Monday, June 27, 2016

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

I had decided pretty early on that I wanted to put Syracuse 70.3 on my race schedule...again.  I had done this race back in 2014 as prep for IMLP.  It was a fine race but I was left knowing that I needed
to come back to the course at some point, ready to give it everything I had.  This year I was actually able to convince Adam to race with me, which helped make for a fun weekend all around.

After a short day of work on Friday we were Syracuse bound by mid morning.  We arrived with enough time to head to packet pickup and visit with friends at the race site before checking in to our Air BnB in the quaint town of Tully, NY.  I'm so glad we stayed in Tully instead of Syracuse.  We were a quick/straight drive from the race site, only a couple miles off the bike course and right across the street from 2 excellent restaurants.

Saturday is one of my favorite days pre-race, because it means big breakfast!  The few mornings per year that I *have* to eat pancakes..schucks.  We started our Saturday with a nice easy ride on a bit of the bike course and checked out one of the awesome descents that we would get to speed down the next day.  We saw some beautiful log homes, barns and lakes that reminded me of my roots and why I love "up north".  After our ride we quickly headed across the street for breakfast.  It was glorious and I think the waitress was slightly concerned about the amount of food 2 relatively small people just ordered and consumed.

The rest of Saturday was filled with bike racking, a short on course swim (thanks to some locals that live on the swim course), preparing nutrition and laying around trying to watch soccer and succumbing to my guilty pleasure of The Mindy Project.  With the predicted race day temps I made sure to snack on salty pretzels and hydrate with Osmo all day long.  We headed across the street for our 2nd dinner at Sweet Basil before calling it a night.

Race Morning
Rinster ready to fly.  Undefeated in AG bike splits :P
I was happy to have slept well and woke up to my alarm bright and early ready to slam some sauce for breakfast.  We were very lucky that our host was flexible on checkout time, so we didn't have to pack up everything pre-race.  We headed over to the race site and arrived with plenty of time for transition set up and all the usual pre-race routine.  While bike racking on Saturday I had noticed the
bike next to my was racked incorrectly, thankfully a kind volunteer noticed and flipped the bike.  On race morning the bike on the other side of me was racked correctly but she was setting up her transition area on the completely wrong side - basically where my stuff was supposed to go.  Unfortunately she wasn't actually there, all her stuff was everywhere but she was nowhere to be found.  Thankfully, again, a race official noticed something was off and came and straightened things out.  Not that these things are a huge deal, but it was definitely flustering me.

THE SWIM - 39:56 (36th AG)
Ready to go, feeling strong.
I've been putting in some good work in the pool and making some pretty big gains there. Unfortunately, we haven't really seen these gains translate to the open water yet.  I've got some ideas to really try to help myself here over the next couple of months.  I felt strong during this swim and I was able to hang on to some feet for most of this swim.  Hoping to take the good from it and build on everything else pre IM MT.

T1: 3:45
A quick stop at wetsuit strippers and quite a long run into T1 makes for a long transition here.  Once at my bike it was a quick stop for shoes and helmet before running out.

THE BIKE - 2:51:16 (1st AG)
After having raced here in 2014 I knew the bike course would be challenging, then they announced a new bike course.  There were rumors that the new course was more challenging but I wasn't going to make any judgements until seeing it myself.  Getting out onto the course you have a couple miles to get comfortable and let your HR settle before starting into some extended climbing for 10-11 miles.  My legs felt great, my HR was coming down nicely and before I knew it I was catching a lot of my competition within the first few minutes on the bike.  I had a few weekends of some nice hill climbing on my tri bike in May - including 92 miles in the hills of West Virginia with some awesome teammates.  My climbing legs were on and ready to rock on Sunday and I was quite happy.  I spun up every climb I could on the bike course never really having to come off the saddle.  I was happy to do a lot a passing on the bike course, specifically to the cheers of crazy spectators and never once got passed by another female on the bike course.  As we approached mile 45 I knew I'd be in for a treat with the descent that was soon coming.  I tucked in and pushed my cranks until I spun out, hoping that maybe I could break 50mph, alas I hit 47.6, one day perhaps I'll hit 50.  There was one more decent climb before heading back into transition.  I had hit my nutrition and hydration plan spot on as well as my bike execution plan.  Though the time was far from what I usually do on a 56 mile bike course, I had stuck to my plan and I was confident things were going well (turns out I had the fastest bike split of my AG and most ladies were 3+hours).  That was one tough bike course but I was ready to see what I could do on the run (PS it was a solid 91 degrees when I dismounted my bike).

T2 - 1:29
I came into T2 neck and neck with a fellow AGer (we'll call her alligator jersey).  Helmet off, socks and shoes on and a quick spray of sunscreen and then I was off.   I alligator jersey run out of T2 maybe 10-15 seconds ahead of me.  She came out on fire, getting into the applause of the crowd and taking off.

THE RUN - 1:51:30 (5th AG)
Coach Kim and I had talked a bit about this run.  We knew it was going to be hot, we knew it was a tough run course, coming off of a tough bike course, and we knew that there would likely be carnage on the course.  I watched alligator jersey open up the gap between us as I settled in, getting in my bottle of Osmo+Pre-Load and getting my legs under me.  The first mile or so of this course is awkward - grassing on the side of a hill awkward.  It kind of makes you feel like you're going to have the worst run of your life as you're running uphill on this weird angle in the beating sunlight.  As I ran through the first aid station I took every cup of ice and water I could get my hands on - in the mouth, over the head, down the jersey, down the shorts.  I knew if I could keep myself as cool as possible things would go better.  As I made it out to the road me legs felt much better running on the pavement and I was able to find some shade.  Running through the 2nd aid station was a repeat of the first, with a couple swigs of gatorade added in.  I knew it was after this aid station I'd have a bit of flat before the climb up to the turn around.  As I started the climb  felt strong I saw alligator jersey and a fellow AGer heading down.  Alligator jersey had opened up a sizeable gap and looked strong and the other AGer was far enough in front of her I was left with hope that I was at least in podium position and just wanted to hold onto where I was.  I stuck to the plan, I kept cool through aid stations and I took in my nutrition as planned.  Coming through the 1/2 point and starting my 2nd loop I was feeling good and had noticed that the gap was not any bigger, and maybe, slightly smaller at this point.
Tank empty, crash coming...
 Again through the 1st 2 aid stations staying cool and getting in hydration.  As I made my way to the turn around both alligator jersey and the other AGer were considerably closer to me.  As I made that turn around and headed past he 10 mile marker I knew it was time to put in work.  Time to drive the HR up and leave everything I had on that course.  Through mile 11 I was pushing but still in control and feeling good, I looked up ahead and there was the fellow age grouper who had started out pretty far ahead, she didn't look great, had been reduced to mostly a shuffle, and I quickly caught and passed her.  At this point I was pretty sure alligator jersey had passed her too and I as probably well ahead - then I look up as I start the last significant hill, and there she is mid - hill just past mile 12.   I put my head down, told myself this was good practice for IM MT and if that could be a Kona spot I need to go and get it.  I put in enough work to catch her on the downhill portion of the awkward slanted grassy section.  I sat on her heels for just long enough to pull myself together and get ready for a hard effort into the finish line about 1/2 mile away.  I pulled out from around her and never looked back, just putting everything I had into that last stretch.  I was so relieved to see the finish chute and finish line and not hear any foot steps or breaths behind me.  I raised my arms in celebration the best I could as I crossed under the arch before stumbling towards the cameraman and taking a rest on the hot black pavement.

5th, 4th, 2nd Place F 25-29

OVERALL FINISH: 5:27:56 (2nd AG, 9th OA)

This race was one to remember.  Though a far far cry from a PR time, this was a tough course and definitely not a PR type of course for someone who has done quite a few 70.3's.  For the first time I felt completely in control of pushing the pace towards the end of the race.  Usually I 'pick it up' and really just hold a steady pace or go slightly faster.  For the first time I used some tactics on the run course as I made those final 2 passes.  I saw competition in front of me, believed, and executed.  I know how frustrating it can be to be running, holding on to a certain place/slot/etc and get passed near the end when you just have nothing more to give.  This race was about being confident in the plan, being patient, managing the day/conditions and digging deeper than I thought was possible.  On a day that presented a course that doesn't suit my strengths, in conditions that are difficult for a big sweater, I was able to manage and execute well enough to finish hard and run myself from 4th to 2nd.  Bigger and better things are coming - 8/21/16.

Ultragrain FYP Kit by Coeur Sports

Thank you most of all goes out to Fuel Your Passion Coaching, I was well prepared and confident in our plan, Adam and my family.  Thank you to my newest sponsor, Ultragrain, for helping to incorporate healthy whole grains into my diet (#haveagrainday). Thank you to my sponsors DC Tri Club, Snapple Triathlon, Team, District Taco, Xterra Wetsuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, Pierce Footwear by Seven Dynamics, and Rose Physical Therapy Group.  Thank you to all the DC Tri athletes racing and cheering at Syracuse, it was great to be pushed  by  friends on the course!  Looking forward to a big chunk of prep work coming up to set the stage for the rest of 2016.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Kinetic 1/2 IM Race Report

Just 2 weeks after the first tri of the season (Rumpus in Bumpass Sprint) I was headed back to Lake Anna for the Kinetic 1/2 (70.3 distance race).  I love this race and was happy to be back after missing it in 2015 due to IMTX.    We were once again grateful for the generosity of our friends to let us stay at there Lake House and make race weekend that much more comfortably.  When we headed down mid-day on Friday it was a torrential downpour.  Amazingly, as we rolled into Lake Anna State Park in the early afternoon the sun came out and the pavement started drying.  We jumped in the comfortably cool, wetsuit legal water for a short swim before heading out on the bike to freshen up the legs.

Who am I kidding, I'd head to Lake Anna every weekend if I could.  This was our 3rd weekend in a row down there.  The previous weekend we were there for a big training weekend, getting in 99.5 miles on the bike followed by a hard run and a long run the next morning on the Kinetic 1/2 course.  Seems every year I do Kinetic,  I am blessed with a huge weekend just before race day.  Kinetic has never been an A race for me so I like the big training leading up to race day.  Racing slightly tired and fatigued really helps you appreciate those races you get to taper for ;)

Friday evening was pretty low key, the way I like to keep the night before a race.  A simple dinner followed by all the fun pre-race stuff - stickers on helmet/bike, putting race wheels on, organizing nutrition, etc.  Just as I thought I was done and happy to have my race wheels on without much trouble (or brake rubbage) Scott decided to check my brakes.  Unfortunately, we discovered that my rear brake wasn't releasing all the way.  Since 3 people in our crew all work at bike shops we looked at it and decided the best course of action was to ride it as is and use the rear brake as minimally as possible along with the idea that the road vibration would help disengage the rear brake if I do use it.

Snapple Teammates at the Finish!
Saturday morning was gorgeous, a little cool but the sun was rising as everyone set up transition and
prepared for what was likely their first long course race of 2016.

THE SWIM - 38:06 (4th AG)
This was an in-water start about chest deep.  At the sound of the horn I went hard but tried to get into my own rhythm as quickly as possible.  I could tell the lead group was pulling away within the first couple hundred meters.  I kept my head down and tried to keep working hard.  I was able to find feet and stay on them for a a few hundred meters before losing them and was on and off other sets of feet for the remainder of the swim.  The course this year was a basic rectangle as opposed to the trapezoidal shape of the past.  As we made the final turn for the long straight away back toward the beach teh sun was directly in our eyes.  It was almost impossible to see the beach, let alone any of the signting buoys.  This led to following other caps - not the best technique when trying to swim a straight line.  I felt strong during this swim, but know that I should have and am capable of swimming a couple of minutes faster.

T1 - 2:30
I ran into T1 almost positive my bike was in the row 2nd from Bike Out.  I ran to the 2nd row from the fence and stood there in disbelief!  No bike, did someone really take my bike.  It would have been super helpful to have the ends of the rows numbered or lettered.  I quickly realized that I had run rows past my bike got my wetsuit off, helmet and shoes on and I was off.  I almost had to push some slow men out of the way on my way to the dismount line.

THE BIKE 2:34:31(1st AG)
Oh boy, so eventful and uneventful all at the same time!  Shortly into the bike course while still in the state park I heard a bottle fly out and hit the ground.  I looked over my right shoulder and saw a yellow tinted deer park bottle hit the ground.  I couldn't believe it but I figured I had just launched a bottle of Osmo.  My rear cages have never launched a bottle, not even on super bumpy crap, let alone just riding relatively easily out of the park.  No worries as there were multiple aid stations along the course, I knew I could get the hydration I would need on course.  I was able to stick to my race plan and execute a pretty great ride.  The temps started out nice and cool but definitely started heating up towards the end of the 56 miles.  Around mile 45, as I am feeling a bit comfortable pushing just a touch harder and finishing this ride up, I was passing some dude (he likely started 8-12 minutes before me) and as I was passing him he sped up just enough to stay even with me, I push a touch more, he pushed more, I glared at him, he stayed there, I glared again and he finally says 'your front wheel is in front go ahead'.  Wow, thanks dude I'm only 8-12 minutes ahead of you now and have obviously been moving faster than you this entire race.  Note to guys - as a woman passes you encourage her and let her go, don't yo-yo with her, don't jump on her wheel and for goodness sake don't try to prevent the pass.  He never let me get too far away as we passed a couple of my Snapple teammates and headed back into the park toward T2.  First attempt at a flying dismount on Rinster...and I realized getting my leg over the top tube was a bit tricker than on MR and decided to just hop off the bike once slowing.  My feet were already out of the shoes, but I guess I need to practice the flying dismount on the new bike to quicken things up just a bit.

T2 - :52 (1st AG)
In and out as quickly as possible as I knew there was at least 1 female ahead of me and 2 not far behind me.

THE RUN - 1:46:07 - (1st AG)
I was looking forward to seeing what I could do on this run course.  I came out of transition just a
Loop #1, first time up the hill!
minute or so ahead of my teammate Heather and she was only a minute ahead of our teammate Paige (#snappledomination). My previous best on this hilly course was a 1:52 and my previous best in a 1/2 IM being a 1:42.  I was able to keep my cadence up and get my legs turning over pretty soon into the run.  I started the run with a throw-away bottle of Osmo to help top off hydration.  I was so thankful for this as the day started warming up!  I settled into a comfortable pace and ticking off the first few miles.  I only ever saw the first place female heading back toward me but I was told I was in 3rd.  Shortly after the 3 mile marker my Snapple teammate, Paige, caught up to me and after exchanging a few words she was off to try and track down #2.  Once I was about 6 miles in I tried to pick up the effort level just a bit, but I was sort of stuck in the moderately fast cruise pace.  I was trying to just bring the HR up one beat at a time but it seems like anytime I'd start to bring it up it would go right back to where we had been.  Was this an indication of slightly over biking or the fatigue of the previous week catching up with me.  I pushed the uphills and used the downhills, trashing my quads by the final few miles.  I put everything I had into the last couple miles and was happy to finish with a course PR and come in as the 4th OA female with some tough competition on the heels of a tough training week.

Overall this was a great early season test and let's me know where we are at on some things - like swim, bike, run but also other important things (nutrition, transition, etc).  It was a great day with so many friends and DC athletes racing, there was always somebody to cheer for on the run course.  Still plenty of room improvement in all areas, but good to see that I am headed in the right direction.

Snapple and DC Tri Crew with Hardware!

Thank you most of all goes out to Fuel Your Passion Coaching, The Wodiska's for hosting us, and Adam and my family.  Thank you to my sponsors DC Tri Club, Snapple Triathlon, Team, District Taco, Xterra Wetsuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, Pierce Footwear by Seven Dynamics, and Rose Physical Therapy Group for helping this season get off to an awesome start.  Thank you to all the DC Tri and Snapple athletes racing and cheering at Kinetic, it was great to be pushed and challenged by my teammates and friends on the course!  Looking forward to a challenging and fun day in just 2 weeks at Syracuse 70.3 and a taper that comes with it!

Post Race treatment from Rose PT!
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rumpus in Bumpass 2016: Making it Hurt

When possible I like to start my season with a get the dust out and shake off the cobwebs sprint distance tri.  In 2015 my season started early with a 1/2 IM in April and IMTX in May - no time for a sprint with that schedule!  I knew 2016 was going to look different with a much longer lead up time to my goal race (IM MT) and wanted to get something short and fast on there to start the season with.  I originally thought I'd return to Around the Mount, which I had done in 2014, but when VTS announced the return of Rumpus in Bumpass I knew I wanted to do it.  Mostly the open water swim was calling me - I spent a lot of time at the pool this off season and was eager to get some open water race practice in before some of my bigger races this year.

This race was put on the schedule as a 'C' race - no tapering, heck no rest before.  Literally on the schedule for open water practice, transition practice and shaking off the cobwebs (and valid reason to use my new disc wheel).  Adam and I headed down to Lake Anna on Saturday morning and I was able to get in about 88 miles on the bike followed by a 35 minute transition run.  I felt great for Saturday's big workout and was fortunate to have a comfortable house to stay in at the lake to refuel and recover over night.  Saturday night was decently relaxing, except for attempting to put on my disc wheel and realizing it wasn't sitting correctly.  Adam tried a few things, but we didn't have the correct allen wrench, so eventually just decided to leave earlier in the AM and visit the mechanic.  If it didn't work out I'd just race on my training wheels.

Damn thats a hot bike!
We headed over to the race site plenty early and the rain actually seemed to let up as we pulled into the parking lot.  Once we were parked I immediately headed over to the mechanic.  He was quick to ask what was wrong and was confidently fixing the problem in no time.  Thankfully he was from a shop that is a Felt dealer and has experience working on the IA.  Once the wheel was spinning
smoothly I went ahead and racked the bike before heading back to the car.  No sense in carrying her over mud more times than necessary.  The short wait for the mechanic and the quick fix (off-set screws)  left Adam and I with more than enough time to set up transition and warm up.  The rain came and went multiple times pre-race which made me very thankful for the garbage bag that I used to cover my transition area.

THE SWIM - 14:54 (17th/136)
I used some open water start skills that I had worked on and got out fast before calming down into a good rhythm.  About 250-300 meters in my goggle started to fill with water and was making sighting difficult, I had to roll on to my back and quickly dump the water as I continued on and around the first turn buoy.  As I rounded that buoy I began catching men from the wave in front of me and was feeling strong.  I came to the last turn buoy, made my turn a bit too sharply and started to swim back toward the start and not the finish.  Thankfully some dude was resting on the buoy and yelled at me that I was going the wrong way so I quickly corrected and probably didn't actually get too far off course.  I swam strong into the finish and continued catching and passing people on my way.  I came out of the water with a small group of pink caps and was quickly into transition.

T1- 2:16 (2nd/136)
I ran into transition as I was pulling off my wetsuit.  As I was stepping out of the legs once at my bike, I started slipping and just sat my butt on the ground to get the thing off.  Once back on my feet I stepped into my shoes as I heard the announcer say 1st female was headed onto the bike course!  Huge confidence booster there, usually I'm hunting on the bike, now I knew right where the lead female was and she was only about 30 seconds ahead of me.  Helmet and sunglasses on and I was on my way to the mount line.

THE BIKE - 33:31 (1st/136)
The race plan going in was to make it hurt.  Unlike the half and full distance races that I love so much, there was no time to get comfortable.  Just load it on, pump the legs and make it hurt.  First race on the new bike and she flew!  The roads were soaked and I really didn't want to kiss the pavement so I took the corners very easily.  Adam and I drove the course the evening before and I was thankful to know about the sharp turn with a quick uphill in the first few miles.  I had to keep reminding myself to make it hurt as I wanted to slip into a more comfortable effort a few times.  I knew that I came out of transition as 4th female, passed 2 ladies at the mount line and made the pass for first withing the first 5 or so minutes. Making it hurt paid off with fastest bike split on the women's side and 6th fastest bike split of the day.  I tried not to think about the effect this effort level would have on my 5k as continued to blow my legs out for 33 minutes.

T2 - 1:31 (2nd/136)
I rolled into T2, did a quasi-nervous flying dismount as the roads were super slick and headed in to rack my bike.  Re-racked, helmet and sunglasses off, run shoes on and race belt + visor in hand I headed out to tackle the run course.

THE RUN - 22:45 (4th/136)
The run course starts out with a gentle uphill on grass/road and the dumps you on a path through the woods.  The path was covered in mud and was not easy to get good footing in some places.  Thankfully this portion of the course is quite short.  As I was exiting the wooded area and had to jump over the drainage ditch the mud sucked my left shoe right off my foot.  I noticed before I pulled my foot completely out and was able to get the shoe back on without much difficulty.   Once onto the paved road I kept reminding myself to make it hurt.   The road was a nice rolling and windy road for the out and back run.  I saw Adam crossing mile 2 as I was crossing the mile 1 marker.  With his 8 minute head start on me I knew we were close time-wise and thought wow if I can really push it on this run I might beat him!  I made it to the turn around and didn't see any other women until I was probably about 1.75 miles in, putting the closest ladies within about a half mile.  The men and ladies cheering for me as I headed back on the run course as 1st female were awesome and so supportive.  One more dash through the muddy and now more crowded wooded trail and then it was a down hill into the finish line.  Arms overhead, I crossed the line with an overall win to start off the 2016 season.

The biggest victory for me here was really the swim (yes, the OA win was nice too).  For me this race was all about getting comfortable in open water again and getting the confidence I've gained in the pool to carry over to the open water.  There is still plenty of work to be done on my swim, but it's nice to see gains.  At first thought I was a little disappointed with my bike and run splits - because I know I'm capable of faster...on rested and tapered legs.  This race served the exact purpose it was on the schedule for -- shaking out the cobwebs and riding the pain train.  The overall win was a good confidence booster as I enter some longer course racing and big goals for the season.  I'm looking forward to kicking off the long course season at Kinetic on May 14th among a group of strong women.

Thank you most of all goes out to Fuel Your Passion Coaching, best decision I ever made back in 2013! Also thank you to Beth of Sportfit Lab for consistent swim work and friend Shannon always willing to go to the pool and share tips and advice, and friend Erin for always willing to do my bike workout at HP. Thank you to my sponsors DC Tri Club, Snapple Triathlon, Team, District Taco, Xterra Wetsuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, Pierce Footwear by Seven Dynamics, and Rose Physical Therapy Group for helping this season get off to an awesome start.  I can't wait to see how this season unfolds and I'm so thankful for all the love and support in my life.  I have some great people in my corner this year!

For those wondering Adam managed a fast enough 5k to get me by 23 seconds!  There may be a sprint distance rematch late season.