Onion Man Triathlon Recap

This is going to be a race recap & vacation recap as well. I’ve been taking my time with this race report for a couple of reasons. 1. I’m waiting to hear from the race directors about some questions regarding the race and 2. I’m kind of sad that I didn’t finish the swim.

I had the long drive up to Walla Walla from Salt Lake City on Friday. I was kind of afraid to know what my hotel/motel was going to be like. I paid so little for the hotel I was afraid it was going to be a hole like you’d see in one of the scummy parts of Salt Lake City. Surprisingly, my motel was REALLY nice. The bed was comfortable, the pillows were nice and fluffy, everything. The only thing is, it was quiet at nice, but LOUD during the day. But, I could handle that because I was awake and either watching TV or going places during the day. I did find the air conditioning and shower hard to understand. Yes, I know, but it was weird.

Since I hadn’t run since my marathon on May 19, I decided that Saturday morning I was going to get up and do a shake out run and go run 2 miles. I wanted to see if I could tell a difference in the elevation change and I just needed to get out. So, I got up at about 8:30 and headed out for 2 miles. I’d already driven Main Street, so I went the opposite way. One mile out ended me at Bicycle Barn where packet pickup would be later that day. I decided to stop in at Bicycle Barn for a minute just to look around and see what was up. The folks there were SUPER nice. They had a nice selection of everything and their pricing was average. I then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the day.

While I was out, I noticed I got a call from Jeannie Gilbert, my friend from Twitter. I went up to do this race with her. I called her back and we decided we’d meet at packet pickup around 4:00 p.m. I was SO excited to finally meet someone off Twitter and someone who has the same things in common as I do.

My motel was right on Main Street, so I took my time walking up and down Main Street until it was time to go meet up with Jeannie & pick up my packet. We were going to explore the lake as well.

They sure have such a cute Main Street up in Walla Walla. It reminds me of a small town Main Street. It had all these cute little shops and ALOT of wine tasting places. I wish I would’ve had time to go wine tasting. One of the shops I saw that caught my eye was “Hot Poop”. Yes, there is a store called Hot Poop. What does it sell? Music. It sells CD’s, records, etc.

It was finally time to meet up with Jeannie at packet pickup. She’s just as nice in person as she is online and her family is SUPER cute!!! We had a ton of fun at packet pickup. I love that I got a sweatshirt instead of a t-shirt at packet pickup. It will come in handy this cold winter and at work when it gets frigid cold at my desk. Packet pickup wasn’t crowded at all. Then we quickly headed to find Lake Bennington. It gave me an idea of what the bike course was like. Well, a little bit. Lake Bennington wasn’t nearly as big as I thought it would be. The road up to Lake Bennington was kind of gravely and there were speed bumps, so Jeannie and I knew that would make for an eventful ride. Why the hell were there speed bumps? There were some pretty sharp turns on the road, so it’s not like you’d be flying up or down that road in your car.


My family eats early, so after I dropped Jeannie off at her hotel, I decided it was time to carb up for the race the next morning. I decided to just go to Applebees. Because I was just by myself, they let me sit at the bar. *Enter cute bartender, Bobby* He got me to order some mozzarella sticks and I ordered a bowl of pasta. I couldn’t help but order a jello shot either that was only $1! I really wanted a beer, but seeing that I was racing the next morning, I figured that wouldn’t be the smartest move. I did my best to flirt with Bobby and we had some great conversation. I easily could have eaten all of my mozzarella sticks, but I left 1/2 of them for Bobby. 😉 I was stuffed from the pasta and knew I needed to get a decent nights sleep, so off I went back to my motel to get ready for bed.

I set everything out for the next morning and got ready for bed. By now, the race jitters had started to set in. I tweeted “I wonder if @Chrissiesmiles ever gets the race jitters?” and then off to bed I went. If you’re not sure who @Chrissiesmiles is, wait for a post coming shortly. 🙂 Surprisingly, I slept really well that night. I think I only woke up once and I got about 5 or 6 hours of sleep.

I had an early wake up call because I had to get my bike on my car, eat and then go pick up Jeannie. Transition opened at 7:00 a.m., and we wanted to be there by then so we could get a good transition spot. I got to Jeannie’s hotel and we had a few issues getting her bike on my car, but since we weren’t traveling too far to the race, we got there ok.

By about 7:15 a.m., we were all set up in transition. Nerves were REALLY kicking in by now. It was REALLY windy (not quite as windy as St. George, but for me, it was a decent wind). It was enough wind to make me even more nervous. The transition area was on a slant, which I found kind of odd, but it was the best place for transition. Transition was really gravely, so I knew running through transition with bare feet was going to be painful. Here I am all set up in transition:

I had an awesome spot for transition. It was right by the bike out & the run out and it was on the end of the rack. My favorite place for a transition spot is on the end. You seem to have more room for all your gear, if you’re transition spot is on the end.

Finally it came time for the race to start. We had our pre-race meeting and then we all headed down to the water. I was just a HUGE bundle of nerves by now. I’d wrestled my way in to my wetsuit and was ready to get in the water. The men went out at 9:00 a.m. and the women went out at 9:05 a.m. There were ALOT more women in this olympic race than in my first Olympic race at Jordanelle. That made me a little nervous. Just add to the fact that I’m already afraid of big bodies of water and open water swimming. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. I got my swim cap on, got my goggles on, made sure my goggles had a nice seal to them. I was standing in the water with all the other ladies getting ready to start. I tried to keep myself calm by saying that there were canoes and kayaks in the water for if I felt like I couldn’t do it or if I panicked. I told myself that I just needed to start out slow and after I rounded the first bouey then I could open up and go full force, but I just needed to start out slow.

Well, the gun went off for the women to start and I took maybe 4 strokes and panic set in. Panic set in so much I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had to stop. I turned around and had to head back in to shore. My heart was in the back of my throat and I felt like I was gasping for air. Once I got to where I could stand in the water, I turned around and looked back out at the water and the only thing I could see was pure panic. The only thing I thought to myself was “I’ve got my first DNS (Did Not Start). Look at all the people I’m disappointing. Coach is going to be SO disappointed.” I walked back in to shore. As I got to the boat ramp, a couple of volunteers approached me and I just started crying. They asked me what’s wrong and I told them that panic had just set in. I told them I drove all the way from Utah to do this race and I couldn’t even finish the swim. I just stood there and watched all the swimmers out there. One really nice guy came over and put his arm around me and told me that his wife passed away a year ago and she would want him to come over and tell me that he and his wife were impressed with me and that nobody is disappointed in me. Pretty soon I started watching the swimmers come in one by one. I looked over and saw that another girl swimmer was brought in my one of the kayaks. I hate to say this, but it didn’t make me feel quite as bad. I walked over to her and told her that at least she’s not the only one who couldn’t finish the swim. 🙂

They did tell me when I came out of the water that I had the option to continue on to the bike and run if I wanted. I obviously wouldn’t qualify for any of the age group/athena awards if I were to place, but I could at least do the bike and run if I wanted. I automatically said yes. I figured if I came all this way, by hell I was going to do the bike and the run.

When I saw Jeannie come out of the water, I decided to walk up the steep boat ramp and get ready for the bike as well. Everybody that came out of the water, was running or speed walking up the boat ramp in to transition. Not I. I had a really poor attitude at this point. I figured what’s the point of hurrying. Especially in transition. Usually I’m pretty fast in transition, but not in T1 I wasn’t. It was quite funny, one of the volunteers in T1 was a big African/American guy. He had such an awesome attitude. He was one who gave me a hug as well when I got out of the water. But he’d be yelling “There’s no running in transition, c’mon, you can do it!!!”. I loved it.

I quickly headed out on the bike…with a poor attitude. The first 1 1/2 miles of the bike was pretty fast. Partially because it was downhill. I did have to go slow over the speed bumps though because I didn’t want to lose my aero bottle. There were times where I looked at my watch though and I was going 20+ mph. I lost my aero bottle right around mile 2. I took a turn in to the campus of Walla Walla Community College and my water bottle flew off my bike. I wasn’t too thrilled. I still had 23 miles to go and I only had a 20 oz water bottle with me now. Crap! We rode through the campus and then out on to Issacs Road which turned in to kind of a back country road. We road on that road for quite a while. I was quickly named “Miss Utah” at the race. People found out I was from Utah by talking to me in transition before the race and because I had Salt Lake Running Co on the front of the wetsuit I was using. I had a couple of people pass me on the bike and say “C’mon Miss Utah, we’re doing this!”. I had a really poor attitude for the first half of the bike. I just felt like why am I doing this? I’m not going to be able to say I completed this triathlon because I didn’t finish the swim. I was just really mad with myself. It was a tough bike ride going out. I had some speeds as low as 10-12 mph. The winds were tough. I saw athletes with disc wheels and wondered how they were doing it with the wind. At the turn around point with the bike though, something inside of me changed. I’m not sure what it was. I had a positive attitude the rest of the race. At the turn around point, I reached in to my back pocket and at the gel I brought with me and that helped alot. When I turned around on the bike, I must have been riding with the wind because there were times I looked at my watch and I was going 30+ mph. Wow!!! I was passing people and a few were passing me. When I passed people I made sure to cheer them on and pay back for all the cheers I got on the bike heading out. Coming back on the bike seemed to go alot faster than heading out. I seemed to be done with the bike in no time at all. I finished the bike in I think about 1:30:00 or so.

This time I was faster in transition than the first time. The big African/American guy was there and hollering at people again. It was awesome. I put some socks on, not sure why for this short of a run and I grabbed a gel and my water bottle and headed out. The first mile was on grass and a dirt trail. I’m not too good with running on grass, so it was a little slow, but I was feeling pretty good. If I was lucky enough to pass people on the run I made sure to cheer them on. We ran through a park that was really pretty. I only had to stop at 2 water stations the whole run. Because I pushed myself SO hard on the bike (because I didn’t finish the swim), the run was harder than it should’ve been. There were times that I had to stop and walk. As I look back on it now, I probably could’ve run the whole thing, but I was just getting tired. The turn around point on the run seemed to take FOREVER to get to. It always does when I’m on a trail/route that I’m not familiar with and I don’t know landmarks to show how far I’ve come, you know? But, I finally came to the turn around point and welcomed it with open arms! I only had 3.1 miles left to go. I could do this. I ate my gel at the 1/2 mark and was feeling REALLY good. I was tired, but it was to be expected after cycling 25 miles pretty hard. But, I wasn’t as tired as I would’ve been if I finished the swim. I chatted with a couple of people on the way back. Before I knew it, I was running in the finishing chute. I did find it kind of cruel that as you were running to the finish, you passed the people that had already finished and were partaking of the food at the BBQ. Man that smelled good. 😉 But I’ll tell ya this, that sure gives you motivation to run faster. Jeannie had finished and met up with her family and they were cheering me on in the finishing chute. They didn’t know I hadn’t finished the swim yet. I finished the run in about 1:15:00 I think.

I crossed the finish line and they cut my timing chip off. I met up with Jeannie and told her the sad news that I didn’t finish the swim. I was SO disappointed. But we got this photo together showing that we had finished:

Jeannie finished really strong. She finished in 2:44:XX and some change. 🙂 She’s a rock star! She did the run with an 8:XX min mile. I think even if I did the swim, I couldn’t run that fast.

We said goodbye to her family and then we went and served ourselves some of the BBQ. It was delicious! I love that the race had a BBQ after. Utah races, take note! It was nice to have something to eat right then instead of having to wait to get back home or to the hotel, unpack everything and then go eat. They had delicious chicken, potato salad, green salad and cookies and pop or water for us. Delicious. We ate, packed up and headed back to drop Jeannie off at her hotel and me at my motel. Jeannie and I decided that we’d meet up later for dinner.

I got back to my motel and unpacked and then made the dreaded call to my coach to tell him how I did. I was afraid to make this phone call. I SO didn’t want to disappoint him. I mean, he won his age group at the St. George Ironman. He qualifies for KONA every year. I called him and we had a good conversation. Thankfully he wasn’t disappointed. He wanted to know how my nutrition went. When I did the Jordanelle triathlon I didn’t nutrition myself on the bike, so I really bonked on the run. I told him that my nutrition went really well. ALOT better than Jordanelle. So, we just need to work on the open water swim. Something he said really stuck with me. He said we’ve got one thing straightened out (nutrition), now we just need to work on something else (the swim). That’s part of the game. If you have nothing to improve on, it kind of takes the fun out of it. That set me at ease a little bit.

I was finally able to get ahold of my parents and talk to them and thankfully they weren’t disappointed either. Everybody tells me “You’re doing more than alot of other people could do. Don’t be disappointed in yourself.” It’s hard to NOT be disappointed in yourself when you’ve done it before and you KNOW you CAN do it.

After I got off the phone with my mom and dad, I decided to set a plan in to place to get over this fear of open water (see another post coming). I finally showered and got things taken care of. I had some time to spare before I met up with Jeannie and her family for dinner, so I decided to walk around Main Street again. Something Walla Walla and Utah have in common is ALOT of things are closed on Sunday. Very few shops were open. BUT, I stopped in to one candy shop and got some delicious ice cream.

Finally headed to dinner with Jeannie and her family and we had some great conversation there. We went to Applebees again. It was alot of fun. I can’t tell you how cute her family is. They are just a SUPER nice family. After dinner, Jeannie and I said our goodbyes and safe travels to each other and parted ways.

I wasn’t ready for bed yet, so I headed to the Red Monkey Downtown Lounge. I could use a good beer. Especially after the day I’d had. I LOVED this place. It reminded me of home. It’s a very eclectic place. On one wall, they had hockey sticks decorating the wall, on another wall they had blown glass plates. Yet it all flowed so well.

I asked the bartender to recommend a beer and I had a strawberry creme beer. At first I was a little skeptical, but it was really good. It didn’t have too strong of a taste, but oh so good. Becky, the bartender, was super nice. She recommended some really good drinks. My other drink was just a plain old Bud Light. Man, I tell ya, Bud Light outside of Utah is SO much better. Why? Because it’s 6% instead of 3.2%. One guy came in and he was super nice. He ended up coming up and sitting next to me at the bar and we had some really great conversation. I wish I could remember his name. He told me to look him up on Facebook, but yeah, I don’t remember his name. I’m not good with names. There weren’t too many people at the Red Monkey that night. It was nice. They were playing a station off of Pandora over the speakers. It was music you’d hear at Keys on Main. It reminded me of sitting at Keys on Main on a Wednesday night with a few people before the show starts.

I wish I would’ve discovered the Red Monkey before Sunday night. They have an AWESOME menu. They have a ton of burgers. Their cheesy waffle fries sound like a little slice of heaven. They have a dessert called the “Smore-gasim”. Their website says it is “a pasty wrapped marshmallow and chocolate bar with graham crackers and ice cream”. How good does that sound? OMG!!! It looks HUGE too. If I wasn’t so stuffed from dinner, I so would’ve bought one. I would go back up there just to eat that.

I went back to my motel and got ready to make the drive home the next day. I won’t bore you with those details. All I’ll say is it was boooooooooooring. I got a good nights sleep the night before. I left Walla Walla by 9:00 a.m. and finally got home around 7:00 p.m. Looooooong day.

Overall, I had a good time. I WILL go back up and do the Onion Man again. I have to prove to myself I can do it. I loved the town. I loved my motel. It was a really nice place. Especially for how much I paid. It was SO awesome to meet and race with a friend too.

Next race on the docket: Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay.

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2 thoughts on “Onion Man Triathlon Recap”

  1. Wow. Just… wow. That made ME tired and I was just reading it lol. I understand how you’re disappointed in yourself. I would be, too, in your place. Your coach looking at it as a ‘challenge’ instead of failure was awesome, though. I think sometimes we get so caught up in what we didn’t/can’t do that we forget all that we have worked hard to accomplish. Don’t forget how far you’ve come. You’ve worked your ass off, and should be proud. 🙂

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