Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pacific Grove Kelp Report

Last year while swimming through the kelp at PG I swore I would not be swimming through it ever again. However, one year later I found myself standing on the shore waiting to battle the kelp for the second time. I let my affinity for Tri-Cal races override my intense and very negative feelings about the kelp. Plus, I reasoned that since I got practice last year I would be better this year. I knew what to expect and that is half the battle, right? We went off at 12:10pm (after a leisurely morning, LOVE) and just as the men were making the turn for their second loop of the course. This meant that our sedate and friendly start of 9 women turned into a more chaotic atmosphere. About 100 meters out I swam over a huge rock. I just kind of crawled over it and hopped off the other side. Then we hit the kelp. Unlike last year there was no clear path...it was EVERYWHERE. I hit the kelp with a few women around me and then before I knew it they were motoring away from me. I could not understand how they were doing it??!?! My kelp swimming ability absolutely blows. Do you put your head up? Kick more than pull? Apparently when my regular swimming stroke is completely interrupted by kelp I do not handle it well. You can't dig your arms down with a high elbow because then you become completely entangled in it. I fought my way through the kelp and made it to the turnaround to start the second loop. I was in second to LAST place. However, at the time I thought I was in last place. I did not know anyone else was behind me. I reluctantly started my second loop and I will be totally honest here...I wanted it to be over. I HATED it more than anything. The negative thoughts in my head were loud and unrelenting. However, I just kept plugging away trying to limit my losses. I knew that Julia was in front of me and she is a great biker. Maybe I can grab her wheel for the draft legal bike?

Finally, I made it out of the water and ran to my bike. I tried not to show my disgust for my performance on the swim. I just decided to let it go and absolutely throttle myself trying to redeem any sort of semblance of a decent race. Julia had about 5-7 seconds on me out of transition. I could see her up ahead. That was my shot for a good finish. If I did not catch up and work with her I would cycle on my own for the entire bike and then be too far behind to catch anyone on the run. I had a good mount and motored up to Julia before putting my shoes on. After catching up I slipped my shoes on without incident (ie, no swerving, etc) and focused on staying with her. I hoped we could work together but let's be honest...she is a better biker and my attempts at pulling were shorter than the amount of time she stayed on the front. I was pretty sure she was trying to get rid of me any chance she could. There are a couple little inclines and she would stand and hammer up them. I willed my old, less explosive 34 year old legs to stay with her. By the middle of the second loop we caught another girl. She latched onto our wheels. I went to the front to take a pull before the biggest "hill" on the course. When we got to it Julia came around the front in a sprint trying to get a gap. She got one. I could see my race slipping away and I was not going to let it go. I was off the back and absolutely burying myself to fight back to her wheel. I could hear Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen in my head commentating this improbable comeback. I reached deep into my "suitcase of courage" and kept the pushing. I was spitting, snotting and grunting trying to get back up to Julia. I was getting closer. My eyes were crossing with the effort and my legs were burning like crazy. I made it up to her wheel and eased off. It felt so good. I was proud to have survived this attack. However, I knew it would be short lived because she was going to attack again. We made it to the same spot in the middle of the 3rd loop and I made the mistake of going to the front at the same point. Can you say stupid? I could feel the attack coming and I stood up and tried to accelerate with her. She got a gap. I battled but my heroics of the last lap had taken their toll. The only thing to do was to limit my loss and run her down. I kept intensity up the 4th loop. I came into T2 40 seconds down. There was work to do on the run.

I felt relatively good when I started the run. I ran hard and waited for it to feel better. By that I mean that my legs would eventually become numb to the pain. The run was 3 loops so I got word at the end of the first loop that I had made up 15 seconds. I tried to increase my pace a bit. I was catching Julia and another woman right in front of her. Maybe I would salvage this day? I made the pass 3/4 of the way through the 2nd loop and then caught another woman at the beginning of the 3rd loop. I kept running hard. I did not know if someone would catch a second wind and I also wanted to have a good split. I ended up finishing 5th and was over 5 minutes faster than last year. I think the wind on the bike was worse last year and I did have "help" for 2.5 laps. Last year, I rode alone because I did not have the ability to stay with Julia. My run was a teensy bit slower than 2010 but I was happy with it because I went into the red a lot on the bike which was different than my previous race at PG.

Despite the horrendous swim I had a great day. My husband even said "it was like you did a REAL triathlon today." I needed all 3 sports on Saturday for a good race. Sometimes my races are a great start on the swim and then an attempt to limit my losses on the bike and run. It was great to race the bike even though it hurt so bad. I have never pushed into the red that many times on the bike. I felt like I was racing and I was totally engrossed in what I was doing. It was exciting to see my family and friends on each loop during the run and have them screaming at me to keep reeling people in. I'll be back to PG next year in an attempt to swim proficiently in the kelp. Perhaps I should go down and practice a few times?


  1. Ha ha! Emily has some bike racer in her!!!!

  2. Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back.


    Mandie Hayes