Racing on the last Sunday of September is apparently a thing I do now, if you stretch journalism rules a bit and call two a trend. Last year, I was already in Berlin, picking up my bib for my first marathon. This year, I’m about to head down to Santa Cruz for (perhaps) my final tri of the season.
It’s funny, looking back to last year. Berlin was the capper to the straight-up craziest month of my life, in which we spent three out of the first four weekends at weddings, had an offer accepted on a house, scraped together the downpayment for said house, discovered Pete had to go on a last-minute international trip, talked a friend into accepting our power of attorney in case we were in Germany when we had to close on the house, sent Pete off to Chile, closed on the house with exactly enough time left to get to the airport (as I recall, I rolled up five minutes before the flight to Frankfurt closed), flew to Germany, reunited in Berlin with my parents who had been traveling in Italy, and — oh yeah — ran 26.2. It was wild and crazy and it’s all happening-y, and when we came back to San Francisco, we were marathoners and home owners and about to enter another major phase of our lives.
This year, September hasn’t been quite so…dramatic. Aside from a trip to Portland last weekend (Cliffs Notes: a run on my favorite path, Pine State Biscuits, getting rained on before seeing Frightened Rabbit and The National outdoors, probably a top five favorite meal at Ava Gene’s, and a lot of beer), we’ve just been here. Doing normal things. Living the life that got put in motion last September. No complaints — normal is good! — but wow, I’m coming into this particular race weekend with a significantly smaller dose of pure adrenaline.
When I first decided to keep training after Vineman — and that it seemed like my body and my brain could hang on for at least one more hard effort this season, which was not at all a given, since I started in February and that’s a long time for me to continuously train — I had Big Plans for Santa Cruz. I’d heard it was a forgiving, flat course, and I got it in my head that I’d be able to go under three hours. That would be another 15-ish minutes off my Olympic-distance PR (from Napa in April) and a nice, round number that I’ve had in the back of my head for a while.
Realistically, though, I don’t think that’s going to happen. My running has apparently gotten somewhat faster, but I haven’t pushed speed at all on the bike, and my swimming is stuck at the same pace it’s been since March 2012. Flat courses aren’t necessarily better for me, especially when they have a reputation for being windy. (My best Olympic ride ever was at Napa, which had two rated climbs. I rode significantly worse at Folsom, which was flat as a board but into a headwind. I think there are two things going on, even if you subtract wind from the equation: I’m good at climbing, and I’m bad at pedaling consistently with no breaks.) I’ve never done an ocean swim. And Santa Cruz also features a long run — half a mile? — from the ocean to transition; I think the fastest transition time I saw in my age group last year was 5 minutes.
I still think I can PR the distance, though, and I’ve got a couple of other goals. The big one is to really race; this may or may not be my last Olympic tri of the year, but the other one I’m considering would be maybe 75% caper/vacation, 25% triathlon — so I want to race like this is it for 2013. As for the rest:
Swim: I would like to be closer to 30 minutes than to 35, which roughly encompasses the range of times I’ve had this year. I would also like to take advantage of the fact that the pier we swim around is on my right (breathing) side and swim in a relatively straight line for once. And if a sea lion comes near me, for the love of god, I am throwing out all of my swim goals and hanging out with that sea lion! (I don’t think the sea lions come to the people who want to swim with them, though.)
Bike: This is the big one: I want to bike under 1:30. I’ve been relatively close twice this year, and I hit the 25-mile mark under 1:30 at Vineman, but that doesn’t count. If we’ve got 20-mph headwinds, this won’t happen. Otherwise, I think it can, and I’m going to push for it.
Run: It would be cool to run something in the 56- to 57-minute range. My 10K PR is just over 55 minutes, and I don’t have any illusions that I’m going to come close to that, but 57-ish seems doable. (I did that in Napa, but there’s no way that course wasn’t short.) B-goal is under an hour.
Transitions: I would like to not be embarrassed by my transition times. That said, I expect my T1 will be on the order of 6-7 minutes, so my overall hope is for under 10 minutes total.
If I hit those numbers, I’d be coming in around 3:05-3:10 — which would be a more than 30-minute improvement from my first Olympic tri, and while that hardly counts because that was Wildflower and Wildflower will always be slower than everything else, it would still be cool.
Overall B-goal is to PR (under 3:14). C-goal is to beat my Folsom time of 3:22 — my current best on a flatter course — which should be doable as long as I don’t repeat my pre-Folsom trick of slicing open my finger the day before and having to waste 7 minutes in T1 searching for a band-aid.
And seriously, all time goals go out the window if a friendly sea lion wants to play.