9 months ago I started training with the IronTEAM, and I didn’t really know what to expect other than I wanted to a new challenge while still helping other people in the process. I had some conversations with IronTEAM alumni, but just snippets, never in too much detail (or what I could understand at the time), and I never read anyone’s race reports. I could have easily walked away and not even tried because I didn’t know how to swim, I didn’t have a bike, plus I wasn’t really that fast on the run. Little did I know what kind of ride I was about to take, and 10 Days ago I finished something I once thought was impossible! I had to gather all my thoughts & feelings (and also unpack everything & reset) before I decided to write this. First and foremost, this race was dedicated to our TNT Honored Teammates Laura & Anabel, a close friend recently diagnosed with a form of Leukemia, and all affected by blood cancers who I have crossed paths with my past 5 years in TNT.
THE DAYS BEFORE
I carpooled with a teammate, Chris M, on Wednesday afternoon after work from Burbank while the majority of the team were already resting in our hotel. After the traditional In N Out burger on the way there, we arrived in Santa Rosa at 12:30am. It was really important that we get there on Wednesday because starting that Thursday, there was a pretty strict timeline with some early morning low intensity workouts (yes, swim, bike & run), getting our race packets, TNT dinners, and of course, prepping everything for the race (bottles, special needs bags, bike transport, making sure everything was packed). In between, we were required to keep hydrating with water, or diluted sports drink in preparation for possibly some really intense heat on raceday.
Slept at 9:30pm, woke up at 3:30am, and that photo was taken around 4:45am. I don’t know how I even had the energy that early in the morning, but I was pumped! I didn’t really have trouble sleeping, except the fact I had to wake up a few times to go pee because of all that hydrating! It was so exciting to see everyone ready in their TNT tri-gear and IronTEAM jackets. It was such a cool sight – all of the LA IronTEAM all jumpy, talking, laughing, having fun in the lobby, braiding hairs, writing names on arms, taking pictures – we were pumped! The NorCAL IronTEAMs had a different strategy, very quiet, all had their gamefaces on, and very focused. Hey whatever works, right?
As for me? Wasn’t really nervous. Just the normal pre-race excitement I get like the marathons I’ve done. I felt our coaches prepared us well, and I trusted that. They taught us that it’s all about what we do to adapt to a certain situation if anything goes wrong. I knew my nutrition strategy was tried & true in the prior practices, and I’ve already done all the distances. We’ve conquered much steeper hills on the bike & run, we’ve practiced in rough ocean waters, practiced in rough wind & rain during a camping training weekend in central CA, and we’ve already swam, biked, and ran the whole course. We even drove the full bike course the day before. I knew that this was all about the journey, not the destination. I learned from being disqualified at my first triathlon, Desert Tri (International distance), that I should pay attention to the road and signs more. My second triathlon, Wildflower (Half Iron), I overdid it on the bike, and didn’t leave energy for the run, so I learned to conserve. Vineman Full was only my third triathlon, so I knew I still had a lot to learn and add to my young triathlete career, so I didn’t set super high expectations for myself this time around.
I knew I wasn’t going to podium (getting 1st, 2nd, or 3rd) in my age group anyway, so being in last place gets the same medal as anyone else, so my main goal was to finish & just have FUN! Of course, triathlons have much stricter time cutoffs than marathons, so to calm my senses a bit, I calculated my finish time based on training sessions. My comfortable pace prediction was: 1:50 swim + 0:10 transition 1 + 7:20 bike + 0:10 transition 2 + 5:30 run = 15:00 hours. 16:30 was the limit, so I still had 1:30 left room for error.