By: Denis Walos
Going into Tinley's I have to admit I was a little worried... My swim training since my 10k was minimal. Minimal being one swim last Monday where I had no energy. Please do yourself a favor and don't bother training while you are sick. It's not worth it. I was more afraid of what I would lose although I have to admit I probably lost a lot more training through sickness than resting.
Anyway, we left for Lake Lopez on Friday afternoon so we could pick up our race packets and settle into our hotel. Tinley's is a lot like Wildflower though, most people down there stay in the park and camp. Being from NY I've never been into camping so I decided not to start the weekend of the long course I already felt I wasn't 100% prepared for. So Beachwalker Inn in Pismo Beach it was. :)
Arriving at Lake Lopez was interesting and quiet...some people were participating in their hill climbs already and packet pickup was pretty quiet although Scott Tinley was there and said hello to the people around. We ran into a few friends and headed back to Pismo for our pre-race dinner at a place called Lido. HIGHLY recommended. The food was incredible.
We woke up around 5:45am to get things ready even though the race didn't start until 8am. Bikes and bags loaded we pulled into the park around 7:0am after a ( not recommended) breakfast muffin with egg, cheese and ham.
It was COLD outside. I don't know the temp but people were shivering and there was obvious steam rising from the surface of the lake. Everything was pretty low-key...I met some girls around me that never did a tri before so they were really nervous. (at least they were signed up for the sprint and not the long course like I was).
Entering the water to warm up was the beat part of the morning, the lake was so warm...it must have warmed up to about 70. We were all confused though as the swim course had changed from being counterclockwise to clockwise. It was a 3 loop course for us which was supposed to be 1.5 miles. Gun went off at 8am for men and 8:10 for women and relays. Me being the swimmer was excited and took the lead in the group. The water was extremely choppy and it took a really long time to make the first loop. I was worried about my time even with most of them group minutes behind me. There was massive current that hit you one the 2nd half of the loop. There were a few boats but I think there was some natural current in the lake as well. Anyway I was expecting about a 38 minute swim but was shocked when I exited the water at 52 minutes and almost a 2 mile GPS swim on my watch.
Quick 1:30 transition and I was out on the bike. The climb out was reminiscent of Lynch hill at Wildflower but shorter. My legs were burning... I had new SRAM race wheels on my bike (40 in front and 80 in back) and I definitely noticed the difference in the flats and downhills. But the ride had a lot of climbing. More than I expected. The course was pretty empty and for awhile even questioned if I wagon the right road despite e good signage and volunteers. It's a little hard to push yourself when here's no one around you. I found it hard to eat but forced myself and enjoyed the scenery. At the turnaround I started seeing more people and realized I was one of the top 15 out there including the males. I decided not to keep track of my average pace but just to go on perceived exertion instead. I wanted to make sure and save something for the run (which I never do). It looked like I wasn't about to do that again for this race either. ;).
I made it into transition without any other females passing me but was pretty exhausted. It was getting hot and was at least 85 or 90 by the time I put my shoes on and started running. But I had something left in my legs but needed a bathroom. (I tend to over hydrate in long races and need to stop which doesn't help out my overall time.). Bathroom stop at mile 1 and saw an age 30 pass me as I went in. Oh well. I kept telling myself...training day...training day.... From there we crested to am downhill and my friend Mike rode up next to me on his bike. He finished the international awhile earlier. He talked about the swim and his race. Made me feel a bit better at how hard I was starting to struggle. He left for his campground and I continued on. Stopped at an aid station, took a gel, water, Gatorade and hoped for the best. My legs kept moving and started to settle into a groove. The course seemed empty but it was nice to have people at their campgrounds cheering me on. After the first turnaround on the trail I saw my boyfriend Ken who had been right behind me for most of the race. I was expecting for him to catch me on the run for sure because he's so fast. Coming back into the lake area there is were really steep hills and a bunch of people walking them. That gave me permission to walk them too. :) I was surprised that most of those people were still doing the international. I still would have another loop to get in my 9 miles....
Ken caught me at mile 5 heading into the second loop and he decided to run with me (although he can run at least 2 mins per mile faster than me). It was exactly what I needed cause I was about to give up and walk. We hit some aid stations, got hosed off and took in more fluids and just kept running to the end. We came in together with my final time 5 hours 19 minutes. A great training race and a great time. I was 2nd in my age group.
There weren't many people around when we finished but I kind of liked that about the race. It was smaller grassroots. Multiple races going on at the same time. It was the perfect training race because wasn't son hyped up and people didn't seem to be as competitive as other events. I'll definitely be back next year. I'm just hoping for a few more bathrooms and maybe be a little more prepared for those hills on the bike and run. Good job Tri-cal, you put together a great race. A few suggestions from other racers... Fix the swim, put at least one if not more bathroom stops on the bike (there were none and volunteers were telling people to go in the bushes) and maybe have some ice for the runners. Otherwise stellar.
What I learned: although a swimmer I cannot swim my fastest time without training, don't expect to average 20 mph when you climb over 3000 feet on the bike in 49 miles, LEAVE SOME FOR TNE RUN!
For more information on Denis' triathlon journey, please visit her blog!