Friday, September 30, 2011

The Strippers and such of Augusta 70.3

It's been 5 days since race day and I can say my legs feel good and tomorrow they will feel excellent.  I don't have an option as I am racing the Giant Acorn International tomorrow - I just couldn't let the season end, it went by way to fast.  Recovery week has involved some easy swims, a longer swim, and some short elliptical and core strengthening sessions along with ice, Advil, and chocolate milk.

DAY 1 - Friday
In my mind Augusta 70.3 started on Friday.  I had to catch a 6am flight to Atlanta and once there head out on the drive over to Augusta.  In wasn't a bad trip and I was able to catch some zzzz's on the plane.  Once in Augusta we discovered our hotel was not in an ideal location to the race site, but nothing we could do about it at that point.  We headed out to the host hotel on the river for packet pick up and a course briefing.  As we got to the downtown Augusta area there were triathletes everywhere!  It was pretty awesome.  We found some free parking and headed on in.  By now, as expected, it seems Ironman has this down to a science.  Stop at this table get this, go to the next table sign that, on and on until you had your race numbers, timing chip , and shirt and voila you emptied out right into the offical Ironman merchandise store.  How ideal.  I had never gotten my chip previous to race day so that was something new and interesting.  Apparently they are 1 time use chips - though mine appeared a bit dirty.  Once they gave it to you one of the stops you had to make was to get it activated which took about 1 second.  Ryan and I scooped up some merchandise at the store, including visors for the run portion of the race before heading outside to walk along the river before the course briefing.  The river looked nice and we could look down and see the swim start and some fellow athletes jumping in for a practice swim.  We stopped for some pictures and a break near a fountain and we were soon interrupted by a reporter from a local Augusta newspaper.  She asked us all sorts of questions and I was quoted the next morning in her article on the front page.  

We made it back just in time for the course briefing to start - and to our surprise it was the same guy that does the course briefing at Nation's and probably 90% of the larger races in the US...what a life.  At least we knew it wouldn't be dull.  I am definitely glad we went to the briefing as we learned about wetsuit 'strippers', water bottle handoffs, drop zones, and the penalty tent.  We weren't too concerned with the penalty tent but the moving water bottle handoffs on the bike and the drop zones spiked my blood pressure just a bit.  A moving water bottle handoff is not something you really practice, or at least I never have.  It is exactly as it sounds.  You ride to the right side of the road and there are a bunch of volunteers holding our water, Ironman Perform, Gel, bananas, etc. and you take what you need as you ride by.  The drop zone was right before and after the aid stations to drop trash, water bottles, etc.  I was most concerned about getting the water, dumping it into my aerobottle, and dropping it before the drop zone ended or else risking a penalty.  Once explained a few times my nerves were calmed and I was confident I could handle as such things.  The 'strippers' on the other were quite the pleasant surprise.  As we ran from the water toward T1 there was an area of carpeting right before the transition area where you could lie down and the 'strippers' would pull your wetsuit off in about 5 seconds.  Awesomesauce!
DAY 2 - Saturday
We had an easy going day on Saturday and headed to mall in the AM to do a little shopping and keep our legs moving.  I was even able to find a dress from Express to wear to my BFF's wedding next weekend.  I got a hold of our friend Wyatt while we were out and about to see if we could catch up, and catch up we did.   He is in school in Augusta and lives in a nice house not far from the race site so he invited us over for a football shindig in the afternoon.  After malling it up it was time to get back to race business for a little bit.  We went to a local bike shop to get Ryan some new tri shorts as his ripped during Nation's and were sent back in hopes of a new pair.  The bike shop was bouncing with triathletes, mostly whom had last minute bike issues.  After finding some shorts we headed down to the transition area to rack our bikes.  I was blessed with an awesome bike rack spot again!  2 spots in on the rack next to the main aisle.  Nice. I figured out the logistics of the transition area and practice running in and out to and fro the bike a couple times.  We took a little walk down the river back towards the car and assessed the current.  It didn't look too strong but strong enough to be helpful come Sunday morning.

After taking care of the race business we headed over to Wyatt's house. We had a nice visit complete with plenty of veggies, dip, and all the cookies Wyatt could ever want.  We even convinced him to come out to the finish line the following day!  I had previously scoped out our dinner options and knew there was an Olive Garden in town.  I know it may not be real "Italian" but it's good, it works with my stomach on race day, and I love the salad.  We had to wait about 40 minutes for a table as apparently Olive Garden was a popular choice among the endurance athletes in town and the locals celebrating birthdays.  We carb loaded to our heart's content on pasta, bread sticks and salad before heading across town back to the hotel for the night.  We were able to get the car packed, be race ready, and get to bed by about 9:30 since we would be up at 4:30 on race morning.

Wake up came early but we were ready!  I was quickly out of bed and changing into race gear.  I had been wavering all day Saturday as to what in the world I was going to wear.  It was time to decide so the DC tri top with the long tri shorts it was.  I had my usual breakfast of champions...Special K Red Berries with banana and almond milk before heading out the door.  We were warned repeatedly at the course breifing to have a parking plan.  So we did and executed perfectly.  We parked near the host hotel and took the shuttle down to the transition area.  There were plenty of shuttles coming and going so we didn't have to wait on a shuttle just waited a few minutes to get everyone boarded and we even met some nice guys with an inside scoop on the course.

We got to the transition area with plenty of time to setup and inflate our bike tires.  There were plenty of port-o-john's near my transition spot making my morning bathroom stop super easy and early enough before a line formed or toilet paper ran out.  Lesson learned by watching others - play it safe and bring your own TP to large races to avoid not having any.  Once Ryan and I were both done setting up we got body marked, I donned my black armband, and headed out of transition with our morning clothes bag.  We were given a plastic bag with our race # on it to carry around anything we may need in morning and at the finish line.  This was ideal for me as I had to wait more than an hour after Ryan started for my wave to start.  I took my body glide, power bar, and and clothes for post race including recovery socks in my bag.  We boarded another shuttle up the road 1.2 miles to the swim start.  Once dropped off we scoped out a restroom for Ryan.  Lines were forming at these, but they had enough to keep the wait down.  We then sat for a little but, got my wetsuit on and dropped off our morning bags before heading to the start corrals.  Ryan went out into the sea of athletes to catch up with his start wave and I stayed along the river to watch the pros and cheer on Ryan.  As a stood along the river watching wave after wave start I started to get a little nervous but mostly excited.  

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 29:31
My swim wave was towards the end, but not the last one which was a nice change of pace.  We were shuffled along in line until finally we were in the corral watching the wave ahead of us start.  As they started they opened the gate and let us begin the walk down the dock.  We got to the starting point and mostly everyone jumped in the water.  The water was a bit chilly and I warmed myself up a bit, if ya know what I mean.  The current made staying behind the starting buoy's a bit of a challenge.  Alas, the horn sounded and we were off.  The course was a straight 1.2 miles down the river.  With such a course it seemed there was much less swimming over each other and hitting each other which was quite nice.  I put my head down and swam.  I felt like I was flying with the current helping me out!  There was a few spots of seaweed that got tangled on my arms but I just kept swimming and they fell off eventually.  Before I knew it I was at the exit ramp.  I saw many people walking so I thought I too would stand up and begin walking out of the water...but not so fast apparently these people were taller than me because I couldn't touch.  I kept swimming which was probably to my benefit as I was passing the walkers.

T1 - 3:47
Wetsuit 'strippers' were a huge success.  I layed down, put my feet up and a 'stripper' grabbed each leg and off with the westuit.  Had to be less than 5 seconds.  No time wasted in transition by wearing the wetsuit.  The rest of transition was pretty uneventful  Ran in, put on helmet and sunglasses, socks and shoes and oh yeah the race number belt - with number in back.  Unlike smaller races Ironman requires you wear a number on your back during the bike.  A race number belt makes this easy by allowing you to put it on for the bike and only twist it around for the run.  I ran out of transition and a few steps past the mount line before getting on the bike.  

THE BIKE - 56 miles - 2:47:53
An awesome ride.  I felt great the entire way.  I did not execute my nutrition plan exactly as I had planned.  I planned on a Gel around mile 10-12, a Bar around mile 30-35, and another gel around mile 50.  I got down 2 gels and about 1/2 (not even) of the bar.  I was too preoccupied with how much fun the course was.  I was able to drink 2 aerobottles full of water and almost an entire bottle of Heed - but should probably drink more.  The course was fast with some rolling hills.  If you are used to riding on very flat roads you may think that there were a couple of 'climbs' but nothing compared to Skyline Drive or even the Luray bike course.  The course was not completely closed to traffic but the lanes we were in were completely blocked off and volunteers and police at every intersection.  Not too a long ago a local man was in a fatal cycling collision with a motor vehicle while training on the course.  We road past a large white cross with flowers and I could only assume it was for him.  I shed some tears for him and my dad - may they ride on in the heavens together!  Most of the bike course actually took place in South Carolina and was quite pretty with only a stretch of not so smooth road.  Locals sat at the end of their long drive ways and cheered us on as we road by.  One local even had nothing better to do than to stand at the end of his drive way yelling some incoherent trash while holding a sign that said 'Get off the Road, Go Home'.  He wasn't too keen on the influx of athletes to his homeland, I can only hope no athlete gave him the time of day to render a reaction.  The moving water bottle hand-offs went as smooth as I could have possibly hoped for with plenty of time to fill my aerobottle before the drop zone.  I chose not to take any nutrition from the aid stations as I thought my plan was A-OK, I think next time I'll take 1/2 a banana or something.  I cruised along and was soon headed back in to Georgia and on my way back to transition.  My legs were starting to feel a bit tired but I had made it - no accidents, no flats, no issues and soon enough I'd be running.

T2 - 1:34
A rather uneventful T2.  I noticed no other bikes back at my rack or the racks around mine.  Nice, I thought just run your race and just run fast enough so no one catches you.  Well that was the plan at least.  I had previously figured myself capable of running a 1:50-1:55 13.1 - completely doable on a running day.  I changed my shoes, headed out of transition and onto the run course.

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 2:17:35
I started out with my legs feeling heavy but figured it would pass as they always feel a bit heavy at the beginning of the run.  The first mile seemed to take forever - I just wanted to pass an aid station have get some water.  I kept on trucking and at mile 2.5 took my first gel.  I was told there would be aid stations every mile - didn't seem to be quite every mile and I was disappointed.  Some spectators were familiar with DC Tri and gave me a good hollar as a passed by - that was a good lift me up for a bit.  I took another gel around mile 5.  My stomach started to turn, I started getting chills and thought I can't take anymore gels so I thought it would be a good idea to not take anymore gels and just take water, ice, and Ironman Perform at the aid stations.  Warning: Don't make nutritional decisions during the race - stick to the plan.  I saw a couple girl pass me during the first loop that were in my age group.  They were running great, let them go and concentrate on your race.  The 2nd loop didn't seem as bad but the decision the abort the gel intake cost me. I was much slower and got caught by another age grouper.  Ryan's parents and sister were along the run course to cheer us on which was very nice.  By the time I was on the course running the weather was hot and the sun had been out.  The run course was slightly shaded and during my 2nd loop some cloud cover offered some welcome relief.  Alas the finish chute was upon me.  I picked up the pace as much as I could and crossed the line with my arms up and celebratory fashion.  The young volunteers at the finish line seemed overwhelmed.  I stumpled a couple steps as my quads wanted nothing to do with support any amount of weight.  I got my finisher's medal and hat and headed on to find Ryan.  
We met up with his parents and said goodbye before picking up our morning bags and getting in line for pizza and other food.  No chocolate milk!?! You have got to be kidding me.  I would have really enjoyed a large bottle of chocolate milk at that point.  I slowly got down a slice of cheese pizza and 1/2 an orange as Ryan and I waited under the shelter of the food tent for Wyatt.  The skies had open up and a large storm was looming.  We heard word they might close the course for safety - what a bummer if you were almost done running and they closed the course - but they didn't!  We checked the results and got on our way to get out of the rain.

Loved the experience of racing an official M-dot event.  Well run and the weather was almost perfect.  I realize now that I didn't train for the race I had hoped for.  My longest ride was 50 miles and not near the intensity I rode during the race.  This is what cost me on the run.  I need to get my cycling legs used to longer distances at race pace - or slow race pace down, but is that really an option.  I'm glad I now have my first 70.3 under my belt and learned some valuable lessons before tackling 140.6, because who know that might be in the works ;)  I finished 6th in my age group - 3 seconds behind 5th - the last podium place.  Very frustrating but I need to be smarter about my training on the bike and how hard I push my race pace as well as sticking to the nutrition plan.  Had I got down a couple more Gels during the run it could have been a different result.  I can't let that undermine the success I did have - a great swim, a great bike, smooth transitions and overall a good rookie 70.3!

Holli Finneren

270524Lake Orion MI USAStudent

TOTAL SWIM1.2 mi. (29:31)1:33/100m139714

TOTAL BIKE56 mi. (2:47:53)20.01 mph9213

RUN SPLIT 1: 6.55 mi6.55 mi (1:01:06)9:19/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 13.1 mi6.55 mi (1:16:29)11:40/mi
TOTAL RUN13.1 mi (2:17:35)10:30/mi9096

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Nation's Triathlon 2011 Race Report

This year The Nation's Triathlon fell on 9/11 - giving everyone the opportunity to race through the Nation's capital on the 10th anniversary alongside veteran's, cadets, active duty, and first responders.  I was fortunate enough to have family and friends around all weekend.  My mom and our family friend Christie came into town on Friday and Ryan came in on Friday evening.  My brother and Ryan also raced while Mom, Christie, and brother's friend Kara were super fans all weekend long.

Despite the horrible weather all week leading up to race weekend Saturday turned out to be gorgeous.  We ventured up to Woodley Park to the host hotel for the Race Expo.  As we exited the metro you could see large groups of triathletes heading to and from the expo.  We had to play a little frogger with a massive group of Team In Training athletes all boarding buses to go to the transition area as they were flowing strong out of every door to the hotel.  Once inside it was organized chaos.  People were everywhere - athletes, fans, volunteers, vendors, kids.  For some reason I love and thrive in this environment.  My brother and Ryan and I set about signing our waivers, picking up our race #'s, and getting our mug shots taken while my mom and Christie started exploring the expo floor.  After finishing the business we set about trying free samples of Cliff products, Muscle Milk, cheese, and some other goodies.  I was even lucky enough to win The Evolution of Running DVD from the DC Tri Club tent.  My brother learned a lesson the hard way last year but my biggest pet peeve with the setup is the fact that you have to venture to the back corner of the expo to pick up you race shirt and swag.  I understand they want you to venture through all the vendors and spend money and what not but as I'm sure many did this year, my brother easily missed this last year.  Once you've finished with getting your packet and and get sucked into all the vendors of the expo it's easy to forget that you still have more to pick up.  Maybe the entire packet should just be in the back if they want you to see all the vendors.

After taking a break for lunch and stopping at my brother's house for some R&R we headed down to transition to rack our bikes.  It was muddy but not horrible.  Due to the weather leading up to the race the racks were not specifically marked for numbers so it was first come first serve withing the rows designated for your start wave.  I was lucky enough to grab a spot on the end of the rack near the main aisle - prime transition location achieved.  Transition was one very long rectangle with 1 entrance (swim in and bike in) and 1 exit (bike out and run out).  Ideally we were going to rack our bikes and meet mom and Christie along the other side of transition.  As we headed out towards the bike out and run out exit we opted to get body marked on race morning and continued toward the exit.  When we got to bike out/run out we were told my the security personnel manning the exit that you couldn't get out that way because they were trying to discourage people from jumping fences.  This reasoning made no sense to me, I said were leaving this way tomorrow right so there's an exit up there, to which he told us they had just blocked it off.  Why in the world would the race organizer's do this?  You've completely just encourage me to jump a fence instead of walking all the way back across transition just to turn around and walk all the way across transition again but on the other side of the fence.  Stupid if you ask me, you've already employed security to be there, let the people use the exit!

We checked out the MLK memorial and the Vietnam wall before grabbing a cab back to Mom and Christie's hotel and resting up before dinner.  I filled a hotel recycle bin with ice water and had a nice ice soak for my legs.  Felt awesome!  After a bit a recuperation we went to Bucca di Beppo for dinner with Kara.  Awesome dinner with awesome company and card loading success!  Ryan and I returned home after a post dinner walk and made final race preparations - transition bag packed, numbers on helmet and race belt, etc.

I started off the morning right with Red Berries and Almond milk - like I've said before the breakfast of champions!  Slightly cool and great weather allowed us to walk down to transition.  We arrived with plenty of time to set up our transition areas, get body marked, pick up our timing chips, find the port-o john's and relax.   As Ryan and I both compete in the 24 and under division we were in the last 2 start waves.  The race got off to a great start with a member of DC Tri singing the National Anthem and the start waves heading off in small groups every 8-12 seconds.  Ryan and I were able to find my brother's start wave and admire is pre-race haircut and wish him well before he was ushered to the starting pen.  We then waited and waited and waited for what seemed like ever, at least for me to start our races.  My group started about an hour and twenty minutes after the initial start of the race and Ryan's group only shortly before that.

Do you have any tips to stay occupied and warm when you have to wait for the race start?

THE SWIM - 1500m - 0:00
My fastest swim yet. Actually it was cancelled due to the currents and debris in the Potomac from the constant rain we had leading up to race weekend.

T1 - 1:31
This was the start of the race.  We ran into transition got our bikes and off we went.  I chose to start the race in helmet, sunglasses and barefoot.  I put on socks and cycling shoes, grabbed my bike and headed out of transition   Due to a large mud pit shortly before the mount line a bottle neck occurred, slightly irritating but not a game changer.  I noticed others ran into transition in cycling shoes and just grabbed their bikes.  I was attempting to keep my nice white shoes nice and white and they pretty much still are after a little cleaning.

THE BIKE - 25 miles -1:07:55
I felt great on the bike.  I was passing people pretty much the entire ride - I guess that's what happens when you are in the very last start wave.  The course was narrow and a bit congested a some points but other than that I loved it.  The bike course is one of the reasons I came back to the race after last year, it's one of the fastest and flatest courses in the area.  I stayed well hydrated on the ride with my aerodrink and was able to easily take my 2 gels since I put a small aero pack on my top tube.  I also took a bit of Heed with me.  I think staying hydrated on the bike helped me out a lot, in previous races I would opt to drink less so I wouldn't have to slow down.

T2 - 1:36
Not a bad transition time.  I ran in with the bike, re-racked, changed shoes, grabbed race belt and 2 Powergels and off I went.  This race was my first time wearing my new DC Tri Club tri top.  I thought I would utilize the 2 pockets on each side and store 1 gel in each.

THE RUN - 10k - 45:35
Another 10k PR - cha ching.  Though the course distance may have been about .15 miles short of a real 10k. Shortly into the run the nice pockets on each side of the tri top failed me - I lost both gels.  Lucky for me I hadn't even made it to mile 1 yet - where I knew they would be handing out cliff gels.  I gladly took 2 as I passed and put them away for safe keeping my sports bra.  I focused and reeling one person at a time in and passing them.  I was in a zone after about mile one and pushing it and I felt great.  It helps to have the run course be one you pretty much run at least weekly!  There were supporters along almost the entire route and water/gatorade stops every mile.  The crowd really grew as I approached the finish chute and it felt great running in hard know my mom, Christie, brother, and Kara were watching.

TOTAL TIME - 1:56:36

I received my medal and wandered down the finish chute area in search of my family.  Alas, I found them and soon after we were able to cheer for Ryan as he approached the finish line to his first Nation's Triathlon.  I was able to stop by and catch up with some DC Tri folk at the club tent.  Rory, Ryan and I loaded up with Muscle Milk, Gatorade and Water before heading over to get our timing print out.  I was unsure at this point what place I exactly was in.  I knew someone had passed me on the bike but I had no clue if I passed her on the run or if anyone else passed me on the run, though I did try to pay attention to the calf of anyone passing me.  We got the print out and I was elated to find out that I podiumed.  It had been somewhat of an unspoken goal for me, I knew a lot of pieces would have to come together for me to finish top 3 and I couldn't control some of them - such as a competitor's pace.  I nailed the bike and the run, PRing in both and transitioned well enough to earn 2nd in Females 18-24.

My brother and I got some athlete food, Qdoba, and joined the others at a shaded table near the stage.  A cover band entertained us and we all chatted about different aspects of the race experience.  We again waited for what seemed like ever for my award as they went in the same order we started, so my age group was last, again!  This was the first "big" (82 people in my AG) race I've finished well at.  I went from 28th in my AG last year to 2nd this year cutting off more than 12 minutes from my bike time and 8 minutes from my run time.  I am excited for what the future holds as I am pushed to higher standards as I age up to the 25-29 AG come January.

What is your ideal post race food?

I love this race.  Despite the swim being cancelled it was still great.  The atmosphere and the size are unmatched.  The man who does the course briefings and awards is also very entertaining.  I recommend this race to anyone.  How many chances do you get to bike and run the streets of Washington, DC without any cars or traffic signals?  I will be back, but not next year, as I have committed to the Tawas Triathlon Festival which is held the same weekend.  This year the Tawas Triathlon Festival honored my father who volunteered there last year and probably would have raced it next year with us.

What is your most favorite race?
Anyone know how/when to go about getting a sponsor or 2?

PS: I couldn't be more excited for Augusta 70.3 on 9/25!!!

Your Race Resultsview all results

Age GroupGenderOverall
2/82 top 2.4%45/1457 top 3.1%636/3884 top 16.4%

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Italian Stallion

There is new member of the race team in town!  In previous posts I had mentioned how I was beginning to look at tri bikes and comparing the costs and specs of the bikes that might work for me.  My dad was my go to man for bike advice and compared the bikes I was considering and always put in his 2 cents - I'm not going to lie he seemed quite excited about the addition of a Tri Bike.

I had been considering a tri bike for a few months.  I wanted to seem improvements in my swimming and running before making the big purchase.  With my PR 10k at Stumpy Creek and my PR Swim at Rockett's Landing I felt good about getting a tri bike.  My intentions all along with the tri bike were to win more races, qualify for bigger races, and all in all improve.  Coming off the win in Luray I knew it was time for the tri bike.  The Trek 1000 had been good to me - even got me many top 2 bike splits and top 3 finishes this year, but with The Nation's Triathlon around the corner I felt ready to commit to a tri bike - yes it is a commitment, especially when you make $0.

Do you ride a tri bike or road bike?  If you have both how much time do you spend on each?

I have seen and heard such statements that a tri bike will help decrease your run time due to the different geometry and position of your legs, it's more aero, it's lighter, faster, better, etc.  I never realized how different they were than when I started test riding them.  I felt fast and efficient, I loved it.  I had also heard buying a tri bike is worse than buying a car - I'm still not sure if this is true but all of a sudden I loved 2 bikes and I couldn't decide which one to get.

After going out to Bonzai Sports with my brother after the infamous DC earthquake I settled on a bike.  The staff at Bonzai was great, super helpful, 0 pressure, and flexible.  In a previous blogpost I had mentioned that I had my eyes on the Women's Quintano Roo CD0.1 - I tried it out and even the small was a bit big for me.  I tried a few other bikes and it came down to the Felt B16 and the Cervelo P2.  The Cervelo P2 and the QR were both highly recommended by my dad - the Cervelo taking the top spot and QR up there because of the women's specific design.


And for those of you who know me make sure to pronounce it "I"talian because we all know I do, whether it's right or wrong.

I absolutely love this bike.  The staff at Bonzai were awesome and spent a little over 2 hours working with me during the fitting and adding accessories and such.  This bike is fast and awesome.  I love riding the Hains Point loop for hours on this bike, it really doesn't ever feel hard.

Where do you like to get in a good hard ride at?

My biggest concern for my bike right now is getting it to Augusta for the Augusta 70.3 in just over a week.  Currently my plan is to send it down with a DC Tri Club member who is planning on driving while I fly, but if anything changes I will be having to ship my bike which I am not to fond of or pack it up and take it on the plane with me.

How do you travel to races with your bike when you don't drive?  Any advice on packing/shipping?

Do you have anymore races coming up this year?  What are you training for?