Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What's your favorite local race?

I know, I know – you are all waiting for my Timberman 70.3 race report, but since I have been slacking severely when it comes to blogging you have to read through one more race report, and the lead up to it since it was only 5 short weeks post IM Texas.

The race is Patriot 70.3 and it is my favorite local race that I have raced the last 3 years in a row. There is a reason it sells out quickly, and all you local triathletes should put Tuesday, October 4th on your calendars because that is when the registration for 2017 opens up. The race itself will be on June 17th, 2017, and you don’t want to miss it! It’s within driving distance from Boston, so you can even drive up on race morning, pick up your registration packet, and rack your bike just mere hours before the race. How often do you get to sleep in the comfort of your own bed the night before a race – not often.

Never having to race a shorter race post IM, this was a new territory for me.I took about 10 days off after Texas which included easy/short spinning and swimming, no running before I headed to our annual E3 Tri Team camp in Waterville Valley, NH.

Some of the team looking "fearless" and ready to rock (the backdrop doesn't suck) 

Can we start riding already? 

I was feeling really good, my energy levels were high, and I was excited to spend a few days in the mountains with my teammates. I spent it mostly swimming and riding, and continued to stay away from running as the running legs always take the longest to recover and I was nursing a few small niggles here and there.

How can you not smile? 

 It wouldn't be a trip to NH, without a trip to the top of Kancamangus Highway! 

Chasing the E3 mobile (before I got in it cuz my legs died) 

As you can see, I (we) had a blast. The 3rd week post Ironman it was game on again including running, and I felt pretty darn good. So good I contemplated racing Ironman Lake Placid, but stuck to the original plan (mostly because I didn’t want to spend another few 100s of $$$, and because 3 IM's in one year may just be a one too many if you plan on going hard in all of them. 

But back to the race! Before I knew it, race morning was here! I had won this race the last 3 years in a row, and since IM Texas didn’t go exactly to plan, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform well! I didn’t care if I was first or last, I just wanted to put together a race I could feel really good about. Race that reflected all the hard work that I had been putting in throughout the winter. 

The Swim: 34:13

This is a unique swim for me as this race does have an open/elite wave anyone can sign up for and those who do (male/female) go of in the very first wave that’s usually only around 20 people deep. As a weaker swimmer in a male dominated wave, I had always end up swimming completely by myself the entire time which I actually do NOT enjoy so my goal this time was to stay on feet and not get dropped right away. I am happy to report, I didn’t get dropped, and even found a friend to swim with for at least half the swim! We were swimming right along until we caught a couple of guys, and I decided to jump drafts, which proofed to be a big mistake as I lost my original swim buddy, and ended going around my new friend. Ugh!  I spent the rest of the swim chasing feet up ahead and for the first time ever, I did catch them. YES! Overall, I didn’t get lost, swam straight and although I ran out of gas somewhere ¾ way through the swim, I felt really good about most of my swim! The time is still nothing to brag about but I was a lot closer to my competition than I have been before so that’s a win in my book! I know I’ll never win a race with my swim, but I sure do know I can lose it, so I have been and will continue to do what I can to bridge the gap. 

 I am proud to say I swam straight and didn't go on an of course expedition this time! My vision was super clear thanks to my fav BlueSeventy Nero Race goggles! 

I suppose I need to work on my dolphin diving but at least I was super comfy in my BlueSeventy Helix! 
T1: 1:59
This race has some of the longest transitions, but wearing #1 at least guarantees some prime T1 real estate! I am still not the best at taking my wetsuit off even though I practice it almost every time I swim open water in practice, but I did my best to get out of there fast. That timing chip gets me every time.

The Bike: 2:22:19 (Fastest female bike split, and 8th Overall fastest including the guys)

I really wanted a strong ride after my poor performance in terms of “watts” I generated in Texas, and so I brought out my new weapon of choice – “Mr. Flash”. Thank you Quintana Roo! QuintanaRoo is my new sponsor for 2016 and beyond and I couldn’t be more excited for what is to come. 

Mr. Flash all dressed up for the 1st dance 

Flash and I have only spent 2 or 3 short taper rides together so going out for a 56 mile race effort was definitely a bit of a gamble, but one I would take again. One can say we started our relationship on the right foot!

 It was a love at first sight (1 of 3 short taper spins) 

Just like the swim, this race is unique because when racing of the front, it offers mostly wide open roads, which I love! (No crowds, and I barely have to scream “on your left”).  It is a 2 loop bike course. I had a strong first loop, but the wheels started to fall off on the 2nd. Very uncharacteristically my legs were on fire, and I was now dealing with what the pro women must deal with when getting caught by AG men. I watched 3 men go by me in a paceline. I dropped back but before I knew it I started to catch up to them. I surged to make my pass and within seconds they were passing me back -ugh! So much for dropping back the legal distance before re-passing. This went on for a while before I just didn’t have anymore matches to burn to pass and so I let them get away far enough so I could get back into my rhythm. I just didn’t have the energy or patience to deal. This course offers ample riding space and there is no need for packs to form! 

Time to get feet out of the shoes, and not crash during the flying dismount

Even though my legs were killing me, and my power dropped on the 2nd loop which I wasn’t happy about, I am ok with it now because now I know why!

Slight technical difficulties as somehow somehwere my saddle slipped! No wonder my legs were on fire! I normally ride with ZERO tilt! 

I continued to stay aero, and rolled into T2 ready to run but definitely doubting my legs before I even started. 

T2: 2:20
Another long run through transition. 

Run: 1:37:34

That was rough. My HR was high, but my pace was way too slow.

Beginning of the run - at least I looked good in my matching swiftwick socks! 

 I tried keeping the effort up, but the pace didn’t budge. My legs hurt and I was just mad that I was shuffling (again). I tried to keep moving so at least my lead biker didn’t fall of her bike but it was tough. I don’t really have any details to report, besides the fact that I was just very happy to see the finish line, and this could have just been 26.2 – that’s how rough I felt, and I was mad at myself the entire time that I couldn’t find my running legs!

Overall Time: 4:38:23 

I was happy I defended my title for the 4th year in a row, but definitely a bit disappointed in my individual performance. Knowing what I have done on this course, and knowing my fitness, I know I can go sub 4:30, and so I will be back! 5th time the charm?  

 The Open/Elite wave overall podium 

 Lisbeth Kenyon, Becky Paige and I at the finish line area! These women can swim/bike and run! 

And finally my speedy E3 Teammates all of whom topped the podiums! YES! 

So remember to mark those calendars so you don’t get left out, and I hope to see you all there next June!

As always, THANK YOU to my coach Jorge Martinez of E3 coaching  for putting up with me when all I di was complain how unfit I may be post Texas, and to my individual sponsors: Quintana Roo – we sure started our relationship on the right foot with one fast bike split;  CycleOps without whose trainers I would have put in close to zero outdoor miles, and Dr. Cool whose products keep my body temp down even my effort level is high. And to E3 Training team sponsors - you guys ROCK, and I appreciate the support more than you know. You not only make me look good, but also feel good while going fast! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not everything is bigger in Texas - IM Texas Race Report

Don’t believe me? No – I wasn’t in the kids locker room at a local Woodlands YMCA, but YES – I had to squad down to wash my hair!

This was my first time racing this early in the season, and never mind an Ironman. I have done 5 IM’s to date, and all of 5 were either in October or November. (Read full summer of outdoor training)

There was a ton of time spent on my trusty CycleOps trainer sweating away

Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling 

Racing Ironman Texas meant that pretty much all of my training happened indoors. If it wasn't for the annual E3 training camp in Tucson, I could have counted the number of my outdoor rides on one hand. This way I at least needed both ;) 

  Just the beginning of my fav climb - Mt. Lemmon

 Top of Mt. Lemmon and all smiles! 

 Mt. Lemmon selfie on the way back down

Swimming in the sunshine 

Running in shorts

Just enjoying the fresh air and beautiful views 

I came back from Arizona ready to race except I still had another 4 weeks of (indoor) training left. Not an easy task after having so much fun in the sun, and I was really starting to question my decision to race this early. 

The announcement that bike course would be shortened to 94 miles and have about a million turns further shook my at that point a bit fragile confidence. I knew I shouldn’t worry about things that were out of my control, but  I kicked and screamed and even thought about transferring to another race.  Since there were not any races in the near future that I could affordably get to (key word affordably), I finally moved on, and played the cards I was dealt with, but I wasn't happy.

On the upside, I was very lucky to score an  absolutely amazing homestay (my 1st ever), so that gave me the flexibility to arrive in Texas a little bit early and gave me an extra day or two to check out the area, course, expo without the crowds etc. Jesus and Laura were both amazing and took absolutely unbelievable care of me during my entire stay! I may have to hire them as my race sherpas for all my IM’s from now on.  

Home made "paella" to die for! WOW! 

The canal I thought I would swim in but never ended up doing so. The swim was changed the day before due to high bacteria levels in the canal 

Amazing sunset from the run course  

Few short pool swims, rides, and runs later, it was time to race! I haven’t raced since IM Kona last October, so I was definitely a bit more nervous than usual. The butterflies were at an all time high, but I also knew I was physically ready -  I just had to lock in mentally!

The Swim: 1:15:15

I was ready for a non wetsuit swim in the very dark waters of Lake Woodlands, but I wasn’t ready for just how warm the water would be. It was announced shortly before the start that the water temperature was 82 degrees, but it felt more like 90. (I am always cold, so you know the water really was very warm).

The calm before the storm 

All my other warm IM swims (Kona & Cozumel) I never felt hot, but in Texas I did. Instead of swimming through cooler patches of water as I made my way up the course, I felt the water temperature rising. Before we even made it to the turn buoys, I was boiling even though I wasn’t pushing the pace and was swimming very comfortably. That’s after I stopped hyperventilating from bit of a hectic swim start (My 1st ever rolling start without a promised warm up  that never happened was no bueno) .

The mad dash into the dark waters of Lake Woodlands 

I actually ended up completely stopping a bunch of times in the first quarter of the swim to catch my breath and to look where I was going! Not exactly the perfect way to start the day, and definitely a sequence of firsts for me. It was far from how I imagined the swim would go given the swim training I had done the last 5 months, but I was determined to calm down, and at least stay on course.  I eventually ended up finding someone just a bit faster than me, and swam on her hip for pretty much the entirety of the second half of the swim even that meant a few surges that were causing my body temp to increase.

Happy to see Linda cheering me on and SO ready to get on with my day 

When I got out of the water and saw 1:14:xx on my watch, I was actually pretty happy given what I had experienced the first half of the swim. I know that I still have long ways to go before I will get to where I want to be, but I am also very proud of myself of how I mentally dealt with the situation I found myself in at the beginning of the swim. I am my own worst critic, but I am very good at moving on when in race situations. 

T1: 3:15

This was a long transition, but I love IM transitions. I was in and out as fast as I could.

The Bike: 4:07:35 (2nd fastest amateur bike split by a few seconds)

Time to put my head down, and get to work while staying extremely alert. 

Unlike any other bike course I have ever done, this one had lots of turns and intersections for us to go through. I was the first to complain about that, but I must say that all the volunteers, cops etc. did an absolutely amazing job of policing/securing all turns/intersections and I had felt 100% safe in that respect. There was definitely some “not so very smart” riding and or cornering by some of my fellow competitors but I knew that was going to happen and along with the usual drafting didn’t let that bother me. (I have become good at minding my own race).

The plan was to start the bike a bit conservatively and then pick up the pace (power) after mile 60 or so. Once I tried to pick the pace up however, the power just wasn’t there and my right quad was all of a sudden on the verge of cramping. I kept drinking/eating and popping salt pills like I normally would but just couldn’t shake that oncoming cramp, and my watts were nowhere to be found. I tried sitting up, standing up, but every time I tried to generate any sort of power my right quad was threatening to seize. Instead of upping the power, I was now just trying to limit the damage by staying as aero as possible while pedaling along at my recovery watts for the last 30 miles, which was extremely frustrating, but again, I am very happy with the way I dealt with it. 

Aero was the name of the game 

I wanted to be off the bike so bad, but I was afraid of what that I will feel like. In retrospect, I didn’t have to pee until essentially mile 90, which should have been a sign to me that the hot swim perhaps dehydrated me much more than I thought it would (I normally always pee by mile 20, and then a few more times after that – yeah I know – tmi but you gotta do what you gotta do!). I should have started to drink more and perhaps get some more salt on board, but in the heat of the moment (it was definitely nice and steamy) it just didn’t even dawn on me! It will next time if I find myself in the same situation but hopefully I won't! 

T2: 3:48

I hopped of the bike and ouch - that quad was far from happy! The women’s tent was fairly empty so I had at least 5 volunteers attempting to me very quickly! I could have just stayed in that tent all day.

The Run: 3:43:39

As soon as I started running I knew I was in for a tough run. It was hot and steamy but that’s what I came here for! I wanted to race in Kona like conditions! In addition to my tri kit, I also wore the Dr. Cool cooling towel around my neck and cooling headband which I love! (Use code: JANA20 to get your own). 

My mind wasn’t on the heat but rather on that right at this point already very painful right quad! With every step it felt like I was getting punched square in the middle of it – definitely not how anyone should feel at mile 1 of 26.2. My plan was to run by HR for the first few miles so I didn’t overcook the opening miles of the marathon as I usually tend to do, and then settle in, and close in hard with the last 10k.  I have been running very well in training and was hoping to finally show my run in a race but it wasn’t meant to be.

Given my right leg already feeling like it ran a marathon before I even started, I just tried to keep a steady pace throughout, and slow down the least. I also kept popping SaltStick tabs every 15-20 minutes that I am pretty sure were the reason I didn’t end up cramping and was able to although painfully keep moving all day. I was also getting uncharacteristically thirsty in between aid stations which resulted in the decision to actually walk all aid stations to make sure I got in enough fluids and cooled myself off. I never really overheated thanks to my Dr. chillband and scarf as well as the Castellli Stealth Top, but I was extremely thirsty even though I was drinking more than I ever have.

I also knew I was running 2nd thanks to my twitter friend Jordan who was giving me on course updates. Hailey was killing it up front, and I seemed to be somewhat safe in 2nd as long as I just kept shuffling along. My shuffle definitely slowed down once I hit mile 20, by which point my legs hurt like never before.  I was very thankful to at this point see my host family at least 3 or 4 times in the last couple miles of the course because they honestly kept pushing me along although I swear I had no idea how they kept beating me to various spots on the course over and over again. 

By mile 25.5 the thunder and lightning hit, the temps dropped, the wind picked up and the sky opened up! I have honestly never seen anything like this before. The wind was blowing so hard that the one last out and back I had to do turned into a holy shit my legs can’t move fast enough, stop pushing me forward you crazy tail wind to what felt like running into a brick wall with a parachute holding me back, while getting beat up with hail & head wind but there was no stopping me! 

The finish line was very anticlimactic because everyone including the “voice of Ironman” was understandably at this point seeking shelter but I was very lucky to have guess who there - 2 strangers now friends, whom I have just met my host family there who saw me and cheered me on at least 4x in the last mile of the race when I wanted to be done so badly, as well as my teammate Linda – who was seriously all over the course all day to cheer me across the line! Thank you guys SO much! 

Where is everyone? 

To give you an idea of just how empty the finish line was and how strong the thunderstorm was!

Final Time: 9:13:32 (2nd AG - 35-39) 

In the end, it was far from the race I imagined and knew I had in me, but it's the tough once that we learn  from the most! Although, I am not happy with the time, I am very happy with the way I fought all day even when not much was going my way. I never lost hope and fight and I did get what I came here for and will be making my 4th trip to my favorite island this October! 

Aloha baby! 

 The 35-39 IM Texas podium 

And last but not least, THANK YOU to my coach Jorge Martinez of E3 coaching  for getting me ready to race a hot/steamy Ironman so early in the year, to  my individual sponsors: Quintana Roo, CycleOps, Dr. Cool as well as all of our team sponsors - you guys ROCK, and I appreciate the support more than you know. SPECIAL thank you goes out to David Tilbury Davis for taking care of me along with Jesus/Laura my host family while I was visiting his home state of Texas! I would have been lost without your support! Now that we have a legit bike course, maybe I'll be back ;).