Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cozumel Race Report - Part 4 - THE "KA-BOOOM" RUN

THE RUN : 3:41:06 (7th fastest amateur run)
I stormed into T2, and it was EMPTY! Similar to T1, I had about 10 people just staring at me . Due to my lack of Spanish I figured it was just faster to take care of myself. I dumped the content of my bag on the ground, helmet off/visor on, socks/shoes on, gels in hand, race belt on, and cooling towel/ around the neck. 1 minute and 29 seconds later, I was out! 

I have been feeling very strong running for a few months, and my last 70.3 race performance had left me wanting more! (I have been eyeing that sub 1:30 in a 70.3 for a while now, but it all finally came together back in October - huge confidence booster for Cozumel!) My long training runs have been suggesting I could run anywhere around 3:20 give or take few minutes in either direction.  The difference this year vs. the past – I really believed I could. I didn’t question, I just knew I had it in me. Unfortunately, as my final time suggests – I blew it!

As great as I paced the bike, the exact opposite happened on the run.  I was so excited to run, that I couldn’t slow down! I was running through town looking down at my watch and seeing sub 7 min paces! I knew that wasn’t good, and my exact thoughts went something like this:

“Jorge is going to kill me. Slow down! Slow down! Slow down now! Jorge will not be happy, you are NOT supposed to run any faster than 7:55s, slow the beep down!

Yet I kept looking at my watch, and even though I consciously tried slowing down I swear, I just couldn’t. I clocked my first mile at just over 7 min mile pace and that’s only because I kept seeing 6:30, 6:45 pace on my watch over and over again, until I finally slowed down to a shuffle in the last quarter mile of that first mile. After that I was able to settle into more of a sustainable pace for the next 8 miles (7:40s)! Still a touch too fast but I was feeling like a million bucks. However it wasn’t too long before the wheels started to fall off! 

Lap 1 - Still interested in my surroundings and saying Hi to Bri

I kept going through my usual routine and grabbing whatever ice I could find at each aid station. It was ice down the bra, ice down the shorts, water, pepsi and a gel every 30 min or so. Some aid stations also had these awesome bags of ice!  I could care less I was carrying a 10lbs bag of ice. I held on to it until it melted away each time!

 Note a huge ice bag in my left hand

 You get a better look here! It was so cold my hands were literally frozen! 

It was definitely hot and the sun was beating down like it hasn’t shined in over a week – oh wait, it didn’t! Unfortunately or fortunately I cannot blame my crappy run performance on the heat. I was doing a great job of staying relatively cool but my legs were not cooperating. With each mile, my legs were getting louder and louder telling my brain to just take a little break.  

Happy camper no more! This is the leave me alone look or just no look at all. 

That rockstar feeling was long gone! :(  So what does one do with two VERY angry legs and 13 miles to go? Shuffle – yup yup yup – I was doing the marathon shuffle! It was all about moving forward instead of backwards. My right quad felt like it was going to cramp up with every step, but I had to keep on moving. My pace kept dropping – the WRONG direction, but I was just glad I was moving! 

Ice is now gone, and I am literally just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Probably no need to hold on to that empty plastic bag! 

Then it happened!

Explosion of epic proportions!

Miles 18 through 23 were NOT pretty!  If you asked me to run 9+ min miles in training, I can't slow down enough, yet in that moment that was almost too fast! It really was NOT pretty! Then the sky literally opened up, and within minutes streets were flooded with ankle deep water.

I guess the sky isn't blue anymore! 
You can see the rain! 

I was happy about the sun being gone, but I wasn't thrilled with actually having to pick my feet up!
 I think I am just trying to distract myself from the pain 

The water didn’t allow for much of a shuffle. I tried to pick up the pace AND my feet as much as my body would allow, which still meant a high 8 min pace for the last 3 miles, but it was about a 30+ second drop in pace – this time in the right direction so I suppose that is what my “all out” pace was at end of this race.
Oh right quad, please do not cramp up, oh and thank you blister on the bottom of my left foot for popping with only few miles left

It was no Alii’ Drive, but coming down the finish line was absolutely amazing! It was different from my first IM finish, but it was just as special. I think the pictures tell the story the best!
 Me and my right quad ARE going to make it! ;) 
 Try wiping that happiness of my face
 Just try ;) 
 Yup, I totally clapped for myself 
Probably the first time I felt good running since mile 10! Amazing how running through the finish line makes you forget the pain! (only till you stop though ;) ) 
Final Time: 9:35:01 ... 1st Overall Amateur Female, 11th Overall including Pro's. Now where is the chair? 

I crossed the finish line absolutely spent! I had no idea what my overall time was, I had no idea what place I finished at, but I knew I left it all out there. I found a chair, and sat there ... sat there for a LONG LONG time!  (Definitely probably close to 2 hours). Getting up off that chair just wasn't an option - and I was afraid - literally afraid to get up. I attempted a few times, but my quads weren't having any of it so I sat there longer. I got to chat with fellow czech pro triathletes who found me (since I wasn't moving), and couple of very nice volunteers fed me bananas - I think I ate at least three before I mustered up the energy to actually stand up, and smile for the camera again! 

Happy Czech :) 

It was only a few days later until everything really sunk in. I was pretty open about what I wanted to do in Cozumel. I came here to win. I came here to win my age group, and I also wanted to win the overall amateur title. I don't know why, but I just knew I could. I had this special feeling. Someone had asked me couple of days before the race how I will do, and I didn't even think about it, and said: "I am going to win" ... it just came out like that. I knew that if I can put together all the pieces of puzzles, and do what I have done in training, I would have a chance ... and then it happened!
This was awesome! I could get used to this ;)
 I told you it would be hard to get that smile off my face :)

I did it! I left it all out there, I had a near perfect race that although I am extremely excited about, left me wanting more! Left me wanting more because I know there is more where that came from. That overall time could have easily read 9:15 just based on my race day fitness, but not to worry - I have learned my lesson and I will be back in 2014 stronger and faster. Aloha baby! ;) 

Some post race drinks were in order! Thanks Tyler and Brett for the help although I really didn't need it ;)

 And with that my 2013 season also known as the "Dream season" (the title of my next post) comes to an end! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cozumel Race Report - Part 3: THE BIKE

THE BIKE (113.34 miles – 5:00:04 – Fastest Overall Bike Split including PRO’s)

I bolted out of transition like a woman on a mission!  I had specific instructions/watts to stay within throughout the race.  From downtown to the turn where we rode with some serious tail wind (14 miles), to the windy open section by the water which may have as well been uphill (12 miles) , to the section back into town (14  mile), repeat x 3.

I immediately put my head down and went to work. The name of the game today was "How long can you stay aero for?" and I am happy to report, that you will not find a picture of me non-aero! I was as comfortable as if I was sitting on my couch watching movies :) (Oh wait, I did that)

 Trying my best to "turtle"

 How small can I get to cut through the wind?

Drinking and staying aero! 

I knew it was going to be hot, and windy and the conditions didn’t disappoint. We even experienced an awesome downpour but my living room had prepared me for the elements! Those long fan-less trainer rides had me sweating like you wouldn't believe so I was used to feeling like I just rode through a monsoon!  The wind although strong actually felt refreshingly good! Having experienced the 2012 Kona heat and crosswinds, I really didn't think the wind was bad but it definitely was strong and relentless!

Check out couple of those palm trees on the right side of the pic! It was windy! 

The first part of each loop from Chankanaab park all the way to the beginning of the wide open and very windy section, we enjoyed an unbelievable tail wind. I was staying on the lower end of my watts, which I thought was a bit too low to begin with, yet I was almost breaking the speed limit. I was moving anywhere between 25-26mph and just absolutely flying. I had passed a lot of people some of which were riding legally, and some which were not. I knew that was going to be the case, and did my best to ignore it and of course rode legally and rode my own race.

I do not really want to turn this post into a post about drafting, but boy oh boy was it bad! Yes, it is to be expected on a flat and fast bike course, but that doesn't mean it cannot be avoided! It most certainly can if EVERYONE would just play by the rules!

Top 3 easily avoidable things that frustrate me the most:
  •  It really is NOT difficult to drop back 4 bike lengths when passed! However, it becomes extremely difficult when being passed by a peloton instead of a single rider!
  • Passing someone within the allotted 20 seconds is NOT difficult when you are moving significantly faster than them, and don’t just work your ass off to pass their front wheel, and stop!
  •  Finally, riding in a pack/peloton or just barely passing people and cutting them off is extremely dangerous!
As someone that is not a front of the pack swimmer yet, but is a strong cyclist, I am used to passing many people on the bike and navigating through the crowds. It really is NOT difficult to complete a legal pass within the allotted 20 seconds if you are actually moving faster than the people in front of you! In Cozumel, I went from 634th place to 104th place. That is 530 passes in 5 hours! Many of those that were riding legally, and others not so much.  I passed groups of various sizes that apparently forgot this was a triathlon and not the Tour de France.  I knew I was going have to deal with this, but I was definitely shocked when I saw the size of some of these groups!  I shook my head a few times, and may have said a few not so nice words addressed directly at the cheaters, but I quickly realized I needed to just mind my own business and let cheaters be cheaters! I had a bigger fish to fry. I just wish I didn’t fry my own lower back! 

Notice the exposed section of my lower back! It wasn't pretty post race - OUCH!

Little did I know that surely but slowly I was forming my own peloton!  Surprisingly (NOT) by the time I made it through the second part of the first loop which was the wide open section by the water, my power would increase yet my speed would significantly decrease, while the size of what I now call the Czech Chicked peloton had grown significantly! I was no longer breaking the speed limit, and I was barely hitting 20 mph. None of the members of the Czech Chicked peloton however were interested in doing any work. Shocking, I know!  

One of my friends who has many more friends attached to him! I went out of my way to find some of them ... 

I put a little puzzle together - and I know there more! 

I honestly didn't even know how many guys/girls I dragged around the island, until we hit the section where you start going back into town, and headwind turned into either a very slight tailwind or not much wind at all. On the very first loop shortly after I made that turn, hero #1 of the peloton had decided he had enough of staring at my back side, and decided to make a pass. I started to drop back to establish my legal distance, and that is when I realized the size of the peloton I created! I sat up, and no matter how much I slowed down, I was being just swallowed up and boxed in! For the first time since I hopped on my bike, I actually turned around, and realized what was happening behind me. I am NOT exaggerating, but I couldn’t see the end of it!  The peloton grew not only super long, but also very wide, and I wanted no part of it! This situation was becoming more and more dangerous by the second as people were now passing me on the right and left. I got really frustrated because I just spend close to an hour passing and dragging these people behind me, and I promised myself that I would ride legal no matter what! I didn’t want a 4 minute penalty and worse yet I didn’t want my day to end in a bike crash either!

Here is an example of a peloton although it really does it no justice. It was much worse than what you see here. 
 Many, many guys ... 1 girl smack in the middle - recurring theme! 
Same group! I passed these guys during the first loop, and I can tell you that during my hours of looking through the "Lost & Found" section of race photo's, I found these folks together on every single loop, falling further and further behind me. How can I tell?  They were part of the peloton that swallowed me up on the 1st loop, and I only remember because it's hard to forget that girl sitting smack in the middle of all the boys! I am venturing out to say these folks road 112 miles TOGETHER, and I really hope they feel very good about themselves! SHAME on all of them! 

There were plenty of these guys, and I did see people in penalty tents, but not enough!

But back to my little peloton situation! I was able to drop back, pull out all the way to the left side of the road where I couldn’t get boxed in, and lucky for me an aid station came up! As everyone began to slow down to grab drinks, I made my move that allowed me to get rid of the ever so dangerous peloton and get to the front forever. Coming through the town was awesome! The crowds were unbelievable and the three 90 degree turns that had to be made provided a nice change of pace from the long straightaways that this bike course consists of! 

Loops 2 and 3 were very similar but this time I didn’t have to deal with pelotons swallowing me up, because there was nobody even attempting to become the peloton leader, and the headwinds during the entire windy section were picking up with each loop.  I stuck to my plan pretty much perfectly, and I never looked behind me.  I held very similar or slightly higher watts on loop 2, but my speed was now in the 19pmh range. By loop 3, I was in the 18 mph range but I continued to feel strong. 

 Aero and happy! My signature thumbs up! :) 

Somewhere during the 2nd loop, one of the members of the now newly formed loop 2vCzech Chicked Peloton one of the members pulled up next to me to inform me that I was pulling about 20 guys behind me. Although I appreciated the gesture, I am not quite sure what I was supposed to do with that information. I told him they were cheaters, and I had no interest in playing the game. It honestly didn’t bother me. I was riding my own race, and if everyone else also wanted to ride my race than be it. I was just glad to be at the front riding nice and steady and exactly how I wanted.

By loop 3, I was pretty much alone, and there were fewer and fewer leaches. By this time, I knew I was near the front if not in the front of the age group race because I had passed couple of super swimmers earlier during the 2nd loop (Angela Bancroft, Michelle Simmons), and I also passed a few professional women who started 20 minutes ahead of me.  The tail wind seemed to be the same, while the headwind kept picking up. At this point I had the green light to either go a bit harder if I felt good or stay where I have been. I was feeling great, but knowing how relatively early into the race I passed couple of the super swimmers that are no slouches on the bike, I made a strategic decision to “save” my mega legs for the run. (Unfortunately I blew that very early into the run, but on that later). 

The island really is pretty but my eyes were mostly on the road! 

The leach I dragged around the island on the loop 3 was the “best”!  This dude was literally stuck to my back wheel and I could see how close he was because I didn’t even have to turn around to see him!  Having some random dude that close to me made me a bit uncomfortable and so I tried to shake him. I would drop my watts to see if my leach was interested in taking the lead, but he clearly wasn’t. Lucky for me, not so lucky for him, I had to pee really badly and you know what that means! Normally I would feel bad, but guess what I had no shame and literally peed all over this dude! YES, I DID!  Had he kept his legal riding distance, he wouldn’t have to worry about getting peed on! He is lucky I was hydrated really well, because I wish I wasn't! Boom! This really made me chuckle, and before I knew it, I was now nearing the end of the bike ride. I was hydrated well (I figured out how to relieve myself on a flat course without any downhills, which I was a little afraid of), I went through all my nutrition (gels and potatoes), and I was ready to run! This blog wouldn't be complete without my eating some papas on the bike. 

Mmmm potatos ready for race day!

Mmmmmm YUM! (See left cheek) 

I hit mile 112 and T2 was nowhere to be found. I had no idea what the entrance into T2 looked like since this is a two transition race, and I was really afraid of missing it. I also didn’t want to get stuck with my feet still in my shoes, so at mile 112 I took my feet out of the shoes! Little did I know this course was over a mile long, and I spent the next mile pedaling with my feet on top of my shoes – duh! I am sure I left 4 seconds in that last mile somewhere, and having a sub 5 hour bike would really be cool. Aaaaah well – running to my potential would be even cooler but I digress.  

I will leave you with a quick look at my ride: Super steady ride, less than 5 minutes of coasting which would include 3 pee breakes, aid stations, and the 3 turns through town x 3 and you be the judge!  

Yellow is power, blue is speed, green is cadence ... My VI you ask? 1.01 - Basically 0 variability - near perfect ride! 

My cadence distribution - SOLID! 

Coasting? Non-existent except for the reasons I mentioned above! I do wish I could pee while pedaling but that is a skill I do not have! 

Now I would really love to see a power file of someone that was part of the multiple Czech Chicked Pelotons! Wouldn't you?

In the end, I am very happy with the way I executed the race plan! The dreaded long trainers rides on weekend have definitely paid off, and this was one of, if not the easiest 112 mile ride I had ever done. I got off the bike, and I felt like a million bucks. I felt awesome, and ready to run! 

Next Up: The RUN! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cozumel Race Report - Part 2 - THE SWIM

Where to begin!  I had some big goals for this race, and in order to make these goals happen, I needed to have a good swim. Races are not won on the swim, but they sure can be lost there. I have been swimming well and I was ready for whatever the ocean was going to throw at me. I knew I was most likely going to have to battle some currents, but it couldn’t possibly be any worse than swimming in a pool, with a belt around my waist, tied to the blocks pulling me backwards as I attempted to make forward progress or shall I say as I really tried to NOT get pulled backwards, right, riiiiiiiiiiiiiight?  

 The swim to nowhere ... except this guy is doing a much better job than me

As you already know the weather leading up to the race wasn’t exactly cooperating and the ocean looked more like a very fast moving river! Wednesday before the race, I watched couple of people swim about 25 yards in 10 minutes, and found my way to the hotel pool. On Friday the water looked a bit calmer, but the red flag was still up and the official swim practice at the swim venue was cancelled. So much for me trying to figure out the currents and where to seed myself for the beginning of the swim. The pool looked like a great choice again, but this time around Tyler made me battle the elements. I guess if I can’t handle an angry ocean for 15 minutes, I will be in sh&it load of trouble come race morning. And so we got in at the hotel beach that looked NOTHING like this (this pic was taken of course the day after the race)

Beautiful beach that makes you forget about the world when it's not angry 

The practice swim went like this: Swim 5 minutes with current, followed by 10+ minutes against the current to try to get back to where we started. It actually didn’t feel bad at all (maybe thanks to the backwards swim I was able to pull off in the pool on that belt I talked about earlier),  but reality hit when we both looked at our watch and realized it took us over twice the time to get back to our starting point. In the process I also experienced my very first jelly fish encounter(s)! Not only did I only swim for 15 minutes, but I was being “electrocuted” head to toe what felt like every minute. Good thing I couldn’t see the little buggers because otherwise, I may have never gotten back into the ocean ever again.  

This is what they look like as seen during my post race fun: 

Get away from me

So I survived the practice swim, and I was ready for anything. I actually felt really good despite the conditions. Saturday’s practice swim was also cancelled and come Saturday night we found out the swim was changed to a 1.95 mile swim instead of 2.4, and would be a straight shot swim all with the current due to safety reasons.  That definitely meant a much faster swim, but how fast I didn’t really know. This alternation didn’t really change my strategy at all. I wasn’t particularly nervous about the swim whether it was with or without the current. The conditions were going to be the same for everyone, and so hey – bring it! I trained for the current, and I was ready for it. 

 I woke up race morning, ate or I should say forced most of my breakfast down, chased it with couple of “Beet It” shots, and FINALLY took care of business so I didn’t have to race with extra 20lbs of carbs in my belly.  I know this may be little too much information but this was going to make or break my day.  To really be sure I didn’t spend all day searching for porta potties, I took couple of immodium tablets and set on my way.  Post breakfast, we took the bus to Chankanaab park, double checked on Fireball, and due to the changed start got back on the bus that drove us to the new start at the El Presidente hotel couple miles up the street.  Spectators weren’t allowed at the new swim start, so next time I would see anyone would be once the swim was over.

Brett, Tyler and I pre-race, pre bus to new swim start

Sharing the swim start with Tyler and Brett definitely helped to calm the nerves, and before I knew it we found our way into the water where we positioned ourselves to the right of that red buoy.  (See in the pic below)

 Crowds trying to get in 

See the red buoy at the top center of the pic? I ended up hanging out there. Many more folks floated way past the start line but whatever - let the cheaters be cheaters! 

The current was pushing lots of people forward of the start line but we definitely played fair. There were lots of people that also stayed on the beach and waited till the race started to get in. I don’t remember any horn going off, and I have no idea how people knew the race started, but all of a sudden the washing machine had turned on, and it was time to go. 

I must say that this was the easiest swim ever – duh! I probably should have swam harder, I don’t even really know, but I stayed way off and far right off the buoy line (maybe too far since I didn’t see one diver the entire way, NOT even one and they were apparently located at every buoy, which were placed every 100 meters)

Really not sure how I didn't even see one of these guys

The swim was pretty uneventful and not that crowded, which may be because I swam so far outside of the buoy line. I had some feet to draft off for a little bit but other than that I just kept swimming up on people, and going right around them.  I could really feel the current in spots just carrying me forward and helping me keep the momentum. Then there were times where I didn’t feel it much at all, but I just tried to find it again and get back on it.  I would lie if I said there was no contact, but it really was minimal and much better than any other 70.3 swim. I did find one very unhappy dude along the way that clearly wanted the whole ocean all to himself because his choice of clearing his surrounding areas was a forceful breast stroke kick! Thanks to the super clear and beautiful water, I was able to dodge said angry individual and put in a little surge to get away from him! Phew – my day could have ended right there!  I almost sound like a swimmer, don’t I?? ;)  I didn’t find any floaters, any backstrokers or just onlookers taking a break or surviving. As a result I was able to #1 swim a straight line, and #2 keep my momentum throughout the race, which for me is huge.  Before I knew it, I saw the dock and was climbing up the stairs to get to T1. Race day bonus – no jellyfish stings at all and only one mouth full of salt water! 

Last turn around the dock

 These stairs although covered by carpet come race day turned out pretty tricky! I was on all 4s just trying to get up them - oops! 

I looked at my watch, saw 48 min and it honestly meant nothing to me! You throw a current into the swim, I didn’t know if my swim was good or bad, but what I knew was I felt GREAT!  You know as in, did I really just swim 2 miles? With retrospect I got out of the water 12th/75 in my AG (Top 16%) which I am very happy with.  I was 81st female overall including pro’s out of 568 (Top 15%) , and 488th out of 2,484 competitors which is top 20% of the field so I will take it. Analyze much? Yes, yes - lots of room to grow here and have no fear I am on it. Well as soon as I am allowed to move again :) 

I ran through T1 scanning the crowed for familiar faces but no luck. 

I am behind that woman in the front - you can see my right leg - great picture, isn't it? ;) 

I grabbed my bag (I had a great spot on the racks so it was very easy to find), and ran into the women’s changing tent which was of course behind the men’s tent. Not fair but whatever ;). The tent was pretty empty of competitors but full of volunteers that were just staring at me, which is a complete of 360 from what I experienced in Kona. I dumped the content of my bag on the floor and continued to be stared at. No need for vinegar, shove my gels and papas (potatoes) wherever I could, some in my shirt pockets and some in my bra (classy I know), quick application of chamois butter, which is even classier ;)  (maybe that’s why they were all staring at me?), and although I did say “yes” when asked if I wanted sunscreen, by the time the volunteer was ready to apply sunscreen I was out of there!  Thank you for the offer, but this is not a beauty salon rather T1 tent and for me that means in and out as fast as I can.

Once I made it to my bike, I still saw many bikes around Fireball which was a great sign, and I was ready to fly - little did I know that I would pretty much fly through some sections of the bike course! 

Next up: THE BIKE