Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in review

I cannot say I'm sad to see 2013 go.  Losing my mom, the Boston bombing, injuries, another race cancellation... I just have to hope that 2014 will be better.  

Goals set for 2013:
1.            Finish the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 in under 6 hours
2.            Run a sub-70 minute 10 Miler (likely goal race: ATT 10 Miler)
3.            Run a Half Marathon under 1:30 (likely goal race: Metro PCS Dallas)

I barely made the first one (5:58:26) and the addition of a second Ironman 70.3 shifted my summer/fall focus from my plan to meet the second two goals.  The decision to continue triathlon training through the summer/fall paid off with a much better time at the Augusta 70.3 (5:20:45), but I fell short of goal number 2 at the ATT 10 miler, finishing in 1:10:48.  Still a PR, but not the sub-70 I was hoping for.  By December, my knee was not cooperating and the 1:30 was already off the table, but I never even had the chance to race for a new half marathon PR in Dallas thanks to the ice storm and subsequent cancellation.  So a big fail on goal #3.  Despite feeling quite disappointed with the year in general, I ended up with new PRs in the mile, 5k, and marathon, and finished in the top 6% of my age group in the Ironman Age Group points standings, earning an "All World Bronze" award.  Unfortunately those are not offering me much consolation at the moment, as various injuries have me sidelined from running.  Nonetheless, I'm hoping to be able to turn it around in 2014 and am not deterred from setting some new goals...

1. Sub-3:20 marathon

2. Sub-1:30 half marathon
3. Sub-13 hour Ironman at Beach to Battleship (update 2/2014: Deferred to 2015)

Hopefully at this time next year I'll be able to report better than the 1 out of 3 for 2013.

Final stats for the year:

1,479 miles
156,671 calories

Cycling (outdoor + trainer)
1,207 miles outside

Swimming: 25:51:11

Total time: Over 370 hours

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years!  I'm looking forward to seeing what 2014 will bring!

Friday, December 6, 2013

D is for Dallas... and Disappointment.

I registered for Dallas in June, but have been planning on it since last December.  Like the 2012 New York City Marathon, it was a big goal race a long time in the making.  It seemed a perfect end of the season race since my brother lives in Dallas and the course is pretty flat, and my biggest fear was that it would be too warm to attempt a fast half marathon.  Also like NYC, my dad and stepmom were amenable to the idea of traveling to the race as a mini-vacation and family get together.  Even better, Adam took up running and was determined to run the full in a 0 to marathon first year of running, and Brittany opted for the full as her main fall/winter race.  Perfect plan, right?  What could go wrong?  Well, as it turns out, just about everything, as once again Mother Nature stepped in to squash my best laid plans.  After the NYC cancelation debacle due to Sandy, the bombing at Boston, and now the ice storm-driven cancelation of Dallas, I am starting to think I'm cursed when it comes to running big city races.  With my knee resembling a "water balloon" (thanks to my doctor for that quote), it's probably best to not run, but I am just so disappointed.  I'd really been looking forward to pushing myself in a PR attempt, visiting with my family, and cheering on my brother in his first marathon.  But now I end the year with a jacked-up knee and not even an attempt on a half marathon PR, and it's just so disappointing to see so much planning, training, and anticipation go for naught.  Again.  Combined with a doctor's recommendation of no running for at least two weeks (yes, I was going to race on Sunday anyway), my year is over, I failed to meet the goals I set for myself at the start of 2013, and I don't know where that leaves me going in to 2014.  But as Allie said, bad things are said to happen in threes, so hopefully with NYC (canceled), Boston (bombed), and Dallas (canceled), I'll be in the clear from here on out.... If not, I may have to hang up my racing shoes for good :(

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I really am fortunate and blessed in many ways, so it doesn't seem feasible to make a list of everything that I am thankful for.  But I will say that  running would be pretty high up on such a list!  
Great friends and Bull City Track Club teammates
My wonderful and supportive husband/cheerleader/race photographer
Destination marathons
(clockwise from top: Boston, Miami, Paris, OBX)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Battleship NC Half Marathon

I ran this race in 2009, in what was my slowest (2:06:52) and most miserable (temps in the 80s) half marathon to date.  I'd never run more than 13.1 miles, was going by feel because my watch died that morning, and went out way too fast before getting sick at mile 7 and walking a good bit of the second half. Since that race, I've run over 5,000 miles and have taken 12 minutes off of my half marathon PR, so I barring anything disastrous, this was pretty much guaranteed to be an improvement over the first one.

After racing the 10 miler last weekend and putting in a pretty respectable post-race training week (about 35 miles since that race), the plan was to use this as a training run.  After conferring with my running friends, it seemed that a progression run was the best option, so I decided on 4 miles moderate, 6 miles comfortably hard, and 3.1 miles at Dallas goal pace (6:59).

Weather was perfect: low 50s and sunny.

First 4 Miles: From the Battleship through downtown Wilmington
Goal: 7:30  Actual: 7:25
As usual, I got caught up in the crowd at the start and went out a little fast, but worked to correct that pretty quickly.  This section includes two bridges, which equate to small to moderate hills, and then goes through downtown Wilmington parallel to the Cape Fear River.  There were some nice views from the bridges, it's a cute downtown area, Monte and several other spectators were near our hotel at mile 3, and I was running a fairly comfortable pace, so these miles went by pretty quickly and easily.  The most challenging aspect was that some of the footing was less than ideal, particularly the metal grated section of the second bridge and some of the cobblestones through downtown.  I definitely felt like I could have gone faster, but stuck to the plan.

Middle 6 Miles: Around Greenfield Lake
Goal: 7:15  Actual: 7:15
This section is a loop with a lot of turns (including a 180 around a cone) and a lot more hills than you would expect in for a race near the coast.  I picked up the pace a little and was just below my goal pace without much difficulty.  Around mile 8, I ate a Gu, not because I felt like I needed to, but because I thought it would help give me some extra energy at the end for what I hoped would be a strong finish, and having only used gels in marathons, I thought I should practice taking them during a shorter/faster race in preparation for Dallas.  That turned out to be a huge mistake.  It never really settled well at all, and by mile 9 I was pretty sure I was going to be sick.  At least I learned this during a training race rather than my goal race.  I decided to try to push through one more mile, telling myself when I got to the end of this section I could jog it in.

Last 5k: Across Memorial Bridge and back to the Battleship
Goal:  7:00  Actual: 7:40 for 3 miles, then 6:30 for last .13
By this point my stomach was not happy at all, and I was just aiming on keeping everything down until getting to the finish line. This part is definitely the least scenic section of the race, and there are parts that you have to run on the sidewalk, which is challenging because for most of the race you're going by walkers (who start one hour earlier than runners).  It wasn't bad when we were in the road with plenty of space, but there were so many of them walking side by side and taking up the entire sidewalk without any consideration of the runners trying to pass them that I was starting to get annoyed.  Each time you'd have to run off the sidewalk into the wet grass/mud and no one even moved over at all.  Once we headed onto Memorial Bridge to go back to the Battleship, things opened up again, but then I was wishing there were people in front of me to block the headwind!  Even though I was feeling bad, I managed to pass a few more people who were seemed to be pretty miserable.  Given the incline, headwind, and painful-on-your-feet metal grates, I could see why.  Coming off the bridge I tried to pick it back up a little, and when I heard Monte yelling I decided after sandbagging the last 3 miles I should at least try to kick it in.  Though the little pick up at the end got me in under 1:37, it was probably not the best idea and as soon as I stopped that Gu finally came back out.  So I am 2 for 2 in vomiting at the Battleship Half, but thankfully this time it was after the finish instead of right in the middle.

Final time: 1:36:53 (4th F30-34, 13th female out of 865)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tobacco Trail 10 Miler

The Tobacco Trail 10 Miler was my A race of the season.  One of my goals for the year was to run a sub-70 10 Miler, so this was my shot.  I've done this race 3 times in the past, so I definitely know what to expect.  The way my training has been going, I know that running sub-7 miles for this distance would be at the edge of my fitness and everything would have to go really well to hit my goal time.

Weather on race morning was unseasonably cold (30 degrees at the start), but I would definitely take that over unseasonably warm.  Monte dropped Sara and I off at race headquarters around 8:25, giving us just enough time to go through the bathroom line and jog a short warm up before the 8:50 start.  We nailed the timing, but the start was delayed because too many people had tried to get the last shuttle bus, so despite our efforts we ended up standing around in the cold for a bit.  I learned that the girl next to me was also shooting for sub-70, so we figured we'd try to keep each other in sight at the very least.  About 10 minutes later we were underway.

Everyone thinks the ATT is flat, but there is very little flat on this part of the trail.  Granted, there are no hills, but it's nearly all a slight incline or decline.  The first 2 miles have a loss of about 130 feet, and though I knew I had gravity on my side, I tried to stay on pace and not go out too fast (6:56, 7:00).  Then it's back up another 100 feet in mile 3 (7:09) and down a little in mile 4 (6:56), then flattening out to the turnaround point (7:06).  It's an out an back, so it just goes back through flat (7:02), up (7:12), down (6:57), and the last two mile up (7:12, 7:15).  Sadly those splits all add up to 1:10:48, so I didn't meet my goal.  

Every year my mile 7 split is quite a bit slower than the others (usually about 20 seconds), and I knew this year I couldn't afford to lose so much time.  Since I was right on pace through 6, I worked harder to keep my pace close to the target, and when that 7:12 popped up, I was really disheartened.  I knew I had one mile of decline before going back up to the finish and would have to make up the time there, and I just didn't.  When I passed the mile 8 marker, I realized I'd have to average under 6:50 for the last two miles and at that point the idea of speeding up on an incline just seemed impossible.  I had a hard time continuing to push myself when I knew I was not going to meet my goal, and my feelings of disappointment squashed any motivation I had left.  In hindsight, I am kicking myself for that mental lapse and wish I hadn't thrown in the towel just because I wasn't going to hit that arbitrary number.  On the positive side, I think that loss of focus/will/strength and my subsequent regrets have taught me a little more about myself and about racing, so hopefully I'll be able to use that in the future.

Despite not getting the sub-70 that I've been working for, I did come away with a new PR (previous best was 1:12:57) and finished first in my age group.  Sara finished right behind me, and is now the Female Master's State 10 Mile Champion, so the morning was certainly not all bad :)

Family Race Weekend

I just love fall racing!  The problem is that there are so many great races around, I always end up signing up for way too many things.  Fortunately I've gotten pretty good at really "racing" only a few key races and using the others as workouts, so it hasn't been a problem.  

After doing the Augusta 70.3 and Ragnar DC within a 7 day span, my back was really bothering me and I ended up skipping the 5k that was on the schedule for the weekend of October 12.  Given everything else, I didn't feel that bad about it, and I think the forced break was probably a good thing.  Thankfully by mid-week I was quite a bit better, just in time for the family race weekend that we'd been planning since the spring.  First up was the Oktoberfest 8k in Raleigh.  My goal was to run comfortably hard and hopefully win the glass boot for fastest in a dirndl.  

The first mile was a bit fast, but then I settled into a more tempo-ish pace until picking it back up in the last mile in an effort to work on my (currently non-existent) finishing kick. Unfortunately the guy in front of me suddenly stopped dead in his tracks around mile 4.7, causing me to run into him and the guy behind me to run into me, creating a Kara-sandwich and some not-at-all happy runners. I was able to regroup and chase down a few more people, and it helped to have my dad, brother, and husband all out there cheering near the finish line.  Despite the crash, the last mile split was 6:45, which is definitely the fastest last mile I've run in an 8k, and my final time was 35:22.  Not a PR and not what I feel like I am capable of, but pretty close to what I was shooting for, so I was happy.

After the race, I collected my free beers and chatted with my family while waiting for the awards ceremony and brat eating contest.  Though I think I would be victorious in endurance eating (say how many brats can you eat in an hour), it quickly became obvious (as seen in the video) that speed-consumption is not my forte!  It was fun though :)

The next day was our big family race day at the Bull City Race Fest, and, most notably, my brother's first half marathon.  Dad and Mary had registered for the 5 miler; and Brittany, Adam, and I were all running the half.  For the first couple of miles, Dad, Mary, Adam and I all ran together, which was really nice.  Eventually Adam decided to speed up a little, so I told him to go ahead and I'd catch up with him later.  We were then down to three.  In the last mile Mary picked up her pace and did an amazing job finishing her first 5 mile run in less than an hour.  Dad ended up 3rd in his age group, and after looking at the garmin, I saw that we ran negative splits (12:30-11:41-11:37-11:28-11:24-11:16), which is pretty impressive!

I took a post-race photo of Dad and Mary, chatted for a second, and then set off to catch up with Adam.  I ran about 3/4 of a mile just above 7 minute pace, during which I photo bombed Kelly and got an enthusiastic high five from Nan, before finding Adam and settling in for the second half of the race.

When I met up with him, he was doing GREAT, and the miles seemed to go by pretty easily.  At each mile marker, I'd run ahead and take a photo as he went by, and even at mile 10 he was smiling and feeling good.  The course is pretty tough, especially the climbs at the end, and as we passed a bunch of people who were walking up the hills I thought about how glad I was to not be racing that one.  But despite the lack of hill training in Dallas, Adam was a trooper, finishing his first half marathon in under 2:30.  Before January of this year, I don't think he'd run a mile in at least 10 years, so to take up running and finish a half marathon in such a short time is a big accomplishment.   In fact, I was so happy and proud of him that crossing the finish line was just as exciting as running a PR for myself.  I'm so proud of everyone, and so glad this was something we were able to do as a family.  Next up for us: the Dallas Half Marathon in December!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ragnar DC

The entire Ragnar DC experience with #TeamShittens was so amazing that writing about it actually seems daunting, so here's the short version... 

Ragnar DC in photos...

It was my birthday weekend, so in addition to having an entire case of Shittens courtesy of our sponsor, I was also gifted with many sweet gifts, including this amazing mug
I was also given some birthday bling and a cupcake headband, and this fabulous Shittens high-five turnnel 
(Official name: "We're just here for fun... and to win)
I couldn't have asked for a more fun group of women to spend the weekend with!
We may have used a lot of energy jumping, but it all worked out in the end
In between photoshoots, jumping, and handing out Shittens, there was also some running.
Leg 1: 5 miles, 8:28 pace. Only moderately hilly, but I do not know how to handle single track!  I think it would have been beautiful, but I was too concerned with my footing on the rocky, rooty trail to be able to enjoy the view.  I would have liked to go faster, but only 2 guys out of our start wave finished ahead of me, and despite 137 ankle rolls, I came out unscathed, so I counted it as a win.
Leg 2: 4.6 miles, 7:12 pace. Night run through the middle of nowhere.
Leg 3: 4.2 miles, 7:29 pace.  Perfect morning running weather, passed a few more people, and held a fairly decent pace without vomiting or needing the Shittens despite some overnight GI issues (shared by several of us, so I think the dinner stop in West Virginia was probably unwise).  But as the team mantra went... everything was fine, nothing was f@#%ed.
Entertaining ourselves at exchange 12
The Shitten-mobile
Hand off from Jennifer to start Leg 2
Exchange 24 photo booth... who needs sleep?

Love my running BFFs!
We started at noon, with only about a dozen teams in later waves.  The rest of the field went out in waves starting at 5:30am, so some had a pretty sizable head start and the majority of the race was in front of us. Combined with Van 2, our team passed over 200 runners!
Team finish!
"We're Just Here for Fun... And to Win"
Done, and done!
This was definitely an amazing way to spend my birthday, and I am so thankful to have had such a fun, fast, and fabulous team!  In addition to having a really great time, we won the team spirit award and won the women's open division by nearly 3 hours while finishing 11th overall out of about 300 teams.  #TeamShittensFTW!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Despite having some self-confidence issues and worrying about poor preparation, September turned out to be a great month... I ran an unexpected mile PR at the Magnificent Mile, won a pie and some cash at the Ramseur Triathlon, and set a huge 70.3 PR in Augusta.  With 5 races in the next 5 weeks, I am hoping that this luck will carry over into October!

Total time: 40:33:16
Swim: 6.75 miles, 4:05:35
Bike: 195 miles + trainer, 17:08:50
Run: 131 miles, 17:30:47

Monday, September 30, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Augusta

I signed up for this race right before the Raleigh 70.3 so I wouldn't talk myself out of it, and over the last few weeks I was reconsidering the soundness of that decision.  But registration for Ironman events is not cheap, so there was no way I could justify bailing and last week's Olympic made me feel a lot more confident that I could at least get through it.  With the current-assisted swim and hopes of not completely blowing up on the run as I did in Raleigh, my goal was a 15-minute PR/sub-5:45.  If all went perfectly, I thought I might even have a shot at 5:30.

We headed down to Augusta on Friday night and checked into our hotel around 11pm.  Saturday morning I slept in until after 7, which is unheard of for me, and then headed down to packet pickup around 11.   Check-in and packet pick up went smoothly, and we seemed to have just beat the crowd.  From there we drove down to the start area to drop off my bike, and then we just had a relaxing afternoon watching football at the hotel, packing up my gear, and studying course maps.

I didn't sleep much at all on Saturday night, and finally got up well before my 5:00 alarm.  Showered, had a balance bar and some coffee, put on my race tattoos and lots of glide, and headed down to the race a little after 6.  We got there about 20 minutes later, and I set up my stuff for the bike and run.  With about 3500 people registered for the race, transition was a zoo and we all had very little space to work with, but it was a great atmosphere.

Transition closed at 7:15 and the race started at 7:30, but my wave wasn't until 8:52 so I had a bit of time to wait around.  We drove up to the start and found a spot on the bridge to watch the first waves get underway.

I'd thought Monte would just drop me off and then head back to the hotel to get some more sleep, but we were able to find a parking spot near the start so he waited with me until it was time to line up for my swim.  It was great that he was there, because that's the time when I really start to get nervous!

Wave 21 lined up around 8:30, and gradually made our way to the dock.  They didn't split my age group my last name, so we were the largest of the swim waves (185).  It was by far the largest swim start I've done, but I found a spot on the dock off to the side and in the back, so I figured it wouldn't make much of a difference.  8:52 and it was time to go!  I waited for the women ahead of me to jump in and move a bit, and then hopped in.  The water temp was 68, so it was a little chilly but not bad with the wetsuit.  Somehow I found myself behind a few people who were kicking like crazy, so I did the breast stroke for a bit and searched out some space.  I maneuvered to a less crowded spot and it was pretty smooth sailing from then on in.  Swimming with the current was great - when I would breathe to the right I could see the shoreline and could tell I was moving along a lot faster than usual!  I was passed by some men in the wave behind me, but stuck to the outside and it wasn't nearly as washing-machine-like as I'd anticipated.  Before I knew it, I could see the exit buoy, and the swim was over.

It was a bit of a way up to transition, and several people around me were walking, so I did the same and took off the top half of my wetsuit.  There were wetsuit shuckers at the entrance to the transition area, and they did a great job of getting it off quickly.  From there I jogged over to my rack, threw on my bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses and garmin, and then made the long jog from my end of transition to the bike out.  My bike is often all alone at T1, because most of the field has already left.  But to my surprise, there were still several bikes on my rack.  I wasn't last!  Woohoo!  As I started my watch, I saw that the time was 9:26.  WHAT?!!?  I knew I had a stronger swim than Raleigh, and I knew that the current would make it a much faster swim, but leaving transition in 34 minutes was way beyond my expectations.

The bike course has basically three different parts - miles 1-17 are mostly flat, 18-40 are hills, and the rest is mostly downhill.  My goal was to finish in under three hours, so the goal pace was 18.7 miles per hour, or about 3:13 per mile.  Because of the course profile, the plan was to put in a steady effort on the flat section, take it relatively easy on the climbs to keep my heart rate and effort level from skyrocketing, and then push the downhill section to the end.  The bike was crowded the entire way and there were a few sharp turns, so my primary focus was on the road and the people around me, so I have no idea what the course was actually like scenery-wise.  I went by the 10 mile marker with exactly 30 minutes on my watch, and worried that though I felt comfortable, 20 mph might not be the best strategy to set myself up for a good run, so I dialed it back a little.  I tried to eat either a small piece of bonk breaker or honey stinger chew every 10-15 minutes, and pretty steadily sipped on Gatorade perform, refilling on the fly at two of the three aid stations.  That nutrition/hydration strategy and my pacing plan seemed to be working out pretty well and I felt great!  Other than staying focused on the road and other cyclists, my thoughts were pretty much limited to two things: race time math (if I stay at this pace I could easily have a shot at 5:30 - that wasn't a crazy thought after all!) and please do not get a flat tire... please do not get a flat tire...  Thankfully I did not get a flat tire, and made it to T2 without incident and feeling great.  Final bike time: 2:56 (19.1 mph).  

I jogged my bike all the way back through the transition area (I should have measured the distance - it was pretty far), changed my shoes, and was out of T2 in 3:20.

According to my math, I figured I could run a 9 minute mile and hit my secret/unlikely/wishful thinking goal of 5:30.  The key to this would be not dying.  And one of the keys to that would be not going out too fast... I felt great then, and running 13 miles doesn't seem that far to me anymore, but I did learn my lesson in Raleigh and was determined to keep it under control.  The course is a two lap zig zag back and forth across downtown Augusta, and my goal was to average about an 8 minute mile and finish the run in 1:45.  As usual, it was a struggle to slow down my legs getting off of the bike, but with conscious effort I hit the first mile marker at 7:37.  Still too fast... remember Raleigh! Slow down!  The next few miles were in the 7:40s and 7:50s.  It was starting to get warm and most of the run was in full sun, so my plan was to keep the pace there, but walk through the aid stations long enough to throw some ice in my trisuit and drink a bit of gatorade, which would hopefully average out to 8-ish.  

Thanks to the back and forth layout of the course, I was able to see Monte several times, which is always a good boost.  It was also nice because mentally I thought, "just a couple of miles and then you turn around and come back; just a couple of miles and then you start lap 2," and so on.  The plan was working perfectly, and I went through mile 9 in 1:11:25, averaging about 7:57.  And then with about 4 miles to go, my stomach decided to stop cooperating.  I started burping up gatorade and feared I was going to throw up on an innocent spectator, and went from feeling great to being harshly reminded that half-iron triathlons are not supposed to be easy.  I was hot, my stomach was unhappy, and my speed was plummeting; but other than through the aid stations (where I dumped ice water on my head and ate some ice chips), I did not stop or walk, and continued to pass people, though at a much slower rate.  Midway through the run, I realized I could potentially break 5:20, and I could see that going out the window, but I was determined to at least get as close to that number as possible.  There was one girl with a 34 on her leg who I'd gone back and forth with a few times on the bike, and she ran by me with about a half mile to go.  When she passed me on the bike, I thought she looked like she was working really hard while I was feeling pretty comfortable.  When she passed me on the run, she was definitely working really hard again, and I was just shuffling along.  She put a little gap on me and I was going to just let her go, but when we turned the corner and could see the finish line, I thought "No!  Do not be such a wuss... you've been out here for 5 and a half hours and you can see the finish line.  Now GO!"  And so I did.  I didn't think I had much left in me, but I put in a solid sprint (or at least what felt like a sprint and was far faster than the people around me) to catch and pass the girl in my age group.  I crossed the finish line and thought I was going to lose my gatorade, but thankfully that didn't happen.  Final run time: 1:46:09; Final race time: 5:20:45.

The woman behind me is the one who inspired my kick

The first timing mat was off - run 1 and run 6 were not that fast

Thrilled to end the season with a 38-minute PR and ready to focus on running for a bit!  Cheers to fall racing!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ramseur Lake Olympic Triathlon

Olympic distance races are definitely not made for me.  The swim is the largest percentage of the race of any distance, and as a weak swimmer, the 40K bike and 10K run just don't give me enough time to make up ground.  Because of that, I had no intention of racing this distance again, at least not any time soon.  But a few weeks ago, active.com had a few free entries available to members and I thought it would be good practice a week out from Augusta, so I decided that if I could race without having to pay for it, I would do it.  One free entry later, I had this race on my calendar.  

My swim training has not been going.  Not "not going well"... just not going at all.  I'd so much rather run with my friends than swim, and with my neighborhood pool closing and the very inconvenient Duke pool hours, I have only been in the water 4 times this month.   Coupled with my already less than impressive swim skills, I was pretty nervous going into this.  Fortunately, the plan was just to race at or around my goal paces for next week, so there wasn't a ton of pressure, other than to not drown.

I made the hour drive out to Ramseur, arrived just after 7 am, picked up my packet, set up transition, went through the porta-potty line, and then it was time for pre-race instructions.  Fortunately, the water was the calmest of any open water swim I've done and the weather was perfect (60s and cloudy), which helped my nerves a bit.

The swim is a two lap loop, and the men went out 4 minutes before the women.  The race was small to begin with, and with the men starting in a separate wave and a number of people going with the run-bike-run duathlon option, the women's swim start was not hectic at all.  I started to the back and off to the outside, waited a few seconds after the horn, and then was off.  Before we even made it to the first buoy, I was all by myself.  While this is good in terms of comfort level, it is discouraging to think about the entire field being so far ahead already.  I just reminded myself that this was a training exercise, focused on some of the tips that Alison gave me earlier in the week, and tried to keep my energy expenditures to a minimum.  About half way through the first lap, I passed a couple of men, and felt a little better because I wouldn't be the very last person out of the water.  The swim seemed to take forever, and based on conversations with some other athletes after the race, I think it was a little long.  Nonetheless, I was not thrilled to get to my bike and see that over 40 minutes had passed already... which is a really long time, even for me!  On a positive note, it was easy to find my bike and I had plenty of space to get out of my wetsuit and put on my bike gear!  

The other nice thing about being a slow swimmer is that the entire field is in front of you, providing a great opportunity to chase people down.  Early into the bike leg, I passed quite a few women and even some men, and for the most part was feeling pretty strong.  The bike course was an out and back on country roads, with few turns and some moderate hills.  Other than quite a bit of gravelly asphalt, being chased by a dog, and a hydration bottle malfunction, the ride went pretty well.  The goal was to stay in the 18-19mph range, which is my target for Augusta (I would need to average 18.7 to get in under 3 hours).  At one hour, I had gone 18.6 miles, so I was pleased with my pacing.  It wasn't exactly leisurely but other than a few climbs, I never really felt like I went outside of my comfort zone.  That said, I was ready to be done by the end and next week I'll still have 30 miles to go, so I am not sure if that goal is reasonable and we'll see what happens...

The second transition went pretty well, and I headed out on the run.  At the Raleigh race, it took me nearly two hours to finish the run, so in Augusta I would be thrilled with anything around an 8-minute mile.  If everything goes perfectly, I'd love to average something in the 7:50s, so I tried to stick to that pace.  The first half mile went by in about 3:40, so I really worked to make myself slow down, which is pretty strange for a race, but I'm hoping it will pay off next week.  Due to some last-minute course changes, the run was a strange double out and back which included a total of 4 U-turns.  It was hard to tell if the people coming toward me were on their first or second lap, so despite doubling back on the field multiple times, I really had no idea where I was in the standings.  But everyone seemed to be working hard and I felt like I was just beyond a jog, so I figured they had to be ahead of me.  That, and knowing that I have to run 12 miles tomorrow, made it easier to stick to my pace plan, and I ran most of the miles in the 7:45-7:50 range.  Once I could see the finish line, I picked it up a bit and finished in 2:42-something.  Not a great time, but not far off the plan and I felt great, so I was pleased.  

After changing and loading up all my gear, I headed back to the finish area thinking that even though I didn't have a great time, it was a small race so I may have won an age group award.  I checked the posted results and was shocked to see my name at the top of the page in the overall winners list!  Somehow I'd passed all but one of the women to finish second overall.  It didn't make my time faster, but was certainly a nice surprise.  And as icing on the cake (or pie, as it turned out), there were cash prizes for the top three overall as well as a beautiful apple pie from the orchard down the street!  The orchard had also provided the age group awards (apple crisp for 1st, apple sauce for 2nd, and apple butter for 3rd), and I would definitely consider this race again solely because of that :)  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Magnificent Mile 2013

I love the set up of the course, the fact that they run the men's and women's races separately, and the fact that a mile is over quickly, so signing up for a third consecutive year a few months ago was a given.  However, as race day approached, I seriously considered bailing.  I've been doing a reasonable amount of volume in preparation for my upcoming 70.3, but have really been struggling with tempo runs and speed work.  Basically, I have just felt tired, on the verge of overtraining, and slow... none of which bode well for running a fast mile.  But a number of my friends/teammates were running, there was promise of beer afterward, and the consensus on my facebook poll was that I should run anyway, so off to Raleigh I went.  

My strategy for the race was to try to keep Caren and Ellen in sight.  Chasing Caren worked out pretty well for me last year, and despite starting off a bit too slowly I was able to run a PR of 5:52.  My goals for the day were (1) sub-6, (2) PR, (3) sub 5:50.  To meet my top goal, I knew I would have to run each quarter in about 87 seconds, which would put me at 5:48.  Last year I started too slowly in fear of going out too fast, so this time I was sure to push myself right from the start, and I came through the first quarter in 84 seconds.  The second and third quarters include the turns around the Capitol, and ticked off in 88 and 91 respectively.  Somewhere in that third quarter Ellen passed me and I should have tried to go with her, but I worried about dying on that last stretch to the finish.  I also lost focus a bit when it started to feel pretty tough.  I guess those are both just mental things that I'll have to work on, and hopefully not fade so much in that stretch next year.  As we made the turn toward the finish, I finally talked myself into speeding up again and finished up with an 85.  Definitely not the consistent 87's I was shooting for, but I finished in 5:48, so I guess it's all the same in the end!  Despite a huge amount of self-doubt before the race and a bit of a lapse in the middle, I managed to run my goal time and was fairly pleased with the race.  My goal for next year will be to maintain focus the entire time and not feel like I saved too much for the finish, but for now, it's a PR and I'll take it.  To really put the icing on the cake, my friends all had great races, many ran PRs, Allie set a new state record for masters, the Bull City Track Club women won the team title, and we all wrapped up the afternoon with celebratory drinks at the Flying Saucer.  All in all, a really good day, and I am definitely glad my friends did not let me talk myself out of even trying!  

Monday, September 2, 2013


It was a decent month for running, but I'd give myself at best a B- for biking and a giant red F for swimming.  With less than a month until the Augusta 70.3, I really have a lot of work to do.  At this point I'm hoping that the river current will be enough to get me through the swim.   Then it will be the same plan as in Raleigh... just try to catch people.  Hopefully this time I won't blow up on the run and can end my 2013 triathlon season on a good note. T-minus four weeks!!

Swim: 3.25 miles, 2:02
Bike: 210.6 miles (plus some time on the trainer), 16:29:03
Run: 159.2 miles, 21:26:52

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


After taking a week off at the end of June, the goal this month was to do some base-building and start phasing in some harder efforts.  I am still slacking in the swimming and biking departments and running more than my triathlon plan suggests, but I am pretty confident that I can make it through the Augusta 70.3 and should put me in a pretty good position for the start of half marathon training in the fall.  

Swim: 8.5 miles, 5:33:40
Bike: 163.7 miles, 14:52:42
Run: 107.6 miles, 14:27:23

Sunday, August 4, 2013

UNC Wellness 2013

This is a super sprint tri basically in my backyard, and will probably be a staple on my race calendar.  Last year the goal was to finish in under an hour (final: 58:31) and this year the goal was to beat last year's time.

Swim: Just a hair faster, but it felt a lot easier.  I definitely have a lot more endurance in the water than ever before, but I really need to work on getting out of first gear.

T1: I had left my bike and run gear in transition early and then went home to relax for a bit.  I had quite a bit of time between the start of the race and my swim start, so transition was closed when I got back and I never even thought to check on my stuff.  Big mistake.  Someone must have bumped into my bike, so instead of everything being as I left it, my sunglasses were stuck in an air vent of my helmet and I couldn't find my garmin watch.  Eventually I found the watch on the ground near the next bike, but I really didn't handle the unexpected stress very well.  Instead of calmly getting everything together, I frantically ran around in circles for what seemed like forever.  In the end, it cost me an extra minute, but I saw my hopes for a course PR go out the window and that was pretty disappointing.

Bike: Slower (31:13 vs 29:29) After the T1 debacle, I had a hard time getting into a good rhythm.   It was my first race on the new bike, and I took the turns (of which there are many, especially in the beginning) more slowly than I would on my road bike.  Hopefully that will improve as I get more comfortable on the TT bike, and is a pretty good sign that I need to ride more on the road and less on the trainer.  Between the iffy handling and my frazzled mental state, my bike time was nearly 2 minutes slower than last year.  Considering I feel like a much stronger cyclist now, I really wasn't happy with that at all.  

T2: Determined to make up at least a little of the lost time, I had a good second transition and was in and out in 51 seconds. 

Run: Last year I really pushed myself on the run because I seriously wanted to break an hour and knew that it would take a good effort to break my time goal.  It was a bit more challenging to find that motivation after seeing the clock leaving T2, but I managed to get through the run in 21:40, which was actually 10 seconds faster than last year.  I'm glad to have had a good run... it was nice to finish on a good note despite the earlier issues and my disappointment with my final time.

Smile even when you're grouchy.
I ended up 1st in my age group despite the slow transition and sub-par bike leg, and got to see one of my good friends finish her first triathlon, so the day was definitely not as bad as all of my complaining would make it out to be, and I'll definitely try again next year!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Four on the Fourth

Short and sweet: It was really humid and I didn't run as fast as I would have liked, but still finished with a PR (28:23) and 2nd in my age group.  A little disappointed with my time, but I was able to kick off the holiday with friends and it was a fun and festive morning.  

We'll just say that the glittery headband slowed me down and leave it at that... ;)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gary Papa 5K

This post is a bit belated, but I figured I should probably write up the last one before my race on Thursday...

Last Christmas we gave my dad tickets to the US Open golf tournament in Merion, PA, so for Father's Day weekend we all met up in Philadelphia.  My brother started running at the beginning of the year and my stepsister is also a runner, so when I found a 5K that Sunday morning it seemed like a perfect family activity.  

Now let me just say that I really dislike 5Ks.  I would much rather run 10 or 13.1 miles at a more comfortable pace than run 3.1 a bit faster.  My disdain for running fast and my limited ability to deal with feeling miserable has resulted in 5- 8- and 10-K PRs far below what the calculators predict based on my half marathon time.  Basically when it starts to feel pretty difficult, I just slow down.  The last time I actually "raced" a 5K was in September of 2011, and the goal was to break 21 minutes.  This seemed reasonable given recent races of 21:23 and 21:40, but a few of us took a wrong turn and that was the end of that.  Since then, I've been focusing on longer races, and hadn't seriously attempted the sub-21 again...  partly because I wasn't sure that it was feasible, and partly because I wasn't sure that even if it was feasible I wanted to feel pretty awful for a fair amount of time.  But with some advice from Allie ("if you don't feel miserable for the last mile, you're not doing it right") and the support of my cheering family, I decided to give it another shot.  

After a very short warm up jog with Adam and Brittany, we left Dad, Mary and Monte and headed down to the start.  The race was set up as an out an back along the river near the Art Museum which made for a nice, flat course, and the weather was decent for June (70-ish, cloudy, and slightly humid but nothing like NC).  The race start was pretty unorganized, with no corrals or pace signs at all despite it being a pretty large race (1,795 finishers in the timed division and over four thousand counting the untimed/recreational runners).  Britt and I decided it would be better to start too far up than to get boxed in, so we found a spot pretty close to the start line, while my brother made his way back into the pack a bit.  The race was supposed to start at 8:30, and around 8:35 we were told that they had more walk-up registrations than they expected so it would be another 5-10 minutes.  The few hundred people toward the front started joggging up and down the street, so Britt and I did the same and then went back to our spots at the line.  Around that time, I realized that I needed to pee and started to worry that was not going to be a good situation if I had to really push myself at the end of the race... but the announcer came back to tell us it would be yet another 5-10 minutes and fortunately there was a trail into some trees nearby, so that problem was solved.  Back to the start line and starting to get a little irritated that we were not starting yet, but feeling significantly faster than I had before the second delay.

And finally, we were off.  As usual, I got caught up and started out too fast, but thankfully I had my Garmin to keep me in check and I settled in at my goal pace (6:44).  Despite the big crowd, I actually had a bit of space, and I felt really good through the first mile (6:38).  As I got into the second mile, the leaders were coming back towards the field and I tried to count how many women were ahead of me, which was actually a nice distraction, and by my count I was 19th as I made the turn.  I thought I'd see Britt after the turnaround, but I didn't so I knew she was right behind me, and then I started looking for Adam.  I was able to spot him despite a growing number of runners, and that was yet another nice distraction!  By the end of mile 2 (6:49, including the hairpin turn) I was still feeling surprisingly good.  I considered picking up the pace, but really didn't want to blow up so I just tried to maintain the 6:44.  Then suddenly I wasn't feel as great, and though my pace stayed the same, it was definitely not feeling easy anymore.  Thankfully we were nearing the end, I could see the finish line, and knew Monte, my dad, and Mary would be there cheering so I was able to suck it up enough to finish the last mile in 6:46 and throw in a bit of a kick for the last .14 (5:56 pace).  Officially it was a 20:56.... good for 15th female, 1st in my age group, and most importantly, finally under 21 minutes!  

I was so excited to have met my goal with my family there, and to make things even better, Brittany finished just behind me in 21:48 (her goal was sub-22) and Adam sprinted to the finish to beat his sub-25 goal by two seconds!  I am so proud of him for taking up running, sticking with it, and beating his time goal in his very first race.  Next up for us: the Bull City Race Fest, where Adam, Britt, and I are running the half marathon and Dad and Mary are doing the 5 miler.  If only I could get Monte in on the action... (hahahaha)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh

The short version... My first half iron tri is now in the books!  As my first one, I didn't really know what to expect... I knew it would be challenging, but it was even more difficult than I'd imagined.  It took everything I had, but I managed to finish and get in 5:58:28 - just under my goal of sub-6.  Very happy, but extremely exhausted!

I didn't really sleep at all on Sunday, so after tossing and turning for a few hours I got up a bit before my 3:00 alarm went off.  After breakfast, coffee, and getting my last minute things together, I headed over to Rebecca's and we left for Raleigh at 4 am.  Parking, gear drop, and T2 set up went smoothly, and then we were on the bus headed to the start at Vista Point.  We arrived around 5:20, went through body marking, set up T1, hit the porta potties, and then just waited around.  It was cloudy and cooler than expected, and I was really hoping it would stay that way.  Unfortunately the clouds disappeared as the race got underway.  I ate a gu, finished my gatorade, put on the wetsuit, and was lined up with the rest of wave 19 with about 20 minutes to go before our 8:10 start.

I was pretty nervous standing there waiting and looking at how far away the buoys were, but was able to calm myself down to a reasonable level as we entered the lake.  It was an in-water start, and I knew that I would not be setting any speed records on the swim, so I stayed off to the side and in the back with a few others who seemed to have a similar strategy.  At the horn, I waited a few seconds and then headed out on my swim, avoiding much of the melee that is a group swim start.  Though it may have cost a little time, I think it worked out well in the long run, as I was able to basically swim by myself, avoiding being kicked/hit/swum over, and didn't kill myself by trying to stay with the pack.  Plus the first portion of the swim is somewhat sheltered, so there water for the first third of the swim was pretty calm.  This allowed me to get into a decent rhythm, keep my heart rate down, and not freak out.  After we went around the first turn buoy, there were a lot more waves as well as some pretty large boat wakes, which made it quite a bit more challenging, and I was also starting to be passed by a bunch of people from the waves behind me.  The waves were also making sighting more challenging, and I kept finding that I'd veered a bit off course.  In the end, I'd guess that I swam 1.3-something instead of 1.2 because I just couldn't keep myself going in a straight line!  Overall the swim went really well though, and I felt like I didn't expend too much energy and was just ready to start catching people on the bike and run.  My goal was to finish the swim in 45-50 minutes and be on my bike around 9:00.  I got out of the wetsuit, threw my swim gear into the transition bag so it could be taken to the race finish, got my shoes on and jogged almost the full distance of T1 with my bike (I was near the swim in and far from the bike out), got on the bike and was off around 9:03 - pretty much right on schedule.

The first few miles of the bike course are on an incline, and everything I'd read said to take the first few miles very easy, so I kept it in a really easy gear and didn't push up the hills at all.  As a result, the first few miles were very very slow (in the 14-15 mph range), but it was part of my pace plan and I just accepted the pace hoping that it would pay off later.  Once we made the turn onto 64, I finally stopped spinning, upped the gear and settled into a moderate effort.  This part of the race is a great 3 mile downhill, so with only moderate effort I was able to average over 26 mph, which more than made up for the slow start in comparison to my goal pace of 18 mph. Quite a few people passed me (mostly with disc wheels and nice tri bikes, so I felt a little better about that), but I felt like I was steadily moving up in the race.  Weather-wise, it was definitely warming up, but it still felt fairly comfortable with the breeze from the bike.  I snacked on Bonk Breakers and sipped on water, trying for a steady intake of nutrition and hydration.  Because of the heat, I was going through water more quickly than I'd expected, but fortunately grabbing bottles on the move through the aid stations and refilling my speedfil on on the fly was not as difficult as I thought it might be, and I never ran out of water.  I saw Monte twice on the course, around miles 7 and 26, both while I was feeling great, so that was nice!

Somewhere between miles 30 and 35 the last of the clouds dissipated and it was getting really hot in the sun.  But I just kept hydrating and eating, and as dictated by my pace plan, upped the effort from moderate to moderate-hard at mile 30.   After the slow start and fast long downhill stretch, my pace was pretty much 15-17 when climbing, 18-19 on the flatter sections, and 20-24 on the descents.  As we came through Holly Springs I saw Bex ahead of me and was pretty shocked that I'd caught up to her, figuring she had about 10 minutes on me after the swim.  I went by her somewhere on the downhill around mile 36, and she passed me back (as I knew she would) on the climb at 38.  I figured we'd go back and forth like that - me passing her going down and then getting overtaken on the climbs - but I never saw her again so I guess she stepped it up a notch for the last third of the bike!  I took some enduralyte caps at miles 40, 45, and 50, and then a gu at 52 in anticipation for the run.  Overall I felt pretty good coming off the bike, and finished in 3:04:22 - well within the goal range of 3:00-3:10.

As in T1, I had a long way to go with my bike, as I was racked on the far side of the transition lots near the run out.  Switched the helmet for my visor, changed my shoes, and headed out on the run right around the 4 hour mark in my race, exactly as planned, leaving me 2 hours to finish the run and make it in under my time goal.

According to my Garmin, I was running too fast, which is pretty common off the bike, so I made an effort to slow it down.  As I came to the first aid station, the mile 1 clock read 6:57, but my watch had me only at 0.9, so either my watch was off or the course was short.  Either way, the first mile was way too fast, but I was hoping it was the latter, and that the 1 mile marker was just in the wrong place.  Shortly after that I saw Sara, who was riding her bike to follow me along the run course, and Caroline, who was energetically cheering for me in the middle of the street.  I stopped a the porta-potty just before mile 2, had some issues getting my wet trisuit back on, and then took out one poor woman who was running by much to close to the door on exit, but didn't lose a ton of time and even with the stop the second mile was 9:14.  Mile 3 continued the long incline on Hillsborough St, and I finally settled into what seemed like a reasonable pace at 8:15.  I passed Monte, felt tired, but tried to smile and just keep passing the people in front of me who were already in what looked like a death march through the heat.

As we turned into Meredith College, I was starting to feel really hot and negative thoughts were starting to creep in.  I walked through a shady spot at the mile 4 aid station, drank some more water, and stuffed a cup of ice into my trisuit.  The ice helped some, but the water was just sloshing around in my stomach and I realized that I wasn't sweating anymore.  I knew that was not a good sign at all, and started to wonder if I was even going to be able to finish.  Fortunately Sara was there, offering encouragement and telling me to just take it easy and not worry about my pace goals.  That was key, as from there on out I walked up all of the hills on the greenway, walked through all of the aid stations (located at every mile), and kept loading ice into the suit and pouring cold water on my head.  I sipped a little water, but didn't drink much as anything that went in just sloshed around for a while and caused more discomfort than anything.  As I did the two loops of the greenway, I realized that nearly everyone was walking up the hills, and I was actually passing people even on the sections when I was walking.  At the top of one hill there were firemen with hoses spraying cold water on people, and I think I told them they were my best friends.   Though I wasn't feeling great, I was a lot better than I had been at mile 4, and I felt ok running the downhill and flat sections, especially in the areas that were shaded from the sun.  Sadly I could see my time goal going out the window as I was averaging just under a 10 minute mile through the middle 5 miles of the race, but at least a DNF didn't seem as likely as it had a little earlier.   As I came off the trail and back onto Hillsborough, Sara was there waiting and accompanied me all the way back.  I'm not sure how she managed to stay upright on her bike going that slowly, but I was really appreciative of the support!  As we neared the top of what was pretty much the last of the inclines and the 10 mile aid station, I heard a familiar voice - Ellen!  She hadn't told me she was volunteering, so as I got closer and could see that it was actually her, I was so excited to see another familiar face that I ran over and gave her a hug (I was really gross then - sorry, Ellen) only to then see Allie running toward me with cold sponges and realized that Sarah, Caren, Karen, and Allison were also out there cheering - and they had even made a sign for me!  This was seriously the best surprise I could have imagined at that point, short of learning that the run was actually 10 miles instead of 13.1.  

Seeing my friends was a great boost, and Sara reassured me that it was all downhill from here and I was almost done.  I also realized that if I pushed though the last few miles I still had a chance at finishing in under 6 hours, despite the miserable slog through miles 4-9.  I did walk up one last hill, but otherwise just concentrated on my form, passing people, and FINISHING.  According to the official results, I ran the last 3.8 miles in 31:18 (8:15 pace), and despite some rough going, finished in 5:58:26.  Though at several points on the run I questioned why I ever thought this was a good idea, I am really glad that I did it.  

Swim: 49:26
T1: 3:20
Bike: 3:04:22 (18.2 mph)
T2: 2:28
Run: 1:58:50 (9:04)

AG Ranking (out of 82)
Swim: 59
Bike: 35
Run: 15

Gender Position - official results: 130/580
After swim: 390
After bike: 252 (23 women who were slower on the swim passed me, and I passed 161)
After run: 136 (2 women passed me, and I passed 118)

So thankful to have had such wonderful supporters out there - I don't know if I would have finished without you guys, so THANK YOU!