Thursday, January 3, 2013

Off season highs and lows

Well as off-seasons go, this has not been my most productive. I have been doing a lot of lifting, but my cardio has all but fallen by the wayside. This has largely been due to a persistent, nagging ankle injury sustained the weekend after my last race of the season (dancing barefoot is to blame. Go figure.)

There has been some excellent news, however. I received my first of three emails from USA Triathlon regarding my performance at Nation's Triathlon. I then received two more emails concerning SheROX Philly and Waterman's Half. I have qualified for age group Nationals at the Olympic distance (thrice)!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, I know absolutely nothing about my 2013 season yet, except that I will be racing in Milwaukee in August at Age Group Nationals!!!!!!

I've been too bummed out about my ankle and now a raging cold to do much else towards this season. I did just spend 10 days scuba diving in Honduras (YAY!) so maybe my swim fitness is magically up? Unlikely. Once I can breathe again I'll worry about planning a season. And once I can run again I'll actually believe it's happening.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Waterman's Half Race Report

Greatest Support Team
As usual, I am long overdue for a race report. I think I've been in a bit of denial that the season is actually over. In some ways it is a cause for celebration, and in others it's kind of sad. But Waterman's Half was an excellent way to end the season! The race course and weather conditions were both really tough, but I raced well and had a blast anyway.

One of my best childhood friends, Gillian, came with me to the race site on Friday afternoon. My wife Erin got there later in the evening (just before I had to go to sleep). In addition, my cousin and her boyfriend decided to sign up to be the runners on two relay teams in order to also participate at the race and cheer. They're both training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so it was a great way for them spectate and participate. I was excited to have athletic supporters, as always. After Gilly and I went to packet pickup and scoped out the site, we ran some errands and hit up a Carraba's for my traditional pre-race meal. Side-note: I have never been to a Carraba's before but I plan on going to one before every race I can, now. SO much better than Olive Garden.

Back at the hotel, Gillian watched with great interest as I set up and checked all my gear. I felt like a pro might while being interviewed by Triathlete Magazine, like my opinions and rituals were actually fascinating to someone. She's my new favorite spectator. Erin eventually got to the hotel around 8:30 pm, and took Gilly out for some normal person fun while I went to sleep.

Anne attempts to keep me warm before the race start
When I arrived at the race site on race morning it was 34 degrees outside and the water temp was 60. I stayed bundled up like an eskimo for as long as possible, and went back to the car to sit in the heat for a while after I set up transition. I had expected a slightly larger turn out for the race, but I think they had many no-shows due to the frigid temperatures. My cousin Anne, is a member of Team Z, and they are the partner team for this event. She took me to the team tent, bundled me in blankets and have me hot water to help thaw out my insides. I was incredibly grateful, but was still shaking like a leaf.

I did run to warm up before the start (fully bundled) and I kept my sweatshirt, socks and gloves on until I walked down the dock for my swim wave. (Special thank you to Anne and David for picking up after me when I hurriedly stripped 1 minute before my wave) All of the women in the race were in the second swim wave, which made it pretty easy to figure out where one stood overall throughout the race. The start was supposed to be in-water, but many of the women chose to sit on the edge of the dock until the horn went off. I decided to get in because I wanted to get the brain-freeze feeling over with before attempting to swim.

Mid- lake grass removal
When we started, I was lined up at the front of the pack, and was the first woman to the first turn buoy. It was a 2 loop swim course, and although it was plenty cold in the water, I felt fine once everything went numb. I wasn't in first for much longer, but I didn't get passed by many women either as far as I could tell. At some point I did try to move my thumb across my palm to make sure my wedding ring was still in place, or to get rid of pesky lake grass (which was abundant) and I realized I couldn't move my thumb at all. My hands were frozen into paddles, luckily still effective for swimming.

Unfortunately, although my full results were up on the board after the race, the online results don't list all of my splits. Just my run and overall time. Everyone elses results are fully split. Apparently I am special...My spectators tell me I was the 3rd of 4th woman out of the water. The woman on the results with the fourth fastest swim split, not counting mine, swam a 36:11, so I think that means my time was faster than that.
Awesome sign #1

Numb hands make dressing extremely difficult
Once I was out of the water I immediately realized that I had basically no use of my hands or feet. And the air was around 40 degrees. After a relatively short, uphill, paved run to transition (ouch), I was in transition itself I got my wetsuit off pretty well considering my hands were useless. But then I tried to pull on a long sleeved jersey for the bike. I ended up fumbling with both hands stuck in the sleeves for what felt like several minutes, yelling in frustration until all I could do was laugh and paw at my sleeves. I have no idea how long my transition was, again because my splits aren't up there. (I've emailed them, but so far they haven't fixed it...). It was long enough that Erin was yelling "Move your butt!" at me. I felt even more silly because Gilly had told me earlier how excited she was to witness transitions, an aspect of triathlon she found fascinating. I'm afraid I set a very poor example.
Gilly wins the "best dressed" award, and holds another excellent sign

I wanted to pull on gloves too but there was no way to get my fingers in in their current state, so I scratched it. I immediately regretted not having them. Within minutes my hands were in excruciating pain, and I was barely able to shift. The course was beautiful but very tough and hilly. All of the "flats" were false and there were many long, slow climbs, and even a few steep ones. I couldn't stand on the pedals because my feet were so numb I didn't trust them.

I don't know how my hands came back, but eventually they did. Not before I dropped my chain though, fumbling to shift. I had to get off to fix it, halfway up a hill. I think I saw three women on the bike course and one was on a relay team. One caught me right after I dropped my chain.

Erin's camera skills have improved significantly over the season
I had one boomerang buddy, a guy with whom I traded passes at several points during the ride. There were few to no spectators anywhere on the course and frequently he was the only other person I saw for many miles on end. At some point, not knowing the officials had pulled up behind us on a scooter, I rode next to him for a quick chat, mid-pass. We were just commenting on how we couldn't feel our feet. It wasn't a long conversation, but I wasn't counting seconds either. After I completed the pass, the officials pulled up next to me and I watched them write down my number. Crap. I knew right away what had happened and why. Silly mistake. That's what I get for being talkative I guess.

Bumbling out of T2
As I have stated before, I think I need a different saddle. My long rides, and this one was no exception, get pretty darn uncomfortable. When the ride was finally over, I was excited to be off the bike. I wasn't sure what my split was. I started my bike computer late, and again the bike split isn't listed in my results. I know it was over 3 hours, and I had really wanted to ride under. There were points during the ride that were just darn slow, but the course was tough. Still, I was motivated by my slow bike to put in a solid run. My hands were almost back to normal in T2 but my feet were still blocks of ice. I fumbled around a bit again, but I am sure I was much more efficient than in T1. I was complaining outloud about the lack of feeling in my feet, and Erin yelled at me to "talk less, transition more." Geez. Gilly told that I was in 6th overall coming off the bike and as I left T2 I was excited to try to crack the top five.

Still feelin' good out there
Just like Nations, I got my nutrition right to set myself up for a good run. The aid stations weren't exactly where I expected them, so I had to get a little creative with my calorie intake timing, but it was a two loop run, so after the first loop I knew when and where things would happen for the second. I had thought it was supposed to be a flat run (the course description called it "fast") but it was not. Huge, long hills with an out and back followed by a loop through the park. After the first time around, they gave us wrist bands for the second lap (On the swim they had just said that world record times would be suspect). The hills were tough, but I felt so much better than I have in either of my other two halves. My foot didn't bother me at all, but I was pretty sore everywhere by the end. The out and back gave me a pretty clear view of who was ahead of me. I kept a steady pace and good cadence and noticed the girl in 5th was struggling. It took me until the end of the second out and back, but I finally picked her off.

I swear this was supposed to be a smile...
The pictures of me nearing the finish are hilarious. I thought I was grinning but the look on my face just reads PAIN. I was really happy with my run performance, given the course. I ran 1:59:35. My finish time was 5:58:48, but with the 4 minute penalty my official time was 6:02:48. I'm gonna ignore that in stating my PR, cause I know I didn't get a 4 minute advantage by chatting to that guy. If anything my loud mouth slowed me down.
Finish line relief

On the podium with the second place finisher
Once I was across the line I was excited to chat with my fans, who had made me some wonderful, Halloween-themed signs. I wasn't even planning to check the score board for a while, but Gilly was over there quickly and returned saying that she didn't quite know how to read the results, but she thought maybe I had won my age group. I hobbled over to check, and darn it if she wasn't right! The penalty put me in 6th overall, behind the "girl" I passed at the end of the run (who turned out to be the masters winner, definitively a woman, not a "girl"), but I was out in front of my age group! It was a small race and none of the fast, local girls from my age group showed up to race this one, but I was still pleased to win it. I got my first plaque! Hopefully the start of a collection! :)

My legs were sore almost instantly after the finish and I went to the post-race massage tent after a slice of pizza and plenty of fluids. During the awards ceremony it became clear I was not the only one feeling the race almost instantaneously. Watching people struggle to get up onto the (high) podium blocks was amusing. I used a two step approach by first climbing up onto third... And when it was all over I got to eat apple cider doughnuts, courtesy of my wonderful athletic support team.

Posing with the third place finisher, Lauren, whom I know from my old bike shop
For three days after the race I was extremely sore. The Monday after the race was my birthday and I was at my parents, so my mother had a masseuse come to the house for me as a present. THANK YOU MOTHER. I felt much better after the massage. I know the scientific jury is still out, but I am a believer. I spent last week doing easy swims and rides. I went on one easy run and struggled pretty hard. This past weekend I danced at a wedding and woke up the next morning with a swollen ankle. It's still swollen and difficult to walk, so much of my cardio has been on hold. I have started a lifting program though. I see my off season as a time to do all the athletic things I either didn't have time for or didn't want to do for fear of soreness during the season. That means once my ankle goes back to normal I will be doing yoga, rock climbing, lifting, crossfit etc. Maybe some horseback riding at my parents'. And plenty of trail running!

I was planning on running some races this fall, but now I think my legs might need a break after this unexplained injury popped up. We shall see. I may still get in a 5 or 10k but the half or full marathon plan is on hold for now.

David and Anne both ran the half marathon as relay team members (Dave, Me, Anne and Erin)
Don't worry (I know you are) I will have plenty more to tell you in the off-season. :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Heartbreak: When a season ends, some old flames get left behind...

One of my favorite, high-calorie, post-long ride snacks is a peanut butter, nutella and banana sandwich on whole grain bread. When I've been on my bike for more than 3 hours (or 4..or more...) I allow myself this delicacy. Calorically I probably deserve it, but there is a mental and emotional side to this too: when I've put my bum and undercarriage through hell, my mouth and tastebuds deserve a bit of heaven as a reward.

I'm sharing all of this because Thursday was likely my last 3+ hour ride of the season. Which means that the delicious sandwich I consumed that evening was maybe the second to last (the last being after my race next weekend!) I deserve in 2012. Maybe I'll do something for which I allow myself that kind of reward, but it definitely won't be as regular of a treat as it has been for the past few months.

This realization was almost enough to make me vow to complete some sort of crazy cycling endurance event over the winter.


Right now I am actually in a love/hate relationship with my bike. Once again I've found that the saddle I thought maybe I could learn to love has turned into an instrument of torture. Sitting on it for more than an hour at a time is more uncomfortable than it should be. At the end of a long ride it's damn near excruciating. I hate that thing. So maybe the vow will be to save up enough money for a new fit and saddle. And I'll just have to forgo those sandwiches till next season winds up...

But I am getting so far ahead of myself!

In less than a week I will be out on the half-iron battlefield, trying to capture a new PR and finally nail this distance to the wall. The previous two half distance races I've done have not been stellar performances, the first due to nutritional mistakes and the second due to serious heat and humidity. Having figured out the nutrition, and having scheduled a half in October, I am hoping that I can pull together everything I have learned through this season of triathlon (complete with coaching!) and put out one great performance!

This is also a make or break performance for the half distance race itself. The distance has to treat me better this time, or else I might break up with it. Having two other, not-so-enjoyable experiences under my belt with this distance, I am contemplating leaving it out of my repertoire. I love sprints. The Olympic distance has been courting me for some time and has finally won me over. But the half? The half has yet to prove we're meant for each other.

I am ready to put it all out there and see what I come up with. And if it doesn't go well, I'm ready to cut my losses and specialize in the shorter distances. This year I basically sacrificed podium finishes in the shorter distances in order to set myself up for two halves. I want some hard wear people! And if halves won't do it for me, I'll move back down!

All that being said, I am really excited to race. I love racing and I want to see what I can really do. So keep your fingers crossed.

Great run today, btw. Even if it was rainy. I love the fall.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Double Whammy Part 2: Dewey Beach Triathlon Race Report

So much to write and so little time! I guess it wasn't very fair of me to call the last post "Part 1" of a "Double Whammy" and then wait several weeks to write "Part 2." My mother called me yesterday to give me a hard time about the non-existence of a race report for the Dewey Beach Triathlon. Sorry Mom, this is what I was doing instead:

 But I have decided to take a quick break from my dissertation and give you that long-awaited race report.

As I explained in "Part 1," Dewey Beach Triathlon was not originally on my race calendar. My mother and two of her friends were supposed to race Dewey Beach as a relay team, with my mother as the swimmer, her friend Starr as the cyclist and her college roommate Debbie as the runner. Life had other plans, however, and both my mother and Debbie were unable to participate in the race. My mother was ill and Debbie could not make it down from Massachusetts, which left Starr without a team. Of course when my mother asked me to participate, I jumped in happily. I always love another opportunity to race, even as two thirds of a relay team.

Race weekend I was coming off the high of a great race at Nations. I drove up to my parents' place and then over to Dewey. At packet pickup my mother and I had to spend some time explaining the situation, but eventually we got the registration all sorted out and picked up our nice long sleeve tech t-shirts and packets. The race was held in the state part at Tower Road, which is less than a mile from my family beach house, making for a very convenient race morning. Starr arrived later in the evening on Friday, with son and dog in tow, and we talked about our "race strategy" some (I swim. She takes the timing chip. She bikes. I take the timing chip. I run). Then, as usual, we all hit the hay early to be ready for the pre-dawn transition opening.

Saturday morning it was a little chilly out, but the ocean was as flat as glass when we first arrived at the race site. The transition area was much larger than I had expected, as was the race itself. Over 1000 participants were there, and there were 13 waves of swimmers, including a wave designated for first-time triathletes. My swim wave, for relay swimmers and Clydesdales, was 10th (in navy caps). As the morning drew on and race announcements were made, the race director started to issue reassurances that although the wind was picking up in one direction, the current was actually going the other direction and the course, meant to be down-current, was set up correctly. These reassurances became more and more frequent as the wind gusts picked up speed and racers grew restless.

Starr fights the ridiculous head wind
Now, I am an extremely comfortable ocean swimmer. I've been swimming in the ocean since I was small. Waves don't scare me. Currents don't scare me. The fishies and the sharkies and whatever else don't scare me. I was in fact, a picture of calm. I laughed at the people fretting over the current and the growing waves (needless to say, the ocean was far from glass at this point). I found the race director and volunteered to sing the anthem. Apparently my mother arrived before I started to sing and was out on the beach waiting for me to come over the dunes for the swim. She heard my voice over the loud speaker, said "Shit, that's my daughter!" and ran all the way back to transition to catch the last few lines of the anthem. When I found her she was coughing and laughing, not only at her antics, but also (like me) at all the racers grumbling about the swim. "You've never heard so much whining!" she was saying. We had a good laugh together.

If you can't tell, I am setting something up here about the swim.

Out over the dunes and onto the beach we went, many many wetsuit-clad triathletes in various colored swim caps. The ferocity of the wind was increasing with each swim wave. Looking around me at my fellow navy-capped athletes, I told my mother I was far less concerned about the waves and tide and far more concerned about the Clydesdales I would be swimming with. Some of these guys were very large and very serious-looking. I'm talking guys who just missed the NFL and have decided triathlon is their new calling. Big dudes.

Starr killin' that bike
Turns out I should have been worried about both. As our horn sounded and my wave sprinted into the water, I tried to jockey myself out ahead of these gorilla-men and almost immediately was kicked in the face. I quickly got my goggles back into place and went to work on the waves. And now we were talking serious waves, rolling almost perpendicular to the shore. This means you would swim up one, and then FALL down the other side. If you looked up to site at the wrong time (which was basically all the time) all you would see was a wall of water in front of you. At first I still felt pretty good, like I was moving fast despite the craziness. But I was having a horrible time staying in a straight line, given the aforementioned siting dilemma. And then things got worse. About halfway through the swim, I could basically feel the current change. Suddenly I felt like I was fighting to swim in one place rather than swim backward. It became the most epic 800m I have ever swam. It took me almost as long to finish as a full mile. By the time I got out of the water I was pretty sure I was going to puke, either from the rough seas or swallowing too much salt water or both.
Heading out for the run, trying to keep my seawater down

Most difficult swim of my life.

I ran up the beach and into the parking lot of transition area, found Starr, and handed off my timing chip. My parents had somehow managed to sneak into transition and were there to hear me rant and rave about how crazy that swim had been. I took stock of the other relay teams, however, and saw that almost all of the bikers were still there waiting for their swimmers. I wasn't the last! Actually, it turns out I was probably the 4th, and the 2nd female. As each swimmer staggered in, new tales of horror were told. No one had a good time out there. And as the bikers finally trickled in, we all learned that the wind had been just as influential on the flat, out and back course on highway one. "30 mph on the way out, 12 on the way back!" people kept saying.

I felt really bad for that wave of first time triathletes. They had been the 12th wave.

When Starr came in, she was the third female biker and she was only a minute behind the second. I knew that if I hadn't miscounted, we had a really good shot of making the podium. Once I was out on the run (going into that headwind) my legs felt great. I zoomed by the girl in second and kept up a nice clip for the entire 3.5 mile (3.5?! random...) course. I came in feeling happy and good, although still thinking I might puke up seawater.

Starr and I hung around and got massages while waiting for the awards ceremony. Ours was the very last category announced, and our relay results hadn't been posted on the board, so we had no indication of where we stood other than my counting. I seriously hoped I had counted correctly and hadn't made Starr wait around (for hours) for nothing. But my hopes were not dashed! Starr and I got second place in female relay teams! Go team "Tri-Tri Again!"

Overall, we of course had a complete blast. But that swim. Wow.

 So now, here we are, several weeks later and I am two weeks out from my last big race of the season. I'm in the beginning of my two-week taper, and as you readers know, I hate the taper. It just makes me feel like I'm not accomplishing anything. Luckily I have a lot to accomplish with my dissertation, so I am keeping myself distracted (or relatively distracted...).

I will do my best to make sure I get a race report, and maybe some pre-race stuff, up here in a reasonable time-frame...

Happy, Mom? :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Double Wammy Pt 1: Nation's Triathlon Race Report

Wow. Back-to-back race weekends means that I am pretty darn tired, and also very far behind in my race reports!

This wasn't my original plan, by the way. I was planning on racing Nation's Triathlon on the 9th and then on the 15th going to Dewey Beach to watch my mother and her relay team race. Athletic support. Maybe I would have even volunteered! But then things changed. Due to unforseen circumstances and a generally rough summer for my mother's set, two of the three team members (including my mother herself) had to back out of the race, which left the team in need of a swimmer and a runner. Of course I am always happy for another race, so I headed down there and signed the release forms to be 2/3 of the "Tri Tri Again" relay team.

So now I have two race reports to write, and half the time to do it (don't ask me how that math works, I don't know). This means you lovely readers get a DOUBLE WAMMY (in two parts...)!


Nation's is a huge race. There were about 5000 registered participants before the start. The expo and race are a who's who of the DC Tri club, and the Mid-Atlantic triathlon community. It was fun and exciting to be a part of, and although I had a less than stellar experience with it's sister race, the now-defunct Washington DC Triathlon last summer, this race was relatively well run. There were a few minor things I would have liked done differently, but that was mostly due to the ridiculous number of participants in a crammed, urban setting.

My cousin Anne was supposed to race Nation's with me, but a few days before the race she crashed her bike and ended up with a concussion and a broken nose. She couldn't race, but her boyfriend was still in, and she was going to come watch, as were Erin and some of her hockey friends.

A transition sea
Nations is one of those races that makes you rack your bike the day before the race. It also just so happened that the night before the race there was an epic wind/rain/hail/possible tornado storm while everyone's bikes were on the rack. In the MASSIVE transition area, I covered my bike with a poncho and several trashbags and just hoped that it would end up ok.

It was weird going through my usual pre-race rituals in my own apartment. I am used to setting up my gear in a hotel room, finding a local italian place for dinner and sleeping on an uncomfortable hotel bed. Instead I made my own pasta with meat sauce, crashed as early as possible and essentially told Erin that she had better not wake me up or she risked a horrible fate. I should have been more comfortable with this situation, given that I was at home, but it stifled the excitement to some extent.

Apparently several bikes flew off the racks during the storm, and there was some damage, but when I arrived on race morning my baby was unscathed and still sheathed in plastic. Nation's Triathlon is affiliated with Team in Training (TnT, a charity group that raises money for research on blood diseases and also trains up triathletes and runners), and there were several first-time-triathletes with TnT surrounding me in transition. The girl girl next to me shyly asked a question or two and it was soon clear that she was in need of assistance in setting up her bike rack and transition area. We chatted (her name was Annette) and I helped guide her through effective transition technique. Soon all of her TnT friends were swarming around us, asking a million questions and calling me to their bikes to examine their transition area set up. Of particular difficulty for these ladies, and likely many first-timers, was the concept of directional bike racking. Rack your bike on YOUR side of the rack, so when you come up, you put on your shoes and helmet, and then pull the bike off the rack, towards you. You don't want to have to run around the bike rack to get your bike, or try to pull the bike under the rack, knocking over your neighbors' bikes and possibly the entire rack in the process.

This is the best photo Erin managed to get of me. I'm the one fist pumping.
Anyway! I did manage to get my own transition set up, and to get in a warm-up run. Before they closed transition I found Anne's boyfriend, David, and we headed out. Nation's, again due to the huge number of participants, does a time-trial swim start. The swim is broken up into waves, as is done traditionally, but you don't mass start with the wave. Instead the waves are systematically ushered down to the water (through a tunnel of corrals that makes you feel distinctly like cattle) and six athletes are sent onto a tiny dock at a time. Every eight seconds another 6 athletes jumps into the water. Your timing chip is punched in to start by a race official when you jump. I was in the 31st (I think? I can't remember now) wave. The first 6 athletes entered the water 1.5 hours before I did. The air temp was 62 degrees, but the water was 82, so we were not standing around in our wetsuits. Instead we were all wearing our skimpy little trisuits, tri tops and tri shorts. Barefoot on the pavement. Pre-sunrise. I realize that it shouldn't have seemed that cold at 62, but everyone around me was shivering and had goosebumps and I was no exception.

Somehow during all of this, friends picked out my profile in the sea of pink and turquoise caps, and I heard familiar voices calling my name. Christa (hockey player on Erin's team) and Jake (fiance of said hockey player and my score-keeping buddy) had come to see me off! I was so excited to have fans at the race! Later, Erin showed up with two other hockey players, Morgan and Andi. A cheering section!

The finishing sprint face we all know and love
Eventually my wave ended up in the corrals, and heading down the chute to our swim destiny. This next part may come as a surprise, but I like swimming in the Potomac. It makes Erin crazy, she seems to think I will emerge with a third arm or an eye in the back of my head, but the water is relatively clear (although murkier than last summer because of the recent storm) and it's not salty or full of strange algae (as are the ocean and most lakes, respectively). We swam up under a bridge, turned around and swam back under another arch of the bridge. The course was in the shape of the Washington Monument (pointed out to us several times by the announcers), with the in and out about a quarter of the way up one long side. So we swam upstream, turned around three buoys at the point of "monument", came back down a long side down stream, turned around two buoys at the base of the "monument" and swam back up stream for a bit before exiting. Strange course, but well marked with the actual distance traveled painted on each buoy. I put together a decent swim of 30:29. I wanted to go under 30, but really it was pretty on the money.

Run out of the water, up a bank, across a road, over some more grass...OK NOW I'm in T1. Another race without a wetsuit and without socks on the bike = another fast T1. 46 seconds. Boom! And that includes running a LONG way in my bike shoes to get out of the grand, muddy transition area. And by muddy, I mean swampy.

Thank you athletic supporters!
Off on the bike I go (I'm noticing a pattern in how these races work...teehee). I expected a flat course, but was actually surprised with the number of small climbs and false flats. They were generally, and interestingly, highway on ramps. The use of big roads meant that although it was still a crowded course (it would have been impossible to hand out any drafting penalties) it wasn't anywhere near as bad as the Washington DC Tri had been last year. I did have to stop twice on course though, once for a serious crash ahead of me, and again to let the ambulance turn onto the course to attend to those crash victims. I had two "boomerang buddies", as I like to call them, on the course. In case the name isn't self-explanatory, a "boomerang buddy" is the guy or gal on the bike who passes you, and then whom you pass a few minutes later. You then proceed to take turns passing one another for the rest of the bike leg, and if you're me, you usually end up chatting with that person and giving each other a friendly verbal jab with every pass. My boomerang is inevitably either 1. a guy who is a decent cyclist but a slow swimmer, or 2. a gal who is a strong cyclist, battled her way up to me from a later swim wave, is really giving me a run for my money on the bike, usually leaves me in the dust after a few boomerangs, and then usually comes back to me on the run because she's really a cycling specialist. Anyway, at this race I had one of each. We all were chatting and exchanging friendly trash talk. Eventually the other girl and I left the guy behind, and at the end of the bike she left me behind too. I was happy with my split, although I always wish I went faster. 1:16:50 for an average of just over 19 mph.

T2 was not as fast as T1, with those pesky socks to pull on. Next year I will learn to go without them.

My cousin Anne, complete with black eye and broken nose!
Onto the run, and quickly past my female boomerang, with a few encouraging words. I think her name was Bridgette, but now I am having trouble remembering...Also of note on the run course was the segway crash I witnessed as a tour group attempted to speed across the crosswalk between runners. Hilarious.

Ok, so I settled into a nice pace on the run. You may or may not remember my revelation concerning my nutrition and my general mood/performance during the run, but I suddenly realized (duh) how directly correlated these two things were after my last half. Specifically, I realized that keeping a steady flow of Gu or other carbs/sugar into my system, starting just before the run and at short intervals thereafter kept my mood high and my performance on track. So about 4.5 miles from the end of the bike I had a pack of Stinger Chews (in addition, of course, to my usual Infinit Drink mix). I had Gus at miles 1 and 4, both BEFORE my mood and performance began to crash. Voila! A chipper runner Jo! Amazing! From start to finish, I felt fine! I mean, I was still running hard and tired, but the peaks and valleys of my previous performances were gone. I ran 51:50 and was happy the entire time.

Putting it all together, I had an olympic distance PR with 2:41:22. I placed 17th in my age group of 239 athletes. When I figured that out, I was pretty darn pumped. I was 83rd out of 1126 women and 595th out of 3138 finishers. Not a podium, but hey, this was a huge race and a PR to boot. So I am happy.

PLUS I did end up on the podium the very next weekend... But that story will have to wait for Part 2...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

SheROX Philly Race Report: Becky takes on the UNIVERSE

Well, another race down and another race report to write! SheROX Philadelphia was an awesome race, and I had a great day, but I think the real story was about the perserverance of my friend Becky through the events leading up to the race. She went through a few obstacles to get through the starting line that would have had me completely losing my mind! So, I'll be interspersing the story of her race with the story of mine. 

This is my friend Becky:

A few years ago I convinced her to sign up for a race with me in Delaware. She's been doing several running races since then, and is known for getting ambitious when signing up and then slightly less ambitious with the consistancy of her training... :) Anyway, I signed up for the SheROX Philly race because Becky said she was going to race it and wanted me to do it with her. I waited to sign up and made her promise that she would actually race. 

I didn't realize how hard she would have to work to keep that promise.

The timing of the race fit perfectly into the rest of my schedule for the season, setting me up for Nation's olympic distance in September and Waterman's half in October. I was really excited to sprint again. With each race I complete it becomes more and more clear to me that I am likely strongest at these shorter, faster races. This season has been aimed at half iron distance races, so I haven't done much speed work, but I think after this year that will change. Even without the speedwork, I was excited to see if I could effectively dose out my effort over this short race. Philly SheROX is a little longer than most sprint races, though. The swim was 600m, the bike was 15.5 miles and the run was the only standard, at 5k. A 15.5 mile bike meant that my time would likely be nowhere near the sprint I did earlier in the season with an 11.5 mile bike. 

I went up to the Philly area and spent some time with my family before heading into the city itself to stay with Becky on Saturday night. A few weeks before the race, however, Becky, who is a nurse, had found out that she was scheduled to work during the race. As of two days before the race, she still hadn't found anyone to cover for her and was sure she wasn't going to get to race. At 3pm Friday, she found someone to switch shifts with her, and she ended up working a 12 hr shift Saturday so that she could join me at the race Sunday morning. 

Packet pick-up was during her shift on Saturday, so when I went to get my goodie bag and numbers, I found out that she had to be at the race site at 4:30 am to get her packet in the morning. The expo was great, and when I went out to take a ride and spin my legs out, I was fortunate enough to meet another cyclist who showed me a route on closed off streets. At Becky's I took a little run, made pasta for dinner, and watched the olympics while waiting for Becky to come home...

Then she called me to tell me that her bike, which she had ridden to work, had been stolen.

 Luckily she had another bike locked up downstairs at her apartment building. By the time she got home after 8 she was laughing and saying the universe really didn't want her to race. Little did she know, her ordeal wasn't over.

We were up super early on Sunday, and I had my usual oatmeal and coffee. Becky planned to ride her other bike to the race site to get her packet. As I got ready for my pre-race shower and to pack up my gear, Becky called me again. She had snapped the key in her bike lock. Now she had no bike. 

No matter, she was tenacious. She called a friend and asked to borrow a bike. Maybe most amazing is that her friend was awake at 5am. She and I ended up at the race site around the same time, where she managed to get her packet, and then went back across the city to pick up her borrowed bike. We got there around 5:45. Transition closed at 6:45. Our swim wave was at 7:24. She had her work cut out for her.

I set up my transition and sized up the competition. The a few of the girls in my age group looked seriously competitive. I knew I had a tough race ahead of me, and I told myself that I had to push myself and run my race. I couldn't worry about that girl over there who looked like she should be an elite. I got in my run warm up and volunteered to sing the anthem, but they already had a singer. They also told me we couldn't get into the water before the race, which I found a bit disappointing. All the while I was listening to the announcer count down the time left before we had to leave transition. I had some of Becky's stuff in transition with me, so I set it up for her. At 15 minutes till the closing of transition, I started to think she really wasn't going to make it. 

Then with 5 minutes left, I saw her bob into transition with her friend's bike!

We set up her gear as quickly as we could, and hustled out to the swim start. The water temperature was 82, definitely not wetsuit legal. We were the 8th wave of swimmers, and when we waded in I was surprised by how large our age group was. 106 athletes in the Women's 25-29. Wow. We lunged from our in-water start at the horn and I settled in well. I felt great and swam well, but was soon climbing over ladies from the wave before ours. My swim was pretty quick, 12:28 for 600 meters. I came out of the water feeling good.

Enter the fastest T1 of my life. First we didn’t have to strip off wetsuits, so that of course made things speedier. I’ve also been working on riding in my new tri bike shoes without socks, so I was able to slip those on much more quickly than I normally would when wrestling with wet feet and sandy socks. I got in and out in 1:04. Zoom!

Onto the bike and right into a massive traffic jam. The mount line was in a narrow chute, and the lovely ladies from the wave ahead of mine had all stopped, maybe 6 of them or so, right in the chute. I wanted to run by them, but they were clogging it up and acting confused and water-addled. Bah! When I finally got out onto the course I basically spent the entire ride passing people from the earlier wave. I knew that when I came out of the swim there were maybe 8 girls from my wave (of 106!) ahead of me, but for the most part I didn’t see them. I passed I think two and one caught me, but otherwise everyone I saw was in an older age group. The course was pretty nice, with one significant hill and several false flats. It was a two-loop course, so all of that happened twice. Wasn’t my fastest time, and the course was a bit crowded. I had 51:16 for 15.5 miles. (Long bike course for a sprint made for a long overall sprint time…)

Out on the bike course I passed Becky at one of the turnarounds. I was happy to see that the universe hadn’t taken her out yet. She was still racing!

My T2 was not as fast as T1, but it was still respectable. I had to pull socks on for the run, so it was 1:24. I felt great going out on the run and kept up a good pace and cadence. Looking back I always feel like I could have pushed it more than I did, but at the time I felt like it was a really good effort. I ran the 5k in 25:12 and was happy the whole time, chatting up my neighbors. They had ice-cold wet towels out on the course, which were a welcome treat at the turnaround.

I finished in 1:31:26. As always with a sprint, it's hard to compare that time with any other because the distances are so variable. Looking at my splits, I could have gone a bit faster on the bike, but overall I'm pretty happy with my efforts. I was 31st out of 636 women, which I'm proud of. The fastest non-elite time was 1:17 and the girl who won my age group and got 3rd overall was went in 1:23. My age group was super competitive though (again, as usual), and I ended up in 7th. I still want to end up on the podium, but I definitely feel like I did well.

After the race I didn’t feel too spent (another indicator that maybe I should have raced harder?). I waited for Becky, who I had seen going out on the run when I was near the end. I screamed her in to the finish line. Becky:1, Universe: 0! We were all done before 9:30 am, but for Becky it felt like she had already had quite a day. We celebrated our races with Mediterranean take out and watched the Olympics. J

I am super excited for my next race. Bring on September! Unfortunately, I might not end up with any pictures of this race since we had no spectators with cameras and the official pictures are harder to steal from this race…But if I get some, they’ll get posted!

Currently I am at a self-imposed training camp in Minnesota. Expect a blog post about my adventures soon!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Training through Wedding Season

Me, my cousin Sarah (bride), and Erin
in the photobooth and Sarah's LA wedding

I post novels, don't I? I mean seriously, reading my blog is an undertaking! I don't post that often, but when I do you better have a good chunk of time set aside to wade through it!

Anyway, I promise to be a bit more brief this time around. And while I am at it, I may try to be a bit more frequent. It's just that I am so busy with training and racing and writing my dissertation...oh yeah and with weddings.

Bachelorette party in Atlantic City
It is full on wedding season, and I am at the right age for everyone I know to either be getting hitched or popping out babies. I'm not complaining, I got hitched two summers ago, but this year in particular seems to be the go-to wedding year. I've been to two already this year, and there are at least two more on the way. Two weekends ago I was in LA for my cousin's (gorgeous!) wedding. This weekend I will be wrapped in fuchsia as a bridesmaid for one of my dearest high school friends.

I intentionally planned these weddings into my racing season. I knew that I would be out in LA without my bike or a pool for several days, and I also knew that the bachelorette weekend and wedding weekend for this coming celebration would take up several days of my time with limited moments for training (and limited motivation to wake up at the crack of dawn). I'm not really a drinker anymore. I rarely even have glass of wine these days. But I don't want to be a party pooper, so I try to stay up with everyone and drive people home safely.

Site of a very tough run in LA
I have been less successful at avoiding the food and cake these events usually entail... Might be needing this article soon:
Triathlon Training: Avoiding Mid-Season Weight Gain

Knowing all this would happen starting the weekend after Eagleman (bachelorette party in AC), my next race isn't scheduled until August 5th. This doesn't mean I haven't been up to some great training though! In LA I did many miles of running, including a slightly ill-planned trail run at the foothills of the mountains (desert. mid-day. altitude. Was definitely over ambitious). I ran on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ with fellow bridesmaids. I've been out in extreme weather, both seriously hot and ridiculously rainy (see photo below). This weekend I'll be taking my bike and squeezing in miles before squeezing into a dress...

Flash downpour, mid-run yesterday! SOGGY! I have a similar picture from a few days earlier, but I'm that soaked in sweat, not rain. HOT!
Anyway, the bulk of the wedding stuff will be over this weekend (until the fall weddings start...) so I'm excited to have a great time and then get back to racing!!