Category Archives: racing
This weekend, I enjoyed one of my favorite things: racing. I soaked it up in nearly all its forms. I raced, I spectated, I sherpa’d. I had a few firsts, too- my first ever road bike race (well, two, actually…) and a first place finish.
Saturday was a perfect day, both weather-wise and prep-wise. I could not stop reminding myself how much of a good idea it was to do the time trial and the crit at the Tour of Hermann. My friend, Annie, and I showed up about an hour before the TT was to begin, and as I pulled out my race wheels, I realized that I hadn’t swapped cassettes. So, I either had to go race-wheel-less or find someone with a chain whip. Luckily, I was able to get the bike assembled, race wheels and all, with the help of Annie and a nearby racer who had a bunch of tools. As I arrived at the start corral, I realized that my rear tire was a little low. A man in a leopard-print robe and oxford shoes recognized that I was clueless, probably because of the look of panic on my face and the fact that my race number was upside down. He offered to fix my number, and asked if I needed anything else- realizing that the first group of TT starters would be delayed, I asked him if he knew if there was a bike pump around. He scurried off, and came back shortly with a pump from the guys from Mesa Bikes. He pumped up my tire, and soon thereafter it was time to line up. I thanked him, and felt relaxed- calm- and was excited to get going.
I was nervous to do the clipped-in start. I thought for sure I could handle it, but I chickened out in the end. I started, clipped in, and hurried off to chase down the others in front of me.
Only I had a hard time catching those in front of me. Turns out, in road racing, time trialists that are spread out by 30sec are hard to catch. And, top that with the fact that there were quite a bit of Cat1-2-3 racers in the time trial at the Tour of Hermann, and I soon realized that I was not really the one to be chasing. I was passed within the first few miles by a few speedy guys, but I just kept my head down and my feet pedaling fast. I tried to climb the hills with a lot of power, telling myself that I didn’t really have to do the crit if my legs felt too tired afterward…
I hammered away, and rocketed down the hills. Finally, I saw a girl who had started 1min in front of me. Interestingly enough, on the uphills, I’d gain ground on her, but in the downhills she’d lengthen our gap. But, she was on a road bike, and I had my Plasma. The laws of physics were against me. My bike was heavier, more aero, and had bigger gears. Whatever.
The TT was 14mi, and I was glad when I was nearing the finish. My legs were burning, but it felt good, and I felt good. I felt strong. I felt redlined. I had no idea where I finished after I crossed the line- Annie and I disassembled our bikes and headed onward to the Crit.
Crits are insane. This crit was especially insane. The course was 1.2mi, and finished in a very steep uphill. It was not what I expected, but I didn’t really know what to expect. The Women’s Cat 3-4 were the first group to go, and we were in for 7laps. There weren’t many of us, but we were all tough.
After a few laps, the groups spread out. I did a bit of riding on my own. I tried to work with other women. I would yell “Let’s go get ’em” or “Come on, stay on my wheel!” as I’d go by. I was absolutely digging the opportunities to pass and get passed. I would pull up to a girl and try to get her to go with me. Because the field was so small, I think there was little room for attacking. The one large pack (of only 4-5 women) that pulled away at the beginning fell apart by lap 5. I started to gain on the women one by one. Every time I’d finish a lap, the announcer would say my name and tell everyone that I was his darkhorse and that this weekend’s races were my first road races ever. He then announced, to everyone, that I had won the time trial. The announcer, turns out, was the leopard-printed dude that helped me before the TT. In the end, I came across the line in 4th, having pulled away from the pack but not quite catching the third place woman. But, for my first crit against some really tough women, I was stoked.
And I had to make sure the announcer was right.
Had I really won the TT?
Heck yeah! For women’s Cat 3-4, I was 1st. And, my time was the 3rd fastest on the day for women across categories, only parts of a second out of 2nd. That was cool.
Road racing is hard. There’s strategy, and there’s grit. All in all, I think I am hooked. The crit was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be, but it was a lot more tough. Oofta!
After the race, Annie and I had a german-fare lunch and tasted some wine at the Stone Hill Winery (which is where the crit took place). We watched some of the mens races and part of the Women1-2-3 crit, and then took off for home. My friend Kenny G was to be coming to town to race the Go! St Louis half marathon the next day. I met up with him and his friends at the WashU track meet, and we then had a delicious pre-race dinner of spaghetti at my apartment.
The next day, I dropped Kenny G off at the race and then grabbed a cup of coffee to prep myself as the world’s best spectator. It was hot, and I felt bad for the racers. I also felt relieved to not be racing that day.
After Kenny finished (he was 44th overall!), we sat on a bench under a tree for a bit while we waited for his friends to finish the full marathon. The day got more miserable, as temps rose and the breeze never really picked up. Apparently, marathoners were asked to turn around at the half marathon turnaround if they weren’t there by a certain time, and quite a few runners went to the med tent.
I’m super-stoked that Kenny and his friends could come down to race. It was great to be a spectator, and I am really excited about living in a bigger city where races are more frequent and I have more opportunity to watch and cheer and volunteer. Spectating is tiring, though- I had to take a nap after standing around all day!
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my 2010 season is wrapped up. I’ve even had two weeks of my post-season do-whatever-I-want awesomeness, [which really hasn’t been that awesome].
Racing this year has been a blast! In my second season as a triathlete, I raced more and improved from last year. And, I felt strong in the run of practically every race, which made me happy. I set some lofty goals at the beginning of the season, and although I didn’t make them all, I’m happy with the level I’ve risen.
Anyway, it’s time to reflect on what racing in 2010 brought me:
- Two more marathons are checked off my 50×50 list (Utah and Michigan)- I BQ’d in both of these, too. Although I didn’t reach one of my goals (another marathon PR), I am still incredibly satisfied with where my run has made it. In fact, although I didn’t PR in the open marathon, I broke my marathon PR in the 140.6 distance by over 30 minutes. And, I also shaved off a minute from my previous best time in the 10-mile.
- I ran the farthest I’ve ever run before, in a training run no-less. Although I was registered for my first ultra, I bailed because of sub-optimal health/stress levels. The ultra world is still there, and I’m striving to make it a to-do for 2011.
- I broke 11hrs in the long course tri at Rev3 Cedar Point! This was one of my more major, loftier goals, one I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to accomplish. But, dare I say? I crushed it! I even got lost on the bike, which added a good 2 miles to my bike leg, and still cruised to a sub 3:40 marathon. And had fun!
- I raced more in 2010 than I did in ’09, and I traveled a lot more for races, too. I even flew to a triathlon, which was something I had never done before. Special thanks to The Bike Shop and Bicycle Works for helping me out at Quassy!
- I directed a half-iron distance triathlon, the Kuparisaari Tri, and got to meet some incredible people along the way. It was a lot of work (that’s an understatement), and the race could not have happened without the help of the KCRA, Bear Belly Bar and Grill (and the Lac La Belle Lodge), the volunteers, and the LLB community! I hope the race will continue, especially so that some day, I can race it!
So, what does that mean for 2011?
There are lots of things I want to do. There are lots of things that I don’t know if I can do. But I won’t know unless I push the boundaries of what I am capable of doing.
For me, 2011 is going to include more focused sessions, aiming to improve my swim, bike, and run. My specific goals are:
- Faster swim! I’d like to hit 32-34min in the 1.2mi distance, and 1:10 in the 2.4mi distance… or faster!
- Stronger bike! In 2011, I want to get on the bike and enjoy the ride the whole time. I know that’s impractical, because some days just suck. But, this season, I struggled a little in races and training. I just didn’t have the fun that I thought I should be having. I did, however, get a little out of my comfort zone in the second half of the season, and hope to bring that back in 2011. One thing I plan to do in 2011 is use benchmarks to track my cycling progress.
- Blazin’ run! I am a runner. I have it in me. And I love it, all the time. So I am going to work on my running strengths in 2011 to get me there. I think that the longer runs in the early season really boosted my endurance for the rest of the year, so I plan to build a solid base of long runs. And, I want to race a half marathon! I’ve never finished an open road half marathon!
- Keep peeling off time and running down places in the HIM distance races. It was blatently obvious to me this year that you really can’t compare race to race. To put it in writing that I want to go 4:45 at Quassy is insane. Plus, courses can change year to year and its hard to have standard. So, I’d like to just keep pushing to get better in this length, because its so fun!
- Race a (legit) Oly. Last year, I did my one and only Olympic race at Rev3 Knoxville. This race was seriously legit; the only problem was, I wasn’t. And I didn’t race another Oly all season. I’d like to race at least two this year, and race them to the best of my ability. I’m really interested in what I will be able to do in this distance, especially when my run will be faster than that it is in the HIM.
Although I haven’t completely figured out my 2011 schedule, I am planning on doing the following races:
- Ragnar Relay Florida Keys – all-women ultra team (Jan)
- Rev3 Knoxville Olympic – May
- Rev3 Quassy Half – June
This past weekend was yet another whirlwind, but I was lucky enough to meet up with my Trakker teammie Michelle in Chicago. She was in from Colorado to race the Lifetime Fitness Chicago Tri, and I was en route to Madison for an interview. I filled in as her midwest tri sherpa, and was it ever a good time.
Although I quite enjoy the sunrises over Lake Superior and the quiet, rather than hustle-and-bustle, that the UP offers, I did really enjoy my time in the windy city. However, if I ever go there again, remind me not to bring my car. I got in a little later than I wanted to on Saturday night thanks to rush hour (on a Saturday, at 6pm) traffic. We headed to dinner around the block and got nestled into bed at a decent hour.
Michelle was racing elite, which meant she was one of the first waves to get going in the Olympic distance event. Fortunately, that meant she wasn’t taking off at 6am, before the sun even came up. Unfortunately, that meant she had to get to the race before the sprint tri started so that she could get her stuff set up in transition before it closed at 5:45am. She was able to get things in order, hopefully under minimal stress, although I wish I had brought along a bike pump for her. We found a good viewing spot on top of a grassy knoll and watched the sprint athletes race out on the swim and in on the run.
Eventually, it was time for her to head in herself, so I found a good spot in line with the swim exit and waited. I started to get excited. I can only imagine how Michelle felt…
After grabbing the most horrid gluten-free breakfast I could find near the race start (Fritos and Coke) I made my way back to the lakeshore to watch the tailend of the sprint group finish up.
One thing I was so in awe about at the Chicago triathlon was that there were so many athletes. At least 8,000 athletes. Not just elite athletes that can put it down in the swim-bike-run, but also pro athletes. Even though I have raced two Rev3s this year and have had my share of the pro-exposure, I am still in awe if ever I see a pro triathlete in my vicinity. But along with these crazy fast athletes came the beginner triathletes. Athletes who may have never swam more than three times before the race. Had no idea how to sight for buoys, swim front crawl, or keep their face in the water. But they were out there, givin’er, on Sunday morning. Sure, some of them got passed by the first (and second) elite waves of the Olympic, even though the elites had a significantly longer swim and started later. But they didn’t seem to care, they were out there having a good time, doing something they would have perhaps never done before if the Triathlon hadn’t come to their city.
Fordy Ford got out on her bike and I did’t get a good chance to see her until she came back in. She was rockin’ though, and she racked her bike up quickly and swapped out her shoes. Off she went, speedster out of T2.
The finish area was several blocks away from transition, and it worked out so that by the time I made it over there (crossing traffic, getting water, and going pee) the elites were already starting to come in. I guess a 10K doesn’t really take that long, so I found a spot on the grass and waited for the women to come in. I started counting blue bibs, and the lead woman came in with a huge lead. Before I knew it, I saw the Green Machine heading toward me.
After she crossed the finish, we meandered around the finish expo, which was great by the way. Eventually, we headed back to transition to get her bike, put it in my car, and head to awards. Although Michelle could get her splits after the race, she wasn’t sure where she had finished, although I was certain it was a top 20 finish and she was thinking it might have even been top ten. She ended up winning her age group and finishing 12th woman overall on the elite/AG side, with a time of 2:21:52. Not bad considering her swim was wetsuit-less (and everyone else had one on..), the bike was bumpy (but she still hammered out nearly 23mph) and the day was hot and humid.
Michelle did a good job of batting her eyes at the consierge and got a late checkout, so we made our way back there to shower and pack up, and then hit up Pizzeria Uno (the original!) on my way out of town. I did a good job of not appearing jealous of her deep dish original pizza, and gnawed on my greens.
I decided to race Chisago again this year, somewhat on a whim.
My race schedule originally had penciled in my first ultra, the Voyageur 50mile trail race, near Duluth, Minnesota for this weekend, but my lack of long runs at mid-June and early season illness had me grabbing for the eraser. Instead of running myself into the ground, I decided to pull out of Voyageur and look for something else. Luckily, it was the exact same time that my teammate, Sharpie, emailed me asking what I thought about the Chisago Tri. She wanted to know if it would be worth it for her to travel from Colorado to race it, and with the idea that she’d be heading to the midwest, I decided to put my chips in the triathlon bucket instead.
The more I thought about it, the happier I was with my decision. The race last year was flat, fast, and a great primer for the FullRev at Cedar Point in September. I could test out my new 54 in a race setting, master my nutrition, and get in another long race on my new-ish bike. So with some back-and-forth with Sharpie, I signed up (race week registration was only ~$115 after fees) and reserved a room at the same seedy motel I stayed at last year.
I wanted to get to the Twin Cities area by noon so I could meet my friend Leiah for lunch, but I didn’t end up leaving Houghton until a little after 9, and so I stopped and had lunch at a diner in Spooner. Unfortunately, I was a little worried that the hashbrowns were not 100% gluten free, so I scraped around on the plate, ate four pieces of bacon, and headed back on my way. I got to TC a little after 2, and Leiah was at the Red Bull Flugtag, so instead of meeting her for lunch, I headed over there for dinner of kabobs on the grill. In the interim, I watched an episode of Scrubs (downtime) and ran a few miles to get the junk out.
My pre-race meal was light and full of veggies, but I was careful not to eat too much. I had caprese salad and a few skewers worth of peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, and then picked up some ice cream on the way back to the motel. I was on the hunt for some Panda Puffs, but I was hardpressed to find them, so I grabbed a box of Smore’ables and decided to go with those and a packet of almond butter for breakfast. I tried to get into bed by 10pm CST, but by the time I had everything laid out and packed up, it was after 1030. I set the alarms for 445am and woke up every few hours thinking my three alarms weren’t working. Ughhh…
Smore’ables were a good breakfast, and I wanted to keep eating them because they tasted so good. I held back though, packed up my stuff and filled my aero bottle with water, 2 tablets of Kola Nuun, and EFS (fruit punch). I noticed that I only brought one of the two straws (daaaang) and couldn’t do anything about it then, so I filled up the largest volume of the two compartment system and headed to the race.
I didn’t ask to be in the elite wave, but since I entered my time from last year’s race, they squeaked me in to wave 2. It was nice, I had a great spot in transition and a clear path to my bike for both transitions.
I saw my teammate before the race, and a friend from college who started racing triathlon when he started graduate school in Illinois. I felt relaxed, carefree, and I tried to not have any “must do” expectations. Being placed in wave 2 meant that I got to head out first, and they bumped our race time up because of the delay on the first wave. I thought the swim would again be a little short this year, but I couldn’t see that farthest two buoys and by the time I made it around the last one I felt the distance. It’s amazing how slow time goes when I am swimming, how a half hour in the water feels like an hour on the bike. I found a set of feet, then lost them. Found feet. They were going too slow, so I moved on. Found another set, but they were going to zig-zagged. Eventually I was just swimming by myself. The waves behind me started to catch up, and I felt like I was swimming zig-zagged too. Eventually I got to shore in what felt like an hour, but my watch said 36:40. Nice.
Swim: 37:13, 1:55/100m pace
T1 was a little slower than I wanted, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off my timing chip. I was glad that I had safety pinned the chip on, but damn was I pissed when my wetsuit wouldn’t roll over it. I yanked and yanked and eventually got it free. Slipped into the shoes and helmet, and ran out.
It wasn’t until I started on the bike that I noticed that A) the compartment I filled with fluid on my aero bottle was not the compartment that the straw was in and B) the straw holes were different sizes between the two, and I just so happened to have the larger diameter straw with me. So I had to stick the straw inside the bottle and get onto my pursuit bars with my face right next to my bars in order to drink. That was pretty crappy. So anytime I wanted to take a drink, my neck would crane downward and I felt like at any moment I would hit a bump and poke my eye out with the huge ass straw. Not only that, but I could only get a few sips at a time, which made my usual “drink as much as you want to on the bike” plan go out the window.
About five miles in, I was getting caught by some packs. Girls hugging other girls’ wheels. Men zipping by at mach 3. I realized most of them were from the sprint race, and at the sprint turnoff, even though it was fairly obvious, I was a little confused and almost turned the wrong way because so many of the athletes were going that way. Once the sprinters turned off, I tried to get into a rhythm, but I couldn’t knock the woman who was riding by me when a guy would go past only to slow down on the slight inclines. Eventually, I thought I dropped her, because I put the hammer down for about three miles. But then I got to an incline, and wanted to save my legs. I tried to get into my smaller chain ring, and I felt all my power disappear. I dropped my chain. No. no no no. Everyone went zipping past me, one guy asked if I needed help, but I was able to throw it back on quickly. Stopping on the uphill didn’t help, though, but I caught back up to drafter-girl by the end of it and cruised on by.
I was on my own for a while. I was afraid of dropping my chain again, so I tried to stay in the 54 as much as I could. In fact, so much so that at one point I was hammering so hard up a hill that I thought I might snap my chain. Ugh. Ok, just downshift, even if you have to stop and fix the chain, it will still probably be faster than this! Transition was smooth.
The bumps started getting to me too. Every ten feet, the concrete was cracked every ten feet or so, and every crack was just wide enough to send me jarring forward and backward. There were dozens of miles of cracks. Bump bump bump, and soon I noticed that my right elbow pad was moving. Soon, my elbow pad was no longer supporting my weight, and I was supporting the weight of my body through my shoulders instead of my elbows. I wasn’t sipping on my EFS as often as I wanted to be, and I was thirsty but I was out of water. And I was alone, so I was losing focus fast. This sucks, I thought. Maybe I should just stop now, maybe these are signs I shouldn’t be racing today. My legs felt like lead and I was scared about the run. How can I run fast after staying in my 54 on all these hills? I’m going to have to run fast if I want to maintain any sort of respect, because this bike split sure as heck isn’t going to be my proudest triathlon moment. I was feeling sorry for myself.
But then I rethought that idea.
These kinds of things have never happened to me before in a race. Races, for me, have always been practically flawless. My nutrition has always been spot-on. My fit has always been great. I’ve never had a flat, dropped a chain, or anything like that. I’ve always felt good, strong, fluid. And I was feeling good, too, just a little beat up. So what if I was having issues? So what if I was stupid and didn’t check my bottle beforehand? So what if the new chain ring, for the first time, dropped my chain in a race? These are things that I experienced now, the hard way, in race where it matters. But these minor little set backs were not enough to ruin my day. Heck no. Get tough, I told myself. Just deal with it. And don’t let it happen again.
So I cranked on. I hammered the downhills and calculated my time. Ok, just keep this pace, and you’ll be where you need to be. I was shooting for 21.5mph average, but that was for last year’s course, which was flat as a pancake. This year’s course was not. After re-evaluating the course and catastrophes, I decided that I wanted to be under 2:45. I was starting to bonk, and then I rallied home around mile 49, when a group passed me. It sort of woke me up. And fired me up, too, because Drafter-girl was back and hugging the wheel of another drafter guy. Drafter guy was doing all sorts of stupid things, like passing on the right, blocking me in, speeding up to get by me only to slow down once he was there. He wouldn’t let go of the guy’s wheel in front of him (a Peace Coffee racer who I’d see later on the run). I took a mental note of Drafter Guy’s number, and I got around him and the drafter pack he was with. Peace Coffee racer let me squeak ahead of him because he noticed I was boxed in, and he kept trying to drop the drafters but to no avail. No way in heck was I going to let them draft off me… but then the drafters finally overtook me and rode the peleton all the way back to transition. In hindsight, since there were no penalties given, I could have just squeaked in behind these packs and dropped my time a good 5-10 minutes, but that is something I would have had to live with, knowing, and I am too proud (which is probably a fault under these circumstances).
Bike: 2:44:33, 20.4 mph pace
T2 was much faster. In and out, perfect transition spot and flawless transition. I didn’t need anything, just my Fastwitches, number and visor. Off I went.
T2: 54.5 seconds
I was a little pissed about the bike, because my bike was my best leg in triathlon last year, and I was certainly not representing. But I think the resurgence of people toward the end of the bike made my head go a little fuzzy. The mechanical, the aerobars, the hydration issues- It was all water under the bridge. I had my strength ahead of me, the leg of the race that I’ve been working on this season.
The run started great. I felt great. I tried to hold back a little because 13.1 miles is a long way to go. So I sipped some EFS liquid shot that I still had in my jersey and settled into a rhythm. I heard someone talking incessantly behind me, and I wanted to yell “Just shut up and run harder!” but then I reconsidered. Run your race, I’d tell myself. Be smart. Eventually a guy left his chatterbox and passed me, but I stayed focused on keeping consistent and fluid. I ended up getting matched by another guy, who settled into the pace with me. I noticed he was the same guy I saw on the bike, the draft dodger in the Peace Coffee kit. I was happy to see him, and we settled into a nice stride together. His Garmin beeped every mile, but I didn’t ask about our pace and just hit my lap button when I crossed the race marked miles. We ticked away the miles, and he confessed that he was shooting for 7:50s. Although that was slower than I knew I wanted to go, I held my ground and didn’t let him influence my pace.
The miles cranked by, and when I got to around mile 2 I saw the men’s leader, Dave Thompson. I ran through aid stations, I didn’t do any run-walking, and I would drop my Peace Coffee buddy because of that, only for him to catch back up after a few hundred yards. I knew the course, and I knew what to expect; it was almost as if I had ran it the weekend before, it felt so familiar. I stayed calm and tried to use mile 5 as a rest mile, but that didn’t work. I saw the women’s leader when I got to around mile 5 or so, and my teammate, Carole, when I got a little further. I gave her a high five and she gave me a huge adrenaline boost. I hit the gravel loop and focused on my form. I felt light, almost too good, considering how I didn’t feel quite so awesome on the bike. I kept it steady and eventually lost my running friend. I kept picking people off, wondering when (and if) I was going to blow up, but I kept refilling my flask and sipping on water. I wanted a pop so bad by the time I hit mile 8. I could taste the sugar, the carbonation, I wanted it. And truthfully, knowing that there might be some at the finish helped get me there. I put my head down and noticed a familiar number ahead of me, a tall, stocky guy run-walking his way in. Same number as Drafter Guy. I blew by him without saying a word (usually I at least mumble a “good job” or a “hiya hiya yip yip yip”). I passed my friend Owen on his way out and I new I was close. Weaving through the neighborhoods, I could hear the announcer over the speakers and I just upped the anty. I pushed it, all the way in, feeling good and strong. I found another gear. I didn’t even feel like collapsing at the finish, which probably meant that I didn’t go hard enough, but I was happy with my time (sub 5hrs) and knew it was a great effort (only six minutes slower than last year). Considering the bike course was accurate distance (last year my bike computer had it at 54.5miles), and was more challenging as well (last year = flat as), and that the swim course was likely more accurate at this year’s race, I’ll take it!
1- 7:10, 2- 6:59, 3- 7:35, 4- 7:32, 5- 7:33, 6- 7:11, 7- 7:19, 8- 6:57, 9- 7:22, 10- 7:28, 11- 7:20, 12- 7:20, 13- 6:51
Run: 1:34, 3rd fastest run of the day
Finish time: 4:58
1st AG, 12th overall.
My friend Leiah showed up when I finished and we hung out and chatted while I waited for the awards. It’s always nice to be able to see friends when I travel to races! It’s become somewhat of a habit for me to have reunions with friends at races, but I hope they don’t mind, because just as much as I loooove to race, I absolutely LOVE to see and visit with my friends 🙂
Carole ended up finishing 5th, which was in the money, and her friend Jackie won the whole shebang (an age group triathlete that was in the Top 10 at IMStGeorge this year).
I can’t believe how cool it was to have Carole there. Having traveled all the way to Minnesota from Colorado, for what I thought of (at least last year) as a podunk race, was really rad. To have another green machine out there with me on the course was motivating and I truly believe it helped me find another gear on the run. And, with two Trakkers athletes on the podium, I’d say we had a pretty damn good day!
I thought I would inevitably hit disaster with a bonk because of the stupid mistake with the aero bottle, but I never did. The EFS and Nuun worked great in keeping me balanced and tuned. And, yes, they did taste great together. There’s something so rewarding about a slightly-fizzy sports drink when I’m out riding in the heat.
My neck, on the other hand, is not impressed with my poor decision to not double check my bottle before leaving home. I feel like someone put a vice grip around my scapula. Doh.
or: Shake and bake.
or: Shake it like a Polaroid pick-chaaah.
or: I’m shaking things up a bit.
I was supposed to do my first (real) ultra this weekend.
I was supposed to train with long runs (think- 6-7hours) and lots of food and lots of rest.
I was supposed to step it up.
But I didn’t.
Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that. No one was forcing me to run the Voyageur 50mile on the Superior Hiking Trail. No one twisted my arm to register online and mail in the check. I did it on my own.
And I’m not really stepping aside, I’m still stepping up. I am just stepping up a different ladder.
There is a big difference in focusing on triathlon and focusing on ultra running. It’s true that cycling can help my endurance, and that cycling and swimming offer a great break from the impact of running but maintain my cardiovascular fitness.
But if I want to be good at triathlon, I need to focus on triathlon.
And I’ve been making excuses to not focus on triathlon. I was sick with some sort of China Funk/Whooping Cough/UP Death Flu in May, right after Rev3 Knox, and pulled out of the American Triple T. And I was recovering and traveling and recovering in June. and I was wedding-ing and traveling and sleeping it off in July.
And I stopped moving for a day and faced it: I am not ready for this type of 50 miler. The Superior Hiking Trail is hard. Rocky. Hilly. Unforgiving. And I have been training on roads, snowmobile trails, and two-wheeled machines. So I threw in the towel on my first ultra and reeled in another beast: Chisago Lake Tri.
I did this race last year, and had a blast. It’s a short drive (6hrs) and I know the course. It’s a fairly big race (1000 athletes?) and a fast course. Its competitive but not too competitive, and I have a benchmark. Plus, the bike course is flat, so it will be a great tune-up for the Full Rev at Cedar Point.
And I am trying something new. I am not going to focus on my previous best time or try to beat my swim or my bike or my run time (or all three). I am going to go into it with the same mentality as I did last year, just to try and race the race, do the best I can do on that day, and hope for the best race I can give. I am going to test my ability to let all things go and not actually hold something in the back of my head like: “Why are you just NOW getting on the bike when last year you were out of the water in 34 minutes?” or “This pace isn’t going to get you off the bike in 2.5hours like laaast year.”
Instead, I am going to ask myself questions, like:
“Are you having fun?”
And if the answer is no, I am going to shake it up some more. Carole will be there, too, so maybe I can moon her. Maybe that will be my goal…
I’ve been honing in my fall marathon schedule (that’s right, already looking ahead, past the Cedar Point FullRev), mostly because I absolutely loved doing a post-Ironman marathon last year. Not only was it awesome to visit Columbus, Ohio, where I got to hang out and race with Kendra, one of my MegaTough teammies, but I also ran myself to a three minute marathon PR, something I hope to do again in 2010.
Where will I do this? Well, I’ve got my sights set on the Detroit Free Press Marathon. There are many reasons for this, but it boils down to the following:
- Close to home: I don’t have to worry about traveling to a city where I have to pay money by going out to dinner, renting a hotel, etc. etc. Plus, I know Detroit, and I love Detroit!
- Weekend trip: Yeah, its actually quite a long haul for me to get to Detroit from school (about a 9hr drive), but at least I don’t have to worry about delayed flights, lost luggage, and $450 airfare!
Why do you care what fall marathon I’m doing? Because you could do it, toooooo! It’s an international race [you run across the border into Canada!], and Detroit has some really awesome areas (believe it or not). Some of you are my Midwest crew, and I am super excited to meet and greet with ya’ll at races. Why not head out for the Freep? Not only is there a marathon, there’s a half marathon too, and a 5K, and a marathon relay.
Want something even cooler?
Trakkers, the GPS trakking device for athletes that has been at all the Rev3 races, is considering their schedule for this fall. I used one of these devices at Quassy in June. The device enables friends and family to follow athletes using the device online in real time during their race. One of the events they are considering being available for is the FreePress Marathon. Trakkers will make this decision based on the desire and interest of athletes to have the device available for this event. Since I will be down there and have quite a few friends that are planning on doing it as well, I am pushing for Trakkers to be here.
If you are interested in racing any of the FreePress Marathon weekend events, let me know. If I can find enough people interested in renting a Trakkers device, we’ll be able to wear them! Race day rental will be $19.95 per device.
So, are you interested?? Feel free to email me directly (mlkillia [at] gmail [dot] com) or comment on this post, and I’ll be pulling to have Trakkers at the Detroit Free Press Marathon!
In July, Traverse City has the famous Cherry Festival.
There’s also the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, Christmas in July festivals practically everywhere, and more 4th of July festivals than you can imagine.
But in July, I’m having my very own Festival of Races.
The first weekend, 4th of July, will include the Horsetail Scramble– a 10K on some of my favorite trails. I’ve never done it, but since I will be in town and not camping (my parents are coming up to visit), and its a late start (1pm) I think I am going to give it a go. Plus, TK (the RD) is one heckuva good guy!
On the second weekend, Run the Keweenaw will take place in Copper Harbor. This event is going to take full advantage of the awesome Copper Harbor IMBA Epic trails, including some of the new ones. It also has the infamous hill climb up Mt Lookout.
The next weekend, July 17th, is my best runnin’ pal Marg’s wedding, and coincidentally (although I’m pretty sure she intended it) is also the Canal Run. This is the only 10mile race I’ve ever done, but it’s definitely my favorite. It’s a fast, USATF certified course, too!
After that, I’m throwing in my hat in the half at Chisago Lakes again.
Phew, its going to be a busy month (did I mention I am trying to wrap up my research, too?). Good thing these races are so local!
I did a little digging, and found photos of me from Dan Hicok Photography online. Word.
Can I just say that I LOVE my bike fit? Thanks to Chad Johnston from Skier’s Peak in Sylvan Lake. Dude knows his stuff. You can just see the laminar flow!
Also, I am now tan.
There’s mounds of work to be done. It’s 8pm and I’m sitting in my office working on a presentation for an upcoming conference in Florida. I have two papers to write, qPCR to do, and histology to perform. But I wanted to write my race report while the race is still fresh in my head.
The night before:
I kept it pretty chill on Saturday, with my feet up and fluids in. It was humid, sticky, and hot, and I must have drank a gallon of water/Nuun/EFS (at least). At least every other bottle of water I drank had electrolytes of some kind, and since I was sweating just standing around, I knew it wouldn’t hurt me. I went for a short run to get my legs moving and came back to the hotel after 20 minutes dripping in sweat. I then took a cool shower and read a book. I just relaxed and thought about the race, the course, my strategy. I tried to avoid stalking other athletes out in the blogger-world who were doing races that day, and just tried to let my brain wrap around the next big day. I got to bed early (around 930) and set an alarm for 4:15am.
I got up before the alarm. Hmm. I laid there for a while until the alarm went off, and I tried to be quiet and got my stuff out of the room. I put on my uniform, ate some Panda Puffs (5-6 handfuls) and drank a bottle of EFS (1 scoop in 16oz water). I threw my stuff in the car around 5:30 and rolled up the hill to race site, which was only about four miles away from my hotel.
I mixed a bottle of EFS and Pre-Race (1 scoop each) and sipped slowly on it while I set up my transition. In the aero bottle (50oz water) went three scoops of EFS, and in my Nathan Trail Mix sling went 3/4 scoop EFS, 1 tab of kola nuun (caffeine please!) and water in each bottle. I sprayed my bike shoes with some Tri-Slide, and then sprayed down my shoulders, neck, and thighs with it too. I finished the Pre-Race mix and headed to the beach with my wetsuit, where I got into the warm water for a quick swim. The water was 72 or so, and it was definitely warmer than I expected.
The pros were getting ready to start, and after the national anthem, their wetsuit-free swim began. By the time my wave was lining up, Matty Reed and the first group of male pros were exiting the water. It was exciting to see them coming out. The amateur elite wave, which was supposed to take off after the pros, was canceled due to lack of entrants (apparently only four people signed up, and I was one of them), so I was shimmied back into my age group start which was the second to last wave to take off. It didn’t really matter, since all the women started in the last two waves besides the pros, but it might have been nice to not have to pass some people on the bike by crossing the yellow line because some didn’t know how to stay to the right…
The swim- 37:04 (1:55min/100m)
I turned my Trakkers device on a bit before the start and the red blinking lights were searching for a signal. I threw it in my back pocket and literally forgot about it. The swim was fairly uneventful, although I felt like I slowed down after the first buoy and couldn’t really find any feet. I found some, and then they left me. I found some more, and then they were swimming away from the buoys. I found another pair, and then they slowed. I quickly ran into blue caps and silver caps (the two waves that started ahead of me) and I was soon passed by red caps (the 40+ women). Overtaking some of the swimmers was annoying, because many forgot to sight and were zigzagging, but I was impressed with how spread out and low-impact the swim was. My feet were touched, but not grabbed; I was bumped, but not shoved or elbowed intentionally; and I could see where I was going fairly well. I swam as far as I could and stood up, right behind Jill from All3sports. I was right on her heels, but had to stop because I dropped my goggles and a guy behind me kept yelling “GIRL! GIRL! You dropped your goggles!” (I would have left them, because they are $2 a pop, but then I was worried I’d get in trouble for littering on the course or someone else would step on them…).
I got to my bike and there were quite a few left on the rack, which made me think that I had a decent swim (after the race, I wasn’t too happy about my time; it was a good 4min slower than my best, and I thought I had improved muchos-muchos since last year). I grabbed my helmet, clipped it, slipped into my shoes easy-peasy, and grabbed my bike. That was all I needed. Off I went.
Bike- 3:00:54 (18.6mph)
The bike was fun. It started downhill, on a part of the course that I rode with Jenn on Friday. I was excited to get my legs spinning, and I was surprised at how steep some of the hills were in the beginning. Not long, just steep. And none of the hills were really all that steep; there were just a lot of them.
I felt good, considering the past several weeks of training. My biggest fear was that I would putter out toward the end of the bike, so I tried to stay conservative. I felt my butt burn on the ups but got out of my saddle and attacked the hills. I continued to push on the crests and just felt like smiling the whole time.
The “Big Hill” that everyone was talking about- that I remembered from driving the course on Friday- was better than I expected it would be. It was long, sure, but there were breaks it seemed, and I passed a lot of people who were riding the train (at the bottom of the hill, it looked like a train of triathletes riding side-by-side up the hill). About a mile into the hill, I caught up with a Spaniard that asked where this big hill was, not knowing that we were already there. He and I traded places for the rest of the race- him bombing past me on the downs and my catching up and gaining ground on the ups. It was so great to see my Trakkers teammates at mile 29- I was so excited I started flailing my arms and waving and smiling at them. I grabbed a bottle of water and filled up my empty aero bottle (surprised at myself that I drank 50oz in under 30 miles) and rolled through quickly.
Around mile 34, my EFS Liquid Shot literally shot out of my Nathan Propeller, and I had to stop to pick it up. It was, unfortunately, at an intersection where the downhill leading into it would have catapulted me into even MORE downhill and pushed me up the next climb a bit, but I didn’t want to get penalized and I didn’t want to be without my nutrition on this tough day. I pulled to the right, stopped, and waited for bike traffic to clear, and although a group of guys went blowing by me while I waited, it didn’t take long for me to catch back up. I tried to apologize to them for stopping as I went by.
There were a lot of flats on the course and I didn’t really know why. I mean, a LOT. I would say I probably saw at least 15 people stopped. I never saw any sharps on the road, and there were pot holes but they were well marked with red paint. I was relieved to have bought some Gatorskins a few weeks ago from The Bike Shop, and even though they are a bit heavier, I didn’t get a flat.
Sometimes gaining momentum on the downhills was difficult. One thing I wasn’t happy about- I did a really bad job of transferring my power from the downhills to the ups, and I found myself spinning without any force where I should have been at least pushing something. I would drop by gears too soon, for fear that I’d drop my chain or have some other stupid mistake, and instead it just cost me a few passes on the beginnings of the ups.
I got to the out and back and saw my teammate, Kathleen, as I was making the turn. She was flying and looked great. Not soon after, I saw Sonja with what might have been a big grin on her face. I wondered where Michelle was, because I expected them to have similar bike splits and that Michelle might have got out of the water first. Sure enough, she was close behind. I couldn’t remember just how long the turn around was, but I was glad to see that the ladies (Son and Michelle) were likely only a few miles ahead of me (maybe 4? 5?) and considering that I was a weak swimmer and they are great cyclists, I was feeling more confident. I saw Jamie and Chris, and that was it for green. I made the turn with a woman in front of me, who I didn’t expect to have as good of bike handling skills as she did. She got out of the turn faster than me, granted she was on a road bike, but she stayed ahead of me even on the downhills. I would gain some ground, and she’d go flying off the front again. She was looking strong.
I had no idea what time it was or how long I’d been biking (mileage or hours) because my bike computer sensor would go in and out, especially on the downhills. I hit mile 40, and my computer read 36 miles. I hit mile 50, and I was at 46. So the last six miles I tried to rally the troops (my legs) and get moving. I didn’t want to have too much junk in my legs, and I knew the bike ended in a climb, but I didn’t remember the exact route. I was relieved when I saw runners, because that meant that I was basically doing the reverse of the beginning of the run course, and before I knew it I was heading up Old Sherman Road and back to transition. I saw Anthony and Chris around mile 2, Kathleen, Sonja, and Michelle as they were railing down the hill. I wasn’t confident I could catch them, but I knew if I could get moving like they were I’d have a good shot at placing well.
T2 was mostly uneventful, minus the tongue of my shoe getting stuck and having to finagle it free. My bike was one of the first back on the rack, which made it easy for me to get in and out of transition (aside from the girl next to me throwing her wetsuit right on top of my shoes). I grabbed my visor, race belt, and water belt, and I was in and out, probably one of the quickest transitions I’ve had, even with a shoe hiccup.
Run- 1:42:26 (7:49min/mile)
I was glad to have brought along my Trail Mix belt, because I skipped through a few aid stations and sipped on my EFS. I lost a bottle in transition, though, so I only had one 8oz bottle to hold me over. I was also glad that I brought the belt because it had my inhaler stashed in it, and around mile 2 my head started throbbing and the sound was going in and out. This was not the time for me to be having an asthma attack. I took a puff but kept running, holding my breath as I passed a relay girl (she must have thought I was crazy), and my head throb subsided. A woman with a 30 marked on her leg went bobbing by me, running on her toes and just flying. I couldn’t match her speed, and I didn’t want to for sake of blowing up. Off she went, out of my sights.
I was cruising, but I wasn’t uncomfortable by any means. My feet felt light and fast in my Fastwitch 4s. I felt like I was just out running, below threshold but not easy, just comfortable. I wasn’t sure how hard I wanted to push it, but I was knew I needed to hold back a little. Around mile 3.5 or 4 was the big, steep climb, and it seemed to just keep going. I walked a little, but then decided that I could just get over it and keep running, and so I did. I knew the top was coming soon, and as soon as I got there, I was greeted with a turn. Down down down, I saw Michelle and a few other women. I skipped driving this part of the course, so I wasn’t sure how long it was, but I figured it was around 2 miles or so. There was an aid station at the turnaround and I took my first cup of (not flat) Pepsi. Slurped that and a cup of water and off I went, not stopping. Run run run, I felt strong and comfortable. I wasn’t breathing hard, I was focusing on keeping my arms pumping and my form strong. I stood up, relaxed my shoulders, and just moved. I was picking off the miles, and I got to a climb with a green lure ahead of me. I was hoping it was not Michelle. I noticed then that bobbing girl was just ahead of her. She was slowing too, because she was now back in my sights. I found out on the bike path (as I passed her) that it was Michelle in green, and I gave her a not-so-gentle tap on the behind and tried to get her to go with me, but she looked in pain. And bobbing girl was limping and flailing from left to right on the bike path. I went by her, and that was when I realized that I hadn’t let a single person pass me besides her. And there I went, passing her back. I started focusing on picking people off, and I started to smile as I caught the next person, and the next. I heard feet behind me, but they were not catching up- they were falling back. I saw Sonja again at the turn around, me at little before mile 10 and her past mile 11. She looked strong, and I felt a wave of confidence as I rolled out the out-and-back. Charlie passed me on the cart, and yelled at me. I passed the coach from Terrier Tri, and smacked him on the bum too, and he yelled and we exchanged thumbs ups and I kept pushing forward. After the turn around and another cup of Pepsi (not flat) and I felt the bubbles that had shaken up in my stomach come bubbling out of my mouth. Well, at least it wasn’t vomit. I spit and kept moving.
One last hill, and I knew it would be tough. And I felt like I hit a brick wall. Under the bridge, and I wanted to cry. My legs hurt, my body was tired, my head was hoping that the next turn would be the highway, but it wasn’t. I wanted to be done. And then I was back on 64, and I had a quarter mile left, and I ran across the railroad tracks. I sprinted into the finish and wanted to topple over. The volunteers gave me a bottle of water and a medal around my neck, and I moved through the finish chute. I saw Jenn and the Trakkers team and I smiled. I was done!
I ended up finishing 2nd in my division, and 13th overall for amateurs. Count the pros, and I was sitting at 25th. Yep, there were more pros racing Rev3 Quassy than both the Honu and Kansas IM 70.3s combined. With 2nd place, I received some amazing swag, including a Fuel Belt (pink!), plaque, and a $75 gift certificate to Cannondale. The post race food was outstanding, with a buffet line of some delicious salads, burgers, slaw, and even mac-and-cheese (if only I could eat it!).
Unfortunately my Trakkers device lost signal around mile 6 or so, and anyone trakking me online must have thought I crashed my bike. Luckily I was just fine, no crashes whatsoever; I think the tree cover and lack of cell reception really hindered my device from working. I literally forgot about it in the swim, couldn’t even notice it in my pocket. I made sure every once in a while during the bike that it was still in my pocket, and on the run too, but it stayed put. The new design of the device is really cool, I was just bummed that my parents got worried about me during the race. Sorry, Mom and Dad!
I feel great about this race, even though my time is not a PR and I didn’t have a very strong swim. My transitions were spot on, and my run felt strong. I left it all out on the course, but I didn’t bonk or cramp or blow up. My stomach was solid as a rock the whole race, and my energy levels never plummeted. The heat and humidity, which I am definitely not used to because I live in the UP, was not an issue for me and I hit my nutrition like a hammer to a nail. It was an incredible experience, and it was an incredible venue.
EXTRA-special thanks to my friend, Jenn, who received the Best Friend Award for hanging out with me this weekend. Not only did she meet me in Connecticut to hang out, but she followed me around Middlebury while I did neurotic triathlete things. She held my bike when I was getting my timing chip, she drove the course with me, and she was a mega-outstanding-super-awesome volunteer for both Saturday AND Sunday. Cripes. She also got in a 3hour road ride on Saturday on the hilly roads. Daaang. She rocks.
My Trakker teammates are phenomenal. The ones that raced on Saturday stuck around and ran the show, busy-bees all day on Sunday, taking on multiple tasks and just being awesome.
Also, thank you soooo much to my sponsors, Trakkers, Saucony, First Endurance, Tri-Swim (Tri-SLIDE was amazing as always), Nuun, Nathan Sports, and TriggerPoint. Rev 3 put on an incredible race- this was by far the best race I’ve ever done and it was challenging, rewarding, and incredibly well organized. I am so excited to race in Ohio in September!
Pictures to come soon!