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.