Friday, October 29, 2010

Buzzard's Bay Sprint Race Report

     A few weeks before this race, Keith & I thought we should probably do an ocean swim to prepare us for Lobsterman and this sprint. We wanted to make it a brick workout so I suggested we come down to this course, do our ocean swim and then bike the course. I figured we'd get our workout in and see the course. This excursion definitely did not go as planned and ended up being pretty comical. First, we got slightly lost while trying to find the park. Note to anyone who writes directions: use directions like left and right not north and south especially if the street just has a name and no route number. Wouldn't it just be easier to say take a left at blank road instead of head north on blank road?
      We finally found the park and soon realized why the Max website tells you to swim during high tide. The water was so shallow (knee deep) and the beach was incredibly rocky. I thought there was no way we'd be able to swim in this and I didn't want stepping on the rocks to add to the pain / numbness I usually get in my foot. Keith decided to give it a try. First he tried to swim in the knee deep water...he soon realized this doesn't work when you're 6'2”. Further out, there was a sandbar and then there was more water so he decided to try out there. With Keith walking out so far he looked like a little spec, he finally dove in and started swimming. It was doable but not ideal and he didn't last very long. I was happy he cut it short since the guy hanging out further down the shore from me was creeping me out a bit and I kept looking for ways I could escape the beach area if needed.
      Our bike ride didn't go much better. We got lost due to the fact that 5 different streets will have 1 name or 1 street will have 5 names down there. This was honestly a mess of a trip but we were able to see that the bike ride was extremely flat and windy.
      Come race day, we picked Carrie up and headed down to the race. After getting our stuff set up, we did our warm up run & stretching. One of the great things about this race was that we knew a bunch of people doing it or coming to watch us. Keith, Carrie and I decided to do a warm up swim right before the race. The swim was a point to point swim so we headed to the swim start for our warm up. We should have known something was up when no racers were down there and they were all at the finish area of the beach warming up. After way too long of trying to navigate through the rocks, we finally reach water that is deep enough to actually swim in (although this was still probably less than 5 feet deep). Coming out of the water on the rocks was definitely a challenge that garnered some laughs from other racers standing on the shores.
      Once it was my swim wave's turn to start, I made the horrible trek across the rocks again. To my (and Carrie's) surprise, the other girls walked across the rocks like it was nothing...impressive. The swim was really weird with a buoy to turn at probably 100 yards into the swim. I tried to seat myself towards the front of the swim pack to try to get myself to go a bit faster (using my dislike of being swam over in an effort to push me harder). I never really got in a good rhythm and it definitely felt choppy the whole way. Luckily it was only a 1/3 mile swim.
      T1 went well and I was off on my bike. My game plan for the bike was simple – hammer the whole way and try to beat my other paces. I figured since this race was only a 14.7 mile flat ride vs. a 56 mile (Timberman) or 24.7 mile (Lobsterman) hilly ride I should be able to do that. Again it seemed some people like to hog the road but most of them had mountain bikes and were probably new so I won't harp on them. One guy annoyed me pretty bad with this though as he was actually just cruising along right next to the yellow line for a while and there wasn't even anyone to pass (and he had a tri bike so I'm guessing he knew what he was doing)! He probably just didn't want to get passed by a girl. I realized about 2 miles into the bike ride that the route did not look familiar and I came to the conclusion Keith and I did not ride any of the course when we attempted to ride the course a few weeks prior to the race. We laughed about this after the race and how we were way off. My final bike pace according to my computer said I averaged 20.9 mph although my final results have it at 20.5 mph. Keith had the same issue and we're pretty sure the distance was a little off (more like 15 miles) at least according to our computers.
     T2 did not go as planned and I lost some time because I couldn't get my bike on the rack. I know Max promotes their racks as being better than other races but I'm really not a fan as it seems my smaller than normal wheels don't fit in the grooves. Finally a race volunteer took pity on me and said to leave it and she'd rack it. A girl had come into the row on the other side right after me and sprinted out of transition before me due to this racking issue and to make matters worse, she was in my age group. The run course was along the bike course and coming into transition, I didn't see any girls ahead of me so I figured I might be able to come in 1st in my AG if I could pass this one girl who beat me out of transition.
      Onto the run, I was making sure to keep this girl in my age group within passing distance. The run was an out and back with a pretty good hill out of the park. About a mile into the run, I passed Keith as he was heading in for his last mile. He yelled, “The 1st place girl is right there” and pointed to the girl in my AG that was slightly in front of me. This was when I thought I could maybe actually place in the overall female category and I decided it was time for me to get a move on. I debated waiting another mile or so to pass the girl in 1st. I didn't want to run out of steam at the end and have the girl pass me back. She was going a pace I could definitely keep up with and still have something left in the tank to pass her at the end but I wanted to push my run pace to its limit instead. I made my move right after seeing Keith and hoped for the best. At the turn around, I was satisfied to see she hadn't picked up the pace to try to catch me and figured I just needed to hold this pace. Towards the finish, I started getting really excited that I was going to be the 1st female to cross the finish line and this might be the only time that happens.
      I crossed the line shortly before the other girl en route to yet another PR this year! While I realized I might not have actually been 1st (the older female swim wave started after mine), I relished the fact that I had A. been the 1st female to finish the race and B. I came in at least 1st in my AG! After scanning the results, I realized that my suspicions were correct and I didn't come in 1st overall but I did come in 3rd overall which felt pretty rewarding! It seemed so weird competing in a race this short (after doing several Olympics and a ½ IM this year) and it felt like I should do a workout after the race.
      It was a great day of racing all around as Keith came in 1st in his AG and set a PR and Carrie came in 3rd in her AG and also set a PR! We came home with a lot of glassware needless to say (Max gives out pint glasses as the award for placing) and only got slightly lost on the drive home! 

3rd Overall Female - 1st in AG

1st in AG

3rd in AG

Lots of glassware!
Swim: 11:10 (my fastest swim pace of the season)
T1: 1:28
Bike: 42:53 (20.5 mph)
T2: 0:49
Run: 22:05 (7:06 min/mile)
Overall time: 1:18:24 (3rd overall female and 1st in AG)

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." ~Seneca

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lobsterman Olympic Race Report

     Training-wise the toughest thing following Timberman has been to get myself revved up for Lobsterman. Training this whole season has mostly been geared towards performing well at Timberman. The race season definitely felt like it was getting long having competed in the Season Opener in early May as my first race of 2010. I was starting to look forward to actually have a life outside of triathlon...who'd have thought!!
      The few weeks following Timberman, calling my bike rides bad would be an understatement. It felt like I had a charlie horse in my left quad every time I went over 10 to 15 miles especially in aero. I was seriously worried about how the Lobsterman bike ride would go. I also found it hard to get the motivation to go swimming (especially open water) with the weather getting cooler and the discovery of little jellyfish in Walden Pond. It turns out that was probably the reason I felt pretty itchy after a swim there shortly before the discovery. While I've been stung by a jellyfish in the ocean in Mexico, I have to admit I never thought I'd have to worry about jellyfish in a pond!
      Keith & I made the trip up the night before the race. The morning of the race, we arrived at the park pretty early (probably a little too early). The sun was rising over the ocean and I understood why this race has been called one of the most's gorgeous there! 
Beautiful Freeport, ME locale
     The week or so leading up to Lobsterman, it felt like I had tweaked my hip a bit. Between this and my quad feeling off, I had no idea how this race was going to go.  Just for kicks, let's add some cold water to the mix for the swim. I was definitely worried about the famed freezing cold swim of Lobsterman. In case you're wondering, they actually require you to wear a wetsuit (and for good reason). The water temp was 61 degrees F and this was my first ocean swim of the year. Before the start of the race, Carrie, Keith and I went for a warm up swim although I think this would more accurately be called a chill down swim. My body and feet didn't get too cold thanks to my wetsuit and booties but my hands and face froze the second I put them in the water. I was not looking forward to a freezing cold .93 mile swim.  
     I waited for the other swim waves to go with Carrie and Ashley and then hopped in the water when it was our turn to swim. One funny thing about doing a race in Maine - the announcer was actually wearing a lobster costume! Surprisingly when I got back in the water for the swim start, the water did not seem quiet as freezing as before.
      The swim went by slowly and I really just wanted to get to my bike. Luckily this part of the Maine ocean is really sheltered and was as calm as the beaches on the Northshore. Sighting was a bit difficult during the swim with the sun in our eyes for part of it so I just followed everyone else. I remember one of my least favorite thing about ocean swims: getting a mouthful of salt water - yum! Towards the end of the swim, I tried to pick up the pace and kick a lot to get the legs warmed up for the bike. I definitely felt like the cold water was zapping my energy at this point and I started to get pretty tired. Finally the swim ended and I was off to transition and my bike.
      At the start of the race, I was worried the air temp would be a little too cool and I was remembering Season Opener this year where I was frozen until around mile 2 of the run. The weather ended up being great! I hopped on my bike and off I went for the 24.7 miles. I made good time on the bike and I was pushing to have a faster pace than Timberman. For some reason, this race seemed like there were a lot of people who liked to hog the road on the bike. I definitely got sick of yelling on your left in an attempt for people to get the hint to stay on the right unless they're passing. I ended averaging 20.3 mph (4th in my AG) which was faster than Timberman and my quad did not end up acting up.
      Next up was the run. I was feeling pretty good at this point and wanted to try to beat the pace I held in my other Olympics. The run was hilly and I was definitely feeling this in both my knees by the end. I just kept concentrating on having the right form the whole run. A guy going a little faster than me passed me around mile 2 or 3. I decided to try to use him as my pacer and this ended up working to my advantage. To unknown pacer – thanks for keeping me at an 8 min mile! 

      My goal for this race was to beat my other two Olympic tri times of 2 hours and 44 minutes. That's right, in both of the other Olympics I did this year (before Timberman), my times were within seconds of each other. I'm thrilled to say I finished with a PR and while I was a little disappointed I didn't place in my age group (6th out of 35), I know I can't control who shows up for the race. Not only did I set a PR, but Keith did as well! Woohoo time to celebrate!

Crossing the finish
Post Race
      Keith and I decided to skip out on the Lobsterbake (overpaying for cold hamburgers and hot dogs at the Timberbake was still fresh in our minds), we drove down to Portland to eat some baked haddock. You might wonder what a reward might be like for both of us getting a PR at a Maine race. Lobster!! While in Portland, we realized the lobsters are relatively cheap so we decided to get a couple and have our own Lobsterbake later that night!

Swim: 31:33
T1: 1:58
Bike: 1:13:24 (20.3 mph)
T2: 1:00
Run: 49:40
Overall time: 2:37:32 (6th out of 35 in AG; 26th out of 207 females)

"Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly." ~Robert H. Schuller

The Lobster!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Timberman 70.3 Race Report

Better late than never...
Beep Beep Beep! 4 am and I'm up and getting ready for the race. I change, grab my gear and head out to the race. Keith & I start chowing down on almond butter & jelly on bagels as we drive the 20 mins or so to Gunstock. About 5 minutes into the ride “Hey Keith, you brought my aero bottle down right?” Keith: “Um I brought mine, you were supposed to bring yours.” Oops! Strike 1 and back to the hotel to grab my bottle. Luckily we weren't too far from the hotel and Keith didn't really look too annoyed. Ok back on the road and cue pump up mix on the Ipod!

We arrive at Gunstock to park and take the shuttle to the race start @ Ellacoya. Our bikes were already in transition from having to drop them off the day before. We arrive at the park, get body marked and head to our bikes in transition. I was pretty happy with my assigned location in transition (on a bike rack end = lots of space & next to a tree = easier to find my stuff coming into T1). When I arrive at my bike, the girl next to me is setting her stuff up. I notice she pretty much has a hockey bag for her transition bag. Um wow haven't seen that before. Reminds me of my days before my transition bag when Keith & I looked like a newbie mess toting our stuff to the race in multiple containers and bags. Keith comes over after his area is set up and he pumps up my tires while I get the rest of my area set up. Keith: “Wow that girl next to you has a hockey bag.” Married one year and we're thinking alike!

Transition area and bikes are set to go so we're off for a quick warm up ride. No more than a few minutes in I start to hear some noise from the front of my bike. Yikes...a flat! Ok now I start to slightly freak out. It's only like 20 minutes before transition closes and I still have to get my swim stuff and apparently change a flat. I might add that I'm really bad at changing flat tires. I bring my bike to the bike mechanics @ Mavic figuring they can fix it faster than me and so I can try to get another tube from the bike store at the race while I wait. Turns out the bike store decided not to show before the start of the race. Seriously that is the worse bike store ever! Why wouldn't you be there before the race?! I check with Mavic on a spare tube and they don't have any since the bike store was supposed to be there. Another problem with my dilemma is that I've got 650 wheels so trying to find a spare 650 tube was impossible. Ok strike 2 – my flat is fixed but now I have no spare for the race. Oh and the bike mechanic tells me that the sag wagons on the course don't have any since they're uncommon and they ran out of them. My first ½ Ironman and I have to ride with no spare...awesome! Ok time to recover from the freak out and just hope I don't get a flat and have to pull out of the race. 

Me & Keith Pre-race
After dropping my bike in transition and grabbing my swim gear, I head to the Port-a-potty then the beach. Since Keith and I have about an hour before our swim waves actually start, we use this time to finish our warm up (stretching and warm up swim). Waiting for the other swim waves to go was probably one of my least favorite parts of the race. I like to warm up and then just go. Around 15 minutes to go and I throw down my Huckelberry gel...mmm mmm good. Keith goes ahead with his swim wave and I hang out with mine while I scope out the beach for my parents (who were coming to take some pictures for us). I wasn't sure they were going to make it up in time but sure enough I see them right before my wave enters the swim start. After a few pictures and them wishing me luck (along with me telling them to pray that I don't get a flat), I'm off to the swim. 
With Mom before my swim
 I position myself towards the middle of the pack, the horn goes and we're off! The swim (especially the beginning) is my least favorite part since this is only my 3rd year swimming. The swim goes as expected except for some choppiness towards the end of the course. I also had the joy of being next to someone who'd switch between freestyle and breaststroke for part of the swim. How do I always manage to be next to someone doing the breaststroke in every race I do? I do not appreciate being kicked in the side...although good Ironman practice. After 1.2 miles, I'm out of the lake and running through transition to my bike.
Swim time: 40:35 AG place: 56 out of 106

1.2 miles down!
I bypass the wetsuit strippers (I don't feel like flopping down) and head to my bike. When I take my goggles off, my left eye is really foggy and it won't go away no matter how much I rub it. Oh no, I really hope this goes away soon. I drop my wetsuit, throw on my biking gear, grab my bike and I'm off to the bike out area (while my eye is still foggy). Finally as I make it out of transition, “I can see clearly now” (to quote the Johnny Nash song)! Phew, relief!
T1 time: 2:38.

I hop on my bike and try to clip in. I quickly realize my right bike shoe won't clip into my pedal...great! After several unsuccessful tries and some riding without being clipped in, I'm finally able to get it in (after clearing some dirt and rocks out of it) and I'm off for 56 miles. The ride ended up being my favorite part and seemed too short. My goal was to finish it in around 3 hours (averaging around 18.6 mph) considering it had some hills and was on the longer end of most of my rides. My legs ended up feeling great and I noticed part way through the ride that I was holding a mid - 19 mph average. I thought about holding back so my legs wouldn't be dead for the run but decided to go for it and ride as fast as I could and just see what my legs had in them. With around 10 – 15 miles left, it started to rain pretty hard. Luckily it seems I ride faster in the rain. Maybe I just like riding in the rain or maybe I dislike it so much I ride faster to finish sooner...who knows? I'm also not very good at remembering to eat or drink on the bike (esp. if it isn't hot and humid) so Keith set my watch to go off every ½ hour to tell me to eat a gel or take some salt tabs (switching off between the 2 each time). After taking the salt tabs once, my stomach didn't feel so great so I stopped taking those and just kept with the gels every hour (I figured this would be fine since I wasn't sweating much at all).

One major dislike I have is the drafting some people try to get away with. I saw a girl in my AG drafting another for a good 10 miles. Some guy actually asked Keith about 5 miles in if he wanted to “work together”. Seriously people?! You probably shouldn't do a race if you're going to blatantly cheat. We trained our butts off for this 70.3 and we're going to do it on our own! As I got close to transition, I was pumped that I was able to hold 20.1 mph on the bike and that I didn't get a flat! Crisis averted! All I could think is “Keith is going to be so proud of my bike split”! As a side note, I'm the one trying to keep up with him on our training rides and I don't usually average that high. Wow I'm in a great mood going into the run and am loving the 70.3 distance so far.
Bike time: 2:45:50 AG place: 8 out of 106.

I drop my bike off in transition, grab my running gear, my gels and Shot Bloks and I'm off to my half marathon.
T2 time: 2:19

As soon as I start the run, I heard some people from BTT cheering me on then from NSTT then my parents – a major boost. I give my parents a smile & a wave and I'm off on loop #1. 
1/2 marathon left to go
 1st stop on the run: Port-a-potty since I don't want to hold it for a ½ marathon. Losing a minute or two will be worth it. Hey there's Keith running by. “Keith! Keith!” Hmm I guess he's in a zone...he doesn't even see me. FINALLY he sees me...but totally missed my high 5 (at least we get it right during loop #2). I start thinking towards the end of the 1st loop that I'm genuinely enjoying myself. This might be a sign I should be running faster but I want to have some legs left for the 2nd loop. Since the legs are responding well during the 1st loop, I'm very glad I didn't hold back on the bike. I start getting close to the finish but quickly remember I'm going out for loop #2 so it's by the finish line and back out again for me (which I thought was a bit mean). Mile 9 of the run and I'm starting to feel it in my legs. Sore upper quads and then sure enough the familiar stiffness and knee pain. Ugh the next 4.1 miles are going to be long! Luckily my foot is still feeling ok (or it hurts but I'm only noticing the knee). These were my two biggest worries coming into the race and I highly doubted I'd get through the whole thing without one of them hurting...although I was planning on the foot hurting more than the knee. Ok time for some mental toughness. This is just a little longer than a 5K then I can rest my knee all I want at the biggie. I keep my pace and YES I'm at the finish! 1st ½ IM complete!
Run time: 1:53:42 AG place: 31 out of 106.

As I finish, I see my parents. “Michelle, the female winner's behind you.” What?! Chrissie Wellington?! Um understatement Mom & Dad. She's like the best female triathlete in the world! So like a 10 year old girl, I ask her for a picture which she is more than willing to do.
Final Time: 5:26:04 AG place: 14 out of 106.
My photo op with Chrissie Wellington @ the finish

With my dad after the finish...70.3 complete woohoo!

Wrap Up
I loved it! I'm hooked on this distance! The great weather or the fact that I executed this race almost completely as planned might have something to do with it but I don't was amazing! I was really close to placing in the top 10 of my age group. I can't wait for my two ½ IM and my full IM @ Lake Placid next year. It felt so rewarding that all my training and rejecting junk food paid off. I feel like I peaked and tapered well and I owe a lot of it to Keith for acting as our coach for this race. It's definitely nice being married to someone who enjoys triathlons as much as me and pushes me in my workouts. Thanks to everyone there cheering me was a much needed boost. Especially thanks to my parents for leaving at 5am to come up and take pictures and to Keith for dragging my butt through many workouts and the support.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Time will tell

Three years ago, Keith (my husband) and I decided to join the B&S triathlon training group and compete in our first triathlon. We've been hooked ever since! If you were to tell me I'd be signing up for an Ironman in three years, I'd have told you that you're crazy. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run...NO WAY! The more time we've spent in the triathlon world, the less crazy and unattainable this has seemed.

Well on July 25th Keith and I decided to make the trip to Lake Placid to volunteer at the 2010 Ironman. The next day, we started waiting in line at 5am to solidify a place in the 2011 Ironman (yes we waited in line for 4 hours and yes we are actually paying to do this race...a lot of $). Pretty much everyone I've told that I signed up for IMLP has had a similar reaction, “You're crazy.” or “Did you ever think you'd be this nuts?” I might point out that someone actually going nuts probably wouldn't think they were going nuts at that time, but I digress.

We even signed up before we attempted our first Half Ironman. Okay this might make us a bit crazy but I have no regrets about signing up (talk to me in March and I might after running in the snow). I decided to start a blog to track my training and show that it does not take an incredible amount of ability but rather dedication, motivation, and heart to train for an Ironman. At the very least I hope to provide a distraction from work or some entertainment. A few disclaimers: I was a Biology not English major in college so bear with my writing; my train of thought can sometimes be scattered but I promise it makes sense in my head; I'm a fan of quotes/song lyrics and will use some throughout my posts; I'm no elite athlete, just a regular age grouper trying to finish my first Ironman.

Am I excited? Understatement
Am I nervous? Definitely
Am I motivated? You betcha
Am I crazy? Maybe a little
Do I want this? Oh yeah
Will I be an Ironman? Only time will tell 

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." 
~T. S. Eliot

After our volunteer shift
Waiting in line @ 5am to sign up for IMLP 2011