Rev 3 Portland 2012: Attack of the Climbs

Last month was my third half Ironman of 2012, Rev 3 Portland. I’ve gotta say, I’m really enjoying the Rev 3 race series and highly recommend them to athletes who want a challenging race that’s well run. I hope the Rev 3 series gets more popular since I wouldn’t mind more competition for WTC–right now, only a few hundred people seem to turn out for each Rev 3 race, but hopefully they’ll start gaining momentum.

Anyway, onto the race report. I had just done Honu 70.3 the month before and started off my season with Rev 3 Costa Rica in March, so I had been training and racing for quite a while by the time Portland rolled around. When I did the race last year, I was overweight, injured, and out of shape but still managed to have a decent race because the course was flat and fast. This year, however, the organizers changed the bike course to a hellacious hillfest, with four Category 5 climbs (which are apparently the hardest climbs you can rank before the hills essentially just become bullshit mountain terrain). Rev 3 touted the new course as their toughest and most technical one on the circuit. Oh goody.

Jason, his deaf dad Jim, his sister Danielle and I went to registration (Danielle was doing the Olympic distance race while Jason and his dad were doing a half Ironman relay with one of Danielle’s friends), then all hopped in Jim’s SUV to drive the bike course. Upon seeing how ridiculous these climbs were and hearing how the car’s engine had to grind to get up them, I couldn’t help but laugh. This course was absurd–full of long, steep climbs and really windy descents that could be quite treacherous if you weren’t cautious. It definitely was not going to be a PR bike split kind of day, but I looked forward to the challenge since I had gotten better at climbing lately. I was only worried about the descents and making sure I stayed cautious and that nobody around me was going to do something stupid that would end up getting me hurt.

Jason’s dad, meanwhile, was trying to watch the course like a hawk and study it as best as he could because he was going to be doing the bike leg for the relay team and “didn’t want to get lost.” We informed him that the course is ridiculously well marked with bright pink signage, so he started paying attention to every single thing that was pink and tried to commit it all to memory. Unfortunately, that backfired somewhat:

Jim: “Okay, so we go straight here…”

Jas: “Ugh, Dad, you’ll be fine.”

Jim: “I just want to be sure!”

Jas: “If you manage to get lost on this course with how well-marked it is, then you fail at life.”

Jim, laughing: “Okay, okay…wait, so then we turn right into this neighborhood.” He pointed at a neon pink sign.

Jas: “Dad, that’s for a garage sale!”

Jim: “Oh.”

Jas: “Do NOT follow that sign. Or blindly follow things that are pink.”

Jim: “Well then they shouldn’t have made that garage sale sign pink! Now I’m confused!”

Once we all got done laughing at him, we assured him he’d be fine.

Swim Summary

When race day rolled around, we headed to the venue and I got my transition area set up. My bike was racked right next to bike out/in, which was super awesome. Also awesome was the fact that transition was actually in the park this year–no running over a half mile across the street to the transition area like we did last year. The transition area was small, too, so times should be relatively fast.

I agonized over whether to wear my wetsuit since the lake was somewhat warm and it was going to be a fairly hot race (about mid-to upper-80s), but ultimately I decided to wear it. Teresa’s old Cat 5 fits like a corset, so I resorted to the following method of getting the damn thing on in about 30 minutes:

  • Rub Glide on my wrists, ankles, and neck
  • Rub Vaseline on my wrists, ankles, and neck
  • Rub conditioner on my arms and legs
  • Spray Triglide over every inch of exposed flesh
  • Spend an ungodly amount of time working up a sweat while trying to wedge my normal-sized ass into an abnormally small wetsuit (by this time I’m easily in my zone 2 heart rate)
  • Hold my breath while Jason and his mom work together to try and zip me into the wetsuit

Success! I am now in the wetsuit. Jason’s mom marveled at how “tiny” I looked in it, and I just nodded while trying not to turn purple from lack of circulation.

The swim course differed from last year; last year we swam counter-clockwise but this year we’d start out going clockwise. The Olympic distance race shared some of the course with us but had some additional buoys set up for a different turnaround point, which made things slightly confusing. When it was time for my wave to start, I just figured I’d swim as far out as possible since the half Ironman course pretty much went around the entire lake.

And we’re off! I actually felt pretty strong and steady as I swam despite the fact that I got kicked in the face and ran into a little bit of crowding/elbowing (which I thought was odd considering the number of people racing was minuscule compared to mass starts at Honu or an Ironman race). Eventually, however, I couldn’t tell if I was just tired of swimming or if the course felt long (the course always feels long to me because I hate swimming so much), but I kept going, rounding buoys and plodding along.

When I finally made it out of the water, I saw Jason a few feet ahead of me–he was doing the swim portion for his relay team since he was fresh off racing Ironman Coeur d’Alene, and the relay athletes went off five minutes after I did. Seeing him made me think that either I had a pretty good swim or he had a bad one since there’s usually more than a five minute gap between our swim splits. When I looked down at my watch, however, I was kind of disappointed.

Swim time: 46:13. Not what I was hoping since I thought that I was swimming pretty strong. Later I would find out that the course actually was measured wrong, and that the pro times were a few minutes slower than usual so amateurs could have been off by 3-6 minutes (Jason’s swim split was 40 minutes, and he’s been swimming 33-35 all season). I was happy when I heard that because it meant that technically I would have had a swim PR if the course had been accurate.

T1

I waved to Jason in transition and he perked up when he noticed me, then followed me to my transition area to stand there awkwardly while I did my thang. Getting my child-sized wetsuit off was mildly challenging but I managed alright after a few frantic yanks. Jas offered up a chipper, “Have fun! Good job!” as I headed out to the bike portion.

T1 time: 2:25. Could have been faster if my wetsuit weren’t painted on me, but meh.

Bike Summary

I grabbed my bike and headed out onto the course, spotting Jim immediately (he was very excited about tackling the bike portion for his relay team) and waving to him as I passed. The first 13 or so miles of the new course are pretty flat, so I just cruised along until I hit the first big climb. When I got to the base of the first hill, I already saw some people who were either walking their bike up the hill or had started to climb up but stopped and got stuck. All I could think was that it was going to be a looooong day for those folks if they were going to have to walk up each climb on the course.

The hills were challenging but kind of fun, and I powered up them while the stronger swimmers who were weaker on the bike struggled. At one point I passed a guy who was panting, and he looked over at me and said, “Geez, someone likes to climb” as I smiled and continued on. I played a little back and forth game with another guy who I’d pass on every climb but would re-pass me on the descents. He was cheery and encouraging, offering up a “Damn girl, you like them hills!” whenever he’d see me. Ultimately I managed to shake him after the last gnarly climb (which even I was starting to get sick of) and didn’t run into him again until after the race, when we’d exchange congratulations in the parking lot.

After the last tough climb, the course wound back towards the park where the race was set up. I actually really loved the new bike course–it was tough but beautiful (we rode through forests, rolling farmland, and along the river) and never got boring…until you got to the shitty flat out and back stretch that required you to ride past transition for several miles before turning around. It was a mental challenge to ride further and further away from transition when I was already feeling tired and wanting off the bike, and I was so irritated and uncomfortable that I made the mistake of not fueling as much as I should have been during that last final stretch.¬†Ultimately, I was able to turn around and get back into the park, happy to be off the bike so I could start tackling the run.

Bike time: 3:09:05. A little disappointed with my bike split. I knew it was going to be slower since the course was quite difficult, but I was hoping for around 3:05. The last out and back was a bit of a mental drain and I think my energy levels dipped at that point. If I do the race again next year, I want to make that bike course my bitch.

T2

As I rolled into transition, I saw Jason and Steven Hooper (aka “Good Steve“), who had done the Olympic distance race, cheering for me. I blurted something to them along the lines of “That last out and back will haunt my dreams” before dismounting and click-clacking into transition (I opted not to try the fancy “feet out of my shoes first” dismount again after last year’s blunder). Jason once again hovered while I shoved gels in my back pockets and slipped my shoes on. He asked how I felt as I ran out and I gave him a general status report before taking off on the run course.

T2 time: 1:07. Nice and speedy. Woo hoo!

Run Summary

Shortly after I took off on the run, my heart rate monitor died so I had no zones to work with. I resorted to taking off like a bandit and running strong, which got me through the first few miles fine. The more I ran, however, the more sore my core muscles got. It’s not that my stomach hurt from queasiness or gut rot, it actually physically hurt, as if I had done way too many crunches. Teresa later said it was probably from me having to stabilize myself on the numerous climbs and descents from the bike.

My pace slowed so I ran for a while with a 16-year old kid and marveled at the fact that he was out here doing a half Ironman while 16-year old Becca would have been hanging out at the movies and chowing down on Taco Bell. As we ran together, we saw a female participant who was totally out of it woozily faint while a panicked volunteer did her best to try and catch her. We ran by the dehydrated athlete and muttered, “Well that’s not good” to one another (later we’d see an ambulance come and scoop her up).

While we ran, a guy who was on his way back to transition glanced over at me and lit up. “Rachel!” he exclaimed. I got confused, figuring he knew me but got my name wrong (I’m often called “Rachel” since it’s a close approximation to “Rebecca”), so I corrected him and said, “Uh, Rebecca?” He furrowed his brow, then got a sheepish look across his face and tried to explain the mixup in the two seconds it took for our paths to cross.

Guy: “Sorryyou’renotwhoIthoughtyouwere–” and then we passed each other and that was that.

As I ran further away from him, I heard the woman who was running behind him exclaim, “Well that was awkward” and started laughing at the absurdity of the whole exchange.

Eventually I pulled ahead of the 16-year old phenom (who still beat me since he started behind me *shakes fist*) and made it to the turnaround. I was feeling more and more sore and just wanted the race to be over. It’s crazy how easy the run course seems on paper–it’s on a flat trail–but the damn thing has bested me two years in a row. I think the fact that there’s almost no shade and that there aren’t that many people to run with since the field is so small makes the run surprisingly tough and lonely. Next time I will make this run course my bitch! (That’s two “my bitch” promises, in case you weren’t keeping track.)

Finally I made it back to the park and rounded the bend towards the finish chute. There was a finisher standing at the corner draped in a Gatorade towel, and when he saw me he got this huge grin on his face and said, “The finish is just around the corner! They give you an ice cold towel to wrap around yourself and it FEELS SO GOOD!!!” I laughed and said, “Awesome” and pushed towards the finish to earn my towel (which, admittedly, did feel. So. Good.)

I want that towel, damnit!

Run time: 1:56:42. Definitely disappointing–I wanted to go under 1:50, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards that day.

Total race time: 5:55:31. Not a great race by any means, but I can’t complain that much since I wasn’t really rested for it (I was starting to really ramp up my Ironman training). A few things here and there could have gone better, but maybe I’ll race next year and will strive to kick some ass. (I found out later I took 4th out of 8th in my age group and missed 3rd by about a minute. D’oh! Oh well, next time I’mma make this race my bitch!)

Jim was thrilled to participate in the relay and was happy he conquered the tough Rev 3 bike course, although he was bummed that I beat his bike split by 35 minutes. Jason tried to explain that I race a lot faster than when we’ve trained with him, but he was still a little sad. (Jim, consider that payback for the Coeur d’Alene ride.)

Jas, me looking bloated, and Jim after the race

I ran into the dude who called me Rachel after the race and he laughed and explained how I look just like his friend Rachel who also does triathlons, so in his race-fuzzy state of mind he mistook me for her. He then warned me to “watch out” for her because she’s a strong athlete, at which point I said, “Bring it! I’ll make that bitch my bitch!” (I didn’t really say that…also, I need to stop vowing to make things my bitch.)

So that was the Rev 3 Portland race in a nutshell. After that I hunkered down and stopped doing races so that I could focus on Ironman Canada training (although I did want to do Seafair but begrudgingly figured that endurance training would be smarter than a sprint distance triathlon). I’ll likely be back to race Rev 3 Portland again in the future since it’s a fun race and it’s really nicely organized. But first I gotta tackle a little Ironman…

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