Saturday, November 24, 2012

Long Overdue, Part 2…The Hy-Vee Triathlon 5150 Championships

The end of the racing season came earlier this year than any other year, on Labor Day weekend.  Last year was the first year that I didn’t race the Hy-Vee race.  Last year was also the first year it was a WTC 5150 event.  There are two sets of waves, the 5150 Championship waves and the age group waves.  The Championship waves raced for cash and prizes.  To get into these waves I had to qualify at another 5150 event, which is why we did the Kansas City 5150 race in May.  Not only did I place high enough in my age group at the Kansas City race, but I also earned a free entry (worth $100) into the Hy-vee Championship race. The Hy-Vee championship race gave awards to the top 3 and prizes to the top 5.  In KC I placed 2nd in my age group, and was really hoping for top 3 in Des Moines, but wasn’t sure if that was possible.

Friday night we drove the camper to Des Moines.  Our home away from home for the weekend was Walnut Woods State Park.  If the race hadn’t moved back to the Downtown area, we would have been very close to transition.  Instead we had about a 20min drive to Gray’s Lake.  Not too bad, and the route to and from Gray’s Lake was a lot of the bike course so I was able to easily check that out as well.

Saturday was packet pickup and bike check in.  It was also the first U of I football game for the season.  After sitting through the mandatory half hour, non-informative information meeting (a heart-felt video followed by course information that didn’t include the things that I would have liked to have known as I was racing the course…like how to navigate the swim buoys as they weren’t set up as the picture showed during the course talk) we bellied up for the pre-race beer at Buzzard Billy's just down the street.  A few other friends and teammates joined us as we were there for several hours.  The rest of the day was uneventful and relaxing.  I set up my bike in transition, and had just about the best location possible...first rack inside of transition from the bike in/out, and just a few bikes down from center.  The way transition was set up was about as unfair of a setup as you can have, especially with assigned racks, and I was very lucky with my spot.

Race morning was super early as usual.  My mom and step-dad were on site to watch the race, so after setting up transition I worked my way over to the swim start (unfortunately they do not allow a swim warm-up, so no warm-up at all for me that morning) and looked for them.  It was a cluster, and I was extremely surprised to hook up with them. 

My mom and I pre-race

I usually wear two swim caps.  If I can get an extra race cap I use that, otherwise I bring one with me.  That morning I forgot my spare and hoped to get another one at the race site. No luck.  I put my cap on, then my goggles.  I wish I would have done it the other way around, but was afraid of yanking out my hair getting my goggles off.  As I was swimming I could feel my goggle strap working it’s way off my head. Thankfully it never came off.  Other than that, the swim was pretty relaxing up until the finish.  At the start it’s really hard to see the full course.  At the course talk I was pretty sure they said to keep the buoys on your left the entire time.  Sounded easy enough until I saw the last buoy.  If I kept it on my left, I could easily cut the course to the finish line, as I saw several people doing.  To make sure I wouldn’t get a penalty, I went around the far side of it before heading to shore. 

As I was running through the VERY long T1 I noticed Wes’ bike was still there (his wave started before mine) and my rack looked full of bikes.  The first leg of the bike goes through Waterworks park.  It wasn’t too long before I closed the gap with one of my teammates, Jami.  She’s an ex-U of I swimmer, and I knew she would exit the water ahead of me.  I wondered if there were others ahead, too. 

The bike course is a little rolling.  Nothing too steep, and a good amount of flat road.  I only had two issues on the bike, which were both similar.   Twice I had a Clydesdale pass me, and just after getting ahead of me one sat up and took a swig of drink and the other grabbed a gu.  This slowed each of them down enough that I quickly caught back up and passed them.  I was not a happy camper, especially because the second guy that did it sat up RIGHT after he passed me so I wasn’t sure if I had even dropped back enough before passing him back and it was just as a course marshal road by.  Thankfully no penalty was given.

Coming back in to T2 was a bit of cluster.  There were still waves heading out on their bikes, which led to not much room on the bike trail.  I heard there were a good amount of crashes from spectators walking across the bike trail without noticing bikes were coming and going.  I was glad to not have witnessed any of that.

I was in and out of T2 quickly and headed out for the run.  There is a short out and back section along one of the parking lots before winding back to downtown.  I hadn’t seen my mom and step-dad since before the swim, and wasn’t sure if I’d get another chance before the finish line.  But, as I was coming back from the turnaround they were headed to their car.  Yeah! 

I spent almost the entire run with a Clydesdale who was very nice to talk to…as much as we could talk during the 10k.  I just hoped he wasn’t one that I was pissed at earlier.  I few women passed me, but were not in my age group.  Then, finally, a 36-year-old calf went flying by.  My Clydesdale friend knew her from his triathlon club.  She was a runner!  Her run time ended up being over 5 minutes faster than mine!  I wondered how many women in my age were already ahead, and how many more would also catch me by the end.  I concentrated on picking off the women (all younger) that were ahead of me and staying with my Clydesdale friend (he seemed to be just a bit faster than me).  In downtown there is another short out and back section.  This is where I pulled ahead of Mr. Clydesdale.  I also noticed that it seemed to be a good distance between me and the next women.  Yeah!  All that was left was a few more blocks, the only hill on the course, and the long finish line stretch.  Heading up the hill I caught up with another teammate, Steve.  I turned the corner and could hear my cousin, her husband, and daughter cheering me on from the bleachers. 

On the blue carpet we (more Steve than me) decided to try to catch the one last guy ahead of us.  Steve had a little bit more push left in him and crossed just ahead of me, after we both passed the random guy.  Yeah! 

The chase is on!

Steve L and I catching and passing random guy on the big screen

I had thought a 2:18 time was about what I would finish in, but after doing some quick math, I knew it was a bit faster.  A few minutes later I picked up my post-race printout and found out my time was 2:15:53 (a PR) and I came in second place.  Sweet! 

It was going to be a bit before Wes crossed, so I spent some time in the athlete area with a few other Iowa HEAT members.  Great food there as usual, including the Blue Bunny truck, but my stomach wasn’t ready for much yet.  I also enjoyed a bit of time in the ice baths that were set up.  I wandered over to find my family just as Wes was crossing, so back to find him.  Once he had a bit of energy back in him we headed back over to thank my family for coming out to watch.  They rock! 

The finish line and transition areas were pretty far apart.  I had hoped to get our stuff out of transition, shower back at camp, then make it to the finish line area for awards, but there was no way that was going to happen.  Instead Wes, my mom, and I walked down to the expo.  In years past it was very family friendly with tons of stands and stuff to do.  I heard last year (my first year not doing this race) it was a bit underwhelming.  This year’s was better, but it still lacked greatly compared to the previous years.  We did pick up a few things, including a crappy, but free, beer. 

It was getting close to the awards ceremony, so we wandered back to the finish area.  The heat was starting to kick in, and I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with that in the morning.  It was not going to be pleasant for the for the professional’s race.

The overall awards were given first.  Dang they are fast women!  The winner received a mini cooper car.  There were several of them around the finish line area, and they are cute!  For the age group winners, we received gift certificates to Orca/Orbea.  A nice prize, just not sure what I want to spend it on.  Maybe a new wetsuit…?

I'm on the #2 box!

The line for the bus to take us back to transition was soooo long, and my mom and step-dad offered us a ride.  We weren’t going to refuse.  Hopefully our sweatiness didn’t stink up their car too much... 

After grabbing our gear, we headed back to camp to eat, shower up, and let the dog out, then to the finish line area to watch the pros.  By this time the Women were finishing up, but we caught the entire men’s race.  They are amazing to watch.  Their route is different than ours in that they do multiple loops.  The big TV screen allowed for us to see the action while waiting for them to loop back in to the grandstand area. 

For dinner we walked over to Zombie Burger and filled up with burgers and chili fries.  A great post-race reward.  Yum!

Unless I get a free entry or they change the course to be less of a cluster, I don’t plan on racing it again.  I miss having it at Raccoon River Park.  The start, finish, and festivities were all in one location.  Two years ago would have been perfect if it hadn’t stormed and cut the race short.

It’s been a few months since my last race.  I took a week off from working out, then month off of structured workouts…just running with friends and biking to work.  I needed this summer to get my mind back ready to race long again.  Next year I will do at least one half-ironman, but still not sure if I’m ready to go even longer again.  First, we’ll see how next summer goes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Long Overdue, Part 1...USAT Olympic Distance Nationals

 Long overdue post of the the summer wrap up, well the first of the two races.  Hoping to get the second one up this week.  I think I saved my best races for the end of the summer.  After Lake Geode, I was finally motivated to train a bit more on the weekends which probably helped a bit.

First up, USAT Olympic Distance Nationals…

In August we drove to Burlington, Vermont for USAT’s Olympic Distance Nationals race.  It’s a 22-hour trip that we broke up into two days of driving.  The first night was spent camping in New York.  Being that it was in wine country, we stopped at 3 wineries on the way. 

The store for one of the wineries we visited.
The tasting room was just as amazing.

I had heard of a ‘great’ beer on the east coast that I had to try for myself…Yuengling.  It reminded me of the cheap beers around here (Bud, Miller, Coors).  Not sure why anyone would willingly want to drink it.  My one sip was enough.

A very small sip from a very large can of nastyness.

The next day we headed out for the remaining 10 hours of driving.  We opted to drive through the Adirondacks, which was a slower drive, but shorter in distance and more scenic.  For lunch we pulled over on the side of the road and had a quick meal along a river.  

Beautiful view of the Adirondacks!

We finally arrived in Burlington at a busy time of day, so stopped at a few breweries to pass the time and let the traffic die down.

The place we stayed in Burlington was through  It was much cheaper than any of the hotels, and was so close to the race!  I was able to walk to transition race morning in about 5 minutes.  The host we stayed with was very accommodating with our odd schedule, and was a great hostess.

Friday afternoon I went for a swim at the local beach.  The race was held in an area that did not have open swimming.  The wind was kicking up and the waves were not fun to deal with (worse than Kansas 70.3 in 2011).  But, the area was set up well for open water swimming.  A 100 or so yards out from the beach was a designated swim lane.  It took about 10min to swim from one end to the other.  Wish we had something like that around home.

The rest of the day was spent at packet pickup, bike check-in, and the new pre-race ritual of a flight of beer from a local brewery.  Good stuff!

If you look very closely you can see me next to my bike in the middle of the picture.
To the right of my bike rack is the Iowa flag.

Race morning went smoothly.  I walked the few minutes to transition with my gear, discovered that I had racked my bike in the wrong spots, moved my bike to the correct spot, found Ron G. to wish him good luck, and constantly checked my ‘old’ rack spot to see if the person that I stole the spot from came back so I could apologize.  The swim start was a short walk from transition, so I made my way over.  I kept looking for Wes, but never saw him. 

The swim was an in-water start.  After the wave two ahead took off, we were able to get in the water and warm-up.  This was our only chance to do so, and I was only able to swim for a few minutes before moving over to the start area.  The horn sounded to start the race, and it was a mad dash for the first chunk.  In most races I can get out ahead with just a few other people, but being this is a bit more competitive of a race, there were always people around me.  The chop wasn’t too bad in the water, but kicked up about halfway through.  I saw a speedboat quickly pass by, which frustrated me as its waves tossed me about.  I later found out it was in a rush to pull a guy out of the water ahead of me who ended up drowning.  Very sad.

T1, the bike, and T2 were fairly uneventful.  I saw a few bikes missing from my rack area, but not too many.  Grabbed my bike and off I went.  The bike route was slightly rolling.  If I had written this report earlier, I’m sure I could give more detail about the ride, but can’t remember much about it now.  I guess that’s a good thing.  I smoothly dismounted my bike (I wish it always went that well), and ran back in to transition. 

The run route is out of transition, up a fairly steep hill, then basically downhill the rest of the run.  I’ve come to like running up hills, and was even able to pass a few guys.  The waves ahead of mine were the older age groups, which helped.

One long hill!

The way out was along streets, and ran back on a trail along the lake.  I was actually catching some women ahead of me, which has only happened a few times in races.  Typically I pass a few people on the bike and just try to hold on during the run since it’s my weakness.   At about three quarters done someone told me I was in 14th place in my age group.  They do awards to 10th place and qualify for worlds to 18th place, so I was just hoping to finish in the top 18.  I was still able to catch one more woman before the finish line and one other woman ahead of my received a penalty on the bike that pushed her to finish after me, so 12th place for me.  I was fine with being two places off of the awards until I found out that 10th place was only 21 seconds ahead of me.  Oh, well.  Maybe next year.  My run pace ended up faster than I have ever run in a triathlon prior, including sprint distance.  I assume part of that was due to the mostly downhill run.

Past the finish line I found Wes and Ron G.  He had an amazing race as usual and won his age group.  My stomach wasn’t ready for the taco buffet and it was going to be a while before I could get my bike out of transition, so we went back to the house to shower up and get Wes some lunch.  Then back to the race site for some food and clear out my transition area.

The top 18 qualify for the World Championships in London, England.  To reserve your spot, you have to go to the awards ceremony later that day.  We wanted to go anyway to see Ron G. rock the old-men’s podium.  I’m not sure if I will make the trek to London next September, but I did hand over the $50 fee to reserve my spot. Thankfully the final decision doesn’t need made until next spring.  I’ve heard the world championships is an amazing experience, but the race entry fee, bike shipping charge, and uniform cost on top of the normal vacation expense isn’t exciting me.

We finished off the night with more good food and good beer.  The next morning we headed out to Toronto, Canada with a quick stop in Montreal on the way.  It only added an hour to the trip, and when else would we get that close again?  It also helped that a Burlington, VT bartender recommended we stop at Dieu Du Ciel, and we were glad we did.  It was the best beer we had all vacation! 

So many tasty beers to choose from!

Our next airbnb location was another bedroom in a house.  The place was very artsy, modern inside.  When we arrived the owners were out to dinner, so we let ourselves in.  Shortly later they arrived with her parents and sisters.  They had been out celebrating her birthday, and were back home for dessert.  They shared homemade cheesecake with cherry topping and wine/beer.  Such an awesome welcome! 

We had only one full day in Toronto, so made the best of it.  The house we stayed at was close to the Kensington Market, so our first stop was there for coffee.

Throughout downtown there are bixi bike stations where you can rent bikes for $5/day.  We were going so much faster than traffic.  At one point I wasn’t sure if we should be riding on the busy street we had come to, but just then a mom, dad, and kid peddled by on their bikes (without helmets), so we rode on as well. 

We took a ferry ride over to the Toronto Islands, had lunch there (bad idea), walked around, and headed back to try to make the last tower of the Steam Whistle brewery.  Unfortunately, we made it in time for the tour, but it was sold out.  But, we were still able to sample it.  Not too bad for a pilsner.  There was still a bit more time before finding a place for dinner, so we bellied up to a bar that our house hostess had suggested. 

For dinner I looked on Trip Advisor for something good, not too expensive, and unique.  Number 7 of the 3,487 restaurants on the list fit the bill.  We hopped on our Bixi bikes and headed over to Khao San Road for Thai.  It was a Monday night and the wait was an hour!  Wes made friends with a local guy and his friend, and we went with them to a bar near by while we waited for the phone call that our table was ready.  It was a great way to pass that time, and they insisted on paying for our beer.   The food at Khao San Road was well worth the wait!

Bedtime came early as we were getting up before the crack of dawn to head home.  The border crossing was extremely uneventful, just as it was coming in to Canada.  Just one last stop…at Bell’s Brewery for a very tasty lunch (lots of veggie items on the menu for Wes) and beer.

Last call for alcohol

This was by far the longest road trip I have been on, by 10 hours.   We took Wes’ truck which I had not driven, and still haven’t.  He was a trooper driving all those miles himself, while I frequently slept.  Thankfully we enjoy the same music and podcasts, otherwise there is no way we would have made it through without strangling each other.   I’m glad we drove since neither one of us had been to the upper east coast or Canada, but I’m not ready to do it again any time soon!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Racing for a Geode

Last weekend was my second of four Olympic distance races this year, Lake Geode Challenge Triathlon.  Again, we camped for the weekend.

This was the first year Wes and I have done the race.  I’ve heard great things about it, and had signed up for it a few years ago but had to sell my entry (I love races that allow you to do that).  It’s mid-July in Iowa, so the race is known for being HOT!  It’s been warmer in years past, but it was still steamy for us.

Friday night we pulled in to the park, found some water to fill up our tank (didn’t think to fill it up prior to leaving the house since we didn’t have on-site water), parked the camper, and then headed to Burlington for packet pickup with Ebe.  Getting our info was quick and easy.  I found out there were three waves, and the women would be all together.  There’s money for the top finishers, so having all the women together makes it much easier to see where I’m at throughout the race.

Back at camp we grilled up some dinner with the Meaney’s who were camping near us.  It was pretty late by the time we got to bed, but that’s usually how it goes. 

Race day brought our standard breakfast with coffee.  As we were packing up the truck to head over to the race start, Shawn stopped by to let us know he wouldn’t be racing due to a flat tire and loss of ambition, but he’d still cheer us on.

We arrived just as transition was opening.  The body marking area was a bit slow going, but we had plenty of time before the race start.  The start to both the bike and run were uphill, so I took my bike out for a quick ride to make sure it was geared correctly.  With a few minutes left before the pre-race meeting, I put on my Xterra Speedsuit (first time wearing it this year) and did a quick warmup.  I had heard the water can be pretty nasty, but they have been working on it the past few years.  It didn’t bother me besides that it felt like bath water.  The official water temp was 83.

The waves were 3 minutes apart.  The start was an in-water start, and most people could touch the bottom so you didn’t have to tread water.  One of my current teammates (Stacey Jackson) and one former teammates (Jen Parker) were also racing.  There were both to the right of me, and all the other women to the left.  As soon as we started, the three of us were quickly ahead of the others.  By the turn buoy I could tell that I had a bit of a lead on them.  The race was paying $25 for the fastest swim, bike, and run times, so I was trying for those in addition to the overall cash (and really cool plaque).  

Swim exit

T1 could have been a bit smoother.  I really should work on getting out of the speedsuit before I have to use it again.

The bike was somewhat hilly, similar to the big pig and Kansas 70.3.  A few flat areas, but more hill than flat.  I took the bike out too hard to begin with.  When I looked at my powermeter, my watts were where I should be for a sprint, not an Oly, so pulled back a little. 

There is a little out and back section a few miles from the end that is all hill and curve.  Thankfully you didn’t turn around at the bottom of the hill, but instead partway up the next hill.  This was the first time I could see where I stood against the other women.  A bit after the turnaround I saw Stacey and that was it for the women.  I’m not a great runner, but I was pretty sure I had enough room between us that she wouldn’t catch me.

Getting ready for T2

The run was hilly with a few flat areas.  A few of the hills were steep, but the rest were gentle enough that when you ran down them you could actually run and not spend the energy trying to stop yourself from running too fast.  The hill just out of transition is one of the longest on the course.  Great way to start the run :(  Being that it’s usually a very warm race, the aid stations were every 3/4 of a mile instead of every mile.  They were well stocked with Gatorade, cold water, sponges, ice in little baggies, and several volunteers.  At the first one I grabbed two sponges and put them on my shoulders, and picked up a baggie of ice.  My only complaint of the race was not having the option of a cup of ice so I could just toss it in my bra and grab out a piece as needed.  It was kind of a pain to the get Ziploc open while moving forward.  Other than that, the race was VERY well run. 

Loving the sponges!

The run was an out and back.  At the turnaround I found out that I had over a half-mile lead.  With about 3 miles left, it was really unlikely that I would be caught, so just ran it in.  The guy’s race on the other hand was a mad dash to the finish.  I was grateful to not have to push myself on those hills in the heat!

Almost done
The finish line consisted of getting my chip off, having a volunteer had me a cold water, another volunteer wrapping a cold towel around my neck, the option of getting into one of two kiddie pools with ice water, or grabbing an ice cream cone.  Nice!  Before hoping in the cold water, I did a couple quick interviews (this has been a new experience for me this year).


I still wasn’t ready for the ice cream, but loved that it was at the finish line! 

After Wes finished up, I showered and changed clothes, had some of the post-race food including an ice cream cone and LOTS of watermelon, and hung out with friends until the awards ceremony. 

I ended up winning the fastest swim and bike, and the fastest overall woman awards.  I finally got a geode to take home with me.  A great way to start my birthday.

Awesome award!

In all, the race was extremely well run.  The amount and helpfulness of the volunteers was amazing.  I would definitely like to do this race again.