Monday, September 29, 2008

Race Report: Mermaid Duathlon - Santa Cruz

Well, race mania continues in full force over in this neck of the woods. Yesterday, I participated in my very first duathlon and it was a blast! It was the Mermaid Triathlon/Duathlon in Santa Cruz. I signed up right after I got Gigi because 1) it sounded fun and 2) I wanted to make sure I was motivated to use my new four-figure purchase and not have it collecting dust in my apartment.

There's a whole series of Mermaid events in this area that are tailored for women and are very newbie-friendly. So this duathlon was perfect for me! It was a pretty manageable distance as well: 1.5 mile run, 11 mile bike, 2.5 mile run. I had done 10 miles on my jenbike (the mountain bike I had inherited from my friend Jen) before I had Gigi so I knew I could handle the bike distance.

I had two main goals for the race:
1. Don't fall off my bike during the dismount
2. Don't resort to walking my bike up any hills

A co-worker had laughed at me for setting my expectations low, but considering both of those things happened last weekend, I thought they were actually pretty reasonable goals! And c'mon, I've never done anything other than running events, so I didn't even know what to expect!


I went down to Santa Cruz the day before to pick up my race packet. I got a bib for me, a sticker for my helmet, and a tag for my bike. Very exciting! Afterward, I drove the bike course because I wanted to know exactly what kind of hills I would be tackling. The online course map showed two steep hills. Yep, I easily could tell they would be granny gear hills. However, there were lots of other hills throughout the course - more like rolling hills but still, it was pretty challenging! So now I'm starting to get nervous... what am I doing? I think I could count the number of bike rides I've had to date on my two hands and now this? Eeyikes... I was also really nervous about the whole transition thing but everyone assured me that there would be plenty of volunteers and race staff to direct us.

I probably left Santa Cruz around 5:30PM Saturday evening. You would think I would have then gone home to rest up for the big race. But no, I then headed over to meet up with friends for the Journey concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater. It was awesome! And their new singer (who's filipino - pinoy power! haha) sounds just like Steve Perry. It's so weird... Heart opened for them and they were awesome as well!

Race Day

OK, now on to race morning. My wave start was at 7:50AM. I decided to get there extra early so I would have plenty of time to figure out the transition area and get settled and stuff. So I left my apt at around 5:50AM and then headed out. As a side comment, driving down 17 between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz in the dark is kinda creepy. You basically are driving through the mountains and it's a lot of twists and turns on a narrow highway surrounded by super tall trees on both sides. The only lights are from the cars so if you look in your rear view mirror - it's pitch black. That part wasn't so fun.

Anyway, I finally get to the state park. Everything was really convenient as the parking lot was right next to the transition area. I followed another lady and we started chit chatting and I discovered this was her first tri. That seemed to be a common theme - so many of us were new and had no idea what was going on!

I entered the transition area and the confusion must have been all over my face because a volunteer immediately offered to help me out. She directed me to the racks for the duathlon athletes. I kind of looked around to see what everyone else was doing and then I went to set up my stuff.

Gigi at her first race:

The rest of the transition area:

I definitely had a lot of time to kill before my wave started. I got body marked, looked at the course map, wandered around, people watched, etc. I also had a lot of people coming up to me asking questions about the race which I thought was pretty funny - probably because I looked bored or something.


Eventually it was time for us to go! I forgot to mention that the race was at Seacliff State Beach. Everyone had their first leg at the beach - obviously the swimmers for the tri, but even the duathletes had their first leg down by the water along the beach path. All the duathletes started together so we headed down the wooden stairs from the transition area to the beach. We were chip timed but there was no start mat for us - our start line was drawn in chalk right when we got there. For our first leg we would run to the end of the beach path, turn around, and then run back and then UP the stairs to the transition area.


Here are the stairs:

Talk about a buzz kill! Anyway, we counted down and then off we went. I definitely started out too fast because eventually lots of people were passing me. No worries - I don't know what my pace was but I could tell I was pushing it to where I needed to be. Running a mile is tough - it's an all out sprint! And then we got to the stairs. There was no running then, my heart rate was already sky high. After we finally got to the top, my natural instinct would be to stop and catch my breath but oh no... I just hit my first transition and with all the people cheering you on, it was just go, go, go! So I ran to my bike and tried to catch my breath a bit while getting my gear on. I changed shoes, replaced my Nike hat with my helmet, slipped on my gloves and off I went. Transition was actually pretty straightforward - I walked my bike to the mount line and was able to take off with no problems.

I'll be honest - I really enjoyed the bike part. It was my kind of biking. We had wide open roads and all these lovely volunteers and police officers monitoring traffic so that we didn't have to worry about silly little stop signs and stuff. The first hill was definitely a toughie. I dropped to my lowest gear and just pedaled away. I was pretty pleased to see that I was climbing the hill at about the same pace as everyone around me. Yay - I don't really suck that bad at hills! (I've only done two serious bike rides prior to this and they were both with hard-core bikers ... so this was quite refreshing!) Once I got a little more comfortable, I remembered, oh yeah - this is a race. So when I could, I tried to add more gear and push myself a little more to pass a few people here and there. That was kind of fun. But for the most part, I kept with the people around me.

The second super steep hill was right at the end of the bike course. Cruel, right? So I knew I had to save some energy for that. Holy crap was that exhausting. But I succeeded - I did not have to walk my bike at all! (However, on my way back, I did see several other bikers walking up their bike on the first steep hill - it was a hard one!)

Finally, we were arriving at the transition area and the volunteers were directing us on where to dismount. Immediately, I'm starting to get nervous... uh oh... stop and dismount... in front of all these spectators??? But again, it was one of those cases of "don't think, just do it!" and so I did! No problem!!! I had this big smile of relief as I entered the transition area which was mostly due to the fact that I didn't make an a** of myself in front of all these cheering strangers.

So I racked up Gigi and replaced all my bike gear with my running gear. I took a big swig of Gatorade and then took off for the last leg - 2.5 mi run.

Um. WOW. My legs felt like Jell-o when I was coming out of that transition area. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. How do people manage such great runs at this point? Seriously, my legs felt like two dead weights underneath me. Luckily, the first part was downhill which helped a bit (but you know what that means...) and then we ran along the same beach path like the other run. I seriously felt like I was running an 11:00 pace but every time I glanced at my Garmin, it said 9 something so that shocked the heck out of me. I was seriously huffing and puffing at this point, no conversational pace for me! After a couple of turn-around points, I finally was back at the hill. I so wanted to walk it but the finish line was literally at the top of the hill so I just pushed myself through. I raced for that finish line and the clock read 1:43. I didn't even know what that meant so I thought, OK, sounds good to me!

After they took my timing chip, they gave me a little gift bag that had a mermaid necklace inside. Sure it's no Tiffany necklace, but it was still cute!

The post-race stuff was also pretty good considering it was a small race. I was able to get a 5 minute massage with hardly any wait, got some Luna bar samples, some 20% off Sports Basement coupons (love those!), and even a pancake breakfast! Yum yum!

It was while I was wandering around that I noticed Garmin had actually recorded a 1:23 finish time. I forgot that there were other waves ahead of me.

So here are the *official* results:

Run 1: 9:14
T1: 2:34
Bike: 46:39
T2: 1:34
Run 2: 23:12

Total time: 1:23:13

Overall Place: 41/131
Divisional Place: 6/22

(Top third!!! Woohoo for me!)

If you are really observant, you may have noticed that some of these times seem messed up. Well, you would be correct because there's no way I can run 1.5 miles in 9:14. So for your reference, here are the Garmin times. It also had my T1 and T2 times but for some reason, Garmin decided to chew up that data.

11:49 for 1.01 mi (11:42 pace) - stoopid stairs
48:11 for 11.10 mi (13.8 mph)
23:14 for 2.39 mi (9:44 pace)

My mermaid loot:

The official race T was a ladies cut ring T but it was super skinny and super long so I decided to get the more basic T shirt style.

Close-up of the necklace:

Overall, I had so much fun at this race and would love to do it again next year. Except next time, I would try to make it more of a focused race and not one I squeezed into a calendar full of half marathons.

These multi-sport kind of events are pretty fun. It's quite the change of pace from running races. There's so much activity going that it really mixes things up, you know, makes them a little more exciting.

It's also interesting to see the different skill sets during a race. For example, there was a lady I had chatted with at the start of the race - she was wicked fast and totally flew past me during the first run. Somehow in the second half of the bike race, I passed her. And then toward the end of the second run, she passed me and I ended up finishing right after her. There was also this girl that I tried to keep up with on the bike part but eventually lost her toward the end - I ended up passing her during the run.

Also, these kind of races are perfect for spectators! I'm kinda bummed that I was too chicken to invite my friends to watch. You can stay in one spot and are guaranteed to see your favorite racer multiple times. Going in and out of transitions were pretty fun because of all the people cheering. A lot of times I was kind of by myself and they still cheered for you - my favorite was "I like your shirt!"

Some people had asked if I was going to go for a triathlon. And unfortunately the answer is no. I tried swimming, I really did! I even took a handful of private swimming lessons a year or two ago, but I just can't get the hang of the breathing. I suppose if I just focus on practicing that, I might improve, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

On another random note, I bought two things in preparation for the duathlon:
1. Yankz! (Although I'm still not sure I have them on right)
2. Garmin quick release kit

Both work great - however in all my rush, I forgot to actually move the Garmin from my wrist to the bike during the race. Oh well - here's how it looks in case you are curious.

That's it for now... still have one more race report to write. And can you believe I have another half marathon on Saturday???

I did not plan this season very well. But I am having a lot of fun!


Marcy said...

Ohhhh Audrey that sounds like a fabulous race!! CONGRATS on your first duathlon!! ;D ;D

I'd probably poop my pants and go home at the sight of those stairs LMAO! Way to rock out, chica!

Amanda said...

That sounds like a super fun race! I would have wanted to try that one out - though stairs were scary for sure.

Julianne said...

I don't think those were low expectations at all! And the Mermaid Duathlon sounds like a great race. And their basic Ts are totally cute. Congrats on doing so well. See you Saturday or Sunday at Rock n Roll!!!

Laura said...

Those stairs look brutal! I love the trend of necklaces instead of medals though, even if they aren't Tiffany's. My medals are in a box but a necklace I could actually wear!

Cindy said...

wow! you did so well!! my thighs hurt just looking at those stairs. i can't tell you how impressed i am- you are inspiring me!

*aron* said...

what a great report!!! CONGRATS on an awesome first duathlon - you totally rocked it!!!

omg those stairs are so scary!!

hopefully i can meet up with you this weekend in san jose!!

Jamie said...

Sounds like a great race! Congrats on your first duathlon!!! Ugh - I can't even imagine why someone thought stairs would be a great idea.

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on your first du! Nice loot for sure. It really is deceiving how fast you can go after getting off the bike. It does take a bit for those legs to come around though!

Betsy said...

Totally cute necklace.

RoadBunner said...

Great job! I did the Mermaid Du in Fremont back in June. It seems to be MUCH easier than the Santa Cruz one. No stairs for one! And no hills on the bike course! Aack! I was thinking about doing the Mermaid tri this weekend but opted for See Jane Tri because the course was more beginner friendly. I would definitely do the Mermaid event again (just the du, no more tris!). Our pendant was different, but still cute! Your shirt is much better, though!

Viv said...

What a fantastic race!! Congrats on your first du! Those stairs would have killed me..oh my, that is sick. Love the schwag though.
Yankz are tricky to get them just right. I might switch to lock laces. I totally need to get that snap thing for thr Garmie.

I love your bike the ping Gigi Giant is too cute and fast :-)

Went back and looked at your Disney marathon congratulations!!

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job!!! And those STAIRS sound sucky!! Way to get up them and have a great du!!!

Frayed Laces said...

Way to go! You didn't fall off your bike! Success!

The Laminator said...

Wow! Great race report Audrey. Totally sounded like you had a lot of fun and learned so much about duathalons. You really did a great job on the transitions and all. Congrats to you.

joyRuN said...

CONGRATS on your first duathlon!

And you have another half this weekend? Girl - you CRAZY!!

PS - Love that necklace!

Running Knitter said...

CONGRATS! You did awesome!

Good luck on your next race. :)

Jen said...

Sorry for the delayed comment but NICE JOB!!! looks like it was a pretty challenging race. I love the pink bike too! =)

Run For Life said...

I'm playing RBF catch-up. Sounds like your race was great for a first time!! The necklace is really cute and those stairs look super evil. :)

scott said...

way to go, audrey! im glad to hear that the journey show didnt mess up your race performance too much. let me know when i get to join you for a bike ride.

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