Sunday, September 17, 2017

70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, TN

This year I earned my spot for the 70.3 world championships through a slot from Women for Tri and being gold All World Athlete.  They emailed me earlier this year letting me know I had a spot if I wanted and I definitely took it.  Sure, I went and raced another 70.3 and got a slot for the race, but was happy to pass the slot down to another girl that really wanted it.

The 70.3 world championships rotate location every year and this year it was in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  To save money, I decided to drive my Prius the 12-hour journey from Houston.  Thankfully I had my faithful Sherpa, Susan, there to entertainment (and drive most of the way back). Drive was very uneventful and honestly flew by. That first night (Wednesday) an amazing couple hosted us because the house we were sharing with Air Bnb was not ready until the next day.

Thursday morning, I got up early and headed to the practice swim. It was 55 degrees air temperature at that point and then 78 in water.  I swam in a swimsuit and was just fine.  I noticed the current swimming out but honestly it wasn’t that bad.  I did notice the sun more than anything.  I scurried back to the house to get ready and off we went to the Gold AWA breakfast that Ironman was hosting.  It was on a riverboat and unfortunately, I thought they would allow everyone time to eat breakfast and then cruise.  But when I arrived there at 8:45am, Dave Scott had already finished speaking. Anyways, the boat departed and it was a nice way to see Chattanooga.  Susan got to captain/steer the boat and we met some nice Australian blokes. When we were back and docked, we went to the Ironman Village, said hello to a few vendors and bought myself a coffee cup and a super cute tank they had this year and then registered.  

Pic by Melissa Christensen
The house we were staying at was in Rising Fawn, GA, 35 minutes from the race.  George from Tri Animals found the place and it was a beautiful retreat in the mountains.  We not on purpose took our time getting there and it was so high up in the mountains that I didn’t get cell service. 😊 We had the entire basement and it was awesome.  I put my bike on the trainer as those roads were not good for a TT and went through my gears to make sure everything was okay and ready to climb the mountains.  Well it wasn’t.  It was slipping gears and would not get into my lowest gear and I wanted that! At that point we were too far out and all bike shops were closed anyways.  Got ready and went back into Chattanooga and had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant. 

 Friday morning I went to the Quintana Roo breakfast extended to their teams.  While I don’t have a QR, I have considered getting one.  Their new hot pink PRsix is sexy! Did some socializing and met some people racing.  Of course I had my bike with me, so awesome Susan google and found a bike shop within walking distance (it was $8 each time I entered the parking garage and I didn’t want to drive if I didn’t have to) and I walked half of the way with her and then she dropped it off at the local Trek store.  They were so great and able to squeeze me in behind a couple people.  They were supper busy.  There was a mechanic in the Ironman village, but the line was seriously 2 hours long and I hate lines.  So Susan dropped off my bike and went for a run.  Me? I went to brunch (yes I ate twice that morning) with Angela Nath which was sponsored by Red Bull.  At the brunch, Angela, who started a great group called IRaceLikeAGirl, reviewed mental strategies and gave us a personal view inside what she is thinking on race day. It was pretty amazing to be able to attend and I know I learned a thing or two that I applied.  So as soon as I was done, I walked to the bike shop and thankfully my bike was ready! Susan and I then walked back and got lunch and then it was time for bike and gear check in.  After dropping that off, we went to the grocery store to pick up pre-race dinner and then went back to the house. Early to bed because Saturday is race day!

I have this weird skill of getting up before my alarm clock went off.  Oh and somehow having my lady time on race day. Anyways up at 4am and off like a rocket.  Pound down some coffee and oatmeal and get on the road around 4:50am.  Was able to park in the same garage and since all my gear was dropped off the day before, all I had to bring was my bike nutrition, goggles and wetsuit.  Yes, the water dropped just barely to the cutoff at 76.1.  Quickly dropped off nutrition and then meandered down towards the water.  My trusty Sherpa took my morning clothes and I slugged on my sleeveless Roka suit and stood in my starting corral. 

Photo by Susan Benton
The swim start was different – they had like in a horse race, starting corrals  on the dock and then you had a 5 beep countdown sound and then a high beep telling you to go.  So a rolling age group start.  I put myself in the middle as I am not the fastest swimmer when it comes to a national championship level race and I ran off the dock and somehow was leading the 10 of us that started when our beep went off.  I lead for halfway out the first buoy and then backed off so I could draft.  That was with a sideway current so not too crazy.  And then you turn right and then to do the 840 against the current.  Honestly, having swam in a washing machine at last year’s long course world champs and having swam in San Francisco bay, this current was not that bad.  However, what was bad and I’m sure cost me a bit of time, was the sun.  It was low in the sky and was right in my eyes.  I struggled seeing buoys and so I just tried to draft as much as possible.  But well some of these girls don’t swim that straight.  That way out seemed to take forever.  Of my slow 39:06 minute swim, I bet you that 25 minutes was spent on that portion of the swim.  Anyways, you round the buoy to the right to start heading back and the current was pushing some people out but I did my best to stay right.  And then round the last buoy to make the way back with the current at your back.  The current didn’t push that strong, not as great as IM Cozumel, but I did have some sub 1:30 splits on the way back.  You round the last buoy and out with the help of some awesome volunteers. 

Found myself some awesome wetsuit strippers and then you grab your bag off to the left as they are all lined up on the ground by number and then round a turn to run up some ridiculously steep ramp.  Seriously would have preferred stairs as they put down a carpet but everywhere the carpet was taped down was slippery as hell!  It was a bit of a run to your bike but I had my shoes on there and ran all the way to the line and did my flying mount. Slipped my shoes on and quickly found my groove. 
I live in Houston, Texas.  There are no mountains here.  And a few miles into this course, there is a mountain.  I actually really enjoyed the climb.  But there were a couple of mountain goat girls that passed me as I was trying to think of not trying to get a QOM (road racer in me wants to kill it) but overall, I passed a lot of girls on this mountain.  And stayed in my power targets.  Then you would think you would be awarded with a downhill, but no.  This course basically was full of tons of rollers that are much more substantial than where people in Houston go to do their “hillier” long rides.  I was doing great and I was keeping my prescribed heart rate and power in check but about mile 42 my
back started really, really, really hurting.  And I could feel the pain in my legs and hips something furious.  Normally I can muscle through these and honestly, I don’t usually get that much pain while racing in my targets for a half ironman as bike is my strength.  But a few miles later, my legs were toast.  And my back was spazing.  So unfortunately, I got passed way too much on the only flat part of the race, normally my strength but I knew that I still had to run a half marathon and I would need my legs for the hilly run.  So, I took a lot of pressure off the pedals and just focused on high turnover as much as possible. It was a long last 30 minutes, let me tell ya. I was spot on my nutrition with taking in tons of fluids (had to go potty twice) and salt and gels so I believe it really just came down to the issue of just not enough climbing work.  SO, if I do a big hilly race like this again, I am going to Colorado or California a few weekends to train! Bike split was a slow 2:54: 42

Photo by Susan Benton
I fully intended to do a flying dismount but I thought I would fall over if I did or my legs would buckle under me. So, I just stopped and got off and then. Ouch. Trying to remind my body how to run at this point was a struggle.  I am pretty sure I looked fairly damaged and I ran along to the table with my run gear bag.  I fell/sat onto the chair fairly defeated and put on my socks and shoes and off the shuffle went.  I rounded onto the run start and all these people were cheering and I quiet literally stuck my tongue out at them.  I was not looking forward to this run.  I knew it was hilly and it was starting to get warmer at this point. Not Houston warm but not exactly 60 anymore. Like a quarter of mile in, the legs did loosen up a bit and the back did release a little so I was able to find close to my semi programmed pace, even though I was in pain.  But well they say a lot of these races are for the
mentally strong. And no way I was walking in a world championship race.  I made sure to take in plenty of fluids (thank you Red Bull station that that ridiculous/obnoxious hill) and just tried to get into a rhythm.  I was doing actually fairly good, running at the slower end of my pace range (damn near impossible to get into a rhythm because when I did, I was disrupted by another hill) but at mile 10, the wheels just came off.  I was on the struggle bus.  Somehow still passing some ladies but getting passed by equally as many or more. I’m not used to getting passed that much.  Ouch. Anyways, my pace slowed a bit towards the end and I was definitely soooo happy to round the corner and find a last little bit of adrenaline to run a respectable pace to the finish line. Run split was 1:49:24
All in all, I posted a respectable time.  But nowhere near the time that I know I am capable of and I would maybe like a redo someday. :P I did 70.3 WC a couple years ago and was 95 I believe of like 120 girls in my age group.  This time, the final results showed that I was 85 out of 200+ ladies, so I will take it.

So the women raced their own race on this Saturday without the guys and I have to say, it was fantastic doing a world championship women only race.  No offense to the guys because not all are like this, but most guys have a serious issue with chicks passing them and just it is an entirely different atmosphere with just women out there.  Not only that but the women pros tend to get the back seat to the men’s race when both are happening at the same time and it was so great to see the clips from coverage without having the announcers have to struggle between showing the men’s and women’s leaders at the same time.  I honestly hope they do something like this at Kona, if the big island can handle that. But I’m sure many have mixed opinions on that…

So post race, my awesome Sherpa was there with my requested recovery shake.  And then they gave us a ticket for a free beer and food item of choice.  It was a little too congested in that area, to be honest. They only offered free Michelob Ultra beer (boo) and then a choice of pizza, burgers, tacos and some mac and cheese thing.  I got the trusty pizza and gave half to my Sherpa. Lol. Sat there a bit to digest and then wobbled my way slowly towards bike check out and then the car and back to the house.
Pic from Reiko Donato

That night, we went to the Coeur Sports after party.  The Coeur Sports team is great.  Some of the nicest, sincerest, most amazing women you will ever meet.  I have been so honored to be on the team this year and they are some of the happiest looking racers out there. (I need to work on my racing smile….) It was great to meet a lot of the in person as I have only seen them online.  And then after that, we went to the Women for Tri party and talked to a Czech girl and had some well-deserved chocolate. 😊

Pic from Jackie M David
So because the guys and girls raced separate, I had signed up to be a volunteer on Sunday for the guy’s race.  I signed up to be a sunscreen person but I didn’t get to do that all day.  HA! As soon as Susan (did I mention she is the best Sherpa ever?) and I arrived, we were asked to join the wetsuit strippers station.  HA! I had such a blast doing this.  I have never volunteered as stripper before but I have never been able slap so many men’s asses in my life and get away with it. :P If you want to have a couple hours of volunteering fly by, that is how.  It is also like being in the front row/VIP section for all of the athletes you wanted to cheer for!  And so, once that slowed down, we went to where were we were supposed to be and ended up filling water at the first station just before starting the run in transition and that was hard work.  I was thankfully already soaked from wetsuit stripping and was also thankful the sunscreen was right there because it got hot for the men’s race! I was able to see some pros start their run and I saw all my friends as they started their runs. (I may have even slapped another ass here….) This was hard work.  Almost everyone was grabbing water because it was so hot and there were over 2,000 men racing.  Anyways that went by super quick too and before we knew it, it was 2:30pm and we were done.  And I looked like I was done.  Defeated. Zombie.  BUT I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.  Went back, took a well-deserved nap and then had some beers with the guys when they got back.

The next morning, we lazily got up and got on the road.  Sadly, my jam-packed weekend took its toll on me and I came down with a migraine.  So, Susan ended up driving.  I started trying to drive and that lasted a whole hour since I literally had tears in my eyes. We were supposed to party in New Orleans, LA on the way back but that just didn’t happen.  So, we trucked on home the 12 hours back to Houston 

It was an interesting season this year adding in bike racing and while my FTP has gone up about 20 watts since the beginning of this year, my run has suffered a little.  I am taking a break now from racing for a few months as my body deserves a break and then my next race I am signed up is for a marathon in April – the beautiful Big Sur Marathon.  Thanks to all of the sponsors for their support and here’s to a bigger and better 2018!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ironman Texas 2017 Race Report

photo by the man, Philip Shama himself
Ever since I did my first Ironman in 2013, which was Ironman Texas, I have decided to race about one Ironman a year.  When I heard that Ironman Texas was being moved to April for 2017, I thought in the back of my mind that would be my Ironman for 2017.  Plus, following my plan of doing the race every other year (I raced 2015) and to save money by racing locally, I signed up for Ironman Texas. 

The lead up to the race was pretty smooth, for the most part.  I was nailing training and feeling good while doing it.  I had some pretty good swims and power on the bike and slightly better on the run that I felt like I had a great chance of having a PR at Texas.  However, on the Thursday before the race, I was going to do a flip turn at the pool, which there are pool lights right on the lane lines on the wall where you flip turn, and freak accident, the second smallest toe on my left foot banged it just so that it stopped me dead in my tracks.  I maybe yelled out a bad word in the pool (not the first time, probably). It took a few hours, but it became quite swollen and black and blue.  I thought it was sprained.  I iced it and did everything possible for trying to heal it.  Needless to say, I did no running the week leading up to the race.  Unless you count pool running….which was a first for me.  Not terrible, but not something I want to get into the habit of doing.  And I had ordered new shoes a couple weeks before the race, but they didn’t arrive until the day of the race.  Don’t recommend doing this, but I ran in those shoes….

Morning of the race was nothing spectacular to note.  Yes, the swelling in the toe had went down at this point and it didn’t look quite as black and blue.  But still wasn’t putting weight on it! Oh and I woke up with a bit of a migraine! I chugged maybe too much coffee and it dissipated.  That and the excitement of getting ready to do an Ironman I guess made it lessen.  Needless to say, I was kind of in denial that I was going to even make it through the day.  I parked by where I knew I would end up and discussed meeting up with my Sherpa Susan.  Ran into my riding buddy, John, at transition as I just finished setting up my bike in the muddy transition, and we walked towards the swim start like 10 minutes away.  Ran into a girl wearing a Coeur onesie and chatted about her loving the kit and how her training went.  Killed some time, dropped off the morning clothes bag and popped a couple of gels in the mouth.  Yummy sugar for a snack. 😊

Swim: I lined up somewhere around what I estimated was the 1:10 swim area and then waited for the cannon to go off.  Finally it goes off and shuffle on out in the water.  I estimate I actually swam a 1:10 because it took forever for people in front of me to get in the water after I crossed the mat. If there is one thing I am proud about, I felt like I did a good job of navigating through people out of the gate.  I didn’t get hit in the face until like 1.5 miles in, which is rare for me.  All in all for the swim, I took on water up the nose 3 times….wtf? And I kept swimming up to swimmers that wanted to swim a slightly different angle than me.  Annoying. I felt like I had a decent swim and felt fresh getting out of the water.  But somehow my watch said 1:11. This is slightly frustrating because I have gotten way better at swimming in the pool and have been putting in some serious yardage. Not the time I was hoping for.  This is even with my swim time (which was also non-wetsuit) in 2015.

T1: didn’t slip in the mud, didn’t have a shoe fly off the bike, didn’t run into anyone, so I would say it was a success!

photo by the bike godfather, Philip Shama

Bike: They allowed the helmet and shoes to be placed on the bike so I was ready to roll as soon as I hit the mat on bike out.  Adjusted my shoes a couple times (112 is a long time to bike without your shoes just right) and then got to work.  It was kind of congested for the first 20 miles of the bike.  Later I saw some people serving time at the first penalty tent.  There was a lot of drafting going up one of the first overpasses.  I just tried to stay out of it, as tempting as that all was.  I got water and Gatorade at every aid station except one where I missed a bottle.  But somehow, my migraine crept back to visit at about mile 30.  I was just trying to keep drinking and putting down the calories, but my head was pounding.  I am going to switch aero helmets before my next race because I swear my head was overheating.  The water I was grabbing at each aid station (which it seriously takes skill to grab a water and Gatorade at each aid station while still moving on a bike) was being tossed over my head and body, keeping me wet and cool. Trying to anyways.  At about mile 40, I got to a really, really low point.  I was just really not wanting to be there.  I just couldn’t think of why I was out there and my head and toe hurt.  I debated dropping out at the turn around to the second loop.  Seriously, the only thing that kept me from dropping out is that I didn’t want to wait for a sag vehicle to drive me back and I was afraid that I would have to come back later that evening to get my gear back (I live 35 – 1 hour+ away).  Pathetic.  So, I went out for the second loop.  The way out was so unbearably boring as I was getting passed on repeat, but I just kept on pedaling.  I pulled off at one aid station and chugged a water and Gatorade, yes, an entire one, ate a banana.  I hoped back on the bike, made it to the turn around to come back and then holy hell, that wind!  I was struggling something serious for the way back.  And my power numbers were way off this entire ride. My mind was saying “give me more power” and my body was like “hell no!” And it shows in my file.  Average speed was over 1 mph average lower, cadence was 10 rpm/leg slower and power was 40 watts lower than I did on my two race rehearsals leading up to the race. How was it biking on the Hardy Toll Road, you ask? Well other people had some amazing times that were blazing fast and the surface did feel very fast.  But the lack of scenery and well anything, I don’t think I will want to race this again when there are so many other more scenic options.  Anyways, I get to the turn off to finish the bike and I quite audibly said “thank God!” and just kept it easy on the miles back in.  Surprisingly, my bike split was the same as my Lake Placid bike split which had around 3,500 feet more climbing.

T2: I had left my shoes on the bike and so this made for a fairly quick transition.  I didn’t slip again, although I thought I would as it was all mud at this point (they must replace the grass every year), and ran into the tent to have an amazing volunteer, bless her heart, unpack my bag and put my socks and shoes on (Seriously, thank you!) and out I went, like a rocket.

photo by Leslie, best lane buddy eva
Run: Look, I am competitive.  I saw a lot of girls (and guys) pass me on the bike. So, I knew that if I would want to podium, I would have to have a fantastic run.  Which at this point, the adrenaline kicked in again and the headache lessened.  On a side note, I loved my new shoes.  They were by far the right choice over my old shoes they replaced.  Anyways, I flew through the first loop, forgetting about my headache and toe mostly and then starting the second loop was when it all hit me.  I was doing extremely well running through the aid station and, I kid you not, taking in 2-3 cups plus ice every aid station, but still could feel myself dehydrated.  That was when I allowed myself to walk to get some more fluids in my system and salt and stopped once to go to the bathroom. :/ At this point, the race plan changed into, give it your best and try not to walk any more than the aid stations (I failed in a couple points).  I finished up a very slow (for me) second lap and then threw myself and throbbing toe through a third loop.  I decided at that point, I was going to try to run faster no matter how much it hurt…because the sooner I finished, the sooner I was done running. 😊 Ran through half of the last aid stations, walked the others, taking in fluids and nutrition at each one.  Quads really were on fire for the last few miles along with my left hamstring from slightly adjusting my stride to accommodate for my throbbing foot.  I do have to say that Ironman Texas run course is way more exciting than the other two Ironman locations I’ve done thus far (Cozumel and Lake Placid) and better than all the 70.3s except maybe the 70.3s world championship when it was in Mont Tremblant.  There is something to be said about racing in your hometown and having a lot of people you know out there cheering you on.  Although, I doubt any race has a tri club cheer squad that could top the JSC/SBS Catapult corner.  Seriously! I hope they made some pictures because it is a riot every year.  And I will be there next year instead of racing (well, except the beer mile 😉). Anyways, back to my run, I remember how the finish line feels quite distinctly when I hit mile 24 and while I felt like I was really hauling, looking at my splits I really wasn’t going that entirely fast (for me!).  But I gave it one little push because I knew I was really close to my Lake Placid time and heard the voice himself say that I was an Ironman for the fifth time. 

photo by Sylvia E

Swim: 1:11:30
T1: 3:25
Bike: 5:41:41
T2: 3:38
Run: 3:49:49
Overall: 10:50:03 (a new Ironman PR by 7 minutes and 17 seconds)

So post-race thoughts: I was really hoping for a faster time and my training leading up to it said that I was capable of doing so.  I think you learn something in each race and I learned that I can’t make too drastic of food or caffeine changes before the race, I need a new aero helmet, avoid freak accidents, take in even more nutrition on the bike, train more in the wind, I do better at hills, and the Ironman runs really hurt (well that I already knew).  From looking at the results, even if I would have ran what my goal/planned time was, I would have only moved up one, maybe two places in my age group.  Ironman Texas, being the North American championships, brought out the fastest girls, I swear, like another mini Kona.  So, at the end of the day, I may have not had the race I hoped/dreamed for, but I feel good knowing that I put forth a solid effort and did not give up when I really, really, really wanted to.  Now I am going to take some time off my toe, see when I can run pain free again and work on the summer of speed.  I am going to have to get faster if I want to remain competitive in this new age group, so there will be some painful intervals in my future.  And finally, some road racing that I got this awesome road bike for.  What better way to build bike fitness?!? Next triathlon I am signed up for is Buffalo Springs Lubbock Texas 70.3, again, so I have a couple solid months to recover and start to build speed.

Seriously, thanks everyone for the support and cheers and best wishes.  I am seriously blessed to have so many people that care about me and believe in me racing this awesome hobby. Thanks to Team Coeur Sports for the sweet kit, Roka for getting me set up with an awesome swim skin and sunglasses (seriously cool looking shades for the run!), Inside Tracker for using my bloodwork to help me be the best version of myself, Houston Coogs for helping me improve my swim, TriDot for the training plan, Shama Cycles for looking after my bike and JSC/SBS Catapult for the support.  And to the world’s best Sherpa, Susan, which I will someday hopefully repay.  Happy training, y’all!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Ironman Lake Placid 2016

It is simply amazing how a year ago, I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid, knowing that it was an iconic race and one of the more challenging Ironman’s in North America.  I wanted to race an Ironman with a non-flat bike course which is arguably my strongest of the three disciplines. So one year out, I was at my computer and signed up as soon as registration opened.  The year flew by and I accomplished many goals, surprising myself in the process, put in the training and arrived at race week as ready as I could be.

I had a flight time of 11am so that I could get in my morning workout before I left.  I have the Ruster Armored Hen House bike bag (one bag is for the bike and there is a second bag for the wheels) as I like to have my bike with me until the very last minute.  If a company existed that I did not need to drop off my bike until Sunday afternoon the week before, then I would book it.  But one doesn’t yet.  Anyways, so I get to IAH and the United representatives literally were arguing with me, not explaining professionally, that my bike bag was oversized and that I would have to pay the oversized bags fee.  Well, the lady took out her tape measurer and measured it diagonally, and it didn’t fit the regular bag fees and I had to pay for the oversized bag fee.  Which if you don’t know is $200 each way.  Ouch!  I have flown United hundreds of times, was a loyal customer, and this is the very first time of the at least 10 times that I have flown with the bike that I had to pay the oversized bags fees.  Oh well, I digress. 

I flew from IAH to ERW to BTV.  I realize this is not the quickest way to Lake Placid, but I had racked up airline miles to use and my flight cost me pennies.  My layover was supposed to be a quick 30 minutes, but damn flight was delayed by 2 hours.  Why?!? Because the plane of the previous flight was delayed.  So I was supposed to have a nice evening drive from Burlington, Vermont to Lake Placid, New York to watch the sunset and take in the scenery.  But that didn’t happen.  So I get to Burlington, and my second bag with my wheels didn’t make it.  At this point, it is 9pm at night and United reassures me that this bag will be delivered to me in Lake Placid (about 2 hours away) the next morning.  Uh huh.  I go to the rental car place and they “upgrade” me to a minivan – it was that or a small Ford focus and I was afraid the luggage wouldn’t fit.  And I have to say, the minivan was great!!

I drove up to the Plattsburg ferry which thankfully runs 24 hours (note: you need to take a ferry to cross Lake Champlain to get from Vermont to New York) and I have to say, even though it was dark out, I quite enjoyed the relaxing sound of water splashing the boat…very calming.  The rest of the drive in was uneventful and honestly I had no idea that driving in, I was driving on part of the bike course.  I was out of it. 

I stayed at the Best Western and I would HIGHLY recommend it.  I get there, I get a King bed corner suite! And my two balconies, one looked off on transition.  Literally, I could see my bike from my balcony.  And I could hear Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, say “YOU ARE AN I-R-O-N-M-A-N” over and over on Sunday after finishing.  There is a basic breakfast (plenty awesome options downtown if you are looking to spend more money) and there is a restaurant/bar, The Pickled Pig, that is just downstairs that does carry out, good for post-race food.  And the Lake Placid Brewery was right down the street, there is a back exit to go to Mirror Lake, and it is easy to just bike out since it is just on the edge of town onto the main road.  And just a few steps away from the main downtown area.  Here’s the bad thing, though, the hotels really jack up their rates.  Like a lot!  I paid $439+ a night.  And you have to book one year out to get this room, otherwise you are on a waiting list.  And they have you pre-pay for the rest of your stay two months out.  Which I forgot about and was  like, umm, where did this $1500 charge come from.  LOL. 

A few more things to note about the town and then I will get onto the race details.  Almost all of the local restaurants have “limited Ironman menus”.  Basically what they did was remove some items and jack up the prices because they know people will pay for it.  Oh well.  I tried a few of the popular joints leading up to race day.  Highly recommend eating at off peak times or before the normal rush times as this leads to less stress as there were some long lines!!

So Friday morning, thankfully in my one bag I had a tri suit (no wetsuit) and that day called for a race site swim and run.  I hopped into Mirror Lake which was a nice refreshing 73 degrees (I am from Houston and LOVED this cool water).  Am I the only person that wishes that wetsuit legal was 70 degrees or less?!? The lake is so clear, there is no boat traffic and there is the historic “yellow” cable line.  That is what most people love about this race; people claim that you do not have to site that often as you can just look down and like a black line in the pool, swim the line.  Which is pretty easy to see; it’s quite surprising.  Considering I am used to swimming in brown nasty water that you can’t see anything in.  And is gross.  Uck, Texas lakes.  Anyways, knocked out a nice 40 minutes swim and then put on my shoes and ran around the lake for 25 minutes.  The rest of the day was spent getting my packet, right across the road from the hotel, and then taking in a few sites.  Such a fricking beautiful town! So cute!! Met a few Wattie Ink teammates at the Lake Placid Brewery (no, I didn’t drink anything…) and then grabbed some pasta (I carb load two nights prior) at Nicola’s, like a block from the hotel, highly recommend, and ate my fill.  Then to bed. Oh and my bike wheels did in fact arrive on Friday but not until like 4:30pm, so put together my bike that afternoon also. 

Saturday, I was up at 6am and on the bike by 6:30pm.  Crazy fact: the sun is up at 5:30am in Lake Placid.  That’s crazy awesome for this early bird.  I biked the hill out of town that some people claim is one of the harder ones (lol) and did a quick 35 minutes ride.  Grabbed hotel breakfast, did some tweaks on the bike (hello tighten brakes) and chilled out for a while.  Another fun tip, always pack crazy glue.  You never know when you may need it.  My visor popped out on the flight, so I glued this in.  AND the crazy as F thing happened, my bike seat post stay/screw in broke.  As in snapped in half.  So, yes, I crazy glued that together and crazy glued my seat post where it was.  Said a prayer this wouldn’t be an issue on race day and put the wrench to tighten it, if needed, in my bento bike bag on my stem.  Eeeks! It held up thankfully…..but won’t be riding this bike until I get a new one!! Rest of Saturday was check the bike, soup for lunch, fish/rice for dinner and to bed by 7pm…no joke.

Race morning, the only time I get up at 3:30am and am excited about it.  HA! And then I realize how much it sucks to be a women.  This is maybe TMI for some people, so sorry, but this is the first time ever that I have had my period on race day.  And I almost always get bad cramps on the first day.  And I did this day. L Not much I could do about that at that point, though.  Breakfast on tap: 3 cups applesauce, 1.5 bananas, 1.5 cups of coffee with non-dairy cream, 2 scoops protein (Herbalife 24 rebuild strength) drink, 2 scoops sports drink (Herbalife 24 prepare) and well a gu right before the swim start. I get up this early as I like to give the food 3 hours to process and do the motions of setting up transition slowly.  I am not a fast person when it comes to setting up transition.  And if I get there earlier, it makes me less stressed.  The bike was already there, so I just had to add then some fluids (first aid station on bike is 8 miles in) and my nutrition.  Which if you are curious, I took my new hot pink Wattie Ink sports bottle and filled it up with 10 salted caramel gu’s and water.  The gear for your run is in one bag, the gear for your bike portion is in another bag.  At placid, this hangs from a rack. It is known for rain surprises in placid, so the racks may be needed some years.  They give you another bag for morning clothes and you have to hang it there.  Transition area is about .4 miles from the swim exit and it is up a hill and unfortunately you need to have to get rid of your stuff then and walk there.  A couple tips, use the port-o-potties by the lake early.  Not at transition.  Less lines.  Also, have your Sherpa ready to take your fluids bottle just before the swim or have a disposable water bottle so that you are still taking in fluids.  It could be an hour from the time you drop your morning clothes bag until you start and there isn’t a table there with fluids for you. I got in the water at 6am and did a quick little water splashing around and then walked over to the swim area.

The swim is a two loops rolling start where you seed yourself according to your swim ability.  I just did a 70.3 four weeks prior at just above my Ironman swim race intensities at 33 minutes, so I lined up at just passed the hour marker.  The women pros went off like 6:15am and then we went off at 6:40am.  I got in the water and freaked the F out.  It has been a long time since I have had anxiety issues at swim starts, but I just don’t like swimming with people next to me.  I seriously need to fix this if I want to continue to grow in triathlon.  So the first 3 minutes were spent on me trying to figure out how to breathe and swim.  Annoying.  And I got water up my nose a few times.  So frustrating.  So if anyone in Houston want to play open water swim starts with me, I am game.  I have improved swim times in the pool, but that doesn’t mean a thing if I can’t swim once I get in the open water.  Anyways, so I start to get to swimming eventually.  And realize I hate this course now.  Two loops swimming, in my opinion and we all have an opinion, is dumb and tough to rally yourself up to go swim another lap.  And well, everyone was trying to swim the cable line.  This was my first Ironman swim that was wetsuit legal and I swam slower than two of my previous non-wetsuit legal swims.  Anyways, so as I am trying to swim the line, I get water up my nose and elbowed too many times to remember.  Mostly by bike manly looking guys.  Whatever. I honestly prefer most other Ironman swims because everyone is more spread out as everyone is not trying to all swim in the same space.  And I am not that great, apparently, at navigating the water.  At the end of my one clockwise loop, I run on the dirt for a second (there is a table with water there) and then back in the water.  Time for another go.  Somehow, I swam slower my second loop! Boo!  I just told myself, just keep calm, keep the heart rate low and it is a long day.  Sorry non-triathletes, I made sure I peed towards the end of the first loop.  Swim time: 1:13:42.

Transition, as mentioned, is a longer one.  If I could give a suggestion to Lake Placid, it would be to get wider carpets.  Noted, it was nice they had them even at all, but they weren’t wide enough in most spots for me to pass people and still be on the carpet.  I run transitions, not jog like most people or walk like some, but run.  I finally get to my bag on the rack, grab it, run to the females’ tent and throw on the helmet, throw my base salt tube in the pocket, a couple gu’s, extra tube and go.  I swam in sports bra, cycling jersey and tri shorts.  This year, they allowed us to have the bike shoes already on the bike.  Looks like most people didn’t chose this option.  I did. Transition 1 time: 4:22.

The exit from transition is awesome and fairly sketch maybe.  All downhill with a sharp left.  I bet some people get scarred there, but I did Escape from Alcatraz with way worse turns and well, thankfully there were no hot shots trying to fly down it next to me.  Haha. So, you exit town and people are lined up for the first 3 or so miles and then you ride the good hill out of town and then it was pretty awesome.  There was a nice little bit of riding and then my favorite part of the entire course…the Keene descent.  Seriously, so awesome!  Being from Houston, there is nowhere to properly practice hills up or down like this so it was some big gear work on the trainer.  Good times.  But the downhills you can’t stimulate.  Well, somehow I ended up with 3rd on Strava and got up to 48.5 miles per hour! I wish the entire course was like that.  HAHAHA! Just kidding.  At the end of the descent, you make a left and then this part until the U-turn is the part where you can really put in the work and make up time.  False flats and some real flats and when on the first loop, plenty of people.  After turning around, it is back to town and a right and then a few decent rollers and then the second out and back and then a quick bit to turn back towards town.  The road back to town on the first loop is definitely do able and beautiful, cycling next to the Au Sable River.  And seeing the Olympic sites.  And then the climbs back into town.  One bad part, my power meter decided not to work on race day.  Good thing is that I was wearing a heart rate monitor and knew what my heart rate targets were so I did my best to keep in the range.  But unfortunately I did all of the training primarily on power.  Oh well.  Turning into town and knowing you had to go out for a second loop is kind of a point where you need to rally up and get ready for the next round. The second go ‘round, the wind picked up a little bit which that and maybe a little fatigue made it a little slower than the first loop, but not by much. Overall split: 5:41:02 (I have no idea how I pulled that off considering I only did one bike ride over 100 miles in my build up and it was a disaster!)

So, I get into T2 and those volunteers! Best ones yet.  I ran into the female tent and no one was in there!  That’s a first! So I run in there with my bag and I plop my butt on a chair and before I can process what’s going on, the bag was open, my socks were being put on my feet while they were putting my hat on my head, and putting on my race best and putting on my sunglasses while other girls were handing me water and sunscreen.  What a whirlwind! It felt like seconds but T2 was 2:23. Pretty good for an Ironman transition. J  Unfortunately, though, as I was going to put my sunglasses on, they 80% snapped in the middle.  Said a quick prayer for them to hopefully stay on my face because I always wear sunglasses!!
Photo Cred: Jon Miles
Off to the run.  That town was on fire! The cheers were amazing.  Felt like I was on fire.  And tried sooo hard not to run too fast.  That was hard as hell and I failed a little.  But I didn’t go too crazy fast. There’s a good downhill in the beginning and then it was mostly flat with a hill in there.  And wow was it desolate and not shady. It was like 77 degrees at that point.  Oh so lonely.  The only entertainment was the other racers, which it was thin on the first loop, and the thoughts in my head.  I made a point to take in as much fluids as possible and ice myself.  I love trucker hats for this.  Shub it towards the volunteers, they toss ice in there, I put some down the front and on the head and you don’t have to stop.  Well unfortunately, I just start to feel very off at mile 8.  Seriously could not convince myself to move like normal and I was slowing way down.  So I stopped at the next aid station, salt, coke and then back to the run.  And then did that on repeat mixing up coke with Gatorade and adding in gu here and there. It was a long run.  I saw a few girls but not that many the first loop and then more on the second loop.  But it was hard to tell who was in what age group.  So I had no idea where I was at then, but I did everything to keep on going between aid stations.

I heard the party at the finish line and give it the last little bit I got to get there and then I get to hear for the fourth time, Claudia Smith from Houston, You Are An IRONMAN!!  Run time was 3:55:51.  Final time was 10:57:20 A personal best by right around an hour.
Photo cred: Karin Langer
Head to the food and grab some Coke, Gatorade, pretzels and pizza.  Yum!  The volunteers at the finish line were the best….they basically waited on me. It was awesome!  Then went to get a massage.  And picked up my bike and walked across the road to the hotel.  I didn’t know what my exact time was so I looked it up and saw that I was 5th in my age group!  Yay!  I started dreaming of a Kona slot…knew it was a long shot.  Well, at breakfast/awards the next day, I unfortunately didn’t get the slot.  But has me now thinking that I need to really set my eyes on Kona qualification and find the perfect race for me.  Any suggestions??
Thanks to Team Wattie Ink and all of the sponsors for their continued support!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Boston Marathon….the iconic race itself.  I ran 5 marathons before I decided that I wanted to try to qualify for the iconic race.  Technically on the fifth race, I qualified, aka “BQ” but my time was just under the cut-off and it wasn’t good enough to register (more on that later).  I registered for my 6th marathon with the entire goal of qualifying for Boston.  I aimed for the USA Fit Marathon in Sugarland, Texas and went out faster than I should’ve and built myself a cushion for when it got warmer out and I started to crash.  I surprised myself by winning first female and set a comfortable BQ.

You see, for those of you who do not follow everything running, there is a time that you have to meet to even be able to register for this race and even if you meet the cutoff, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get in the race.  Why, you ask? The demand to do this longest running marathon is so high that just meeting the cut off is not good enough.  This year you had to run more than 5 minutes under the qualifying time to get there.  I was just under 5 minutes below my 3 hours 35 minutes needed qualification time for a female 34 and under and so I had a comfortable time to get me in.

After receiving the official email saying I got in and paying the cheap registration fee, I was pumped!  I did my last triathlon (Tri Andy’s Tri) in October and then after that, it was time to take some time easy and then ramp back up the running mileage while not forgetting about my swimming and biking, but really making sure to get in the necessary time on my two feet.  My lead up was great.  I nailed workouts at above my goal pace of 7 minutes 30 seconds per mile and felt very comfortable doing it.  I set a goal of doing 3 hours and 20 minutes (which I told like everyone that was my goal, made me accountable) in Boston which was a 7 minutes 35 seconds per mile pace which allowed a little buffer in case weather or crowds were an issues. And the hills…

Arrived to Boston on Saturday (the race is on Monday) and well, I had a couple delayed flights due to mechanical issues, twice, and did not arrive until way later than I wanted.  BUT the good thing about it is that my Sherpa, Susan Benton, arrived near that same time as me, so we were able to navigate the bus and subway together.  Note to those not familiar with Boston, the bus and subway system are excellent.  And the people there are so friendly and totally willing to help get you pointed in the right direction.  And it is $2.10 - $2.65 each time you board versus a $40 cab ride each way to/from airport.

Sunday morning was a quick shake out run and then a huge breakfast.  And then the race expo.  Oh man, 30,000 runners with all of their race support – that makes for a lot of people at the expo.  OMG, that place was crazy packed.  I wanted the token race jacket and just getting that was a challenge.  I think if I do this again, I would arrive on Friday and pray that Saturday would not be as packed.  And arrive earlier in the day. Or just skip the expo part all together as there is an Adidas store right by the finish line, way less packed with the same good stuff.  Got my race packet and was ready to get out of there.  Just took it easy and got everything ready for the next day and was to bed early like a good racer.

Race morning, I was up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, raring to go at 6am. Slowly got ready with a couple cups of coffee, a banana, a mixture of unsweetened and sweetened applesauce – breakfast of champions.  There were 4 ways for the marathon and with a 3:30 and some change qualifying time (my personal best at the marathon distance), I was placed in the third wave.  The race is a point to point race, so I rode the subway to where the busses were and then joined the sea of people getting on the busses.  They have select times for each wave to get on the bus and my time window was from 7:45am to 8am and I walked up at 7:22am and they let me on the bus.  The ride to Hopkinton is around an hour, so I brought a Coke, Herbalife 24 Prepare, Herbalife 24 Rebuild Endurance, my gels, an unsweetened applesauce and a packet of almond butter.  My second breakfast.  I ended up sitting next to a girl from Ohio who also won the race that she qualified at and chatted and snacked on my items.

The busses us off at the school and there are people EVERYWHERE! People pulling off to the busses to do there “business” and the massive crowd of people going to one of the two tents to hang out.  The first wave went off at 10am and mine started staging at 10:20am and went off at 10:50am. Recommendations here: definitely bring a plastic bag to keep you warm and to sit on, maybe some cardboard.  I saw a couple guys with a couple of blow up rafts that you would use in the pool…so clever!! I went straight to the bathrooms line, sat around for a while and then back to the bathroom line.  Which the second time took 45+ minutes!!! I was in line when the area opened for my wave.  So when I was done, I walk/jogged to my corral which the starting line was about half a mile from the waiting tents area and got there just as the gun was going off.  Just in time! 

The guns goes off and it is like surreal just being there.  Everyone is screaming and cheering and SO EXCITED! Puts other race starts to shame!  And the first mile was so slow.  There was some weaving through people, but I told myself that I would just take it cool the first few miles and slowly settle into my goal pace.  And all I heard from people leading up to the race is that you need to take the first 10k of the race easy because if you don’t, you will be heart broke on the notorious “heartbreak” hill.  Which I didn’t want to happen.  So I finally tried to settle into the pace.  Which is a joke.  The hills in Boston are no joke.  No one told me the truth about these hills.  Everyone downplayed them too much.  Settling into a pace was a battle.  But you know what, I knew what the turnover felt like for my 7:30 pace and only allowed myself to look at my watch when it hit the mile splits to see how I was doing compared to my goal pace.  And I was pretty close for all of the miles.  Until towards the end….

The Boston marathon has spectators the ENTIRE way!  By far the best support from any community yet.  (New York is close but not the same.) Seriously made it easy to keep pushing the pace with hearing cheers the ENTIRE way!! There was a downhill portion around mile 16 and I could feel my quads seizing up.  My quads had never hurt so much before in my life.  Not even after one of my 3 ironmans I have done.  But I refused to slow up off of the pace.  I kept telling myself that it was a privilege to even be there and it would disrespectful to everyone that isn’t there to give it less than my best shot.  And who knows, maybe I will never get the chance to race it again. And I told everyone my goal, so there’s that too…. So I dug really deep and then deeper and deeper still and kept as close to the pace as possible.  There were some good hills out there and I told myself I was not walking no matter what (there was a lot of people walking the hillls!!) and I kept the turnover high.  A bit of advice, practice your aid stations with your left hands.  90 percent of the people were going to the aid stations on the right and no one was on the left.  Had my pick of Gatorade and water.  Being as it was around 60 degrees, I took a huge swig of Gatorade and then tossed a cup of water on my front and head at each aid station.  Which was almost at every mile.  And my awesome Sherpa was there just past mile 13 to hand me a Coke, my rocket fuel of choice.  And I took a Powerbar Gel each 40 minutes, with caffeine.  Unfortunately towards the end of the race, I just saw the aid stations on the right hand side of the road and the course was more congested, so in combination of the pain in the quads and the congestion and the need to get the fuel in, my pace slowed.  But I kept doing the math and knew I had the sub 3:20. 

The last mile is always the longest. But rounding the corner, knowing where I was due to watching the race many years, onto Boylston Street and seeing the finish line, I gunned it with what I had left, even though I wanted to cry with the pain in my quads, and I passed so many people to get to that finish line.  Crossed it with a tear or two in my eyes and raised my arms high in celebration of accomplishing a major goal.  A new PR and Boston finisher and another BQ. J  And then almost fell over.  LOL.  My quads caused some serious waddling.  And slowly waddled with the masses to get the medal, heat sheet, food and then met some of my Wattie Ink team members at Fire + Ice, just a couple blocks off the finish line.  I highly recommend anyone that does the race to stop there post-race.  BUT don’t plan on your Sherpa on a bike meeting you.  Unfortunately, Susan, who had my post-race gear as I didn’t check my bag, was not able to find anywhere to park the bike and didn’t get there until after I left.  Which I hung out there over an hour after I finished.  Everything was blocked off.  My awesome teammate bought me a beer and gave me money for the subway.  Thank you.  So I could get back to my hotel in Cambridge.  Which I highly recommend staying over there as I was told the wait times for the restaurants in Boston were just crazy.  We walked into a four star restaurants the day before and after the race with no wait in Cambridge.  And the subway/busses are very convenient and cheap!!

So, would I do Boston again? Sure. But not next year, I don’t think.  Maybe in 10 more years. J And next time, I will be sure to do more hill work.  Because right now, my quads hurt, I can barely walk. And it was so worth it.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Athletic Year in Review

Alright so I am not one to spend much time looking back and looking at what they did in the year as I spend so much time focusing my energy on what goals I want to accomplish....and what I am going to do to accomplish them.

However, 2015 was a stellar year that I have no idea how I could top in 2016!!  I wrote this down for myself, to remember what I accomplished...I am sometimes still shocked at how this idea I had one day of signing up for a local 10k has turned into this....

Before the year started, I found out I was privileged enough to make Team Wattie Ink.  I have really enjoyed racing on the team and the sponsors are so great to the team.  It is truly an honor.  And I am so excited to be on the team again for 2016. Thank you Wattie Ink, BlueSeventy, Speedfil, Herbalife 24, Rudy Project and the old and new sponsors for their support.

So the year started off with doing the USA Fit Marathon (2 months after a disastrous Ironman Cozumel).  I took a slight break from swimming and biking to get ramp up my run volume as fast and safe as I could.  I had the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. The morning showed up, I started out a little ahead of pace (never a good idea) and about 5 miles in, a spectator said " You are the first women!"  Woah! Not used to that! So I made sure to keep it that way and ended up the overall winner and got my BQ time and PR'd in the process. Awesome!  And tied my super fast husband, Ryan Smith, for the most money won at a running race. :P (Seriously though, my husband is WAY faster than me and wins a LOT more than me.)

And then it was back to focusing on triathlons.  I attended the Wattie Ink camp in Clermont, Florida and we raced the Great Floridian Olympic Triathlon on the second to last day of camp and I surprised myself with a first place age group.  Not bad considering my old wetsuit would not zip! Soon after, this was replaced with the awesome BlueSeventy Helix which I love, love, LOVE!

Next, a friend loaned me a male sleeveless wetsuit lol for the Kemah Olympic (thanks Amanda) and I had a decent race there and ended up second in my age group.  I did this race to qualify and race Escape from Alcatraz in June.  They give a guaranteed registration slot to the first place age group winner.  Lucky for me, the girl who beat me was already registered this year and passed the spot down to me (thanks Becky!).

Next up was Ironman Texas.  It just wasn't my day considering I just wasn't feeling it.  Had come down with a cold the week before and just felt dead all week.  And of course the cold came back with a vengeance the day before the race.  Have you ever tried to swim when your nose is all congested and while needed to cough over and over again?!? Not fun!  But, I set a new Ironman PR regardless.

3 quick weeks later was Escape from Alcatraz.  I went into this race fully knowing I would be hurting and then wanted to take in the sights and race it easy.  Not the easiest race by far, but definitely one of the most memorable!  The swim was, so far, my second favorite swim ever (IM Cozumel will always be my favorite swim) and the bike was crazy fun.  I finished, and not as bad placement wise as I would've thought.

The week after that, I joined my JSC/SBS friends and competed in the Sylvan Beach Sprint Triathlon team challenge.  We ended up getting second and I somehow pulled off first in my age group.

I was planning on visiting my family for the family reunion at the end of July and saw that there was an Olympic triathlon in the town about an hour away.  Of course I signed up because I have always thought it would be awesome to do a triathlon in Michigan!!  Ryan, husband, signed up for the 5k they had with the race.  I ended up having a great day on the rolling bike and run course and won first overall. Ryan definitely won the 5k. And my parents got to watch me for the first time compete since I did track in high school. :)

Next up was Towne Lake Olympic Triathlon and I raced in the elite wave and got 6th.  Even though I didn't win any hardware, I walked away from that race feeling like a winner because I set a new PR of 2:20:05!! Woohoo!

Then was my second A race for the year - USAT Long Course National Championships, AKA Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma City, OK.  I had a great day there and just felt great the whole race, even though there were rollers, it was humid and like 80 or so degrees.  I set a new half ironman distance PR and won my age group and was age group national champion!!! And get to race for team USA at the Long Course World Championships at the end of September 2016!!

And then, I always wanted to Tri Andy's Tri and raced that in the middle of October and had a good race with first in my age group.

The only other race I did this year was the Turkey Trot 5K in my hometown. I was winning the entire race until in the last 400 or so meters, a girl outkicked me for the win. But I tied my 5K PR of 2 years ago which was definitely a surprise on very little speed work training.

AND I got accepted into the USAT coaching clinic which was in November in Salt Lake City.  It has been a dream of mine since starting to participate in these sports to share my passion for triathlon and running with other athletes and finally now, after passing with 100%, I can say I am a USAT level 1 certified coach.  If you are looking to improve at triathlon or do your first triathlon, you will soon be able to find me as a coach at TriDot!!  The new, totally revamped, cutting-edge website and system is set to go live very soon!  If you want a plan backed by math and science that takes the guesswork out of training while maximizing your training time, you should check them out! 

So to recap my year, I won two races for the first time in my life (never won a race before 2015), I set a PR at the marathon, Olympic triathlon, half ironman triathlon, and ironman triathlon and qualified for team USA and am now a certified triathlon coach.  Top that, 2016!!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Houston Towne Lake Olympic Triathlon - Second Time Around

I started doing triathlon's in 2012.  I was a 3 time marathoner looking for the next challenge and turned to triathlons.  Never swam a length of the pool in my life.  So I joined a gym and eventually made it from one end to the other.  I am now up to 5 sprints, 5 Olympics (counting Escape from Alcatraz as an Olympic...), 5 Half Ironmans and 3 Ironmans.  I have progressively gotten better due to smart training and the time put in.  Four of the Olympics I have done were this year.  I had avoided the Olympic distance due to being a strong biker and runner and well, my swim is/was a work in progress.  The Olympic distance favors the swim so not my strength.  But here's the thing, I have progressively gotten better at swimming and don't mind the distance now.  Want to know how I got from a 2:24 per 100 meters to 1:42 per 100 meters in two years? Well, you keep showing up.  You may be frustrated at times with all the faster people in the pool making you feel slow, but if you keep showing up and putting the work in AND focus on improving one little thing form wise each time, you will get better!!!  And sometimes be the fastest person in the pool ;)

Enough on that...

I raced Towne Lake Olympic tri in 2013 as my first ever Olympic triathlon.  I got second in my age group with a time of 2:31:40. The race director posted on Thursday that they were looking for more people for the elite invitational wave, so I sign on for my first ever invitational wave.

The race is on Labor Day which is definitely different than most races.  I didn't taper for this race as this is not my A race.  I am racing again in a couple weeks. And this was my first time doing an invitational wave.  I wasn't really planning on a crazy PR or anything, just wanted to test my fitness.

Lined up and waited for the gun to go off.

Swim 2013 time: 36:04 (see, I told you I was a slow swimmer)
Swim 2015 time: 25:34 (new Olympic swim PR)
So on Saturday night, they posted that a few pros in town were going to join us for the swim.  So I can now say I raced in the same wave as pros.  Actually the girl that won, Lisa Roberts, won Ironman France and the guy that won, Matt Hanson, won Ironman Texas, so I swam with celebrities. :) Well, actually it was more like we started together as I ate their "dust" quickly.  LOL  All in all, this was my best swim yet in a race.  I feel like I have finally learned to swim straighter and site better.  I took one buoy too wide, though, as I noticed a fast guy from the wave behind me cut that corner and I didn't.  Whoops!!  Anyways, I had a great swim in my BlueSeventy Swim skin.
I seriously love this picture - channeling Andy Potts LOL!!!
On to my favorite part - the bike.  So I have only been riding a bike now for 3.5 years and it amazes me at how fast sometimes I can get going.  I looked down at my watch several times and it said I was going upwards of 24 mph.  BUT my overall pace says 22.7 due to the course having some winding sections when you first start the loop (which you do twice) that I slowed down for.  I also went the wrong way once and had to turn around at one point.  The cop looked like he was telling me to turn and so I turned, but then he started yelling at me to turn around.  My mistake.  I passed a few people on the bike, but not as many as I am used to...due to having a slower swim and passing everyone from previous waves.  Being in the first wave meant nearly all clear roads!! Yay!!
Bike 2013: 1:04:30
Bike 2015: 1:02:00 (New Olympic PR)
As crazy as I thought it sounded before, I may have a sub 1:00 Olympic bike in my future!! Love my new Diamondback bike!!! And thanks to the sponsors for their support in my speedy machine! (Rudy Project, Speedfil, ISM Seats)

So, I failed to mention that humidity was at 98%.  >:{ Man that run sucked.  I usually am passing people on the run the entire way.  Well I still was passing people, but actually got passed by 3 people.  That rarely happens.  I bonked, I guess, and ran no where near my potential.  BUT I am over it.  It was a rough run and everyone else times slowed too due to the humidity.  I love my Wattie Ink trucker hat and kit.  So comfy even though I am dripping sweat. :)
Run 2013: 45:05
Run 2015: 49:16  :(

BUT here's the best part.  I set a new Olympic triathlon PR by far!!!
2013: 2:31:40
2015: 2:20:05 !!!

So considering I set a new PR without a true taper and I had a bad run, I know that one day I will achieve my life goal of going under 2:20!!!  I can think of at least 5 ways I could've saved 6 seconds. ;) Anyways, stick with it!! You never know what you could accomplish until you tri!  (LOL sounds so cheesy!) 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon Race Report

The Escape From Alcatraz race is pretty well known in the triathlon world and a lot of people consider it a bucket list race. I read somewhere that 6700 people enter the lottery to get one of the 2,000 slots. And there were the few people there because they qualified at an Escape To Alcatraz race. I received a rolled down slot at Kemah Triathlon this past April and was super excited to get the slot!!   The event takes place in none other than San Francisco. The swim is chilly in the bay, the bike is hilly and the run has an infamous sand ladder and lots of running on the sand. It was surprise to me, however, to hear that 79% of the athletes racing were men....where were all the ladies!?

I arrived into San Francisco early on Friday morning (2 hours behind makes an early flight even earlier), retrieved my Ruster sports bike and wheel bags (I just carried on my purse and my Ironman Texas bag otherwise) and took to the BART (their subway). I was booked at the Parc 55 hotel just off of Union Square and the Powell Street station. Bad part was that the elevator at the station was put so I carried all my stuff up three flights of stairs. But I don't regret doing this over Tri Bike Transport as I saved myself $500 checking I myself. And taking apart a bike takes like 5 minutes and putting it together is pretty much the same - it is not that difficult! Anyways, the hotel was one block from the station and lucky for me, the room was ready when I got there. Awesome hotel - great location next to prime tourist spots. However, I would not recommend anyone doing the triathlon to stay there. It was almost comical how many people that I mentioned the race to in passing near the hotel had no idea about this race. People that lived there. And let me just say that San Fran has some of the nicest people! From the ladies that sat next to me on the bus, to the guys that gave me directions, to the servers to the person that explained hoe the bus system in town worked, it was refreshing. And there was a surprising amount of active people there, running and biking around town.

The reason why I don't recommend staying where I did was that the race site was an $19 cab ride away. I needed a cab for the bike. But luckily they do run at 3am, when I ordered pick up for me and the bike. The buses doesn't operate that early.

So Friday at 5:30pm, there was an optional meeting at the Sports Basement that was optional. Since I came in town early enough, I had plenty of time before the meeting, so I did some site seeing. Being as this was my second time in San Fran, I had seen most of the sites before so did more casual walking tour. Not ideal for serious races. But I was just racing this for fun...sometimes I take myself too seriously...since I just had done Ironman Texas three weeks before. Which according to a man irt at the airport trip return home, makes me pretty hardcore. Lol. So I took the cable car from Union square area and then to the end to Fisherman's Warf. This area or closer to Marina Green is where I suggest athletes to stay. Just past Bay as it kind of turns into Marina Street, there is a very nice paved path that lots of local bikers and runners are active on and affords nice views of the ocean and Golden Gate Bridge. Sports Basement was in the Presidio area, so I basically did some window shopping, stopped by Ghirardelli's Square, got some hot chai tea, watched people swim on the beach and spent some time chilling in the park. I slowly walked the rest of the way to the meeting. Whig there was a short presentation on of race tips and a small question answer period with 5 pros. And 50 giveaways. I didn't win anything. And the information covered in this meeting was also covered almost verbatim in the mandatory athlete meeting. So no need to attend unless you feel lucky. I caught a cab (should've uber it) back to the hotel and ate at the restaurant there.

Saturday morning I got up and did a quick bike around Union Square at 6am.  Being as I was still used to central time, I had no problems this entire trip getting up that early.  It was great biking around the town when everyone else is sleeping - it is surreal.  I recommend everyone that ever travels to get up early to view the city on two feet.  Anyways, a quick run off the bike and shower later, I headed to a local diner for breakfast.  Note: food in San Francisco is fairly expensive.  I then took the bus to Marina Green to pick up my race packet.  I got there at about 11:30am and the line was crazy long.  All in all, I think I waited in line for an hour.  I stood next to a man and his wife from Australia and learned a bit about their triathlon world in Australia.  Have to do one out there some day.  On Saturday, you have the option of dropping of a swim exit bag, for the long run (.5 mile) to transition.  I didn't elect to do this.  More on that later.  I got all of my stuff squared away and took the bus (public transportation in San Fran is great) back to near the hotel.  I grabbed a sandwich from Walgreens and then chillaxed at the hotel watching movies.  I ordered food to go from a local Italian restaurant one block away and then went to bed early.  7:30pm.

Sunday morning, I got up and had a banana, two PowerBars, Herbalife 24 Hydrate and on the cab ride, Herbalife 24 Prepare.  I had pre-ordered a cab the night before for 4am as transition opened at 4:30am and the cab, a Prius, was ready for me and my bicycle promptly.  Took the quick cab ride to Marina Green and hopped in line to have air put in my tires.  If you can, bring your own as the lines were long.  I went and set up my transition area and was ready to go by 5:15am or so and hopped on the shuttle that would take us to the boat that I would later jump off of. The ride was a quick 10 - 15 minutes and then everyone went towards the boat.  There was another set of port o potties there and after a quick stop, got on the boat. 

I was on the boat from like 5:45am until I jumped off.  It was a one way trip. :) I brought on board my Blue Seventy swim socks, my Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit, a latex cap and the race cap they provided and my trusty tinted googles.  I was already wearing half of my wetsuit at this point as I am from Texas and it was a little chilly for me.  And I wore the swim socks sort of as shoes... I sat next to a girl and we chatted for a bit the entire ride.  Honestly it went by quick!  Then everyone started standing and I knew it was time to put on the rest of my wetsuit.  Before I knew it, the cannon went off and the pros dived in.  And then it was a mad rush to get off the boat.  Everyone that was under 40 was on the lower level and 40 and up were on the upper level.  You jump off of the lower level.  I opted not to wear a neoprene cap.  Obviously, the water was going to be cold, but I have never swam in before and knew I would be fine.  Looking around the boat at what everyone else was wearing, about 25% had neoprene caps, 60% had swim socks and 99% had wetsuits (yes, some people did the swim without a wetsuit!) 

Anyways, I finally saw the opening and it was my turn to jump in, feet first for non-pros, and off I go.  So everyone is like, OMG, I could never do that race because that water is so COLD.  Well, yes, it was cold.  But I had been taking cold showers for a week leading up to the race, no joke, without a wetsuit on! So I knew what it would feel like, sort of.  So I get in the water and the ONLY thing that was cold was my face. It was quite shocking.  But I was thinking more like, hmm, which way should I angle myself.  In the pre-race meeting, they stressed over and over again, swim to the left early on to get the best of the current.  So I did.  And as soon as I thought that, I was no longer thinking the water was cold, but that it was refreshing.  Which it was.  In Texas, the water is like 80+ degrees right now.  The bay was about 57.  So I got in a grove early and had very few interruptions (i.e. people bumping into me) the entire swim.  There were no buoys in the water and I actually quite enjoyed that.  It makes sighting more real and it feel more like an open water swim, if that makes any sense.  I kept left the entire swim and focused on swimming as straight as possible and did not draft at all.  They had kayaks a ways off to the right and left and I kept where I could always see them on my left, not right. And something else everyone says about that swim is that it is so wavy and hard to sight.  Maybe God smiled on us, but honestly, I didn't think it was that bad!  I swam the 1.5 mile swim in just over 38 minutes and considering I had done a 1500m swim in the ocean at a race in April in 33 minutes, I think I had a fantastic swim.  Not to mention that I exited with strong looking men and hardly any females. 

As soon as you get out of the water, on the beach there is a pre-transition transition.  You have the option of leaving a bag at the swim exit for a pair of shoes, a towel and bottle of water, checked like any other transition bag.  I opted not to leave anything for the .5 mile run as I would be fine just running in my swim socks.  That and they said that these bags would not be available for pick up until 1pm after the race.  So this run was pretty uneventful.  It is always surprising to me how slow some people run after they swim, as they get to transition.

I had a mental moment and ran past my bike, twice, trying to find it.  No matter.  Found my bike, ran to near transition, put the shoes on, (I can't run in these shoes and my flying mount is a work in progress) and off I went.  With 2000 of my tri friends. :)  There was never a moment on the entire 18 mile hilly ride where I had the road all to myself.  So you start off on a little bit of straight aways and then the fun begins. I rode my TT bike with a 11-27 cassette on my 80 carbon front and back race wheels. For people considering doing this race, I would recommend the road bike for better handling as there was very few spots where I actually got in the aero bars.  But I don't own a road bike, so..... I would also recommend not so deep of a wheel for the lighter folks as there were a few crosswinds off the ocean.  Not that bad but worth a thought.  And at least that cassette for sure.  So, I live in flat lands Texas where there are really not any hills.  The things we call hills pale in comparison to that of San Fran.  The course was out and back so every hill you went up, you would have to go down on the way back and vice versa.  I would highly recommend you to drive the course the day before to see what you have to do as there are some tight turns coming off of a hill that would be quite shocking if you were not prepared.  Being as I didn't have a rental car, I went to trusty U-Tube and watched a guy's post of him biking the entire course.  Very helpful.  Anyways, there was one hill on the course that was like never ending.  You make a turn and go up.  Then you make another turn and go up.  At this point I was already in the easiest gear as well I don't do hills often (and hey, it looked like everyone else was in lowest gear too).  You turn another slight corner and then you realize you need to go up more.  Yikes.  I imagine some people got off and walked it.  But not the people around me, which there was probably like 10 of us attacking the hill.  There was some grunting and standing and very slow cadence involved with getting up this hill.  At the end of the day, the up hills were fine.  I just hated flying down some of these hills with so many people next to me and not knowing where they are at with their bike handling skills.  All in all, the 18 miles was ridden in similar time to my normal 25 mile time.  I won't even tell you my average mph...

Pull into transition and throw on my trusty Asics noosa tri shoes and off I go.  I should have worn socks.  But I have worn those shoes over 20 times without socks for similar distance without socks no problem.  I didn't really think of how I didn't have a big toenail (thank Ironman Texas 3 weeks prior of that one) and how much sand was going to get into my shoe and how that was going to feel.  So the run starts off on a hardened sandy path and then you run for a ways and then up like 30 steps to the road.  Then down a mountain bike looking path and then to the beach.  At the beach this year was a turnaround and a water station.  There was loose sand here.  The second my shoes hit the beach, sand got everywhere.  And I stopped dead in my tracks due to the pain on my big toe, that didn't have a nail on it.  Lucky for me, there was an aid station a few hobbles away and I stopped there and asked if they had an aid station.  It was unbearable pain and I was hoping for a bandaid at least.  I was okay with loosing a couple minutes to finish this race feeling okay.  I was here for the experience and didn't have any goals but to finished and knew I would at this point, preferably running, not walking.  They searched for a first aid kit and I used a cleaning wipe to clean off the tip of my big toe which had lost several layers of skin where the nail used to be and had sand in it.  Ewww.  And took big gauze and wrapped it with tape around my entire toe.  Problem semi solved. I knew at the end of the beach run part was the sand ladder and needed to be better for that.  So I gave it a run after the wrapped toe and it was painful but bearable.  So I half walk jogged up the sand ladder (it was pretty congested here and lots of slow walking folks).  It is a sand ladder as it says.  There are steps semi built in this very steep cliff that are completely covered in sand.  They say to use the ropes and step on the steps but that didn't work that well for me.  Anyways made it up that few hundred steps and then off to the road and down the previous steps (very congested! One lane only!) and back on the harded path and around to a very welcoming, loud finish line. 

It was an awesome finish line!  Straight to the food tent and got some chicken broth and pasta and bread.  They also offered salad....seriously people?  Salad after working out a couple hours. lol!  If you have people waiting for you at the finish line, I highly suggest you have them ready with warm clothes as the breeze off the ocean can get chilly.  I went to transition to grab my wallet and bought the race jacket (very nice!!), cycling socks and coffee cup.  I figured this was a souvenir worthy race!  Then went to get myself a beer at the Sierra Nevada trailer (not free, purchased) and chilled out for a while.  Then called for a cab, waited FOREVER!!! for my cab and chilled in my hotel before seeing the rest of town that I didn't get a chance to see earlier that week.  And gone the next day!

So I have gotten asked a lot in the last week if I would do this again.  And the answer is HELL yes!  The race was awesome.  And the second time around, I would actually "race" it as I would know what to expect.  Thanks to Wattie Ink and all sponsors for their support in the sport I love. What should my next challenge be?