Monday, September 21, 2009

Make-A-Wish Tri is in the books!

My “rookie” tri season really didn’t come together until late May/early June. I attended She Does Tri camp, and decided I definitely wanted to get a few events in this year. Luray International was to be my first International distance (after two sprints), with Make-a-Wish following a month later. I thought Make-a-Wish would be my “A” race (I say that loosely as “A” performance for me is a C-minus for many…but I’m ok with that). After two illnesses in between the two races, I felt over-rested as opposed to well-trained, but wanted to go with it.

My kids, sister, and I travelled to Bethany Beach on Friday since my Dad and Grandparents live there. On Saturday, I went to packet pickup and ran into Scott Fisher. We hadn’t met before, but I tend to be a bit chatty (not shocking for anyone reading any of my lengthy race reports), and through the course of our conversation I realized who he was (“You are the dentist, right?!”). I knew Ducky would be there, and Mark Yost was volunteering with his sons. It is so nice to have MMTC buddies at an event. I took my sister on a drive of the bike course (where I missed two turns and started to wonder about my navigational skills…though the one road wasn’t marked). My grandma is the queen of carb-loading, so we had a great dinner at her house. Grotto Pizza was donating to Make-A-Wish on Saturday, so we got pizza to go with the Mac-N-Cheese and Ziti (somehow I’m thinking greasy pizza is not the best pre-race food).

Race Day:
The morning was a bit brisk, and I was worried about being cold on the bike. I decided to wear my tri suit, and sacrifice a few seconds on T1 throwing a bike jersey on. Every star in the sky was shining brightly, and you could hear the waves crashing even though we were almost two blocks away. It was one of those moments you just have to soak in before the craziness of body marking and transition set-up. I saw several friendly faces on race morning since some of the Montgomery County Firefighters my husband works with were racing (one of them has participated for years and raised over $10,000 for the event). Several of them were tri newbies, so it was nice to focus on helping them. (As so many race reports have stressed, helping others definitely takes your mind off your own stress).

The finish point for the swim was set, so we had to walk to the start 0.93mi down the beach. The water was fairly warm (71 degrees), much warmer than the air. Thankfully the sun had come up and started to warm the air a bit.

Goals for the race:
1. Survive the swim and finish strong
2. If #1 happened, try to beat my only other international time of 3:10
3. Have fun on the bike and save something for the run.

Swim: (1.5K- 34:15…ouch! 288/379 overall, 13/15 age group)
The swim is my weakness and I know it. I can swim the distance, but I am slow! I wore a wetsuit for this race, and experienced that constricted feeling at points. I thought the water looked calm, but as we watched the elite wave go I quickly realized that it was fairly rough. As we entered the water, my timing chip started to feel loose. I stopped to ensure it was secure, and then started to swim. Right away I had that “poser” feeling. I know my bike and run are strong, but who was I to think I could complete an ocean swim?!?! I told myself that not finishing wasn’t an option, and kept plodding along. The blue caps in my wave seemed to get more distant. If I tried breast stroke for a few seconds to calm myself and sight, I got mouthfuls of salt water. Freestyle was actually the easiest stroke to do, so I went with it.

About 1/3 of the way through I settled in a bit (though I kept swinging wide between the buoys). At the halfway point, the wave behind me (the 40-ish men) started to overtake me. I just dug in and did the best I could. The one saving grace was different colored buoys, so I knew when I got to the last one. Turning into the shore and getting out of the water was much different than the other swims I have done. I just rode the waves and swam as long as I could. I ran up the beach, but did walk up the ramp (you then had to go down a ramp that I was worried could be slick). The run up the ramp and then down the ramp counted toward T1 time.

T1 (4:20, 175/379, 7/15 age group) I decided not to rush transition, worried that the bike would be chilly and wanting to get some water in before I started (I want tri bars next year just so I can have one of those groovy water bottles that sits between them!). My time reflects my leisurely pace in transition. I was trying to move quickly, but also being methodical about things. I was so glad to have survived the swim that the rest was gravy.

Bike (25.5 miles, 1:15:15, 89/379 overall, 2/15 age group- average pace 19.8mph per race results, 20.3 per my computer)

I was really looking forward to the bike. The course was nice without major obstacles (and almost totally flat), and I knew I could pick up some lost time from the swim. This is where I need some input. I have always been a rule follower (some would say “goody-two-shoes”), and hate breaking the rules just about as much as I hate getting in trouble for breaking said rules. This was a no drafting race, and since I have become friends with Kim Larson (Team Z member and USAT official), I have heard her explain these rules on a few occasions. I saw people get penalties for drafting at Luray and want no such part of anything that could get me a penalty (I already do enough damage to my time on the swim!).

I was on my own for the beginning of the bike, but around mile 3 I ended up near a group of men from the 40+ age group, as well as a couple of younger men who started ahead of me. They were riding at a 20+ mph pace, which felt great. Trying to respect the drafting rules, I tried to get ahead but kept getting sucked back into the group (I am not a seasoned cyclist when it comes to racing, so it took me a while to figure out that it was futile to try and get ahead…they always caught up). If I tried to hang back, I was riding my brakes and slowing myself down substantially. Just when I got 3 lengths behind someone, someone else would come up and get right in front of me. Needless to say I decided to go with “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. I wasn’t thrilled with this strategy, as I would have preferred to be alone, but wasn’t sure what else to do. In the last few miles of the race, the “pack” grew larger and larger…to the point it was downright out of control. People were riding three abreast, and there was no room to pass unless you crossed the double yellow line. I followed the rules to the best of my ability and tried to stay out of the mix. I broke away in the last mile or so, but got caught before transition. I probably wasted a lot of energy trying to get away from the group, but again was kind of stumped. Any input from more experienced triathletes is much appreciated.

T2: (1:32, 87/379, 3/15)
I redeemed myself a bit on this one, though my time would have been better if I hadn’t run two racks beyond mine (and my brain just wasn’t registering where my rack was). I ended up picking up my bike and running to my rack. I had put on a jersey for the bike so I took that off to run in my tri top (left the Hammer Gel I had stashed for the run in there, though!).

Run: (10K, 53:25, 8:36 miles, 165/379, 4/15)

I got started on the run and hoped that my knee and SI joint would be kind (I have been nursing injury all year). The run is flat, and goes right past our house. The out portion was no fun (South on Route 1 toward Fenwick), as I just wanted to get to the turnaround. I was running side-by-side with another female, and kept pace with her to the turnaround. I had increasing knee discomfort, so I told myself I would let her go at the turnaround. I was so happy to see a young volunteer handing out Hammer Gels, and sucked half of one down at the halfway point. Mark Yost was at the water stop with his sons, which was very cool (I don’t think he saw me, though). At the turn, I realized how many females were behind me. I was sure I was further back since I was one of the last of my wave out of the water and I didn’t feel like I had passed that many people on the bike. I guess I must have been “in the zone” (or in a daze from the lack of oxygen to my brain!). I allowed myself to walk for about 30 seconds but it didn’t help my knee any. Sea Colony became visible in the distance, and I knew I didn’t have too far to go. Traffic was slowed on Route 1 because of the race, and a lot of the bikers (it was Bike Week in Ocean City) were cheering us on. I also had a little girl in a minivan cheering me on.

During the bike, I revised my time goal a bit (at Luray, I let myself slack on the run a bit because I knew I would meet my goal). This time I lowered the goal to 2:50 so that I wouldn’t have an excuse to slack. This strategy worked, and I met the goal. My children and sister met me at the finish, which was awesome (they saw me on both ends of the run, but I did not see them…bummer). We eventually made it to the post-race picnic, and I was shocked to see my place. I honestly did not expect to finish well (I’m not Kona-bound or anything, but happy with how my “rookie” season ended).Of course I am wondering how the heck I will do a Half next year, but I’m registered so I’m going to have to figure it out!!!!!!

Time: 2:48:55 Overall place (either 145 or 166/379..can't quite figure it out)
Age group place 3/15

Lessons learned in my first year of triathlon:
1. Joining Mid Maryland Triathlon Club was the best money I’ve ever spent on fitness (awesome camaraderie, great resources, and I heard about She Does Tri Camp through the club)
2. I love cycling and should have picked it up again a lot sooner!
3. I am addicted to the sport of triathlon and will make the swim my goal in the offseason
4. I have LOTS left to learn about the sport!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gearing up for my last tri of the year

I got "the crud" the week after Luray (I like think of it as "post-final exam syndrome" work hard for something and when you finally relax your body seizes the opportunity to break down). It recurred last week (Tommy and I both had the crud), so my training has been spotty. I also had a 60-page pharmacology chapter to write, so that put a damper on training.

With Make-a-Wish on the 20th, I really cranked it up this week with an open water swim (thanks to Dawn, my MMTC friend, who coordinated), a hilly bike ride in WVA with my Uncle Rob, and an 8-mile run. Today I ran and swam, which doesn't usually happen on a weekday for me (one or the other).

I have started registering for next year's races (there is at least one half ironman on the dockett). I am definitely hooked on this sport!

Luray International Tri

Luray was my first international distance triathlon. David Glover, the race organizer, is also one of the organizers of the "She Does Tri" camp which I attended this spring. I knew the race would be a great opportunity to see some friends from "camp", and get my first international under my belt in a great venue. My family and I traveled up the day before (I enticed my 6 and 3 year olds to come by offering up a trip to Luray Caverns). My husband has never seen me race before (he was on Daddy duty when I ran the Marine Corps last year), so I was really excited. The caverns were a blast (especially now with a high-tech self-guided tour). We went by Lake Arrowhead so I could show them the race site (I had the opportunity to swim, bike, and run there a week prior to the race), and had a great pasta dinner at the Luray firehouse (my husband is a firefighter and my son obsessed with all things firefighting). The cabin we rented was beautiful, and my pre-race jitters were calmed as I sat on the deck that night and looked at all of the stars with this wonderful breeze blowing.We took 2 cars so I could be out of the house early on Saturday.

My daughter woke up as I kissed her goodbye and said "Finish strong, Mommy" (I started saying this to her when she was about 4 and would run out of steam at soccer practice- I had it printed on my Road ID for a little motivation). I saw several tri friends at the race site, so that provided some distraction. They skipped a rack when setting up transition, which was of course mine. They ended up putting us next to the relay rack, right at the Bike exit/entrance (but furthest away from the swim entrance and run exit- I don't think this hurt because I had the shortest amount of time possible pushing my bike through transition). I had some basic goals for the race:
1. Finish (and, as per my co-workers, "Don't die on the swim"..I told them water wings are not USAT approved)
2. Push it hard on the bike
3. If 1 and 2 were met, try to complete the event in under 3:15

Swim- 1.5km 39:18 (152/183...ouch!!!)
I am a slow swimmer, and I know it. I have been trying to work on this, but my goal for this race was to finish the swim with some energy left. There is lots to work on for next year. I felt comfortable for the whole swim (I thought of it as a "Pac-Man" shape), but there was a bit of trouble sighting with the sun. I was in the last 5 or so from my wave out of the water, but knew I could pick up some time. There was a run over the sand, through the grass, and up a flight of wooden stairs to transition. Several people were taking their time walking up the steps on the left, but I took them two at a time up the right side (have to make up time where I can).

T1 02:14 (63/183)
It was a long run to my bike rack, and the relay bikers were hanging out in a pack. I yelled to them as pleasantly as I could, letting them know that I needed to get to my bike. They didn't slow me down, but probably thought I was a bit rude.

Bike 25 miles (1:30:03- 16.7mph)
The bike course is hilly, with a lot of false flats. You feel like you have lost all steam on the flat, and then realize you are actually going uphill. I actually like the feeling of chasing down my age group on the bike, so my swim left me with lots of incentive to pass females ahead of me. I had a great time on the bike, and felt good the whole way. There is a decent hill in the last 2 miles which gets your heart rate going just in time for the run. I got a little oomph on one of the flats from three horses galloping along a fence next to me- a beautiful sight. I saw my husband as I was coming into transition, so that was very exciting.

T2 1:08 (34/183- woohoo!)
I actually took a few seconds to drink water in transition, so I am happy with this time.

Run 10K 57:49 (9:19 miles 85/183)
My kids hopped off the playground equipment to cheer me on at the run start. I know there are USAT rules about outside assistance, and I didn't know if this was against the rules, so I actually didn't slap hands with them (of course then I felt like the meanest mom EVER! Next time I will be slapping all the hands I can).The run course is brutal. There are some big uphills, but running the same out and back course twice requires some serious mental strength. My strategy (based on my previous run there) was to push a little harder on the way out, knowing the worst uphill is on the way back in. I did a fair amount more walking than I would have liked (which makes me happy with the pace), but my heart rate was way up there at some points. I met another woman at the end of the first loop and we pushed each other for the second loop. I took in some hammer gel on the second loop, and definitely kicked it up a bit for the last couple of miles. I walked up the big hill again (did I mention all my S.I. joint pain? It was definitely locking up at that point), and perhaps was a little too relaxed because I knew I could meet my time goal.

With about 0.4 mi left, I passed a volunteer who was cheering for each number he saw. "245, are you finishing?" I said yes, and he said "Finish Strong!". Needless to say, after starting the day with those words from my daughter I figured I needed to live up to our motto. I really kicked the last 0.4 miles (I even got a compliment on my stride), and passed several people before the finish. I know the race announcer (a former pro who coached at tri camp), so when he said my name I threw my hands up and had a big grin on my face as I crossed the finish line. I was overwhelmed by the joy of finishing (I seriously thought I could cry), and excited by the prospect of working to improve at this distance. I later talked to one of the other competitors (an elite female and tri camp coach- are you sensing a theme here?) and she said the bike at Luray is more challenging than Columbia, but the Columbia run is harder. I guess I will find out next year. Overall, I am happy with my performance and totally addicted to this sport!!! I got the opportunity to volunteer at the sprint the following day, and had a great time on the other side of things.