Monday, August 25, 2014

Keystone State Sprint Triathlon 2014

It seems like I just raced and here I am racing again. I debated whether or not to sign up for this race back in the spring since it was only two weeks after nationals and three weeks before my half ironman. What it came down to though, was that I knew I would regret it if I didn't race it. This race has always been a favorite of mine. Although I am working on becoming more competitive and reaching a new level as a triathlete, right now I race because I love it and since there was no blaring reason not to do the race I went ahead and signed up.

Because this was sandwiched between my two goal races I didn't cut back on training at all. Translation: I was tired. I should have known to lower my expectations for this race or not have any at all but sometimes my competitiveness gets the best of me. My legs feeling like lead during my warmup should have been my second clue.

Swim (1/2 mile)
The start of this race was SO much calmer than at Nationals. I think this was the first race where I nailed the swim start. I was able to run a few steps in the water, dolphin dive, and claim some open water real estate with no issues with any of the other women. A friend of mine who used to compete in open water swimming was doing this race so I immediately hopped on her feet and let her do all the sighting. This might have been the first race where I nailed drafting during the swim too.

Swim 11:09 (1:16/100, 2nd AG, 2nd female)
T1 1:02

Bike (18.2 miles)
During the run from the lake to transition I got my first taste of how tired my legs really were. I navigated my way through the muddy swam that had become transition and then struggled for an embarrassing amount of time to get clipped in. Once I was able to get moving I tried to focus on having my own race and not worrying about anyone else on the course. I also tried to let go of whatever my garmin was telling me and race based on how I was feeling. I have a tendency to get in my own head and I didn't want to spend another race battling my mind.

Bike 1:04:22 (17mph, 1st AG, 2nd female)

Run (3.2 miles)
Even though I was tired, I had managed to put together a solid performance in the swim and on the bike. I started running and knew this was going to be a hard race. I was running as the first female with no idea how far back second place was. I was willing my legs to turn over as fast as possible but it felt like I may as well have been shuffling along the trail. Maybe a mile in I made a wrong turn, adding about a minute by the time I found my way back. It was during this minute that second place passed me. I spent the rest of the run mad at myself for what had happened as well as how tired I felt. I spent the rest of the run struggling mentally and physically. I just didn't have it in me to run her down no matter how much I wanted to and that was hard for me to deal with because I could see her almost the entire time.

Run 27:24 (8:33min/mi, 2nd AG, 7th female)

Overall 1:44:48 / 1st AG / 2nd female

Immediately following this race I was livid with both what had happened with first place as well as my performance. This was my first race where I did not set a PR and while I knew at some point that a less than stellar race was bound to happen, it doesn't make it any easier when it does.

After taking some time to reflect on the race I am actually pretty happy with my performance. I am in peak training for my first half ironman and going to a race feeling fresh would be indicative of not training hard enough. My swim and bike splits were nearly identical to last year, it was just my run that was slow. And while I didn't bike or run as fast as I did at nationals at a longer distance, this course was harder. I am proud of myself for taking a risk on the bike and really pushing despite how crappy I felt. Maybe if I hadn't gone so hard on the bike I would have had more in the tank for the run but this was a perfect race to experiment. The only way to find out how fast you can go is to risk going too hard and blowing up.

I have now finished second overall female in three races, two of which were this summer. I thought I would be more upset about not getting an overall win but I don't think I'm ready for that yet. Had I not missed that turn on the run I would have likely had a sprint to the finish with first place and as much as it pains me to say this, I'm not sure I'm mentally strong enough yet to commit to winning. I don't want to win a race because nobody showed up that day but rather because I earned it. Because I pushed myself beyond what I thought possible to beat all the other women. Recognizing this is a really good starting point with the off-season just around the corner. Although Ironman Lake Placid is my A race for next year you can bet I will be chasing that coveted first place finish.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ironman Lake Placid 2015

Surprise! On July 28 at 12:02 I officially signed up for Ironman Lake Placid. I'd known for a little while that I wanted to do an ironman in 2015 but I think a small part of me questioned whether that would really happen. When I first made the switch from swimming to running and triathlon I made a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do. I started with 5k, then 10k, half marathon, marathon, all the way up to ironman. At the time I didn't exactly know what an ironman consisted of and when I looked it up I said no way. I didn't think it was possible. Three and a half years after making that bucket list I not only think, but know that completing an ironman is possible, and dare I say I think it will be fun.

Two summers ago I made a longish term plan regarding my racing. In 2013 I would focus on racing shorter distance triathlons and focus more on having a season with many races than peaking for one specific race. In 2014 the focus would be on completing my first half ironman, with the grand daddy of them all in 2015. Another reason that I wanted to do an ironman next summer is that the timing in my life is perfect. I am not married nor do I have any children or a full-time career. I am graduating in December and won't be starting grad school until next August. I know many people train for ironman while working full time plus having children and I am in awe of those people. I know that this will be the time in my life where I have the least responsibilities so it just made sense to me.

Right now my focus is still on the Rev3 Poconos 70.3 in three and a half weeks. I am in the middle of my last big training block before tapering. This is the longest I have been in training for any one event and I can tell I am on the border of being mentally burned out. After the half I am looking forward to relaxing and enjoying my last semester as an undergrad without the pressure of training for anything. I of course will continue to swim, bike, run but with no plan for a while. The beginning of 2015 will be when the focus switches to ironman training.

Who else will be at Lake Placid next year?

Monday, August 18, 2014

USAT Age Group Nationals Race Report

I still can't wrap my head around this race and everything that came with it. This was by far the largest and most competitive triathlon I have ever done. And to be honest, it was really intimidating for me. In the small city of York I am one of the better triathletes but that doesn't mean anything when you are lining up against the best in the country. Throughout race weekend I went back and forth between feeling inadequate and like I didn't belong to super excited to have the chance to race against such speedy women. This race went completely different than I was expecting but was amazing nonetheless.

This was an unusual set up for me logistically speaking because I am used to getting to the race, setting up transition and starting the race all within about 90 minutes. For nationals I had to be there around 7 to set up my transition area but my wave wasn't scheduled to go off until 10. This made for  a lot of waiting around trying not to waste too much energy. Luckily my sister was there with me and kept me entertained and my nerves down.

Swim (.9 mile)
Finally around 9:45 I wandered over to the swim start to start getting ready. We were able to get in to warm up around 9:50 except there was an unexpected delay and they recalled us back to the dock seconds after I jumped in the water. After about 15 minutes we were finally allowed back in the water. I knew coming into this race that the water was going to be cold and that I would be racing without a wetsuit but I definitely didn't expect the water to be as cold as it was. I was told on Thursday it was 66 degrees, which is the coldest water I have ever swam in. Between getting in to warm up and being called back out, getting in the water again and then treading water for more than five minutes I was pretty frozen by the time my wave started.

Thankfully those five minutes flew by and before I knew it we were being counted down. I've heard stories about the contact that can happen at the beginning of swim starts but I was really not expecting the chaos I found myself in. As a former competitive swimmer I am used to contact in the water. Nothing is as brutal as meet warm ups. But what I experienced here was useless grabbing and thrashing. There were girls next to me hitting me for no logical reason at all. I understand contact because there isn't enough room or you are trying to pass but please don't get all physical with me when there is no need. Rant over.

From all the contact I found myself sucking in water each time I tried to breathe. I spent probably the first quarter of the swim gasping for air and simultaneously nauseated. Once everything settled down I was able to find some open water and get to work. The amount of girls that flew by me that I re-passed later during the swim was ridiculous. Normally I love the swim but this time I remember being fairly frustrated by it all. I was anxious to get on to the bike since this year has been really dedicated to making improvements on the bike.

Swim 22:54 (30/91 AG, 1:23/100 yards)
T1 3:15 (62/91)

Bike (24.8 miles)
The run to transition was long and coming into transition from the other side I ended up going to the wrong rack and couldn't find my bike. I felt like I was running around the entire transition area with no luck. Finally I found my bike, through on my helmet and was off. I thought the mount line would be really hectic with all the girls getting out of the water around the same time but I found myself riding alone for nearly a mile. I was a bad triathlete and didn't check out the bike course at all before the race so I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was a relatively flat course but that was all I knew.

To my surprise there were a few small inclines. I wouldn't exactly call them hills but when you're told the course in pancake flat even a bridge suddenly feels like a big climb. I don't know exactly what the reason was but I just didn't feel great during the bike, which frustrated me because my biking has improved so much this summer. No matter how hard I tried to ride my legs just felt dead. Maybe 10 miles into the ride I noticed a pain on my left sit bone, aka my butt. I've never had a pain like this while biking so I was a bit freaked out. The bike course was on some pretty torn up roads and with each bump the pain got worse.

When I think back on the bike leg what I primarily remember is spending the entire ride wishing I was off the bike. My legs felt empty, my butt hurt, my low back became really sore, and I was getting passed too frequently. By the time I was heading back downtown I was nearly in tears I was in so much pain. When I got off my bike I was struggling to walk and had to sit down to put my shoes on. I didn't know how I was supposed to run 6 miles when I was struggling to walk.

Bike 1:21:32 (71/91, 18.1 mph)
T2 2:14 (80/91)

Run (6.2 miles)
When I started the run I was at a loss over what to do. I was in too much pain to run and I was scared that if I tried to run through the pain that I would end up injured and unable to do my half ironman next month. I'm not sure if this is the best logic but my thoughts were that I was already at nationals and it would be better to try to finish the race even if it meant walking, especially because I could get a refund for my half if necessary. Yes the half was my goal for the year but nationals is nationals and I didn't drive 13 hours there to drop out.

As all of this was going through my mind I was jogging really easily. By the time I made up my mind the pain had subsided some, enough for me to run slowly. I decided I would just take the run minute by minute based on how I was feeling. As the pain let up I increased my pace. I was running without my garmin so I had no idea what my pace was. By mile two the pain was completely gone and I was hauling as much ass as I could. I spent the remainder of the run picking off as many women as possible.

Given how much of a struggle the first part of the race was I was surprised with how well the run was going. I didn't know how I was doing pace wise but I knew I was passing way more people than were passing me. In fact I only got passed by one woman the entire run and passed six men. I think there is something to be said for running blindly and not knowing how hard you really are running. If you had told me I was holding sub 8 off the bike I would have probably slowed down out of fear of blowing up. But I can hold that pace.

With about a mile to go a guy around my age came up to me, gave me a fist bump and we started chatting. We joked about ditching the race in favor of going jet skiing. We ran together for most of that last mile, which helped keep my mind off the heat and the fatigue of being at mile 5.5 of 6.2. Before I knew it I could see the finish line and I was sprinting towards it and a shiny new PR.

Run 49:57 (39/91, 8:02/mi)

Overall 2:39:54 (56/91 AG)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rev3 Poconos 70.3 Training Weeks 9, 10 & 11

The past few weeks have been so hectic between training, traveling, racing and studying but I'm hoping things will settle down a bit before I head back to school. On the training front I am currently recovering from USAT Age Group Nationals and gearing up for one last build before tackling my first half ironman in a few weeks. I'm feeling good about where I am considering this is my first 70.3 and I am not working with a coach. I know there are things I could have done better but all in all I think I have done a lot more right than wrong. So with that here's a recap of the weeks leading up to nationals.

July 21-27
Monday- 8.56 mile track run ending with heel pain, strength
Tuesday- 28.1 mile bike
Wednesday- 1350 yd swim, core work
Thursday- yoga, 6.5 mile run
Friday- 50.56 mile bike, 2.17 t-run
Saturday- strength
Sunday- rest

July 28-3
Monday- 19.39 mile bike
Tuesday- 2000 yd swim
Wednesday- 55.88 mile bike
Thursday- yoga
Friday- yoga
Saturday- 2700 yd swim
Sunday- 2 mile recovery run

Aug. 4-10
Monday- 16.62 mile easy bike
Tuesday- rest
Wednesday- 10 mile bike, 4.2 mile t-run
Thursday- 2.2 mile shakeout run
Friday- 1500 yd OW swim
Saturday- nationals!
Sunday- rest