This year marked my third trip out to race in Palm Desert. I really enjoy this race. It’s a great way to dust the cobwebs off and get an early season benchmark of how training is progressing. After an 8th and a 4th place over the last two years I was itching to make it onto the AG podium. It seems I may have let myself get a little too comfortable while packing for this weekend, as I made more than one very avoidable error.
I made the drive east on Friday afternoon with bestie Elyse and her wonderful Mom, who had flown in from Annapolis. By luck of scheduling Elyse’s aunt Laurie and cousin Camille also happened to be in town from Palo Alto for an equestrian show. Horse show spectating proved to be the perfect distraction from my typical race anxiety.
Saturday afternoon we made our way over to the race site which is also when my mistakes began to appear. A short spin on the beginning of the bike course showed that the batteries on my power meter were dead. Rookie mistake #1: not checking the wheel before leaving the house as it hadn’t been used since September in Las Vegas. Not the end of the world, but also not awesome. It was windy by the time we rode mid-afternoon, leaving us to hope that the morning would bring calmer skies.
Post spin, we prepped for a swim in the beautiful Lake Cahuilla and I discovered my second error. Rookie mistake #2: packing a sleeveless wetsuit for a 62 degree swim. I’m a pretty small person with a tendency to get cold very quickly, so needless to say this was not a pleasant surprise. Fortunately, the water was “tolerable” without sleeves.
At this point my expectations for the next day were going downhill, and fast.
Sunday dawned with an awe-inspiring sunrise, a perfect, and much needed, reminder to relax and enjoy the day.
With only one way in and a small parking lot, arriving early to this race is paramount in starting the day off on a good note. It also means you end up with more than enough time to prep for the start. After some back and forth tweeting and messaging, it was great to meet up with Team SOAS member Katie (see her race recap for a pre-race photo of us looking exhausted).
Although it was a short race I still opted for a pre-race Chocolate Outrage GU before getting in a few quick strokes of cold water. The temperature had seemed to drop as we made our way to the start making me even sorrier to be sleeve-less. The beautiful sunrise had given way to a cloudy morning, a very welcome surprise. Typically, at this race the sun is directly in your line of vision of the first buoy, pretty much rendering you blind until you make the turn. And then it was time to go!
Swim, 3/4 mile: 18:46 (1:26/100)
Until the first turn buoy I felt awful. Like debating getting out of the water awful. My effort level felt high for my perceived pace and it was not comfortable. Whether it was my distraction from discomfort or slight lack of focus, a few minutes after making the first turn I found myself in no mans land in the middle of the lake. Rookie mistake #3: pay attention to the course even when you think you know it like the back of your hand. I hadn’t rounded the buoy closely enough and swam far off course. A re-orientation and I was back on track.
Bike, 24 miles: 1:06:04
My only focus for the first three minutes of this ride were not to crash. The pavement on the park driveway was so cut up with potholes that I was terrified I was going to go over. Made it through safely and onto the open road. Riding without a power meter feels like riding naked but I think I did a decent job of keeping my effort level high. I was hoping to better last year’s bike time but some slight headwinds slowed things down. A small victory for me in not being passed by another woman until the end of the second loop when, Jen went cruising by. Another Chocolate Outrage GU and who knows how many ounces of Osmo Blackberry later and it was back to the park.
As an aside, the attitude on this portion of the course was night and day from last year. Whether it was a change in the wave timing or order the race organizers did something that led to a huge improvement. In 2012, I felt very unsafe while riding, the men surrounding our wave were aggressive, passing closely on both sides and I won’t even get into the drafting. 2013 could not have been more different. I actually had men slow and let me pass in front of them when they needed to pass as well. Amazing.
Run, 6 miles: 41:31 (6:55)
Off the bike and time to get at it. Just like the bike, the run course is two loops, pancake flat around the lake. My run focus this season has been on turnover and it seems to be working. This leg is where I felt like I was missing that final gear after being sick, but I am pleased with what I was able to pull out. The clouds gave way to sun at the start of loop number two and at that point it was a race to the finish.
Total time: 2:09:34, 3rd AG, 11th Female
I came through the chute and met the two girls who had edged me out, by less than 20 seconds. Both were really nice and it was great to pow wow for a few minutes. A quick soak in the lake and then to change for the podium, 3rd time’s a charm.
All in all, a great start to the 2013 season.