Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cozumel Daily Diary, part cuatro

The Vacation Part! Yay!

Part of me wishes I could tell you about several exciting adventures I participated in post race but I have nothing. I am delighted to tell you how nice it was to do . . . nothing. As an individual who tends to schedule, reschedule, and over-schedule herself, it was a nice break to have almost a full week at my disposal with nothing scheduled. The morning after the race I woke up early with two fairly stiff legs. Unable to sleep, I walked into town to see if I could catch my mom on her way to the ferry for her return trip home. Unfortunately I missed her but the more I walked the better my legs felt so I continued to walk around until I stopped at Rock'n'Java for a ginormous cup of coffee and a delicious breakfast. I was so excited about my breakfast I almost ordered another round but I opted to call it quits at one round and head back to the apartment to rattle off some emails to some interested parties. It didn't take long to bore myself with my own emails, I headed a bit further up the street to spend the rest of the day lounging beach side with the rest of the Charlotte folks. With my toes in the water and my ass in the sand, I had no a worry in the world and a margarita in my hand. Hmmmmmm, I feel like that should be song or something . . . .

The best part of Monday? Getting a chance to hang with the girls for once. Hanging with the girls started with a few girly drinks ocean side at Hotel Cozumel. It eventually lead to talking smack about the boys. Talking smack about the boys was simply a nice break from a summer of watt talk and I-am-so-awesome declarations from the boys. While my training partners are all the most talented and supportive athletes in Charlotte they are also dudes and sometimes a girl just needs a break from all the awesomeness. The day ended with a huge group dinner at Rock'n'Java (seriously the place is great) bringing a bittersweet closure to a year of hard training that helped to forge new friendships and strengthen old ones. Even as I write this I am a bit overcome with sadness to realize it has all come to an end. All of us are going to go our separate ways with new goals and challenges to tackle. I am thrilled to be a part of Chris, Jamie, and Sarah's first ironman experience while sharing in veteran-hood with Jonathan and Causebrook. I am so proud of everyone's hard work and excellent races! I enjoy training and racing but for me there is a huge social aspect to it. I know lots of people who prefer to train by themselves but if I did not surround myself with so many great people, it simply would not be worth it. 

Pre-race nervous laughter
Post-race deer-in-the-headlightsness
I digress, sniff-tissue-sniff-sniff. After a fun filled Monday I unplugged. I put away the computer and I packed all of my race and workout gear. I checked in every now and then but for the most part I disconnected so I could take full advantage of my first true vacation in over two years. Unfortunately right when I entered full vacation mode the clouds rolled in and it started raining. I took the opportunity to tour the island via jeep visiting Punta Sur, the ecological park at the tip of the island, as well as the undeveloped eastern side. Overall the wildlife was pretty quiet but I did see an alligator lounging lagoon side, a spoonbill feverishly feeding in the distance, and a coati scurry across the sand path. The pending rain storm drummed up some strong waves and I got to witness some geological formations known as blowholes in action. With the rain clearing out I spent the rest of the week kicking back by the beach. When I wasn't at the beach I was exploring the local restaurants with reckless abandon. While I love Rock'n'Java as a go to place for any meal my favorite dining experience was at a little restaurant off the beaten path called Kondesa. It was rated as the #1 restaurant in Cozumel on TripAdvisor so I assumed it was just another tourist trap (there are PLENTY!) but to my delight it lived up to every expectation I had for it and then some. I was so happy with Kondesa I went to its sister restaurant, Kinta, the next night and sampled all of their margaritas. Yes, all of them. Don't judge, it was my last night! My two weeks in Cozumel concluded with a nice long massage with Jennifer Pobiak from Blue Dahlia Wellness. I highly highly recommend you see her if you happen to be in Cozumel.

View of inland lagoon
Coast and lagoon view from the lighthouse
Resident alligator at Punta Sur
Unfortunately all good things come to an end. Luckily when it was time to board the plane to Cancun I was ready to say goodbye to the island and come home. The race and the vacation gave me a lot to dwell on and some decisions to make. Very soon I should have very good news to share. Stay tuned . . . 

Mainland Mexico via tiny plane

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cozumel Daily Diary, Race Day

The day before the race was a fury of activity. We opted to get up early to attend the practice swim since we missed the previous practice swim in order to participate in the panties run. The ocean was getting calmer as the week progressed but arriving to the swim start it was quite easy to see the rollers and chop were going to be problematic. In fact several race officials warned us the swim course would be shortened if conditions remained the same race day. While part of me dreaded to hear this, part of me recognized how difficult it would be to swim 2.4 miles in those conditions and ultimately I decided I would be ok with a shorten swim, not a canceled swim, but a shortened swim. 

The Dream Team: (left to right) Causebrook, me, Story, Johnson 
Bikes triple checked and gear bags packed and repacked, we made our way down to the swim start to drop off our gear. The swim start and T1 at Chankanaab National Park were about 4 miles south of T2 and the finish. When I signed up for this race I was unaware it is a point-to-point race which isn't exactly my favorite. The anxiety of forgetting something can be a bit overwhelming so I have to lay out everything I am going to need/bring so I can see it. I have to see it so I can make the memory that I packed it. Your mind loves to plays tricks on you, especially race morning. There was a detailed timeline allowing us to drop off our bikes and gear according to race number. Since the initial four signed up at the same time our race numbers were sequential: Causebrook 655, me 654, Story 653, Johnson 651 (a Costa Rican chap was apparently quick on the draw stealing 652). The four of us got pretty lucky with our transition placement as we were right around the corner from the exit and the pro stands (yes they had individual stands instead of racks). 

When we got back I met my mom for a little lunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon off my feet. The rest of the Charlotte spectators arrived filling out our crew of over 20 people and we gathered for an informal pizza party on the shores of the "largest pool in Cozumel" at the Cozumel Hotel and Resort. Delivered Pizza Hut pizza was a far cry from the traditional pre-race Mellow Mushroom pizza dinner but not bad for Mexcio. We closed it up quickly "to get to bed early" but the truth of the matter is no one got a full nights sleep. I woke up often with a building amount of anxiety and eventually quit trying to go back to sleep around 3 AM. At 4 I got up and started my race morning tradition of coffee and oatmeal before we left to catch the shuttles.

Setting up my transition was rather uneventful until I realized I had dilly-dallied for too long and all the athletes were a getting into the water and completely clogging the pier. Afraid I would be at the back at the swim start I unsuccessfully bullied my way through the crowd. Luckily Story took over and we were at the edge of the pier in no time. I quickly zipped my Blueseventy PZ3TX and jumped into significantly calmer waters so I could make my way towards the frontline. It got really interesting waiting for the start. There was no real start line so the crowd keep pushing forward. Every so often some dude (specifically some dude in white goggles) would start swimming all out. Thinking the gun went off a crowd of people would start swimming forward, officials would yell, jet skis hauled ass over bringing the chaos to a stop but then the same dude would do it again. And again. And again. 4 times, 4 TIMES! Freakin' dudes . . .

Swim (57:37):
Predicable photo by a swimming sign.
The swim was tough. I think everyone will agree with that. Luckily the ocean was much calmer than it has been all week. The first 0.6 miles against the current did not seem that bad. Maybe it was a the adrenaline of the race start or the cohesiveness of the athletes but I did not notice anything significant other than some rollers making it a bit difficult to sight. The start of my swim was tough and I got bopped around by a bunch of dudes but eventually I broke away and swam up to a dude swimming at a good pace (Mr Pearl Izumi). I fixed myself at his hip and another guy fixed himself on his feet (Mr Swedes). We set a good pace and I could tell people were dropping off our pod. I was feeling good but I wanted to stay with these guys so I hung tight. We hit the first turn buoys and the 1.2 mile straightaway was all with the current. Eventually on the straight away Mr. Pearl Izumi stopped completely probably annoyed from dragging me and Mr Swedes around. Fair enough, so Mr Swedes and I took the lead. This is where I realized Mr Swedes was a Mr. and not a Mrs. He had petite features so I could not quite tell but then I saw it . . . . When Mr Swedes and I made the last turn towards the finish we were against a full current for the final 0.6 miles. It was quite difficult and this is not an understatement. When we made the final turn the pod broke up a bit and Mr. Pearl Izumi took off. I knew I was in good company but this tactic on Mr. Pearl Izumi's part made me realize he was a very experienced open water swimmer so I hauled ass to stay with him.  I was thankful I decided to stay on the draft of the guys going out. I was still feeling frisky and you could practically see the fatigue in the single swimmers ahead of us as we reeled them in one by one.  I spotted very few swimmers in front of us for the majority of the swim but as we approached the final stretch there seemed to be a group of swimmers ahead of us. Of course there was a little bit of WTF!?! going on in my head so I was super surprised when we pulled up to them and they turned out to be a group of female pros. I got pretty stoked and picked up the pace leaving my male companions. Despite the current I felt stronger and stronger and I ran to T1 feeling fresh. The only person I spotted in the crowd lining the swim exit? My mom. 

Bike (5:47:26):
Getting on the bike I felt good and my legs felt ready. We made a right turn from the park and the tailwind was nice and strong going out towards the tip of the island. 2 right turns later and we were in the headwind. It still wasn't too bad and I hit the center of the city spot on at 9:45 as predicted. Coming into the city and heading back towards the swim start, I again enjoyed the tailwind. Passing Chankanaab Park I felt great and was surprised to find the Charlotte spectators camped out waiting for us. So far my watts were right on target and I was already starting to pass back some people. Somewhere between the swim start and the first right turn my front wheel started making a dreadful noise; it sounded like it was made of tin foil. The pavement was a bit rougher here so I assumed it was just the rough pavement but I kept racking my brain, "Did it make this much noise thie first go around? Did I have trouble holding on to my aerobars when I first passed through here? Why is everyone riding away from me? Why are my watts so high? How much longer is this pavement going to last?" My hands were vibrating fiercely as I tried to hold on the aerobars. I looked down and everything about the wheels seemed fine so I continued to think it was just the pavement. Hoping smooth pavement would put me at ease I continued to ride. People began pulling away and passing me like I was standing still despite the fact I was putting out watts well above my target range. Finally, 20 minutes later, I pulled to the side just to check and sure enough the front tire was flat. Of course I kicked myself for not stopping sooner but I didn't dwell on it and broke out the flat kit James Haycraft made for me. I am not sure what I would have done if he had not handed me an extra tire with a valve extender wrapped in plasitc just before my departure. I am not used to riding with 808s and the concept of a valve extender was quite forgiegn to me. Equipped with the right tools I was ready to change my first race day flat tire but unfortunately I struggled with the tire itself. It was so tight on the wheel that every time I would get my tool in the there and move it the tire would just pop back in. I went back and forth with this until I was almost in tears. I am fairly certain I would not have been able to get the tire off on my own but luckily just when I thought my race was over a mechanics crew came over to help me. *I just have to add the mechanical crews here were great. This is probably the best supported race I have done.* So fortunate! It took two dudes another 10 minutes to take off the tire, replace the tube, and put back on the same ridiculously tight tire.  I got back on my bike relieved my legs did not feel tight and I fought the urge to "make up the lost time." Unfortunately I was going to have to stop at special needs to pick up my spare. I thought about foregoing it but then I thought if I flat again no one will have a tube with an extender. How much total time I lost is unknown; riding on the flat wheel, changing the tire and then stopping at special needs all took time out of my 2nd loop but I was still upright and still moving forward so the mishap did not ruin my race.

Run (4:15:29):
Coming into T2 my legs felt good and the energy coming into the city was electric. Taking off on the run I felt great and ready to make 26.2 happen. Unfortunately that enthusiasm did not last. I made it one lap before I started walking the aid stations. During the second lap alone I stopped to pee (first time peeing in an ironman mind you) and I stopped to walk 3 or 4 times to allieveate a side stitch. I started skipping every other aid station as they were every km instead of every mile and I was consuming pepsi on the course which seemed to help with my stitch, morale, and dwindling energy levels. For a good portion of this lap I contemplated taking a DNF. I wasn't having fun and I could barely bring myself to smile. I would have sat down on the curb but I did not want the humility of doing so and more importantly I did not want to endure the walk of shame back to the Charlotte specators eagerly waiting to cheer us on. The third lap was more of a mental struggle and I told myself if I was not half way in 2 hours or less I would call it quits.  I saw Story, Johnson, Causebrook, Jamie, Josh, Sarah, and Tanya all out on the course determined to finish and I decided to HTFU. So what if I wasn't going to be running my goal time, or qualifying for kona, or moving faster than a shuffle, I could still put one foot in front of the other. I was still running and running is the fastest way to the finishline. Realizing most of the athletes on the course would be absolutely ecstatic to run an 11+ hour ironman I stopped feeling sorry for myself. By the last loop a deep soreness was settling in my legs but finally at mile 25 I started chanting "let's finish this" and gave the last mile all leg speed I could muster. It felt like my old stride and I missed it. I have never appreciated crossing the finish line more than I did Sunday. I have never appreciated more the mental strength it takes to endure an event like this. Sunday's race was one that I fought for and I finished feeling like Galadriel when she passes the test in that scene from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings.

Keith caught a glimpse of me in the following video at 1:33. I am not sure I could have picked me out so I am super impressed with the spot.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cozumel Daily Diary, part dos

After a couple of days of venturing out on my own the rest of the Charlotte crew started arriving. Johnny Scoots arrived a day earlier than everyone else so we took the opportunity to rent a scooter and ride the entire bike course. Getting a working scooter was a calamity of errors but we completed the 39 mile loop . . . eventually. Cozumel is an amazing island. During our time on the scooter we may have been passed by 10 cars total AND there is a smooth recently paved separate bike path. It is a great place for a race and a phenomenal place to train! We rode from the center of the city to check out the swim start and then headed down towards the very tip of the island. The scenery just continued to intensify.
Jenny scoots 
Eventually we stopped to swim for a bit in a moderately protected bay. I swam out for 10 minutes and turned around. Unfortunately I had to swim back against the current and it took me somewhere between 15-20 minutes. This left me a little concerned with for the swim portion of the race but I tried not to dwell on it and continued exploring the island. The west side of the island has a significantly rockier coast than the east side. The east side consists of pristine beaches, protected and undeveloped. Every now and then a beach bar would pop up but it is mostly just coast line. The cross winds at this time were not too intense and we just experienced a tail wind on the west side and a head wind on the east side.

The coastline
Thursday, while most of America is running in turkey trots and/or stuffing their gut, we were out collecting our tribikes delivered by TriBike Transport and picking up our Race Packets. Luckily 10 of the Charlotte athletes and spectators were able to gather for a fine Italian meal at Sorrisi, Cozumel's premier Italian eatery. The real celebration did not begin until the next morning, however, when we showed up in our finest for the Ironman Cozumel Panties Run. Benefiting the local Humane Society we were all in on this one and we even made the local paper! We warmed up with a few stretches, did some yoga, ran a bit, and finished up with some zumba style dancing. It was great fun and we were a hit with the locals!

Making dreams a reality

Unfortunately proximity to race day and Cozumel adventures are inversely proportional so the hijinx has come to an end as we all spend less and less time on our feet and more time painting on our game faces. Tomorrow is the big dance and I am very much looking forward to hearing those words once again:
I have had a wonderful albeit long season but this has been a special year as I have been able to share it with some very special people. So here we go and good luck to all! Thank you all for your continued support and cheers. It is going to be a great day!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cozumel Daily Diary, part uno

So I made it to Cozumel. What more can I say than that? I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the Mexican coast when my bus from the Cancun airport arrived in Playa del Carmen, an hour south. The sand reflecting all of the sun's rays just intensified the ocean's beautiful teal green color. Playa del Carmen was a mix of beach and bars. It looks like a blast as people splashed around in the clear water and then mingled amongst the seaside bars. Definitely looked like a fun place to spend a day . . .  after the race.
Playa del Carmen

From PDC I could see the Cozumel coast and in less than an hour I was in Cozumel. My flight to Cancun was about 3 hours but it took about 4 hours to get from Cancun to Cozumel when you include the time to go through customs, immigration, the bus ride, ferry ride, and various periods of waiting and baggage handling. Luckily my ferry ride was uneventful - apparently this was not the case for several other people. No one around me got sea sick and most importantly neither did I. A little girl played hide and seek with me. She would giggle and yell with delight everytime I spotted her. It took almost the entire boat ride before I realized she was yelling "HOLA!" Hahaha yeah I'm such a gringo. There was a sprinkling of triathletes on this boat and they could easily be discerned by the presence of a visor, race T-shirt, compression socks, bright colored clothing, and/or a pair of performance sunglasses. Whenever I travel to a race I become very cognisant of how triathlon is more than a hobby as it is both a lifestyle and a mindset.

The taxi trip to the Tamarindo Bungalow and Apartments was less than 5 minutes. In hindsight I could have walked but at least the trip gave me some bearings and the relationship of my casa to the rest of the race venue. To my delight, the apartment is perfect. It has a very authentic Mexican feel with colorful tile in the kitchen and bathroom, open air eaves, embroidered linens. It is also just one block from the major hub from the convention center where we will pick up our packet, attend meetings, etc. Luckily we are also sandwiched between both host hotels, Cozumel Palace and Hotel Cozumel which makes meeting up with the rest of the Charlotte crew pretty easy. A lot of people have asked me how I came across the Tamarindo Bungalow and Apartments and I have to give all the credit to The Hostel Life, a web based travel show created and starring a former swim teammate of mine, Mehdy Ghannad. I crossed checked the place on TripAdvisor  and the overwhelming positive reviews sealed the deal for me.

Cabana outside apartment
My room
I lucked into an excellent dinner my first meal in Mexico. I went to a place called Rock and Java my first night here and ordered a small margarita and veggie burger. The drinks here are all huge so I had to convince the server to make me just a small Margarita. There are plenty of large ones in my future! The veggie burger was topped with sauteed mushrooms, monterey jack cheese, and a thick slice of grilled pineapple. Muy bueno! I simply could not have asked for a better meal after a long day of travel.

Beet based veggie burger

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lucky girl

I am a lucky girl.

I have had an amazing last couple of days.

But really I have had a great season.

No, wait. I have had a great year.

Come to think about it, I have had a couple of great years.

You know what? My life ain’t that bad.

My coach gave me a little down time after Augusta so last week represented my first full week back to the grind. Sunday I planned to head out to Raleigh with about 10 other athletes from Charlotte to attend the Inside Out NCTS banquet. I got up early to hit a long run at McMullen greenway prior to my bike ride. During the drive I thought about the athletes having just finished the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and my friends getting ready to race Rev3 Anderson. Watching the sun rise in the distance, I cruised down the interstate and I thought about how much I enjoy my life. I recognize it isn't for everyone but I have a great job, I have the most wonderful and talented friends, and every day I wake up to train for a sport I love. Do I make sacrifices? Absolutely. Do I question my dedication and motivation? Probably more often than I would like to admit. Is it worth it? I simply would not have it any other way.

Sunrise through the window of a dirty car
I was talking to a friend the other day about food (really, are you surprised?). As some of you may know I don’t eat meat and tomatoes so when my friend told me he would try anything twice I was a little puzzled; most people say they will try anything once. When I questioned him on the reasoning behind trying everything twice I really liked his answer. He told me you can’t guarantee that first taste fully represents the experience. I understood exactly where he was coming from seeing how I applied a very similar thought process to the NCTS. Last year I ended up winning the 2 highest scored races and ultimately the entire NCTS because of another competitor’s DNF and a drafting penalty. Many people told me they were legitimate wins but I was a little uneasy with the designation.  I made it a goal this year to try to win the series to prove to myself the 2011 results were not a fluke. If I raced well and smart I knew I had a good chance at the series. I ended up squeaking out wins at the 5 races I competed in with one just seconds over a super talented and super fast 15 year old, Malia Ellington. The girl is going to be tough to beat next year! 

Just a handful of the best athletes in NC
Once again I ended the season by cashing a big check and eagerly anticipating a custom made jacket courtesy of Set Up Events. Once again Set Up Events out did themselves as probably the best race production team in the nation. Set Up is always looking to provide its racers with the very best race experience. Their efforts do not go unnoticed and I appreciate all the hard work they put in to their events. 

Ok ok, my season did not end but it is getting close. So close I can almost feel the sun on my skin and white sand between my toes . . . 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The truth be told I am a creeper magnet. I have many stories about creepers and they get really creepy. Ask me to tell you one sometime, I have many to choose from. I think I am a rather normal girl but if there is a creeper in the room he will find me and talk to me. I guarantee it.

One night last week I ended a full day’s work to pick up Marvin from Inside Out so I could go for an hour’s spin on the booty loop. I was having an enjoyable ride from the shop, through town and down East Boulevard (who doesn't love East Boulevard?). I waited for the light at Queens Road West and after it turned green I cruised onto the loop. Those of you familiar with this intersection know I was going at a significantly slower speed than the cyclists already on the loop who get to careen at a high rate of speed through the right turn thanks to a lengthy and uninterrupted downhill. So it was not surprising when two dudes passed me somewhere between that intersection and the turn on to Hopedale. The guy leading the pair turned to me with a smile and a hello but continued on his way . . . or so I thought. He was rather nondescript except for a little extra in the middle and his obnoxiously bright yellow Mavic cycling shoes. I do not know if he slowed down or if his companion decided he did not need his draft anymore but the next thing I know the one guy is off the front and Mr.Mavic has made his way behind me. This sequence of events is not unusual so I continued to enjoy my ride at a steady but easy pace. I figure he will ride behind me through the flats and then pass me in a turn or on the first hill like most dudes do. There are two types on guys on the booty loop – those schmucks who go over their ability to pass a girl just because she is a girl only to fizzle out a quarter of a mile later and the guy who turns to me on every hill asking why I am pedaling so hard and demanding to know my 3 sec watts (he has a blog and it is here). Anyhoots, so Mr. Mavic pulls in behind me and never leaves. I go fast, I go slow, I accelerate through the turns, I inch through the turns, I pass people, people pass me, no matter what I do the Mr. Mavic just hangs back there. At times he is just coasting and I can hear is rear wheel free spin. I can practically hear him breathing in my ear. I eventually caught up to Mr. Mavic’s original companion hoping the reunion would remove the growth from my back wheel but it didn’t work. Finally I pulled into the parking lot when there were a large number of people getting off their bikes. Mr. Mavic also pulled into the parking lot. I stopped, pretended I knew someone, and watched as Mr. Mavic circled the lot and headed out. I gave him a good head start before I headed back to the store. That is creepy right? Freakin creepers. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ending on a High Note

Last week was marked by some severe up and downs. My training has bumped up in volume in preparation for my last race of the season, Ironman Cozumel. My weekends have ended with me not feeling refreshed but worn out and wondering how I am going to start it all over again Monday morning. The highlight of my weekend last week was two fast runs with 2 of Charlotte’s fastest triathletes, James Haycraft and Scott Woodbury. Unfortunately I paid for it with a set of sore legs which may or may not have had anything to do with getting dropped on the group ride Tuesday night. If it had not been for Kim Eagens and Jonathan Story I am not exactly sure how I would have made it home. In my mind I was replaying Norman Stradler’s famous meltdown in the 2005 Ironman World Championships where he threw down his bike after a 2nd flat tire and wept in his hands. By the time we made it back to West Boulevard I contemplating scratching Augusta and Cozumel from the books and calling it a season. The next morning I was still in a funk even though I was officially starting my taper. It took me awhile to come around but when I went to pick up my race ready bike from Steve at Inside Out Sports I started to feel that pre-race excitement which continued to magnify through to race day. 

Ironman Augusta 70.3

Up and out!
Swim 20:21 (1st AG):
Kicking off the race in wave 23, a full 90 minutes after the race started, I had plenty of time to make my way from transition to the hill overlooking the swim course. I tried to level my rising anxiety by running through the race in my mind but it wasn't until I was heading down to the dock that I was able to quiet my mind to focus on the task at hand. Jumping into the 76 degree water I barely got my head under when my Blueseventy Helix wetsuit popped me back up to the surface. Something about the "pop" lit a little fire in me and I knew without doubts I was ready to give this a go. When the airhorn blew I ducked underwater, took off kicking, and let the wetsuit propel me to the surface. Three strokes in I breathed to the left, no one. I breathed immediately to the right, no one. Alone I aimed toward the buoys and the middle of the river hoping to take full advantage of the current. Before I knew it I was closing in on the exit ramp and the only thought on my mind was, "wow that was a fun!"

Wait, what did you call me?

Bike 2:33:30 (1st AG):
So I made few mistakes with my bike this go around. I am usually much more attentive to detail but some oversights on my part meant I put my wheel cover on wrong so I could not pump up my back tire race day. I had plenty of time to notice and correct this mistake before race day but I just wasn't paying enough attention to notice. Once I realized the mistake I tried not to stress about. The mistake may mean some time lost on the course and maybe even a flat tire but it certainly wasn't going to ruin my race. No race is absolutely perfect. Accepting this would be just a part of my bike ride so I took off on the bike bound to catch any of the remaining 30-34 ladies that started in the wave before me. The bike course was slightly rolling with a hint of wind and misting rain. Passing people from the 22 waves before me was both fun and treacherous. Luckily I did not run into any large groups blocking the road. Most people stayed to the right and as long I clearly announced I was passing on the left I had no significant problems.

Big beautiful smile thanks to Dr. Sarah!

Run 1:37:36 (1st AG):
Coming into T2 was a huge relief. I felt good on my bike and I was actually a little excited to start the run. Most of the people I knew from Charlotte started well before me so I was excited to see them out on the course. My coach (Brian Stover) gave me very detailed instructions on how to handle the run and for the first four miles I kept my pace in check and enjoyed the course. I was still passing people so I felt like I was flying but I also felt fairly comfortable. I was excited to see Sarah and Katie cheering on the side less than a mile in and the closer I got to downtown the more energy and excitement I picked up. About 1/2 way into the run and in a quieter section of the course I ran into Kim Eagens who informed me I had one of the top swims and I was currently the top female. This became a turning point for me as I realized I was in a position to not only finish the run but I actually could race the run. I continued to follow my coach's plan but descending those last 6 miles took pretty much everything I had left in the tank. 

Augusta 70.3 turned into in a breakthrough race. The moment after signing up for this race I regretted it. I always said I would boycott this race because of the swim but the course and timing before IMCZ really made it ideal. Eventually I came to terms with the fact that I could not completely rely on my swim to carry me through this one. I still gave the swim everything I could give it but holding back on the bike a bit I was able to run off the bike and run myself into a 70.3 1/2 marathon PR by at least 5 minutes! There were times I wondered if my performance at Muncie was a bit of a fluke. I mean the swim was shorted a mere 0.2 miles while the run was cut in half. When does a swimmer get that lucky in a triathlon? But turn the tables around and here is Augusta, a wetsuit and current aided swim, which is anything but swimmer biased and I did it again, winning my age group as well as finishing first amateur female! As an added bonus I grabbed my slot to return to Vegas in 2013 for the 70.3 World Championships.

Quick pic between downpours
Almost everyone who came from Charlotte had an unbelievable race. Lots of familiar faces on the course and I have to especially thank Sarah Padolsky, Katie Howard, Justin Andrews, Jip Kongruengkit, James Loberg, MC Armeen, Kelly and Meghan Fillnow, and Kim Eagens for their loud voices and constant encouragement.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

17 Hours to Glory

I have a long list of things I have to do and things I need to do. Sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between what it is I HAVE to do and what I WANT to do. Reading is one of those things. I love my books but every time I have a chance to sit down I am reminded of something I have to do or I fall asleep. My life can be summarized as such: gogogogogogogogogogo, sleep.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. How could I not? The writing was not the best and some of the stories seemed to go on forever about nothing while others left me wanting more. It takes 17 of the greatest finishers of the Hawaii Ironman and tells their stories from start to finish. Every Ironman athlete has a story but each of the 17 selected athletes have a very special story. From Mark Allen to Sister Madonna Buder to Chrissie Wellington,  each chapter goes through the athlete's background and what brought them to the finish line in Kona. Some of the stories are real feel-good-potential-for-"Lifetime"-after-school-specials types and others are highly technical featuring race strategies, PRs, course records and the role of competition camaraderie. Here are 17 tips and observations I made/noted while I was reading. 
  1. Don't drink Gatorade - Mark Allen
  2. Don't drink Exceed - Team Hoyt
  3. Don't put your life on hold. Anything worth doing is worth doing now. -Greg Welch
  4. Don't ever consider quitting - Julie Moss
  5. Your "ace in the hole" may ultimately turn into your weakest leg - Thomas Hellriegel
  6. You can still lose the race by 2:25 with only 3 miles of the run to go - Mark Allen
  7. If it takes sitting by the side of the road for twenty minutes to finish the IM, then by all means do it. -Paula Newby-Fraser 
  8. I never thought of myself as extremely talented, I worked very, very hard and never had any issue with doing the hard work. -Peter Reid
  9. You have to believe om your abilities and potential. Natural talent won't help if your head is not in the right place -Marc Herremans
  10. There are six times in every race where you enter a dark place of doubt and must have that passion to overcome -Brett Sutton via Chrissie Wellington
  11. The quickest way yo get faster swimming is to jump in the fast lanes -Greg Welch
  12. What a waste of two legs! You have them and you don't even use them! -Sarah Reinertsen
  13. Once you quit it can get to be a habit
  14. Age is just a number, like a race number, it does not predict the winners and losers -Natasha Badmann
  15. Only those who set goals stay motivated. -Robert McKeague
  16. Don't ride 340 miles the week before a race -Julie Moss
  17. The "Iron War" between Mark Allen and Dave Scott is overrated, especially when you consider the intense rivalry between physically challenged athletes David Bailey and Carlos Moleda. Truly truly inspiring, by far the best chapter in the book. 

Most of us only hear about the wins but this book reminded me that it is not about the destination, it is all about the journey. 


Listing of the 17 profiled athletes in the 17 Hours to Glory:
- Julie Moss
- Mark Allen
- Team Hoyt
- Paula Newby-Fraser
- Greg Welch
- Sister Madonna Buder
- Karen Smyers
- Thomas Hellriegel
- David Bailey and Carlos Moleda
- Andreas Niedrig
- Robert McKeague
- Sarah Reinertsen
- Peter Reid
- Natascha Badmann
- Marc Herremans
- Normann Stadler
- Chrissie Wellington

Monday, August 27, 2012

Swim Set 8/27/12

Some people have a need for speed! Me, not so much. I swam this workout this morning and it was deceptively hard. After the warm up set there are two main sets. The second of the two with break you, I guarantee it. It is difficult for me to suggest an interval if you have a hard time making 50 yards in :35. If :35 is too hard and :40 is too easy (you should only be getting about :02 rest at most) then I suggest you throw on a pair of fins. Enjoy!

MCAC Short Course yards:

10 minute warm up

16x 50, 4 times through (1st round: kick, 2nd round: drill, 3rd: kick, 4th: drill):
1-    25 fly/25 back @ :60
2-    25 back/25 breast @ :60
3-    25 breast/25 free @ :60
4-    50 swim IMO @ :60 (1st round: 50 fly, 2nd: back, 3rd: breaststroke, 4th: free)

3 times through:
1x 50 build to fast :60
4x 100 descend 1:20
2x 25 no breathers :30 (really try to make these, try on :45 but the first one will always be the hardest one to make)
*leave next top*

100 easy or smack talk

Drop out 50s: 
1 x 50 @ :35                         
1 x 50 @ 1:00 recovery
2 x 50 @ :35                          
1 x 50 @ 1:00
3 x 50 @ :35                          
1 x 50 @ 1:00
4 x 50 @ :35                          
1 x 50 @ 1:00
5 x 50 @ :35                          
1 x 50 @ 1:00
6 x 50 @ :35                         
1 x 50 @ 1:00


Cool down

Monday, August 20, 2012

Swim Set 8/20/12

How did it get this late in August! The summer is flying by and I did not get enough long course to fill my heart's deepest desires! I swam the following workout with Charlotte's finest last Thursday and I loved it. I used a workout I saw on FB and tweaked it a bit, or a lot, but still it inspired me and that is all that really matters.

MCAC Long Course:

10 minute warm up

Warm up set:
1x 50 kick 1:10 
1x 50 drill :60 
1x 100 IM 2:00 
1x 200 3:00 (descend per round) 

The real deal. If this doesn't make you faster nothing will:
1x 500 7:30 (or :30 secs rest)
10x 100 1:35 descend in groups of 2 (or :10 secs rest)
1x 500 7:30 (faster than first) (or :30 secs rest)
100 easy 
3x 100 1:45 descend from threshold pace (or :30 rest)

100 cool down

On a different note, here's the plan for the First Inaugural Charlotte and Associated Nearby Areas Triathletes Totally Awesome Swim Meeting (FICANATTASM). Plan on doing it on August 25th (or 26th - the day of Lake Norman Sprint in the afternoon or the Sunday after). Anybody that wants to participate, submit a SCY seed time for a 50, 100, 200 and 500. Game on! (Like ICE Racing on FB for more details . . . )

Monday, August 13, 2012

Swim Set 8/13/12

Charlotte Latin is closed for the next two weeks so I am swimming Uptown. With the current gas prices I can say I am thankful to not have to drive so far south for a couple of days a week.

MCAC Short Course:

10 minute talk smack or warm up

100 pull 1:30
75 drill 1:15
50 kick :60
25 :45 (reverse IMO per round)

6x 200 2:45
   1-3 descend
   4 - threshold
   5 - threshold -1
   6 - threshold -2
*rest 1 minute*

6x 100 1:25
   1-3 descend
   4 - threshold
   5 - threshold -1
   6 - threshold -2
*rest 1 minute*
6x 50 :50
   1-3 descend
   4-5 hold
   6 - FAST
*100 easy*

My favorite:
10x 25 :40
-no breathers 1/2 underwater streamline, 1/2 swim

Cool down

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Weekend of Ones

After Muncie I had about a week of down time before I hit my first ironman training block. Containing the first of what I hope to be several 100milers, the two week block was both awesome and ugly:

First 100 in the NC mountains, see recap here
Swim: 10.3 miles
Bike: 411 miles
Run: 77 miles

Luckily I got to cut things back a bit going to the Stumpy Creek International and Sprint races. I had only competed in three races until this past weekend so I wanted to go ahead and get to that 5 race mark to see where I stand against the other ladies in the series. Last year it was my goal to win the series so I was aggressive with my race selection, White Lake Half being an essential race to do well in. This year I am taking a less aggressive but more calculated approach.

Friday night I was having a little trouble sleeping so I got up early to go through my bags and eat an early breakfast. I was going to get on the spin bike to warm up my legs but I opted for a good stretch session instead. I spent about an hour stretching the day before Muncie and it worked for me. When something works you stick with it, right?

SCI Swim – 21:25 (1st)
Last year the swim was long. This year it was significantly closer the 1500m mark. I did not have the greatest swims. Doug Van Wie was well off the front and I watched Derek Kidwell hold on as long as he could. I decided to speed up a bit to try on catch on the train but by the time I did DVW was done chewing up Derek and was already spitting him out. Swimming with Derek was better than swimming alone but I decided to use my open water turns to get a little bit of space. Unfortunately I was having some trouble with foggy goggles. I stopped twice to clear them enough so I could see. I also got stopped by a kayaker who was placed perpendicular to me and the next buoy. She told me I was off course. I told her she was a liar . . . ok not really . . . I waited for her boat to pass and continued sighting the next turn. I felt like I was on course, I was just perhaps more toward the left while the bulk of the racers were to the right.  

SCI Bike – 1:13:20 (1st)
The green car makes my large helmet look less awkward. 
I got smoked in T1. Mike Selle and DK blew through the transition leaving me to wonder what I was doing, racing or dilly-dallying! By the time I hit the bike course they were long gone. On the bike and leaving the park I visualized my game plan, to increase my effort each quarter. I decided I would surge a little every time I got passed by one of the male racers (not for drafting purposes but more motivating purposes). I made it 2.75 miles before I got passed by Mr Man-Van himself. I was waiting for him to blow past me and surprised I made it 2.75 miles before I heard what can only be the beast’s battle call. 

SCI Run – 43:41 (4th)
In my head this is how the run went:
Blah, blah, blah . . . “There’s Melissa, yay Melissa!’ . . .  blah, blah, blah . . . “Is this hill ever going to end?” . . . “I am so close to the finish line. Dang, I have to turn and do it again?” . . . blah blah blah . . . “Yay there’s Melissa!” . . . blah blah blah . . . “This hill is a cruel joke. Oh hey Kathleen Casto, stop running like an ogre you say? Easy for you and your tiny little self to say”  . . . blah . . . “Wait! The rest is all downhill! Yesssssss! Oh sweet finish line so blue, so welcoming . . .”

I look happy to be running, This makes me happy.
I felt good on the run and my legs felt strong. Knowing the course was a double loop made it a lot easier. Usually everything goes by faster the second time around so it was motivating to get on that second loop knowing exactly what was waiting for me. The run course was rather lonely until the big intersection. Kathleen caught me just before the big finish. She actually told me to run light on my feet as she zipped past me. It was a welcome thought and I felt motivated watching her light and elegant stride sail up the hill. I tried to emulate her. The gap grew wider but I felt good and heeding her advice I did get light on my feet making it a lot easier to get to the top. The path to the finish line was the only thing I remembered from last year’s race; I had yet reach the ball fields when they called out the winning female’s name. I ran all out in an effort to limit her point allocation, a decision that ultimately played in my favor. Just goes to show you a race isn’t the place to kick back into cruise mode just because you are in a comfortable position. With that little memory I gathered some speed on the downhill, tried not to eat gravel on the trail, and rounded the field with a strong final finish.

Doubling Down
Waking up for the sprint felt a little chaotic. I basically grabbed all of my stuff from the day before and threw it in the car drinking my coffee and eating my pre-race breakfast. Everything was so much less calculated and controlled. I was feeling slightly less than enthusiastic about the race but I had a decision to make. I could either show up whining and wallowing on stiff legs or I could commit to having a great race, even if I had to dig a bit deeper to make it happen.

SCS Swim – 12:42 (including T1) (1st)
I think Derek is wondering about my split speed suit.
Luckily the race was half as crowded as the day before so set up was quick. I was hoping to be number 2 again so I would not have to switch out all my race numbers but who can complain when you are handed #1? With plenty of time left for a decent warm up, I headed down to the water after a good little run. I must have been feeling frisky as I decided to do some flip turns in the open water. Well on one of them my speed suit split right across the butt. Of course they were going to make us exit the water and re-enter and I was feeling a little bit embarrassed but also little bit like a member of the cool-kids-who-split-their-suits-club (do the names Ricky Berens and Nathan Adrian ring a bell?) Oh well, the swim must go on! To my delight, Derek Kidwell also opted to participate in the double. He goes fast from the beginning so I was happy to follow in his wake for a bit.

Good thing there is speed limit sign posted
SCS Bike – 40:40 (1st)
I had a pretty good idea of what to expect on the bike course from the day before. I think the course itself was a little slower since it still had the hills going into and out of the park but it was missing the really fast bit on the back stretch. I hoped to be faster on the sprint distance but I will have to settle with just putting out more power. Towards the end, a male racer passed me giving me an update on the rest of the women’s field. It put a bit more fire in my legs so I rode hard back to the park ready to give that run course another go.

SCS Run – 21:42 (1st)
It looks like I'm smiling but I'm grimacing due to the smell
Heading out onto the run course, I was less than 10 feet from an AG male competitor. We had about the same pace going and I worked to catch up to him. It turned out to be Turner Boone a former Charleston resident, who like me, moved after a long period of participating in local races. Just as I finally thought I had him, he pulled away. And once again approaching that nasty nasty hill, I thought hard about Kathleen’s words. The next thing I know I am headed down the hill to the finish line. Turner was just ahead of me and I thought with a good kick I might be able to catch up to him. He must have been thinking something similar since we continued to round the field equidistant to one another.

I had two good races and at any moment I could have fallen back into cruise mode with a number of excuses. I was proud of my effort however; I was elated when the results were posted. I was pleased with my splits at the international but I was really happy with the results from the sprint. I have been chasing the dream of seeing 1s across the board, first swim split, bike split, AND run split. I am no longer just a swimmer. I am a triathlete. 

Also, I would like to thank Sarah Padolsky for taking such great pictures during the race. It is one thing to look at the results but it is another to see people in the midst of their race; some have huge smiles, some look so determined, and some are just sooooooo aero. I find it encouraging and motivating so THANK YOU. See more photos here.