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? :)