Monday, May 23, 2016

TOA Sprint

On April 30 I ventured out to Falls Lake for my first triathlon of the season, the Triangle Orthopaedic Associates Sprint Triathlon.  After the knee injury and a fews days off from training while I was in Mexico, I had a decent week of workouts.  Unfortunately my knee was still bothering me for the first mile or two of each run, so that was a concern, but I was excited to get back to racing and really wanted to see how my fitness was progressing. 

I arrived at the race site with plenty of time to spare, checked in, set up in transition, chatted with some friends, and got in a brief swim warm up with my TMS-IOS teammates.  It was my first time in the wetsuit since October and my first open water swim in just as long, so I was a bit apprehensive about that but felt ok during the warm up and the fact that it was only a 750 meter swim helped to calm my nerves. 

The race was an in-water start and though it was cool, the water temperature was not as cold as I'd expected. I found a spot off to the outside, a few rows behind Cari, Doracy, and the other fast swimmers.  The plan was to accept the fact that I'd be way behind the leaders coming out of the water, but just try to swim comfortably hard. It took a while to feel "comfortable," but after making the first turn I settled in and swam what I thought felt like a reasonably steady pace.  My sighting could use work, and in the end my garmin said I'd added an extra 72 meters, but I was out of the water in under 15 minutes.  To my surprise, the majority of bikes were still in the transition area when I got to mine, so I already knew that meant a marked improvement over previous seasons when I was in the bottom third or so coming out of the swim. I'd hoped to swim in the 1:40s/100 yards, and officially I averaged 1:51/100 with the run to the timing mat, so overall I was happy with that.

I had a bit of a hard time getting out of my wetsuit, which was no surprise given my lack of recent practice, but I made it out onto the bike without any major holdups. 

This was my first race with the new bike and gear, and I was excited to get out there and see what I could do. The 15 mile bike course had a few rolling hills but nothing terrible, so the plan was to just keep my power in the 180s and pick people off.  It was an out and back course, so I tried to count the women in front as the leaders came back, and it appeared to me that Doracy was the 1st woman, followed by Cari, two other women, and then me at the turn around.  After catching the women who I though were 4th and 3rd, I came into T2 thinking our team had a shot at sweeping the podium, as long as I didn't blow it on the run.  I ended up right on target, averaging a 187W and little over 21mph on the ride, and my biggest concern was how the knee would feel out on the run.

The run was also an out and back, with more incline on the way out and then a nice gentle loss of elevation on the way back.  Though I typically hate running up (even if "up" is only 50 feet per mile), for some reason I prefer that off the bike as it helps my legs settle into running.  Unfortunately the bike was not enough to quash the knee pain, and the first mile of the run was fairly painful.  I felt like I was barely moving and limping along, but told myself it was only a 5k and it would all be over soon.  Thankfully toward the end of the first mile the pain level was down to a 2 or 3, so I was able to pick it up a bit and settle into something a little under 7 minute/mile pace.  When I saw Cari I realized that I was too far from the turnaround to have a shot at catching her, but also knew there was an NC State girl not far behind me and I was not about to give up my position, so I managed to find at least a little more speed to finish strong (7:31-6:57-6:52-6:25 pace for the last .17).  Even with the knee issues, it turned out to be the second fastest female run of the day, so I did take some encouragement from that.

My first race representing the TMS-IOS Elite Team
Unfortunately it turned out that I had missed the lead female, so we actually finished 2-3-4.  I am pretty sure this was the first time I've ever been disappointed to learn that I'd won my age group, not for myself, but because I'd envisioned a team sweep, and that was extra motivating.  It really is nice to have the support and encouragement of teammates!

We hung out for a while after the race, while several of my friends and teammates collected both overall and age group awards. As expected, the race confirmed that I need to work on my swim and transitions, but I was pleased with my effort on the bike and am optimistic about my running potential for coming races, especially if I'm able to run pain free.  All things considered, it was a great start to the season.  Next stop: the USAT Long Course Duathon National Championship!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Starting from scratch?

Well the January knee injury was definitely a setback, with no running at all for three weeks.  On the bright side, I had no pain on the bike and got to the pool more often, so the month wasn't a total loss. Since getting the green light to run, things have gone pretty well, and I've built my training back up from 6-7 hours per week to around 11.  I reaggravated the knee while I was on vacation, and it takes a mile or two of running for the pain to subside, but I'm working through it and thankfully it seems to be improving.  Hopefully I can get back to feeling 100% and it will be all smooth sailing from here...

Swim - 21.5 miles (That is not a typo!)
Bike - 209 miles
Aqua jog - 7 miles
Run - 5 miles
Total time - 30:51:32
Swim - 13.2 miles
Bike - 305 miles
Run - 73 miles
Total time - 35:19:50
Swim - 12.1 miles
Bike - 338 miles
Run - 90 miles
Total time - 39:56:31

Spring highlights
Riding with Jens Voight
Definitely among my favorite athletes of all time,
so this was really exciting for me!

Upgraded to a Felt IA10
Step 1 to getting faster on the bike:
Get a faster bike

Thanks to IOS for setting me up on my new ride!

Riviera Maya with Janet
Took a couple of days off from training
for some sunshine and R&R in Mexico

Ran a new 5K PR at the Cary Road Race
Given the lack of recent run training this was a pleasant surprise
Now if only I could crack 20 minutes...

Aside from the knee pain, I am feeling ok physically.  But with the Cary Duathlon and Raleigh 70.3 only a few weeks away, I am not feeling very confident in my fitness.  I guess the only thing I can do is take things one day at a time, stick to the training plan, and hope that that's enough... I guess we will soon find out!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Turning more pages on the calendar

Unfortunately my knee continued to bother me throughout December and January, so my running was quite limited.  On the plus side, I've spent significantly more time in the pool and am starting to see some improvements.  I've also spent a good deal of time on the bike and didn't always mind having to ride inside where it was warm since I couldn't get out and run in the cold.  After giving up hope that my knee issue would resolve itself, I finally had an MRI, which confirmed multiple meniscus tears.  As long as there are no mechanical issues from the damage, the strategy will be pain management, so they gave me a cortisone injection on February 4.  From there it's one week of no lower body activity, two weeks of light cycling and elliptical, and then I am cleared to run.  I am crossing my fingers that the cortisone takes care of the pain and I can finally get back to training!

Swim 8.5 miles
Bike 189 miles
Run 60 miles
Swim 13.5 miles
Bike 306 miles
Run 24 miles

Trail running and hiking
while visiting Jenn in Portland
Club Throwdown Duathlon
Swimming, biking, and running over
Christmas vacation in Key West
Sunrise run in Key West

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 in review

I thought I'd set the bar pretty high for myself this year, so I am not sure how it happened but this year exceeded all of my expectations! 

Training Summary

Running: 1190 miles 
Cycling: 3855 miles
Swimming: 139 miles

Including yoga, cross-training and ElliptiGo-ing, I spent nearly 570 hours exercising in 2015 and covered over 5,300 miles.  Though I ran only slightly more mileage than last year, I significantly upped my cycling totals and it really paid off. 
Total calories burned (as calculated by garmin): 315,258.  Obviously were I not exercising so much I would (presumably) eat less, but that translates to over 90 lbs (yet I only lost 5)...  Crazy!

Race Summary

With my focus fully on B2B and preparing for a full iron-distance triathlon, I raced far less than I have in recent years.   My finish at B2B made all of the training and reduced "fun" race schedule 110% worth it, but despite throwing most things in without much of a taper or recovery period I had a fair amount of success in my shorter races this year as well.  Despite missing out on 1:29:59 for a second consecutive year, all three half marathons went quite well (4th overall in the Bahamas, 1st Athena and a division course record in Utah Valley, and my first overall female win at the Tour de Force Half Marathon).  I also finished on the overall podium at the Pi Day Pi K, Tar Heel 4 miler, Cary Du Classic, and UNC Wellness Super Sprint triathlon.  Until very recently I was always thrilled to just place in my age group, so to be placing overall still seems crazy to me.

Goals for 2015
1. Sub-12:00 Ironman at Beach to Battleship
    10:27:42... SUCCESS!!!

2. Age group podium at the Patriots Half Ironman and B2B 
     2nd F35-39 (6th overall) at Patriots and 4th overall at B2B... SUCCESS!!

3. Sub-1:30 half marathon
    1:31:25. Still a PR by 96 seconds, so I don't want to call it a failure, but I still can't 
    check this one off the bucket list.

Goals for 2016

1. Qualify for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship 
I'm racing IM Augusta 70.3 in September and IM North Carolina 70.3 in October, so I'll have two shots at this.  Qualification is not based on time, but will most likely require finishing in the top 3 in my age group.  As for time goals, I'd like to shoot for sub-5:00 at Augusta and maybe even sub-4:50 in Wilmington.

2. Qualify for the 2017 ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championship
The qualifying race for this will be the MiamiMan 70.3 in November.

3. Top 5 AG finish at the Long Course Duathlon National Championship
Based on the 2014 results, this would mean taking about 20 minutes off my time from that year when Nationals were held on the same course. 

Special thanks... 

To my AMAZING training partners.  5,000 miles is a lot of miles.  I probably wouldn't have made it through all of them without my friends, and I definitely wouldn't have had as much fun doing it.  

To my coach for coming up with what turned out to be the perfect training plan. 

To Bull City Running Company and the Bull City Track Club for your support both on and off the roads and trails. 

To Esprit de SheNuun, and Honey Stinger for the Ambassadorships.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Back at it

Well, after a week of absolutely zero exercise (but all of the food and all the beer) following B2B, I was feeling pretty good and ready to get back to training.  Though I do miss spending most of my Saturdays on the bike or starting Sundays with a 2+ hour run with my friends, I've enjoyed the short but high intensity intervals (things like 50s and 100s in the pool, 4x5 minutes at 220 watts on the bike, and 15x30 second sprints in the middle of an easy run) that have made up much of this month's return to activity. Of course, regardless of whether I like it or not, it's what I would be doing anyway since I have zero doubt that my coach knows exactly what he's doing.

Swim: 5.5 miles
Bike: 153 miles* 
Run: 70 miles 

Total time: 26:29:47
Total miles: 237
Total calories: 14,718

November highlights:

Shortly after B2B I got the very exciting news that I was chosen for the 2016 TMS-IOS Elite Triathlon Team!  Even though I still don't feel like I fit in with "elites," I'm really excited to train and race with this group of exceptional local athletes!

The weekend before Thanksgiving we went up to NYC to watch Duke play in the 2K Classic Tournament at Madison Square Garden.  While I was there I managed to get in lovely runs on the Hudson River Greenway and through Central Park.   

Hudson River Greenway
Central Park
This Thanksgiving we flew down to Florida to visit my dad and Mary at their winter condo. All of us ran the Punta Gorda Turkey Trot 5K and despite the humidity and some pretty awful knee pain I managed to run a PR (20:42) and win my age group.  It wasn't quite enough to make up for the massive amounts of calories consumed over the weekend, but at least we had fun doing it :)

The return of the turkey hat

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Beach 2 Battleship

Wow... I am not even sure where to start with this race report.  The entire experience blew my expectations out of the water and I am almost in disbelief that everything worked out the way it did.  I am still on cloud 9, but here goes... 

Going into the race, I was quite nervous because on top of the anxiety over attempting a new race distance, my last two long rides were washed out by rain and I had been sick for the three weeks leading up to the race.  Thankfully I felt 98% better by the end of race week, but I was feeling far less confident than I had been in early/mid-September. 

My dad flew down to Raleigh on Wednesday night, so Thursday was a nice relaxing day including a very short run, a pool swim with friends, and a nice carb-filled pasta dinner with my dad.  On Friday morning we headed out to Wilmington, checked into the hotel and went to the race expo.  As I was standing in line for packet pickup, it really hit me that I was about to race an ironman, and the nerves and excitement both picked up yet another notch.  

After checking out the expo we headed over to the transition area in Wrightsville Beach.  I took the bike for a quick spin to be sure everything was working well and to loosen up the legs a bit before racking the bike in T1.  From there we went down to check out the swim exit and I did a walk through from swim out to my bike and then to bike out.  

Bike check-in at T1
I planned to check my transition bags in the morning rather than on Friday, so the only thing left to do was to eat and rest.  We stopped by the Fish House and had a lovely dinner outside (salad with chicken for me while everyone else enjoyed some nice coastal seafood) before heading back to the hotel and calling it an early night. 

I was awake well before my 4:00 alarm, but stayed in bed and tried to at least rest while visualizing the race and trying to bolster my confidence by thinking of all of the training I'd put in leading up to this day.  I got up at 4, took a quick shower, and had a Clif bar, a bottle of nuun, and some coffee.  I put on several layers of body glide and my trisuit, double checked my transition bags, mixed my UCan, and left for T1 around 5:15.  There wasn't much traffic at that time in the morning and I arrived without any issues. I set my helmet, shoes, and sunglasses up at my bike and then dropped my T1 bag with a towel and arm warmers at gear check.  I put on my wetsuit, took once last look over my T1 setup, and boarded the bus to the swim start.

After being dropped off near the marina, I made the short walk over to the start area, used the porta potty one last time, drank my UCan, and chatted with a few other athletes.  With the breeze from the water it was a little cold just standing around, but with my wetsuit and swim socks it wasn't all that bad.  Before I knew it, it was almost time to start, and we made our way down the beach.

The full distance is a single start with nearly 700 athletes, so it was by far the largest swim start I've ever been in (previously my wave at Augusta was something like 150 women).  I know I'm not going to set any speed records in the water, so despite the lack of a start timing mat, I went out near the back of the crowd, content to trade losing a few minutes for a less frantic start.  Despite that, it was crowded for quite a while.  At times there were so many other people around me that I really had nowhere to go, so I just breast stroked and tried to scope out some space.  Though I did feel like there were a lot of swimmers around me the entire time, I eventually found a little room and settled into a comfortable pace.  I was barely kicking at all (boy I sure do love a wetsuit legal swim!) and tried to minimize my energy expenditure since I knew I had a long day ahead of me.  I actually felt so relaxed that I thought there was a good chance I was almost last, so after the last turn I picked it up a little and put a little more effort into the final yards to the dock.  

I climbed up the ladder and jogged over to the wetsuit strippers.  There was a bench, so it was easy to sit down and they just pulled it right off.  My watch got caught up in the wetsuit but the volunteers were helpful and soon enough it was off and I was up and jogging to T1.  Because my watch had been under my wetsuit, I had no idea how long I'd been in the water, and was very pleasantly surprised to look down and see 55 minutes!  Officially, my swim time was 57:36, which includes wetsuit stripping and about 200 yards of the run to transition.  With the current, the time itself doesn't mean a whole lot, but I was really pleased to later learn that my swim was 46th out of 150 women.  Given my (lack of) swimming ability, I will take finishing in the top third of the swim any day.

I had planned to at least rinse my face off in the warm showers, but as I ran through the shower tent, all of them were taken.  I decided that I'd just quickly towel off rather than waiting, so I continued on into T1.  I grabbed my bag and went into the women's tent, where I intended to just put on my arm warmers and then roll out.  Even though temps were in the 50s, the sun was out and I didn't feel particularly cold, so I decided that the arm warmers weren't really necessary, quickly wiped off, threw my wetsuit, goggles and cap into gear bag, gave it to a volunteer and headed out to my bike.  

It was congested at the mount line and I was cautious exiting the transition area.  Once I got going, I heard a very annoying rubbing/squeaking noise coming from my front wheel.  I'd ridden it right before bike check in the night before and everything seemed perfect, so I had no idea what it could be.  I pulled over to the side of the road and checked the wheel, hoping it was simply something stuck in the spokes, but couldn't see anything unusual.  My biggest concern was that there was something wrong with the wheel that would lead to a flat tire or serious mechanical problems, but thankfully it never got worse.  Unfortunately it meant over 5 and a half hours of listening to squeaks, but by the third hour I really barely noticed it anymore.  I saw my family around mile 5 and that was a nice boost and good distraction.  Shortly after that, I rode by a guy pulling back onto the course from the side of the road and he asked if it was my bike making that noise.  When I confirmed that it was, he said he was glad because he'd just crashed and thought it might be his.  Apparently he'd run into a cone and hit the pavement pretty hard.  I noticed his road rash and asked if he was ok and he said "well, not really, but pain is temporary."  That kind of set the tone for the day and I tucked that mantra away, knowing that in all likelihood I would need to remind myself of that later.

Heading out on the bike. Only 5 hours in the saddle to go!
My goal for the bike was to keep my power in the upper 130s and hopefully finish under 6 hours.  I don't have speed showing on my watch, so I didn't know how fast I was going, but with the headwind I just felt very slow.  A few times I clicked my watch over to speed and saw numbers like 16.8 or 18.3.  I knew I needed to average over 18 to get in under 6, so I was tempted to push a little harder, but my coach had said that if I felt like going harder than my planned power I should remember that it was going to be a long day, and with that in mind I just stuck to the plan.  About an hour into the ride I realized that I'd done a great job of hydrating, and despite my desire to not make any stops on the ride I opted to pull off at the second aid station around mile 40 to use the porta john.  I also took that opportunity to reapply some anti-chafing cream and despite losing a few minutes I think that stop was definitely the right decision.  

After that it was mostly smooth sailing.  I was passed by a few guys and one woman, but for the most part I was just sticking to my plan and picking people off.  The course was mostly flat, and with the exception of a section around mile 80-90 that was rough and full of seams, the pavement was pretty decent.   I was pleasantly surprised to see my family again shortly after I hit 100, and yelled to them that I felt great so far and all I have left is a marathon.  Even I had to laugh at the fact that I could say that and really mean it.  

Passing guys around mile 105
I guess that headwind finally turned into a tailwind at the end, as I was still riding on target but averaged over 23 mph for the split from mile 105 to 110.  I spun it out for the last couple of miles, which had a bunch of turns anyway, and though I was not sad to see the dismount line, I actually felt really good.  In the end, I averaged 138 watts on the bike - exactly on target - and a speed of 19.9 miles per hour.  I kind of wish I hadn't stopped because then I would have been at 20 mph, but I guess that will give me a nice even number goal for the next one :)

I gave my bike to a volunteer and ran into the convention center.  It was definitely the nicest transition area I've ever been in, largely because it was inside and there was a real restroom available.  I grabbed my T2 bag off the rack, went into the changing tent, laced up my running shoes, used the restroom (apparently I did a fantastic job of hydrating on the bike), threw my helmet and shoes in the bag, gave it to a volunteer, and took off on the run.  As I started the run, I flipped my watch over to the total race time display and was really surprised to see that I had made it through the swim, bike, and both transitions in under 6:45.  My stretch goal was about an hour on the swim and under 6 on the bike so I could give myself 4 hours to break 11.  My goal pace for the run was high 8s/low 9s, so I realized that I had a chance to finish in the 10:40s if I could just put in a solid run.  I think I did that math over and over about a dozen times because I really couldn't even believe it!  

The hardest part of my transition runs in practice was slowing down to my goal pace (8:40s-8:50s).  Though it wasn't a huge deal in training when the brick entailed a 4 mile run, I knew that going out too fast could really cost me later, so I did my very best to slow it down.  Despite my best efforts, and despite the fact that I felt like I was barely moving, my watch kept showing low 8s.  I took my coach's advice to walk through the aid stations, even though I didn't feel that it was necessary.  I started out drinking Heed and would just walk briefly enough to take a few sips, throw away the cup, and then start to run again. Even with the walk breaks at every mile, my splits were consistently in the 8:20s and I still felt fantastic.  It was a double out an back run, so I cheered and encouraged all of the half IM runners that I passed as well as the IM leaders as they started to come back.  I tried to count how many women were ahead of me, but it was difficult to tell because of the relay teams, who also had purple bracelets.  

Around mile 10 my feet and legs started to get a bit tired and I didn't want more Heed or anything other than water, but I was pretty excited to have made it through over 8 hours of the race before those feelings even hit me at all.  Mentally I just told myself I had another 2 miles before seeing my family again, then 1 more to finish lap 1, then 10k out, 10k back, and I would be an Ironman.  I finished my first lap in 1:50, and knew if I could just hold onto 9 minute pace and run the last half marathon in under 1:55 I would finish my first 140.6 a full half hour faster than my best case scenario goal of 10:59.  As I headed out on the second lap, it felt a little harder, but my pace remained in the low 8s and even with the walk breaks, my splits were under 8:30 until mile 18.  That's when it really started to get tough, and though I largely kept my moving pace in the mid-8s, my walk breaks were getting longer each mile.  I started taking ice and drinking coke, and would then tell myself I just had to run one more mile and I could walk again. My splits edged up into the 9s, and it was discouraging to feel like I was working harder and harder yet going slower and slower.  I pulled out all of the motivational mantras and thoughts that I'd tucked away for such an occasion, and was determined to not let 9 hours of hard work and a shot at 10:30 go out the window.  Just. Keep. Moving.  

Once I got back to downtown, there were tons of spectators and I knew all I had left was a nice little downhill, a run on the boardwalk, and then I would see the finish line.  With the rush of adrenaline from knowing I was about to finish and my pace back in the low 8s, I actually felt strong again through the last mile.  Making the last turn and seeing my family and the finish line was such a great feeling.  It was such an emotional last 0.1 mile run... I was overwhelmed by how well the day had gone, by the fact that I was actually finishing an ironman, and by the realization that I had absolutely crushed even my stretch time goals.  

Down the homestretch with the finish line in sight
A second lap split of 1:53 gave me a marathon time of 3:43:53 and an overall race time of 10:27:42.  I kept looking at my watch and at the clock, but still couldn't believe that could be right, and even as I write this I am not sure how that happened! 

I made my way through the finisher chute and was greeted with congratulatory hugs from my family, walked back to the hotel, and took the longest shower ever.  I followed that up with a nice little session in my new Normatec recovery boots and then we went out for dinner around 8:30.  I was shocked to find that I felt ok and was pretty much walking normally, so even a mile+ walk to/from dinner didn't seem that bad.  As usual, I wanted a burger, so we found a place where I could get that and a post-race beer.  We sat outside and watched as runners were both coming in and going out on the run course, and as I sat there wearing my finisher pants and drinking a beer I realized what an epic event it really is.  

I did in fact wear this out to dinner at a restaurant
After dinner we walked back to the finish line to return my chip and check to see if I'd placed in my age group.  Based on the results from the last few years, I knew that I had a good shot at an age group award if I finished under 11 hours and getting on the AG podium was one of my goals at the beginning of the year, so I was pretty excited to see how I'd placed.  The overall results were scrolling on a TV, so we had to wait a bit and then I would just have to count how many women 35-39 were ahead of me.  The top three were pretty close together (9:25-9:33-9:40) and then there were a bunch of male results before I saw the next F come up.  To my surprise, that next female was me! I thought I must've missed some or counted incorrectly, so we stood around and waited for the results to go all the way through again, and sure enough... 1, 2, 3, me!  I was soooo happy.  As an added bonus, there is a cash prize purse for the top 5, which meant I ended up with $250 and a really cool award.  The other 4 women in the top 5 are all professional triathletes, and to be the only amateur on the podium in my first full distance race was definitely beyond anything I'd ever even imagined.  The race was also the USAT mid-Atlantic ultra distance regional championship, so now I can add age group regional champion to my (very short) resume as well.  

Official splits:
Swim: 57:36 (46th)
T1: 4:44 (8th)
Bike: 5:37:22 (19.9 mph; 9th)
T2: 4:10 (8th)
Run: 3:43:53 (8:32/mile; 6th)
Total: 10:27:42 (4th)

I thought after the very long training cycle and finishing my first 140.6 I would want to take a break from triathlon for a bit, but now I am more excited than ever for next season!  I am recovering surprisingly well and actually felt a lot better than I did after Boston.  After this week off I will resume light training, and I can't wait to see what my coach has in store for this next training cycle :)

Thank you all for your support throughout this journey, for the many good wishes before the race, and for all the sweet congratulatory messages - I am lucky to have such great friends and to be a part of such a phenomenal racing community! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

In the homestretch

September totals were down a bit due to an easy week leading up to the Patriots Half, some dreadful weather that put a damper on my plans to ride outside, and me coming down with a cold in the last week of the month (most likely due to the aforementioned dreadful weather).  I am still not feeling 100% as I write this, so it's hard to feel good about the recent training, but at least I'm sick now rather than race week.

September totals:
Swim: 16.4 miles
Bike: 533 miles*
Run: 138 miles 

Total time: 63:15:47

Total miles: 689
Total calories: 36,594

September started off with a bang - totaling the most miles I've ever done in a single 7 day period (218.4!), including a century ride on 9/5 that included two passes through the spot where I crashed last year and an 18 mile long run that ended with 30 minutes at 7:30 pace on 9/6.  The following week was a lighter week leading up to the Patriots Half and then it was right back to it.  Unfortunately back to back long rides and a scheduled open water swim were washed out by rain and then I came down with this cold, but at least the majority of September was solid.

Oktoberfest 8K
34:57 (One day after a 6 hour brick!)
1st F35-39, 4th female overall
UCI World Championship
Team Time Trial
Richmond, VA
Getting some inspiration...
These guys are so fast and some clearly had
their pain faces on but were pushing through
I can't say I'm entirely where I want to be, but hopefully this last week of taper will go according to plan, my health will return to 100% before race day, and things will all work out... 

T minus 8 days! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Patriot's Triathlon

Saturday I raced the Patriot's Half Ironman in Williamsburg.  Though it was primarily a tune-up/fitness check in my training for B2B, I did want to put in a strong effort and hopefully come out of it with a new PR.  My previous PR (5:20:45) was in Augusta in 2013, and that race had a current assisted swim and a standard distance bike (the Patriots bike course is 58 miles rather than the usual 56), so even though my goal of a sub-5:20 finish wasn't that big of a difference time-wise, it would actually reflect a pretty significant improvement.

The swim is in the brackish James River, with part against the current, then cross-current, then with the current.  Or so they say.  As anyone who knows me knows, swimming is BY FAR my weakest of the three disciplines.  Really, my swim goals are typically (1) do not die, (2) do not use up too much energy, and (3) try to minimize the amount of time you lose on everyone else.  This is usually assisted by my wetsuit, but unfortunately the very hot summer yielded a water temp of 81, which meant no wetsuit for me.  I knew that also meant adding another 5-8 minutes to my goal swim time, and most likely ended my shot at a PR.  

When I started the swim there was absolutely zero visibility and my heart rate skyrocketed. I am glad to have had the experience prior to my A race, but it just wasn't super fun. So I slowed down (even more, as my best pace is already slow to begin with) and tried to calm down and get myself together.  Maybe 5-10 minutes in, I felt more comfortable and settled into a slow but tolerable pace.  Unfortunately I realized I was the last swimmer in my wave, and that was demoralizing.  On the plus side, I wasn't being kicked in the face and had plenty of space to do my own thing.  After making the turn to head out toward the middle of the river, the chop really picked up and it was probably the roughest open water I've had to swim in throughout my incredibly limited open water swimming experience.  At least I was heading back in the right direction.  I hit the lap button on my watch as I exited the water and though I was disappointed to see 47+ minutes, I was also a little surprised because it seriously felt like I'd been swimming for at least an hour. 

Swim start the day before the race.
On race day, it was actually overcast and much choppier
The run to T1 was actually fairly long (.34 miles according to my garmin) so I had a little time to get my bearings.  As expected, my bike was all alone on the rack, and the majority of bikes in all of transition were already gone.  I actually try to look at this as the bright side of being a very slow swimmer - my bike is easy to find, I have plenty of room to get my shoes on etc, and the whole field is already in front of me, so I just need to get out there and chase them down.

I got on my bike about 51:30 into the race, which put me over 12 minutes behind my PR race.  Between that and the 2 extra bike miles, I decided a PR was off the table and just focused on staying in my target power zone (upper 150s/low 160s).  The course is not pancake flat, but there are no real hills either, and the skies were still overcast but it hadn't started to rain, so both course conditions and the weather were pretty favorable.  I stuck right to my plan and kept my power in the 150s and found that I was catching and passing people very quickly.  I don't have speed on my garmin display because I ride by power, so I had no idea how fast I was going, but I didn't feel like I was working that hard and couldn't believe the way I was flying by people.  The first 5 mile split popped up at 14:16, and I was very surprised to see that I was riding over 20 (which I know to be a 15:00 5 mile split) while feeling so comfortable.  This continued throughout the entire race - keep the power around 160, fly by people like they're standing still, get a boost when the 5 mile splits pop up in the 14s (or 13s!), repeat.  And all the while I really felt great.  I initially thought that a sub-3 hour bike split would be pretty solid (I rode 2:56 in Augusta and this was 2 miles longer) but around mile 50 I realized that I could come in well under that.  I didn't think it would hurt my legs to push just a little harder so I decided to pick it up through the 55 mile mark and then ease up/spin it out for a few minutes before the run (50-55 split averaged 168 watts and over 22 miles per hour).  I hit the 56 mile mark in 2:39 and started doing all kinds of fun math, including figuring out that I'd made up enough time to still have a shot at a PR.  The last bit was on a narrow gravelly trail, which made it necessary to slow down a bit, and I took that as an opportunity to briefly spin out the legs before getting to T2.  After 2:45 on the bike, part of me was happy to get off my bicycle (you can probably guess which parts) but at the same time I was a little sad that it was over because it was such a great ride. 

Holy crap, did that really happen?

I quickly changed my shoes, racked the bike and helmet, and headed off on the run.  My coach told me to come out of T2 relaxed and then settle in to something around 7:40 pace, so I worked hard to slow down my legs and not do anything I'd pay for later.  This was going to plan through the first mile (7:34) and a into the second mile (7:40-something), but then we turned off onto a trail through the woods and my GPS decided it didn't care to cooperate.  Without confirmation of my pace, I think I may have been running a little too fast, but my watch and the mile markers were way off so I really wasn't sure.  I tried to just run easy and I think for the most part I was close to the prescribed pace.   It was getting warmer and I started throwing some ice in my trisuit at the aid stations, which ultimately melted, ran down my leg and into my shoes, which made squish-squish noises for the last half of the run.  By mile 10 I was feeling fatigued and was definitely ready to be done.  My pace slowed for the last couple on the trail, but once I got back to the road I did all I could to pick it back up.  I knew that if I could run a 1:40 half marathon I would get my coveted sub-5:20 despite the horrendous swim, long run to T1, and extra 2 miles on the bike. With a final mile in the 7:30s, I very happily crossed the finish line with 5:18:55 on my watch. 

Official splits:
Swim: 47:46 
T1: 3:29
Bike: 2:45:33
T2: 1:36
Run: 1:40:37

2nd Female 35-39
6th Female Overall
Despite the terrible swim, I am really pleased with my race effort and am even more excited for Beach 2 Battleship.   T minus 33 days!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Training is ramped up almost to the max and yet I've really been loving the entire process. It's so exciting that almost every week I'm hitting new milestones, and that even when I've read my schedule for the week and thought, "there's no way I can do all of that" it's gotten done.  This month also marked my first century ride and my first 200 mile week (6 in the pool, 159 on the bike, and 35 run).  I've had a little knee pain here and there, and some occasional muscle soreness, but overall I've held up pretty well throughout the summer training and really have no complaints.  Honestly, any negatives pale in comparison to the enjoyment I've gotten out of this experience and the progress I can see myself making each week.

August totals:
Swim: 21.7 miles
Bike: 572 miles (average speed 18.6 mph)
Run: 136 miles (average pace 8:12)

Total time: 69:08:06

Total miles: 730
Total calories: 37,731

The month started with the UNC Wellness Super Sprint Triathlon.  I've done this race twice before, and despite it being my first triathlon since September 2013, I felt confident that I could break my old PR.  The goal was to swim comfortably (it's only 5 laps in a pool, so the time gain based on a higher level of exertion is minimal), go pretty much as hard as possible on the bike (9 miles with several speed bumps, turns, and hills), and then just survive the 5k run.

Set a new PR for 20 minute Max Avg Power (206W)

Thankfully things went exactly according to plan, and though I would have liked to finish the run a little stronger, I took about 3 minutes off my previous PR and finished 3rd overall.  While I've won my age group before, this was my first overall podium in a triathlon, so I was pretty happy with the result.

Swim: 5:09 
Transition 1: 0:51
Bike: 27:28 (2nd fastest female bike split)
Transition 2: 0:51
Run: 20:56 (3rd fastest female run split)
Total: 55:14, 3rd Female overall

A few other highlights from August training... 

Open Water Swim Practice at Jordan Lake
I had to start early to get in my Wednesday bricks
(on this day it was a 22 mile ride + 9 mile run) before work,
but sunrises like this made it easier to get out at the crack of dawn
Sweat Angel
No one ever said training in southern summer humidity would be pleasant

On August 21 I headed north to visit my family in upstate NY.  My travel plans mandated a rest day, and I realized it was my first since July 13.  Thankfully I have a wonderful family to keep me occupied ;) 

Of course I checked the race calendar when planning my trip, and found the Tour de Force Half Marathon/10k/5k about 20 minutes from my hometown.  It was a flat, out-and-back course near the lake, and I knew I'd have a long run that weekend anyway.  Because they also had shorter races, I was able to talk several of my relatives into joining me, so it worked out splendidly.  Coach said to run 1:33, which I thought would be challenging but doable.  Shortly after the start, I started talking with a young military guy who was stationed nearby.  We ran together and chatted for the first 4 miles before he started to slow down and I went off ahead.

Miles 1-4: 6:58-6:58-7:20-7:17

Once I was on my own, I just took in the lake views, cheered on the leaders (including Paul who was in 3rd place), and focused on making it to the halfway point.  At the turn I knew I was the first female, so I kept an eye out for the women behind me.  By my estimate, I had about 2 minutes on the 2nd place female, and my immediate goals became (1) stretching that gap and (2) catching the one guy I could see up ahead of me. 

Miles 5-11: 7:12-7:12-7:04-7:00-7:14-7:10-7:11

Mile 12 is the only incline (+56 feet, so it doesn't qualify as a hill but it didn't feel flat) other than in the first half mile or so (which I hadn't even noticed thanks to race start adrenaline and fresh legs), and I started to slow a bit.  There was no one around, I was right on my pace target, and I was struggling to find motivation.

Mile 12: 7:22

Just as I was contemplating using the last mile as a cool down jog, I saw Chris running toward me on his post-10K cool down.  It was definitely the boost I needed, especially since he's a high school XC coach and consequently a master motivator ("You can catch that guy!" "Once you make that turn there's only 1K to go!" "After that building it's all downhill!").  The only runner in sight when Chris joined me had seemed pretty far ahead, but I was able to catch and pass him fairly quickly once the fire was lit.  Then with about half a mile to go, I could see another guy ahead and Chris told me he'd been struggling.  With my family waiting near the finish line and the end in sight, I decided to follow Chris' advice and "go get him!"  I made a move and went by in what I thought was a pretty solid move, but unfortunately he found another gear (perhaps driven to avoid being "chicked" or losing his spot in the top 5 overall) and re-passed me right before the finish line. 

Mile 13: 6:31

I was a little disappointed that I couldn't hold him off, but my mile 13 was the fastest last mile I've ever run in a race (even a 5k) and the last 0.1 was run at 6:12 pace, so I am satisfied that I gave it my best effort.  I ended up as the 1st female and 6th overall in 1:33:10.  That's actually my 3rd fastest half marathon ever, but with the exception of the mile 12 lull, it really didn't feel that difficult and I am kind of amazed by that.  It's a great feeling to see all of the hours of training I've put in this year paying off. 

Adam and Dad running the 5K
Sarah, Heather, Dad, me, Adam, Chris, and Paul
What a great way to spend a morning with family!

On to September...!