Thursday, June 11, 2015

Challenge Quassy and the official beginning of 2015 – The Year of Fearless

I couldn’t wait to race. It’s been a long time since IM Cozumel and after I properly and fully recovered after doing 2 IM’s in 6 weeks (I took 4 full weeks of no swim/bike or run without much complaining but I did make sure I was at least foam rolling, stretching etc.), I dove into offseason training with a swim/run focus. I spent a lot of time in the pool, and on the treadmill thanks to the Boston winter we had this year. I used to call the treadmill the “dreadmill”, but I embraced it and made the best of it. Hill repeats, speed work, you name it, I did it. It not only helped me physically, but also mentally. I actually have grown to really like it. There was no hiding from a particular pace. The choice was always mine – either keep the feet moving, reduce the speed or the incline or fall off. I am surprised the treadmill still works because I have definitely left my fair share of sweat puddles behind more than just once.

Once the weather started to get better, I took my fun outside, and to the track. I have done some track work before but on my own, and that’s just not the same as when you are being pushed by others.  If you are local and want come run in circles with me; we (E3 Training Solutions team) meet at the Brendan Grant Memorial Track in Belmont, MA at 6:30 Wednesday at 6:30pm. All levels are welcomed and the more the merrier. It’s fun – I promise! 

 I also swam quite a bit, and a lot faster than ever before. This winter I swam the best 100, 200 and 500 TTs and I can’t wait to translate that speed into open water now that I can finally get in without turning into an icicle in 2 seconds.

I have yet to mention what mega legs have been up to – yes – it’s no secret that the bike is my big strength. I may have not spent that much time on my Fireball but when I did, it was well worth it. Quality over quality approach for this girl. My big winter focus was to first increase my 5 minute power which to my surprise, I absolutely demolished.  I guess those all out, where is the puke bucket intervals paid off. 20 minute power – I am coming after you next! Living up to “mega legs” nickname doesn't come easy. 

But anyways, let’s fast forward to this past weekend. I couldn’t wait to toe the line. This was my 4th time racing on this course although for the first time under the Challenge umbrella, and I have to say Challenge put on a GREAT race! I went into Quassy wanting to test that swim/run combo and more importantly I wanted to stay in the moment throughout the day and be fearless. Fearless from the beginning to the end, fearless when it hurts, fearless when things get tough.

THE SWIM: 34:22 (4th AG, 14th overall female)

Although my official time is in the 34s, I swam more of a high 32 or low 33 as the timing mat wasn’t located right as you came out of the water. Regardless of time, and given my lack of open water practice this season (this was my 3rd time in open water in 2015), I felt great! It was a very cold morning so I made sure to get in a descent warm up. That definitely helped me with the swim start, because my feet/hands and face were already frozen so when I ran in, the water temperature didn’t bother me. I lined up in the 2nd row behind a fairly big guy who was swimming as part of a relay team so I assumed he would be a good swimmer. I was able to draft his hip, as well as some feet in front of me all the way to the first turn buoy, when things got a bit tougher with the sun directly in our faces. It was impossible to see any buoys until you were practically on top of them, so I just followed the caps, and bubbles in front of me. Lucky for me, I ended up swimming a fairly straight line with the exception of having to get around a few slower swimmers every now and then from the previous waves.  Once we made the final turn for the swim exit, visibility came back and I was able to swim on the buoy line the entire time. I never once wondered when the swim would end, and the buoys kept coming up quick! My arms/legs felt great, and if it wasn’t for the little extra buoyance, I wouldn’t even know I was wearing a wetsuit! The BlueSeventy Helix is THAT comfortable! I got out of the water feeling absolutely awesome, and ready to ride!  

THE BIKE: 2:40:25 (Fastest Female Bike Split by 7 min, 18th fastest including all men)

Getting on my bike, I felt great but due to the cooler temps it took a while to warm up. I was definitely very cold for a better part of the first 10 miles of the bike, and my quads felt like two frozen blocks of ice, but I don’t think it really affected my power. I felt great, and just put my head down and went to work. The road was quite congested in spots as my wave was the 2nd to last one and all male waves went ahead of us, but fortunately I didn’t run into too many issues given the nature of the hilly terrain.  I am quite used to screaming “On your left” and Sunday was no different.  Even though I was a bit cautious on some of the descents, I still topped off at 48.72 mph! No, I didn’t carry any extra bricks with me on those descents  – just potato/rice cakes /PowerBar gels to keep me fueled and one kick ass and comfortable bike fit! Aerodynamics matter – shocking, I know! 

I felt strong the entire ride (we are not going to talk about the fact that I somehow confused AP with NP and as a result rode a bunch of watts lower than what the plan was) I even pushed the pace a bit more in the last 10-15 miles to hopefully put more extra into my competition. My overall power was still very good and very close to my best 70.3 race power output ever, but little did I know, I really needed to drop the hammer (more on that later)  

T2: 0:52

What I didn’t realize until I started to take my feet out of my shoes before dismounting the bike is  just how frozen my toes were from the ride even though I wore toe warmers. I couldn’t feel anything at all, which made for an interesting flying dismount but I made it safe and sound, and sorry T2 crowd; I didn’t provide quite the entertainment I would have had I not made it ;) Helmet off, socks and shoes on and off I went.  

THE RUN: 1:33:58 (5th overall fastest female run, and a 4 min PR on a harder than before run course - new for 2015)

I really couldn't be happier with the way I executed this run.  I have been running really well in training, but I would lie if this course didn't intimidate me a bit. Trying to run a certain pace (they don’t call it the “Beast of the East” for nothing) on this course is near impossible, and so I set out to go by HR in the initial stages of the run. The goal was to run steady for 7-9 miles, and then just empty the tank. Advice/instruction is one thing, but execution is another. I knew the only way to run well on this course is to not be scared, stay in the moment & be “fearless”.  Paying attention to pace really wouldn't do me any good.

Since I was the first female on the run course (no pro race took place), I had my own lead biker! Last time I had one was at then Rev3 South Anderson where I ended up running my best 13.1 off the bike with a 1:29 split! I love lead bikers! I was off to a good start.  Well except that my feet were two blocks of ice, but mind over matter come mile 3, I was good to go. I left T1 behind a few men and one by one caught and passed them all but 1 who eventually pulled a little bit away from me. I was working, but I was in control, moving well, and keeping my HR around where I wanted to be. I learned I had a 10 min lead on the 2nd female at the start of the run. I have NEVER had such a great cushion, but little did I know it wasn’t going to be enough.

Come mile 6, my coach caught up to me on the bike and told me my lead is down to 4 minutes (From 10 min to 4 minutes in 6 miles). He has been known to tell me in the past that people are closer than they really are to make me push harder and so I assumed just that, and actually laughed a bit on the inside about his a bit ridiculous math. I had just dropped a couple of sub 7 min miles, and this girl is taking 1 minute per mile away from me? Yeah, right …. Funny coach, funny! Mirinda Carfrae isn’t racing is she?  I kept running, focusing on one mile at a time. 

I was running hard, but still in control and right where I wanted to be. When I got to mile 7.5ish (for those that have done the course, you then take a left hand turn and go down a longish hill – same hill that you have to go back up toward the finish line later), and at that time coach Jorge caught me again to tell me my lead was down to 2 minutes. I stopped internalizing my thoughts, and just yelled out – are you serious? Hoping for no, just kidding – I heard yes – I am serious, and you better run as hard as you can because she is only 2 min away and she is going to catch you.

Game on. I literally threw myself down the hill, running sub 6 min pace and absolutely trashing my quads – at mile 7.5. 

About to throw myself down the hill and drop my running companion in the process 

My old self would have thought ahead and wondered how I will get through the next 5.5 miles, but not anymore! “Fearless” stepped in, and I stayed in the moment. At this point I was running hard and continued to take one mile at a time. I saw a low 6:30s mile go by and thought nothing of it. The steepest hills on the course were yet to come and I didn’t care, I just kept running and before I knew it, I had caught that one last guy that ran away from me in the early stages of the run. I caught him, and I passed him – on a 14% grade uphill – I used to suck at uphill running. Walking would have probably been faster, but I kept moving even though I really wanted to stop (bad). I crested that hill, passed an aid station and not shortly after that (probably mile 9.5 – 10) heard the volunteers telling the 2nd female that the 1st female (me) is right there! I am not going to lie – I hated that but at the same time, I was giving it my all. Jodie (the eventual winner) had passed me like I was standing. I tried really hard to keep up, even running another 6:30 mile but even at that pace she was still pulling away from me. Not long after that she was out of my sights, and I just had one more little hill to climb before the finish line.

Losing such a large lead in 13.1 miles when running well (for me) sucks big time, but now knowing the caliber of a runner that Jodie is (she ran 1:21 and has met the A standard (2:37) for the US marathon trials in February – her PB in marathon is 2:34 – I would need a bike for that ;)), I have nothing to be ashamed of. She was the better triathlete on the day, beating me by 2 minutes in her first ever triathlon. Watch out for this girl, because she has a bright future ahead! But so do I because I am not a different racer and there is more to come where that came from.

I didn’t end up on the top step of the overall podium this time, but I am walking away with a ton of positives & confidence,ready to take on the next challenge as I continue to prep and focus on IM Kona this October.  

Patriot 70.3 – a great local race organized by SunMultisport is up next!   

OVERALL TIME: 4:51:36 (2nd Overall Female) 


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