Friday, September 27, 2013

Wilmington YMCA Sprint

At this point there are few races in the Set Up series I have not had the pleasure to compete in. After getting a flat and DNFing at Lake Norman I had two options. Option 1) Wait to race the last race in the series, Pinehust, crossing my fingers that nothing prevents me from finishing. Option 2) Drive to the one of the most popular beaches in NC with two of friends to compete in a race I have never done with a disproportionately long swim. After weighing the pros and cons for about 5 secs, I signed up for the Wilmington YMCA Sprint Triathlon. I have heard nothing but great things about the race but I had no idea this was one of the largest sprint triathlons in the southeast often selling out with 1,100 participants. 

Repping the 313, errrrr, I mean ICE Racing with Ross and Leslie

Swim: (1500m ~16:41)
This is a different kind of swim than the ones I have grown accustom. Instead of following a row of sighting buoys and turning right at each of two turning buoys, we were just to cut through the intercoastal waterway, point-to-point. Sadly I knew instantly the goggles I picked were the wrong choice as the green tint washed out the orange color of the buoys. I should have gone with my tried-and-true pair but it was still dark when I had to choose. No turning back, I lined up on the front and in the middle of the two docks. Matt Wisthoff was off to my left with a gaggle of groupies, Marty Gaal was quietly bobbing to my right, and Eric Lane was hiding somewhere behind me. Pro tip: Always know where the good swimmers are. When the gun went off there was a steady stream of swimmers to my left as well as to my right. I didn't have anyone near me until I was on a collision course with Marty. Marty crossed over to my left, another guy held tight to my right, and Matt . . . well Matt was no where to be seen. I followed the buoys away from the start but after the turn the sighting buoys were minimal. I could barely see the dancing orange man so I just hoped I was on course and not losing too much time. 

T1 (1:14)
It was a long run from the swim exit to the bike racks. I saw Matt head out on the bike. He crushed me. It should not surprise me that I got crushed by Matt but it disappoints me nonetheless. 
He has lots of experience on this course and knew exactly what to expect, a definite advantage above and beyond being the area's fastest swimmer.  When I finally got to my rack I struggled to get my helmet on but other than that it was uneventful. 

Bike (12 miles ~30:43) 
I am pretty psyched I ended up with a good bike split. I was riding pretty conservatively which is normal for me but I was extra conservative because of the rain. 
I pushed the bike as hard as I felt comfortable during the straightaways but I turned it down in the corners. I needed to finish this race. Finishing was my #1 priority so I slowed my roll coming into the corners and rode around all the standing water and pot holes.  Due to the rain we were required to get off our bikes at the metal grate on the bridge going out of and back into transition. If you did not get off your bike and walk it across the bridge you were instantly DQ'ed. I have never competed in race where I had to get off the bike mid-course. Going out it was not a problem. I jumped onto the sidewalk with my bike and ran across. On the way back, the sidewalk was not an option so I jumped off my bike and started to run across the grates in my cleats. It got awkward really fast so I quit running and just walked across. 

Made it!
T2 (0:55)
Coming into transition was a little chaotic as people were just starting to hit the bike course. Luckily I hit the correct entrance and exit so I was out running in no time. And by "no time" I mean :55 which is actually a long time. One of my lanemates swam a 100 free in :55 this morning. Hmmmmm, now that I think about it I probably should work on improving my transition times a bit. 

Run (5K ~21:06)
This run was interesting. The top ten guys had already passed me so I was out on the course alone. There were times when I questioned if I was still on the course. A guy passed me and wondered the same thing, we laughed together for a moment before he took off and I just plugged along. The course itself was bustling with spectators which normally means you are on the course but they were walking towards the transition as I was running away from it. The majority of them did not acknowledge my existence, like I was out just out shopping . . .  in the streets of Wrightsville Beach . . . in a speedo . . . and running shoes . . .  like it was no big deal. Once I got to the little out and back portion of the run course I felt a lot less exposed. I got the see the race as it was breaking down for the men and I now knew I had a pretty decent lead on the next female in my wave. 

I still run funny and my butt looks, um, substantial

Total: 01:10:38, first female overall 
I was super surprised and super stoke to cross the finish line under 71 minutes. Looking at the results from years past the fastest time on that course took place in 2005, in 1:10:54. With the rain, my conserve bike effort, and the whole walking across the bridge thing, I did not think I had a chance to clear 71 minutes. Luckily the swim currents were in our favor this year!

I kinda look tiny which pleases me
After the race I did something I have never done before. I went to Starbucks and ordered a PSL. Squiggy-Wiggly posted a rant on FB about it and I had to see what the fuss was about. I figured it was a good time to forgo the donut and celebrate with a hot drink containing 49 grams of sugar. My conclusion: Oh smack that is a sweet drink!! The flavor is nice but if I am going to consume that much sugar, it is going to be in the form of a donut. I had to add black coffee just to make my treat drinkable. Luckily my $5 coffee came with pearls of wisdom from the cashier who started to lecture me on how he would never let a woman pay for her coffee, drinks, food, etc and how any man worth my time would have the same opinion. He had me convinced until he started dropping words like jail time, probation, in-laws . . . 

But now it is time to focus on yet another race, the Carolina Half. I have a little anxiety about my first half of the season but I am excited to finally get one under my belt this year. Wanna come watch? Consider volunteering for the Charlotte SPCA. If the CharlotteSPCA gets 60 volunteers at the race they will receive a donation of $1000!! There are still a few spots left. Click here for the schedule.

Thanks to Leslie Thompson for all the sweet pictures and for picking fights with Ross Handy. I am glad someone is keeping that kid in line!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Flat to First, Part 2

Even though I was super psyched up after watching Ironman Louisville, Brian scheduled me some down time. I usually try to schedule a big race mid-summer so I can divide the triathlon season into two parts. A midseason break really helps me deal with my fluctuations in motivation and training performance. The way my schedule was playing out I did not get a break neatly folded in a package with streamers and glitter. A break was forced upon me because I was struggling with my motivation, purpose, and pace. Honestly I thought the timing could not be worse but now as I write this I am thankful I have a brilliant coach who could see the writing on the wall. It is a fine line to walk when you are trying to balance life, work, and differing levels of training induced fatigue. Sometimes you need to push forward to make fitness gains Sometimes you need to back off to make fitness gains. The tell-tale sign I need a real break? I suddenly hate swimming. I suddenly hate swimming with a passion. 

Luckily, I see nothing but clear skies ahead, so on with the show!

Inside Out Sports White Lake International 2013
Is that a name or what!?!

Swim (20:23)
I dunno why but this swim felt hard to me. The gun went off and I started thrashing around. James Haycraft was meandering next to me and creeping closer and closer. It was getting a little uncomfortable. I was so distracted by the going ons to my left I completely lost sight of Matt Wisthoff. As soon as I dropped James like a bad habit, I was able to focus in on Wisthoff as he was making his approach into the first turn buoy. I was eager to make the turn as the prevailing currents and/or wind was blowing water into my face and I was struggling to sight and breathe. Luckily things did improve after I made the first turn and I tried not to lose more ground behind Matt. Before the race started I noticed the final stretch of sighting buoys was off the line to the swim finish so when I made the final turn I took a couple of breaststrokes to focus in on the orange dancing man at the end of the dock.  I completely ignored the sighting buoys floating way off to the left and took a direct line into the finish. Anyone who chose to follow the sighting buoys easily swam an additional 25m and was forced to cut hard towards the swim exit. I did not feel like I was swimming especially fast but I was still disappointed when I exited the water and someone yelled "22 minutes." Spectators are great but you can't believe everything you hear. Luckily he was wrong and since I entered and exited T1 alone I figured I had to be doing ok. 

T1 (1:22)
I saw Matt exit just as I was rounding the corner. I did not see anyone enter transition before I left which was a good feeling. I was getting tired of seeing James. 

Bike (1:10:53)
By the time I got on the bike Matt was out of sight. Just me and my bike. I did not mind so much as the course is flat and with only four turns there are no surprises to anticipate. Unless you count the guy who rolled up next to me in a big truck and tried to talk to me as I was approaching one of the few turns on the course. I have no idea what he was saying to me but he eventually got the hint that I could not nor was I interested in hearing him and drove off. Why do people do weird things? Why do people ask you the time when you are very clearly running a threshold interval through the park? Why? Sorry, I digress. Dave Williams passed me early in the ride and James passed me at mile 3.01. I was not passed again until the run which is really really cool. I kept thinking "if no guys are passing me the probability of a girl passing me is dropping exponentially."  I made a point to be conservative on the first half of the ride. I split the ride into quarters and concentrated on building my watts each quarter. I am glad I was conservative going out because there was a little head wind. I did not fight it and just relaxed as I moved along the course. As I was building my effort a tail wind was gaining and giving me more speed. I took advantage of that and finished the course right where I wanted to be. 

T2 (1:08)
I should have used my flying dismount. The conditions were perfect but I chickened out . . . again. Oh well, I grabbed my number and a gel and made my way to the transition exit. 

Run (42:53)
The run at White Lake is flat and hot. With little shade and a rising sun there is nowhere to hide.  My goal was to build the run. It is waaaaay too easy to get off the bike and start the run too fast. I knew I would probably go out a little too fast so I tried to keep calm and relaxed. I wanted the first quarter to feel easy. I was passed by a couple of guys but as I closed in on the turnaround I was confident I was holding a good pace. However, after the turnaround I started to pick it up. I knew I was close to breaking the fastest time put down on that course but I would have to make a final push. I tried to build through the last three miles so that the last mile felt like I was running pretty much as hard as I could go. When I crossed the finish line I was pretty pumped. A final time of 2:16:37 meant that I just beat the fastest time on that course by 3 minutes! I know there are a lot of variables there but when you are chasing ghosts you gotta work with what you got. 

I'm guessing I'm a little more shy than #2
3 races down 2 to go. I needed a good performance at White Lake to be competitive in the series. I was not sure I was going to race the NCTS again this year. I went back and forth about it with my coach. The early season knee injury changed the focus of my season a bit and while I was not ready to race a 70.3 this summer, I was certainly ready to try my hand a sprint here and there. This week I have come to the conclusion that I will not be pursuing the NCTS next year. I had the opportunity to race a couple of races outside of the series and I really enjoyed them. It is time to mix it up a bit. Set Up puts on great events and I have been racing with them since I first started. In fact I won the SCTS quite some time ago, circa 2005, when everyone still raced in speedos and bikinis. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Flat to First, Part 1

Two weeks ago I was getting excited for the Lake Norman Sprint. The race is one of the most popular here in Charlotte. I have only competed in it once so I was excited to give it another go and compare my two races.

Swim (10:58)
I have mentioned this before but I have no sprint speed so I have really been trying to get after it when the gun goes off. This race was no exception. The gun went off and I took off kicking and screaming. With James to my immediate left and an unknown fella to my immediate right I had some work to do before I could break into some clean water. I only started dropping these two dudes when I prepared my approach into the first turn buoy. Since the turn was a hard right, I pre-sighted the line I wanted to take coming out of the turn and used 2 quick backstrokes to create a gap going into the straight away. Once I had the gap I tried to pick up the pace. Even though the end of the swim was right into the sun, I did not have any problems sighting.

T1 (1.46)
James came out of the water a lot closer to me than I expected. I thought I had a pretty strong swim but I know as the lead swimmer I am at a bit of a disadvantage since I have nothing to sight off but the buoys. Unfortunately I did not study T1’s layout very well and I ended up running my bike the long way out. James took advantage of my mistake and passed me going the shorter route. I just laughed. I should have known this was the beginning of the end.

Bike (5:36)
James was already ahead of me and the gap was growing. A minute or two later I got passed by the happiest man on the planet, Frank Fawcett. I made it past Davidson College but shortly after rounding the turn to take us out to the more distant parts of Davidson I heard the unmistakable pop of my front tire. 1.5 miles. Without a flat kit there was nothing much to do but turn around and walk back to the race. It was a little awkward as I cheered for oncoming racers with puzzled looks on their faces but it was fun. It took me forever to walk back to transition but I got there with about 5 minutes to spare before James came tearing around the corner.

Happy Ending
Flats happen. I am just glad I was close enough to transition to walk my bike back. A lot of people questioned why I was not carrying a flat kit. Normally, for an 18 mile bike stopping to change a flat is not worth it, if you are going for the wins at least. Unfortunately with only two races in the series I really needed this race to get the required 5 but things like this happen and I have to move on. I will be carrying a flat kit from here on out because there just aren't enough races left for me to be DNFing. The race itself turned out to be one of the more interesting races of the season. A non-open female ultimately won the women's race,  ICE teammate, Ross Handy, forgot his bike shoes, a couple of the lead guys accidently cut the course short, and an athlete I know well was hit by a car during the bike portion of the race. Once I found out Greg Shore had been hit my flat meant nothing to me. My one concern was for Greg and doing what I could to help. Despite being T-boned by a truck Greg suffered only a sprain to the ankle and a small tear in his calf muscle. Two days was able to compete in the ITU Aquathlon World Championships and will compete in the sprint today!  

James, Tim, and I immediately left Lake Norman to embark on a road trip to Louisville, KY to watch and cheer during Ironman Louisville. I have never been to this race but it seems to be very popular among the Charlotte triathlon crowd. It was a whirlwind trip but it was a great time. I really enjoyed watching the race unfold and seeing athletes, some known and some unknown to me, dig deeper than they every had to before. While watching the race I came to the conclusion that ironman races are indeed very special events. I felt like I had butterflies in my stomach the entire time I was there. I even caught the ironman bug for about 72 hours. Luckily, since then I have recovered my senses.

Keeping ourselves (and the athletes) entertained

Flat to First, Part 2  . . . . 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Smoothie Time

I just consumed one of the best smoothies yet. I am always on the look out for good "green smoothie" recipes but I always end up winging it based on what I have available at home. I have been experimenting a bit more so luckily I have a freezer full of frozen fruit and a cabinet full of tasty additions like chia, almond butter, shredded coconut, ground flax, etc. The other night I made this smoothie based loosely on one I saw online. It turned out to be quite delicious and a definite treat after a hot afternoon of running:

I use a NutriBullet but it does not really matter what kind of blender you use. I also used frozen fruit so the smoothie would be thinker without the addition of ice. And I do not have an ice maker or ice cube trays. I never thought about it actually. 

- Two handfuls of spinach or your favorite blend of greens
- 8-10 frozen peach slices (or 1 cup loosely)
- 1/2 cup of blackberries
- 1 12oz container of Tropicana Grape Juice

Blend together and enjoy!

In hindsight I should have watered down the grape juice. Juices generally have too much sugar to maintain a steady blood glucose level. I should have mixed 6 oz of water with 6 oz of grape juice. I am sure it would have tasted the same and I would have been able to make another smoothie later in the week. Next time. Next time.