Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Disneyland Duathlon

Here's the breakdown:

That's right. I didn't do that spectacular. And I'm obviously a better runner than biker.

I was kind of anxious about the race because I don't have a lot of confidence in my running, and hadn't run all week. Plus this was an all-new experience for me.

Packet pickup was all the way out at the LA Fairplex. Let's just say the "expo" was kind of sad. It was in a very small hall, and after picking up your number you had to walk through the whole expo to pick up your shirt and get your chip activated. The whole expo being about 10 booths, one being Helzberg Diamonds. Really? I know it's a race for women, but come on. Stereotype win.

To get to the start line on time, we were up at 3:30 am. Such is not the best way to start one's day. Regardless, we were up and out the door and at the transition area around 5 am.

I felt like a total doofus. I didn't know where to put my bike number and I needed help to get my bike on the rack (racing roadbikes don't necessarily have a kickstand, so you hitch the seat on the rack for quick access). I'll confess to having very little confidence at this point; everyone seemed like a pro. Not stuck up, just experienced.

After a short wait and some stretching we lined up in the waves on Main Street. There were fewer than 600 people there, so each wave was relatively small. They made a production out of each wave's start, which was nice as I was in the fourth wave (no rhyme or reason how waves were determined).

The first part of the race was a 1.5 mile run through Disneyland. At the start, they played cheesy, "you can do it girlfriend!" music, but luckily not through the whole park. Once in Adventureland, there was nothing but the sound of runners and birds. It was all very peaceful. And I was running like a junkie getting a fix. There was a water station toward the end of the run here; turns out it was the only one though you passed it about five times.

The transition area was the overflow parking lot across the street from the parks. With so few people, it was relatively easy to get through, although the mat to cross to exit could have been wider.

Within the first mile of ten, when I down-shifted for the first small hill, my chain popped off. Not all the way, just off the gears, so I wasn't immediately sure what was wrong. So I stuck all my fingers in the ooey-gooey grease and got it back on just as a nice volunteer asked me if I needed help. At this point I was kind of wishing for one of those nice, lightweight road bikes rather than my heavy, 5-year-old rusty Wal-Mart mountain bike. Oh well. Halfway through I realized there was not a single mile marker or timer. This is good and bad; I prefer it but it makes it tough to budget your energy.

Now, if I had been smart I would have gone to one of the course presentations at packet pickup and not had the awful shock that there were two laps around Anaheim, not one. This is a very unpleasant discovery to make. Especially as most people train more for biking (10 miles versus 3.5 miles running).

At the start of my second lap, I saw a woman coming out of the transition running all on her own. She must have been the first to finish (fastest was 52:14) and it was hard for me to keep up even on a bicycle. Absolutely amazing. I'll confess I really thought I could pull off under an hour; really, the top 10% or so actually did.

I was pretty happy to ditch my bike for the last two mile run through California Adventure. It hurts to switch back to running, but it's a special kind of pain. Even though my thighs felt like cement, it was like being reminded that something incredible is going on with every step. Yup, there is a screw loose somewhere.

The second run was over so quickly. It felt easy to sprint the last bit to the finish line. (I discovered later via Google Earth that it was, in fact, closer to 1.5 miles than two. Kind of disappointed about that). At the finish, there were two mats pretty far apart: one you cross that sends your name to the announcer's laptop, so he could announce your finish. That was a fabulous touch because not only did you finish, your arrival was announced like you had just won. The second mat recorded your finish (and yes, this was kind of confusing).

Then, there's the hectic finish-line processing. Tired and high as a kite, someone flags you over to the gamut of people to clip your timing chip off; someone else shoves a bottle of water at you; someone hands you a medal ('cause you're nasty) and a photographer takes your picture. There's a table set up with bananas, oranges and bagels (carbs & potassium), but they also had cookies. Score! It sounds kind of cold and impersonal, but it really does feel great.

If, by some significant effort, I become a competent swimmer, I will most certainly sign up for the triathlon next year.

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