Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Mid-Pig

We drove to Palo Friday night after work to “camp” for the weekend for the Pigman Olympic distance race.  It took a bit extra to get set up because I have not yet learned when figuring out where we want to set up the camper, I need to make sure the power cord reaches the power supply box.  Oops! 

Finally got set up, had dinner, watched the beginning of Hitchcock, and off to bed with the windows open.  Loving the cool nights.  So rare this time of year!

The internet is not ideal, so Saturday morning Wes headed to Starbucks after breakfast while I relaxed a little and went for a 10 mile ride followed by a 2 mile run.  My effort felt relaxed and was going a good pace.   I didn’t feel any leftover soreness from the previous weekend.   The rest of the day was full of packet pickup, a few errands, a visit from Wes’ mom, making dinner, and finishing up Hitchcock.  Unfortunately, it was almost 10:30 by the time we finally headed to bed.  It’s not like I get a good night’s sleep before races anyway, but 4:30am still felt early.

Quick stop at the RV Dealer to pick up a part for the camper,
and were talked into getting a pooh tube pig.
The hawkeye decorations sold Wes on it.

I was able to get to transition pretty early as I heard the line starts to form at 5:30.  Getting there at 5:40 put me about 20th in line.  Good enough. 

I took my bike out for a short ride, then did a little run (to the port-a-potty and back), put my wetsuit on, and headed down to the water.  I had hoped to get through everything quicker, but socializing ate up a good amount of that time.  As I was warming up, I stopped for a sec and heard them announcing some of the people that were racing.  I only caught the end of the Olympic distance women, so got the awesome news that I would be racing against a woman that placed 20th at the London Olympics last year.  Yeah! L

The race started at 7:30am with the men, then the women in a time trial start.  Every 3 seconds someone took off.  We self-seeded ourselves, and I chose to go last.  No matter if I went first or last for the women I was going to have to climb over people in the swim.  I decided on last so I knew that everyone I passed I was ahead of.  Since the women were last, this meant I would not have a chance of someone from a wave behind catching to draft off of.   Doubt that made much of a difference.   Temps have been usually cool lately, so the water temp was only 73, which made it wetsuit-legal.

I could tell I was working my way through the swimmers.  I felt fairly comfortable with my swim.  Never pushed myself, but never let up either.  It wasn’t my fastest 1.5k swim, but not my slowest either.  I was content with it.

T1 was fairly good.  I actually got my helmet on correctly the first time, and was able to get a foot out of the wetsuit as the same time.  I’m used to having to drag my bike with my bike shoes on all the way through transition, but this was the first time in a while that I had a rack in the middle.  Much nicer!

I headed out on the bike at a steady pace.  I could tell there were a few women ahead of me and I was starting to pick them off, along with a few guys.  I only jockeyed back and forth once with one guy.  Usually it’s at least two that dislike being passed by a chick on a pink bike, and fight back. 

Everything was moving along well until the turnaround.  I was about 20 yards from the turnaround when a truck pulling a camper went through.  Not sure if he went on his own, or if the volunteers let him through.  At first I thought it would be okay.   I had hoped I could catch him before he sped up too much, so I could draft for a bit.  The exact opposite happened.  I caught up pretty quickly, and he slowed down.  Apparently he didn’t feel the urgency to pass the cyclist ahead of him.  There was not enough room for me to pass without crossing the center line, which would be a 2-minute penalty, but I also feared as soon as I would start to pass he would pass and push me into oncoming cyclists.  I hoped he was just waiting for a good time to pass, so I stayed behind…and waited, and waited, and waited.  I would pedal a few times, then sit up and hope the driver would notice and pull over or motion me to go around, or a race marshal would do something.  I even had to break while going downhill so I would run into the camper.  It felt like I was behind it forever!  Finally another cyclist caught up to me, asked if it was illegal to pass (I responded “yes”), then he went by…and I followed.  I felt safe in passing at that point, and knew if it was going to Palo, I would be slowed down by at least 2 minutes if I stayed behind it.  As I turned the corner to head towards Palo I looked to see where the camper was.  It had just crested the hill behind me.  I was so glad I finally went around.

The rest of the bike leg was standard.  I passed a few more people, held on tight for the railroad crossings, and eased into transition.  My bike bladder had water mixed with one scoop of Hammer Nutrition HEED (100 calories), and I went through about 3/4 of it.

Racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on running shoes, grabbed my belt and hat to put on while running, and took off.  I got in and out of T2 quickly (3rd fastest T1 and T2 times for the women). 

I don’t wear my Garmin will running, so not sure how consistent my pace was.  While turning the first corner, I was told that I was in fourth and two minutes behind third.  I knew there were three people ahead of me, so I was happy to know there weren’t more.  I was pretty sure the woman directly ahead of me was Jamie.  Unfortunately, I had no idea where in line she started for the swim.  I just hoped it was less than 2 minutes as I knew my run wasn’t much better than hers.  I never fully pushed the run, but wasn’t taking it easy, either.  I really dislike time trial starts.   I know I should be racing my own race, but I really like to know where I’m at and what I need to do.  I never passed any women during the run, so wasn’t sure until I saw the results were I actually finished up. 

I came in third for the women.  The first place uber-triathlete destroyed me by 10 minutes, and was 4th overall.  Second place was about a minute and half faster.  I took a look at my bike data.   What felt like several miles ended up only being 1.267 mile and 4:04 minutes of being stuck behind the camper.  Average mph on the bike for the entire race was 22.6. While behind the camper I averaged 18.7.  It definitely didn't slow me down by the minute and a half I lost to second place.  By my calculation, which could be incredibly wrong, I lost 42 seconds, but I also rested my legs during that time, so it’s hard to tell.  I was only 36 seconds slower on the bike than the first place super-chick.  It would have been really cool to have beaten her on the bike :)  However, it’s not like she really needed to try very hard to the race to win.

Radka Vodickova, Janet McCullough, and I (right to left)
I look extra short because we're on a slight incline.

 After the race, I showered up, did the awards ceremony (our club, Iowa HEAT, won the club division), and then hopped back on my bike to cheer on the on the racers slogging along the half-ironman run course. 

1st place club

One more race for the season, Hy-vee 5150 Championships.  Last year I placed high enough to get a free entry into this year’s race, and won a $500 gift certificate to Orca/Orbea.  I finally used it this week.  New bike is in the mail!

Orbea Carpe H60 (Wes affectionately refers to it as a barcycle)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Race of My Life...So Far...?

Just about a year ago I found out USAT Age Group Nationals was going to be held in Milwaukee.  Every two years the race moves.  I had previously driven to Tuscaloosa, Alabama (2010) and Burlington, Vermont (2012) to complete, and was excited to have a much shorter drive!  In Alabama, I was there for the experience and I got a great fill of that.  In Vermont, my goal was to qualify for the World Championships (top 18).  I came in 12th, reserved a spot for the world championships in London, but decided to not race it (it was interesting to learn the process and the cost).  Awards were given to the top 10 athletes in each age group, which I missed by about 30 seconds.  I never thought I would be that close, but knew I gave it my all during that race and there was nowhere I could have gained those seconds.  So, for 2012 my goal was to get a top-10 award.

As the weeks got closer to race day, we began receiving emails containing information for the race.  As I was reading one I notice they were only giving awards this year to the top-5.  A little of my motivation was instantly lost.  Each email we received, I checked to see if they had changed their minds.  Nope.


We drove to Milwaukee on Thursday, first stopping in Galena for lunch at a brewery that ended up not being open for lunch, and then Madison for a flight at the Ale Asylum.  Before heading over to the condo we were staying, we had dinner at Comet Cafe in Milwaukee,  which also included our favorite beer of the trip that we tried, O'So Dank.

Ale Asylum flight
We checked into our room, had a good night sleep, then woke to a beautiful view of Milwaukee, which included a view of part of the bike course.

 Morning coffee in Milwaukee
(bridge going through my head is part of the bike course)

My goal for Friday was get in a 10 mile bike ride, and 2 mile run, check in my bike, and relax.  The transition area was a little less than a mile from where we were staying, so I rode my bike there, did a bit of the run and bike course, headed back, then ran to transition and back.  All at a fairly leisurely pace. I was feeling good!

For lunch we checked out the local coop, then swung by Horny Goat Brewery on the way to the third ward.  It was still early, so sampled each, but thankfully the view of the was better than the beer.

Horny Goat Brewery flight

While Wes wandered off to a tobacco store in the third ward, I stopped into Lululemon, then we met up at Milwaukee Ale House for another flight.  Again, nothing too great.

Milwaukee Ale House flight

Quick stop to the Milwaukee Public Market to grab some food to cook up for diner, back to the condo, the figured it was about time to drop off my bike at the race site.  The plan was for me to ride over, Wes to walk over, then we would walk back together.  I picked up my packet, racked my bike, and no sign of Wes.  I wandered around the expo and found out there was no line for the NormaTec boots.  Sweet! For 10 minutes I laid in a chair while the full-leg contraption gently massaged my legs.  I wish I had a pair of my own....  Anyway, still no Wes.  He got "lost" and was at the Wicked Hop.  Likely story!

The night before the most important race of the summer and I'm wandering around the third ward attempting to find a place I've never been to in a town I don't know very well with a phone that doesn't have a fancy mapping capability.  "Only a few blocks out of the way" becomes a bit more, and I become more frustrated with every step.  After a few loud phone calls and non-helpful texts, I find it!!  We only stay for less than a half hour, but it was enough time to see the most awesome bloody mary.  I did not have one, but would love to return sometime to try it!

Olive, shrimp, beef stick, kosher dill pickle, mushroom,
lemon wedge, and strings of mozzarella cheese.  Love!
Finally dinner and bed!  Not much sleep, but no surprise.

Saturday - Race Day!

Temps were in the 60's to 70's with very little wind.  Perfect!

Transition closed at 7:30, but my wave wasn't until 8:58.  I usually eat about 2.5 hours before the race, but was worried about getting to transition and setting everything up, so ate about 3 hours before and grabbed a gel to take about a half hour before starting.

Wes drove to the race so we'd have the truck to pack everything up in to take back to the condo.  Worked out well.  In transition I quickly saw Steve and Kim from Iowa HEAT.  At my transition spot I found Elesa, also from our club.  Our bikes were back to back.  Crazy awesome!  It's her first year in triathlon and is already a rock star.

It was nice to have teammates to hang out with while we waited for our waves to start.  Mine was one of the middle waves.  Odd to see people coming in off their bikes before we have even started the swim.

I grew up swimming, so I'm a decent swimmer compared to the average triathlete.  In most races that means I have to deal with the nastiness of the swim start for just a few yards before breaking free.  In this race, I'm average.  I had to fight through almost the entire swim.  But, it also meant I had more people to draft off of.  Thankfully I came out of the water without any cuts or bruises.  At this point, I have no idea where I am compared to others in my age group.  I know there were several pink swim caps ahead, so I have plenty of people to hunt down on the bike.

T1 went fairly well.  As always, it was a slight struggle to get my feet out of my wetsuit, but I don't think any amount of practice will help with that.

The bike heads north for a few miles, climbs a hill, turns around to head south, passes transition, travels over the bridge in the first picture above, winds east and south towards the airport, then heads back to transition.  It's fairly flat with the exception of the hill on the north side of the course, and going over the bridge.

I started off somewhat conservatively.  I didn't have the mojo I needed to get going.  That all changed when I dropped my chain shifting up the first hill.  I have a k-edge, which should prevent that.  I later found out that it wasn't tightened down, so when the chain hit it, instead of stopping the chain, it moved and let it fall...and get wedged.  According to my bike computer, I spent about 30 frustrating seconds getting it un-wedged and back on.  I was pissed.  Everyone I had just passed, including a few people in my age group, went by as I was on the side of the road.  I got back on my bike and was on a mission.  I rode the rest of the bike leg hard and never let up.  I do wonder if my time was actually faster because of dropping my chain, even though I was stopped for a bit.

About a mile out from transition I come upon Cindi Bannink, a triathlete that I got to know through my classmate Mark Harms who is also an amazing triathlete. I have a huge respect for Cindi, and was shocked to be riding up along side her.  This is the first time in the race where I thought I may be near the front of our age group!  And, that was the motivation I needed for the run.

In and out of T2, and I knew Cindi was right behind me.  It didn't take long for her to pass me.  The run has two out and back sections.  The first turnaround is at about mile 1 and the other is at mile 4.  Because the wave before and after us were men, I knew the range of race numbers that made up my age group.  At the first turn I decided not to look.  I didn't want to know.  It was too early in the race to do anything about it if someone was right ahead or behind.  I just kept pushing.  I was running on a fine line the entire run.  I worried that at any moment I would crash.

After the second turnaround, with 2 miles to go, I checked bibs for women behind me.  There was one that worried me.  She was probably around 30 seconds behind me, and looked like a runner....bikini-type uniform, great body, nice tan.  Crap!  There are too many triathletes out there that could make up the 30 seconds on me in two miles.  But, I wasn't going to give in.  With a mile to go I looked back quickly.  Couldn't see her, but still worried.  I checked a few more times in the last mile.  Still didn't see her, but still running scared.  Someone said only .2 miles to go.  I picked up the pace.  Couldn't see the finish line, but trusted him.  I finally rounded a curve and saw it, but it still seemed so far away.  I was running at my capacity.  When I stepped on the finish line shoot carpet I noticed the ground surface change, and feared my legs would give out before I crossed the finish line.  But, I kept running and running and running.  Finally, it was over.  I turned around and no site of the great-body chick. legs were giving out.  Med tent guy led the way to a very comfortable chair and wet rag for my neck.  It was only a few minutes later when they released me to Wes.  We wandered around a little, and found the best post-race relaxation area ever!

Ice cold water...heaven!
About the next half hour was spent wandering around and talking to people.  Finally we figured out where the results were.  I anxiously waited to see it.  They handed it over, and....I scream like a little girl.  If not out loud, I was definitely screaming inside.  Fifth.  5th!  The race marshals were giving out a lot of penalties on the course, so it wasn't official yet.  But, my PR was official.  Almost 3 minutes faster than I have ever raced at this distance.   I was a happy camper, but still cautious that it could all change between now and the awards ceremony.

So, during the race, Wes took one and only one picture... not of me, but of...


I was getting tired and just wanted to get back to the condo.  Found Wes, grabbed the post-race food to go (burrito, chips, and a banana), packed up the truck, and left.  Shortly after showering, we drove down to Milwaukee Brewing Company in hopes that there were still spots left on the tour, but they were sold out for the day.  Across the street was the next best thing, a local ice cream shop.  Good enough for me!  Next up was a coffee shop near the condo to relax a bit before making our way back to the race site.

The awards ceremony was to start at 5, but was delayed until 5:30.  Glad I brought a snack, because I was getting hungry!

The final results were not posted anywhere, so I still was not positive of my award.   I waited by the stage while they called up the age groups.  Finally mine, and I was officially 5th place.  I was honored to be standing on the podium with some of the best triathletes in the country.

After the ceremony was finally over, we walked back to the third ward for dinner.  I carried my award with me the entire way.  Can't remember the name of the place we ate, but it wasn't all that special.  Good prices, though.

After diner, I was ready to crash, and I did, hard.


Up and at em!  Breakfast and a 'long' drive home...with a quick stop at a liquor store in Madison to pick up beer that can only be found in Wisconsin.  And, a failed attempt to find the beer from our first dinner in Milwaukee.  We'll be back in Madison in a few weeks and the hunt will be back on!!

Only two more triathlons left this year...Pigman and Hy-Vee 5150 Championships.  Both olympic distance.  This summer has flown by!  With my new coaching, I'm already looking forward to what next year will bring.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Season of Change

In May just before the entry fee price was to go up for Muncie 70.3 which was also the week before I was to begin training for the race, I could only focus on the dread of training for a half ironman (HIM). Up until last year I had done a HIM every year since my first go at the distance.  Last year I had taken a break from long distance training and racing to mentally recover from Ironman Wisconsin (IMWI) in 2011.  For the summer of 2013 it was never a question of doing a HIM or not, but which one I was going to do.  Once you go long, you don't go back...right?  I knew I could get through the back to back rides on the weekend, the 3-4 hours of training on Saturdays, and the extra-early mornings during the week.  With just a few days left to sign up, I realized I didn't want to get through anything, so I told Wes I didn't want to race a half  this summer, or really ever again.  His response was "then don't", and I realized I don't have to.  Up until that second, it never really seemed like an option.  I felt a huge wave of relief, and suddenly became happier then I have felt in a long time.  Sounds crazy, I know.

So, instead of signing up for Muncie, I registered for two olympic distance triathlons and a 3-part duathlon series (my first duathlon), on top of the races I had already registered for.  All of these races had cash prizes, which was a nice incentive, and they were all local, so more opportunities to camp with our new travel trailer.

I happily trained and raced through my first few races, and was doing good, but something was missing.  The coaching I had been using for IMWI was geared towards long distance athletes, and I was no longer one of them.  Endurance Nation was a great fit for me for the past few years, but with only doing shorter distance races I was about to repeat their short-course plan for the third time.  I needed something new to jump-start my desire to train, race, and become a better athlete.

For several years now I have known about the greatness of Daniel Bretcher's coaching.  A local phenomenon and former co-worker, Ron Gierut, has been coached successfully for a while, and two other friends, Ebe and Jeremy, had signed on this year.  By mid-June, Ebe was already having a break-through year.  I finally decided it was worth getting over my fear of trying something new...if Daniel would take me being it was already into the racing season.  He did, and I haven't looked back since.