Tuesday, September 27, 2016

5th Annual Amador Triathlon - Race Report

The 5th Annual Amador Triathlon was my fifth tri of 2016 and possibly my last tri as a member of the Pearl Izumi Tri ChamPIon team (unless I get selected again for 2017). I decided to do this race for a couple of reasons. First, it is very close to home. Second, since it was a USA Triathlon sanctioned event, I had the chance to better my ranking by replacing my super low score from the Auburn Triathlon (World’s Toughest Half).

NOTE: The Amador Triathlon bills itself as “California’s Toughest Triathlon”. The Amador Tri was tough, but nothing compared to Auburn. Don't let the name scare you away from giving this race a "tri" :-)


HS and I left the house about 5:45am. It wasn’t going to take that long to get to the lake. We arrived at Camanche around 6:30am. We stopped at the guard shack to pay our $12.50 for parking. The guard gave us a pass and said that we needed to pay at the trail head. Pay at the trail head? We had no idea where he was expecting us to pay, so we took the pass and headed to the parking lot.

The check in process went smoothly. As I waited my turn in line, a woman walked up and asked me “Are you in line?” Uh, yeah. LOL The volunteers at the check-in desk were organized and everything I needed for the race was in my goody bag.

NOTE: There were no instructions given as to which sticker goes where (not that I wasn't able to figure it out). It's just something that is nice to know...especially for people new to triathlons.

This event had chip timing. I’m not sure what company was providing the timing, but I would like to say that it was nice that their straps weren’t all stretched and worn out. I’ve done some bigger events where they hand you a strap that looks like its been through the zombie apocalypse. The strap I was given was relatively new and once on did not feel like it was going to come off. I hate swimming with a strap that feels like it’s barely hanging on. I’m always certain that some swimmer is going to rip it off my leg.


After setting up my transition area, I walked down the boat ramp to check out the lake. The water temp was somewhere around 72-75 degrees and extremely clear. I had read that the lake was at about 73% capacity. The boat ramp extended well into the water so there was no muck or weeds to contend with like at our normal Camanche swimming hole. 

I walked back up the hill to double check my transition area and to put on my wetsuit. The guy racked next to me was out on his bike warming up and another guy had just grabbed his bike to go out for a ride. It was around 7:10am at that time and the race was supposed to start at 7:30. I slipped on my wetsuit and grabbed my cap and goggles. Nobody seemed too worried about the start.

Beautiful morning at Lake Camanche


I walked back down the ramp and into the lake. The water felt a bit chilly as I splashed it on to my bare arms. There were plenty of people without wetsuits, however, that said the water felt great. I swam around a bit and then went to stand at the start with the rest of the competitors. Since this race is small, there was only one wave, men and women together. I worked my way back a bit so as not to be in the front. I had no desire to have a bunch of guys swimming over the top of me.

As we stood there waiting for the start, there was a lot of chatter about the distance of the buoys. The first buoy didn’t seem that far. The second buoy looked about the same distance as the start to the first buoy. The third buoy seemed like it was way, way far away from the second buoy. The lady standing next to me decide to tell the announcer that the course looked longer than 1,500m.  “It’s not” was his reply and then he added that it may even be a bit shorter.

"Look how far the buoys are!" ACRA Photo

I’m not sure if this lady was talking to someone she knew or if she was just thinking out loud but she then says “Doesn’t matter to me. I could swim all day.” Nervous swimmers continued to discuss the distance of the third buoy. The lady then says “Well, a longer swim is to my advantage.” Ok, we get it, you’re a good swimmer.

We were given final instructions to swim to the left of the buoys and then we were off. Although it was a small event, the start was quite chaotic for the first few minutes. I was pleased that I remained calm during all the initial bumping and slapping. Eventually things thinned out and I got into a nice easy rhythm.  (One of these days I plan on actually “racing” during the swim portion! LOL).

Swin course

In no time at all, I was at the first buoy. I made a slight right and kept swimming. As I was going along, I would see columns of tiny bubbles. My initial thought was that it was bubbles from the swimmer in front of me. No, not bubbles from the swimmer in front because there was no swimmer close enough. The next time I came across the bubbles I realized that they were coming the depths of the lake…and it wasn’t like it was a single column of bubbles, the columns were at least 6” in diameter. My next thought was “OMG! What is down there making those bubbles!”
Eventually I came to the second buoy and was no longer concerned with the mystery bubbles. After I turned at the second buoy, I looked up to site the third and could not see it. I put my down and swam a bit more. I could see a couple of competitors about 10 yards in front of me, but I could not see that darned third buoy. I continued to play “follow the leader” and hoped that they could see the buoy. Finally the third buoy came into site but I had a bad feeling that I wasn’t swimming towards it.

A guy in a kayak was paddling several yards to my left (there was a lot of people providing water safety at this event which was nice). I decided that I would use him as a guide and as long as I kept the distance between us the same, I was headed in the right direction. In the back of my mind I was concerned that I had a kayak basically following me. Was I last? Did I appear to be struggling? Ugh…maybe I should have been swimming more than once or twice a week.

NOTE: It would have been helpful to have some additional buoys strictly for sighting. 

I made it to the third buoy and turned to go home. At this point, there was a slight chop in the water that seemed to be coming from my right. This was fine with me because I breathe to my left. Even though the chop was very slight, it still seemed to come around and smack me in the face. I would look up to site and wouldn’t see any kind of waves that would be doing this, but it persisted all the way back to the boat ramp. 

I came up to sight and did a little breast stroke. I could see the carpeted strip running up the ramp and tried to get my bearings. Another volunteer in a kayak encouraged me to "keep going straight, you’re almost there.” The exit point was between two docks, so all I needed to do was aim for the middle. It wasn’t until I got closer that I realized that I had over shot it a bit and had to make left turn to correct myself.

I got out of the water and HS was there to cheer for me. I started walking up the ramp and immediately felt the fatigue in my legs.  My CIM training miles have been significantly greater than last year at this same time, and I could definitely feel the miles at that moment. I saw a course photographer so I started to run (I don’t want any pics of me walking! LOL). Once I got past her, I started walking again.


As soon as I exited the water, I pressed a button on my Garmin. I had multisport set and I was prepared to capture all of my race data. Unfortunately, I pressed the Start/Stop button and not the Lap button. So instead of advancing my watch from swim to transition I just stopped the timing. I didn’t realize my mistake until after the race :-(

Ready to roll!

I made my way to my bike and was quickly into my cycling gear. I had brought a towel and some water to wash my feet, but it wasn’t necessary because the ramp and transition area were very clean. I grabbed a quick drink of water and was on my way out to the bike course.

Headed out on a familiar course.


As I left transition and started to pedal, the fatigue in my legs was even more apparent. My first thought was “You should have been riding more” followed by “This is what you get for running so much”. I reached down and grabbed my UCAN snack bar hoping that it would give me a little energy boost for the ride.

Since I am familiar with riding around Camanche, I was prepared for the short climb from the lake. My plan was to take it easy and spin my way up the hill. Almost immediately I was passed by a guy pedaling his bike like he was riding through sand. He must have had it in a very high gear. Just watching him was making me tired. With every pedal stroke he would push and pull against his handlebars. I could see him fight his way up the hill grinding and grinding away. As we neared the top, I started to catch him, but he retained his lead for a while longer.

Route data provided by event organizers.

Not too much further down the road, I caught and passed the struggler. He was still riding the same way and I couldn’t imagine trying to do the entire ride like that. If I had to put that much energy into riding I don't think I'd ever get back on my bike.

The first several miles through Camanche Village was the only part that I had never explored on two wheels. It was basically a meandering ride through a neighborhood with several rolling hills thrown in for good measure. After exiting Camanche Village, the route took a familiar turn. I knew every hill that was coming my way and I did the best to pace myself so I would have something left for the run.

There are a couple of good climbs on Camanche Parkway N and I was hoping I would have enough left to make it to the top. To my delight, I made it and didn't feel too bad. Thankfully, however, the ride ends with one long speedy (and smooth) descent down to transition so your legs get a couple of minutes to recover.


I came in to transition, racked my bike, and took off my cycling gear. I had placed my running socks in my shoes so I would have the right sock for the right foot. Since it was a trail run, I had opted to run in my Pearl Izumi trail socks. These are a favorite of mine, even when I’m not on a trail, and they are a must have if you want to keep out stickers, rocks and dirt. In fact, I had won this pair of socks at a Fleet Feet Crazy 8 race at Camanche several years ago so I thought it was appropriate to wear them at this race.

Unfortunately, my feet were a little sweaty from the ride. I went to slip on my right sock and it stuck to my foot and wouldn’t slide on. I tried again and it wasn’t getting better. “Screw it!” I’ll just run without socks. I clipped on my race belt, put my cap on my head and was ready to run. Now, which way do I go?

Fiddling with my Garmin


I remember the very first triathlon I ever did, the 2012 Golden State Super Sprint Triathlon. One of the pre-race things Coach +James did was to take us on a mock run out of transition and out on to the run course. It seemed silly at the time, the group of us running around the parking lot with James pointing out where we needed to go but I wish I would have done that today.

As I started to leave transition a volunteer had to point me in the right direction. The run exit was where the swim entrance was. However, I wasn’t in much better shape after I left the transition area. Somebody said to follow the arrows. I looked down and while the arrows clearly marked the course, it seemed like I was running in the wrong direction. The arrows took you out and around the transition and registration area and then out towards the China Gulch Trail.

Side Note...

As I mentioned before, I’m in the middle of training for the California International Marathon. My main focus has been running. HS even bought me a treadmill so I could run in the morning without having to run around the block in the dark...mile after mile. One of the features of my new treadmill is iFit. You can program routes using Google maps and the treadmill will adjust the incline as you run. I programmed the run portion of this triathlon so I would at least know what to expect. Let me just say that the inclines on the treadmill did not do the actual hills justice.

This is how the out and back course looks on my treadmill

One unstated goal of mine was to run up every hill. Unfortunately, I did not reach that goal today. All in all, I would say that this was one of my best trail runs but I did end up walking some of the steeper hills. I just didn’t have it in my legs.  

Back to the Run

The trail is mostly a gravel road. There is a short section of paved road as you make your way from transition to the actual trail, but that’s it. After I got past the parking lot there was a cattle gate across the road. At first glance, I couldn’t see a path around it and the gate appeared closed. As I got closer I saw a man gate with a sign that said to keep closed. It was open when I got to it, but I shut it behind me just in case...don't want any cattle escaping. 

I glanced at my watch and saw that I was less than two hours into the race. I was starting to feel a little parched and hoped that an aid station was close. Most of the trail is in the sun and the day was already starting to heat up. When I came to the first aid station I saw the chalk markings on the ground showing that this was the turn-around for the 5k of the sprint triathlon. I assumed this meant that I wouldn’t see another aid station until the 10k turn-around.

NOTE: Next time I do this race, I might bring along a handheld water bottle on the run.

I grabbed a glass of water and took a gulp. Bad move. The water was ICE cold (which is a good thing) but I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold. When the cold water hit my throat I coughed or choked or something but ended up with water going down the wrong pipe. I wanted to drink some more, but my coughing prevented it. I tossed my cup and started running again.

Throughout the run, I had to stop to tie my shoes three times. Now, I can accept stopping twice…once for each foot, but three times??? Come on Tracy. Learn to tie your shoes correctly or get some more bungee laces!

Eventually I started seeing Olympic distance racers headed in the opposite direction. I had to be getting close to the turn-around. As I got nearer, I started counting the number of females. One, two…there has to be more in front of me. Three. Ok, out of the top contenders. After the turn I noted another female not too far behind me. She seemed to be running strong. About a mile down the trail, she passed me. Her run appeared effortless to me. I wasn’t passed again the rest of the way.

I glanced at my Garmin and saw that I was roughly 2:57 into the race and the sound of the announcer’s voice told me I was close to the finish. If I hustled a bit, I might be able to slip in under three hours. I had no idea if I was going to have to circle the parking lot again or not, so I just ran. As I neared the parking lot that I had to circumvent about an hour ago, I realized that all I had to do was turned left and then run DOWNHILL (YAY!!!) all the way to the finish. As I started to make my descent down to the finish line I felt like I was screaming fast. It was the best way to finish a race and HS got some good pictures of me too!

Best sprint to the finish ever!!


HS came around to the finish line as they removed my chip. My watched was stopped at 3:00 flat. “I think I broke three hours”, I told him. HS went around to the clock and said it shows 3:04. Hmmm…how could that be? I looked down at my watch and it still showed the swimmer. O-M-G!!! This is when I realized what I did coming out of the swim. I stopped the watch and then restarted it coming out of transition on to my bike. I never advanced past the swim but I did manage to stop the watch for roughly 3 minutes in transition. Live and learn…AGAIN!

Post Race

As we waited for the awards, I decided I had enough time to clean up my transition area and load up my gear in the truck.

Done for the day and ready to go home

The award process went pretty quick...probably due to the fact that the awards were in ten year blocks instead of five year blocks like they are at other triathlon events. This made me a little nervous. I was 5th overall but what if all the other women were in the 40-49 group? I anxiously awaited the results. First and third overall were in the 20-29 age group. Whew! I ended up 3rd in the 40-49 group but took solace in the fact that first and second place were 41 and 42. As it turns out, I was the oldest woman in our age group :-)

Reflecting back on this race, it was truly enjoyable. I would definitely come back and do this race again and I am hoping that my Central Valley Triathlon Club teammates will join me :-) If I could do anything differently, I think I would actually train for this race and make it more of a priority. For those of us in the Stockton/Lodi area, this is probably the closest triathlon around and we have the unique opportunity to train on the course!


Swim - 32:07.5 At first I wasn't very happy with my swim time, but based on the distance I could extrapolate from my Garmin data, I swam about 1,800 yards. On top of that, the timing mat was at the top of the boat ramp, so there was a little bit of walking included in that

T1 - 1:03.9 Not bad.

Bike - 1:20:42.6 (18.3 mph) I was hoping to average 18.5 mph but am still very happy with my results. It gives me something to shoot for next time :-)

T2 - 1:13.2 

Run - 1:08:28.4 Ok, this is a bit slower than I would have liked, but since I didn't have any experience on this run course (beside my virtual run) any desired pace was just a wishful guess. As with the bike, I now have something to shoot for next time.

Overall - 3:03:35.6 As we drove to the race, HS asked how long I thought it would take me. I replied about three hours. I guess you can't get much closer than this. Although I wish it was three minutes under the three hour mark instead of three minutes over. Oh well...next time ;-)