05 June 2013

20th Half Ironman in the Books! Rev3 Quassy Race Report

It wasn't my best day on the race course, but it wasn't my worst (see: Vegas and my many attempts at Kinetic). Rev3 Quassy WAS my 20th half ironman and I think that was pretty cool, especially coming exactly 5 years after my first ever half ironman. So there's that.

I initially signed up for this race because I got shut out of Eagleman (and of course this year Eagleman's weather will probably be cooler than Quassy's. Le sigh). It was going to be my third year doing the race and I hoped to break my very consistent 5:28 finishing time streak. As race day got closer, I got more excited - my parents were coming to watch, I was going to spend the weekend with Mindy and Bart and Bart's family (thanks to Bart's parents for opening their home to me and feeding me a yummy pasta dinner!), my friend Stacey was also doing the race, and my teammate Leslie and her fiance Nate were also there - it was going to be so, so nice to see familiar faces out on the course. Plus it's comforting to know a course well enough because you've done the race so often that you don't need to preview it. The East Coast was experiencing its first heat wave of the season last week and I'd hoped that the weather would be cooler in Connecticut, but alas it was not. I'd had about zero days to acclimate to the hot and humid weather so I figured it would be best to race the other girls in my age group and NOT the clock since we all know how well I do in hot races, but a course PR was still in the back of my mind. I'd had a weekend of relatively easy workouts immediately prior and my legs felt fresh. But unfortunately, sometimes you just feel flat on race day and you simply have to make lemonade out of the lemons you are handed.

Pre-race: the first year I did Quassy, I was so paranoid of getting to the park too late to find parking and then getting stuck at the shuttle lot, I arrived 15 minutes before transition opened and was the first one there. Talk about rockstar parking. The second year, I arrived a little later and still found parking in the main lot. This year I rolled in kind of late and managed to find something in the lot across the street. At this rate, next time I will definitely find myself in the shuttle lot. I forced down one bagel and gagged down one bite of my second bagel before tossing it out - if only I could have my Bagel Friday appetite on race mornings, I would be set. I set up transition, made sure my tires were pumped and my wheels were on straight (I have definitely done a race with flat-ish tires and crooked wheels). I set up my new aerobottle, crammed my nutrition in my bento box and checked over my transition area about 20 times before I deemed it all set. I eventually made my way down to the swim area, splashed around with Mindy for a little bit, choked down a gel, and watched the 30 minutes of swim waves go off before me. I saw Stacey as I got into my corral and I told her I knew I would see her in T2, as she was starting in the wave behind me and she's a rockstar swimmer. She laughed, but I totally saw her pink cap zoom by me a little before the swim exit, ha!

The Swim: 33:48 (9/50 in AG)
Both times that I've done this race before, I've finished in 35 minutes. It's a triangular swim in crisp, cool water - basically my favorite leg of the race. My plan was to find fast feet, work hard, and come out in under 35 minutes. I found clear water quickly, though things got a little crowded around the buoys, and during the first section, I stayed right on course. When we made the first right turn, we were heading directly in the sun and I couldn't see any of the yellow buoys. Brilliant. Everyone else was in the same boat and I decided I'd just follow the splashes rather than waste time trying to shade my eyes and see the buoys. It was during this section that i figured I'd lost the most time and maybe I'd be stuck with a 35 again. I picked up the pace after the second turn when I was no longer in the sun. I focused on my form and rotating my hips and torso and pulling hard. About 400m before the exit, I found myself neck and neck with another girl in my wave and we were going a similar pace and each time she surged, so did I and vice-versa, good motivation to push it hard to the end. It was about this time I saw Stacey's pink cap zoom by me :) I got out of the water in under 35 minutes and was quite pleased with myself.

T1: 2:19. I will be perpetually stuck in my wetsuit in T1. Full-sleeved or sleeveless. It doesn't matter.

The Bike: 3:00:52 (11/50 AG)
I'd gone under 3 hours on the bike last year and it was my goal to go faster - by 5 minutes or 5 seconds. Whatever. Just get to T2 faster. I hopped on my bike and immediately felt meh. I wasn't tired, I wasn't hungry, my legs were rested from a relatively light week, but I just felt flat and there was no pep in my step. I felt like this for about the first half of the race, then I felt like I found my legs for awhile and picked up speed (and happiness) and then during the last five miles or so, I felt flat again, and tried to pedal harder in a desperate attempt to come in under 3 hours. I could feel the heat of the day early on in the bike (and it's not even like it was that hot, but it had been a chilly spring and I'd still been biking with arm warmers and gloves well into May) and I was focused on taking in enough fluids so I didn't get dehydrated. My aerobottle was filled with water and my three waterbottle cages with Skratch Labs of various flavors. My plan was to drink every 10-15 minutes and eat something (either a bite of a powerbar/clif bar/gel) every 15 minutes for the first hour and every 20 minutes for the second hour. This was the strategy I used in Kinetic and it worked well, but towards the end of the Quassy ride I was feeling more thirsty than I thought I should so I downed more water. I was also worried that maybe I didn't eat enough (1 PowerBar, 1 Clif MoJo bar, 1 Gu) so I tried to make sure I finished my MoJo bar and that meant eating more than every 20 minutes. This is probably partially where I went wrong because I had the world's worst indigestion on the run. Bleck. Anyway, I saw Stacey and Mindy on the bike and I also ran into Meg, a girl I was on Team Z with a few years ago before she moved to Boston - I love how small the triathlon community is. Meg had a great race and she would crush me on the descents and I'd make up time on the hills, but she eventually dropped me about 10 miles from the finish. Speaking of descents, I'm not a nervous descender and I have fun going fast - I am cautious and will usually tap the brakes to make sure I don't get too out of control - but everyone and their mother passes me on the downhills. It was to the point where I was looking forward to the uphills during Quassy (and fortunately there are alot of them) because that's when I made up time and caught people. I put forth an effort to pedal in the big ring on the downhills, rather than just coast, to see if that helped. It did, maybe a little. So, any tips on how to go down hills faster would be much appreciated! For the most part the bike was uneventful - the scenery was beautiful, I could tell it was getting hot, especially towards the end, I didn't flat or wreck (always a plus), and there were always, always people to chase. A few girls from other age groups passed me like I was standing still and so did one girl in my AG early on in the bike - I played leapfrog with another girl in my AG for most of the course, and she was getting on my nerves because she was blatantly blocking others from passing her by riding right next to the yellow line. Even when I'd holler on your left she wouldn't budge. So I'd pass her on the right and hope I didn't get penalized. I heard from others that she was also blatantly drafting off some of the men. The drafting is annoying but the blocking was dangerous - as it forced other riders to pass on her right. She didn't even move over for cars. End rant. During the last few miles of the bike, I kept checking my watch and knew I was cutting it super close to 3 hours. I tried to make up time in the last few miles (many of which were uphill, womp womp) but came up short in the end. The last three miles of the bike go by the first three miles of the run and I saw Leslie hammering away, already at mile 3 on the run. She looked like she was one of the first amateurs out there. I saw my parents as I rolled into T2, which was always a boost to the spirits.

T2: 1:32. I flung my bike on the rack and tried to make sense of all my crap strewn everywhere, eventually running out of transition with my shoes on, visor and racebelt in hand.

The Run: 1:56:17 (13/50).
This is where it gets ugly. I can usually tell in the first mile if my run is going to be pretty or if it's going to be ugly - and it is almost always dependent on GI condition. If my stomach is feeling OK and manageable, I can usually count on a good run; if things aren't feeling so great, the run can turn into a hot mess. I could tell my run at Quassy was going to be a hot mess right from the start. I don't know if I ate too much too fast on the bike or if drinking out of my aerobottle was the culprit, but it felt like someone was sitting on my chest and my upper GI/chest/throat felt really full, making running feel miserable with all the jostling. Quassy was the first time in awhile I used my aerobottle and this was the first time in awhile I felt like this on the run so maybe it was to blame. Not sure. Anyway, the first three miles of the course are mostly downhill and that's where I ended up having my one and only sub-8 minute mile. The rest of the run was a slog, getting slower by the mile. I found a rhythm and felt my best between miles 3-7, this was where there were some uphills and some rollers with an out-and back. I saw Mindy and she looked so strong and happy on the run. Around mile 7 is where the wheels started to fall off. It was a long uphill to mile 8 and it was hot out, I wasn't feeling great, and I became laser-focused on simply moving forward. Walking was never an option, of course, and I feel like that is a small victory in itself because in seasons past, I definitely would've been taking walk breaks feeling the way I did. My legs and pace never really recovered after mile 7. I saw my parents around mile 9 and they told me afterwards that I did not look happy. From miles 9-12 it is flat to downhill and I kept telling myself that I only had a handful of miles left and it would all be over. I held it together pretty well until the steep, long hill at mile 12. Mindy passed me there, hopping up the hill like it was nothing (she also negative split the pants off that run, simply amazing) and at that point I knew I was nowhere close to breaking 5:28 so I just chugged my way to the finish line, just feeling an overwhelming urge to be done. I wasn't enjoying myself at that point - you know how sometimes during a hard race it hurts, but you still feel strong and capable and find alot of pleasure in pushing through the pain? OK, I felt the opposite of that. Sigh.

Finish - 5:34:47 (13/50 AG)

Of course I'm disappointed in my finish time, especially because my legs weren't that sore the next day so I know that my craptastic run wasn't because my run legs didn't show up - it was probably more attributable to the hot weather, the indigestion, and my lack of focus during the run. And when I started the run feeling crummy, I didn't try to pull myself out of the rut and gave myself a pass to just survive rather than race. This is a problem that I know I need to work on. Quassy has become a race that attracts a super competitive field - it's a hilly, difficult course and many ladies (including Leslie, woo-hoo) went sub-5, which is really impressive. But with a big, competitive field comes an awesome group of spectators - I was a fan of the guys dressed up along the run course near the start/finish who were chasing the runners and goading them to go faster to the finisher chute. And then there was one dressed in a cape and crown with a microphone and he'd chase various runners to the finisher chute, screaming into his microphone. The race has gotten more notice in the community too, as I saw several people out in front of their homes along the bike course to cheer the racers on. This is truly a great race and Rev3 does a fantastic job running it. Thanks to all my team's sponsors, especially Tri360, Skratch Labs, Gu, who help make every race a good day to be out on the course, even if things don't go according to my race plan. And thanks to my parents for coming down and cheering! Congrats to my friends out there who all had solid times on the course, it was so fun to see everyone!


Mindy Ko said...

"Walking was never an option" - you're amazing, Caroline! Can't wait to see how awesome you do at Placid! PS: we did not have ice cream the night before...

Tami said...

Congrat's on your 20th Half! Sorry it didn't go as you hoped…but you still did an awesome job! Quassy is a fun race and super tough.

Katie said...

Hanging tough and not walking will pay huge dividends when you are feeling good.

Acid Reflux issues suck. I have had to completely makeover my diet to get mine somewhat in control. . if you want any tips, email me.

Congrats on a great race & see you in Placid if not on Skyline before!

Dawn said...

CT hills are NO JOKE. Neither is stomach upset :( Way to keep moving forward and keep this in perspective as one race (out of 20 halfs! OMG!). Hold onto your Kinetic victory and learn from everything you did right, something I'm trying to do better about, so you can repeat that strong and happy performance. Psyched to cheer you on in Placid!!

Running Librarian said...

Congrats on IM 20!! You did a great job.

B.o.B. said...

You did amazing! Fantastic swimming. I wish I could ride as fast as you. Congrats on number 20!!!