28 September 2013

2013 Giant Acorn Olympic Triathlon - Race Report

Oh I know, when a race goes well, I PR writing the race report every time, I like to have the good stuff fresh in my mind. And when it doesn't go so well, hmmm, I take my time :)

Anyway, this morning I raced the Giant Acorn Oly tri down at Lake Anna State Park in Virginia. They used to hold this race on the nuclear side of the lake, where Rumpus in Bumpass was held, but this year they moved it to the state park where Kinetic takes place. I've raced the Kinetic races a few times so I had a general idea of what the bike would be like (rolling hills with a few longer climbs and decent pavement) and what the run would be like (gosh darn 1 mile long hill at the beginning of each of the two loops of the run). I wasn't as focused as I should've been this week in terms of getting my mind ready to race - I kept forgetting I had a triathlon this weekend. There was no taper on the schedule and Jen put some paces in my run workouts "for fun" that did not feel fun at the time, but they did build up my confidence  I did, however, do a decent job with eating mindfully this week (portion control, really - I have yet to break my streak of having at least once slice of pizza a day and last night I downed almost a pint of Ben and Jerry's for extra good luck on today's course) and getting a decent amount of sleep (but I could always use more sleep, who doesn't?). I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of my race results for the day; I felt recovered from Vegas and these past two weeks have been solid in terms of training and I'm back in the triathlon season mindset, which is important. I didn't know a whole lot about anyone else racing, but I set a goal of trying to be in the to be in the top 5 overall because why not? This is my first oly of the year and truthfully I'm not great at the shorter stuff because I'm still learning how to find that extra gear (but each race seems to show something of an improvement, which is encouraging).

Let's go on a side tangent for a moment, which is relevant, I promise. Even though I'm not great at Olys, I had a relatively high expectation for what I could do today in terms of racing the other girls on the course. I think alot of that had to do with the fact that it was a local race and recently I've found myself in the mix towards the front at the local races. Therefore, I feel more confident and don't write myself off before the race even starts, like I do at the bigger and more competitive stuff like Vegas. Having confidence and belief in my abilities makes me try harder, dig deeper, and my brain has much less space for excuses and cop-outs. I think this was a key to success today and I need to learn how to translate this confidence and belief in myself to the larger and more competitive races if I want to truly grow as an athlete. End tangent.

So the race. With a 9am start, I slept in until a little after 5am and ate my bagels when I jumped on the road at 5:45 to make the 90 minute drive to the race site. Like usual with SetUp even races, everything was well organized from the parking to packet pickup. I had my transition area set up pretty quickly and had plenty of time to get myself into the wetsuit. It was strange to have a half-empty bento box on my bike (my plan was to eat a gel at the beginning of the bike and maybe one towards the end if I was feeling bonky - but I know when your body is working hard, like it does in an oly distance, it's difficult to take in and digest alot of calories). After shimmying into my sleeveless wetsuit, I did a warmup swim and then lined up for Wave 2.

The swim: 1500m-22:59 (hahaha either I've acquired super swimming powers or that swim was short!)
The first hundred meters or so was full of kicking and hitting until all us girls age 39 and under sorted ourselves out. I felt a little out of control for the first bit of the swim, like I was swinging my arms furiously and climbing over people and trying to go as fast as possible (the joys of short course). About halfway to the first turn buoy, I felt more settled in a rhythm and my swim stroke felt more efficient. I was sighting just fine and staying on my intended line. I saw plenty of red caps in front of me, but I couldn't bridge the gap to reach a group that was just ahead. I ended up doing the swim mainly on my own, no drafting off of fast feet this time because I just couldn't find anyone. I felt good during the swim (not really 22:xx good, hence why I'm pretty sure the swim was short) and definitely out of breath by the time I got out of the water. I had no idea where I was in relation to the rest of the girls in my wave and my age group, especially because those collegiate girls can SWIM, so it was time to keep working.

T1: 2:21 - a bit of a run to transition, I quickly won the wetsuit fight, and then a run out to the road.

The Bike: 25 miles - 1:13:25, about a 20.5ish mph average
The bike climbs for about a mile when you first leave transition and then it levels off and has rolling hills with a few shorter climbs and all righthand turns. I passed a few girls on the climb and once I crested the hill, I got into my aerobars. I took a Gu Roctane before we even got out of the park and washed it down with Skratch. My goal for the bike was to stay focused and chase the girls ahead of me and not let up on the pace because it was quite possible that any girl could be hot on my heels. I drank some Skratch every 10 minutes or so and popped a salt tab about halfway through. Overall my legs felt pretty decent. I passed a few of the super swimmers, especially towards the beginning of the bike, and was passed by one girl who was HAULING and there was pretty much no way I could keep up with her. I stood on a few of the climbs, especially towards the end, and knowing that there were still girls ahead of me (no idea how many) made me keep working and get complacent and take it easy. Towards the end I was ready to get off the bike, I was breathing hard, my legs could feel the miles (and I had no idea how they were going to handle the run since I rode the bike HARD and there is no such thing as overriding the bike in an Oly, apparently). The last two miles were flat and downhill into the park and I picked up the pace, not content to sit back and relax. As I came in towards transition and passed the first mile of the run, I counted how many girls were running up that hill and saw there were at least six or seven. Lots of work to do and I had no idea if I'd be able to reel them in but it was time to try.

T2: 1:14 - put my socks and shoes on, threw a gel down my sports bra, grabbed my visor and race number belt to put on while on the go. No time to waste!

The Run: 6.2 miles - 42:51, about a 6:57/mile average
Having run part of this run course in previous races, I knew the first mile started with a steep hill right out of transition, which flattened out a little bit but continued to climb up for about a mile. We'd do this hill twice through two loops so I didn't expect to have my fastest 10k run. I wanted to get up Mile 1 and Mile 4 in under 8 minutes and then hope I'd make up time on the remaining miles which were flat or downhill. The first mile clicked by faster than expected - 7:36 and I was thrilled to see that my legs had shown up to the party - now all I had to do was keep my mind focused and NOT GIVE UP. In the last few miles of the bike I had passed a couple Navy girls and I knew they came into transition just a minute or two behind me. Even though they weren't in my age group, it became my sole goal of the run to hold them off, especially when I reached the turnaround on the first loop and saw they were NOT far behind at all. Mile 2 clicked by in 6:52 and while I've rarely run sub-7s in an Oly 10k, I wasn't worried, I was going to run myself into the ground to hold off the Navy girls behind me. I passed one girl in my age group in Mile 2 and with the course not very crowded yet, I could tell I was pretty far from the next girls ahead of me. Mile 3 was downhill (yaaay 6:35) and I was breathing hard and felt a little out of control at that point and pushed the thought out of my head that you need to run that whole loop AGAIN, you are going to blow up. Instead I told myself that I just need to get myself to the top of the hill at mile 4 and the rest would be easy - flat and downhill. Sometimes you just need to make your mind believe untruths to keep the momentum going. Going back up that hill was painful and I felt like I was taking the smallest slowest steps up the steepest section. I wasn't looking behind me because that would be a waste of time and energy and why not just race convinced Navy girls are going to catch me so I don't let up - at least maybe I would end up with a PR? I made it to mile 4 in 7:30 and discarded my gel at the next aid station - only two miles to go, no time for bonking. I made it to the turnaround and saw that one of the Navy girls was still just a few seconds behind me. At that moment, I felt it in my mind - I could take the easy way out - she's not in my age group, it doesn't matter if she passes me. You're at least in 6th or 7th so it's not like you'll be missing out on top 5 anyway if she passes you. The other girl you passed in your age group is a good minute or two behind, you can let up and go easy to the finish. Or I could set my jaw and make that choice that I'M NOT GOING TO JUST LET HER PASS ME. It matters to me that I don't give up, that I look the other way when presented with the easy way out. I wanted to race with grit and determination, something I feel like I so rarely do, especially at moments when there is no crucial age group or overall placing at stake. It's those times, when place isn't at stake, that it's easy to say it doesn't matter and settle for the mediocre. These thoughts, wanting to race with grit, stuck with me through to Mile 5, which clicked off in 6:55. I could feel the wheels starting to come off. I couldn't even manage a smile or a thank you to the volunteers as I rounded the corner to start the last downhill mile to the finish. I didn't see any 2nd loop girls ahead of me to reel in and my mind was filled with don't let up, don't stop, don't give up because I wanted this (I don't even know what this is, I needed to finish knowing that I didn't give up). We hit the last tiny downhill and my quads were spent. I hit the trail and I felt like I was running like Phoebe from Friends, much pity to anyone running near me and my flailing arms and legs. I hit mile 6 in 6:26 and with every breath for that last quarter mile, don't let up, don't stop, don't give up, just kept running through my mind. I must've looked like a madman with crazy eyes as I ran into the field and down the finisher chute - I know she must be RIGHT THERE. And then, I crossed the finish. Before the Navy girl. She came charging across the line 4 seconds later.

Final Time: 2:22:36, 2nd AG and 7th OA. A PR by about 6 minutes!
Even though I missed out on the top 5, I'm really happy with how the race went, especially the run. I've never run a sub-43 in an Oly tri (I don't even know if I've run a sub-43 in an open 10k) and having the goal to stay ahead of the Navy girl absolutely pushed me to a new run PR and new overall PR. That run was painful and hard but I felt like I was in it the whole time, laser focused and making all the right choices and not giving in to excuses. In short, I didn't settle and I can walk away from the finish line knowing that I truly did leave it all out on the course and I raced a smart race. This was a competitive field for sure, those ladies today could swim bike and run like it was nobody's business and looking at the overall results makes me realize just how fast and talented so many of them were and that makes me even happier with my top-10 finish. Thanks very much to Tri360 for always keeping my bike in fabulous working order and thank you to Skratch for your awesome hydration products! Thank you, of course, to Jen for her fantastic coaching and helping me find speed after a season filled mostly with long-course. And congrats to my friends who I saw out on the course - Rachel and Sarah and Jeff! Everyone looked so strong and happy to be out there! Great day!

27 September 2013

Cyclist and Motorists and One Road for All.

So I've had some variation or another of this post pinging around in my mind in recent weeks and I had all these grand plans that I was going to look up statistics and studies to back up my facts and I was going to cite all sorts of scholarly articles to prove my point. But you know what - no. I'm not going to do that. I'm talking about cyclists and motorists and sharing the road and responsibility and ownership of your actions and how, with a little common sense, it isn't that hard. Statistics, articles, and citations should not be necessary when it comes to illustrating these points.

Let's get this out of the way first. There are both cyclists and motorists who do dumb things and are irresponsible and plain stupid and fortunately they are in the minority. I own a car and I ride a bike so I'm not trying to make this an us vs them thing. But there are differences in the ultimate outcome and level of danger and who the victim is when a driver is irresponsible and when a cyclist is irresponsible.

When a cyclist does something dumb or stupid, it's usually going to be his life and limb that's on the line and if he gets hurt, it's because of his own mistake. Unfortunately, critics of cyclists will pounce on these instances as fuel for why cyclists are a danger to the social fabric of America and how we're a terrifying two-wheeled menace who should be banned from the roads because our reckless behavior is wreaking havoc in cities across the nation. As a cyclist myself, I'm embarrassed when I witness the arrogance and irresponsible behavior of my two-wheeled brethren, as it doesn't give a good impression when we blow through stoplights and stop signs with impunity. I try to follow the rules and, for the most part, I do. One of the things I'm guilty of is starting to roll my bike through an intersection in the nanosecond between red and green so that I have momentum working in my favor and I'm already up and moving by the time the mass of cars behind me is stepping on the gas pedal. This way they aren't honking at me for holding up traffic for an extra second or two as I try to clip in and get moving from a dead stop. The other thing I'm guilty of is the rolling stop at a stop sign at deserted intersections. Cars do it all the time - I slow down to almost a complete stop, leaving myself just enough momentum that I don't fall over, and once it's clear that nobody is coming or going, I start moving. This way I don't have to unclip and further slow down either myself or any cars that are behind me. There. Those are my sins. Oh and sometimes I bike on the sidewalk to avoid running red lights in front of the Capitol building. I think one of the things that irks drivers about cyclists is that bikes are more agile than cars and, if the rider is careful, there is no reason why the bike can't be ridden on an uncrowded sidewalk to skip over some traffic. We have the flexibility to safely bend the rules (and many places do not have a rule against riding bikes on the sidewalk).

When a driver does something dumb, stupid, or irresponsible around a cyclist, it's NOT usually the driver's life or limb that's on the line because they are ensconced in a few thousand pounds of mental. And that car they are driving has just turned into a lethal weapon the moment a driver decides that surfing the internet is more important than watching the road. So while a cyclist has a responsibility to be aware and follow the rules, the responsibility of a motorist to do the same thing is even greater because a car is many, many times more lethal than a bike when being driven by a distracted or aggressive driver. And, sadly, sometimes all the awareness in the world cannot save a cyclist from an angry or negligent driver.

Just this past week I was almost run over twice while legally in crosswalks. One of those times the driver simply threw me a nasty look and gunned the motor as she made her lefthand turn, missing my front tire by inches only because I slammed on my brakes and skidded off my bike. The other time, the driver just sat there on his cell phone with an amused look on his face as he plowed through a crosswalk, scattering runners and bikers in all directions as they tried to get out of his way. I also saw a driver go the wrong way around a roundabout in front of the Capitol building (here in America, we drive to the right) and a few minutes later another driver decided that his lane of traffic was simply moving too slowly so he crossed the double yellow and just drove on the wrong side of the road instead, almost plowing into me head on while I was on my bike. I've had friends get hit by cars who see the "Stop For Pedestrians in Crosswalks" signs as just a suggestion, not a law. There have been other recent instances where a cars are too impatient to wait an extra minute to safely pass a cyclist and they make an unsafe pass. What is possibly so important that you cannot spare an extra thirty seconds out of your day to wait until you can safely make a pass? I was buzzed by a woman on Saturday in the one street block I rode on to get from the bike path to my house - she had an entire empty lane to the left of her and yet she chose to pass within inches of my handlebars. If I can touch your car, you are too close.

Did you know that there is a debate going on in Maryland as to whether or not it's homicide when a motorist kills a cyclist? Two years ago Maryland created a new law of vehicular negligent homicide which allows prosecutors to bring charges against a sober-yet-aggressive driver that causes an accident which kills someone. To be eligible, one's behavior must be "a substantial deviation from the duty of care." As a cyclist and a driver who routinely sees people behind the wheel who are glued to their phones (watching movies, playing on the internet, texting, talking), I absolutely feel like that sort of behavior is negligent and a deviation from being a careful and responsible driver. Some of the lawmakers don't want to prosecute people for making a mistake that any of us can make, such as taking our eyes off the road to look at our phones or fumble with the backseat DVD player so your child can watch a movie, all while moving swiftly down the road. While I am sure these people who do these things do not intend to cause harm, if you kill a cyclist because you weren't paying sufficient attention to the task at hand - driving - then you absolutely need to be punished. Every time you put the keys in the ignition, you are responsible for driving safely and being aware at all times and keeping your eyes on the road. I know that driving is so routine, it is easy to forget that responsibility, but it is there. If there are no consequences for negligent and aggressive driving, then there is no deterrent for irresponsible and dangerous behavior, intentional or not.

I know that I am making a choice every time I get on my bike to commute to work or ride for pleasure. I am making a choice to try and share the roads with vehicles much bigger and more dangerous than I am. I do it because it's a good way to get in exercise. My bike commute is a reliable 40-45 minute ride compared to the unreliable 50-90 minute one way commute offered by Metro. My bike commute is also about $8/day cheaper. I know there are many people who make the choice to drive instead. That is fine. But please, as a cyclist who enjoys riding to work and would like to continue to do so, and as someone who has just as much of a right to the roads as you do, please make the choice to drive responsibly and attentively when you are behind the wheel. Pretend that I am someone from your family. If you wouldn't try to run a family member over in a crosswalk or drive your car within inches of their handlebars, please don't do it to me.

22 September 2013

Vegas 70.3 2013 World Championships - Race Report!

A couple of weekends ago, I had the honor of competing in the 70.3 World Championships out in Las Vegas. After last year's race, I had no plans to go back. I even remember when I was running the half marathon in Poconos 70.3 last fall thinking to myself that if I got a rolldown slot, I would NOT be taking it. The only way I'd go back is if I got a spot by being in the top of my AG (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with rolldown, of course, but since I'd already raced a world championship through rolldown, I wanted my next opportunity to be though my very own slot - plus I did not like Vegas a ton and kind of wanted to minimize my chances of going back to that racecourse - ha!). The unexpected happened and I came in 2nd at Poconos 70.3 and claimed the second slot in my AG. I was going back. This time around, however, I had lots of friends and teammates doing the race too so that added to my excitement.

My training leading up to the race, not the most stellar. The past few years have shown that I am not great at focusing on quality training and race preparation in the six weeks or so post-Ironman. Every year I think will be the exception, but it never is. I just want to race and have fun and be lazy - basically have my cake and eat it too, enjoy the rewards of racing but without that kind of critical part known as training. The thing is, I know I do this, and I know it will run it's course, and I know that because I indulged my whims, I didn't have the race of my life in Vegas this year. I am also intimidated by the sheer level of competition out there - it is the best of the best. And while this year I felt like I belonged more so than I felt last year, this is still a huge mental hurdle I need to get over and I need to learn how to thrive in competitive environments and see them as opportunities for growth and progress, rather than pre-emptively writing myself off. None of these things are excuses - I completely own the lack of preparation, mental focus, and the subsequent race result. When I think back at it, I do feel twinges of regret. And it will probably be awhile before I am back racing at a world championship-level event because I need to learn how to better race at that level and give it the proper respect it deserves - otherwise, what is the point of spending the money just to do it? I refuse to be part of the generation where everyone is a winner and everyone gets a medal just for participating (ok, everyone did get a medal at this race, I know) and the end result doesn't really matter. After the race, I read Elizabeth Waterstraat's blog about the race - I saw her on the race course and she was laser-focused and HAULING on that run course. Reading her post made me want to do better for myself. Check it out - it is training and racing at its finest.

So Race Weekend! I arrived in town on Thursday, put my bike together in record time in my hotel room, picked up my packet, and made a beeline for Whole Foods by the Expo to pick up my bananas and bagels before the rest of the triathletes cleaned the place out (learned my lesson from last year). Later I met Kendra at the outdoor pool by the Expo to get a swim in. Unfortunately, they had closed the pool for thunderstorms (pinch me, weren't we in the desert?). But it gave me a chance to finally meet her dad Poppy Tony and her super nice mom. It was so great to chat with the people I've heard so much about through Kendra. So instead of swimming, I headed back to the hotel, cooked up a pasta dinner, and went to bed early. Friday AM brought a morning brick as well as triathlete-celebrity-gazing at the gorgeous outdoor pool (oh hi Leanda Cave, fancy seeing you at the pool!).

On the bridge overlooking the would-be Swim Start come Sunday in Fake Italy out in Lake Las Vegas.
That afternoon, Mr. Sweetie surprised me by showing up at my hotel, which was pretty much the best thing ever and instantly I was 10x more excited for the weekend, for the race, for everything in general. I didn't realize how much I wanted him there until he was standing there in the lobby. He was wonderful and took over all the mundane details - cooking me dinner, making me pancakes Saturday AM, helping me cook French Toast Cakes at Mike and Dawn's condo (THANK YOU Mike and Dawn for the use of your kitchen, you guys are lifesavers!), and driving me to T1 and T2 to drop off my bike and gear bags. After dropping off my bike, I ran into Bree Wee, a triathlete whose blog I have followed since 2007 when she won the amateur race at Kona. I've always admired her work ethic and positive outlook and though I felt like a complete goon just stopping her on the sidewalk when I saw her, to tell her how much I like her blog and wishing her good luck for Sunday, I hope she wasn't completely creeped out.

T1 after dropping my bike off
The weather on Saturday gave me hope that Sunday wouldn't be blazing hot - it was overcast and comfortably warm. I was sure to add to Jen's facebook feed of bonk photos Friday afternoon (think: the "planking" phenomenon triathlete-style).

Pre-emptive finish line bonk.
We went to Mass on Saturday evening where we were easily the youngest people there by a few decades. My parents don't call the Saturday evening Mass the blue-haired service for nothing (sorry Mom - busted!). We went to Mass the night before IMLP and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend. Saturday night was early to bed - 8pm - and I slept like an absolute rock, getting close to 8 hours of deep sleep. I woke up race morning, sort of forgetting it was race morning, I felt so relaxed. I gathered my million waterbottles of Skratch Labs, made sure I had my morning clothes bag with my swim gear, and started choking down my morning bagels (WHY is it only race morning that I have to force down bagels - why can't this phenomenon happen on Bagel Fridays when suddenly 3 bagels doesn't seem like close to enough while sitting at my computer)? We headed out of the hotel where we were greeted by... Rain... Cool temperatures. Well this was new and unexpected. Maybe I wouldn't need to drink my weight in water and Skratch on the bike. On the ride out, I was convinced that it would be dry out at Lake Las Vegas. HAHAHAHA, no Transition was a mud pit and it was on the verge of being chilly, just goes to show you should be prepared for everything, including cold weather in a normally steaming hot desert. I put my nutrition and million waterbottles on my bike, tried to pump my tires with an unfamiliar pump before finally giving up and letting the Belgian owner of the pump do it for me, and then ran into all of my friends and teammates. We quickly decided to spend the 1+ hours of wait time in the shelter of the bridge in Fake Italy over the swim start. The end closest to the swim start looked and smelled like what I'd imagine the Carnival Cruise Ship disaster looked like - lots of standing water, stink from the portopotties, and people crowded together in a small space. We went to the other end of the bridge where there were real bathrooms (a fact apparently not well-broadcast given how few people were over there) and we watched the earlier swim waves go off before finally going and getting in line for our respective waves.

Kendra and I waiting for the swim start
The Swim - 37:13 (46th AG)
Basically the EXACT same swim time as last year. Practically to the second. Though, I felt much stronger on the swim course this year than I did last year, even finding myself a pair of fast feet to follow now and then. When the swim started, I stayed to the far left of the buoys in the hopes of taking the straightest line out to the turn. It wasn't a rough swim start at all, though there were a few times that I had to fight for feet (lost one of the fights and a good pair of feet, womp womp). The swim didn't feel slow, it actually felt like the buoys were passing by at a good clip. The water wasn't rough, though I did stray a bit off course (or took the less direct route) on the way back in trying to stay right on the buoys. I started to lose focus close to the end as I tried to discern which tunnel under the bridge we were supposed to go through. Got to the swim exit, looked at my watch, and was rather disappointed to see the exact same time as last year, though I had felt stronger in the water compared to last year. 

T1 - 4:40 (the mud pit)
Longest run into and out of transition ever. Also one of the muddiest. It was still raining and I thought about putting on my sunglasses for a hot second, until I noticed one of the lenses was missing. Well that decision was easy.

The Bike - 3:09:56 (86th AG)
Keeping the streak alive, I achieved the same bike time as last year. The route differed this year compared to last year, with an extra loop around Lake Las Vegas resort in the beginning before climbing out to Lake Mead recreational area, and the route in Henderson to T2 was a bit different than last year. I got on the bike and was riding conservatively right away, especially on the downhills in the rain with the testosterone-fueled train of men screaming by me on the left. Not my cup of tea, but fortunately we hit the climb out of the resort and things settled in. I was actually really happy it was rainy and cool - what an unexpected and nice surprise. I still planned to drink and take salts as though it was hot, because the rain could easily stop and the sun could come blazing out and I wanted to be prepared. I felt like I was biking SO SLOWLY on the way out to the turnaround. I'd catch a few people here and there, but mostly I was being passed by everyone and their mother. Maybe I was still in "Ironman ride conservatively" mindset, but whatever it was, it was not fast. The one thing I DID do right, though, was religiously eat every 15-20 minutes (French toast cakes, a Gu, a bike of a MoJo bar - I listened to what my body wanted) and drink every 10 minutes and take a salt tab every 20 minutes. Even though my bike time was the exact same as last year, I felt a million times more fueled and happy out there. I also didn't feel nearly as spent this time around - last year I finished the bike and felt like I had red-lined it all the way through the bike portion, so even though my times were the same, I felt substantially better this year and knew I'd be able to run off the bike. Biggest accomplishment, of course, was needing all five fingers to count how many times I peed on my bike. Downside - I think my bike shoes stink forever.

T2 - 2:16
No need to use the portojohns this time around. I also did NOT take my time, no point in delaying the inevitable.

The Run - 1:58:47 (84th in AG)

Even though the sun was out in full force by the time I reached T2, it was still much cooler than 2012 and I was going to do whatever I could to make sure this wasn't a death march. The run is three loops of just over 4 miles apiece, with basically two miles down and two miles up - nothing very steep, just relentlessly long. I quickly realized it was going to be one of those runs where you feel like you are working hard but the payoff is peanuts - you feel like you MUST be holding a sub-8 with all that effort and your watch beeps with an...8:44. And that first mile was downhill. Some days you have it, some days you do not. I didn't feel bad, like I had a nutrition fail or that I had overworked the bike, I just felt flat. I know alot of that was simply due to NOT putting in the level of training and level of intensity and focus that a race like this deserves and my run pace was reflecting that. The miles ended up passing by rather quickly, regardless of my pace and it was helpful that I saw alot of my friends every lap. Because it was hot, I was taking in water at every aid station. I wasn't really interested in taking a Gu so I had small bites of French Toast cakes every two miles and I'd pop a salt tab every lap. I started taking Coke towards the end of the run when the French toast cakes weren't appealing and I knew I still needed calories. I didn't have my average pace showing, but I'd catch a glimpse of each mile as my Garmin buzzed and the first two laps were OK and relatively consistent with sub-9s. But the third lap is where the wheels came off. There wasn't any walking involved, except for about 30 seconds at mile 12 when I suddenly felt really nauseous and tried to let it pass by slowing down. My legs were toast by the end of the race, even though my pace was slow, and I was so very happy to make the right turn at the end of the loop to go down the finisher chute. I crossed in 5:52:52, 84th in AG. 

Going into the race, I wanted to finish faster than I did last year. With the cooler temperatures and my plan to not overwork the bike, I felt like it would be doable. And while I was a good 17 minutes faster than last year's 6:09 because of my faster run and I felt stronger and more capable this time around, I still feel a bit dissatisfied. I know it was my slacking off in August post-IMLP that set me back and skipping workouts, eating poorly, and not being super disciplined and focused were all my choices and, as a result, this less-than-stellar outcome was my choice. You reap what you sow when it comes to training and racing and I basically neglected planting season and relied on Ironman fitness to carry me through, telling myself that will be good enough as I ignored my alarm for swim practice or skipped out on a brick run.
It wasn't. 
Post-race, Jen and I traded emails back and forth about the rest of my race season. After I come out of my 4-6 week post-Ironman slump, I am once again jazzed to race and train and this year isn't an exception. In the future I will need to plan my race season in such a way where there isn't anything important in that timeframe after an Ironman because I am a waste of space - it's my way to recharge. I think that's one of the reasons I always really liked the last season Ironmans that abut the holiday season - you race and then have 4-6 weeks of socially acceptable gluttony staring you in the face and, come January 1st, I am so ready to get back on the wagon. Having an Ironman at the end of July and then trying to race well in August and September is mentally harder than anything else in the whole season. After Worlds, when I told Jen I had already signed up for Beach2Battleship Half for my end of season race the last weekend in October, I was really glad when she told me that if I am going to do that race, I am GOING TO DO THE RACE RIGHT. Fully committed. Eat well, do all workouts, get enough sleep, go to bed at a reasonable time, NO MORE UNFOCUSED CRAP.
So that's what I'm doing because I don't want to finish another race and have regrets about my preparation, my choices, and the subsequent outcomes. I want to do this one right and the next one and the one after that and the one after that, etc.

Before I end this race report, I need to say a huge THANK YOU to my aunt Amy and Andrew and our neighbors Lindsay and Andrew who watched our animals for us so Mark could fly out and surprise me - thank you guys SO MUCH! You're the best! And congrats to all of my teammates and friends who had really great races themselves - thank you for all of your smiles and cheers on the course, they made my day!

10 September 2013

Seven Years of Marriage

On Thursday last week, Mr. Sweetie dropped me off at the airport and I flew out to Vegas for 70.3 Worlds. Originally, when I qualified last September, we planned to have both of us fly out, as race day would fall on our 7th wedding anniversary, but then we delayed in getting tickets and financially, it just made more sense for me to go on my own again. Not a big deal, I had lots of friends doing the race, I was staying at the same hotel as last year, and was familiar with the area and could find my way around just fine. The only thing was that I needed to be sure to get myself out of the hotel and spend time with my friends because it can be strange to go almost a whole day without talking to anyone else.

Worried that cutting the cake will unleash the frosting monster in his new wife? Valid concern.
Let this be the lesson of the day: you can never be married too long that you outgrow a good surprise. You know how in movies, one half of the couple will do a grand romantic gesture (stand outside someone’s house with a boombox, run through an airport to catch someone before they get on a plane, etc) usually in the beginning of the relationship, when everything is new and exciting and worthy of grand gestures. On Friday afternoon, I walked down to the hotel lobby to discover Mr. Sweetie waiting there for me, carrot cake cupcakes and champagne in hand, after flying across the country to surprise me for our anniversary and play the role of Sherpa at the race that would take up most of our anniversary, being the great sport that he is. I had absolutely no clue he was planning to fly out and didn’t realize how much I wanted him there and how much it would mean to have him there, until he was standing before me. It was, hands-down, the best anniversary gift ever.

Out on the Vegas Strip for our 7th anniversary.
That night we had a simple dinner in our suite, pasta and sauce from Whole Foods with a side of cheese and crackers and ice cream straight from the carton. I’ve never felt more happy or lucky than I did during that dinner. I’m discovering that’s the beauty of marriage – the comfort and security of simply being together. I’m also not taking for granted the fact that my husband loves me enough to feel that I’m still worth grand gestures seven years into marriage, when it’s easy to let routine and the daily grind make the institution seem pedestrian and yawn-worthy. Being with Mr. Sweetie makes me want to be the best version of myself and being married to someone like him makes it easy to keep things in perspective. When things got a little rough around the edges at the race Sunday, instead of getting upset, I thought of the fact that seven years before I made the best decision of my life by saying “I Do” to Mr. Sweetie and THAT trumps any race result, good or bad.

Cape Cod Beach photo

07 September 2013

When your race number sounds like a sale at Target - 1299

I'm here in Vegas for the second time ever, to race the 70.3 World Championships for a second time. When I raced last year, I made it here by getting a rolldown slot at 70.3 Galway in 2011. I figured it would be the only shot I'd ever have to race a World Championship race and I just wanted to take in the experience and I didn't feel like I belonged. The Whole Foods next to the Expo is probably the epicenter of ultimate fitness in the Western Hemisphere right now (as well as the Spandex Capital of the world) due to all the ridiculously fit triathletes who are frequenting it.

But I'm taking a different mindset this year. Unfortunately in the weeks leading up to the race I wasn't as focused as I should've been, due to work and being busy outside of training. The race kind of snuck up on me, suddenly I was packing and getting on a plane and I still hadn't sent Jen my race plan. But once I got here, I was excited. I know that pro triathletes are regular, hardworking people too, but it's still pretty cool to run into the likes of Leanda Cave at the pool and such. I got in on Thursday afternoon, leaving me with plenty of time to go to the expo, go to the grocery store, and check in at the hotel. I'm staying at the same place I stayed in last year, and it's comforting to be familiar with the area and already know where everything is.

So about the mindset - I'm excited to race. A bit nervous, but I'm also excited to see how I handle the heat and if the strategies I plan to follow will be effective (strategies being: drink lots of water, pee on the bike, not overeat, and don't cook myself on the bike). IMLP was a big boost in my confidence when it comes to handling myself during a race and sticking to a strategy. I'm hoping to replicate the success here in Vegas, but likely on a more conservative level due to the heat. A number of my friends and Ignite Endurance teammates are going to race tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone on the race course - especially that brutal run course when seeing a friendly face will likely be the exact pick-me-up that I need. I also feel more like I belong this year. I got a spot at Poconos last year by coming in 2nd in my AG (completely unexpected) and I think that was a confidence-booster as well. I'm not expecting to place super well in my AG - these are the fastest girls in the world - so there is no pressure except to race for myself and so as well as I can in the conditions we are given. It's rather freeing.

My race number is also 1299 and add a dollar sign and decimal point in there and I sound like a sale at Target. Easy number to remember. Cheers to having a stronger race than last year, that's my big goal!