Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Finishing Up On Top

Last race of the season, the Hy-Vee 5150 US Championships.  I didn't realize it until a teammate told me that I had a free entry into this year's race because of my 2nd place finish last year (top 5 in each catagory earn free entries).  The original plan was to head to Madison the Friday of Labor Day weekend and stay through the following weekend, but I couldn't pass up a free entry and another chance at an Orca/Orbea gift card.  I finally used last year's ($500) on a new townie bike (aka barcycle).  It's currently at Geoff's Bike and Ski being built.  Anyway, we modified our plans and headed to Des Moines for the labor day weekend, then make a short stop at home before going to Madison.

Orbea Carpe H60
Late Friday night we arrived at our campsite at Walnut Woods in Des Moines.  It was already after 10pm by the time we set up, so we pretty much just went to bed.

Saturday I got up at 6am to get in a short bike and run (felt good enough, but not great), and breakfast before heading over to Gray's Lake to watch the Ironkids race.  Several kids we knew had qualified and were racing, including my running partner, Kiersten.  I haven't been training with her as much as I would like to this summer, but the local youth tri team, T4, has been keeping her going.

The race started 15 minutes early (I'm guessing due to the weather already getting a bit warm), so we missed much of the Intermediate kids, which is who we were there to see.  While walking from the car over to the finish line we were able to cheer on Kierst for both the out and back section of the run.  She was looking very strong.  It's so motivating to watch her and all the other youth participating.  My favorite is seeing them mount and dismount their bikes.  Some are much better at it than I am.  No fear helps :)

Afterwards we drove to packet pickup and the expo, then back to the campsite for lunch, relaxing, and a pep  talk from my coach, Daniel Bretscher.  With the temps as high as they were I wanted to wait until later in the day before checking in my bike to transition.  After the disappointing Iowa football game, we drove over, Wes dropped me and my bike off, then I met up with him at Confluence Brewery, conveniently located right next to transition.  Great atmosphere and bartenders, but the beer was just OK.  It was getting a bit late already, so for dinner we ate at The Spot food truck which was parked in their parking lot.  I had an amazing sage rubbed chicken and Wes had their Veggie Philly.

Flight of Confluence Beers
As usual, it was almost 10 before heading to bed.  It's not like I was going to get much sleep anyway.  But, morning came a bit earlier as we were woken by a thunderstorm rolling through.  We love camping at Walnut Woods, but the name comes from the walnut trees in the park...which will drop walnuts in heavy winds.  Scared the crap out of us when the first one hit the camper.  There was no going back to sleep after that.

I finally rolled out of bed at 4:30am, made our standard breakfast (egg sandwich, cantaloupe, and lots of coffee), and kept flipping between checking weather and the race facebook page to see if the race would be delayed.

Around 5:10am we started our drive to Gray's Lake.  We made it there by 5:30am, but were in traffic for another 15min. The weather was starting to clear, and the rain stopped by the time we parked.  Good thing there were port-a-potties in the parking lot as the coffee was really making things flow.  Back to the truck, grabbed my gear, and started the walk to transition.  A girl stopped me and let me know the race has been delayed 45min.  I was happy to have more time in transition, and glad I had some spare calories packed in my bag.  I wandered back to the truck to let Wes know, and gave my mom a call as well.

Walking to transition I was surprised how many of my Iowa HEAT teammates I saw.  It's great to have friends to talk to and forget about pre-race nerves.

I slowly set up my transition area since I had plenty of time.  The race provided water to mix my HEED for the bike, but I think the water had been sitting out all day yesterday.  I didn't have any other options, so filled up with the very warm water.  I got in a quick run before transition closed, then made the half-mile trek to the swim start.  Last year's swim start was at transition, but extremely crowded.  This year they moved it to the other side of the lake.  Much less congested and well worth the walk.

During the Star Spangled Banner the let off a few blank fireworks "bombs", followed with 10-20 more after the song was done.  Good morning Des Moines!  I'm sure the people living in the area were glad the race was delayed 45 minutes :)

Shortly after I saw my mom and aunt, Carol.  I knew my mom was attending, but wasn't sure about Carol.  Very happy to see both of them there.  Wes followed soon after.  While wandering to the age-marking area I saw my uncle, Ron, as well.

My mom, and biggest fan!
The water temp was 84 degrees, so no wetsuits. I had purchased a WTC-legal speedsuit last year for the race, but didn't need it.  The tag was still on it.  It's the same brand as my other speedsuit, so just hoped it fit the same.  Really should have used it at least once prior to the race.  Oh, well.

I did a short warm-up, then stayed in the water a bit.  The air temp was much cooler than the water, so I was not looking forward to getting out.  My wave was being corralled and I wanted a spot near the front, so sucked it up, made a quick stop to see my family, then hunted for Jami (teammate in my age group that swam for Iowa).  Found her in the front, along with Janet who usually has a the same swim time as me, or slightly faster.  Good spot to be!

My wave getting ready to go!

Swim - 23:57 (2nd in age group (Jami was 1st by almost 2.5 minutes); 23rd overall women)

The swim start was calmer than I expected it to be.  I was able to get out in front of most of our wave, but quickly saw Jami speeding ahead.  I caught on to someone else's feet pretty early on.  It felt a little easy, but when I tried to pass I wasn't gaining any ground, so tucked back in behind her.  It was nice not having to fight through the mess of people in the earlier waves.  As we were nearing the end, she was swinging wide, and I saw another women in my wave taking a shorter route, so switched over to her feet.  I exited the water just behind her, and was happy to see it was Janet.

A little background on Janet...she's an amazing 48-year-old triathlete from Waverly, Iowa.  For several years now, she's been just a bit faster than me.  Up until this year our swim and bike times have been about the same, and then she either passes me or pulls ahead on the run.  This year my bike has been faster, but she still manages to pass me on the run.  At Age Group Nationals (AGN) this year I finally posted a quicker time than her, but then was once again behind her at the Pigman Olympic race the following weekend.  I wanted to prove that AGN wasn't a fluke.

Back to the Hy-vee Tri...T1 was pretty uneventful.  My bike rack was just about as close to the bike in/out as you could get.   Nice!  But, it's a heck of a run from the swim exit to the bike.  My speedsuit did not come off as easily as I had hoped, but eventually got it off.  I also noticed the bike on the other side of mine was gone, but most other bikes were still there.

Bike - 1:04:24 (1st in age group; 3rd overall women)

As I was leaving transition, I saw Janet just slightly ahead of me.   For about the first mile, I just followed behind her letting my heart settle a little before making my pass.  When I was ready to pass I wanted to do it quickly.  I didn't want her to try to keep up.  Shortly after the first turnaround, I made my move and didn't look back.

The rest of the bike I just kept passing more and more people from the waves ahead of mine.  I was in wave 13, so there were plenty of people to pass.  I only had one instance of playing leapfrog with a guy.  I passed him, he passed me, I passed him, he passed me, I passed him and never saw him again.  Not sure why he thought he could beat me as I had been not-so-slowly gaining on him up to that point.  Maybe it's that I'm a 5'1" woman on a black and pink bike that made him feel inferior enough to temporarily pick up his speed.

The wind was picking up while we were out on the bike.  After the turnaround there is a downhill that felt more like an uphill into the wind.  Ugh!  I was happy to finally make it back to the park.  The trail around the lake is pretty narrow and it is encouraged to not pass anyone during the short stretch.  Thankfully the two guys ahead of me were pretty far ahead, so I didn't catch up to them until the dismount line.

Throughout the bike I sipped on my warm HEED.  It wasn't very refreshing, but I went through about 3/4 of it.  Needed to get in the calories.  I did have the urge to drink water, but I don't carry any plain water with me.  The only other issue I had on the bike was the feeling of shin splints developing in my right shin while going uphill.  I've felt this before when starting a brick run, but never while biking.  I just hoped it wouldn't resurface on the run leg (it didn't).

As I racked my bike, I saw the bike across from mine was already there and Wes has yelling to go catch her.  I was in second.


Run - 44:17 (2nd in age; 32 overall women)

The temps were starting to heat up.  I grabbed water at each aid station to drink as much as I could and dump the rest over my head.  I had hoped for ice.  I saw bags of ice at one of the stations, but when I asked for some they didn't have any to hand out.  Really?!?!  At least the water was cold.  For most of the run I switched between fighting a cramp building in my side and fighting the urge to throw up.  Thankfully the side cramp feeling only stuck around for a little bit, and never fully developed.  The slightly nauseous stomach stuck with me the entire run.  I'm blaming it on the warm HEED on the bike ride.  I was reminded of it every time I burped it up while running.

The run course had two turnarounds.  One was about about 2.5 miles and the other with about a half mile to go.  At the first turnaround I counted the time to see where Janet was.  Just over a minute behind.  I knew there was a good chance that wasn't enough gap, and also knew it was too early to try pick up the pace too much.  I attempted to run just a bit faster knowing that every second was probably going to count.  I don't race with my Garmin, so wasn't sure of my pace, but I was actually passing people, so was optimistic that I was having a decent run.

My mini-supporters who both rocked the Ironkids race the day before.

With about a mile to go I saw Kierst and her family holding up a sign for me and cheering very loud.  They were in a perfect place on the course.  I asked how far back the next woman was, but got a "Huh?" reaction.  I really need to work up a game plan with Wes for this sort of thing.  A guy standing near them responded with "50 yards".  Crap!  At this point I wasn't sure who was behind me, and I didn't have the drive to go any faster.  So, I just waited and hoped that once she passed me I could keep up with her and out-sprint her at the end.  At the last turnaround, I looked back and it was Janet.  She was about 25 yards back.  I stuck to my game plan, and she caught me within site of the finish line.  I picked up my pace and gave it all I had left.  The finish chute curves to the left and I was on her right side.  We were sprinting, the crowd was cheering loudly, and I was loosing ground as we took the curve.  We are in different age groups, so I not fighting for podium placement, I was fighting for pride, and I lost by 1 second.

The final stretch
Final Time - 2:16:06 (1st in age group; 12th overall women)

I never caught the woman, Kirsten Sass, whose bike was in transition when I arrived at T2.  I had assumed, and so had Wes, that she was in my wave, but she is 34-years-old and in the wave ahead of me.  She raced in the age group waves, but beat all of the Elite wave women to win the race with a time of 2:11:17.  Not looking forward to her joining my age group next year.

Post-race thoughts:
  • I should have worn my speedsuit at least once prior to the race.  Taking off the tag race morning is never a good idea.  Not sure if it would have helped, but wouldn't have hurt.  Maybe I would have struggled less getting it off.
  • I really need to mix up my bike nutrition before going to transition.  I normally mix it up at the camper with cold water and ice to attempt to keep it cold for the bike.  Hammer Nutrition's HEED has worked well for me for years, so I'm not ready to jump to something else yet.
  • Either the women are becoming faster swimmers, or my swim is slowing down.  When I started the sport it was my best leg, but biking overtook that fairly quickly.  My swim has been decent comparatively, but seems to becoming less so.
  • It was a fairly slow run time for me for this summer.  I don't regret how I paced it, as I could have easily needed to step aside to relieve my stomach distress.  But, I kept it down and continued to move forward.

Not as fancy as Age Group National's post-race cool down, but it will do.

After the race I caught up with one of my high school classmates and swim teammates, Brooke, and she told me another classmate/swim teammate, Bronwen, was there as well.  Wow!  It's been a long time since I've seen Bronwen, but knew she had recently entered the sport.  She did amazing, winning our age group in the non-championship race, and with a faster swim time than me :)  She always has been the better swimmer.

I was very happy to not be in the later waves.  As we were waiting for the awards ceremony, it was really starting to get warm.  12:45pm finally rolled around, I received my medal in the really cool box, and another certificate for Orca/Orbea, this one was for $750.

The blocks are not made for short people!

...but, the view from the top is awesome!

Hmmm...what to buy.  Wes thinks it should be his for all the support he's given me throughout the summer.  The jury is still out.  For now, his reward was one more brewery visit while in Des Moines, at Exile Brewing.  Compared to Confluence, Exile lacked in atmosphere, customer service, and had even worse beer.  But, we left with a growler full of Gigi, their Munich Dunkel Lager.  Only because the container was pretty sweet.

Exile flight

Fancy growler

The race was a great end to my season.  I'm very happy I made the switch to Daniel for coaching, loving my new Specialized Shiv bike from Geoff's Bike and Ski, and very thankful for the support from We Run with Zoot shoes and running gear.  I am also thankful for Wes' support this summer.  He wasn't racing most of the races, but was an awesome sherpa.  And, grateful my mom, step-dad, and aunt could make it to my last race of the season.

Now, time to relax and watch a few thousand people suffer through Ironman Wisconsin.

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