Stings, Sun, and Second Place: My 2012 Rev 3 Costa Rica Race Report

Yeah yeah, I know you all have organized a hunger strike until I got my Costa Rica race report up, but this thing called “work” and “real world” (as in real life, not the umpteenth season of MTV’s Real World…though I do confess to harboring a guilty pleasure for the Challenges) have taken precedence lately so I haven’t had much time to blog. Sorry! In any case, I’m here now and will share my race report with you, my loyal readers. (Especially Jim, who has reduced himself to watching the same episode of American Idol twice in one day because he’s so restless for content. Holy crap.)

Arriving in Costa Rica

So yeah, back to Costa Rica. We arrived the Tuesday before the race, smelling and looking as if we had taken three planes and a red-eye itinerary to get to Guanacaste. Because Jas and I pack like champs, we only had to check our bike boxes (thanks, Kirsten, for letting me borrow yours!) and managed to shove everything else into carry-on luggage (tank tops and shorts don’t take up that much space). Unfortunately, American Airlines deemed it necessary to charge us an “Are you fucking kidding” price of $150 per box each way. Destination races ain’t cheap, folks.

Our rental house was in a little town called Potreros, which wasn’t very far from the host hotel and the race course but sat atop a ridiculous 10-minute climb that requires a Canyonero to safely traverse. If I had to do the race again, I wouldn’t stay atop Mount Doom because it was too much a pain in the ass to get up and down the rickety-ass road all the time, but it did make for a memorable stay (plus, the house came with a dog named Cookie, whom I fed dog treats every chance I had).

The gigantic house we rented for the week--big enough to fit six triathlete egos! (I keed)

Pre-Race Workouts

Mark, Teresa, Jason and I decided to do a 30-minute run near our house to shake the travel stiffness out of our stinky, tired bodies. The run went something like this:

All of us: *gasp* *wheeze* *heave* *shuffle* *sweat*

Me: “Oh look, my heart rate is at 176 already.”

The hills were no joke, the terrain was ankle-rollerrific (in fact, Teresa did roll one), and it was hot as shit outside with zero cloud cover. Such a lovely taste of what’s to come on race day!

Later that week we took our bikes to the Westin Playa Conchal to ride the hardest part of the bike course. Transition area would be set up in one of the Westin’s parking lot, and athletes would have to mount their bikes, ride over a 100-yard stretch of gravel, then climb a few daunting hills over the course of about 2.5 miles to get out of the resort. From there, we’d turn onto the road and enjoy a relatively flat three loops before heading back into the resort and climbing more hills to get back to transition.

When we suited up to ride, it was impossible to ignore the remarkable heat as well as the discouraging gusts of wind. Since we were in the middle of the region’s dry season, we expected warm temperatures but it was unseasonably warm (the race website advertised average temps being in the upper 70s, but it was mid-to upper-90s the entire time we were there). Also, the wind was unusual for that time of year, and we were all a bit nervous about having to battle nasty gusts on race day.

I strapped on my brand-spankin’ new aero helmet (now I can look like a sperm on wheels!) and tackled the climbs as best as I could.

Teresa capturing me at the top of "Fuck You, Why Are You Taking a Picture of Me Right Now" Hill

The hill coming out of the park was tough, but at the time I thought the climb getting back into the park was worse. Even more demoralizing was the fact that headwinds would kick up while I was climbing, essentially preventing me from making any decent forward progress. I could only laugh and think to myself, “Yep, this is gonna be a tough race.”

After our bike ride we took a dip in the ocean. I felt a bit rusty since I hadn’t done an open water swim in several months, but eventually I found a decent Mediocre Athlete rhythm and emerged from the water feeling somewhat confident. Then I saw a fucking snake slither into the water from which I had JUST emerged and my confidence dove headfirst out the window. We ran into one of the race organizers later and I confronted her about the horrors waiting to drown and consume me on race day:

Me: “So what the hell, I just saw a snake slither into the ocean.”

Race organizer: “Oh yeah, well you’ll be swimming on THAT side of the beach [gestures to the right], and the wildlife generally stays on the left side, which is where you were practicing.”

Me: “What the–? Like some sort of invisible barrier?” That didn’t sound right. I doubt creepy crawlies are that courteous.

Race organizer: “They generally stay in that area because the boats push them over. You won’t run into anything on race day.” Then, she added cheerfully, “All you’ll have to worry about is jellyfish!”

Me: “Wat.”

So now I was going to have to potentially battle sea snakes and jellyfish during the swim and brutal headwinds and scorching temps on the bike. I can’t wait to see  what the run has in store!

Posing in my teammate Jill's swim skin and trying not to think about the Kraken that will devour me on race day

We ran most of a loop of the run course (it would be four loops on race day). The terrain was somewhat challenging, to say the least–we started on a dirt road of sorts that cut between the beach and the resort through some local knicknack stands, then down a rocky little embankment onto the beach for a stretch, then back onto a dirt road with absolutely zero shade before moving onto a paved road that led the athletes back into the park. From there, we’d run up a steepish hill before cutting onto the golf course that led us back to transition, where we’d begin the next loop.

Running on the sand was a bit tough, as I wasn’t used to feeling the loose terrain under my feet. The difficulty was counteracted by the beauty of the ocean and the beach, and I really enjoyed the training run even though it was super hot and the course was a bit awkward. Plus, we came across this during our run, which is bound to put a smile on even the crabbiest athlete’s face:

"Stop looking at me, I'm trying to shit out some eggs!!"

The Calm Before the Storm

Despite my sarcasm about how horrible the race was going to be, I was actually in a really good mindset leading up to the race. I pretty much accepted the fact that there were circumstances beyond my control that could potentially make the race very difficult, and that there was nothing I could do about them except stay strong and positive and do the best I can. My “zen” state really helped keep my stress level at an all-time low all week, and I concentrated on enjoying Guanacaste and having a good time while I was in Costa Rica.

The Friday before the race, Jason and I separated from our housemates and went on a day tour to Arenal and the surrounding rain forest. It was nice to explore a different region of Costa Rica and experience such a lush, colorful contrast to the arid, desert-like environment where we had been staying. We saw waterfalls, howler monkeys, a sloth, beautiful flora, tiny poisonous frogs, a Jesus lizard, and even soaked in a hot spring.

Jas and I at a waterfall/local swimming hole

The hot springs in Arenal we stopped at for a relaxing soak

On our way back to Guanacaste, our tour guide Chico took us to a local dive bar and we had dinner, some beers…

Knockin' back a cold one

…and an illegal drink.

A raw turtle egg floating in a spicy Tabasco-type sauce. Bottoms up!

Okay, technically the raw turtle egg shot is illegal if you don’t have the proper paperwork. Bars are allowed to serve the drink, a local custom, if they have paperwork showing they got the eggs from a certain area where it’s legal to collect them. Chico told us the law isn’t very heavily enforced and that if you’re caught illegally collecting turtle eggs, the punishment is a few dollars’ worth of fines or possibly a night in jail. Meanwhile, I felt mildly guilty for watching a beautiful sea turtle lay eggs on the beach, then two days later sucking down one of its spawn in a $1 bar shot, but hey, it was an experience I just couldn’t pass up. Plus, I needed the extra protein for race day.

Speaking of race day…

Race Day!

We had to wake up earlier than usual because Teresa was racing in the professional Olympic distance event that was starting at 6:00 am, while us amateurs who were racing the half Ironman distance were scheduled to start at 6:30. I did my usual routine: rinsed off, suited up, ate breakfast, headed to the race, set up my transition area, searched for a bathroom to expel any last-minute pre-race “jitters,” and loitered around transition waiting to be ushered to the beach. We got immensely lucky, as the wind that had been fiercely blowing throughout the region all week had become somewhat subdued, leading to a calmer-looking swim and a potentially faster bike than we were expecting.

While I was pumping up my tires, I inadvertently bent the rear valve and, as a result, couldn’t close it. I planned on replacing the tube but the bike maintenance guy assured me that it wouldn’t lose air unless I pushed down on it so I left it the way it was. Still, I was a bit worried about the tube and the idea of getting a flat nagged in the back of my mind.

I killed time by looking for the other woman in my age group to try and size up my competition. The day before the race we were waiting around for the athlete meeting to start, and Jason informed me that he checked out how many women were in my age group and found out that it was just me and another female. Upon finding out that I was a shoo-in for 2nd place barring a DNF or disqualification, I had the following reaction:

De-fault! De-fault!

After checking out the small number of women (23 total females out of 145 athletes), I thought to myself, “Hmm, it looks like I can hold my own against this field.” Feeling confident, I scanned a bunch of calves until I saw a “28.” There she is, my age group rival! Bring it on, I’ll smoke this chick!

I looked up. My competition was wearing an Olympic-distance race onesie that had her name and “Argentina” printed on it. “Oh, what the fuck,” I muttered. There’s one other girl in my age group and she’s a South American Brownlee. I pointed Argentina out to Jason, who started laughing really hard and said, “Congrats on taking second in your age group!” Mark tried to make me feel better by countering with, “Well, technically anyone can order a race outfit like that. You don’t have to be fast to have one.” Yeah, but have you ever seen someone wearing a onesie with his name and country on it who just turned out to be some slow douchebag who wanted to look like a pro? Neither have I.

I pushed Argentina out of my mind, telling myself that anything could happen and that I could still have a really good race if I stayed strong and positive. With that mindset, I headed to the beach and waited for my wave (39 and under male and female) to start.

Swim Summary

The swim was a beach start, so when my wave went off I jogged into the water and started swimming. The course was a two-loop diamond-shape, and after finishing the first loop we’d have to exit the water, run around a buoy on the beach, and dive back in for loop #2. I hadn’t done a two-loop swim since Cancun, but at that race we weren’t required to exit the water. Today I was getting a little taste of what the athletes who race Coeur d’Alene go through.

There was a current that pushed against me as I swam to the first buoy but worked in my favor once I turned towards buoy #2. I was keeping a decent, steady pace when out of nowhere I felt a sharp rubber band snap on my right foot and an intense stinging pain. Confused and bewildered, I kept swimming for a few strokes before I realized that I had just gotten stung by a goddamn jellyfish. Earlier in the week the race organizer said that mostly the pros get stung since they’re the first ones in the water. That race organizer is a big fat liar. I kept moving to the third buoy and the sharp pain in my foot eventually subsided to a dull ache, but it wasn’t anything terrible so I pushed it out of my mind and kept swimming.

As I swam to shore, the current simultaneously worked in and against my favor in the sense that it made me a bit faster but was also pushing me away from the swim exit. I ended up emerging onto the beach a few yards away from the crowd than I intended, but it wasn’t a huge deal since a ton of athletes had done the same. I had zero experience doing the whole “swim/run/swim” thing, so I popped my goggles up so I could see what the hell I was doing, ran around the buoy, pulled my goggles back down, and teetered back into the water. My attempted bad-ass dive resulted in an instant left calf cramp and I flailed and garbled obscenities in the water as I tried to shake it out while swimming at the same time. Two-loop swims are not my strongpoint (or swimming, really).

For us slowpokes, loop #2 got considerably choppier and I had to battle some waves as I headed out to the first turn. Once I was able to swim with the current again, however, conditions got a bit better, and eventually I found my ghetto rhythm despite my aching left calf and my stung right foot. When I emerged from the water, I saw a “43” on my watch and nearly shit my borrowed swim skin. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where the timing mat was so I wobbled up to transition not exactly knowing what my swim split was until I was able to check results later.

Swim time: 44:49. Mark had said that the timing mat was quite a ways away from the swim exit, which explained why my final swim split was over a minute longer than when I had checked my watch upon emerging from the ocean. I didn’t care though; I was thrilled to have a sub-45 minute swim split, and it was sans wetsuit in the ocean, no less! Granted, I was still pretty craptacular relative to the field (119/145, 15 out of 23 females), but I’ve gotten used to making up some ground on the bike and went into T1 with my spirits high after such a successful-for-me swim split.


I was lucky enough to score an end-position on the bike rack close to the bike out/in spot, meaning less time spent awkwardly clacking across the pavement in my bike shoes (and I wasn’t about to try the fancy mount/dismount move again after my sad attempt at Rev 3 Portland). My rear tire looked fine so I ran in and out with no issues.

T1 time: 1:58. My somewhat fast transition moved me up three spots overall and one in my gender. Woo hoo!

Bike Summary

I biked somewhat cautiously along the gravel stretch, not wanting to wipe out or attract a flat so early in my race (and because my left leg was still aching from the World’s Worst Ocean Dive). Before long I was at the base of the worst hill that takes you out of the park. When I practiced it earlier in the week it was crappy but not terrible, but on race day I approached it with an already spiked heart rate so this damn thing nearly killed me. I pedaled up it, wheezing but still managing to pass a few people who were probably astounded that I hadn’t keeled over and died. (My max heart rate, I’d later discover after looking at my watch data, hit 187.) My thoughts alternated wildly between “I can’t do it; there’s no shame in walking up the hill” and “You better not stop, you asshole!” Fortunately, my stubbornness and steady pace paid off and I emerged at the top victorious, having passed a number of athletes who looked worse off than I was (and one who did indeed stop and walk his bike up the remainder of the hill).

After the Heart Buster 5000, I made it out of the park and onto the road, where the course split into a Y-shape. I cranked up the effort and stayed a little higher than the target heart rate zone Teresa assigned me, but I felt strong and kept picking off athletes, mentally shaking my fist at them and screaming, “Swimming is overrated, bitches!” The course was mostly flat but the wind was unpredictable, pushing me to holding 35 mph at some points while reducing me to 13 mph at others. I couldn’t help but laugh in one stretch when I braced myself against a crosswind that was blowing at me from the left, only to have the wind abruptly change and begin blowing at me from the right.

Despite some seriously tight turnarounds and a wonky aid station (we were handed bottles with screw-tops instead of squeeze-tops, and the volunteers didn’t bother to loosen the lids before handing the drinks to us, resulting in some awkward juggling-while-cycling maneuvering), I managed to stay pretty steady and never got passed. I spotted Argentina a few times and managed to stay the same distance behind her, giving me a bit of confidence that at least I was holding my own against the She-Beast on the bike.

When I finished my three loops, I headed back to the resort entrance and got sprayed by a guy with a hose as I entered the park. The shock of the cold water against my back made me realize how hot the day was already getting, and I thought ahead to the run and prepared myself for a tough final leg of the race. I reached the last big hill leading back to transition and was surprised to find that it wasn’t nearly as bad as when I had climbed it earlier in the week, which made me feel happy knowing that I still had some juice left in my legs for the run portion. I made sure to slow down after the last big descent so I wouldn’t eat gravel as I hit the stretch of unpaved road and made it back into transition in one piece.

Bike time: 2:57:02. It wasn’t my fastest split to date, but I did move up a ton of spots so I was pretty happy with my time. Onto the run!


I deposited my bike and slipped on a pair of socks, then my new Zoot racing flats. I grabbed a couple of gels, some salt pills, my visor, and my race belt, then ran out of T1 while trying to shove various items into various pockets.

T2 time: 1:44. I managed to pass a woman in transition and one other person in T2. BALLERRRRR.

Run Summary

As soon as I ran out of transition and turned the corner to the hard-packed dirt road along the beach, I was stunned to see so many locals shouting and cheering for all of the athletes who ran by. As I passed a group of guys, one of them shouted “Muy bien, muy bien! Eres la tercera! Eres la tercera!” I was mostly concentrated on how much my quads were aching, but my fluency in Spanish snapped me out of my pain stupor and I thought to myself, “Did that dude just say I was in third place?!” I wasn’t sure I heard correctly so I just kept running, trying to shake the aches out of my legs and wondering how well my run would hold up.

Remember that gorgeous oceanside run along the beach that had me awestruck earlier in the week? Well, I could have been running alongside a flatbed truck piled high with $100 bills, hot fudge sundaes, and beagle puppies and I wouldn’t have even noticed. All I kept thinking was how much it sucked running on sand. After a while, however, my legs loosened up from a combination of constant movement and a salt pill I gulped down, and I managed to fall into a pretty respectable run pace.

But holy shit was it hot out. Not as hot as I remembered Cancun to be, which wasn’t as temperature hot but was much more humid, but it was still in the mid-90s with a searing sun raging down on everyone. Enter the Saving Grace: sponges. Not just any sponge, and not from volunteers, either. Volunteers had these little wimpy sponges that were cool but not sufficient enough to put out the fire that kept erupting on my skin and atop my head every four minutes. No, these sponges were wielded by local spectators, and they were huge and ice-cold. I’d run past a local who would dunk a giant sponge in a cooler full of ice water, run alongside me, slap this thing on my head or neck with enough force to make me flinch, and squeeze a bunch of water onto me that was so frigid it would make me gasp. (And moan slightly. Don’t judge.) These folks were so awesome that whenever a race volunteer would offer me one of their second-rate sponges, I’d scoff and think, “Put that shit away, these wimpy squares can’t compete with the orgasm-inducing race savers Jorge has up the street.”

So that was my strategy–I’d get sponged every five minutes by an overly-eager local and it saved my ass. Volunteers were also handing out long tube-shaped plastic baggies of water instead of cups, which were perfect to run with (they were similar to what was handed out in Cancun but shaped differently). I’d shove one down my shirt and sip on the other one, then dig the backup out when I needed something to drink. This method worked well for me, and I only needed to grab a cup of Gatorade a couple of times throughout the course.

When I started loop #2, I saw Teresa, who had finished her race some time ago and was on the lookout for her TN athletes. She excitedly cheered for me and said, “What loop are you on? 2?”, and because I go full moron when I’m racing, I responded with, “Uh, whuh, I dunno” and took off.

Super sweaty and starting loop #2 of 4

I stayed pretty steady and at one out and back saw Argentina a ways behind me. Her placement confused me because I didn’t remember passing her at any point, and then I realized in horror that the South American She-Beast was a whole lap ahead of me. FML. Jason and I crossed paths shortly after that and had the following exchange:

Jason: “Great job!”

Me, blurting: “Argentinaiskickingmyass!”

She eventually passed me and I said, “Good job” to the female-shaped dust cloud she left behind.

Despite the fact that Argentina was mopping the floor with me, I puttered along, never having to stop and walk or meander through an aid station. The sponges and the tubes of water helped greatly, as did the dude with the hose who was spraying everyone at the entrance to the park. During one of my laps I professed my love for him and said I was planning to marry him later, and he laughed and replied in a slight accent, “I’ll be waiting for you!”

On the third loop I caught a female and passed her. We exchanged smiles and nods, and I excitedly wondered if that meant I was now in 2nd place. I kept cruising along but could feel myself growing tired. The hills were becoming a little harder to climb, the sun was feeling a little hotter, and my feet were aching a little more with each passing step. I zonked out a bit, trying to find my “zen” place, and subsequently almost booted a lizard across the golf course as it lazily made its way across my path. So much for my zen place.

Loop four! Finally! One more runthrough and I’d be done with this nonsense! I tiredly made it to the golf course and was about a mile from the finish when a way-too-fresh-looking woman passed me. I mentally cried, “Nooooooooooooo,” Vader-style, and tried to keep up with her. She maintained her lead on me and I continued to give chase, hoping that when we’d reach the fork beyond transition, she’d turn right to start a new loop instead of heading left towards the finish line. Turn right. Turn right. Turn RIGHT, you stupid, perky, fresh-looking freak!

She turned right. I mentally did this:


I took the final stumbly steps through the loose sand towards the finish. The announcer called out my name and said I was with TN Multisports from Seattle, then gleefully exclaimed, “Guess what, Rebecca! It’s snowing in Seattle right now! How about that?” I smiled and put my hands up.

I'll take scorching temps over mid-March Pacific Northwest snow any day

Run time: 1:57:08. I finally hit my sub-2 hour run split off the bike, and it was a tough run at that. A resounding “woo hoo!”

Total race time: 5:42:42. I managed to post a PR over last year’s flat and fast Rev 3 Portland course, and this race was much more difficult. I couldn’t have been happier with how my race turned out.

Jas and me holding every type of liquid known to man

Jason had an exceptional race too. He swam a 33:34, which is a huge PR. Unfortunately, while I never got the flat tire I half-expected, his rear tire did go flat in transition and he didn’t notice it until he grabbed his bike to start the bike portion of the race. Thankfully, a bunch of spectators alerted him to the problem and he ran around for a few minutes trying to find the bike mechanic before he got his tube swapped out. Despite this several minute delay, Jas managed to bike a 2:52 and run an astonishing 1:35 to finish in 5:05:31, taking 10th overall. He’d have broken 5 hours were it not for the flat tire. Crazysauce.

Know what else is crazysauce? I did take 2nd overall female behind the Argentinian She-Beast (who finished in 5:06:57 and 11th overall because she is absurdly fast…though I was less than four minutes behind her on the bike, so I at least have that to brag about)! Whaaaaaaaaaat!! I podiumed! At a race that included a swim segment! Granted, the field was small but still, 2nd overall female! Crazysauce, indeed!

My first non-duathlon "hey, you placed pretty well" medal!

At the awards ceremony the race officials mistakenly awarded me third place but realized later that one of the females on their finishers printout DNF’d, which messed up the race results. I wrote the organizers and asked if they could send me the 2nd overall female medal and they said they would but ended up accidentally mailing me a “1st in age group” medal instead. I’m still trying to obtain the corrected hardware, but in the meantime I mailed out the third place medal to the woman who finished behind me (I tracked her down on Facebook and she was quite excited to receive the medal). She was the one I passed on the third loop of the run, and she rallied to try and catch me at the end and ended up finishing a scant 20 seconds behind me. Close call!

Grinning like a kid on Christmas

In addition to the incorrect medal, I received a flask run belt, a gift certificate for a free rental car (which was a bit odd since we already had a rental car but I had to redeem my free one before the end of the month) and free surf lessons for me and a friend (which I didn’t use due to a gnarly blister on my foot that wrapped between my two big toes and hobbled me for the rest of my trip–so much for the racing flats; I’m switching back to my running shoes for half Iron distances).

I also came home with the sexiest tan lines ever:

Now everyone can know how old I am without asking

The top swirl is from a TN Multisports tattoo, while the giant rectangle is from my race number tattoo

I''d still take this over the Cancun disaster

And, of course, the dreaded tri-short tan

Overall, the trip was fun, the race was a blast (despite its difficulty, it was run remarkably well and the course was challenging but rewarding), the locals were super awesome and really encouraging, and I had a great 2012 race debut. I couldn’t have asked for a better result, and I certainly didn’t expect to take 2nd place. My next big tri will be Honu in June, so hopefully racing in Costa Rica helped prep me a little bit for similar conditions (though it could be much windier and it will be a lot more humid). If my race season goes as well as Costa Rica did, I’ll be a very happy Mediocre Athlete indeed.

5 Responses to “ “Stings, Sun, and Second Place: My 2012 Rev 3 Costa Rica Race Report”

  1. teresa says:

    You have come so far through the years. Very proud of you. We miss Cookie….and our morning callings of “Maaaak” 😉


  2. Mary Moltman says:

    Mediocre Athlete indeed. I hate to tell you Rebecca, Mediocre’s don’t podium. What will you call your blog now? Congrats on a great race!

  3. tim andrus says:

    or Ashley

    they might be able to help with your 2nd place medal issue.

    congrats! some funny stuff.

    • Rebecca says:

      They did send me the correct medal. I found the lady who finished behind me and mailed her my 3rd place medal, so all is right with the world. 🙂

  4. Melanie K says:

    Mediocre athlete? Geez, then I must be, “why are you even bothering to race athlete”! I wish I were as fast on the bike and especially on the run. Swimming is my strong suite though still not a speed demon at 39 mins for 1.2 miles. I love your blog though! I’d love to do Costa Rica, but your description scares me a bit. I need flat and cool!

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