Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The take on the lake

am sorry I am late in publishing this post about my race at White Lake over a week ago. I actually wrote the bulk of it just after the race but did not manage to get it into the computer until now. Sorry for the delay but I hope you enjoy!

I last competed in the famous White Lake 1/2 Ironman when there was only 1 in 2006. It was a break though race for me as I went from a 5+ hour 1/2 ironman (2004 White Lake 5:14.46) to a sub-5 hour 1/2 ironman (2006 White Lake 4:49.03). I contribute my improvement to training with some of the greatest athletes in Charleston at the time. So, wow, 5 years later I find myself at the same race that jump started my distance tri "career." Naturally I had this feeling there was a lot riding on my performance at the race this year. After 5 years, despite ups and downs personally and athletically, I looked at this race as a show and tell of where I had been and where I was going.

Race morning, with my secret weapons lined up - oatmeal and coffee - I did not have much to do before I wheeled out the transition area of the race. Looking at the lake, I was filled with dread watching the fog lull over the calm water. The week prior the entire swim portion of the race was cancelled. A race this long without the swim would be morale crushing for me. Not only is the swim my best leg but it is also my warm up for the bike and run. Thanks to the race director's experience with the week before, I was pretty confident with the announced 45 minute delay we would have the swim. After standing around listening for the next announcement we were cleared to start the race . . . with the swim! The swim course was different this year with extra buoys marking and counting every 100 meters. I will be perfectly honest here I was not happy about the extra buoys. Open water swimming incorporates sighting technique just as a bike course with turns requires a certain amount of bike handling technique. But I recognize and accept the swim is the most challenging portion of a triathlon for 90% of racers so if the extra buoys provide some added comfort and confidence for the majority of the competitors then I will not complain.

BUT what I will complain about is the behavior of one of the open category racers. One particular individual ducked under the water 10 secs before the gun went off and continued to swim underwater away from the start line. His head broke the surface of the water just before the gun went off and all of us on the front line saw him. I have seen drafting packs in a race but I have never seen one individual so blatantly cheat. When he passed me on the bike in a drafting pack of three (for which he received a penalty), I was not at all that surprised. When I passed him on the run, when calf cramps reduced him to walking, I felt victorious. Chalk one up for karma, woot! woot! It saddens me that a fellow triathlete lacks so severely in moral fortitude. It is just a local race but cheating is cheating no matter what scale it is on.

Anyway, other than that, the beginning of the swim was uneventful. I made the mistake of wearing the wrong goggles. Before the fog became an issue I packed my metallic Speedo Vanquishers. I could not see a thing with them. I went around the first buoy and completely lost the line. A fellow racer pointed me in the right direction (he probably went on to win the race because that is how karma works :) ). I ended up 2nd out of the water in just over 27 minutes.




My first transition was a bit of a cluster as I got stuck in my wetsuit and was rolling in the grass to get it off. Then I put my foot in my cycling shoes with my salt tablets still in them. I definitely needed to get those back out (luckily they were in a container so no toe jam!). Minor things that I probably would have worked out at Belews, but it is ok to be a bit rusty for the first race of the year.

Ok . . . so . . . now . . . I am off on the bike! The bike course was remarkable empty and lonely. With only one swimmer ahead of me I knew it was only a matter of time before the first big cyclists blew by me. But 20 minutes went by before the first person passed me, and then 10 minutes, and another 10 minutes. I tried to keep my eye on the three guys in front of me but I really just watched as they pulled away. Then I was back by myself. My bike computer was not working which was a good thing. When I hit a mile marker I go to entertain myself with calculating my speed and estimating my bike split. While I felt like I had a good pace going, I was really surprised so few people had yet to pass me. Then three guys passed me at once in a little draft pack. Guess who was right in the middle of them? I saw these same three guys at mile 42 in the same draft pack. Coincidence? I did not have time to dwell on the draft pack was I was then passed by another female in the open category. Drat! Now I had to quit dilly-dallying and start working hard. I was hoping to at least make it through the bike before I got passed but she was moving fast! She got about 100 yards ahead of me and then the two of us just kept our positions. I probably picked it up and she probably relaxed a bit but the two of us just stayed like that for the rest of the bike. To have someone to ride with, even my competition, was a nice break from the boredom and loneliness I was feeling earlier. I attempted several 30 second sprints to try to bridge the gap but it wasn't working so I just settled in and tried to keep her in my sights as I prepared for the run.


Ah, the run. Well known by now, not my strongest part of the triathlon, but I embrace it as it is often where races are made or broken. Luckily my bike-run transition was a lot smoother than T1 and I was surprised to see Stacey still only 100 meters ahead of me as we turned out onto the open road. I felt comfortable when I first start running, comfortably slow. I just tried to stay relaxed but I could tell Stacey was already pulling away from me. Rather than pick up the pace I tried just to stay comfortable and make sure I was listening to my body for its fuel and salt needs. I felt a few small cramps so I consumed an extra set of salt tablets in the beginning of the run just prevent any cramping issues toward the end of the run. The run course was flat, an out and back wrapping around the lake. Since it was an out and back course I would have to wait until the turn around to get a feel for the distancing between competitors. When I saw Stacey running towards me after she passed through the turn around she looked so remarkably strong. But then something happened. I was running along and in front of me unfolded a scene with my competitor on the ground and a medic running towards us. As I ran passed unsure if she was ok, Stacey looked up and offered me a cheer off encouragement. I found out after the race she had been sick with the flu in the weeks leading up to the race. The incident took the wind out of my sails but I managed to continue to push toward the finish line. Miles 10 through 12 were the hardest but then that last mile came around and I was so ready to be finished.


Crossing the line in first place was an outstanding experience but bittersweet. I was concerned for Stacey, not knowing what happened. I respect and admire her as an athlete and competitor. Her ability to cheer me on despite her own struggles shows class and what it means to be a true competitor. Congrats to everyone who raced, especially Giant 1 who dropped a whopping 21 minutes in this race from last year. Maybe this race will jump start his distance tri career too, like it is did mine 5 years ago!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Riding the Booty

I am trying to be a bit better about logging my workouts but I still need improvements in that area. Some people do a workout and immediately upload the Garmin file, export, import, and export it again until the data lands in the right place. I am a little behind the times. If I can even remember what I did at swim practice I am pretty happy, never mind logging the set, duration, equipment, and total distance. I have been trying to put more effort into logging my workouts with Athleticore because it really is neat to see changes in the amount of training I do on a week to week basis and the breakdown of swim, bike, and run percentages. I have tried several other training logs and they are just too much for me. Athleticore is simple and easy to use without all the extra fluff. It helps me see exactly how little I run so I can confirm on a weekly basis why my run is my weakest leg . . .*sigh.*
Run: 12.3 mi
Bike: 140.9 mi
Swim: 11,555.0 yds

Tuesday night I decided to do my intervals at the booty loop. I normally just use the 3 mile booty loop to ride easy with friends but it was supposed to rain and I was not sure I would be able to get to a safe place to complete my intervals in time. I really enjoy riding the booty loop as it is the course for the 24 Hours of Booty LiveStrong Fundraiser and you will almost always run into someone you know also looking for a casual ride. The booty loop, however, is not but it is not the best place for intervals, pacelines, and hammerfests. During the afternoon rush hour, it can be quite dangerous and I will admit a lot of cyclists take advantage of the loop, disregarding traffic laws and general courtesies. During the 90 minutes I was on the loop I saw two accidents involving people I knew. The first one was a rider-rider mishap in which control was lost but no one hit pavement. The incident could have been a lot worse but luckily just a few nerves were rattled. The second incident involved a teammate of mine from last year’s 24 HOB. Vespa and I were about 150 behind a paceline that formed at the stop light. The group was picking up speed when a car suddenly decided to turn right, suddenly aware of some available parking. The driver turned right into the paceline cutting off Brother Bacon. It is never a good thing to look up to shouts, a car, and a flying cyclist. My stomach was in knots as I rode up to the scene to see Brother Bacon laying on his back, motionless in the grass. Fortunately he was more stunned than hurt. Thanks to a little bit of luck and some pretty good bike handling skills, BB had turned his bike with the car so he fell more-or-less over to the side rather than getting launched over the car. A few dents to the car, a couple of nicks to the bike, and a scratched up ankle were the only evidence a crash had occurred when Brother Bacon got up and thankfully walked away.

I feel like over the last couple of months there has been one cycling fatality after another. Just down the road a hit and run left a visiting cyclist for dead. Last year another one of the Donald Haack riders was in an accident putting him in a coma and months of recovery therapy.  I will admit when I get on my bike I wonder if this will be the day where everything changes, if this will be the day some car sideswipes me out of anger or cuts me off simply oblivious to the cyclist on a yellow bike and wearing a white helmet. I often ask myself is it worth it and every time I answer, ABSOLUTELY. I do not know what it is like to be the type of person that goes to work, eats dinner, and then watches TV until it is time for bed day-in and day-out. Cycling gives me so much in terms of friendships and camaraderie, a sense of completion and accomplishment, a freedom to ride through the outdoors with nothing but my will pushing me forward . . . not to mention the ability to shamelessly wear spandex and lycra for hours on end. I just can’t imagine a life without it.

Speaking of cycling, I after my workouts Saturday I went to catch the Dilworth Criterium races. I made it there just in time to watch the last 20 minutes of the Pro Women’s race and I ended up staying until the Pro Men’s race at 4:00. I have no idea what it is like trying to race a bike through a mile course littered with uphills, downhills, and tight turns but it looks both terrifying and tantalizing! Check out these pictures from the races: Mr. Weldon's Fabulous Photos are here!

Oh, speaking of racing, I am supposed to race this weekend. Hopefully the race will not be cancelled, shortened, or altered in anyway like all the other races this year. The White Lake ½ Ironman is my first race of the season. I was hoping to ease into the season with a sprint, just to get my feet wet (and to remind me of the pain of racing vs training). I would even take a pool swim, just work out the cobwebs and remember how to find my legs. But nope, starting off with a bang! Each year there are two White Lakes. Last Saturday was this first one. Unfortunately the swim was cancelled at that race due to fog. Vespa and Haycraft GTWD both succeeded in tackling the newly made duathlon and throwing down some pretty impressive bike and run splits. Except for the fog, the conditions could not have been more ideal. The water was smooth and calm, little wind on the bike, and a slowly warming sun all thanks to the low hanging clouds. White Lake is famous for being miserably hot and those are exactly the conditions I am hoping for. Am I ready? No. I am painfully aware that I am not “race fit” but I am hoping my limitations this go around will be a good spring board for my future races (hopefully without a belly flop). I did this same race 5 years ago when the run winded through the neighborhood heat trap. I heard it has changed since then so I am eager to see the new run course. I was home sick from work Monday so we will see what happens. Professor Flufferton and I bonded over Harry Potter. I read, he slept.



Mancess quote of the week:

“Chewy and I are racing the pet-palooza 5K this weekend. It is really going to be up to Chewy if we win or not. This morning he could only run 8:30s but last Thursday we threw down a 6:15 mile. We ran a 6:15 because he likes to chase people on bikes. What I need someone on a bike at the start.”



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Debacles

This past weekend was a little bit of a debacle. Saturday went pretty smoothly as I get more used to my swim-bike-run trio. Sunday I wanted to run later in the day since it was going to be quite warm and sunny for a change and I look better with a tan. I still got up early opting to go watch some of my friends and teammates race at the Huntersville Sprint Triathlon (here's a link to my team's blog post). It was a perfect morning with cooler temps only rising slightly with the sun. There was little to no wind so I was expecting to catch some fast racing. HST is a pool swim time trial start event. Your swim snakes down the pool swimming one lap in each of the 20 lanes. I remember this swim from last year and was reminded of how difficult it was. Since you are going right to left across the pool each flip turn (if you choose to do them) requires you to steamline under the laneline and every other one backwards. I am assuming even if you do an open turn it is pretty difficult to maintain a pattern of swimming across the lane on each lap so you are positioned in the corner of the lane when you go to turn and move into the next lane. While I am a big advocate of incorporating flip turns into your swimming training (think clipping in vs not clipping while cycling), I think this might be the only time open turns have an advantage? I am not sure if they really do so I am not committing to that theory.

When I decided to go to the race I was thinking I would stay for at most 2 hours to catch everyone and then head back home to get my running stuff in order to meet Giants 1&2 at 11:00 at the McAlpine Greenway. Well basically because I did not know any better I parked in a lot that would be closed until the LAST runner finished. Since swimmers were still starting a full 90 minutes after the 8:00 start I felt slightly screwed. Good thing I had talked Vespa into running with us as well so I was able to beg him for a ride back into town. Luckily, he agreed and at 10:30 we started on our mission of changing from one event to the next. Vespa dropped me off at my house where I ran in, made a quick change, grabbed my nutrition and Garmin, petted a cat, and headed out the door. Not 10 minutes down the road, as I am admiring my feet in my sandals, I realized I forgot my running shoes! So back around again. Oops. 11:00 start is not looking good at all. Back to my house, grabbed my shoes, petted a cat, and again we were off! We make it to McApline 15 minutes after the hour only to find a one day festival in full swing closing parts of the park and running path. I have officially retired from organizing training events. I have not had the opportunity to run the 5K course at McAlpine which we ultimately ran. It was quite nice and I am looking forward to going back.

Earlier in the week I agreed to run with Vespa. I told him I had a little bit of a tempo run to do. So in the name of motivation he preceded to run the entire run just 10 feet ahead of me so no matter how hard I ran, we were never running together. Maybe this was a ploy on his part so he wouldn’t be seen running with me . . . hmm I never entertained that idea until now. Sadly I ran faster during my long run than I did at this tempo run. I think I ended up focusing more on my frustration than I did on the run. Of course at the end I felt like I was going to die (and maybe cry a little), funny how mental “exhaustion” presents itself. I was surprised by my emotional reaction. I guess I just was not expecting Vespa to taunt me like that but it was a great reminder that training should always be fun and if isn’t, make it fun! It is such a waste of energy to focus on the negative and things of your control. There is always going to be someone ahead of you - sometimes you will catch them, sometimes you won’t.

I have to wish a GREAT BIG congrats to my favorite AquaGeek and the other MAC masters who swam in Arizona last week in the 2011 Spring National Championship. A lot of impressive results but AquaGeek's 18:07 1650 takes the cake. He might just be my hero. Sorry Vespa, you are out.

Threat of the week:
I'm going to run you down like Mirinda Carfrae.
Um but Vespa, you’re a boy?