Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My own version of a "Dirty Double"

My sort of “Dirty Double” - two races 13 days apart (instead of 7 days apart) is in the books, and it’s most likely the closest two 70.3’s I would ever want to do.   I really wanted to avoid flying to races early in the season this year, but I also wanted to race more than once pretty much all summer long, and that’s how the idea of racing a local 70.3 came about. Patriot 70.3 is a very popular local race that usually sells out early, and also one of the few races where you can race in the “pro” wave without actually being a pro. It’s actually called the open/elite wave and bonus – the top two finishers earn a little bit of $$$ so why not give it a shot! I did sign up back in maybe December last year and I really thought it was the best idea ever!

Fast forward to last week, and after finishing Quassy 70.3 and the subsequent recovery week, I found myself tapering again, and let’s just say I didn’t like it very much. I was really starting to miss the fun of hard earned sweat and the consistency of training that I am used to and love so much! Good thing I can still manage to break a sweat during a 40 min easy ride with some pick ups. 

Come Thursday, I had realized that the starting list of athletes was already posted on the site, and I wished I never looked at it, because the elite/open line up of both male/female athletes caused me a bit of (lot of) nervousness and I did freak out a little. I knew I could hold my own, but since swimming comes first starting in the very first wave presented an unknown challenge for me.  I simply didn’t want to be the last person out of the water, and I didn’t want to swim alone for 1.2 miles. Combine that with the announcement that water temperature was 60 degrees (in my head that means 58 or 59), and I was in a total freak out mode. At the same time, I knew that I have been making progress in the pool, and I am way more confident about my swimming than I ever have been, so I continued to fight that mental battle between my confidence and uncertainty of what is about to happen.  Come Friday afternoon, I was in peace of with whatever was going to happen, and ready to race. I had a great last swim at Walden, and legs felt ready to go. I had also downed my last gigantic glass of beet juice, and the new beet-it shots arrived which made me super happy because lets’ face it – my stomach can barely take in my usual pre-race breakfast, and 16oz of beet juice just don’t make my “favorite food” list.

16oz of straight up beet juice - yuck! 

My saving grace - Beet  It! Much easier to stomach that the 16oz class above! Yum!

The 3:30 am alarm on Saturday morning came way too quick! We arrived at the race site with plenty of time to spare, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. Before I knew it, it was time to warm up and get the party started.

Setting up transition in the am 

SWIM: (39:28, 45th/559 female)

Water temperature somehow made it’s way to 64 degrees overnight (Friday afternoon announcement was 60 degrees!), so that was a bit of a relief. I got a good warm up in, got used to the cold water , double capped it, and before I knew it we were standing in the water knee high ready to go. 

Small group of about to get started - oh boy 

I wasn’t nervous at all (I am pretty sure I got all that stressing out of the way earlier in the week), and was determined to stick with a group, while swimming within myself.  I was confident. The water was very dark, and in the midst of the starting chaos, I somehow swam on top of somebody and boom there went the goggles. They didn’t fall of my head but definitely both filled up with plenty of water. I swam few more strokes along with the rest of the group while contemplating if I can make it 1.2 miles with half full and still leaking goggles and stay with the group or if I need to stop and fix the issue. I made the decision to stop, dump the water out, and re-adjust.  I was treading water, putting my goggles back on while watching the group disappear right in front of my eyes not more than 100 yards into the swim.  I wanted to scream and the why me, why now thoughts started to creep into my head!  

And just like that, I was left alone and swimming 1.2 miles by myself. It was literally just me and the buoys and a few purple caps in front of me. They were close enough I could see them, but far enough for me to catch up to them. I was definitely a bit frustrated but determined to still have a good swim. I was sighting well the first .5 mile to the first turn buoy, but once I made the turn to go across and then the turn to go back towards the finish line, I just couldn't swim straight. I was sighting quite often but I was starting to feel like that with every time I would look up the buoys had moved to somewhere else, and that only increased my frustration.  I know I ended up swimming an awesome zig zag! Too bad that’s exactly what NOT to do and you don’t get any bonus points for that!  The water had quite a bit of chop, and maybe that’s what made me think that, I just can’t explain what happened.  No more details needed, it was a long swim, and by the time I reached the shore, I was quite frustrated with myself because I know I am better than that!

T1: (1:51, 1st/559)

Fastest female transition of the day but boy was it a long one. This time I fumbled with getting into my bike shoes instead of messing with the helmet strap like I did in Quassy, so next time I hope to be perfect!

Bike: (2:27:02, 1st/559)

Fastest female bike for a 2nd race in a row! I LOVE my fireball and the guys at Fitwerx always do an AWESOME job tuning it up - I may have to start taking them with me to all my races! Cozumel in November/December anyone? ;) 

Fireball is on Fire! :)

Coming out of the swim, I was 7 minutes down on the leader, and I was on a mission. One thing that I am good at is leaving my swim behind and not letting it get me down. Instead I use it as fuel. This time however, I admit that my frustration got the best of me, and I may have gone out a bit too hard. On top of that, starting in the first wave and having a not so great swim, there were minimum people to pass on the bike, and no people to chase. (At least not within sight) I must say, I definitely got the taste of what it feels like to race in the pro ranks and how lonely that can be.  I give you all pro’s out there a lot of credit for doing what you do!

My legs felt crappy, and my adductors were on fire for the first 15 miles. I wasn’t feeling great, but I wasn’t letting up. I was right where I wanted to be power wise, and perhaps a few watts higher than I should have been, but I was on a mission. Mile 7 – I passed girl #2, and bunch of lonely miles later, at mile 21, I passed what had to be Kim Shattuck the leading girl. Since this is a two loop course, I knew that if I can keep my power output the same or even little less on the second loop, I should have a descent lead going into the run.
I was really hoping that I would see few more people on the 2nd loop but no such luck. 

Another lonely 28 miles. My legs weren’t quite coming around as I was hoping them to, I wasn’t doing all that great on my nutrition (5 scoops and super concentrated bottle of perform just didn’t work for me), and I was feeling quite empty perhaps hungry. The 2 aid stations on the course were serving Heed or Water, and Heed doesn’t agree with me so I was out of luck. Somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to drink more Perform either (I had actually only drank about half the bottle by the end of the bike), which would explain why I was feeling the way I was – a bit empty and flat. 

I am guessing there are good 2 to 2.5 scoops of perform left with about 40g of carbs - NOT good as those should be in my belly

The combination of “ok” legs, non-cooperating appetite to the nutrition I had, and the loneliness made me think a little! Imagine that ;) The conversation in my head went something like this – hey you don’t feel so great, you are in front of the race and based on the time you made up on the rest of the field on the first bike loop, little slowing down so you can actually run instead of walk the ½ marathon may not be a bad idea! Ok fine, let’s try that – I did back of a bit in hopes of having a descent run.  I don’t usually get to think tactics during a race because I am always in chase mode and with the AG race you just never know where you stand but today was different, and I absolutely LOVED that tactical part.  My 2nd loop ended up being a little over a minute slower than the first loop but my power output was full 6 watts lower although my overall average was exactly the same as at Quassy. I rolled into T2 ready to get off the bike, and honestly a bit scared of what the run course had in store for me or maybe what I had left in store for the run course!  

T2: (2:03, 1st/559)

Another fastest female transition on the day. I wish these transitions were a bit shorter, but I didn’t waste any time. This one included a LOOOOONG run with the bike from the dismount like to the bike rack, and then back out on the run course. I just racked my bike, put my new Swiftwick socks on, which btw were super awesome and if you are looking for a super light/blister free socks these are the socks for you! I put my shoes on, grabbed my watch/gels/visor and dealt with all that on the go. Visor on, watch on, gels in hand … run forest run ... 

RUN: (1:34:09, 3rd/559)

I wanted a good run, one that reflects my running as of lately, which I didn’t believe happened at Quassy. Like I said on the bike, I wasn’t feeling the freshest so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I huffed and puffed my way through mile 1, and then was able to settle into a great rhythm. The next 4 miles I was feeling good not great, but I was hovering right around sub 7s, which I was very happy with. I just couldn’t get rid of that hollow, empty feeling. Gels, coke, water, ice, more coke, more ice, more water, you get the idea. The spring in my step just wasn't there, and not even jet fuel (coke) was bringing it back. Just like on the bike, the run felt like a long lonely training run. With the run being a single loop, I saw pretty much noone except for the awesome volunteers at aid stations until my coach showed up on his bike at mile 5, again at mile 8 and 11. Hey – can we trade? I wasn’t wasting any energy talking. Besides, he knows me way too well and could probably tell you better than me what was going on just from the way I was running.  

Volunteer chasing me down with a cup of coke. Good news - he did catch me - THANK YOU! 

I held it together for 8 miles, before my mile splits started to drop (the wrong direction). At that point it became one mile at a time to mile 12 (and I am happy I still kept the mile splits sort of respectable). Mile 13 is where I just gave it all I had all the way to the finish. In the end I PR’d my 70.3 run, my overall 70.3 time and icing on the cake – won my first race overall! 

Running on grass when legs don't want to move anymore is hard! 

That podium was hiiiiiiiiiiigh! 

Saturday was far from perfect, but I am very happy with my race, and also super excited about what’s to come because there is a lot more speed where that came from J

Two 70.3’s in two weeks are in the books, and once I recover, and take it super easy for a week , it’s time to put in a solid training block in before Timberman 70.3 in August. I have a fire burning in my belly ;)  and hey, I may even race something a bit shorter in hopes of finding some real speed soon! The theme of this season #mission #win is off to a great start! 

 Cool little trophy and little bit of $$$ to go with it

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My first ever overall podium at a 70.3 race

Aaaaah the Quassy weekend was finally here and I have very much been looking forward to finally racing again! My last tri race was Kona last year, so I was totally ready to jump back into it and test my early season fitness. I knew I have been swimming, biking, and running better than ever, so my goals were high. I love to compete, and it was no secret to anyone that I was going for it. I am by no means cocky, but I am not afraid to say what my goals are either. I am just honest and I dislike to hide behind excuses. My motto was go big or go home (within my limits of course).  I really wanted to win it all. I knew the field was going to be competitive as it always has been and especially now considering that both Mooseman 70.3 and  the Olympic distance races that would fall on the same weekend in the past have been cancelled this year, this race definitely attracted  talent from not only New England, but also the New York City area. Awesome! The more competitive race, the better – let the fun begin!

I have done this race the last two years, so I knew very well what I was in for. The only part of this race that is flat is the swim, and the hills begin as soon as you get out of the water, and have to run up a hill into T1. Sunday morning couldn’t have come fast enough. 

I know you can't see me! ;) 

We arrived in Quassy on Friday afternoon, and were able to pick up our race packets.  Bonus! And one less thing to worry about on Saturday. Saturday was spent spectating and cheering for my teammates in the am as they tackled the just as challenging Olympic distance course. Unlike last year, the weather was beautiful and it was actually getting quite hot! I got my last ride/run in and I knew my legs were ready to go. We had some lunch, dropped our bikes off, and headed to the hotel to relax a bit before our team dinner. 

Fireball in transition READY to fly 
All fueled up and ready to go

I was totally ready to go, and Sunday morning couldn’t come fast enough. The night before the race always drags on for way too long, but I think I was asleep by 11. 4am came before I knew it, and I was trying to force myself to finish my usual pre-race breakfast which never just wants to go down without a fight.  As much as I love breakfast, race morning breakfast is my least favorite. I was soooo excited but also nervous because it just has been a while, and I had some big expectations.

Making sure Fireball had a good night sleep and is ready to go!

 All business before the race

SWIM:  (36:38 – 2min 16 sec faster than last year, 83rd/270 females)

I have been swimming well in the pool, so I was actually looking forward to seeing what I could do, but although more confident than ever, the butterflies were there. Butterflies were buzzing around more than ever because I knew the potential I had, and I just really wanted to get it done. I owed it to myself and to my super swim coach Karen and of course the mastermind behind my entire training Jorge. They both have gone above and beyond to get me to where I was today, and for that I am very thankful.  I have only been in open water once this year prior to race and I almost froze and lasted less than 15 minutes so I really wouldn't count that as the perfect open water practice. I knew deep down though that I was capable of a good (for me) swim. Since my wave didn't go off until 40 min after the pro wave, I had plenty of time to squeeze myself into my TYR Hurricane (that alone is a job of itself), and before I knew it, we were lined up to go. FINALLY! I did get in a 5 min warm up right before my wave went off which was definitely helpful. Water was super nice thanks to the heat wave from the last few days but still wetsuit legal. My wave consisted of all females 35-39 and younger plus the relay folks, so I knew that the overall winner of this race is most likely going to come from our group or perhaps the 40-44 crowd that started 5 min behind us. There were definitely some speedsters there too. 

 Beautiful swim venue

With the sound of the horn, we ran into Lake Quassapaug, and off we went. The usual kick, push, punch deal went on for a little bit and then I found myself in the middle of a pretty spread out group. I definitely have some work to do when it comes to swim starts, but I knew that going in. I didn’t really worry much about anyone around me and just concentrated on swimming my own race.  As the race went on I realized I was swimming pretty much next to someone else. That someone else was sighting frequently, which I was able to see every time I took a breath so I stopped sighting often which definitely helped my rhythm. Eventually I lost this person before we got to the first turn buoy, but I was still surrounded by many others and with the glare in our faces on the 2nd leg of the swim, I pretty much used the group to guide me to the next turn. It worked for most part, and there was only one time where I found myself maybe a bit too much on the inside of the buoys, but nothing too horrible. Before I knew it we were headed back to shore. I did end up on some feet on the way back albeit very briefly, as I got kicked in the face and I had all I needed. (thankfully somehow my goggles stayed on) With goggles still in place, and with only a little leak as a result of the kick, I left the feet and went on my own marry way towards the finishing arch. This was seriously the first swim ever, when I didn’t think that the swim was too long. I felt good, I felt strong, and definitely in control the whole time. I am pretty sure I was on course the entire time for most part (I may have taken that first leg a bit too wide), but I am very happy with my mental headspace and the fact I wasn’t swimming buoy to buoy but rather what I thought was a straighter shot to the turn buoys and the finish line.  I didn’t swim with a watch so I didn’t know what my swim time was at the time, but I wanted it that way. I felt great getting out of the water, “Fireball” wasn’t alone in T1 when I got to it, and that’s all I needed to know. It was time to ride!

How do you get this thing off again? 

T1: (1:51, 63rd/270 females)

One word describes T1 – rusty! My wetsuit got stuck a bit on my timing chip, I fumbled with my garmin and trying to get that on, and finally I had a hard time snapping in the buckle on my helmet – ugh! I felt like I was in there FOREVER, but apparently I still passed 20 females in transition so now I was 63rd instead of 83rd coming out of  T1.

BIKE: (2:38:51 – 4min 7sec faster than last year, fastest amateur bike split by 6+ minutes, 7th overall including PRO’s, 3rd/270 females)

If my quick ride yesterday was any indication of how the bike would go on race day, I knew it was going to be fast! My legs had plenty of energy yesterday, and I had a hard time holding them back. My mega legs were ready to go! I had specific instructions (I do train/race with power), but to be honest come race day, my power meter is there to hold me back from totally hammering the uphills and  avoiding any crazy spikes I am certainly very capable off. I don’t spend my ride staring at my powermeter and riding to numbers at all. I ride by feel and if that means on the given day I am 5 watts of from my target that’s where I am at, and that’s where my legs are on that day. I know better by now to no trash my legs on the bike. With that said, my legs felt absolutely awesome the entire time. I knew some sub 30 min swimmers that were ahead of me on the bike so when I went by all of them by mile 20ish on the bike, I knew my swim wasn’t terrible and I was riding well. By mile 38.6 (The first turn around, I had moved from 63rd overall female to 7th overall female, and I was still feeling awesome.  There is a reason why the back of this years medal says: “You Conquered the Mountains of Quassy” but for some reason, the bike course seemed almost flat. 

The first time I did this race 2 years ago, I had felt like I was climbing to the clouds, but not this time. My legs were on, and the heat wasn’t affecting me. I did grab water/Gatorade at every aid station and made sure to cool off and pour an entire bottle of water (not Gatorade) all over myself. When I went by the last aid station at mile 43, I grabbed a new bottle of water to have for the rest of the ride, but unfortunately had fumbled it at mile 45, which meant I was left with no water, and Gatorade only for the last 11 miles. Ugh! Taking in a gel and washing it down with Gatorade is slightly gross, and I knew I wasn’t quite as hydrated as I would have liked to be going into the run. I wasn’t exactly dying of thirst, but I am a master of peeing on the bike (yes – I said it) and normally I am like clock work, so I knew when I didn’t have to go for the entire 56 miles, I wasn’t quite hydrated enough.  However, the thought of more Gatorade wasn’t appealing either.
I suppose it’s time to stop crying about not riding my bike enough, which is something that coach Jorge hears from me quite a bit. With the crappy weather we have had this year, I had honestly not put in very many rides over 56 miles (I can probably count those on one hand), but the very focused approach that Jorge takes with me continues to work wonders.  My CP continues to improve with 2 very specific sessions every week (yes  only twice a week – the sessions are no more than an hour, but they are no walk in the park), and one longer ride on weekends. Now that it’s finally warmer out, those rides will get longer, and I am certainly excited about that – I do love to ride my bike afterall, and I can’t wait to continue to improve mega although there is nothing glorious about that except for a hell of a lot of fun pain that comes with every one of these sessions. Mega legs definitely do not come easy, but I know there is more power to be had.

I did leave some time on that course when having to deal with cars that don’t believe bikers can ride over 45 mph and decide to just block the road, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I came into T2 as 3rd overall female and ready to run!

 Into T2 I go 

I did leave some time on that course when having to deal with cars that don’t believe bikers can ride over 45 mph and decide to just block the road, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I came into T2 as 3rd overall female and ready to run!

T2:  (0:45 - 3rd/270 females)

As rusty as I was in T1, my T2 went pretty much perfect. Well, except for the fact that somehow I tried to put my right show in left foot and vice versa. Duh! Socks/shoes on, visor/gels in hand and I was out of there.

 Bike racked, shoes on, go, go, go ... 

 And I am out of there ... 

Brian was a GREAT cheerleader! 

RUN: (1:38:38 – 1min 32sec faster than last year,7th fastest amateur run, 2nd/270 females)

Aaaah the run! I have been running much better and stronger than I have ever been so I am a little bit disappointed with my performance here. I definitely had hopes for a faster run, but it just wasn’t there on Sunday. This run course is no joke, and when combined with heat, it becomes that much harder. I was right where I wanted to be for the first 7ish miles, and my legs felt great! I didn’t have that brick like feeling getting off the bike at all, and I was trucking along just fine. I took the first 3 miles a bit easier, and was saving a little energy for those punishing ups and downs that were awaiting starting with mile 3.5. I felt great on the ups, and my legs were responding great, but I was starting to get really hot regardless of my cooling routine I used when going through every aid station. I would grab water, throw ice down the shorts, and hold ice in both of my hands to stay cool, which worked great until about mile 7.  I did however feel quite hungry which was most likely the result of under fueling on the bike. By mile 7, I had already gone through 2 gels, and from that point on switched to coke.  It was also mile 7 where the heat started to get to me, and the ice down the shorts, hold ice in hands routine didn’t exactly work for very long. Until mile 7 I was able to stay relatively cool with whatever I was doing, but by not having an aid station every mile (yes – I am spoiled from Kona), after mile 7, my hands and face turned into quite a bit of a heating unit. As in, my hands would get so hot, I could melt 3 to 4 ice cubes in a few minutes. I could probably fry an egg in the palms of my hands! This has also happened to me last year in both Buffalo Springs and Vegas (both silly hot races) so it’s something that I will work on going forward.  My run performance was affected a bit by the heat, and I didn’t really get to run as hard as I could have because I was afraid I would melt but I am happy about keeping it together  the way I did for  most part. The last 2 miles were tough, especially with the last one being all uphill. By then it was just about holding on to whatever pace felt manageable given my state of “hotness” ;). I know the run was tough for anyone because I think for the first time ever, I didn’t get passed by anyone on the run (girls or guys), and I had actually made up a few spots, and ran myself from 3rd overall female out of T2 to 2nd

I actually got to enjoy the finish line and made myself look presentable! 

Not yet almost

Where is that ice tub again?

Once I crossed the finish line, my number one priority was to cool off! Those ice buckets Rev3 had right at the finish line were a life saver and honestly I have never been so happy to hop into an ice bath! I sat in it for quite some time and actually thought that it was quite warm so yeah – that’s how hot I was. (I strongly dislike cold water and am usually the first one to complain about being cold so that fact I was loving this ice bath tells you all you need to know). I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Ice NEVER felt so warm! 

I seriously could have sat in there all day!

That would be a happy me 

In the end, my performance was good enough for 2nd Overall Female and my first ever Top 3 at a 70.3 race, and a 8 min PR on this course. I finally went under that 5 hours on this beastly course and I am very happy while also knowing the potential to go faster is 100% there. My final time was 4:56:42, and I can’t wait till next year because I’ll be back J

Huge thanks goes out to my coaches Jorge and Karen, and the rest of the support team. You all know who you are. I couldn’t do this without you! Also, thank you to ALL my teammates/friends for hanging out and cheering me on throughout the day! You guys were all great!

And here is me on the overall podium along with the quite possibly heaviest and biggest medal I have ever gotten! 

The one on the left is the one everyone received, the bigger one on the right is my 2nd place overall medal

 2nd place Overall 

 Best part is - the two medals can be put together into one what feels like a 50lb medal! 

In addition to my medal, I have also received bunch of other goodies from Rev3 and my teammate/friend Tyler had given me a very cool present that all you guys should check out! It is a care package for athletes (either recovery or training) that comes in in 2 different sizes, and besides the great products that are inside, the package itself is SUPER  duper cool.

 RacePak - YUM!

I told you the packaging was SUPER duper cool!

You will find these guys at a lot of the local running or triathlon races, or you can also purchase their product online at www.race-pak.com . It’s worth czeching out for sure!

Thanks for reading! Next up – Patriot 70.3 in 10 short days!