Los Angeles Triathlon Club
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Club Member: Susie Miller
Race: Strawberry Fields - My First Olympic Tri
Distance: Olympic
Article URL: https://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=10150320014507189
Race Date: 07/17/11
Submit Date: 07/29/11

My First Olympic Triathlon – The Experience Strawberry Fields - Sunday, July 17th Oxnard, CA SATURDAY, July 16th: I woke up in a cold sweat with the worst sore throat and feeling of fatigue ever… Not good since I really planned to be out of the house and on the road by 7am… That was SO not happening, but allowed Skip time to go for a much needed walk. So I went back to sleep for another hour and a half. Feeling slightly better, I rallied, and had a quick home-made breakfast (eggs and toast) courtesy of Skip. I got the van all packed up – man there’s a lot of gear for a triathlon – and hit the road around 9:45am. I was very anxious because everyone was talking about “Carmageddon” and the fact that it would take 8 hours to get to Oxnard! I even considered flying the $4 flight on Jet Blue from Long Beach to Burbank… but then what? And even thought about taking the Amtrak… The problem with this is you have to take apart your bike and put it in a box, then when you get to your destination, re-assemble the bike… therein lies the problem, as I really would not know where to start and didn't need the added stress of trying to figure it out a day before the race as my friend Greg gently reminded me, so I decided to be brave and just drive. The plan was to head up Highway 1 to avoid what was supposed to be the worst traffic LA has ever seen in its history. Luckily, it all proved to be a bust – no cars in sight – just a beautiful and leisurely drive up the stunning coast through Malibu and on up to Oxnard. Made it there in an hour and a half no problem. Turquoise waters and Bob Marley kept me company the whole way up. The weather in Oxnard was perfect – hardly any wind and around 70 degrees. Pulled up to the Hampton Inn, but my room wasn’t ready. So I decided to head over to the race site at Oxnard State Park Beach. I was relieved to find out it was indeed only minutes away from the hotel. Everything was feeling too easy, too relaxed. It was eerie. I rolled up to Registration – one of the first ones there – got my packet and then walked around the Expo for a bit, and bought a bunch of workout gear and t-shirts that I certainly don’t need. Got some funky arm warmers, a couple eco-friendly long sleeve tees, a really cute Zoot bike jersey – for 20 bucks! And a few last minute items for the tri… decided to try out ear plugs for the swim – that was the smartest decision I made all weekend! After killing about an hour of time and dropping a decent amount of cash, it was time for the Pre-Race talk. There were about 100 of us on the lawn listening to the talk – just general rules about the course and the BEST part – only 1 – 2 foot waves and the best water conditions they have ever had there in the 8 years of doing this race. That made me VERY happy since I have had some anxiety over the swim portion of the event… After the talk I headed back to the hotel – and the room was thankfully ready. I was very pleasantly surprised with the room – tastefully and simply decorated, comfortable bed, and beautiful view of the Marina up on the 3rd floor. It was very peaceful and felt like the perfect home base for the biggest challenge of my life to date. I was starving so I dug into my snack stash – trail mix with mini Reese’s peanut butter cups – sooo good! Drank down more water and then it was time for a quick pre-race workout. Got in 20 minutes on my bike – to the race site and a little beyond and back, then a 15 minute run, then headed back to the race site for a quick dip in the ocean. I met up with my friends Michelle Sayre and William Rustrum for an ocean dip – they are an amazing couple and key members of the LA Tri Club. We have become good friends and I am so thankful they were there to help me through the event! We got in the ocean around 4 – the wind had picked up so the water was extremely choppy, and it was chilly… but just a quick swim to the buoy and back. I got slapped in the face by the chop every time I took a stroke, but I knew the water would be calm in the morning and I was fine. After the swim, I ran into my other new tri buddies, Lil and Rachel, we all made tentative plans to have dinner together. The plan at this point was to go back to the hotel and nap, but somehow time kept slipping away… so it ended up being a quick shower, and then meeting Michelle and William for dinner at Sea Fresh for dinner, also in the Marina. We had a great time chatting about my brother Eric’s new age prophecies, and William’s Levels of Humanity, as well as triathlon chat and life in general. It got chilly very quickly and we all realized it was best to tuck in early as we’d have to be up at the crack of dawn for the race… So we bid a fond farewell, and I headed back to the hotel. At this point, my sore throat was getting worse and I had the chills… I was definitely concerned but managed to warm up quickly once back in the room. I laid out all my gear, got everything together, looked over the checklist two more times, and then curled up with Eric Harr – his book, that is – his chapter on Race Day. He had some great tips – 1) Everyone has pre-race butterflies. The key is getting the butterflies to fly in formation. 2) Have confidence in your training. Smile. 3) Encourage your fellow triathletes – you are all in this together. If anyone kicks you in the water, just remember they don’t mean to, they are just trying to finish… No one is trying to hurt you. 4) Enjoy every second of the event – take a moment and remember to look around and enjoy the energy around you. After reading this over again, I felt really good. Set up wake up call for 4:30, and lights out. SUNDAY, JULY 17TH – RACE DAY! 4:30 AM rolled around very fast – again woke up with that same sore throat… ugh! Oh well… think I was just exhausted from all the training and everything leading up to the event, so I figured that was just part of it. I made up a pot of Hampton Inn’s finest – it actually wasn’t bad! And I enjoyed a yogurt and some fruit and took some deep breaths. Got dressed quickly and texted my best friend Gina in NY that was about to head out to my race. She wished me luck and told me to kick ass. Outside the hotel the light was just starting to filter through the palm trees – beautiful pink clouds in the background and you could still see the moon. I grabbed my bike out of the van, turned on all my reflective lights, strapped on my backpack and headed over to the race site. This is it! Enjoy it – I kept reminding myself to smile and have fun. Got to the transition area and I was one of the first ones there. I was feeling very smart and good about myself for not driving as the parking lot was filling up fast and the line was already pretty long… yes, at 5:20am… Michelle was already there and had her plot set up, and saved me a spot near her. I set up everything and then realized I LEFT MY BIKE NUMBER IN THE ROOM! You can’t race without your bike number, or you will be DQ’d (disqualified)… ARGH! That’s the other thing I learned, it’s hard to remember absolutely everything on race day, so you have to just go with the flow. Luckily I had oodles of time before the actual start of the race, so I just hopped back on my bike and went back to the room to grab my number – which of course was there right on my nightstand. Got back to the site without a hitch and then milled around with Michelle for a bit. Anti-fog sprayed in goggles, check. Arm and leg marked, check. Wet-suit half on, check. Finally it was time to saunter down to the beach – just before 7am. We went down to see Michelle’s boyfriend William line up for the sprint. He was pretty much the only crazy one doing this thing without a wetsuit. And that water was not warm… not even close. After watching him start, Michelle and I ran down the beach about a mile for the start of our race. The water did NOT disappoint – absolutely brilliant surf conditions – NONE! And no wind. Only 1-2 feet, and hardly any swell, and the sun was even shining. We did a quick warmup half way to the buoy and back and then it was time to line up. THE SWIM Our start time was 7:33, but we got delayed a bit – started at about 7:41… lined up, 3 minute countdown, a few cheers for Wave 6, 30 second countdown with a few deep breaths and then off! There were no waves to dive through, it was unbelievable. The key to getting through this was to relax and enjoy it, taking it “one buoy at a time” – I made it around the first buoy and felt just great. Never had to “reset.” I put my head down and just kept swimming taking it one buoy at a time – I was even smiling. I didn’t have to stop at all – I was able to just keep going, and I even drafted a bit on some of the faster males that came up from behind me. Just follow the bubbles… Passed Buoy 2, then Buoy 3… Buoy 4 seemed a bit further away but I put my head down and just kept on swimming. Before I knew it I was there – a quick right turn and then head to shore – there was a pretty fast North-going current, so I drifted a bit further which meant swimming back to shore a bit more… TRANSITION 1: I got in and had to run up a sand hill to transition… that part was HARD. My feet were numb from the cold water, but I didn’t feel too tired just yet. Made it back up to my bike. Slipped off my wetsuit, shoes and helmet on, powered down an energy gel (didn’t gag) and off on the bike… THE BIKE It took a bit too feel, hmmm, comfortable on the bike… legs were still a bit shaky from the swim. The course was indeed very fast in the sense that it was flat. However, I am not very fast… But I try. I managed to find a buddy on the course – Katie Snell – this was her first triathlon ever – she was in my wave and doing super great! We paced each other almost the whole way. About 12 miles in and time for the second loop. The first part of the second loop felt great! Legs were warmed up so I felt like I was cruising. Around Mile 19, I started to feel some aching in my lower back – oof, not good. There was a strong head-wind so that made the fatigue worse… I made it around the final bend and attempted to stretch my legs a bit and spin out into Transition 2… the volunteers were all very nice and encouraging – I thanked them along the way for being there! TRANSITION 2: Wow – the mental hurdle of this part of the race is hard to describe. I had already been on the course for over two hours, so the thought of having to run a 10k at this point seemed near impossible! I was just plain pooped, and my back was aching. I sucked down another funky Accelerade raspberry cream gel and just chilled out for a couple minutes. I knew this transition was going to be super slow but I really didn’t care at this point. I also had to pee like a race-horse, but the thought of a porta potty was too depressing… so I found my way to a normal beach bathroom with real flushing toilets. So yes, this transition was embarrassingly slow, but I kept going… finally found my way to the start of the Run… THE RUN: The nice part of this part of the race is that mentally you know you are almost done, which is such a great feeling. The part that sucks is that you still have to run 6.2 miles. And it’s a two loop course, which translates to doing two back to back 5k’s – remember, this is after swimming a mile, then biking almost 25 miles… I made my way – felt like I and everyone around me was moving in slow motion. Everyone looked pretty fatigued – and the worst part? NO HEADPHONES ALLOWED! USA Tri Rules… Really? Cruel. Just plain cruel. UGHHHH. How can I get through the last part without my Gaga and techno/jungle beats? Oh – this was sheer torture. Real suffering. When I made it to Mile 1, it felt like I had already run a marathon… Mile 2 crept up even slower. That’s when the tears started flowing, and no, they were not tears of joy. They were tears of pain and suffering and just wanting to be done already! I wanted to give up, but I had come to far to just give up. The LA Tri Club had a tent set up giving up power gels so I grabbed one. I passed a runner who was grabbing his calf and screaming out in pain – asked him if he was okay and he was not – he had a very bad leg cramp. So I gave him my energy gel and kept going hoping the potassium would help the poor guy out. About 2 minutes later he passed me and thanked me profusely. I kept going, feeling inspired for about 30 more seconds. The course was along all the beach front property in Oxnard so all the neighbors had out hoses and were spraying us down which was really nice and felt great. I saw Michelle on my way out – she was doing so great and could tell she was going to have a great race time so I was happy for her. She would be going to Nationals in Vermont which is super exciting! I FINALLY made it back to start the second loop. Let me tell you – the second loop was a lonely course… not too many of us slow pokes left on the course. This is where you literally have to dig deep just to finish, and just pray you are not DFL (dead f*cking last). I caught up with a woman for a bit who said she was second to last the year prior – that kind of freaked me out. Six months of training and really, this is all I got? I asked me self the whole way… Is this really all you got? But I have to tell you, it was. That was all I got. Finally rounded the bend to Mile 4, saw the smiling friend at the LA Tri Club tent – grabbed a gel for myself this time and downed it. Felt a little better. Mile 5 was within reach… creeping… creeping… creeping… but there were still some (a few) fit looking people on the course, and a few guys! So the last mile came around – the volunteers all gave me high-5’s which kept me going – I told them this was the hardest thing I have ever done. They could see the pain in my eyes. Finally – I could hear the music blaring from the finish line… it was near – I couldn’t see it but I could hear it! As I rounded the final ¼ mile, the finishing arch was in sight – I could hear the announcer making bad jokes. As I came around to the final stretch I heard my name over the loudspeaker – that was awesome! I managed to muster up a tiny bit of speed to get over the final 20 yards… Susie Miller from Redondo Beach (that’s me!) William and Michelle were there at the Finish to cheer me on and give me a hug and take some snaps. They are so sweet. I gave them a big hug and felt the tears starting to well up again – mainly tears of joy this time, but I was so spent I could barely talk. POST RACE After crossing the finish line, I wandered deliriously over to the food tent and downed a pint of strawberries and half a banana. I had imagined chatting up people and hanging out, having a beer, etc… I even had delusions of grandeur and being on that podium! HA! Oh no. There was none of that. I was so sore, and so exhausted, all I could do was lay flat. I finally made my way back over to the transition area. I could hear the final runners coming in… the announcer would say “Look at Suzanne – she doesn’t give up – nope she’s still out there and doesn’t give up…” and then “Look at Bob – he doesn’t give up – he’s still out there and here he comes…” So at least I didn’t get the “Look at Susie – she doesn’t give up” speech – because that’s when you know you were almost DFL. So that super smart idea I had to ride my bike from the hotel to transition? Well, that turned out to be the DUMBEST idea of all time. The thought of riding my bike for even two minutes seemed impossible. I just laid there in the transition area thinking, I can do this. I will make it. The guys were taking down all the bike racks – mine was the last bike standing in my row. I was just too tired to even move. Finally I packed up all my junk in my pack, and mustered up the slightest reserve of energy, walked my bike back to the road – and somehow, some way, made it back to the hotel. I was fine once I was on the bike… Now I was just really dirty, really tired and really hungry. Great and super attractive combo… Luckily I was granted a late check out so I was able to shower and rest for a bit. I headed to Topper’s Pizza down the street for THE. BEST. PIZZA. EVER. I had a mini pizza with pineapple, tomato and onion on top – so delicious. With a root beer. HEAVEN! I called my parents to let them know I was alive and they were so happy for me and so proud. Then I ran into some fellow triathletes who were all watching the soccer match – one of my fellow UCI alumni was there – that was cool to meet a fellow Anteater. We chatted about the race and caught up on our experiences… they all congratulated me on my first tri. I left and felt better than ever. I have a new theory, Pizza cures almost everything… Time to head back home – feeling re-energized, I stopped for gas, then headed back down Highway 1. More turquoise waters and almost no traffic ‘til Malibu… it was awesome. I stopped at Starbucks and the charming Malibu Garden ranch for flowers. Made it home in about two hours. I walked in the door to the frenzied and loud screams of Samantha “MOOOOMMMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOOOOMMMMMMAAAYYYYY!” which was delightful yet annoying at the same time… Skip had watched these two little guys all weekend so I took them off his hands and went off to the park… I rested on the bench and the kids played and played… Back to life, back to reality… Now what? Well, there’s Malibu in September… but now I’m just really looking forward to keeping up a whole new level of fitness… and a new deep belief in myself, and that I can truly accomplish ANYTHING I set my mind too. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. Will I do it again? Ask me in a week or so… FINAL TIMES: Age Group Women 35-39 Total: 3:22:39 Swim: 36:30 Transition 1: 3:54 Bike: 1:19:06 Transition 2: 8:08 Run: 1:15:01

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