Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Final Countdown

No better time to write up a post covering the last races of my triathlon career than while tracking my coach, Daniel Bretscher, racing Ironman World Championships in Kona.  This is a long one, but a lot of pictures to break it up a bit.

Lakeside Triathlon
July 12, 2015

I raced this last year, didn't have the best race, and wanted to go back to prove I could do better.  There is a good prize purse for the top three which was a great incentive as well as last year I came in second place.  I mentioned something to Daniel about not having booked a hotel room yet, and he was awesome enough to find me a homestay, which I had never done before. The couple I stayed with were amazing.  They cooked up a delicious dinner and we had some great conversation.  When taking  heading up to bed, the wife had snuck in a good luck gift into my room.

Good luck gift from local popcorn shop
My goal going into the race was beat the woman that won last year and to finish in the top 3.  As I was setting up my transition area, a few more people started showing up that I hadn't seen on the start list last time I stalked it, and I was quickly becoming less optimistic about being in the top 3 and more into hoping I wouldn't come in last for the elite wave.  Apparently Milwaukee has a race the same weekend that they usually race, but this year they pulled the prize purse, so they came to Decatur.  :(

Last year there was a storm that came through the day before and the swim was cancelled due to the currents.  This year apparently there were strong currents again, so the swim was cut in half.

I had a decent swim, drafting almost the entire way.  The first half of the bike went well, then I was a little demoralized at the turnaround.  I saw where I was compared to everyone else.   Ugh!  For the run I just settled in.  Never really pushed.  On the good side, my bike and run were each a minute faster this year.  And, I my favorite run photos have been taken at this race.

Age Group National Championships
August 8, 2015

This was my A+++ race for the year.  A few people had asked why I was taking Thursday and Friday off work, so I told them, which lead to other people finding out, and then my entire company getting an email.  Good motivation :)

We slowly made our way to Milwaukee Thursday afternoon making a couple stops in Madison to look at stand up paddle boards (didn't buy one, but I know what I want to get for next summer!) and, of course, a brewery on the way into Milwaukee.

Tyranena Brewing Company
Friday was a bit of relaxing and one brewery stop.

Water Street Brewery

The race was Saturday morning.  My wave was one of the last, taking off at 9:50am.  Transition closed at 7:25, so a bit of a wait before starting.  I got everything set up, then chilled alone for a bit and had breakfast, then watched some Iowa HEAT teammates transition from swim to bike.

There were a lot of women in my wave and a good amount of fighting to begin with, something I am not all that used to.  It settled down by the time we got a few hundred feet.    I didn't get to draft much and was 8th out of the water.  I had hoped to catch up to the group ahead in the water, but never made it.  There were 9 of us that came out within 20 seconds of each other.

The day before I had asked Daniel for a bike watt goal, which he said 205, and I said that was too high, so he went down to 195.  Ok.  I felt last year I had blown up a bit on the hill at the beginning of the bike, so made sure to take it a bit more conservatively.  I checked my watts after coming back down the hill and they were around 215.  Hmm..a bit high, but I felt good.   I watched the watts come down, but they stuck around 213.  I still felt good.  Just as I came back past transition (about a third of the way through the bike course) I passed Cindi Bannick.  The past two years I have caught her at the end of the bike just to have her pass me within the first mile of the run.  I did not expect to see her this early.  It gave me great motivation to keep pushing the bike and see if I could widen the gap enough to hold her off on the run.  At the second turnaround I was still around 213 watts, but my legs were starting to feel it.  Just before the final stretch into transition I checked my watts again and they were at 211.  Nice!  Thankfully it was a very clean issues with passing men, and two even said good things as I flew past them.  I had the 4th fastest bike split for all of the women.  The fastest was by a women that can't swim or run well.  The 2nd and 3rd were the 1st and 2nd women in my age group.

I was a little worried how my legs were going to hold up on the run after biking so hard.  The first mile I just tried to settle in.  On the second mile I was still feeling good.  I saw Cindi again after the first turnaround.  She was just passing the 1 mile marker and my garmin had me at 1.4 miles.  Good gap, but she could still catch me. The next two miles seemed to never end.  After the second turnaround I looked to see how close the next person was.  She was close enough to scare me.  I never saw Cindi.  I gave what I could those last two miles. I heard someone cheer for another women and assumed it was the women in my age group that I had seen at the turnaround, so I tried to push even harder.

As you get close to the finish line, the ground changes from running on cement to grass to carpet on grass. My body did not like the change.  My legs were starting to give out.  For those last few yards I wondered if I was going to be crawling across the finish.  I remember this feeling from 2 years ago, too (same course, same change of under footing).  Not fun.  But, I made it, with 40 seconds to spare from the next women in my age group, and she was actually running slower than me! Oddly, this was most comfortable I've felt in a run that I remember.  I think it's because I had the confidence that I was running fast, instead of just running scared.  My mile splits were 6:52, 6:42, 6:49, 6:58, 6:47, 6:58.  pace for the last .2 was 6:59.  Considering how well I felt the first few miles, I wondered if I'm lacking a bit in endurance.  My long runs are definitely not where they were last year.  But, i'm still happy with my run split.

Finish line area.
Wes had a ticket to spectate from the white tent.
Proof that Wes watched my finish :)

Final results...3rd in age group and 10th overall women (I was 11th until the penalties came out and a woman higher than me had 6 minutes in penalties that dropped her out of the top 10). My goal was top 5 in age and top 25 in women.  Definitely happy with it!

Between the race and award ceremony, we celebrated with the Halls at...a brewery!

Ale Asylum...
Didn't get a chance to stop at in Madison,
so went to the Milwaukee version.
Madison's is better.
Pretty excited to be on the #3 podium!

We had walked over to the award ceremony, expecting to get a medal that I could shove in my purse for our night time fun, as I didn't realize i would be getting a stein.  I was very tempted to take it out with me and fill it up :)

Did a bit of research for the best bloody marries in the Third Ward.  Couldn't decide between two of the, so got them both!

Cafe Benelux
The Wicked Hop
Filled with so many goodies!
 Finished off the race-cation with a celebratory breakfast before heading back home.

Original Pancake House
We shared it yummy!
And, a stop in Mount Horeb..

Grumpy Troll

There was streaming video during the race.  There are spots at 2:30:30 (people were already finishing as I was waiting to start the race in the water, and you can barely hear my name in the background), 4:19:20 (the announcers had much more faith in me than I did, and 4:45:02 (trying to stay upright).

Des Moines Triathlon
September 6, 2015

I have a love-hate relationship with this race.  It used to be sponsored by Hy-vee. They are no longer sponsoring it, but the race was continued by the same company and race director as the previous years.  The first few years of the race were really well done, with the exception of the finish line being a few miles from the transition area, which makes for a bit of a logistics headache for both racers and spectators.  There were a few years they changed the course having the start, transitions, and finish all within the same area, which were my favorite years.  This was not one of those.

The timing of it was good to break up the large break between Age Group Nationals and the World Championships.  My mom has made it to most years of this race, and this year my mom and step-dad both came out to cheer me on.

My mom and I

I raced the elite wave last year hoping to finish in the top 5, but missed out.  There was flooding on the bike course resulting in the entire race being cut in half, which also matched my motivation by that time of the season. It was my last race of the year and I was definitely ready for it to be over.  

This year my motivation was still high, riding off the excitement from Age Group Nationals.  My training was still going well, also.  

I lined up on the swim start behind Cindy Bannik hoping I could draft off her.  I caught on some feet that I thought was her, but ended up being some guy.  I wasn't tired at all behind him, but couldn't get around either.  Whenever I left his draft I would fall behind.  I wish at some race I could draft and still be pushing my pace.

Within the first few miles of the bike I had a couple guys pass me and then I passed them back.  I kept inching up on people.  I passed a female pro in waterworks park which seemed odd since they had a 5 min head start.    At 10 miles I was catching women in my wave.  At the second turnaround (at about mile 15) there were 3 women right behind me.  At this point I realized I was in the lead.  I tried to keep my watts up, but they dropped as I was getting into lots of corners and rough road.  My watts weren't awesome to begin with, but I wasn't all that tapered into this race, either.  About 207 watts for the first third and dropped down to 203 average.

Photo from the Des Moines Register website

I came in off the bike in the lead and wondered how long I could hold it.  There are two turnaround..mile 1 and mile 5.  I actually really liked that.  I knew there was a really fast runner from Des Moines racing that I really wanted to beat, and thought I needed about a mile lead off the bike to stay ahead of her (she ended up having a run that was over 7 minutes faster than mine!).  At the mile turnaround the women were much further behind me than I had expected.  In second was a chick that easily beat me at the Pigman Sprint, Sarah Alexander, and I knew was a good runner, so I just waited for her to pass, which wasn't until mile 3!  I kept a pretty steady pace the entire time.  It was getting warm and I didn't want to have issues getting to the finish line.  There was a guy about 10 feet ahead of me for almost the entire run.  I just kept watching him.  I kinda figured if I was keeping up with a guy, my pace couldn't be all that bad.  At the 5 mile turnaround I knew I was stuck in my position, so just finished it in.  The last small bit of the run is up a VERY steep hill, and was happy to not have to push up that hill.

My mile run splits were 7:09 (partly on grass), 6:57, 6:59, 6:59, 6:58, 7:03, and 7:43 (last .2 miles  which is mostly a large hill).

Happy with 2nd Place

Post race thoughts...
I hate looking at the results and thinking....hmmm... I lost by 38 seconds to Sarah Alexander.  From looking at the swim times, I really wish I would have tried harder to get into the next pack of swimmers.  It was a large, long pack and they came out of the water 24 seconds faster at the tail end and 60 seconds at the front.  I also ran exactly a minute faster at AGN.  But, maybe after she passed me she stopped trying so hard. On the good side, I had a great bike compared to everyone.  Only 4 women were faster and they were all pros.  The next fastest non pro bike was almost 2 minutes slower, which was an age grouper.  My bike was 3:20 faster than the next elite woman.

Additional thoughts after more cyberstalking...
At AGN Sarah beat me by over a minute, so I would have had to have a stellar race to have beat her here.  I feel better now.

ITU Age Group World Championships
September 19, 2015

Hmm...I thought I had written up a race report in my training log after there ace, but apparently not.  Lets see what I can remember. 

We drove over to Chicago on Wednesday.  I had hoped to make it to the parade of nations (think amateur version of the Olympics opening cermony's parade of nations), but after a few stops and then getting stuck in traffic, I knew we weren't going to make it on time, so made one more stop before checking into the place we were staying at.  

Hopvine Brewing Company

Solemn Oath

Hallway to the Lagunitas Tap Room
Pretty awesome!

Lagunitas Brewer
Thursday was a logistics nightmare.  I thought the place we were staying at would be much easier access to the race area than it turned out to be.  We rented some Divvy bikes to get to the beach for a quick swim, but the traffic was horrible and that it seemed to take forever to get there.  By the end of the day we were taking the bus and train, which was so much better, and I became a bit calmer.  Off to two more breweries. 

Goose Island
The cups on the outside that looks like cups of water,
are actually cups of water :)
They were bottling Bourbon County Coffee Stout.
A VERY rare and VERY delicious beer.
Wish we could take one home..

Revolution Brewing
I decided on Friday that I wasn't going to worry about the race on Saturday.  Instead, I was going to enjoy our time in Chicago.  I also decided that all the time on the Divvy bikes yesterday and the walking around we were going to be doing today were good enough to equal what my workout was to be for the day.  Note: I still don't regret that decision.

Throughout the day on Friday we were getting updates on the Saturday race.  The winds were to pick up overnight and so we were being told that disc wheels were not going to be allowed. My bike has a cover I can put on the back wheel to make it a disc, but I can also ride it without.  If I go without it, I would also use a training wheel on my front instead of a wheel with deep rims.  My bike could be set up either way, but I wouldn't know until race morning which version of my bike would be allowed.  The only cause of stress was that it does take some time to switch everything, which would add one more thing to race morning that I didn't want to have to deal with.  That last update we received said the decision would be made by 6am in the morning.  

To add to that, the weather app on my phone was saying there was a wave advisory through the next day...6 to 7 feet!  I was pretty sure the swim was going to be cancelled.

Race uniform
Saturday morning rolls around, and the winds are no where near what they had expected.  I kept checking my phone and finally got the email that discs would be allowed.  Yeah!

I had a few hours between transition closing and my wave.  The distance from transition to the swim start was just under a mile, and we needed to be at the swim start 30 minutes before our wave started.  Joanna and I wandered over, and waited with her family and Wes.  

Waiting with my swim wave

The swim was pretty spectator friendly.  The entire swim is completed just a few yards from the shoreline which has a path you can walk along.  The waves were pretty minimal as well since it was in a protected area.  

Course Map
(Click to Enlarge..and see the craziness)

The run from the swim to our bikes was long!  And, the transition area was a little muddy.  My fear was getting mud stuck in my cleats and not being able to lock into my pedals.  But, I was fine.  

The bike route is horrid for someone that doesn't do turns well, which is me.  We were constantly turning, and going in and out of the tunnels.  I didn't know if the next turn would be gentle, a wide 180, or a tight 180.  I don't have sun glass with clear lenses, but I still wanted to wear them.  I was fine until I became scared after going back into one of the tunnels and not being able to tell there was a curve slightly after entering.  I decided to just take my glasses off and tuck them in my top.  I am glad I did.  On the second loop (yes, we had to do the crappy route twice!) at that same spot that scared my the first time had a crash the second time through.  It had just happened, and I was happy to not have gotten caught up in it. I also locked up my rear wheel on one of the turns that ended up being sharper than I had expected it to be.

Another long run into transition and back out, then off on the run course. It was also spectator friendly as 3.5 loops, with all of it lined with spectators.  I wondered if I would be able to remember what lap I was on, but no issues.  And, I knew by my watch which mile I was on.  I could see women in my age group, but had no clue where they were.  Ahead of me? Behind me?  Our age group was so large that we were broken into two waves that were 5 minutes apart, which added even more to the confusion of current placement.  I really didn't care that much anyway.  The race was more about enjoying my time there than trying to place higher. Run splits were 7:06, 7:00, 6:57, 7:07, 7:02, 7:12, and 6:42 (I had a bit of energy at the end).  

Running around Buckingham fountain...1 of 4 times

My garmin has the total run distance as 6.56 miles (versus what it should be at 6.2).  My bike data had the bike 22.88 miles (versus what it should be at 24.8).  I was disappointed that the World Championships didn't have accurate Olympic distance triathlon distances.  That, along with the transitions being as long as they were, and the very technical bike course, the race definitely favored runners.  Not sure if that would make much difference in my placing, but it did seem a little unfair.

I ended the race as 7th in my age group (I had hoped for top 10...check), and 35th overall.

For post race food, we were given tickets to a few places that catered in the athletes village.  And, a couple beer tickets, too.  

A couple retirement beers
The following morning we took the bus to a breakfast spot recommended to us, then wandered over to a local farmers market before heading back home.

Meli Cafe
Perfect retirement breakfast!

What does the future bring...?

It does feel a bit odd to be done with triathlons.  To not be thinking about what races I will be doing next year.  Races can fill up fast in the tri world, so you have to have your calendar figured out several month in advance. With running races, a lot don't fill up at all.  You can sign up at the last minute.  Right now, I have no idea what I will be doing next year.  A marathon?  Trail races?  I know it will be something long, longer than a half marathon.  Besides the marathon at the end of Ironman Wisconsin (which is completely different then running an open marathon), I haven't done much distance running. I am excited to see how it goes, and how my body will handle it.  

It has been a great 10 years in the sport.  Along the way I have had some great support...from my family and friends and Wes, to the coaches I have gone through...Mark S, Endurance Nation, Daniel Bretscher Multisport...and companies...Zoot Sports, We Run, Core Fitness, and Geoff's Bike and Ski. I couldn't have made it this far and this well without each and every one!

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