Posted in Los Angeles, Running

Legends Triathlon Race Recap

In October 2019, I did my first-ever, grown-up, in-the-traditional-order, open-water-swim, triathlon: the Legends Triathlon. Here is my recap.

On the morning of the race, I got up at 5:00am, had undercooked oats and a cup of tea for breakfast, then got ready and packed the car. I had pumped up my bike tires and put the bike in the car the night before.

We drove 25 minutes east and south to Bonelli Park in the dark and parked at the Park n Ride at the junction of the 57 and Via Verde. At 6:30am there were still plenty of spaces.

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Sunrise at the park

We unloaded and walked down into Bonelli Park (no $10 park fee for us!). We headed over to the registration/packet pick-up tent by the swim beach just as the sun was coming up. The race packet consisted of a nice t-shirt, some Cliff bars, and a variety of sticky numbers.

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Registration as seen from Transition

I stuck the first number to my helmet and the other to my bike then headed into transition. I found a good spot on a rack, remembering to find a landmark to line up with so I could find my bike after the swim. I laid out all my gear then went to get my number drawn on my arm. With that done, I turned around to find that the Pasadena Triathlon Club, of which I’m a member, had its own rack right by the entrance to the transition! So I picked up all my gear and moved it. While this was a closer spot, it was perhaps less ideal as it underfoot was gravel so everything got filthy pretty quickly.

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Transition set up – pre-move

After setting up we wandered down to the beach and checked out the swim entrance/exit, the run exit, and the finish line. Then with 30 minutes to go, it was time to get the wetsuit on.

I don’t have a tri-suit, so I just wore my Target running shorts and a sports bra under my wetsuit. We lined up for a group photo then headed down to the beach. We noted immediately that the shoreline was lined with duck poo, but since there was nothing to be done about that we got in the water and splashed around to get wet. It was thankfully not too cold.

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Swim beach – the sand was surprisingly cold

At 8:00am the people doing the Olympic distance headed off, and then at about 8:10am, once they had got sufficiently far away, those of us doing the Sprint (“Express”) were given the green light.

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Getting ready to swim!
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Swim start!

I stayed at the back of the crowd because I knew I would be slow. Despite having practiced in this lake in the summer, I was unprepared for the chop that the other swimmers stirred up. After getting a couple of lungfuls of water and making a few attempts to swim properly, I decided I was going to have to go to my backup plan of swimming with my head out of the water (like I was ‘sighting’). It was slow going, but I knew I would eventually get there.

On my way I heard people hacking and coughing, one guy asked to hang onto the board of one of the safety kayakers, several people were going breaststroke or swimming on their backs. As we made our way to the swim exit, the first swimmers of the Olympic distance came zooming by.

I was very glad to get out of the water but my plan of running up the beach and the hill into transition didn’t happen – my legs weren’t working! I fast-walked to the top of the hill and once I was on the level, I managed to run to my bike.

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After the swim my legs were barely working

Getting the wetsuit off was yet another challenge but I didn’t fall over so I considered that a success. I got my shoes on, got my bike and ran out of transition. Thankfully, no sooner was I on my bike than I was overtaking people everywhere.

Swim (300m): 11m 72s

Transition: 3m 55s

I would consider the bike to be my next weakest section after the swim so I was surprised how well things were going. I’m sure I can thank my training with the Pasadena Triathlon Club and all those hills we had to do. I was also very pleased that I had previewed the course in summer so I knew about the big downhill with the sharp right into a steep uphill that caught out someone who was trying to overtake me.

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Heading off on the bike
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Returning from the bike leg

I only had time for a few sips of water on the bike, mostly to clear out the taste of duck doos from my mouth, then I was back into transition.

This is where I knew I’d gain time because I was riding in my running shoes. All I had to do was dump the bike and my helmet and get going.

Bike (12km): 30:11 (16.3 mph)

Transition: 1:43

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Heading out on the run

Anyone who has run off the bike will tell you, it’s really hard. However, having practiced this as well, I knew that while it feels hard, you are usually running faster than you think. I wasn’t too worried about this feeling, I just kept going, despite the long slow uphill for the first mile and a half. That said, after about a mile I was feeling a bit spaced out so I choked down a GU chew with no water. It did the trick.

Though I am most experienced with running, this leg was hard work. The uphill for the first half was quite a challenge but during the downhill on the way back I was able to make up some time.

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Finishing the run and the race

Run (5km): 29m 03s (9:21 /mile pace)

Overall: 1h 16m 39s

I came 10th out of 15 in my age group so I have something to improve on next time!

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Posted in Life, Los Angeles, Running

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s our third Thanksgiving since moving to US and I think we hit the traditional high points this year: I ran a Turkey Trot in the morning, then we baked (made chestnut stuffing and made the Christmas Cake), and then we went round to a friend’s place for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast.

Turkey Trot

I was up at 6am to get the train to Downtown LA for the Turkey Trot 5k.  I met a colleague from work (who I’m sure wouldn’t want to be named) and we did the obligatory photos and had a walk about. It was cold COLD cold (for LA).

We set off at 8am from outside City Hall and were immediately faced with two significant hills. The second (which was actually part of the first hill, just further up) was almost one to walk, but since we’d only done about 0.5 miles I wasn’t going to give in.  Luckily after about a mile it was downhill for a good amount of time.  Then after the turnaround at 8th Street it was a long gentle (brutal) uphill to the finish line.  It was especially discouraging to note my Garmin registered 3 miles we were still about 5 minutes from the finish line. Sure enough, according to me the course was an extra 0.3 miles long – which doesn’t sound like a lot, but after 3.1 miles it made a difference!

The good news was I finished 17th in my division – my best result since I restarted running in 2012.

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Baking

Having realized that it was the end of November and the Christmas Cake still hadn’t been made, I put it together when I got back from the run.  Happily my mother-in-law is in town and was able to give it a stir (as per tradition), but the bad news is that I only soaked the fruit in brandy for 12 hours, instead of the usual 24, so I think the cake has come out a bit dry.

We also made chestnut stuffing (as per my grandfather’s mother’s recipe) to take to dinner.  This dish calls for peeling a pound of hot chestnuts, but luckily my husband was on hand for this unpleasant task.  The stuffing came out great.

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Christmas Cake on the left, chestnut stuffing on the right

Feast & Thanks

In the late afternoon we went to friend’s house for a Thanksgiving party/dinner.  We had the opportunity to meet lots of new people, and catch up with others we had met at Christmas at the same house.  We had an amazing meal, and the host gave an inspiring speech.  She noted that the group of guests was diverse in many ways, and especially in national origin, and gave thanks for that and said, “let diversity define us, but also let it unite us.”

It was a fantastic day, and when we are recovered from all the food we are seriously contemplating tackling Black Friday shopping!

Menu: all homemade dishes

So much amazing food

Yes, I did eat all that. And dessert.
Yes, I did eat all that. And dessert.

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Posted in Running

First track workout

This Saturday I braved the snowy outdoor track at Harvard to start off my training for who-knows-what using the FIRST (‘Run Less, Run Faster’) method.

Before you even think about training for something, it recommends finding out your 5km time either under race conditions or by averaging the time (+15s) for each of 3 x 1600m runs in a row. It also recommends spending a couple of weeks building up to this workout if you haven’t done track work before.

So, my workout this weekend was (warm up then) 4x800m with 400m jog in between. I tried to maintain a constant pace over each of the 800m but failed pretty miserably. Your time is only supposed to be a couple of seconds different for each rep.

1. 3:47
2. 4:17
3. 4:06
4. 4:19

for an average of 4:07. I’m pretty sore 24hrs later so it must’ve been a good workout. One thing I’m sad about is that when I was 11 I could run 800m in 3:30…

Posted in Australia, Running

7 miles in Canberra

On our recent trip down-under I tried to run every other day, but I only ever really had time for short runs, usually about 30 minutes.  This is what happened when I attempted my first long run in over a month.

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In late November we were visiting Canberra, escaping from the Boston winter and visiting my husband’s family. It was Saturday morning and I wanted to go for a 6 mile run/walk, about an hour. I wasn’t that familiar with the area where we were staying, and we had no internet and our phones had no data, so I had to resort to a physical map.  I looked up a route that looked about right and I memorized it as best I could – there weren’t many roads so I figured I wouldn’t get too lost.

I set out at 9.30am and it was cloudy and not too hot.  Garmin tells me it was 60F/15C and 70% humidity – very un-Canberra weather. I started with a lap around the local lake then headed down to the Murrumbidgee River.

Point Hut pond - first stop on my run. Gordon is in the background
Point Hut pond – first stop on my run. Gordon is in the background

The path to the river was obviously an abandoned road but it wasn’t long until I intersected with a sparsely populated car park and a sign showing the nearby walking tracks.  I checked and double checked I was heading on the “cycle path” running along the east of the river and set out. It turned out it was a actually narrow mountain bike track rather than the smooth tarmac I was expecting. The trail was somehow both sandy and rocky and once on it I was out of sight of all civilization.  Running on a trail was a new experience for me and it quite slow going as a tried to avoid rolling my ankles. It was only when I heard rustling at ground level, and  remembered about Australian snakes, did it occur to me how remote I felt.

The 'cycle path'..
The ‘cycle path’..
At the end of the trail - Gordon in the distance.
At the end of the trail – Gordon in the distance.

I was just under halfway through my run when I got to the end of the trail and heard yet another rustle, followed by a black shape disappearing under a bush.  This convinced me not to retrace my steps home, and instead to push on with my original route.  I ran through another deserted car park, up to a road which I assumed would lead me out to the main road.  On the map it had looked like a matter of yards, but it was only after another mile that I started to see buildings.

The endless road to civilization.
The endless road to civilization.

Based on my earlier map reconnaissance I was expecting a no-brainer route home. Unfortunately Canberra has changed a lot since that map was printed.  And also unfortunately I had neglected to memorize the names of the roads I was looking for… So I found myself on a road with a sign to Athllon Drive.  Having previously lived in Canberra for four and a half years I knew that was somewhere in the region of where I needed to be but I didn’t recognize anything so I turned away from the sun and followed the road.

So, which direction do you like?
So, which direction do you like?

This being Canberra on a Saturday morning, however, there was no-one around to ask exactly where I was.  I was starting to flag, I was getting hotter but I knew I was at least 4 miles away from home back the way I had come, so it was just a question of whether it was faster (and less snake-infested) to just keep going.

I decided to keep going and I eventually hit a roundabout and saw a sign to Drakeford Drive. I was pretty sure that was even better than Athllon Drive so I turned onto it.  I still didn’t recognize anything from my 6 mile/hr perspective though. (On a later drive back this way it all was perfectly clear).

Just keep running.
Just keep running.

My feet were hurting and the grey clouds were weighing down on me. I kept going, run 3, walk 1, slowly reeling in long stretches of tarmac, until eventually saw the hill behind the suburb of Calwell in the distance.  I’d climbed that hill one summer with my husband so now I finally knew where I was. A mile after the first roundabout, I arrived at another with the big sign I was hoping for: Gordon.  I figured I was home and dry.

My turn off!
My turn off!

Sadly, because of the unique way Canberra is designed, even though I had reached the outskirts of Gordon, I still had two miles to go before I got home. I had no idea about this at the time, though; all I knew was that I still wasn’t home yet. I took an extra long walk break, then decided it was getting ridiculous.  So I picked up the run, and staggered home 15 minutes late, having done a mile more than I had planned.

Back in Gordon - finally.
Back in Gordon – finally.

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Splits:

  • Mile 1:  9:58
  • Mile 2: 10:40
  • Mile 3: 10:38
  • Mile 4: 10:22
  • Mile 5: 10:24
  • Mile 6: 10.06
  • Mile 7: 10.25
  • Mile 0.29: 9.08
Posted in Life, Marathon

Running Update

Gratuitous Fall image - Public Gardens, Boston
Gratuitous Fall image – Public Gardens, Boston

Keen observers among you will note that I haven’t posted any training updates since late July.  Also, that I haven’t commented on the Tufts Women’s 10k race on Columbus Day or the Mount Desert Island Marathon I was due to be running today.

Well, let me explain. Half way through my marathon training – just as I bought my lovely new shoes – the pain in my arch became such that I had to go to the doctor. This being America, however, I first had to diagnose myself – with Plantar Fasciitis (not hard to do) – and also decide that I would need a referral to a physio if I was going to run the marathon.  So I duly informed my doctor’s student doctor of this and paid the $20 fee for the privilege (as my BFF said – wouldn’t it be simpler to have a vending machine for this kind of thing?).

The physio (let’s change that to “PT” since we’re in the US), agreed that my foot was stuffed and that I shouldn’t be running and to basically forget the whole thing about doing any more running this summer/fall.  This was extremely annoying of course, but she was right.  I was given loads of hip strengthening exercises, and have got some soft arch supports for my shoes.

I’ve now been to the PT a bunch of times, and my foot is improving steadily.  I’ve got back into running with the Jeff Galloway run/walk sort-of method.  I’m running 3 minutes, walking 1 minute, unless I feel ok, then I run though the walk. I ran/walked to work and home a few times last week and I did six miles yesterday in 1h 4m, which is basically the same time as I ran the Tufts 10k in 2012. That was also the longest run I’ve done in three months.  My foot is pretty damn sore today but I’m optimistic.  As an aside this morning I’ve woken up with no voice.  Run related? Or, working-at-the-museum-on-Colombus-Day-last-week-and-picking-up-10-billion-germs-from-everyone related?

Needless to say I’m not signing up for any more races until the day before, and I’m putting off any serious training til I’m 100%.

Happy running to those who can!