Monday, July 14, 2014

2014 Colonial Beach Tri Double Rapid Report

I got home yesterday afternoon with enough time to unpack, do laundry, and start re-packing for a trip I have later this week, but not enough time for full race report(s) from Colonial Beach. Instead, here is the brief summary.

Saturday: Colonial Beach Sprint (750m swim-14mi bike-5km run) - 1:22:44, 9th out of 143 women and FIRST out of 12 in the women's 30-34 age group.

In case you were wondering, those are transition towels we got as prizes. Cool.

The swim was an easy-to-navigate triangular course in fairly still water, the bike was nearly dead flat with few turns, and the run was flat but hot, even at 8 am. Clearly the field wasn't very competitive, since I was well within the top 10% of all the women and won my age group by a few minutes, but you have to play to win, right?

Sunday: Colonial Beach Olympic (1500m swim-24mi bike-10k run) - 2:41:54, 24th out of 135 women and 6th out of 23  in the women's 30-34 age group.

It was a very windy day, and the chop on the swim combined with a swim course that was redone 15 minutes before the start made for difficult navigation in the water. That same wind made the bike challenging, as did the hills in the middle 10 miles of the bike course, and wow was the run hot. I still managed to put in a 2.5ish minute PR over the distance, which was a nice way to end the weekend.

In case you were wondering how you might feel at the end of a sprint-Olympic double weekend...
Pretty much sums it up.

I'll write in more detail at some point later, but in the meantime, here's a picture of one of our cats.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Double the Racing, Double the Fun

You know those "race weekend challenges" that involve more than one race? Like the Gasparilla Distance Classic down in Florida - 15k and 5k Saturday, half marathon and 8k Sunday - which sounds like so much fun that I actually want to do it someday, even though it is in Florida. Or even longer, the American Triple-T - super sprint triathlon Friday night, TWO Olympic distance triathlons on Saturday, and a half iron distance triathlon on Sunday.

As outstanding as these things sound, I've never doubled/tripled/quadrupled up on a race weekend like that. But that will change this weekend! I'm headed down to Colonial Beach, VA to race a sprint triathlon Saturday and an Olympic distance triathlon Sunday.

Why? The obvious answer is that if one triathlon is good, two triathlons must be even better.

I'd planned on only doing the Olympic distance race, with the intent of using it as a tune up for Age Group Nationals in a month. Then Jason decided to sign up for the sprint, and since I'd be there anyway, why not race and use it as my pre-race brick?

I have all the good ideas, don't I?

Post-race on Saturday, I'll probably be furiously icing and foam rolling to get myself set to go for another round, and I may really regret this by about mile 2 of the run (or for that matter, maybe mile 2 of the bike).

Only one way to find out, though. Here we go!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2014 Montclair Sprint Triathlon Race Report

I started competing in triathlons about three years ago, and in that time, have completed:
  • Two Ironmans
  • Three Half Ironmans
  • Eight (seriously?) Olympic Distance Triathlons
  • And a grand total of ONE sprint triathlon

That sprint happened to be one I did on five days’ notice on a bike I’d purchased about a month earlier. I finished somewhere in the middle of my age group, my calves seized like crazy on the run, and I decided that was enough of that, please pass the long races, thank you, have a nice day.

However, in the interest of gaining some speed for the rest of the season, given that I am planning nothing longer than an Olympic distance race, I’m trying these “sprint triathlon” things again. First up was the Montclair Triathlon on Sunday. Because this was three weeks after a half ironman and in the middle of the build up for Age Group Nationals in August, there wasn’t really a real taper plan. Instead, I prepared for this race by doing a 10 mile run at 4:30 am on Thursday before a nearly 12 hour workday, discovering that the Di2 on my time trial bike was all screwed up while riding on Friday, and fussing with my bike until it was back in working order. 

Brilliant planning, right?

The nitty gritty of how the day went:
  • 750m swim: 14:00 (2:00/100m, but I was only in the water for 13:20) – 3/16 AG, 15/123 Women
  • T1: 1:21 – 2/16 AG, 12/123 Women (Really? This is where I place best all day? Putting on a helmet and bike shoes?)
  • 12.4mi bike: 39:04 (19.1 mph) – 4/16 AG, 18/123 Women (Quite possibly the fewest places I’ve ever given up on the bike)
  • T2: 1:32 – 9/16 AG, 40/122 Women (I hate my running shoes. HATE.)
  • 3.1mi run: 26:30 (8:32/mi) – 8/16 AG, 40/123 Women (OMG TOTAL FAIL)
  • Total time: 1:22:26 – 4/16 AG, 16/123 Women


Since this was a shorter race, and I take a ridiculous amount of time to warm up, I tried to get to the race site early, but was foiled by my own inability to realize that it was 50 minutes away from home instead of 20 minutes away. I still go in about 3 miles of biking and a little over a mile of running, plus a quick swim before the scheduled 6:45 am race briefing.

6:45 am. No briefing

6:55 am. No briefing

7 am. No briefing

7:05 am. Announcement that race will be late because the cones are all screwed up.

7:10 am. Briefing

7:15 am. Sitting in the water doing nothing

7:20 am. See above

7:25 am. So much for that warm up


The advantage of standing around forever was that I got to line myself up behind a couple of women from the DC area who I know are fast. I hung onto their feet  for about 100 meters and then got shut out by some men in our wave who were part of relays, got disoriented, and slowed down. I picked it back up for the second half, but the time was much slower than I’d have liked. It probably didn’t help that my tri suit seems to be a lot bigger than I remember it being and carried a bunch of water, yet for some stupid reason, I decided against wearing my swimskin over it.

Knowing that I was a little slower than I wanted to be, I looked at my time as I exited the water, figured I couldn’t be more than a minute or so behind the leaders (I wasn’t) and got ready to ride my bike.


Two notable things about this bike leg. First, I have been biking A LOT since April. It’s my weak leg in almost every race I do, and the difference in my ranking for the bike vs. the swim and run is usually drastic. I was sick of it, so I seriously increased my bike volume. Hit several 150+ mile weeks. Did tempo rides, threshold rides, easy rides, long rides, short rides, rides on my road bike, rides on the trainer. I just rode A LOT this spring. It didn’t seem to place me a whole lot higher in my age group at Eagleman, but I didn’t lose as much ground as I usually do. A start.

Sunday, however, I hardly lost any ground at all. I passed a couple of women, and one passed me, and since the course was two loops essentially made up of two out-and-backs a piece, I got a chance to look at how much time I was losing to the lead women. Answer: not much more than a minute or two. This never happens. Ever. That was pretty encouraging, and I was pretty happy to see that I placed 18th on out of all the women on the bike leg, pretty much in line with where I placed on the swim.

The other notable thing is that I decided to race pretty much blind. Didn’t watch my power/heart rate/pace. Just go. I felt like I was pushing the uphills and downhills and riding as aggressively as was safe on a semi-crowded course, but then I downloaded my data.

Sigh. I’ve done 30 minute tempo efforts in the middle of 2+ hour workouts at well over 180 watts. That’s RIDICULOUSLY low, and my heart rate wasn’t anywhere near my lactate threshold. The conclusion? I do benefit from seeing some data while racing, as long as I can use it to motivate me to push harder and confirm that I am still biking within my capabilities, while avoiding letting it send me into a spiral of negativity.  Experiment complete, lesson learned.


After fighting the heels of my shoes in transition for way too long, I came off the bike and my legs felt AMAZING, which should have been my first indication that I didn’t push hard enough on the bike. We started off running up a steep quarter mile hill almost immediately, and I just kept plugging along until we hit slightly more reasonable terrain. The run course rolled quite a bit, and was never really flat until the finish chute.

Here’s the thing about those hills: since Eagleman, something has felt not quite right with my right foot, which has translated to something being not quite right with my entire right leg. This is especially pronounced on uphill runs, and while I thought I addressed this by getting a new pair of shoes last week, I had some pretty intense foot pain and a very weak stride on all the uphills. I was struggling pretty badly from a pain perspective, but didn’t even come close to maxing out my aerobic capacity, even at the end of the run.

For reference, my running threshold heart rate is about 173 beats per minute, and I should have been pushing that for at least the last half of the run.

It felt pretty slow, and a lot of women passed me, so after I finished, I was surprised that the run time was a 26-anything. I suppose the good news is that I can do a hot, hilly 5k with a dysfunctional leg, feeling pretty miserable, in well under 27 minutes. The bad news is that between fighting with my shoes in T2 and limping through the run, I went from 2nd in my age group to 4th – less than a minute off the podium.

So nothing shiny as a result of my race. But I did manage to come in towards the front of the women’s field, and for the first time EVER, my bike and swim placement were pretty close to each other. This means that I either had a horrible swim or a great bike – or maybe a little of both. Either way, I’m glad all that bike mileage has helped me improve my speed and placement within the field a little bit. 

I also got confirmation that racing totally blind in a triathlon is not for me - I need a little external motivation to push hard, especially in shorter races. It was an experiment worth trying, but next time, I'll be checking up on my power numbers throughout the bike leg and watching my heart rate on the run to push myself more.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eagleman 70.3 2014

So Eagleman has come and gone. It delivered what we all expected – a hot, sunny day on a flat, windy course. I finished in 5:44, which is not a PR, but was well under the goal of “Finish in less than 6 hours so that you aren’t baking on the unshaded highways of rural Maryland longer than you have to.”

Having only done the aquabike in 2012, I was familiar with the race, but it was my first experience with the Eagleman run course.

And oh, what an experience it was.

In short, I felt GREAT coming off the bike, ran the first 4 miles at a pace faster than my open half marathon PR, and thought “Wow, if I can hold my open half marathon pace after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 miles when it’s hot and sunny, I’m either awesome or stupid.”

Since I finished the run in 17 minutes SLOWER than my open half marathon time, you can probably guess which option was correct. If I’d paced better from the beginning of the run, I probably could have been about 5-10 minutes faster. And while it wasn’t a perfect race, it was alright, and I’m OK with how it went.

While I didn’t register a smoking fast time, I buried a lot of demons out on the course that day, and until I had crossed that finish line, I didn’t realize just how heavily they weighed on me in the back of my mind.

I was worried that I couldn’t handle this course because of what happened in 2012. That year, I was signed up only to do the aquabike, and STILL barely finished because of severe dehydration on the bike course – the BIKE course, which is a lot easier to handle than the run course. To come back and do the entire race without being in any danger of spending a few hours in the medical tent was a huge relief after two years of self doubt.

I was convinced that my sub-6 effort at Charleston last year was a fluke, and that I wasn't a “real” sub-6 70.3 triathlete. The Charleston course must be one of the easiest half iron distance races in the country. It’s usually cool and overcast that time of year, the bike course is flat and protected from most winds, the swim is always wetsuit legal, and each leg is a little bit short of the advertised length. Would I be able to pull off sub-6 on any other course? Now I know that I can – by a decent margin.

I wasn’t sure I could deal with a race in the heat – ever. Though I didn’t have a super speedy run, I held up OK and was able to run at a not-terrible pace for most of the run. And it didn’t take me to the hospital after the race. A combination of more heat training – think midday runs under the sun at Hains Point – a much better hydration strategy on the bike, and some awesome cooling gear had me ready to sustain myself on a notoriously hot course. Now I don’t have to fear it any more, merely respect it.

All that, and I got a medal and a t-shirt, too.

That’s my longest race for 2014, so from here on out, I have a bunch of sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, plus a few running races, and maybe eventually a marathon. It’ll all seem so short (and cool) in comparison. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Monticelloman, A Month Later

There are a lot of reasons to write up a race report. To reflect on your performance; to learn lessons for next time, share the experience with others; to provide an overview of the course for others.

To have an excuse to post the one flattering race picture you’ve ever gotten.

The Monticelloman Olympic distance triathlon was a month ago, and it went OK. Considering I spent a good deal of February and March in less-than-stellar physical condition, with a training log that reflects that, I went in with no expectations, other than to get an assessment of how my training was going, and fine-tune race strategies for the rest of the season.

If you want the bare-bones details:
Swim: 1500 meters in 27:16 (1:37/100y – if you ignore the extra 300 meters I swam for fun by aiming for the wrong dock at the end)
Bike: 24 miles in 1:21:51.7 (17.6 mph, 164W normalized power)
Run: 10k in 55:44.5 (8:59/mi)
Finish: 2:48:38 - 8/22 in the age group

I was a few minutes slower than I was at Nation’s Tri last year, but this race featured relatively hilly bike and run courses, so I’ll call the performances roughly equivalent. Not amazing, but not terrible.

More importantly, I used the race as a big wakeup call on several things I’d been dismissing as nothing to be concerned about in training. A race  has a way of revealing weaknesses in a way that you can’t ignore. For example, my open water swimming is still lacking.
Note that I have managed to master land swimming. Thank you, GPS signal error.

Obviously sighting and course familiarity were an issue in this case, but my time was also not-so-stellar because stroke tends to be more effective for pool swimming than open water swimming. Namely, I have a long, slow stroke. This is fine for short course pool swimming, but I need to up my stroke cadence. Spent some time paying attention to that in the pool this past month and have had some success with increased speed.

I also finally got fed up with my heart rate monitor strap.

Once it failed during the run leg of this race, I finally admitted that it was time to get a new one. It’s been working beautifully and guiding me through workouts more effectively.

Perhaps most importantly, this race also showed me that I DESPERATELY needed a new bike fit. I had difficulties holding the time trial position for very long, and came off the bike to run with a numb right leg. Not OK. Five days after the race, I was in the bike fitter’s garage for an overhaul, and things have been much better – and faster – since.

All those changes added together to some nice improvements in training effectiveness over the month of May. Combined with two weeks of really intense training right after Monticelloman – think upwards of 160+ miles of biking, 35+ miles of running, and loads of swimming every week with lots of threshold work in each sport – these adjustments have me feeling pretty good about Sunday.

Sunday? What is Sunday?

Eagleman 70.3! Track me here, I'm number 2464.

I’d originally thought I could train to break five hours in a half ironman this year. I simply don’t think that is realistic at this point, but I do think I can put in a strong, solid race. Though it’s tempting to try to quantify “strong, solid race,” yet another thing I learned at Monticelloman is that staying focused on the task at hand, rather than panicking over splits and time goals, results in not only a better outcome, but also a much more enjoyable race experience. The bike course at Monticelloman included a net uphill in the first 15 miles, which would have had me frustrated with my average speed had I been laser-focused on a time goal. Instead, I was maintaining a wattage cap, getting hydrated, and staying engaged and positive throughout the race. In the end, I pushed at a good effort level, which resulted in a decent time, as it kept me from simply giving up due to a perceived poor performance mid-race.

And more importantly, I wasn’t miserable. So I’m going to stick with that approach, because there are so many factors that impact triathlon times – long swim courses, currents, windy bike courses, high temperatures on the run – that you just can’t account for in estimating your time. I have an idea of about when I might be finishing up each leg, however, the main goals are process based.

Swim: Swim fast, Swim hard, Swim focused. And for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, stay on course.

Bike: Stay hydrated, Stay aero, Stay positive. 56 miles is a long way if you're digging yourself into a psychological or physiological pit. And stay aero, because that will help you get to the run faster with minimal additional effort.

Run: Run. Run. And Run and Run and Run until everything is left out there on the course.  

I do have one time-based goal: finishing in under six hours, because that is when it’s going to start getting really hot, and I don’t want to be out running on unshaded blacktop when that happens. I'd rather be sitting down in the shade at that point.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Five Months in Five Minutes

Looks like I left everybody hanging with that Annapolis Half Marathon preview post. How un-thoughtful of me.

The race didn’t go all that well – I didn’t really kick the cold before the race started, so I wound up running well for about 30 minutes, which is when the lack of good oxygen exchange got to me.

You know what also got to me? The really bad mile markings on the course. They were spaced kind of like this:
“Mile 8” took me a little under 6 minutes, while “Mile 9” took me almost 12. Seriously.

Anyhow, I did manage to pull off what was technically a PR (1:52:24), even though I covered 13.1 miles faster in the second half of the 2013 Myrtle Beach Marathon. Given the inflamed bronchial passages and the seriously bizarrely-marked course, I guess that’ll do.

And I’ve raced a little more since then! In fact, just a few days later, I set a new 5k PR (23:45), thereby indicating that I definitely did NOT have a chance to really race that half marathon.

I also ran a 10k at the end of December, which I did not PR. I did, however, get 2nd in my age group, and got some peppermint bark as a prize.


On New Year’s Eve, Rachel and I swam 100x100 yards, because that’s what we do on December 31, and then the next day, I ran a not-so-awesome 5k to start 2014 in a not-so-awesome way.

Since then, the only race I’ve done was a 4k open water swim in New Zealand, which I decided to turn into a 5k by missing a turn buoy and eventually back tracking.

 Same price, more swimming. I win.

Oh, right, I was in New Zealand, too. That’s probably the most notable part of this update.
Since getting back from that February trip, things have not been so great. I got sick a couple of times this winter, had my first triathlon did-not-start (Galveston 70.3), and work periodically took over my life. But do not fear, I still have love of the swim-bike-run, and am planning on doing all three at the Monticelloman Olympic Distance Tri in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. Should be a good time.

And since not EVERYTHING is about triathlon, Jason and I did get two cats in March. A beautiful tortie named Pi, who is super loving.

 And a rambunctious black cat who I have renamed “El Diablo.”

You can see why.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Annapolis Half Marathon Prelude

Welcome to race-day eve! It’s just like Christmas Eve, except instead of staying up late eating cookies and waiting for Santa, you eat sweet potatoes for lunch and go to bed early.

Just to make this race-day eve even more fun, I woke up in the middle of the night Thursday with the early signs of a cold. Perfect timing! I spent yesterday mainlining hot peppermint tea and zinc lozenges to fight the cold off.

(And 100% cacao (sugar free) chocolate, which is awesome, cold or no cold.)

Seems to have worked, and after several naps yesterday evening, I slept through the night and woke up mostly better this morning.

So assuming that I can continue to chug tea and knock this virus away for good, it’s just under 24 hours to race time for the Annapolis Half Marathon, and I feel alright about how everything is going. I even managed to nail my pre-race pace workout on Wednesday - 2 miles easy, 3 miles at goal race pace, 1 mile easy.

Cheating? Maybe, but I have a history of overdoing my race week pace workouts, leaving me with some residual fatigue come race day. So for Myrtle Beach in February, I did it on the treadmill to force myself to stay on pace and not go one bit faster. That race went well, so this time around, I’m sticking with what works.

As evident from the above photo, in theory, my goal time for this race was an 8:00/mile pace, or 1:45. However, I had a couple of not-so-speedy 8k racess and tempo runs, and am not confident about holding that pace for 13.1 miles right now. Maybe with another month of training, but I don’t have another month of training, so I’m going to shoot for what seems reasonable right now. With that, the plan:

A goal: Under 1:50. Holding an 8:23 average seems doable, and not like something that would leave me crawling miles 9-13. If I go closer to 1:45 than 1:50 - great. If I go 1:49:59.99999 – great.

B goal: PR (1:53:30). I went a 1:52 flat in the second half of the Myrtle Beach Marathon, so I should at least be able to PR.

C goal: Under 2 hours. I mean, I did a 13 mile training run in under 2 hours two weeks ago, so over 2 hours would be a pretty sad day.

Who’s ready to race! Yee-haw!