Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Las Vegas 70.3 World Championship Race Report - Keep Fighting!

I have to say that this was probably the toughest 70.3 race to date. Not because of the course itself, and how hilly/tough it is, but due to the weather conditions, and unfortunately the lack of support. Don’t get me wrong – the volunteers were absolutely spectacular, and the few aid stations that were there were fully staffed. Volunteers were great and they deserve a HUGE thank you for hanging out in the middle of the dessert in the blazing heat all day. However the aid they were supplied with or maybe better said NOT supplied with was actually a bit ridiculous. The bike course had 4 aid stations so maybe that was enough but the placement of them wasn’t so great. The bottles out on the bike course were hit or miss on whether they were chilled or luke warm, and the run course was just an absolute disaster. Think 100+ degrees, blazing heat, minimal ice if any at all, lack of cold sponges or cool liquids for that matter.  That’s just simply NOT okay, and really shouldn’t be acceptable for ANY race, and especially NOT acceptable for a World Championship race! 

But onto my own race/race weekend.

Let’s just say I haven’t raced since Buffalo Springs 70.3 back in late June. That is a loooong time, and I was really itching to get back out there. I had a GREAT long training block focused on both Vegas, and Kona, and for the first time ever I was so ready to taper, with Vegas week showing up just at the right time.  I had left for Vegas Thursday night with my bicycle in tow, and spent the whole weekend with Mr. 7:20s also known as Dan Arnett. He is also coached by my coach Jorge, and except for the time when he decided to let me hang out at the Las Vegas airport in the middle of the night, while he was taking a power nap, we had a blast! Thanks Dan for everything!

  •  Dan helped me to put my bike together so it didn’t take all day! Thanks Dan!
  • Minor hick up - front wheel not holding air, but fixed within minutes (or so we thought)!
  •  Major hick up – my joule was DEAD – and I don’t mean not charged, just plain DEAD showing either a grainy screen or lines going right through it!  NOT GOOD! I immediately went into freak out mode, because this would be race number 3 out of 3 where I have had problems with either the new wheels (the hub) or the computer (joule) – Seriously? The joule worked perfectly fine just 24 hours ago!
  • I then went to register, and got the wheel rental place guys let me borrow one of their joules! Awesome and super nice of them, however the joule didn’t have the new software on it so it wouldn’t talk to my new G3 hub! I spent the next 3 hours freaking out and trying to fix it to no success , and that is when I finally decided to call CycleOps and they were super helpful however my issues were unfixable  CycleOps was so nice to overnight me another brand new joule, but I was at the mercy of FedEx delivering it on Saturday am! Riding without it wouldn’t be an issue, but I like to look at the data afterwards, and honestly I didn’t spend all this $$$ for nothing! I wanted to race with power!
  •  Dan and I also went for a quick run on the course, went to the opening dinner ceremony.

This was actually drawn life as we watched - pretty cool

  •  After the dinner we went to see great show at the Wynn. We went to see La Reve  – awesome, awesome show that helped me take my mind off they non working joule!


  •  Morning practice swim on the course followed by a gigantic breakfast – I am pretty sure I put Dan to shame. How does this sound – Bagel, Scrambled eggs, huge plate size waffle, bowl of oatmeal with banana, walnuts, and cranberries, mini muffin and OJ – yup I call that a SUCCESS! I probably should have taken a picture, but I destroyed it before I thought about it!
  •  Breakfast was followed by a nap, and I spent the almost entire rest of the day waiting for Mr. FedeX guy and annoying the front desk staff asking them maybe every 30 min if he showed up yet.
  • We finally went to drop our run bag at T2.
  • When we got back to the hotel around 2:30, I saw Mr. FedEx guy – I have NEVER been so happy – I literally ran out of the car while it was probably still moving and almost tackled Mr. FedEx – my joule was here, and wait for it – first try, it synced with my wheel! Yes! All was good with the world and I was much better to hang around – just ask Dan

  •  We packed up our T1 bags, and bikes and were going to head over to T1, when I realized that my front wheel is leaking air AGAIN with a brand new tube in it. Really? Quick stop at T2 on the way to T1, problem solved, but not without a bit of an additional stress – gosh – why can’t things just be simple! When we arrived at T1, we took a little 20 min spin around to make sure all is good to go and “Fireball” was dropped off for the night
"Fireball" is ready for tomorrow! 

My name is there somewhere on that sticker though I was melting and could barely even take a good picture!

  • We then had a great Italian dinner where I ate my weight in pasta and bread sticks, and race morning was almost here. Again - I destroyed all of it before I even thought about taking a pic! 

Sunday: Race Day

I actually went to bed super early and was able to fall asleep in no time! Score! I woke up at 4 am and had the usual pbj bagel and banana, and almost ate it all. Unlike the day before the race when breakfast is my favorite food, nothing really tastes good on race morning. We made it to transition, set things up, made a few PP stops, and I let a volunteer rub sunscreen all over me! Thank God I did because the day turned out to be super hot, and I have no idea what they were using, but unlike last year I don’t look like a red lobster post race! I was in wave #8 going of at 7:10 – 40 minutes after the PRO Men. I was ready to go and couldn’t wait to get the race started. 

SWIM: (41:57)

For the first time ever, I wasn’t dreading the swim. I have been working on my swim (I know it may be hard to believe but I have), and I was in a great place mentally.  I was confident and I was excited to just get going. After my 2 mile swim race last weekend, I figured this swim would feel “short”, and I was determined to swim my own swim, and keep my head in the game. None of the “is the swim over yet”, or “where is my bike” thoughts. I was really determined to just stay in the moment and race – race my own race, without trying to follow whoever passed me. I almost wanted to treat this like its own race. We got in the water maybe 10 min before the actual start, and the water so warm – 83 degrees to be exact that nobody even really warmed up. We all swam towards the bridge and sat right up on it for good 5 min before we were called to the start line and treaded water for another 5. 

Almost go time! Just waiting to be called up to the line though this is not my wave, but it's the bridge that saved us from treading water for another 5 minutes! 

This was also the last time I had to pee for a long, long, long time. (not good). I seeded myself in the middle of the pack to the left of the buoy line because the buoys were eventually curving left anyways.

The gun went off, and for the first time ever, I didn’t even get beat up! Sweet! I had a great first half of the swim. I was sighting well, swimming on course, and was surrounded by purple caps! I even had someone tickling my toes, and I unintentionally drafted of someone for a while too. I didn’t even get caught by the wave behind us until after the turn bouys and I was so excited!  But then something went wrong, and the wheels literally fell off! And by off, I mean off. I have never felt like this before, but I thought my race was over right there and then. It wasn’t the usual feeling you get when you are tired, my arms didn’t feel like bricks, they didn’t feel heavy. Instead they sort of just turned into jello arms, noodles, almost like they weren’t there, and I was getting a bit warm.  Maybe 85+ air temp, combined with 83 degree water could have something to do with that? I kept on swimming but I don’t know that I was moving much and the negative thoughts started to creep in. The buoys seemed so far away, and I literally didn’t think I was going to make it. I wanted to stop right there and honestly called it quits, that’s how crappy I felt. I was huffing and puffing, yet I wasn't even trying to move at this point. I felt so weak that sighting became something impossible to do, and in the effort of trying to do anything to make my arms feel better, I started to breast stroke. Yup – I sure did – I just had to keep moving forward, and I figured that maybe a different movement will make me feel better but to no success. I rotated between freestyle and breastroke for the rest of the way and pretty much the entire 2nd half of the swim, and I still couldn’t swim straight!  I was just so happy to make it out of that water alive.  I didn’t get into negative space, I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I somehow kept my head and didn’t get frustrated. I stayed in the moment, and I am so glad I did because the race was just beginning. I did make the quick math when I got out of the water and the huge digital clock was staring right at me, but I glanced at it, and let it go – it was in and out of my head, and I didn’t dwell on it.  


Super long run out of the water to get to your bike. One good thing about it is that it was pretty much all carpeted so it felt good on the feet. It was actually almost half a mile! I was huffin and puffin big time, but I ran pretty hard. It was time to get on my “Fireball” and catch Dan that started 5 min behind me but put good 10 min into me on the swim. I know that now, but I didn’t know it then. There were few bikes left on the rack but not many, but it actually didn’t affect me – I was so concentrated on my own race, and minding my own business, I was back in the zone.

BIKE: 2:36:57

The bike starts with a 2-3 mile climb out of T1, loops around and then you head into the Lake Mead Park area, where the hills begin. This course is literally either up or down with close to 4,000 feet of climbing. I love the course! 

Part of the bike course but most of it pretty much looks like this! 
I kept on moving along, but I didn’t feel great. My legs didn’t have the same energy like they did the day before. I was pretty sluggish and pretty hot already. I went through my fluids very quickly and with the first aid station not coming till mile 14, I had just enough to get me through. I fueled, and settled into the lower end of my wattage range, which I usually never do. My legs felt like crap and that was hard to deal with especially after what just happened on the swim. I still kept passing tons of people, whether it be guys or girls, but I just didn’t feel like myself. Sure it was hot, but I didn’t think it would affect me so fast. My skin was literally on fire boiling. It wasn’t even my head that was hot, it was just my face and the rest of my body that was exposed to the heat.  The aid stations were at mile 14, 28, 40 and 47, and I went through every single one of them and grabbed a bottle of perform, water, and another water to just cool myself off. That cooling affect however lasted about 10 min and I went from looking like I just got out of the shower, to looking like I fell asleep on the beach! I literally went from soaking wet to dry in no more than 10 minutes if that. I was covered in salt stains in the first 5 miles of the bike, and it just kept getting hotter and hotter. I kept on moving along, coasted the long descents more than I usually would, but still continued to pass everyone in sight.  I went through some feel good patches, and I thought my legs finally returned but those moments were not long lived.  I wasn’t impressed with the power I was putting out, as it was on the low end of what Jorge and I thought I should ride, and it actually was the same power that I have been holding for pretty much double the distance in training on much more tired legs.  As I made it to mile 50, I started to do the math, and I realized that even though my mega legs didn’t feel on, I still had a chance at beating my split from last year. As we hit roughly mile 52, I also spotted Dan who kicked my ass in the water, so I returned the favor like I said I would, and I slapped his butt as I went by encouraging him to come with me.   All we had left was 4 uphill miles! Seeing Dan actually gave me a bit of a boost, and my legs all of a sudden started to feel better, at mile 52 – just in time!  I ended up beating my time from last year by roughly 3 minutes, and now it was time to rock the run!

Nutrition wise, I went through almost 4 bottles of perform, 4 bottles of water, 4 bottles of water I just dumped all over myself in an effort to stay cool, 3 gels (one every hour), almost a whole pack of gel blasts (3 every hour), and I took 2 salt pills. With as much fluids as I had, I am usually like a clock and have to pee at mile 20 but yesterday, I didn't stand a chance. 

T2: 1:16 

Pretty uneventful. Volunteers caught my bike, gave me my bag, I threw my socks/shoes on in trasition, packed up my helmet and off I went. I did lost a bit of time because there was noone helping in the tent, but it was minimal. 

RUN: 1:44:41

Oh where to begin. 100+ degrees, no shade, and a 3 loop course - 1 mile downhill to start, 2 miles downhill to follow and repeat that 3 more times.  Yes – the run course is tough, but what made it that much tougher was the lack of ice, cold sponges, cold fluids period.  I have been feeling really strong running lately, and I wanted to have a killer run split, one that I know I am capable of. Last year, I totally melted on the run and the temps were about 10 degrees lower. I didn’t want to repeat that experience again, but I came pretty close, though I ran a lot stronger this year. With temps over triple digits, and the inability to cool of your core temp, it was ugly out there. I have never seen so many people either walking/cramping (that was the best case scenario), puking on the side of the road, falling over and literally passing out and being carted off the course. I have also spent some time outside of the medical tent waiting for Mr. Dan, and have seen things I wish I never did. The heat got to a lot of people. Just to give you an idea, one of the pro’s at the post race press conference said this:
 "This course was harder than the Cozumel full marathon I ran with a split jaw and concussion”

My legs felt great, but with each loop, I kept getting hotter, and hotter and when I was finally able to get a cup of ice, it literally melted in about 30 seconds. I felt “relatively speaking “ good for the first 10 or so miles, but the last 2 uphill miles were brutal, and especially the last uphill mile! With 2 miles left (1 uphill, 1 downhill), I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. That’s when Kris came up and ran with me for about 10 yards, and tried to lift my spirits up (Thanks Kris – your support was great). I literally spend the last uphill mile talking to myself and it was as simple as “You can do this” … I laugh now, but if I let myself stop, I would have never started back up. All you guys tracking me, following me at home –you would have been waiting in front of that computer for a very long time, so I just couldn’t have stopped then. I somehow willed my way up that hill although not very fast, and with the last mile pretty much being downhill, I just let it go, and gave it all I had. I may have sounded like a freight train coming by, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to cross that finish line on empty, and jump into a bucket of ice!

I ended up running 4+ minutes faster than last year which again is a huge success in the conditions we had this year and I am very happy with that. Heck even Craig Alexander ran 3 minutes slower this year than he did last year.

Overall I went from 5:13:xx to 5:08:xx and though I didn’t accomplish the sub 5 performance I was hoping for, everyone suffered just as much as I did, and I was super surprised that I ended up 6th in my Age Group, and 21st overall amateur female.

I gave it all I had, and I have definitely grown mentally stronger today.  I really wanted to give in at mile .5, but I ended up pushing through the full 70.3 and looked what happened. The moral here – whether you are an athlete or not: “Don’t ever give up”, “Don’t ever stop fighting” “Don’t ever stop competing” “Do your best and leave it all out there” because you never know how your competition whether it’s in sports or work or your every day life is doing or feeling! Do you best on the day, learn from it, and build on it! 

Again Thank you AlL for your support. It means a lot as I continue on my journey. You ALL know who you are, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without each and every one of you.

Now it’s time to recover, and put in a few more solid weeks of training, and onto Kona! Wow – I can’t believe it’s only 4 weeks away! 

 Tights on, feet up - now hurry up and get me home Jet Blue! :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Never say never!

Where to begin.

Few shorts years ago, I swore that I would never do a swim race in my life. Fast forward to yesterday, there I was signing up for a 2 mile Merrimack River swim. Merrimack is not exactly the cleanest river around, and one thing I knew about it is that it does possess and nice current. How fun! Or maybe not so much – I had these images of myself being taken by the river, taken from Lowell (where the race started) to Newburyport (few towns over), and being spit into the Atlantic Ocean! Sounds like a one long Disney water ride, doesn’t it? The race was only $40 so way cheaper than a trip and ticket to Disney too! That could have been a win- win J

The goal for this race was to just really swim the distance in prep for Kona, and feel what it’s like to swim with currents. I spent good 3 weeks trying to convince Karen – the swim master, and Jorge that I could just as easily swim 2 miles in the good ol’ Walden pond, but to no success.

I really had to fight with myself quite a bit to actually go and do the race. It wasn’t even as much about the distance, or the river and its current, but more the fact that I am way too competitive, and also realistic and knowing  I had no chance to win this one didn’t sit well with me. I wasn’t giving up by any means, but reality is reality, and I really don’ t like to lose! As a matter of fact, I hate it.

It took a lot of back and forth in my head to do it! I knew that the only way I was going to have a good experience was if I let go of the time (not easy for me), and just race my own race. Embrace the opportunity to just swim, work on some of the things I have been working on with Karen – the swim master, keep my head in the swim the entire time regardless of if I was first, or last, and when it came down to it, I really just had to swim!  Then I saw this:

And THAT was exactly what yesterday was all about. 

I showed up at the race, and it was just so different from any other race whether it be tri’s, running or cycling. Very laid back atmosphere that helped to calm my nerves a tiny bit though the fact I couldn't see any buoys anywhere was a bit concerning.  Karen – the swim master who was also racing though it’s really just a warm up for her (anything shorter than 5 miles is a sprint for her) gave me a couple of tips and before I knew it we were in the water and off we went. I think I took the tips a bit too literal, and found myself hugging the concrete wall of the Merrimack! At one point in time I actually swam into a tree branch that was hanging off the wall. I had to laugh at myself! Pretty ridiculous since the river is as wide as it gets, but the lack of buoys – I think 5 for the 2 mile swim gave me nothing to sight. In addition to that, since most people were in front of me, and yes – there were a few behind me too though not many, I found myself really swimming all by myself. It was a bit weird, because at least in triathlon swims there are always people around you, but this race gave me a good opportunity to swim my own swim, mind my own business, and try to keep my head  in it the whole time, which is what I need to do regardless but rarely ever do.

When I finally made it to the turn around buoy (I did take a little de-tour to get to it), but at least I got closer to the 2.4, I tried to find the current that I fought with for an entire mile, and I did, but not for very long. Not one, but two kayakers one by own proceeded to stop me and tell me I needed to move over closer to the buoys – WHAT BUOYS? I didn’t see any J. I just wanted a free ride. To no luck, I made my way closer to the two buoy, buoy line and was no longer getting any help from the current, but at least I didn’t have to fight it anymore. Now it was just a straight up swim. I could go into way more detail, but I’ll spare you of it.
In the end, I did accomplish bunch of goals that I had for this race. I saw a big group of people getting away from me during the first half mile of the swim, and though it tried to get me down, I didn’t let it, I stayed in the swim, I didn’t look at my watch once (ok – I did once at the turn around, but I didn’t let it get to me and that’s a huge win), I didn’t freak out when I was in the middle of the Merrimack pretty much all by my lone self, and just kept on moving, I truly approached this as a training race, and ignored the clock for the first time ever. Once I actually saw buoys and knew where to go, my comfort level definitely sky rocketed, and though I didn’t win, and got my ass pretty much handed to me, I am ok with that. I am taking away many more important things that I’ll take with me to Vegas this Sunday, and Kona in a few weeks.  There, I’ll have my bike waiting for me J.

Getting out of the water, and being done with no bike to get on, was super awkward, and I know I definitely didn’t swim hard enough because I could have kept on swimming and I had plenty of energy left, but yesterday wasn’t about that. Many lessons were learned, and confidence gained from one little swim race. I’ll continue to work on it just like I have been, and one step at a time, I’ll get there.

The whole point of the post besides my own personal experience and mental battle is that you should NEVER say NEVER. There is always that first time for everything, and if you put your mind into it, and work at it, you too can surprise yourself, and reach new goals, new heights!

I almost don’t want to type this out, BUT sitting here 24 hours later removed from the race, I almost want to do it again next year just so I can see how far I will come.  Did I REALLY just say that?

And finally, I do have to give a HUGE thank you to Karen – The Swim Master, who was behind this whole Merrimack swim idea. She had to listen to me bi%$c and complain for the last few weeks when I was really trying my best to get out of this swim pretty much on daily basis, but she didn’t back down, and helped me to get my head in a good enough place where I could actually toe that starting line.

Who knew this swim could have had so much positive effect on me regardless of the outcome. I now feel like this is a beginning to a new swimmer wanna be me, and I can’t wait to finally race Vegas 70.3 in just 6 short days! Then it’s few more weeks of some work, and then Kona here I come!