Thursday, June 10, 2010

Every “Maverick” Could Use a “Goose”

7:10 am, Middlebury, CT
Quassy Half Rev Race
The male pros have just exited the water into transition. Mama Bear Sharpie (Team Trakkers' fearless leader) and I are rushing to the car (with Michele B. close behind) to go set up our aid station at Mile 29. Oh crap! The pros have gotten on the road ahead of us. ("Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full"). The challenge: beat them to the aid station on a two-lane country road with no shoulder. The only map we had was the race map, which didn’t show other roads in the area. Reading the map, it appeared that we could go straight and cut out a portion of the course, getting ahead of the cyclists. I explain this to Sharpie, who doesn’t really want details but just to be told where to turn (as she watches for cyclists, etc.). Ok…I’m stressed…if I am wrong about this alternate plan we are in serious trouble. If I am correct, we are good to go. (Little did we know that Michele had a GPS in the car behind us…oh well). The plan worked….we beat the pros by 20 minutes and got everything set up. Whew! In the midst of navigating, Sharpie commented that I make a good “Goose” to her “Maverick”.

In that one sentence, she summed up something I had often thought about myself. While the term “Wingman” makes you think of sketchy guys picking up women in a bar, I have often said that I am a great “Number one” if someone else is “Captain Piccard” (yes- I did just break out the Star Trek reference….I never said I wasn’t a dork!). I don't necessarily want to be the one managing everything (my family might argue, since I was the original "Bossy Jossi" before I got married and changed my last name). I love to be the "doer". Someone else can have the vision, and I can run with it. I am great at brainstorming ideas (many are dorky but some are downright creative), and at making things happen. This applies to personal life and work. I have often been referred to as "Julie the Cruise Director". I love making a plan and actually making it come to fruition. At work, I have a wonderful boss who has great vision, and I love that I get to actualize those visions. Give me your big idea and I'll come back to you with data and results. My little sister (who suffered much of my bossiness as a child), has already asked that I be her wedding planner whenever she gets married. She wants someone to make it happen so she can show up and enjoy herself that day. I'm her girl!

Ok, so Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer ("Iceman" if you were totally oblivious in the 80s) were WAY hotter than Anthony Edwards in "Top Gun", but none of those pilots flew without a wingman. Thanks Sharpie, for letting me be yours on a crazy morning in Connecticut!

Trakkers Rocks the Rev3 Aid Stations

If you read my race report for the Quassy Olympic race, you know that the Trakkers water stop at mile 1 on the run was awesome. My teammates showed incredible enthusiasm and support for everyone on the run.

On Sunday, it was my turn to volunteer. I met up with Mama Bear at the race site bright and early. She had been there since 2:30 am to set up aid stations (to avoid items being stolen late at night as happened with the Olympic race). We got in the car to head out to the aid station (with Michele, the wife of a teammate following close behind), only to realize that the male pros had gotten ahead of us. Now we had the challenge of getting around them to beat them to the aid station. Thankfully we were able to navigate around and beat them there with time to spare. Our aid station crew was awesome. Mama Bear, Michele, Jenn (Megan’s awesome friend who volunteered BOTH days), Susanna, Zach (Susanna’s boyfriend), Ryan and Emily, and Anna ( a triathlete who had volunteered to help with the aid station).

With 80s music blaring from the car stereo, we awaited the male pros. I was first in line along the road, handing out water. The rest of the crew was giving out water or Cera Sport, and Jenn made sure my stash of water was continually stocked (in between picking up empty bottles). The pros whizzed through the stop. I was amazed by how many of them took water as they went by. Having not volunteered a bike water stop before, I got a lesson from Sharpie before we started. Thankfully, I had only two muffed passes out of at least 100, and none of them were to pros.

Here is me handing off water to Amanda Lovato, one of the Team Trakkers pros. She had lost her nutrition flask, and was hoping for gels ,but all I had to offer was water.

(Awesome photos by Michele Beeson)

It was great fun to cheer everyone on, especially when we saw one of our teammates (“TRAKKERS IN THE HOUSE!!!!”). The Terrier Tri team has become our buddies, so we cheered them on as well (“Go Terrier. Woof Woof!”). It was so much fun to give encouragement to all the racers out there (especially since we were at the top of one of the worst climbs). Seeing some of the really fast Trakkers was pretty amazing, not to mention watching Crowie, Matty Reed, Mirinda Carfrae, Julie Dibens, and our Trakkers pros whiz by.

After a 3+ hours of working the water stop, I was drenched but happy. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized just how hard all that backward running was on my quads. It felt great to support my teammates and the other triathletes, and I am reminded of how nice it is when someone says a simple “Thank you.” I also learned that there are different techniques when going through a water stop- some people just go by without indicating whether they want water or not (sometimes grabbing it at the last second), others say no thank you or go by, but my favorite are the people who actually point at you as they approach and let you know they want water. It mad the handoff so much easier! All in all, a great weekend and a great time with my amazing Trakkers teammates.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rev3 Quassy Race


I wasn't planning to race at Rev3 Quassy, just volunteer. A couple of weeks before Columbia, I got the bug. I heard what fun my Trakkers teamies were having in Knoxville, and the great energy there, and I wanted to partake. Then Robin, one of my tri club friends, sent out an email that she was going and wanted a driving buddy. Talk about things working out...her awesome parents live less than two miles from the race site. Imagine a 100-year-old New England home with beautiful gardens in back...their home is awesome and they are incredible hosts!

Robin did the driving, and I was the designated fruit roll-up opener for her two boys. Thank goodness she knew the alternate route to save us from driving through NYC on a Friday afternoon. On arrival at her parents' house, dinner was waiting for us...her parents and sister ROCK!!! We ate quickly and went to the race site for check-in and bike racking. I was bummed to find out I had missed my Trakkers teammates before they left for dinner, but knew I would see them at the first aid station on the run course.

Rev3 really does things well....their bike racks are the nicest I've used, and you get a personalized, laminated name/number on your spot. So cool!! The bikes got racked, and we drove the run course (after a couple of wrong turns). We realized there were a few long steady climbs on the run. I will be sending Robin's Dad an excerpt from the dictionary soon because he told us the bike course was relatively "flat"...apparently trying not to make us anxious...because the course was just about as flat as the Earth if you catch my drift. (In all seriousness, he was awesome!)

Race morning we were up early. I shook up my usual oatmeal pre-race routine and went for half a bagel with a little all natural PB and a half banana (I couldn't manage the rest). The sky was overcast, and opened up as we got to the race site (shades of Columbia Tri). Thankfully it poured and then stopped (we would be wishing for rain later). When I went to get my body marked, the Rev3 employee marking me asked for my name (not usually a standard question at body marking). It turns out she was Jen, who sends us all our Trakkers packages and puts awesome, encouraging post-it notes in each one. I LOVE her post-its!!!!

(Photo by Michele Beeson)

At the Columbia tri, I lost the mental game on the swim. I didn’t panic, but I couldn’t find a groove and I did a fair amount of breast-stroke. After Columbia, I did more OWS and tried to pump myself up for Quassy. I think one of my strengths as a healthcare provider that is sometimes a detriment as a triathlete is the ability to look at a situation, see all possible scenarios, and prepare to deal with any of them (more on this in a later post). It is a detriment in triathlon because I have a tendency to be matter-of-fact about my slow swimming. Thankfully, my Trakkers teammate Kelly was there to correct me. When I commented that the swim was my weakness (as we were waiting for our wave to start), she said “Repeat after me…I AM A SWIMMER.” So I repeated after her (in a pretty loud voice). Amazing how I think that REALLY helped me in the swim. Thank you Kelly!!!
This was a beach start, with the swim in a warm, clear lake. Still wetsuit legal for the amateurs, but not the pros the next day. There were a cluster of women in our age group lined up to start toward the left. Robin and I determined that there was a clear line of sight (and direct root) from the right side of things, so we lined up in a less crowded area. I was so busy being entertained by the women who had to sit down in the water to pee before we started (only in our sport is peeing in the water with a bunch of people around totally accepted) that I forgot to start my watch when the race started. I did pause for a second about two minutes in to set it.
My goal for the swim was to control the things I could: NO BREAST STROKE, stay calm, focus on my form and my sighting. I felt really good during the swim. My lines were the straightest they’ve ever been in a race (I never had to correct my positioning, which felt great). I knew I was still at the back of the pack, but I had won the mental game and that was huge after Columbia. I was surprised to see my time was two minutes slower than Columbia, but honestly just happy to do well.

As I exited the swim people seemed to be walking to transition. Dude- I need to make up all the time I can! I jogged up to transition, realizing that I hadn’t opened the Velcro on my bike shoes the night before (whoops). With the rain in the morning, I had things under a towel, but it didn’t slow me down much. I felt good about my speed through transition (always room for improvement but not too bad), and headed out on the bike.

Quassy hills make Columbia hills jealous! Columbia is a challenging course, but Quassy has a lot of false flats and a few LONG climbs (their version of Mount Albert is 2-3 times ours). With Columbia as home turf, I wasn’t sure if my perspective is skewed. I had my thoughts confirmed by two women who did both races this year- they said the bike and run at Quassy were definitely more challenging than Columbia.
Being a slow swimmer, I have to make up ground on the bike. All of the men started in waves ahead of the women, so any time I passed a man I knew he had started before me on the swim. I was definitely looking for women in my age group, and passed several of them in the beginning. There was one woman I passed at mile 5 who passed me again a short while later. I would keep her in my sights for miles and finally pass her again at about mile 20. In the last five miles, I passed a few more women in my age group. One of them came ripping past me on the last downhill, but then sat up and pedaled pretty slowly in the last mile. I passed her before transition. The bike course was challenging to say the least. I was happy with my performance, and pushed it pretty hard. The amazing thing from the race support perspective is that someone stole a majority of the bike course signs overnight. The Rev3 folks got signs put back out quickly and thankfully there was no confusion with the course route.

There was a bit of a traffic jam getting back into my rack, but it cleared quickly. I have been spraying my feet with Tri Slide prior to the swim, so that I can go sockless on the bike and run. It works wonders! No blisters in two races and quicker T times. I grabbed my First Endurance Liquid Shot and was off.

The Run
The run course was on beautiful tree-lined roads, with a couple major hills. My Trakkers teammates were working the water stop after Mile 1, and this gave me a LOT of motivation. I couldn’t wait to see them and feel the energy of the team. You could hear them cheering before you could see them. Coming around the corner, there was a mass of green awesomeness, complete with cowbells. It definitely put a lot of pep in my step.

(Photo by Michele Beeson)

Unfortunately, the pep ran out a little bit later. For once, my SI joint wasn’t hurting a lot, it was just a general fatigue (not a lot of hard core training between Columbia and Quassy). While I can run a 10K road race entirely in Zone4, I couldn’t get above Zone 3 because I just couldn’t seem to push that hard. The nice thing was that I was totally ok with it. I wanted to push hard and do well, but I was also just happy that I had decided to race and mentally was leaps and bounds ahead of where I was two weeks prior. Did I mention the hills? Columbia has the brutal uphill/downhill portion, where this race just had LONG, steady, steep inclines (all in the last few miles). At the steepest hill, not a single person ran. I realized that the fatigue of running the hill wasn’t worth the little bit of time I would lose if I walked (this was obviously the general consensus). I gave myself a point at which I would start running again, and stuck with it. There was a girl with a 26 on her calf that was just ahead of me for the first half of the run. We seemed to have similar strategies, so I caught up with her and we talked through the rest of the race. At the steep hills, we agreed on a point to start walking, and then where to pick up the run. At one of the steep hills, I heard a car and then “Go Kiersten!!!”. It was two of my awesome teammates (they honked at me when I started running again….great motivation). When we turned the corner for the last .2 miles, I kicked in whatever I had left and finished strong.

The finish at Rev3 is really cool. They announce every finisher’s name, and your picture and hometown are displayed on the huge jumbotron. They had a dozen or so massage therapists, plus ART available. It became apparent that my nutrition/electrolyte intake was not adequate about 15 minutes after the race when I began to feel woozy. I generally get GI distress after a race, but I’ve never felt faint. We had prepared for the forecast weather of 70 degrees and rainy. Midway through the bike, it got hot and humid. This definitely was an error in judgment on my part. Thankfully I recovered, and was able to hang with my teammates and hear the Pro press conference. Robin’s parents put on an amazing post-race feast, complete with smores (yum!), and I fell into bed before Robin’s kids were asleep.

The Rev3 Experience
Rev3 puts on an amazing event. It is really family friendly (parents had their kids on the rides at the park while their spouse was competing, and they encourage you to finish with your kids). The timing glitches from Knoxville were all worked out (if there were issues, they stayed behind the scenes)…thanks in part to the help of my teammate Kati. The swag is awesome (Headsweats visor, slingbag, T shirt, and finishers shirt), and the expo was outside right at the race site (along with check-in). I volunteered for the Half Rev the following day (I got to hand water to most of the pros at the mile 29 water stop…lots of fun), and the pro presence was incredible. Many of the top names were there and they really seem to enjoy this race (one of the top male pro finishers actually said that this is the hardest 70.3 they’ve ever done). I can’t wait for Cedar Point in September (but first Celebration and Irongirl).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tri Training at "Camp McDonald"

My family and I are fortunate to have an awesome getaway at my Uncle Rob and Aunt Marianne's "cabin" in West Virginia. They have an incredible (very guest-friendly) home near Shepherdstown, complete with a creek, a pond (perfect for open water swimming), and lots of animals in the neighborhood. The kids love fishing on the pond, even if it is with a Barbie fishing rod that has a plastic fish attached.

The great thing about weekend visits is that there are TONS of activities to entertain my kids while I get in some great training. Rob is a cyclist, and takes me on wonderful rides when I visit (while Marianne keeps the kids busy). This weekend, after a great family celebration and an awesome breakfast on Saturday, Rob took me cycling through the Antietam battlefield. A few great hills, and amazing scenery. We ended the ride with a hard sprint the last mile or so. It felt amazing!!! After the ride, we took the kids for a swim in the pond (actually, they hung out on a raft while I pulled them around and rescued them from "Rob the Pirate").

On Sunday, I got to swim laps in the pond (getting some more wetsuit time in) while my daughter floated around on a raft. She kept me great company, and laughed like crazy when I splashed her as I swam by.

I now need a vacation from our awesome vacation, but it was so worth it!