Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crack Down at the Creek

I have been working on this blog entry for the last week trying desparately to come up with something intelligent to say about it. I wish I had more to say about the Stumpy Creek Olympic-distance triathlon but I was tired going in and I was tired coming out. I was brow beat by Vespa to enter this race just a week after my half-ironman in Muncie. Part of me wanted to do for the points and the experience to race in an Olympic distance triathlon again (I have not done one since 2005!) but my body felt far from ready to do it. My legs were still a little stiff as I climbed the four floors to my office when I came back to work on Tuesday so I knew it was going to be a long week. I would continue on complaining here but then I met this girl this weekend that competed in three ironmans in three weeks (Meredith Dolhare – she’s got quite an impressive website)  so I will just quit the whining and continue with the show.
To be perfectly honest I feel I did not show up to the race to race. All I wanted was a decent finish and I didn’t want it to hurt that bad. Although I was no longer sore, I was worried if when I started to dig deep my shovel would hit rock bottom. If you aren’t all in why are you toeing the line, you ask? I asked myself this question many times during the week prior to the race but then I saw a friendly face before I hit Lake Norman and she reminded why I was there. The blond bombshell reminded me I was there to race afterall.

Swim (24:03): I need to emphasize here the importance of goggle section in an open water swimming. I was in a hurry in the AM and I accidently grabbed my back up pair of goggles instead of my primary pair. I was worried about them leaking but I quickly remembered why they weren’t my primary pair – they fog . . . bad. I did not have time to worry about it when the gun went off so I started out in my usual conservative pace but it did not take long before I found myself in a small group of three racers. The three of us were all over the map – at several points the two of them were way off to the left and I was way off to the right and then suddenly we would meet again, shoulder to shoulder. At one point I swam so wide I started to sight the wrong buoy, the buoy for the leg going out, not the buoy for the leg coming back in! Way off course. Oops! See - it is all about the goggles.

T1 (:55)

Bike (1:13:05): HaycraftGTWD passed me at the 1.5 mile mark on the bike at the Latta Sprint so my goal (more like a hope really) was to make it to the 3 mile mark before he passed me since the swim was twice as long. He didn’t pass me until the 4 mile mark. Oh yeah! Take that Crafty! The bike was rolling along just fine until I was passed by Happy Frank. And then I was passed by Stacey, one of several very competitive women out on the course that day. Dang . . . ! The three of us ended up getting stuck together. I made one attempt at passing them and then they both passed me right back. It wasn’t worth fighting for position here when I knew I couldn’t out bike either one so I just hung a good distance back.

T2 (:58): I must learn the flying dismount. A MUST.

Run (42:55): As I headed out on the run I could tell Stacey was quickly pulling away from me (surprise . . .surprise). The run course was a two loop hilly course and it seemed to take forever to get to the first mile . . . f. .o . .r . .e. . v . .e . .r. I was really starting to worry the run entire run would drag on like this but then somehow I settled in and the miles started to fly by. I think it helped that I was starting to see some of my friends out on the course. They looked so relaxed and strong, I just tried to follow their lead and give ‘em a cheer. As I headed out to the second loop I heard one of my favorite song blaring from the trunk of a spectator’s car. It really put a pep in my step. As I ran in fear for being run down I was reminded of the lyrics:

"You can be better than that - Don't let it get the better of you”

I ultimately felt much better on the second lap even when the ginormous hill came between me and the finish, I was ready to tackle it. My run split turned out to be my 2nd fastest 10K ever. I will take that. So ended up finishing a solid second and the girl I thought would pop out of every corner and pass me, never did.

And then the confusion: So I was dilly-dallying somewhere – probably just coming back from packing my car – when the awards presentation started. As a result I missed the race director announce my name and place but it seemed like he announced Stacey’s after mine. By the time I realized it, the announcer had called all three names of the top females. Stacey was not there to pick up her award and Amie did not take the podium so neither did I. There was some confusion about the medals and no one asked about mine so I just kind of meandered off. The medal I received was definitely not silver and looking back at it I noticed scrolled across the top the words “Third Place.” Third place? There was a girl ahead of us!?!

>Funny story: I was at a race once and when I came out of T2 a friend of mine informed me I was in 2nd place. I yelled no way thinking I was in third place having been smoked by a girl on the bike course and pointing at this person ahead of me with a slight frame, a tri top rolled up like a sports bra, speedo, and bouncing curly hair with frosted tips. I was then informed this “girl” was actually a boy. Oops – high five for androgyny! Sometimes late at night I wake up and wonder if he heard that conversation.I also wake up and wonder about Mr. Visor's poo problem but I will have to save that story for another day.<

Anyhoots, I stayed to watch several of the other athletes receive their awards but after about 10 minutes I could not stand it any longer and I went to recheck the preliminary results. Searching through the finishers, the first female name I can across was mine. Whaaahwhat? Having finished 2nd but standing there with the third place medal I find out I was actually awarded first place? It turns out the first place finisher received a 2 minute penalty and since I finished 1:52 behind her, I narrowly edged her out for the win. This girl smoked me by close to two minutes on the run course alone! There was a clear winner out on the course but it wasn’t me.

Confused and elbow clapping (real display of talent)
Overall I am pleased with my race effort, especially coming off of a race like Muncie but I will admit I am a bit disappointed in my splits. I think these next couple of weeks are going to be a bit of a challenge for me. I have reached the portion of my season where building endurance has passed so now I have to focus on building speed. Building speed is hard work and I don’t like it (or maybe I love it . . . yeah that's the ticket, yeah).

But now the important stuff! 24 Hours of Booty!

PS. Vespa, thanks for the kick in the pants!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Muncie 70.3

And then there was Muncie. 2011 is the first year of the Muncie 70.3 but the race itself has over 30 years of history as the Muncie Endurothon. Why did I pick Munice? My goal this year was to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships. I knew they had changed the location of the championships from Clearwater, FL to Las Vegas, NV and I was excited about the new venue and the rumor of the new and very challenging course. I started off the season without the knowledge that they had also changed the date so initially I looked into racing in the Augusta 70.3 for a qualifying slot. When I realized the date change was not going to work with the Augusta race I looked into alternates. This is when I noticed the race in Muncie, just an hour northeast of Indianapolis where my brother lives with his family. I could not pass up the opportunity to pet two dogs with one hand (the animal friendly version of the saying) by visiting family and racing at the same time. Thanks to an entry fee donation from my mom I was excited to sign up for the inaugural Ironman Muncie 70.3.

Maisie communicating how
she feels about spectating.  
Like most race mornings it started early. 4AM alarm and 4:30 departure time would give us plenty of time to get to the race site. It is about an hour drive to Muncie from Indianapolis and a 6:30 sprint triathlon start time meant we had to get there at least 2 hours before my wave hit the water. Luckily my brother was ready and willing to get up early and cart me to the race site. For a race with 1800 participants there was surprisingly plenty of parking and little to no race traffic to delay our arrival. Setting up my transition was uneventful so I was left with more than enough time to fret about my outfit for the day. I think I made 15 laps around the race site evaluating porto-potty lines, checking my transition, looking for Graeme, looking for water, warming up in the lake, changing my outfit, etc. I should have been ready when the cannon went off to start the first heat of pro men but I was way too busy dilly-dallying. The whole wave start was a bit of a surprise to me. I scowered the athlete's guide and it never mentioned a wave start. I just figured it would be a mass start with a pro wave. Silly me. I was a little dismayed to find I would be one of the last waves to start and especially the last female wave to take the plunge. The late start meant there would be a lot of people ahead of me but most importantly it meant it would be hotter and sunnier when I found my way onto the run course. BUT everyone has to race the same race and everyone in my heat was facing the same challenges so when the florescent yellow caps moved toward the start line I, too, bellied up to the bar (one Shirley Temple on the rocks, please!).

Swim - 29.16
The knee deep in-water start gave me the opportunity to execute a couple of dolphin dives and establish an early lead among my heat. I caught the majority of the next heat ahead of me before we hit the first turn buoy. It was somewhat game-like to picking off cap colors one wave at a time, something like a combination of Frogger and Bejeweled. The good news is I had to pay a lot less attention to sighting as the bobbing heads in front of me offered a more than adequate guide towards the finish. Despite the late start, this was one of the smoothest swims I have had in a race. No one clocked me and no one tested my patience - as long as I kept my eye out for the sidestroke-breaststokers it was pretty smooth to navigate.

T1 - 1.35

Bike - 2.30.00
Hoping on the bike I felt calm, relaxed and refreshed. It did not feel nearly as hot as it was so I focused on meeting my nutrition targets and not pushing too hard on the first half of the course. The bike course rolled through the very rural areas surrounding the reservoir. Everyone said it was flat as a pancake. While it was not hilly by any means it still wasn’t as flat as the lowcountry! Like the lowcountry, however, the biggest challenge was the wind. At any given moment you either had a headwind or a tailwind. The trick was not pushing too hard against the headwind but saving your energy to really push it with the tailwind. Since we had such a strong headwind as we headed south along the west shore of the reservoir, I knew after the turn around I would have a long stretch of tailwind heading back north. I really saved up for this stretch and worked it. By the time I got to the 50 mile mark and I was feeling great and ready to hit the run.  

T2 - 1.39

Run - 1.43.36
Catching some air with
my trademark gangsta lean
I felt pretty good coming off the bike into T2. I was very surprised to find T2 deserted. There were very few bikes on the racks and even fewer racers milling about. The Muncie MultiSport website said a hat on the run was a must have. Mr Visor would have been proud as I ALMOST broke down and bought a $23 visor at the expo but ultimately I did not. I just couldn't do it. So my T2 was just a matter of getting my shoes and socks and taking off. The first couple felt pretty good but I started to feel those early warning signs of cramping. The run course was really hot so I knew I had to get on top of any potentially debilitating cramps so I ended up taking all the salt and Endurolyte tablets I had left. I did not have many left to begin with so by mile 4 they were all gone. You have to treat cramping like you treat the competition; you can't just run side by side you have to be ahead! I could get ahead of any cramping issues then I could just rely on the course nutrition the rest of the way. Luckily the cramping twinges did subside and I finished the run cramp free. I also like to pat my back here and say this is the first 1/2 ironman I have competed in where I did not stop and walk. I usually end up walking at least every even rest stop or all the rest stops, depending. I also refused to look at my watch. I am a very conscientious that my run is my weakest leg. At White Lake I was watching my run pace like a hawk and I think when I started to see my pace slipping my confidence just tanked. So on this run, I check my watch periodically but I forced myself to quit with the calculations so I would not find my confidence dropping with my pace. All the little games I played worked and I crossed the finish line feeling good and confident.
Total - 4:46:01, 1st 30-34, 3rd overall

Friday, July 1, 2011

Last Push

Well I have been a week behind in posting so I am going to catch up today . . . finally. So far this season I have not expereienced a great amount of fatigue in my training but the last two weeks have been tough. I traveled to Tennessee one weekend and on the way I got in some quality workouts in the NC mountains. The trip threw my schedule a little off and subsequently required some doubling up and some catching up. I think the training, the scheduling, and the travelling combined to have a real impact on my level of fatigue. So much so, this last weekend was the the first time I really felt like I was struggling to meet my target in my workouts.  These past two weeks were my last big push going into my taper for the Muncie 70.3 - both my bike and run total miles hit their peak so far for the season. The training and trying to squeeze in everything else just reminded me how important it is to always strive for balance first then everything else will fall into place. While I have not officially started tapering yet I think I have rounded the corner to where I have reached a balance and an appropriate level of recovery.

View from the swim start
Taking time to train in the mountains is a decision I should have made sooner. I was so excited to move from Charleston to Charlotte due to Charlotte's proximity to the mountains. It is not that I do not enjoy the beach but while I was in Charleston I really missed the trees. Like most us I got stuck in my day-to-day, weekend-to-weekend routine. Everyone's routine turns lackluster if you don't mix it up. So rather that get up at the butt crack before dawn and submit myself to the jesters and jeers from AquaGeek, I slept in a bit and started my day's workout with an awesome open water swim in Lake Glenville. Peaceful, quiet, beautiful, and no black lines. I rarely have the opportunity to train in the open water so I really enjoyed the expereience. The water was calm and the lack of boats made it really easy to focus on my stroke and spotting techinque. If you want to work on your spotting technique, what better way than to swim and have to spot boats before they spot you - ideally before they run you over.

Me and Marvin
The swim was so wonderfully refreshing I found myself a little hesitant to jump on the bike. Last year, I trained on the Tour de Cashier route in preparation for the hills in Hawaii. It is a tough course with 2 big climbs, 25-30 mins of unrelenting seated pedal mashing. Even you make it through the big climbs you still have several spits, or grunts, to climb that don't quite show up on an elevation profile. The most I have done of the route is 80 miles. One May I will sign up for the full century. This ride taught me two things 1) My compact crank (which I did not use last year) will not cut it on this course - well the crank might but I definitely need to throw on a different cassette next time. 2) My ability to bomb down hills has been downgraded from mediocre to pathetic. You know you are bad at going down hill and turning when you almost have to come to a complete stop to make a turn. I thought I had really "turned the corner" last year when I only had to lightly feather the brakes. I was full on white-knuckling it this year. Good thing I got a lesson in turning from the Master last night. Let's just see if I can put his tips and tricks into play. In the meantime, if you see me out on the road and a corner is coming up, just give me some space, especially on my left side. Unfortunately, I had to cut my ride short mileage-wise because it was getting late and I still had to run. This is where sleeping in is overrated. I did not hit my target miles for the day but in terms of time and watts, I was right on it.

I did not like cutting the bike miles short but since I put the time in I felt like I would be ok. If I held the same watts for the same time in a place like Charleston, for example, I would have gone over my mile target for sure. One thing I definitely did not want to do was cut my run short! So after finishing the ride I hopped off my bike to finish the day running repeats on the Lake Glenville Dam - lake to one side, steep rocky quarry on the other - it was the only relatively flat piece of road I could find. Despite a long day of pedal mashing I felt surprisingly good and light. Unfortunately my long run the next day did not feel quite the same. Less than two miles into it I hit a long uphill - 9 min mile avg going up, 6:45 going down. It hurt. A lot.

I think the locals found my excursions both puzzling and amusing but everyone was super nice and willing to share the road with me since there are no bike lanes or shoulders. I am convinced this area of NC can create great athletes (probably already has). Maybe I can ride nature's coattails to greatness!
Cooling down - not peeing