Monday, September 1, 2014

It Is What It Is - Hy-Vee 5150 Championships

Finally to my last triathlon of the year.  While we keep hoping for rain, the Des Moines area was hoping the rain would stop.  Part of the bike course was flooded and the water wasn't to crest until Monday, so the olympic distance course was halved, with the bike course being 2 loops.  In past years I would have fretted over this, but this year I've become much better about accepting the things I cannot change and just going with the flow.  It is what it is.  And, the new course more closely matched my waning motivation level.

The best thing about this race is my family.  My mom and stepdad have watched me race most of them, and my aunt and uncle have been to a few also.  Another uncle randomly shows up to some as well.  This year I spent the night before and my cousin's house, and showered and had lunch there after the race.
My mom and I pre-race

This year was my first year racing in the 5150 Age Group Elite wave.  I traveled to Lawrence, Kansas in July to qualify.  The prizes for this category only go to the top 5, and I knew that was a pretty slim shot, but my coach encouraged me to race it anyway...if you want to be the best, race with the best.  With the change in race course, the 5150 waves didn't start until the professionals were off the bike course.  This meant the only riders I'd have to deal with on the first lap of the bike was the elite men that were in the first wave, the women in my wave, and whoever caught up from the wave behind.  My fear was the second lap was going to be a cluster.  But, if I had raced in my age, the swim and entire bike would have all been a cluster, so this was one good reason to be in the elite wave.  Yes, I was trying to find the positives in racing a wave that I wasn't going to podium in, instead of dropping back down to my age group where I was pretty sure I'd be standing on the blocks at the awards ceremony with some sort of medal around my neck and a hefty gift certificate in my had for Orca/Orbea.

Race morning I was up at 5am, had breakfast, and was out the door at 6am for the race site.  Even though my wave didn't start until 8:20am, transition closed at 6:45am when the pro started.  I arrived with just enough time to set up my transition area.  My parking stop was perfect, right next to transition, so I dropped off my bag of what I didn't need, then wandered over to the swim start to wait for my family to arrive.  Knowing my run shoes would be in transition and I wanted to get in a run near the race start, I brought an extra pair of shoes to warmup in.  Shortly after my mom, aunt, and uncle found me I headed out for about a 10min run.  The men were starting to come back on the bike with the women soon to follow, which meant our start would be soon.  After struggling into my speedsuit (much easier to get on then the wetsuit, though), I left my family for a swim warmup which they took a golf cart back to the transition area.  I doubt I was in the water for more than 10min before they corralled us at the start line.

Then elite men started first with the elite women a minute or two back.  I was kind of in the middle, not sure of anyone's swimming ability.  The first hundred yards or so was a decent fight, but it quickly spread out and I was able to draft off of someone for the entire swim.  It was great!  I have since realized that I tend to draft off people that are about my speed if I was trying hard, so instead of trying hard I get to relax a bit while drafting.  However, I think I should be trying to get on feet of someone faster, which requires me to try hard to stay on their feet.  I'll have to work harder, but it would result in a faster time then me swimming on my own, or swimming on the feet of someone going my 'fast' speed.  I hope that makes sense.

With a couple thousand racers, the transition area is long.  They funnel you through the middle of the bike racks, which isn't really a fair transition area.  The racks are pre-numbered, so you don't have a choice of where you rack.  If you're bike is on either end of the rack, you will have further to run.  With how much extra room there was in the area, they could have easily made the exits on opposite corners to make it fair for everyone.  Thankfully I was pretty close to center, so it didn't really matter for me.

I came into transition with the woman I drafted off of, and another woman appeared as I was leaving.  Swimmer chick and I left at the same time, but I had a better mount and was able to get ahead of her right away.  I haven't even attempted to learn how to put my shoes on while cycling, and I was happy to not to have to worry about struggling with my bike shoes while riding on the narrow road.


After the bike exit we ride for almost a mile in a 'no passing zone'.  This was why I really wanted to be out of transition with no one ahead of me.  As soon as we were on the main road I set my sights on trying to catch as many women as possible, and to not give up.  The race course was broken into four segments of about 2.5 miles each. My watts for each were 200, 205, 198, 202.  Pretty typical for the third one to drop a bit, but was happy to see that I brought it back up at the end. During the bike I was able to pass two women in my wave, but both were near the end of the bike.  I had really hoped for a bigger gap going into the run.

T2 was lack luster.  I had one of the slowest of the elite women.  Maybe next year I'll practice :)

I started off the run fast.  It was only 3.1 miles, so no need to hold back.  The route goes east, then you turnaround and head back to transition, pass it, then continue west, pass the finish line, then turn around to head back to the finish line.  It kind of breaks it up nicely, but the stretch from transition (the second time) to the final turnaround feels like FOREVER!  Unfortunately two women ran very quickly by me in the first half of the run.  At the final turnaround I didn't see anyone behind me.  I considered taking it easy, but still pushed to the finish line.  I thought I was having a good race, and didn't want to back down now.  I needed a good race for my confidence going into off-season training.

Nearing the finish

I crossed the finish line tired.  I gave the run a good effort.  If I needed to I could have pushed the end of the run harder, but it's difficult to get that motivation when there's no one behind you.  My fastest mile ended up being the middle one, with the first and last being almost the same.  I crossed in 8th place for the elite wave (out of 14), and 9th overall women.  My time was 2 minutes faster than the winner in my age group.  Part of my regrets not racing in my age group wave, but it is what it is.

For the distance (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) I had a little over a 2 minute PR compared to Copper Creek earlier this year, although Hy-vee is flat and Copper Creek has rolling hills.  At the same time, it sometimes hard not to compare myself to others and just focus on my own results.

Out of the 14 elites, I had the 7th fastest swim, 3rd fasted bike, and 9th fastest run.  My run is still my weakness.  I worked hard on it in the winter and spring, and was doing really well at the beginning of the year, but I just haven't been able to keep the speed up.  So, starting tomorrow (Tuesday), I begin my 2 months of training to be a runner.  No swimming or biking, just running.  I'm excited for it, but a little nervous.  I love running, just don't want to end up injured.  I'm pretty good at listening to my body and knowing when something's not right, but actually doing something about it is where I usually fail.

Let the new journey begin!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Medium Pig - Pigman Olympic Triathlon

Second to last triathlon of the season.  Yeah!

I hadn't originally planned on doing this race, but the bid I placed at our club's auction for the race entry ended up winning and Wes didn't want it.  So, I signed up.  The race is held at the same time as the Half Ironman distance race, with the Olympic being in it's third year and my second time racing it.  Leading up the I had checked the start list and the really fast racers were signed up for the half, and there was just one other elite signed up for the shorter race.  But, the race doesn't sell out, so that could change right up until the day before the race.  Last year former Olympian Radka Vodickova swung by Iowa on her drive between two other triathlons to easily take the win.  So, you just never know what's going to happen.

Friday night we made record time getting the camper ready and heading up to Pleasant Creek Park, just west of Cedar Rapids.  Settled in quickly and cooked up some dinner, including veggies from the garden.  Yummy!

With Hy-vee coming up in two weeks, the decision was made to train through this race. Saturday was a 40-mile bike ride with some hard intervals in the middle.  It was nice to ride somewhere other than around home, and the bike course for the race is pretty bike-friendly to train on.  After lunch we drove into Cedar Rapids for packet pickup. The wall in the room has the final start list for the race, which includes an additional elite female, Lesley Smith.  Hmmm...the name seems familiar.  From Iowa City.  Huh?  As we're leaving the hotel I find out from one of my Iowa HEAT teammates a little more about mystery girl.  She's a pro originally from Iowa City and is back for the summer.  Fun! :(  After some stalking back at the camper, I find out she's also sponsored by Zoot.  Cool!  I had seen a pro in a Zoot uniform (a much fancier looking one then mine) at Kansas 5150, so looked up the results, and, yup, that was her.  Our swim and bike times were about the same (with her faster), but she can run!  I start to second-guess my hard workout that afternoon, but quickly come back to the reality that no matter how fresh I am, she's still going to destroy me at the race.

This race is known for being hot!  The week leading up to the race had some pleasantly cool temps, and the forecast for race day was no different.  But, as I'm heading to bed Saturday night and watching the news, I find out that there is fog moving in.  A few years ago the race was delayed a half hour because of fog.  Not real safe to swim in open water when you can't see the buoys you're swimming towards, and the safety volunteers can't see you.

Sunday morning I was up at 4:30am for breakfast, then headed to the race site at 5:30am.  The transition area opens at 6am, but the line was already forming as usual.  I really wanted to get in a long warmup, so needed to get through the line quickly.  I was also able to get a good spot on the transition rack for my bike.  After setting up, I biked back over to the camper and rode the trainer for about 15min before heading back.  The roads are a cluster with cars coming in and I didn't want to deal with that.  I then went out for a mile and a half run.  The time was going quickly, so after a final look at my transition area I started the long process of squeezing into my wetsuit.  The water temp was just about 70, which is perfect!

Wes' post-breakfast, pre-race nap.

The elites, teams, clydesdales, and athenas did a mass start followed by a time trial start for the rest of the participants.  This was much better than what they did last year, which was the elites just stood in line like everyone else.

The fog was lifting just enough that we were only delayed for a few minutes.  We all waded into the water for the gun.  I considered lining up behind Lesley, but decided instead for what looked like a team person in a speedsuit.  I had hoped she would be slightly faster than me, and pull me ahead of Lesley.  It did not work out nearly as planned.  Yes, team girl was slightly faster than me and I was able to stay in her draft, but I don't think she has much experience with open-water swimming.  We swam far from a straight line, and at one point had to stop to figure out where we were.

I come out of the water in 3rd place.  Bridget (the elite that had been signed up as elite all along) was 4 minutes ahead and Lesley was 1min ahead of me.  At this point I realize the Kansas 5150 race was wetsuit legal for me, but not Lesley as the professionals have a different limit for wearing wetsuits.  So, although our swim times at Kansas 5150 were similar, I had an advantage with wearing the wetsuit. I should have attempted to draft off her instead of directionally-challenge chick, but I'm not sure if I would have been able to hang on anyway.

On my bike I was carrying new nutrition, Skratch Labs Raspberry.  I had only had it twice before the race, but I really enjoyed it and wanted to try it out in a race prior to Hy-vee and this was my only chance.  My goal for the bike was to try to hold 190 watts.  This is about 10 watts less then what I could hold at the beginning of the summer, but my bike training has gone a bit downhill the past few months. At Age Group Nationals the week before I only managed 188, but with how the rest of the race went, I'm pretty sure I was dehydrated going in.  This time I drank PLENTY of fluids on Saturday.  Also, at Age Group Nationals we're not able to do a bike warmup, but I also didn't do a 40 mile hard bike ride the day before.  I was pleasantly surprised to be able to hold 190 out and 192 back!

At the bike turnaround I saw Lesley heading back, but didn't see Bridget.  Hmmm....I had passed a few people, but assumed they were all teams.  As I entered the transition area the announcer confirmed I was in second place.  He also mentioned Lesley's running background (college runner), which confirmed I wasn't going to catch her :)   About a quarter mile out of transition I see Joanna (she switched to the elite wave at packet pickup) coming in, but at least a few minutes back.  She's a better runner than I am, but I was pretty sure she couldn't close the gap.  Shortly after that I saw Bridget. From my cyber-stalking of her I didn't think she would catch me either.

Side note here...I get my workouts from my coach, Daniel, on Fridays.  Friday night as we're lounging in the camper the email arrives.  I read through it and out load express my confusion of "I'm supposed to do what?!?!?!".

Daniela, Sunday will be your last really challenging day.  Soon as you cross the finish line I want you to turn around and run a second 10k!  It doesn't have to be fast at all, I just want you to log one more long run.  Once you finish, don't take more than 2-3 minutes before you head back out, otherwise you'll defeat the entire purpose which is for one continuous long run, not two broken up runs.  Let me know if you have any questions, see you Sunday.


Ummm...again, what?!?!?!  Deep yoga breath.  Ok. 

Back to the race...

So, knowing I'm going to have to go through this run again, and that I have a several minute lead on the next two women, and there is no way in hell I'm catching pro-chick, I settle in and gave a decent, yet held back effort.  At the run turnaround the Joanna and Bridget hadn't gained much on me, so I back down slightly more.  I was feeling pretty good at this point.  I cross the finish line in second, chug down two cups of water, take 2 Gu Chomps that I had stashed in my jersey pocket, swear a little under my breath at my coach, and start the run again 2 minutes and 10 seconds (according to my Garmin data) after crossing the finish line.  I had hoped to grab a water to take with so I wouldn't need anything from the aid stations, but that didn't work out as planned.

The second run was actually fun in a way.  The weather was still pretty cool, and I got to see more teammates from Iowa HEAT out on the course.

Making random friends on the race course.

I did take water from two aid stations, which I felt bad about, but I made sure there wasn't anyone close behind that I would be taking away their chance at water.  I took in a few more chomps along the way and finished the second 6-mile run feeling good!  A quick dip in the lake to loosen up a bit and it was about time for the award ceremony.

Podium Left to Right...Lesley (1st), me (2nd), Joanna (3rd)

Afterwards we watched the half distance finishers before packing up the camper and heading home.

Cheering on Ebe to the half finish line
I'm really glad I did this race.  I've had some issues in the previous few races and really needed a confidence booster going into the Hy-vee 5150 Championships on Labor Day weekend.  I know what I did wrong and how to fix it.  Bring on Hy-vee!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Still Learning From Mistakes - Age Group Nationals Triathlon

For the past year, my main focus has been for this weekend.  My goal was to have a faster overall time then last year and a faster run.  Leading up to the race, my swim was about the same, my bike was a little weaker, but my run was definitely faster.  My main issue has been my mental state while racing.  I was doing well at the start of the season, but as I moved into the longer races, my drive was weakening.  With the atmosphere around Age Group Nationals, I hoped it would encourage me to push the entire race.

Age Group Nationals (AGN) is a qualifier for the wold championships the following year.  The 2014 AGN qualifies for the 2015 World Championship which will be held in Chicago.  With the World Championships being in the US I figured this year would be more competitive than last year. Last year I finished in 5th place for my age group, but with my improvements in my running I had hoped to be in the top 5 again.

I drove to Milwaukee Thursday morning…alone.  Wes had a bachelor party Saturday evening, so he stayed home.  I arrived around 2pm, settled in, then headed off to do a bit of shopping. I found a really cool outdoor mall with an Athelta store.  Sweet!  And, the shopping didn’t stop there.  A few other stops and I left with a few gifts for Wes, and several items for me.  One more stop for the day at Whole Foods to pick up some food to cook up for dinner along with the veggies I brought from the garden.  The rest of the night was spent relaxing.

Shopping fun!

My favorite PB machine.  Hard to find them with Honey Roasted peanuts.
I resisted from buying any as I knew I'd eat the entire container.

Friday morning I was up early (~7am) so I could eat breakfast, let it digest, then get in a 10-mile ride and 2-mile run, stretch, shower, lunch, then be at the finish line area at noon for a Zoot Team picture.  Just enough time!  Unfortunately not all of the team competing was able to make it to the photo shoot, but I was happy to meet some more of my teammates.  My biggest stress was deciding if I should wear my hair up or down.  I choose down. After seeing the pictures, I definitely choose wrong!  Ugh!

The least bad-looking of the pics, with me attempting to be fun.

Packet pickup went smoothly, and a quick trip through the expo to get free compression socks.  I was also getting a little hungry, so was happy to see samples of what reminded me of baby food, but with more ‘adult’ flavors. 

Joanna and Mederic were staying with me, which was nice to have the company. They arrived while I was down at the expo area.  After they got settled in they took off to stretch out there legs, which included a short run to the beer tent at the race site.  :)  

The apartment we shared was just a half mile from the race and a few blocks from a grocery store.  Perfect!  Dinner consisted of chicken from the local market, roasted veggies from our garden, and some amazing bread from a restaurant in Joanna's hometown.  The sauce the bread came with was sooooo good!  Oh, and just a bit of beer from New Glarus.  

Elevator at the apartment we stayed at.
The old-fashioned door and gate is fun until you have to take
your bike upstairs by yourself.  Not enough hands and feet
to keep the door and gate open at the same time!

This year my age group was the second wave of the race, which meant a 7:37am start.  Joanna, on the other hand, was a few hours after me.  But, her and Mederic were still up with me at 4:30 am for breakfast and coffee.  Being so close to the race, I just walked down when the sun started to rise.  There wasn't a huge rush to get there.  I couldn't take the bike out for a warmup and I couldn't get in the water until the race start.  After setting up my transition area, I headed out for a run (just under 2 miles).  The weather was cool enough that I started with my cycling jacket on, but warmed up nicely as I finished my easy jog.  

The race is a mass start for each age group, with 7 minutes between my wave and the wave ahead.  Other than ironman, Age Group Nationals each year is the craziest swim I deal with.  It's a large wave (204 women) and full of top-end swimmers.  It was a fight for about the first quarter of the swim until I was able to settle in behind someone without too many others around me.  One the good side, it's also one of the few races I'm able to draft the entire swim.

I came into T1 with a decent amount of women around me.  Looking at the results, I was 24th in the swim, with 9 of us within 10 seconds of each other.  One of the athletes in that pack was another Iowa triathlete that I've gotten to know well the summer, Aryn.

The bike consists of an out and back section toward the north that turns around on a hill, then you pass transition for another out and back that heads south.  I was in a pack with 3 other women in which we leapfrogged for the first several miles.  After we passed transition I let two of them stay ahead and just planned on keeping them in site.  The other one, Aryn, I just hoped to pull away from as I know our bikes and runs lately have been pretty similar.

At the second bike turnaround it looked like there were several women ahead of me, but sometimes it's hard to tell the women from the men.  I tried not to care too much.  At least I found out I had put a gap in on Aryn.  As I was nearing transition, a cyclist from the wave ahead told me I was currently in 5th.  I ended the bike with the 5th fastest split for our age group and 9th for all the women.

I didn't remember anyone in transition with me, but as I left I was following Cindi Bannink.  Last year I passed her as we were coming over the bridge towards T2.  I knew she was a decent runner and hoped my new run fitness could keep up with her, but nope.  She quickly created a large gap on me.  Oh, well.  

The run also has two out and back sections.  I really like the bike and run courses for this race!  At the first turnaround I could see too many women too close behind, and they looked fast.  I also wasn't feeling all that well.  I took in water at the aid stations in hope it would help, but no luck.  The weather was nice in the 70's so it wasn't the heat.  I tried what I could. The 4th mile lasted FOREVER!  Around the end of mile 4 is the turnaround, then just 2 miles to the finish line.  I was able to pick up the pace a bit as I saw a women a bit behind that I thought I could stay ahead of if I gave a little more effort (I 12 seconds).  Still, only 35th fastest run of my age group.

After the race I got my printout of results, which is when my disappointment was confirmed.  Slight slower overall than last year, and a slower run.  Looking back on Friday and Saturday, I'm pretty sure it was dehydration..again :(  While cheering on Joanna I had about 24oz of water and 20 oz of Gatorade.  But, it was still 2pm before I finally peed (TMI?).  I only took in about 100 calories in 10oz of water on the bike, but my drink didn't appeal to me to drink.  Also, with everything going on Friday, I don't think I took in enough water to prepare me for the race Saturday.  

While running, I again had the thoughts of calling it a season and skipping my next two races.  I also considered quitting triathlon all together.  But, a few hours later I was trying to figure out what I needed to do to not repeat my mistakes of the weekend.  

As I write this, I'm in the camper preparing for the Pigman Olympic Triathlon tomorrow morning.  I've tried new hydration this week in my workouts, and have settled on Skratch Labs Raspberry for tomorrow.  I've also made sure to drink PLENTY of water today!  Tomorrow morning I will be warming up for my second to last race of the season...

Italian Greyhounds at the expo after the race.
This is the breed of dog Wes wants next. 

34-39 podium, with me on the '8' block.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Long and Lonely Drive - Kansas 5150 Triathlon

I made a quick trip to Lawrence, KS for the Kansas 5150 event while Wes stayed home to take care of our urban farm.  The goal for the race was to finish (top 15 qualify for the championships, and I correctly guessed there wouldn’t even be that many women racing in the elite wave), and get some mental confidence going into the last training block for Age Group Nationals in 3 weeks.   I achieved both of those goals, even though my race was lackluster.

I packed my car Thursday night so I could leave right after lunch from work.  The drive was over 5 hours and I wanted to get to Lawrence in time to have dinner at the place I was staying.  Made it just in time to settle in, whip up a quick dinner, and watch a movie before heading to bed.  Oh, and a quick call to Wes to let him know I was safe.

Saturday morning I slept in until 8am.  It was awesome!  Even the cat clock didn’t wake me up!

I made breakfast, looked up a few place to visit while I was in town, then loaded the car back up for packet pickup and a quick bike/run on the course.  Packet pickup was at the same park as the race, and I did quick drive of the bike to make sure I could figure it out.  I’d been there 3 years ago for the Kansas 70.3, which uses the same roads, so I at least knew they were low traffic and rideable. 

My workout for Saturday was an easy 20 mile bike followed by a 3 mile run.  The race course was a 25 mile out and back bike followed by a double out and back 3.1 mile run.  So, I rode most of the bike, and did 1 lap of the run.  The bike course has a little bit of everything…some hills, some rollers, and some flat.  The run has a long, steady hill right at the beginning, then flat, then back down the hills, done twice.  I was glad to get a chance to run it prior to the race to see how not-so-bad it is compared to the holly-crapness it looks like. 

While riding I noticed all the really fast looking women out riding as well.  It made me a little concerned at how stacked the elite field would be at the race, then remembered there is a pro field as well.  I’ll just pretend they are all pro women, and not actually anyone I’ll be competing against.

Saturday afternoon was spent doing a little shopping in the downtown area (lots of cute shops with tons of people wandering around), picked up a few things to cook up from their coop, stopped by a really cool wine and beer shop (Cork and Barrel) for a mix-and-match 6 pack (worker guy was VERY helpful in picking out a selection), hy-vee, finally writing up the blog post from last weekend’s races, another movie, and finally asleep at 10pm.

So many to choose from!!

Narrowed down to 6
Electric Vehicle parking with charging station at Hy-Vee

 Sunday morning came early as most races do.  4am wakup call (I wondered if the cat clock set to not go off in the middle of the night, but it went off just after my alarm), breakfast, then off to the race site by 4:45am.  I have a massively long check list for packing for triathlons, and for some reason it doesn’t contain a headlamp. And, the sun is not even close to being up at 5am when transition opened.  Most races this isn’t a problem as they tend to have spotlights everywhere, but the LONG walk from the car to transition was pitch dark.  With the road surface a little sketching in a couple spots, there was no way I was going to ride my bike, so walking it was.

The racks were set up with each person assigned a specific spot on the rack.  I was fairly close to the bike in/out.  Yeah!  Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to leave T1 with my shoes already attached to my bike.  But, today was not going to be the day, especially with the hill coming out of T1. 

For a warm up, I was able to get in about a 25 min bike (rode to my car to drop off my transition bag, then continued to the park entrance and back with some bursts of effort up the rolling hills)  and 1.5 mile run (one last feel for the hill out of transition).  The swim warmup was only allowed for the pros, so called it good. 

Swim – Water temp was measured at 77.9 (wetsuits are allowed up to 78 degrees).  I assumed they hunted for a cold enough spot to make most racers happy, but I was not one of them.  I wore my wetsuit as did almost everyone else in the wave.  While waiting I talked with Aryn (tri chick from Des Moines) and we counted the women in the wave.  Seven.  Our wave was both men and women, which gave me more opportunity to find someone to draft off of.  With the water temp so warm, I found some feet and settled in.  I didn’t want to work too hard and overheat.  I still figured it was better than just wearing a speedsuit.  I misunderstood where the swim exit was, so went a little off course.  The feet I was following went the correct way (I should have trusted him), and he came out of the water 11 seconds ahead of me.  I tried to find him later to apologize for touching his feet so much, but never figured out who he was.

T1 – Not real smooth, but not horrible either.  The wetsuit is never easy to get off over the timing chip.

Bike – I settled in.  I told myself to try and negative split the bike, but I just didn’t have the motivation.  It wasn’t until I loaded my data that I realized that I not only didn’t negative split, but my second half watts were much lower than the first (192 and 181 for the halves).    I was alone most of the ride, with just a few guys passing from the wave behind. The bike was a mile long, so my time is a bit slow.  It’s an out and back, so not sure why it was long.  Maybe they thought it was better to make it long than have us turnaround in the middle of a downhill. 

T2 – Again, not real smooth, but not horrible either. Ever since Holiday Lake I’m more careful putting my shoes on, which takes a few more seconds.

Run – Starts with a long uphill then flattens out and returns, done twice.  It was very hard to tell where I was compared to the other women as we were now mixed in with the sprint race, and it was also hard to tell the pro women from the elite ones.  I continued my day of just settling in.  I was pretty sure Aryn was next behind me (by about a minute), and I really thought we were pulling up the end of our wave.  At the final turnaround (with 1.5 miles to go), I noticed another women catching Aryn.  That put a little bit of fear in me, so I finally picked up the pace a little.  Avg pace for the race was about 7min/mile. This pace felt pretty comfortable, whereas at Age Group Nationals last year, this same pace had me redlining the entire run.

I crossed the finish line with a good amount of energy left in me, and in 3rd place out of the 7 elite women. Much better than I had expected while racing.  I know I could have done better.  Not sure if I could have come in ahead of 2nd place, but it would have been much closer.  Even though I didn’t give it my best attempt (felt like I was doing half-ironman pace), I was pleasantly surprised at how high the watts were for the first half of the bike and pace for the run were for my effort.

After the race I biked up to my car to take a quick shower before the awards ceremony that was scheduled for 11:30am (it was about 10am at that time).  I biked back down to transition to find out that we were just picking up our awards.  No ceremony.  This was one of several things about this race that I was disappointed with.  At least it meant I could leave earlier than I had expected, and I was getting hungry (the post-race food is another disappointment).  Maybe I’m just spoiled with the caliber of the local races in Iowa.

Beer Stein Award

In all, I’m glad I made the trip.  I’m qualified for both the Age Group and Elite Age Group waves of the Hy-vee 5150 Championships.   Top 5 receive awards.  I think it’s a long shot that I will be in those top 5, considering I was 3rd in this qualifier and there are SEVERAL other qualifying races.  But, I think it’s worth the try.  It will be my last race of the season, so hopefully that will give me some motivation.  It’s also nice to be in the first wave behind the pros instead of having to wait around.  Time will tell.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Double - Lake Geode and Lakeside Triathlons

I've race the Lake Geode Triathlon the past two years, and it's been on my to-do list for 2014 for months now.  I love Saturday races so I can still get 'chores' done around the house on Sunday.  But, a few weeks before the race, my coach, Daniel, told me about the Lakeside Triathlon in Decatur, Illinois.  The race was created to honor Rodney T. Miller who was a local triathlete.  Daniel had done well at this race over the past several years, and thought it would be a good one for me to do.  I did a bit of research, including finding photos from last year.  I couldn't resist the chance to hold the oversized check and Wes agreed to drive me around, so I signed up a few days before the race!

2013 Men's Overall Podium Picture

Friday Night

I'm not a huge fan of getting up extra early and rushing out the door to a race.  I like to take my time, have a few cups of coffee to get things moving, then leisurely pack up the car and leave.  Lately we've been camping at a good amount of the races, so the drive's been pretty short (or, preferably, not drive at all as we can camp at the race site).  Lake Geode is about an hour and a half from our house.  The past two years we camped at the lake, but I didn't want to haul the camper to Decatur, so I reserved a hotel room in Mt. Pleasant, which is still about a half hour from the race, but takes an hour off the drive in the morning.  To me it was well worth it.  We even got there in time to take a quick dip in the hot tub.

Saturday Morning

The goal for the race was to conserve as much as possible in hopes to have something left in my legs for tomorrow.  I knew Joanna Hall was racing, and would probably be my toughest competition.  Her and her fancy new bike have been really closing the gap in our race times.

I arrived at transition when it opened, but it took longer than I had expected to get my packet and chip, and set up in transition.  The amount of time to warm up was really shrinking.  I got set up as quickly as I could and headed out for quick bike ride (about 2.5 miles total) to refamiliarize myself with the short out and back section near the end of the course.  It has some steep hilly, windy sections where you have to break and slow down to get through.  They even have bales of hay just incase.  I also got in a short (2/3 mile) run, and (few hundred yards) swim.

It's a pretty small race, so there are only 3 waves. They split the men into two waves, and us women all take off together.  The water temp was just above wetsuit legal, so I wore my speedsuit.  I was very happy not to have to squeeze into my wetsuit!  I lined up in the water on the inside of the line.  This required a little floating as it was just a bit too deep to stand up.  I wonder if that's why it was kinda lonely in that spot.

The swim is an out and back, with the buoys curving to the left on the way out.  This means the shortest path is not by staying next to the buoys.  I noticed shortly after we took off that there were only a couple of us still up front.  Then soon there were only two of us.  She seemed to be going a good speed, so I tucked in behind her and she pulled me almost all the way to the swim exit...until she started drifting off course.  I stayed on course and we pretty much exited the water together.  After the race I thanked her for pulling me along, and found out she swims for Grinnell College.  Nice!

T2 wasn't my best.  I couldn't get my speedsuit off over my timing chip.  Probably only added a few seconds, and still worth it to wear.  Took a quick look and didn't see any other women in transition.

Off on the bike and coming to the 'T' intersection swimmer chick was still ahead of me.  Unfortunately for her, there was no volunteers at the corner and she chose the wrong direction.  While I was second guessing myself on which way to turn, the guy behind yelled "Wrong way" so I yelled at her as well to turn around, and that's the last I saw of her.

I spent the rest of the bike just waiting for Joanna to catch me.  I kept my effort low and steady, including through the hills.  At the out and back section near the end I finally got my first look at Joanna, and she seemed to be over a minute behind me, and the next woman was much further back. Good stuff!

Coming into T2

So, Joanna kicks my ass at short distance running, but I've been able to catch her with my endurance and doesn't do well in heat.  I knew I could take it fairly easy, but didn't want to rule her out until I at least got a look at her at the turnaround.  At the run turnaround she hadn't made any ground on me, so I was able to slow it down a bit more into the finish line.

After the race, I headed to the beach for about a 500 yard cooldown and a massage in hopes to keep my loose for the Sunday race.
Lake Geode Podium with our cool geode awards!

Saturday Afternoon

As soon as I picked up my award (cash and a really cool plaque with a geode attached to it), we hit the road for the 3 hour drive to Decatur.  Ugh!  I realized shortly after we started driving that I had VERY little water with me.  Wes wanted to wait a bit before stopping, and I agreed with it.  Finally, about 2 hours later, we finally stopped at a gas station. Not ideal.

It was about 4pm when we checked into our hotel.  Just enough time to look up a place to eat for dinner, stop by packet pickup, and drive the course before sitting down to eat.  The Beach House restaurant was right next to transition and had good reviews, so we ate there.  It was good enough, but not a place I'd recommend or ever go back to.

Sunday Morning

The hotel was about 10 minutes from the race site.  Transition opened at 5:15 with the race at 7:30am.  I was up at 4:15am, made breakfast (the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker is PERFECT for hotel rooms!), and checked the weather.  There was a line of storms south of the red dot on google maps.  Sweet!  The storms missed us again!  And, about 15min later I heard thunder.  WTF!??!  I pull the weather map back up and realize the red dot was on Decatur, IOWA, and Decatur, ILLINOIS was right in the middle of the storms.  Crap!

We hung out in the hotel room until 5:30am when the rain subsided enough to not be drenched while loading the truck.  I wasn't sure if we'd be able to leave the race before checkout, so we had to take everything with.

By the time we got to the race site the rain wasn't as bad.  Not too many cars there yet, either.  I picked up my chip and set a towel over the transition bar to save a spot for my bike.  I slowly got things ready as I wasn't excited about my bike sitting out in the rain.  While waiting I found out that the race was changed to a duathlon.  Not because of the weather in Decatur, but because the rain further north had caused dangerous currents in the water.  Instead of the 750m swim, we had a 1 mile run.  I was fine with that.

I knew each race this weekend had a chance of rain, so I packed both pairs of racing shoes.  I placed my Kiawe's in transition in a plastic bag to keep them dry, and wore my Ultra Tempo's for my warmup and the first run.  Since there was no swim, I decided to wear my Garmin so I'd have some run data.  

Swim (aka run 1) - There were 5 female elites.  For about the first quarter mile I was in dead last.  Then, like all other duathlons I've race, I slowly worked myself up and ended the run in second just ahead of Lauren (this was the woman I knew was going to be tough to beat).  I felt comfortable the entire run.  Not pushing too hard.  

Bike - After a HORRIBLE T1 by the run leader (she had 20 seconds on us coming into T1), I came out on the bike in the lead with Lauren passing me shortly after that while I couldn't get one of my shoes clipped in.  With the change to a duathlon, they only spaced the waves a minute apart.  It didn't take long before we were caught by a guy from the second wave, and we leapfrogged with him a bit until he took a wrong turn when the volunteer wasn't paying attention.  Good riddance!  I tried to keep just a bit behind (very legal distance) Lauren, which I did until a little before the turnaround.  After that, she quickly gained ground on me.   At that point I wasn't sure if it was due to my legs starting to feel really sore, or if she was picking up her pace.  After the race, when looking at my watts, it was the former.  My watts were 188 for the first half and 177 for the second half.  These are both REALLY low numbers for me.  They should be much closer to 200.

Run 2 - The second run consists of an out and back section that the intermediate race does alone, then heads back to transition, then merges with the sprint distance to run with their 5k, which is another out and back.  As soon as I got off the bike I wasn't feel well.  Not sure what it was...the heat from yesterday, being dehydrated from not drinking water for the first two hours of our drive yesterday, dinner last night, the water I drank from the swim yesterday, or just the race catching up to me.  After weighing myself Monday morning, I'm pretty sure it was due to dehydration.

My second run was pathetically slow.  The first turnaround is after just a half mile, and Lauren had over a minute on me.  With how I felt, I knew I had no chance in catching.  The next woman was about 2 minutes back, and I thought it was a stretch that she would pass, so I didn't push it at all.  At the second turnaround I knew Lauren had widened the gap.  The next woman behind me was a little too close for comfort, so I picked up the pace.  Eventually I realized she was in the sprint race, so backed down slightly, but still faster than the first half...just in case I was wrong.  Garmin has the run as being a bit short (4.36 miles instead of 4.5 miles) for a pathetic pace of 7:42.  Same pace as the hilly 10k at Lake Geode the day before.  

Trying to keep it together.

I ended the race in second place.  Good enough for a payout, but not good enough to hold the giant check.  If I hadn't raced the day before, or at least didn't feel like I could throw up at any moment during the second half of the race, I think I could have had her...or at least made it more interesting.  But, it is what it is.

Lakeside "Triathlon" podium...I'm the one hidden behind the check :(

Wes and I had a great weekend of traveling together, so I'm glad I went and raced.  On the 4 hour drive home, we managed to find 4 breweries along the way.  Unfortunately, the second one was closed on Sundays and the last one (Against the Grain Brewery) didn't have any of their brew available.  Good reason to go back.

Destihl Brewer in Normal, IL 

Iron Spike Brewing Company, Galesburg, IL

Against the Grain Brewery, Rock Island, IL
I spent a lot of the second run at the Lakeside Triathlon thinking that racing Kansas 5150 the following weekend was not something I wanted to do.  This thought carried with me for the first few miles of the drive home as well.  But, here I am, in Lawrence, Kansas writing this blog post waiting to race tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Copper Creek Triathlon, Old Friends, and Chickens!!

This weekend was my 20-year high school class reunion from Ames High.  I knew it would be the same weekend as Copper Creek in Des Moines, so why not do both!?!  Previous year the race has been Saturday morning which would have worked out slightly better, but they moved it to Sunday.  It is what it is.

Two years ago was the first, and only time, I've done this race.  It's really well run with closed off roads for the bike.  The prize purse is one of the heftiest around, which also makes it appealing.  In 2012 we camped at the fairgrounds, which worked out perfectly as it's only a miles or so from the race.  I called Thursday to ask a few questions and found out the Junior High National Championships was in town, but they would still have a section for people camping that were not with the rodeo.  Good deal!


Friday was a little bit of a late start, then made later when a half hour from home Wes realized he forgot his computer at home (needed it for work), so we turned around to get it.  My hopes of getting to the campground for lunch were no longer, but we pulled over at a gas station and ate lunch in the kitchen we brought with us.  We finally arrived at the fairgrounds only to find out they changed their minds and were not allowing non-rodeo people to stay there.  Ugh!  I remembered from the lsat time racing that there was a campground off of the bike course, so we headed to Yellow Banks campground.  As we were driving through we notice how LOUD the cicadas were.  As much as I wanted to find a campsite, I wasn't too disappointed to find out it was full.  The ranger let us know that spot #5 was open at Thomas Mitchell, so that was our next stop.  As we were pulling in a camper was leaving, but thankfully the spot was still open.  A few campers down told us it had driven by and decided it wasn't good enough and was going to Yellow Banks to check it out.  We were lucky!  Our next option was to call my aunt and uncle, and drop cord to their house.  By the time we pulled in and set up it was 3:30, 5 hours after we left North Liberty (the first time)!  I had planned on some shopping at East Village, but that wasn't going to happen with how late it already was.

After a tiny bit of relaxing, we headed to my aunt and uncles to catch up (they just got back from 2 weeks in Alaska!), check out their awesome new garden, and eat dinner.  That night was a meet-up for my class at Old Main Brewery in Ames.  Great to see those that I haven't seen in so long.  Craziest thing was Wes knowing one of my friends, Dan, from high school that I didn't know he knew.  So, we spent most of the night with Dan and his wife.

Garden pre-Alaska trip.  Veggies were MUCH larger when we visited.


Saturday morning we slept in until 7:30am, then I went for a short bike and run while Wes headed out for a run himself.  The roads were decent enough we could leave from the campground.  I headed north for a bit until the road T'ed with a road I wasn't comfortable riding on, so I turned around and rode south of the campground.  It was going well until a huge, fast dog ran out from a farmhouse.  Holly crap!  And, of course I don't have my phone on me.  I ALWAYS have it with me.  I kept heading south to get in the miles I needed, and debated on what to do coming back.   Try to hitch a ride? There wasn't much traffic at all.  Go around the block?   I'd have to take gravel and without my phone I didn't know how far out of the way I'd have to ride.  I choose option 3....try to outride it.  It came within feet of me both times, or at least it appeared to in my head.  A truck was coming the opposite direction right after I passed it, and part of me hoped it would hit the dog.

I get back to the camper, text Wes to tell him not to go south of the campground, then go out for a short run.  I got back, showered, made breakfast, and Wes still wasn't there.  I called, and heard his phone ring in the camper.  Not good.  Several minutes later he arrives and tells me his story of the same dog.  Knowing he couldn't outrun him on the way back, he tried to wave down a car to hitch a ride the few blocks to get past, but no luck.  So, he ran through the muddy field behind the house on the other side of the street.  Continuing the bad start to our camping weekend.

Our next stop was in Ames at my college roommate's house.  They got chickens this year, and we wanted to see how it was going.  Ames doesn't have any restrictions on backyard poultry, and I'm amazed at how many houses have chickens.  Up until we got ours last year, we didn't know of any in Ames, and now I hear about them constantly.  They have a few Ameraucana's (Easter Eggers) that will lay blueish/greenish eggs.  I wouldn't mind replacing a couple of hens with that breed, but we'll probably keep what we have for at least another year, although we're about ready to send one of ours to the axe!  I'm jealous of their fenced in back yard that allows their chickens to run freely while they're home.  Currently they have 8 chickens that are a few months old, and 12 adorable baby chicks!

Chicks chillin' under the lilac bush

Next up was the final class reunion activity that I was participating in.  They held a lunch at Brookside park catered by Hickory Park restaurant.  If you are ever in Ames and like meat (or ice cream), check it out!  More talking with Dan and his wife, and meeting the 4 kids.  Also caught up with fellow triathlete and Zoot teammate, Mark Harms, and learned about Cluck, a chicken store south of Madison. Can't wait to visit while we're there in September!

Finally time to do some shopping!  It was already getting pretty late in the afternoon, so just a quick stop at West End Architectural Salvage. They had some great stuff, but I prefer the prices at ReStore in Iowa City.

Last stop for the day was packet pickup.  Hardly anyone there, so got through quickly.  The swag two years ago was CEP compression socks.  This year was Tifosi sunglasses.  Nice!  Oh, and a free beer.

Pink to match my bike and kit :)

As I was leaving one of the volunteers saw my race number and said "You're supposed to beat your race number".  I was race number 2. Yeah, sure.

Pretty cool packet pickup printout with the schedule on it.

Back to the camper to get the bike race ready, and chat with the old folks camping near us.  Learned about a few good camping spots for more trips!  Dinner, an episode of An Idiot Abroad, popping corn, and time for bed.

Sunday (Race Day!)

Finally, race morning!!  I arrive just as transition opens at 5:45am.  First elite there, and still the only elite after 15min.  Guess I didn't need to be in such a hurry to arrive.  Oh, well.  Gave me more time to meet fellow Zooter, Ben Lindell, who was volunteering in transition.

Ben and I after the race
A bit later my coach, Daniel Bretscher, racks his bike next to me.  Huh?  Didn't expect him there.  Off for a bike and run warmup, then down to the beach to swim.  As I arrive they announce the swim warmup is over.  What!?!?  It ended early so they could get the race started early due to the storm front moving it.  Well, ok.  I guess that's a good enough reason.

While we're waiting around I talk to Daniel about the elite women field.  I knew Claire Bootsma, and had beaten her earlier this year at the Pigman Sprint (she's not training as much with a wedding coming up and other stuff), but didn't recognize the other woman in transition. Daniel tells me she's a decent swimmer (so get on her feet), she's a strong cyclist, but my run is faster.  Seriously?  My run is faster?!?!  Oh, and she's a pro.  She's a what?!?  And, that's all them women we knew were there.

The race is an in-water start.  I line up with Claire on my right, then pro chick, Morgan Chaffin, moves to the right of her. I just stayed in my spot, as I didn't want her to know I would be stalking her feet.  The cannon goes off and we all sprint.  Claire, who I swam faster at Pigman by 30 seconds, was ahead of me.  Not a good start.  My hopes of moving over to Morgan's feet were not looking promising.  I finally get ahead of Claire, but Morgan's gaining time ahead.  Dam it.  I notice as I'm swimming that I seem to be headed toward the turn buoys, but am pretty wide of the spotting buoys.  Still not sure how straight my line was.  If only I could have just followed Morgan!

I finally climb out of the water, and next to me is Claire, and then she passes me going into transition as I'm pulling down my speed suite, which I never even thought that it would be a non-wetsuit race, so this is my first time wearing it this year.  Claire's shoes are attached to her bike, so she makes it in and out of T1 much more quickly, and probably more gracefully, than I do.  But, I make most of that time up while she's getting her feet in while cycling.

Bike out.  Attempting to put my sunglasses on while riding.
Every little second that I can do something while running/riding helps.

Out on the road it took longer than I thought it would to catch and pass Claire.  I used more energy then I expected to make sure I made a quick and clean pass as I knew there were race marshals on the course.

Every few miles I'd watch Morgan ride past a post or driveway or something, and then count to see how long it took me to get to that same point.  On the way out, it really didn't change.  On the way back, I lost sight of her in the last few miles.  Not good.

Bike in.  Mike bike seems huge in this picture!

While in T2 I get an update the Morgan only has a 10 second lead. Um, what?  I'm a little flustered as I leave my rack, and a few steps later I realize I left my bib behind.  Ugh!  I quickly turn around, grab it, and head back out on the run.  I doubt it cost me more than 5 seconds, but those are very precious seconds when first place is within your reach.

The run route is along a pond for just a little bit, then does an out and back in the subdivision next to the lake (which is very rolling), then the last mile finishes around the pond.  I figured I was about 20 seconds back at this point.  Was coach right that I really do have a faster run?  At this point in the race I don't feel confident in my ability to catch her, but I don't give up either.  Through the first mile I could tell that I was getting closer.  I see Coach Daniel heading back.  He yells at me that I CAN catch her.  I'm still not sure about that.  He's usually deep in the zone when I see him racing, so I wondered at this point if he cared more about my race than his as his didn't seem to be going as well as hoped.

For the first time ever in a triathlon I have the thought cross my mind that I wished the run was longer.  Halfway through the run I still didn't think I had enough distance left to close the gap.  And, then, just as we're about to hit the 2 mile mark I caught up!!  Now I have the fear of her staying with me and being out-sprinted at the finish line.  Instead of leisurely passing I went into another gear to make it more definite.

The race had a cyclist for the lead man and lead woman, and now it was for me!!!  I only had to yell at him once to go faster :)  It was right after I made the pass and we were going down a short hill.  Maybe he was too distracted with the excitement behind him.

A half mile later I look back for the first time...and see nothing.  Where'd she go?  It starts sprinkling, and felt soooo good!  With a quarter mile left, it rains a bit harder and I see Daniel and his wife Katie waiting for me.  He tells me she's 20 seconds behind me and looking back over her shoulder.  "This is what we've trained for!  You have a quarter mile left!  Just one lap around the track!" Even though at this point I know she can't catch me, I finish strong with what felt like my fastest pace of the race.  However, that last chunk seemed to last FOREVER!  These are times I wish I wore my Garmin while racing.  Was it really a quarter mile, and did I actually run faster or imagine it?

The race has so many great touches that make me want to come back and race again.  As I approach the finish line, two volunteers are holding tape across it.  I love little things like that. And, the Casey's breakfast pizza in the food tent :)

Photo curtsy of Copper Creek Triathlon
Wes was an awesome sherpa, especially given the conditions at the end!
Claire and I on the podium.  Morgan must have left early.

Race Results here.

As always, a few thank you' my coach Daniel Bretscher for pushing me beyond my mental limits, Zoot Sports for the great clothes and awesome shoes, We Run for hosting group runs so I don't have to run by myself all the time, EpiCor for keeping me healthy and for quicker recoveries from hard training days, Core Fitness for having classes that help with injury prevention, Geoff's Bike and Ski for keeping my Specialized Shiv is race ready, and Wes for waking up early for sherpa duty on a not-so-ideal weather day.