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.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Holiday Lake Triathlon and Iowa City Duathlon...Racing Back to Back

Not the ideal setup, but I raced two events last weekend.

Holiday Lake Triathlon

The past two years I've participated in the Holiday Lake Triathlon.  It's such a great event.  The money raised goes back to the Holiday Lake community, and therefore the community really helps out to put on the race.  They also have a great selection of post-race food, including pizza!  The start time is 9am, which allows for a little sleeping in.  In previous years we've taken the camper up (we can camp there for free), but since we wouldn't be staying Saturday night I just drove over myself.  Thankfully one of the people organizing the event, Ebe, is a friend and has in-laws that live on the lake who are VERY nice and let me crash at their house.  The race site is only an hour from our house, but it's nice to not have to rush in the morning and make the long drive.

The race is pretty small with about 100 total registered with only 25 being women.  With so few women, it wasn't too difficult to figure out the competition.  With Jenny Lorenz only swimming and biking due to a injury, I figured I just needed to stay ahead of her and I was good.

I'm trying to do better at getting in a decent warmup before races.  Today consisted of a half mile run, 15 min bike, and I swam the course.

There are two swim waves for the race.  The first was men with the second being women and teams.  I lined up a away from the rope so I wouldn't get caught up in it.  Next to the rope was a former swim teammate from high school, Eric Greving.  As I'm sprinting the first 100 yards or so I realize I should have started next to him so I could draft.  But, it didn't matter as I passed him before we got to the turnaround.

Jenny heading out on the bike.

Out on the bike I kept an eye on Jenny.  The route heads east out of the lake area, then south for about 5 miles, turns around and leads north past the turn to the lake, then turns around again to head back south towards the lake (kind of like a T with transition being at the bottom of the T).  This gave me two chances to see where the women were.  It looked like Jenny was keeping the same distance, but I was gaining a decent amount of time on the others, so kept my watts in check for pretty much the entire bike...with one exception.  A few miles before the second turnaround I caught and pass one of the men.  Shortly after that he passed me, I passed him, he passed me again, and I made my final pass and push to keep ahead of him.  By the turnaround I had gained almost 30 seconds in those few miles.  I'm guessing he didn't like being passed by a chick on a pink bike.

I saw Jenny's runner (and Ebe's son), Sage, in T2 waiting for her to arrive.  We talked a bit, and I let him know she wasn't far behind me.  He was super excited to be racing, and it was pretty cool to see a kid that young running the 5k.

Sage and Ebe.  Love the mini Gear West uniform!

The run is full of short, steep hills.  I cruised through the first half, and counted back to see where I stood.  I saw Sage before any other women.  With the duathlon being the next day, I took it pretty easy to the finish line.  Ended up in first place by over 4 minutes.  Good stuff!

Final descent to the finish line.
Ebe and I with our awards at his awesome post-race party!

Iowa City Duathlon

I knew the Iowa City Duathlon was going to be a tough race going into it.   It's a series of three races with this one being the second.  For the first one at Macbride I came in second place.  The first (Jen) and third (Joanna) place women were also racing, and didn't have a race the previous day.  The Iowa City race had a longer bike and shorter run, which was an advantage for me as Jen is an amazing runner but I can out-bike her.  Joanna just got a new bike and has increased her speed to the point that she's right with me.

My warmup was about a 20min bike followed by a 5min run with Joanna to check out the north side of the run course.  Not much soreness going on.

The first run was a 2-mile all-out sprint for most people.  I held back a little not knowing how my body was going to handle everything.  As I was heading into T1 Jen was already out on her bike and Joanna was at her bike.  

The bike is 20 miles as two 5-mile out and backs.  With the last run being the same distance as the first run (2 miles), when you get to mile 10 of the bike the race is exactly half way done.  At the first turnaround at mile 5 Jen was still pretty far ahead and it looked like I was catching Joanna, but it was very slow going.  For the next 5 miles I wondered if I even had a shot at passing either of them, but I didn't give up.  Just as I approached the half-way point of the bike, I passed Joanna and just after that passed Jen.  All 3 of us were within seconds of each other and were were exactly at the half-way point of the race.  Things just got interesting.  I hoped my endurance was better than theirs.  I spent the final 10 miles of the bike trying to gain as much time as I could on both of them.  Joanna and I traded places a few times, but I was finally able to pull away, but not by much.

Getting ready to!

Joanna was heading into T2 as I was changing shoes.  I didn't see Jen until I was out on the run course, but knew she could still catch me.  I spent the final 2 miles running scared.    The run is a big loop around the lake, so no chance to see how things are going behind me.  With about a half mile to go I saw Jen's husband, Jeff, waiting for her.  Just after I went by him I thought I heard him cheering for Jen, so assumed she wasn't far behind.  I picked up the pace to whatever I had left in me....and, it was enough!  I crossed the finish line, looked back, and I had plenty of time to spare (26 seconds to be exact).  I saw Joanna with Jen so close behind her and closing the gap!  I yelled at Joanna to GO!!  She made it across the finish in second place with Jen only 3 seconds back.  

It's rare that I wear my garmin in a race, but had done so for this one.  It was fun to see my exact paces for the two runs.  The average pace for the first run was 6:38.  For the second run, my average pace was 6:32 pace over the 2 miles and 6:07 pace for the last half mile.  On the bike, my watts for each 5 mile segment were were 198 (don't think I have a chance of catching), 211 (I'm actually catching them!), 203 (passing took a bit out of me), and 205 (need a bigger gap!).

Overall I'm extremely happy with this race.  I was able to negative split the two runs, and the negative split the second run.  My watts for the duathlon were the same as the Pigman triathlon, even with a 5 mile longer course and racing the day prior.  In the past I've mentally given up too early, and I didn't do that.  Today hurt, but it was so much fun at the same time.  Can't wait for my next challenge!

Women's Overall Podium

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Little Pig

Every spring since the beginning of my triathlon journey I have raced the Pigman sprint triathlon.  Most years, including this year, it’s my first triathlon of the season.  It’s also my first chance to see the impact of the hard work, or lack of, that I put in over the winter.  In 2011 I was training for the Kansas 70.3, which was the weekend after the Pigman sprint. With the half-ironman at the beginning of the summer, I had a great base going into Pigman.  That was also the year we did Ironman Wisconsin, and then promptly lost motivation for training.  It wasn’t until the middle of last summer when I switched to Daniel Bretscher for training that the interest in training returned. 

The Marion Half Marathon and Macbride duathlon were slight glimpses into the outcome of my training, and it looked good.  But, they weren’t triathlons, and they weren’t races that I could use to really compare my fitness from year to year.

Leading up to the race, I’ve been busy with training and other life things that I didn’t have as much time to stalk the starting list as I have in previous year.  I think this helped keep my nerves down as I didn’t really know who I was competing against…except for one triathlete, Heather Lendway. She not only won her age division at Age Group Nationals last year, she was the fastest overall female.  If she showed up for the race I knew I had no chance of beating her.  The race places to the top-5, so I hoped no more than 3 other fast women would register.   I also didn’t create any expected hopes for my times.  Let the cards fall where they may.

Friday night we hauled the camper to Palo.  My job during camper setup is to keep the water spigot open.  This involves me sitting still for about 10min on the handle of the water pump thing.  Thankfully a few days earlier we had picked up some Bug Soother!  The gnats were horrendous!  Sprayed some on, and I wasn’t touched!  I could see them swarm around me. It was kind of surreal.  

Campe with a loft a the campground...interesting.

Slept in Saturday as long as I could, then relaxed a bit before a quick bike, run, packet pickup, and a stop at Peck's Nursery for a few garden plants.

The line to get into transition always starts early in the morning, and I arrived with at least 25 people ahead of me.  Good enough.  I was racing elite and there is usually plenty of room on our racks.  One of several perks of being in the elite waves.   Typically I spend most of the pre-race time socializing with others, but Daniel gave me a warmup to do which would eat into a lot of that time.  

I knew the traffic coming into the park was not going to be fun to deal with, so I brought my trainer and did my bike warmup at the camper after a short run.  Then, back to transition to start the dance of pulling on the wetsuit.   This was the first race with my new wetsuit, and it's a little snugger than my old one.  Not necessarily a bag thing, just takes more time to get on.  Time was already getting away from me, so my swim warmup was cut a bit short.  I still was able to get in more swimming, biking, and running than I ever have pre-race.

The elite women take off first, followed by the elite men.  The time between the two is meant to equalize the field, and the first person across the finish line gets a bonus cash prize.  Makes things a little more interesting.  So, my wave had 5 of us.  I had hoped that I could keep up and draft off at least one of the women, but no luck.  Our swim finish times were about 40 seconds apart from each other.  When I came out of the water I knew I was in third, and was told the lead woman was a minute and a half ahead (she ended up with the fastest swim of the race..including the men!).   

As I was coming into transition I could see second place leaving.  T1 was a little bit of a struggle with the tighter wetsuit.  I also haven't learned how to mount my bike and then put my shoes on, so I get the pleasure of running through the entire transition area with my bike shoes on.  Never fun.

I could tell I was gaining some time on the second women, and ended up catching in her the first few miles.  Now, I just had to keep up that pace.  At the first turnaround I saw that I was continuing to gain time on her, and fourth place was a decent distance back. At the second turnaround it looked like I was extending my lead over third and fourth, and loosing ground to first.  

Last year the men started catching me as I was riding by the lake in the park.  It was nice to get into transition without being passed yet.

I love my Zoot shoes, but still need to practice putting them on in T2.  Everything else went well.  As I was leaving transition I saw third place come in.  I figured I had a few minutes on her.  Hopefully good enough for a 5k.   At the first turn I spectator let me know that the lead woman was only 3 and a half minutes up.  Only?!?!  Yup, catching her is not gonna happen.

The run is an out and back with a turnaround at halfway.  Usually I feel pretty crappy running the entire time, but this year it didn't take much before I got into a good groove.  I've been working a lot on my form over the winter, and I felt it was helping. But, I didn't wear a watch, so had no clue if I was actually running really slow.  At the turnaround it seemed third was closing the gap, but I didn't think there was enough distance left in the race for her to catch me.  But, you never know, so I kept up my effort.

I looked over my shoulder a the last turn into the final stretch and couldn't see any women behind me.  It's all downhill from there, so no reason to let up then.  I crossed the finish line with Wes Anderson.  If the race truly is gender neutral with the staggered start, then I'm very honored to be the female version of him :)

Photo finish with Wes Anderson

In all, I was very happy with my race.  Comparatively to my previous PR, I'm further ahead than I expected to be.  My swim is a little lacking, but maybe I was able to draft in 2011.  I'll just thinks that why I wasn't much faster this year :)  The bike course was slightly different this year, with a full turnaround instead of four 90-degree turns in Palo.  That probably slowed my down a little in 2011, but not almost a minute.  The run has by far been my greatest improvement.  And, for that, I'm very happy. 

Swim 7:18
T1 1:56
Bike 41:33
T2 0:56
Run 21:55
Total 1:13:35

Swim 7:19
T1 1:51
Bike 40:46
T2 1:02
Run 20:35
Total 1:11:30

 I'll take a 2 minute PR :)  Looking forward to see how the rest of the season goes!  Event got a little writeup in the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Women's Overall Podium

2nd place club - Iowa HEAT