Thursday, June 20, 2013

I do not always do single sport events but when I do . . .

I love swimming. I think my enthusiasm for swimming is unparalleled in the triathlon world. I am one of the few people who look forward to swim practice. I actually go to bed kind of giddy the night before. BUT I have my limits. One of those limits includes swim meets. I cannot bring myself to swim in or get excited for a swim meet. Ironmans are nothing compared to sitting all day at a swim meet, warming up, warming down, constantly snacking, waiting, lots of waiting, all just for one event. So yeah . . . right now swim meets are not quite on the radar. With my knee still in recovery I am not interested in participating in any run specific races either so decided to try my hand at a few cycling events. 

Lowes Time Trial:
This event makes me really nervous. I did this event once last year. It was my first time doing anything like it and I borrowed a some race wheels for the occasion. The conditions that night were pretty terrible as it was super windy. There were times when my bike would jump up the track a foot or so causing me to panic a little more than necessary. This month's TT wasn't much better. The sky was ominous and the wind was starting to get a little swirlie. Despite a few mechanical issues (ie installing a latex tube with a huge hole in it) I was able to get in a decent warm up before heading over to the start line. The last time I did a time trial I freaked out when the guy went to hold my bike so I was determined to make it happen this time.  I was somewhat convinced I could do it until the guy took a hold of my bike and told me stop awkwardly leaning to the side. My resolve dissolved and I evened up started the time trial like a skateboarder instead of a badass cyclist. Awesome. Out on the course the first lap felt smooth and easy but then I opened the door to the hurt locker and stepped right in. During lap three I felt flummoxed by the fact that I was not even half way through the ride. Riding my bike never quite hurt this much, well except during the Drop Ride where I usually get dropped (funny how that works). Suddenly rain pelting my face snapped me back into the moment. Why do I always pick the worse days to compete in these things? I got a little nervous and slowed my roll but once the rain let up I only had1.5 laps left. As my confidence began to build so did my pace, at least until I entered the finishers shoot where I was slapped in the face with the backhand of a headwind. Insult to injury. 

Since I did not have any specific goals going into the time trial, I was neither happy with nor disappointed in my effort. I was really disappointed I did not accept the push start.  I dwelled on this more than anything. Whoever said, "Don't sweat the small stuff" wasn't a cyclist. At the end of the day I had walked away with the top female time and a new age group record. I will take that. 

Snapshot from the Lowes TT

SC Time Trail Sate Championships:
James, Ross, and I opted not to compete in the Latta Plantation World Championships. I was a little torn about this decision as it is probably my favorite race in the Set Up series. I enjoy the swim and bike course but I love the run course. I may be the only one but I really enjoy it. I have been riding on the roads of Charleston for quite some time. Every time I visit I think about giving the time trial course a run for it's money but I always end up doing some version of my regular route. Presented with an official opportunity to race on the course, I jumped on it. James, Ross, and I drove down Friday night, enjoyed a nice dinner with Charleston's finest, and hit the sack. 

Car rides with James Haycraft generally look like this

Since the race did not start until 9 we had plenty of time to get our bike gear ready, eat a hardy breakfast, and warm up for the time trial. As rider #7 I was the first of the three of us to go off. I had three goals for the ride:

  • Pass all 6 ladies in front of me
  • Build my watts from start to finish
  • Break one hour

Ok, ok the first goal of passing all of the ladies in front of me was less than goal. It was more like a conquest. I had no idea how fast the people going off in front of me were but trying to catch each and every one of them would give me something strive for the entire ride. This goal proved beneficial as I did not catch rider #4 until the last 200 meters of the event. Having that carrot out there helped to motivate me to dig deep, especially at the end. 

Speaking of the end, Brian gave me a general guideline as to how to pace the time trial. I was told to do the first half at my current FTP, build from there, and then dig deep for remaining 2 minutes. I executed this pattern pretty well although I went out a little hot the first 10K. When I reached the 10K mark my power was higher than where I wanted it to be and I was already :30 off where I needed to be to break an hour. Rather than get frustrated, I convinced myself to relax and find a good steady pace to the turn around. After squeaking through the turnaround, however, it was on! Based on the wind I knew I would have to deal with about 4 miles of straight on headwind before I could really start pushing it. Once the head wind subsided I focused less on my power and more on getting my average speed up to the 24.8 mark so I break that hour mark. I was making steady progress when I finally caught a glimpse of the last elusive rider. I picked up the pace but tried to keep it under control until the last 10 minutes where I switched the screen to speed only. With two minutes to go I gave it all I had left finally passing #4 and careening over the finish line. I felt gassed and out of breath. I rode around to my formidable competitor, #4, to congratulate and thank her before I headed back out to the course to cheer on James and Ross. They both had super strong races with an overall win from James and a 8th OV from Ross.

4 of the top 5 ladies
While there were not a lot of ladies out on the course there certainly were some strong ones. I am pleased with my effort and pretty stoked to break one hour with an official time of 59:44 and first place overall female.  It was a great opportunity to challenge myself and as they say "embrace the suck." I highly recommend participating in some single sport events because they really can be a great learning experience.

Our reward for a few awesome races was a sweet swim workout at MLK Park Pool followed by some stand up paddle boarding out of the Isle of Palms marina. I don't drop the epic bomb often so when I say it was an "epic" day, you know I mean it!

View from the IOP connector

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lake Hickory Sprint Race Report

Last week was fun but now it is time to get down to business. My second triathlon of the season is in the books! Woot! Woot! I have had to cancel three races now due to a bum knee. It has been frustrating to the see the race season kick off and simply sit back and watch from the sidelines. The experience taught me two things 1) I am very fortunate to be able to compete in this sport 2) I actually like racing. I used to think I just really liked to train but truth be told racing presents a different kind of challenge, a challenge I enjoy accepting. 

James picked me up early Saturday morning and we headed up to Hickory, NC. The drive was quiet and uneventful. LHST (Lake Hickory Sprint Triathlon) is a new race to the Set Up Events series and to be honest I did not know it existed before Set Up took it over. Despite having a really short swim few people seemed to be signing up for the event so it seemed like a good chance to test the ol' engine and put a little stress on the knee. Yeah it seemed like a great idea until it started pouring on the drive north. Poor conditions on race day seems to be the theme this year but lucky for us the sky cleared just as we pulling into the race site. Once my transition was established I went for a quick run and then hopped down to the water for a nice warm up swim. I swam out to the first buoy and back. I climbed up to the shore when I heard the national anthem starting to play and as I turned around to get back in the water I noticed the back of a Rev3 kit which meant super runner and triathlete Tara Martine came to play. Things just got real. Really real. 

Swim (5:19)
I will admit I felt a little threatened by this swim. 400 yards is a short swim no matter how you look at it but if I am going to grow as a TRIathlete I need to quit leaning on my swim for my confidence on race day. Knowing I would need to create as much of a gap as possible on the swim, I went right into a short sprint when the gun went off. Trying a new strategy I took the first turn buoy wide to maintain momentum and avoid a small pack off to my right. I held the pace steady until the second turn buoy. This one I headed for directly and used the backstroke turn to launch me into sprint for the finish. 

Wonky caps are a big no-no. I should be punished
T1 (:51)
Most of T1 is included in the swim time since there was about a 50 yd run to the timing mat. I was blocking James from exiting and since there were some other dudes in T1 I tried to wait a bit so he could get out but I think he was waiting for me to get out of his way. 

Bike (00:42:34)
Usually when I get on the bike I am out of breath from the swim but today I felt like I had everything under control. James passed me right out of the gate and the second fella wasn't too far behind. I was alone for a good portion of the race until Selle passed me. I tried to keep him in a good visual distance but lost him at a turn where I had to brake hard to avoid hitting a fireman who stepping out right in front of me. My back wheel fishtailed but luckily I did not eat pavement. I was still feeling a bit cautious as I entered the downhill portion on the race but once I was on the second loop I had my confidence back and a lot more company as the athletes from the later waves moved onto the course. 

T2 (:43)
Coming into T2, I was eager to see how far behind was the next female. Since we would run back out to the bike course I knew I would be able to get the scoop on the other ladies. 

Run (20:39)
The road out of the park was pretty empty before several guys started rolling in. Dude. Good. Dude. Good. Dude. Good. Good looking dude. Oh haaaaaaaay. Chick. Shit. When I saw Tara I knew I had a good gap on her but I was not about to underestimate her run. At the SC Half in 2010 I had a 12 minute lead on a girl who ultimately ran me down in the last mile of the race. In my defense she is a super fast runner but I should never have allowed myself to get comfortable. So this day I ran. I tried to focus on the two dudes who were catching me quite quickly. I thought to myself "If they are catching me then she is catching me." Ultimately that thought process got me the win and forced me into a 5K PR. 

An artistic rendering of my backside
As usual Set Up put on a great event and the weather really turned to our favor. It was good to see so many familiar faces but it felt especially good to race again. In reflection I did a workout the week prior to the race that really helped me prepare for the event's super short swim. Tuesday morning I picked up a workout written by Sara McLarty. Sara is one of the fastest swimmers on the triathlon circuit having swam for the Florida Gators and coached by Gregg Troy (coach to Ryan Lochte and Elizabeth Beisel, no big deal). One thing in this particular workout stood out, a 500 all out with paddles and fins. I have done sprint work with paddles and fins for 25s and 50s but never for 500 meters. A fast 500 where you don't blow up requires 3 things:

  • Proper pacing. Going out too fast will slap you in the face around the 300/400
  • A balanced kick. Too hard and you will blow up. Too little and the fins become dead weight.
  • Powerful stroke. The paddles help to find the power portion of your stroke but the stroke rate will have to match the kick or you just end up flailing.  
I ended up finishing the 500m in 5:47. I broke my own rule and went out too fast putting down a 1:05 in the first 100 but once I found a good rhythm I settled in for the rest of the 500. As I was warming up for the super short 400 swim at HLST I was able to recreate the power I felt in that 500. I concentrated on a fast kick, smooth but accelerated turn over, and high elbows as I entered into the power phase of my stroke. 

The pick of the Charlotte litter