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.