that make me ME on “paper.” There’s nothing wrong with my strange tastes that are so different from most people I know. Because all of them are ME. I just prefer the little things.

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“Don’t Let Anyone Work Harder Than You”

This is a phrase that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. My friend Taylor recently told me about her former teammate, who was sick of getting “top 10.” She wanted to win. The girl’s coach sat her down and said, “Look. This is what it is going to take. Are you willing to do it?” The girl nodded, and just got crowned ITU Youth World Champion.

Alex likes showing me inspirational videos. Honestly, the boy needs to grow up and become a motivational speaker, because it really is his talent. The videos that he shows me sometimes make me cry, because it is so amazing what people are capable of if they truly adopt the mindset, “Don’t Let Anyone Work Harder Than You.” My favorite is of a football player up at 4:00 in the morning, doing drills along the beach. Aka, early morning sufferfest plus resistance from the sand. Wow. That’s awesome.

I recently have been pulling out the stops. Yesterday, I went for a ride from campus, which is already something I cringe over. I wanted to get in some climbing, but riding from campus makes climbing pretty difficult, unless you’re willing to be out there for a looooooong time. I wasn’t about to do that. So, I did hill repeats up and down La Brea. La Brea has one long hill starting at its intersection with Rodeo St., so that’s what I did. Even after the first repeat, I thought to myself, “Ugh. This is why I don’t like this hill.” And then I did another one. And another one. And another one. As I kept climbing over and over again, I kept thinking to myself, “What do you want? You want that top bike split. How are you going to get it? Don’t let anyone work harder than you.”

Today I went for an 8 mile run, mostly with the USC Triathlon Team (shoutout to my trifam). I haven’t done many runs over 6 miles in the past few months, so whenever I think about building endurance, it sounds daunting. Don’t let anyone work harder than you. After only 50min, I wanted to quit. It hurt. It was hot. The sandy trail was loose under my feet, causing me to feel as though I was sliding around with every step. Don’t let anyone work harder than youUgh, okay. Come on Blakes, we gotta finish this up. I drank three bottles of water after and doused myself in a cold shower. Proudly.

There will always be athletes out there that have more talent than me. There will always be faster runners. There will always be stronger cyclists. There will without a doubt be better swimmers. But they are NOT going to out-work me. I don’t care about how fast they are naturally or how talented they are or what elevation they train at. Because they will NOT out-work me.

I’ve been on a roll, lately. And this roll will continue. Let’s go, Blakes.

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I haven’t had this much fun during a race in quite a while! Since I started doing triathlons, I’ve been injured so often that there have been few races where I really RACE. This was one of those. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I did experience something in this race that I’ve never gotten the joy of before: people shouting “YOU’RE FIRST!!!” I was in the first wave, and there were all of three girls (I think?) total in the wave. Because of that, people were shouting at me that I was the first girl and how amazing I was and that I needed to keep it up the entire race. What an AMAZING feeling!!! For an hour after the race, people were coming up to me and congratulating me on my win. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I knew I did not actually win. My good friend Kaori took that title, as well as set a course record. Because she’s a badass.

SWIM 750m (13:13 min, 1:31min/100yd)

I’ve grown so used to longer distance swim training in the past few months that this swim felt extremely short. I was in Wave #1, along with the Elites, the Men 39&Under, and the other collegiate kids (there weren’t many collegiate kids). When I lined up at the start, I realized everyone was a foot taller than me.  Instantly, I started getting nervous and intimidated. They were so big! This fear ended after about 200m, when I started sighting and realized that I was not far behind the first pack of swimmers. I then made a point of catching them for the rest of the swim. There were a few times that I almost settled into my Olympic-distance pacing, and then snapped back into gear. Blakely, this swim is SHORT. Sprint, kid! Suddenly, I was feeling sand under my hands and popped out for the 400m run up the sand into transition (ugh). There were volunteers right before transition giving out cups of water, which I had chuckled at earlier. As I passed them, the idea of pouring water onto my sandy feet popped into my head. A BRILLIANT THOUGHT, in retrospect. Jessie: 1, Race: 0.

T1 (1:15min)

Tore off my wetsuit, popped on my helmet, put on my bike shoes (I’ve been having mount difficulties, and I didn’t want to deal with it today), and hauled out. Woo! New goal: Break a minute in T1. Because how awesome would that be????

BIKE 11mi (32:55min, 20.1mph)

Eh, the bike did not go quite as well as I would have liked. The first few miles, I felt really shaky. I think I may have over-kicked the swim, leaving my legs feeling like jelly for a while. I also think my seat post was a little low, based on how my pedal strokes were feeling. I guess it is time to go back and get re-fit on my baby Marky-Mark! Anyway, this bike course was a TOTAL CRAZY FEST. There were ZERO officials on the course, and it was pretty clear that few people out there on the bike actually knew triathlon bike rules. I can’t even begin to talk about how many times I had to scream “ON. YOUR. LEFT. NOW.” No, it doesn’t end there. My bike handling skills must be on the rise, because I was swerving left and right avoiding draft packs, potholes, and people wobbling. Two loops of the second-craziest bike course I’ve been on (UCLA will forever hold that title). Given the bizarre-ness of this course, I’m proud.

T2 (1:06min)

Eh, could have been faster. Next time!

Run (22:39min, 7:33min/mi)

I started off a little easier than I normally do, which I think allowed me to really kick it in for the last mile. The run was a simple two-loop out-and-back along the bike path on the beach, so there was nothing technical about it. I had started my watch right at the mat, and when I hit Mile #1, I finally checked it. 7:47min/mi. Okay Blakes, you know you can go faster. After I saw Kaori on the run, I knew I decided to just hit it. Besides, the goal was to feel like I would puke. So at the final turn-around, I just started sprinting. By the time I finished, I could barely see straight. I’m thinking that was a good decision.

Overall Results (1:11:05)

Winner of the Collegiate Women division. That’s not too impressive. There were only two of us, and it was her first race. WELL. I also would have gotten 2nd in the F20-24 division, so we will just go with that one. 5th Woman overall. If I had done just a few things differently, I would have podiumed overall. Grrrrrrrr I want cash prizes.

Post-race hardware selfie. Because these things are necessary.

Post-race hardware selfie. Because these things are necessary.

I’m proud of this race. I think it is a really good representation of the hard work I’ve been putting in over the past few months, and I can’t wait to have some more stellar results over the next year!!!

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