Sunday, June 28, 2009

Average Jo Sprint Tri-Race Report

My apartment currently resembles one that has been hit by a cyclone. Has it? No, of course not, I live in North Dakota where the only exciting weather happens in the winter. None-the-less starting at the front door continuing out onto the patio are what remains of the rain soaked Tri gear and my husband's riding leathers that have been set out to dry.

I readily admit that this level of disarray & clutter eats away at my need to have things tidy, but for the time being I am choosing to view the chaos as echos of the wonderful adventure that was this weekend.

Race Day!

Leading up to this race I was told by several people that it was a "busy" or "crowded" event. With this information in mind, I woke up early Saturday to make the hour & 1/2 drive to Perham,MN in hopes of attaining the best spot in transition I could before the bulk of triathletes arrived. A little over 15 min. after the park opened for set-up and body marking I was there. Entering the park I immediately noted three things.

#1.) I will have to take my road-bike onto a wet gravel road for the first 30ft. outside of transition before making a hard right onto pavement. Ugh.

#2.) The transition area is on grass.

#3.) With only one other triathlete setting up in transition over 15min. after the area was open to do so: this is not a crowded race.

With grey clouds overhead & already damp ground from the storms that rolled through Friday night, I was in no hurry to set up. I racked up my bike under a tree, attached the pirate flag & left most of my gear in the obnoxiously orange bucket beside it covered w/ a plastic bag to keep the rain out before getting body marked, wandering around the course & taking a short run.

The feel of the race was small town organized. Watching the other triathletes roll in I enjoyed the fact that this really is an "Average Jo" triathlon. Very laid-back, a lot of people's 1st tri and only a couple of people there to really kick it.

Compared to the HIM two weeks ago it was such a stark contrast. For the first time at a triathlon I had to mentally prepare to put myself at the front of the pack so that I wouldn't have to weed through slower competitors.

I also had the chance to be the more knowledgeable triathlete explaining how tris are done & even how to shift a bicycle on hills to the nervous 1st timers with a lot of questions.

Swim- 1/3 mile 9:08 Ranked 17th Overall among men & women!!!!

Just as the first wave of swimmers were released it started to pour. I was going to get wet anyway & I was in my wetsuit so this didn't phase me. However, my hubby who was already drenched by riding the motorcycle to the race was now getting rained on yet again. Thankfully my sister showed up with an umbrella to help keep both of them at least somewhat dry.

As my wave started to line up in the water I put myself at the very front. Which is actually a kind of intimidating place to be, but I knew the water was shallow & some people were planning to walk portions of the swim so it was the right decision.

The horn sounded, I chugged through the water until it was up to my hips then dove in. When I rolled to breathe I could see a lot of women still walking, looking tired from trying to push through the water. When I wasn't breathing all I could see were weeds. The kind that float about 6inches below the surface. It's a good thing I was more focused on my breathing because of the pace I was trying to maintain otherwise the fear of taking in a mouth full of weeds may have freaked me out.

My sighting was spot on, rounding the final buoy I sighted and was able to see that I was paced about 3rd or 4th in my wave. This never happens, I started to get excited.

Exiting the water I was tired, but I expected to be. I told myself from the beginning that a sprint tri needed to be a "sprint" so I had to give it all I got for each sport to get the times I hoped for.

T1- Guessing 2 minutes.

Unfortunately the rain caused some confusion amongst the volunteers & possibly messed with the timing equipment (no chips for this race) so I don't have the times for my transitions.

I was blessed enough to have a very kind triathlete next to me in transition who put a plastic bag over the gear I laid out just before it started to rain so there was no putting on of soaked gear over a soaked body. Despite passing through a kiddie pool just outside of T1 my feet were still covered in some grass which made its way into my sock, but other than that it was a good transition. Wetsuit came off easy, everything went on easy.

Bike- 12 miles 43:49 (16.4mph)

Clipping in on wet gravel was easier then I expected. The fogged up sunglasses was not. I passed a handful of people not far outside of transition & was able to stay ahead of them for the following miles. The roads were very wet so we had to ride cautiously, I didn't do much differently than normal but ride further into the lane to avoid the tire grooves that were holding water. The rain subsided to more of a mist, but about 6miles in we made a right turn into a stiff 20+mph headwind and about 9miles in made another right turn taking blasts of wind off of the lake making a few cyclists swerve.

It was a challenging bike, but I've trained in worse conditions so it was manageable. I had some muscle cramping that I had to push through, I also got passed by some people, I also passed about 20ppl (mostly those on mnt or hybrid bikes, but a few road-bikers too). The HEED was yummy.

Nobody was that fast on the bike in those conditions so while I was hoping for somewhere around 18-20mph I'm happy with my pace. I ranked 9th overall women for the bike!!

T2- Under a minute.

Swapping out gear at t2 went quick. During the bike my road-shoes filled with water, so my socks were totally soaked going into my running shoes, but still went on easily. I took a pull off of my gel flask before ditching it as I ran out.

Run- 4miles 36:07

At the start of the run my calves were thinking they were going to exchange words with me. I would have none of that.
I ran a pace I could maintain, took in some water.

The path we ran on is a familiar one & sweet spot for me. It is where I learned to run a little over three years ago. Back then I could only run for a minute or two at a time thinking I had to sprint those 1-2min. and here I was after already swimming & biking running faster and longer than I ever could on this trail before.

Around mile 2 I was starting to get annoyed with carrying my hand mounted water bottle. It was sloshy, I wasn't really thirsty so it felt like dumb weight. I ditched it by the side of the road that I could easily drive back & get it after the race.

By ditching the extra weight & my legs now feeling normal I started to pick up the pace. Passing people who had earlier passed me and were now fading. It felt fast, the kind of fast I usually feel during my Thursday morning group run. It was hard, but a lot of fun!

About 1/4 from the finish there is a short yet steep uphill. I decided not to beat myself up & fade by running up it so I walked. Then really hammered it at the end, sprinting across the finish-line. I love that I can hear my husband's voice crystal clear over the others cheering at races, hearing him say "kick it baby, bring it home" lit me on fire.

Total Finishing Time: 1:29:03!

It was a such a great/fun race for me. I placed 13th overall for the women & 7th in my age group. This is the closest I've ever gotten to placing at any of my races and I have to say it feels amazing!!! :)

Coming off of a stellar race like that mixed with knowing that the Young Life Olympic Distance Tri is 46 days away (if I feel I am able to do that the wknd before my 50k, haven't decided yet) & the Lean Horse 50k is only 53 days away all I want to do is get out there & train. I love to.

But, right now I am trying hard to be gentle to myself & smart. Yesterday once some of the adrenaline had worn off I noticed that the tip of my right index toe was hurting to walk on, red, sort of swollen & warm to the touch. No blister, no broken skin, nothing like an ingrown toe-nail.'s symptom checker had a broken toe for the top hit when I put in my info. I'm not convinced yet, either that or I'm in denial.

Today it feels better than yesterday, which is encouraging. I'll give it some time, which probably means only biking & swimming this week. Hopefully it will be nothing. :) I'll find out!

On a side note, volunteers willing to stand outside in the pouring rain & wind like that during Saturday's race rock!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Liberty Triathlon 70.3- Race Report

The past three weeks have been a vivid reminder of why I love to swim, bike,run. With the marathon behind me, warm enough weather for OWS,great riding conditions & fresh-ish legs in the run I felt like a hamster set free of his plastic orb. It was awesome. The training that followed was equally so.

Fast forward to the week of the Liberty HIM and I had a solid plan for how I was going to taper. Take a look at my training log and you will notice my plan went down the drain when the plague monkey onslaught ensued hurling me into a kleenex & pillow oasis. There are worse things to have happen during a taper, like taking a fall with your bicycle several days before a marathon, but having a cold wasn't pleasant.

Friday- The plague kept me up most of the night with congestion, I maybe got 5hrs of sleep. We (Jeremiah, Mother-in-law & me) travel across Minnesota kind of on an intense timeline.

After a bit of navigating we find the race site. It is a beautiful well kept park.

I take a glance at the lake, "it doesn't look weedy, good.". Then I get the chance to eye over part of the bike course. I am one of those that doesn't always want to know what is ahead of me so we don't drive all of it. "It doesn't look nearly as hilly as what I have been training on, good.".

Our timeline gets as congested as I am. We hurry to pick up Jeremy's dad who flew in from Japan at the airport, then to the hotel where I am able to snag a short nap before heading to packet pick-up.

In the line at packet pick-up I hear a lot of triathletes exchanging their comments of being "so nervous about tomorrow" and I realize that beating this cold has kept me so distracted that I haven't had the chance to be nervous. I'm totally okay with that. By the time I make my way through the line I am starting to feel more worn out than I did after some of those long training days.

My hours are limited and I need to get some dinner then crash. Dinner at Chino Latino's is excellent, but all the sinus junk kept my appetite low and I don't eat much. As we leave the restaurant it dawns on the me that I have a half ironman TOMORROW and need to grab some calorie dense food I can stuff in my face at the hotel before nodding off.

My Beloved takes me to Lund's, a more upscale grocery store with stellar cookies. I get a vitamin C smoothie drink,fresh sliced mango,1/2 dozen macadamia nut cookies & one of those obnoxiously over frosted children's cookies. He also grabs me a bottle of Nyquil before arriving at the hotel.

I ingest everything listed above. Yes, everything. By this point I am feeling a little loopy from all the sugar and whatever it is in the Nyquil that makes you sleepy. Perhaps the mango & fruit smoothie will compensate for how unhealthy everything else was. But, I can honestly say I would do that as my pre-race fuel again, it rocked!

Saturday-RACE DAY!

My husband will attest to the fact that I move slow when I'm tired and even more so when I'm sick. So I set my alarm early and actually woke up on my own just a few minutes before it went off. Thankfully the Nyquil helped me sleep through the night & the healing mercies of my God had me feeling the best I had felt all week that morning.

Over five days of worrying if I would be able to actually race & if I could would I be able to finish all of it were put to rest. I knew I felt good enough to race and I was shocked to feel confident enough that with all the adrenaline, cold meds & prayer I would be able to go all the way.

Arriving at the transition area to setup I felt a bit intimidated by all the lean tri-suit clad athletes with their aero bars and Zipp wheel endowed tri-bikes. I had none of the above, but my road bike is very nice and fits me well, not to mention the best shade of orange. While setting up I see a few other simple set-ups like my own and I feel a little bit more like I fit in.

With my transition area set up I get body marked then head down to the beach for the pre-race meeting and to get myself situated in my wetsuit. I decide not to psyche myself out by swimming at all before the start, I was worried my congestion would really effect my breathing during the swim & I didn't want to know how bad it was going to be. There are two waves before mine, they start lining up & before I know it, it is my wave.

Swim - 42:49

As the horn goes off releasing the triathletes in my age group I take a quick glance up at the buoy beyond the olympic distrance's turn around. It seems surreal, it is actually race day, I am kind of in a daze, but I am doing it! I am instantly filled with passion & for a split second feel nervous for the first time at this race. I chug through the water until it is deep enough to break into free-style. Praise God my breathing seems to be okay and to my delight I am actually at relatively close pace to the other swimmers in my wave, even passing a few of them. It wasn't the fist & foot fight in the water I am used to during triathlons, which was nice. Even though I zig-zag a little bit, sighting is good.

I round the turn-around buoy, sight a few times and pick the line I want to follow to shore. In my mind I keep thinking "this is going a smooth as I could have ever hoped, make sure you are breathing to each side so your neck doesn't get sore & you need to do ABC once you reach the transition area.". Reaching the shore I feel great, not worn out but not like I wussed out and took it easy on the swim either.


Stripping off my wetsuit, goggles & swim-caps then tossing them into the 5gallon bucket like I had practiced in my living room on Thursday went perfectly. The bucket was a great idea. Getting on all of my gear while soaked went fine too, my goal was to stay under 4minutes in T1 and I held to that.

Bike- 3:22:53

The first loop of the bike course went by so fast. I was averaging about 18mph which considering the hills and the 1.2mile swim prior is great for me. Cycling isn't my strongest sport, but I do love it which helps a lot. Attitude is a huge component of endurance races.

My plan to fuel every 15-20 minutes goes well, but I am drinking slightly more because I'm dry from breathing primarily out of my mouth due to all of the sinus crud. Around mile 35ish is when I am supposed to take in my hammer bar, but the idea of chewing something doesn't sit well with me so I take in more hammer gel & make sure I am taking in the Perpetuem drink first before the HEED.

At no time during the bike did I feel poorly trained for the distance. Despite being passed by a fair amount of people & only passing a few others myself. It was perfect weather for the ride, the volunteers at each intersection were absolutely fantastic which helped keep me invigorated.

Reaching mile 48ish on the bike I could start to feel my cold medication wearing off and my pace slowing down because of it. By this point the temps were starting to rise as well and at mile 50 I am low on liquids, but the bottle exchanges have already come & gone so I had to stick it out. Sometimes bicycling miles can feel like longer than running those miles, this was one of those times. In training I worried about bonking on the bike & I encountered a few spells like that while training. Thankfully I managed to keep from doing so on race day.

Yes, it got a little tough towards the end and I was ready to get off the bike, but my pace wasn't that far off from where I expected it to be all things considered.

T2- 1:42

I spot my hubby who is sporting his green spartan kilt as I enter the transition area. Seeing a familiar face who is as excited to see you makes me smile. I chuck my jersey, helmet & sunglasses into the 5gallon bucket, throw on my orange tank, race # & hydration belt, then my shoes before running out. My goal was under 2min for T2 and I held to it.

Run- 2:31:53

As I start the run I am shocked. Why? Because my legs can actually run! It takes the first three miles until I am actually comfortable with a pace/stride though. I also had to stop at one point to shake the sand out of my socks that got into them at T1.

It feels good to finally be at the sport where I feel most at home.

The run course is a black asphalt bike path that circles half of the lake, but is blocked by portions of wooded areas and rolling fields that keep those lake breezes from cooling me off. I can see the heat taking it's toll on the people I pass who are already on their way back from the turn-around point.

In hopes of avoiding my fueling/hydration issue I had during the Fargo marathon I start being proactive early. Taking in fuel every 3-4miles before water stations & topping off my water bottle every other.

The trail while hot & a tad hilly was a wonderful place to run. I enjoyed it. Reaching the turn-around point at mile 6.5 I was told to "celebrate the cone" which marked the spot so I did a little victory dance for the volunteers just to be obnoxious. I figure they have been waiting out there cheering for hours it was the least I could do. :)

Miles 7-8 were prayer miles for me. Not a wall, just time to refocus. I really wanted to finish the race well and have a portion of the run that felt fast. My pace wasn't bad until that point, but I wasn't feeling lithe. I started using the uphills as an opportunity to blow my now more congested nose, it worked. Scriptures of victorious battles & the Lord's provision cycled through my brain.

Then I started to pass people. Sets of two or three at a time. At least 10 ppl in those last few miles. Mile 11 I finally felt the lithe feeling that I knew I could pick up the pace and maintain it, so I did. At mile 12.8ish the route took me through a campground with lit campfires that really dampered my breathing, but Jeremy's Mom was there cheering me on.

The rest of it was literally downhill. About 1/4 mile from the finish I heard a group of people I didn't recognize cheering my name & reminding me to smile at the huge camera at the finish. Or at least I thought it was my name, pretty sure it was. After talking to DH on the way home we realized it may have been "Steve in a Speedo" (& crew) who's blog we've been following.

At the same time my gel flask pops out of my fuel belt & I'm starting to sprint so I just keep hauling.

Crossing the FINISH LINE felt as surreal as the start of the swim. It felt like an accomplishment, but at the same time one that would sink in over the following week or so. Which it has done.

Finishing time was: 6:41:59, Not bad!

I feel a bit bad for how un-celebratory or talkative I was at the finish, but for 13.1 miles I had been telling myself that I would be rewarded with a soak in the cold lake to cool me off & keep my quads from turning into rocks. Until that reward was granted I really couldn't think of much else.

This whole week has been a celebration though, I loved the race, the recovery has been perfect, my cold is almost completely gone & my appetite for food and more tris is definitely back. :)

What's next?

Well, since I was able to get ahold of the race director for the Average Jo triathlon in Perham,MN next weekend to okay my late registration (which she did). So that's where I'll be!

Trying to choose between long distance running & doing triathlons all summer is my current mental conflict. We'll see how it plays out. :) Either way, it will be a great racing season.

*Pictures will be available as soon as I can get them off of my In-laws memory card. The Vibram Five Fingers I was gifted with the day after the race have been the best thing ever & if you ever get to eat here, you will NOT be disappointed.