I’ve been afraid to admit how much I was dreading this one. Maybe it was the timing: a comedown from a busy year followed by buying a house. Maybe it was my training: I felt like I’d missed or shortened one too many bike rides. But mostly it was mental: I’d set the Oakland Tri as an A race, feeling like I needed to have a strong race on home turf; but then I put pressure on myself, got anxious, realized once again that stress wasn’t doing me any favors, and sort of checked out from the whole thing. With Erin injured and my mom just finishing a summer of radiation, I decided just to show up and be grateful for the experience, whatever it was.
Saturday’s 7 a.m. practice swim on glassy water improved my attitude. And five races into the season, preparation was habit. I had my gear and bike ready in 30 minutes, measured out my nutrition, and chucked it in the fridge the afternoon before. I focused on nothing but enjoying a relaxing Saturday with Erin, and half a loaf of banana bread.
Oakland Estuary, at Jack London Aquatic Center
Sunday morning, I cruised down a dark and quiet Market Street with Chris, Trish, and Erin. We rolled into the transition area, only for the OTC racks to be crammed full. So much for being an early bird. I set up my bike on an unmarked rack even farther into the area, and headed across the tracks for the swim start. Erin kept asking if I was okay, but the god’s-honest truth was the same every time: “I feel like I’m just here for a workout.”
Swim (1.5K, 22:17)
I hopped in the Estuary, warmed up according to plan, and realized that at that moment, there was nothing on Earth that I wanted more than to go for a swim. As luck would have it, it was 7:03 a.m., and my wave was lining up between the buoys. The horn sounded. I stayed as far left as I could and avoided the scrum, trying to draft where possible, but mostly I swam alone. The weird zigzag course was tough to follow at times, leaving me uncertain and sighting a lot. Near the end of the swim, purple caps began passing me, and I hopped into their wake for 10-15 seconds, getting a little rest. I didn’t know where the exit was, but suddenly saw a bunch of volunteers hauling swimmers onto carpeted rocks; not the most graceful swim exit of my life, but I was on land and happy to be in the middle of a race.
Bonus: Erin was working the Amtrak station, and seeing her made me even happier. Bonus #2: As I approached the bottom of the stairs, another athlete slapped the elevator button and the doors opened. As far as I knew, the elevator was a legal way to get to the bridge. Three of us hopped on and high-fived. The woman beside me was so happy about this development that she even offered me half of her Gu. (I politely declined.)
We ran the stairs at the Amtrak Station. Erin says I just missed seeing the homeless priest self-flagellating with a palm frond and dried pigeon wing.
Bike (40K, 1:14:02)
The closed streets were something out of a dream. When I started my ride, there weren’t a lot of cyclists on the course yet (or at least we were really spread out), and flying down an empty Broadway made me giddy. I passed a handful of people and focused on keeping my cadence over 95 rpm. At times this felt too easy, but by the second loop, I was glad to have kept a smooth, fast rhythm. I averaged 20.1 mph, which wasn’t my best pace of the season, but there were over forty 90-degree turns in the course, as well as potholes, train tracks, and scummy puddles to avoid. I even got off-course for a few blocks at one point, having mistaken some garbage men for volunteers, and took a wrong street. Oops.
Run (10K–maybe, 48:56)
My training runs had been going particularly well, and I hoped for a fresh, fast run. I didn’t get it. My legs were fatigued and I didn’t have much oomph for the first two miles. Yet it was wonderful to be racing on such a familiar route around Lake Merritt, and I took joy in telling the other pedestrians good morning, in the group of huge white pelicans feeding in the shallows, and in the suddenly clear sky. I was surely going to get passed by a lot of runners, but I figured I shouldn’t make it easy for them. I picked up my pace, and realized that fast and slow felt equally uncomfortable, so I might as well go fast. I felt strong all the way back to the Amtrak station, where Erin was volunteering. She clutched her chest as if I was way behind schedule, which made me wonder just how slow of a race I was having.
I ran the stairs and felt fine, but started to lose steam as the course looped back to the swim start, rounded a bunch of cones in a parking lot, and meandered toward Jack London Square. I couldn’t hear a finish line, and had no idea how much farther it was. Just then, I saw some athletes wearing finisher medals, and someone shouted that the chute was right around the corner (and added, “C’mon! Finish strong!” What’s that supposed to mean, I thought. I’ve been going as fast as I can for two and a half hours!)
The clock read 2:37:something as I crossed the line. Subtracting four minutes for my 7:04 a.m. start time, I ended up with a PR of 2:33:56.
“Las Esposas,” taken by fellow OTC-er, Christina Grijalva.
It’s good to be at home. And it’s good to race with a team. I saw so many OTC kits on the course that it was impossible not to enjoy the day. Thank you to everyone who showed up at the start line with me, who cheered me on, who raced with Oakland pride, and who stuck around until the very last athlete crossed the finish line. The Oakland Triathlon Club is truly a class act, and also consists of just about every single friend I have in this town. Thanks for sharing this season with me, and your friendship, and I can’t wait to see you at Rancho Cordova 70.3 in October. Safe, happy training, everyone!