Race Report: Rev3 Knoxville Half

Taryn and I headed down to Knoxville on Friday for our first half of the season. I hadn’t done this race before but heard great things about it from Alyssa and others and was super excited for the race.

Taryn and I stayed at the Four Points Sheraton directly across the street from the race expo, which was an awesome choice. I would definitely recommend staying at the Sheraton if you decide to do this race (and you should!).

Most of Friday was taken up with the drive, so we didn’t pick up packets until Saturday. After we got those, we hit the practice swim, which is always really critical for me, with swimming being my weakest of the three disciplines. Luckily, the practice swim went great. Everyone was super friendly, the swim was very low key, the water temp (68 point something) was perfect – I couldn’t have asked for a better start to race weekend. We also did a short ride and run, checked our bikes in at transition, attended the athlete briefing, and then went to bed early. The day before a race always goes by faster than I want it to!

With everything going so smoothly on Saturday, I woke up feeling positive and excited on race morning. I got up at 4:00 and we left the hotel around 5:15, which is when transition opened. No race number tattoo or directional snafus this time. We were able to walk to transition and get there by 5:30, which was great, and we had until 6:30 to get set up.

We thought an hour in transition would give us more than enough time to get ready, even if something went wrong. Sure enough, I had to visit the mechanics, as I couldn’t get a reading on the pressure in my rear tire (this is a recurring problem, as I need a valve extender on my rear tube and it’s constantly causing me problems). In any case, they were super friendly and helped me out quickly and efficiently. Huge thanks to those gentlemen for helping me out!

I also spoke to the race officials in transition (I had a random question about where I could put my bag because it was too large to fit neatly by my bike) and they were super friendly. The head official was from Atlanta and we chatted a bit. I loved the low-key, friendly atmosphere at this race from start-to-finish. It really makes such a difference in terms of keeping the athletes calm. The Race Director told us in the athlete briefing on Saturday that our racing experience was their top priority and it really showed throughout the weekend.

As I was finishing getting set up in transition, I happened to look down at my ankle. No chip. I stayed calm, and walked over to Taryn to tell her what was happening. She immediately stopped what she was doing and went to talk to a volunteer about getting me a new chip, as I retraced my steps trying to figure out where mine could have gone. Ultimately, I found it (it had slipped off when I took my pants off), but it was definitely a scare.

We finished getting organized in transition and started the walk toward the race start right around 6:30, with our wave scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m. It’s about a half mile walk from transition to the swim start, but it wasn’t bad at all. And, as a bonus, we were treated with a gorgeous sunrise. 

Soon enough the race was starting and the two waves in front of us had gone off. It was our turn and we walked down to the dock. It’s an in water start, and they give you about five minutes to warm-up in the water before the start. We jumped into the water and I felt good warming up. I was ready to go!

Swim: 45:25 (10/14 AG, 29/47 women)

Oh, the swim. My day did not get off to the start I had hoped for.

In terms of the race itself (as opposed to my personal performance) I actually really liked this swim. Our wave was quite tiny and we were able to spread out a lot at the start. It was a simple out and back course (with the back section slightly longer than out, since the swim start and finish were at two different points along the river) and the water temperature of 67 degrees was really perfect for a long-sleeved wetsuit. The sun made sighting for the first half quite difficult, but, generally, I liked this swim more than most. It should have been a great swim day for me.

It was not.

The problem came when my cap started creeping upward around the turnaround. If you know me at all, you know I am a rule follower. Always have been, always will be. The minute my cap started to slip, I was panicked about getting a penalty. At the athlete briefing the day before the race, they had emphasized littering as something they would be looking for during the race. Surely coming out of the water sans cap would be a penalty, right? I wasn’t sure. But I thought it was a possibility. I knew I couldn’t swim holding my cap in my hand. Especially since I wasn’t even half way through the swim. I had to figure something out and I had to do it fast.

I tried stopping several times to pull it down. This wasn’t working because my head was wet and the cap would just slide right back up. The only result was that I was messing up my goggles. It was one of those situations where time (and quite literally other racers) seem to be passing you by at warp speed, but you can only seem to work in slow motion. After several attempts, I knew this approach wasn’t going to work. I finally swam over to a kayak and asked the kayaker if I could hold on and try to fix my cap. I took my goggles off completely, took the cap off completely, and started from scratch. I finally got my cap back on my head, got my goggles back on, and started swimming again, but it felt like an eternity had passed while all of this was going on.

I did finally finish and get out of the water (volunteers pull you up on to the dock and then there is a bit of a run to get back into transition), but I was definitely shaken up.

Looking at photos afterward, it was very obvious my cap wasn’t on properly before the race even started.

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Photo from the Rev3 Facebook page.

Lesson learned to make sure I really pull my cap down completely before future races.

Bike: 3:15:33 (7/14 AG, 12/47 women)

I’ve done a lot of riding this month, including the Tour de Skyline, which entailed riding over 200 miles in 2 days with a ton of climbing. I thought I was set up for a super strong bike.

However, with the less than ideal swim behind me, I spent the entire start of the bike just trying to calm down and stop being mad at myself about my damn cap!

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Photo from the Rev3 Facebook page.

The course starts in the city and then heads out to the country. In the more rural sections, there were some spectacular views. It actually reminded me quite a bit of riding in Loudoun County. Hilly, but very scenic and green.

I would classify the bike course at Knoxville as a challenging course. Before the race, I had read in a race report that this is “not a PR course” and I think that’s definitely true. There is a lot of climbing and for some reason, I felt like I couldn’t really take advantage of the downhills as much as I normally would, which usually helps make up for the climbing on a hilly course.

There was a course marking snafu (not Rev3’s fault), but that didn’t impact my race. I thought the course was very well-marked with color-coded arrows and signs throughout. There were also a few special “caution” signs along the course and those were helpful. I really only found one turn to be especially tricky.

There were two turnarounds on the bike course and I was able to see Taryn twice along the course, which was nice.

My overall bike speed was slow – in the low 17s – which is slower than where I wanted to be. Even though I stayed on top of my nutrition throughout the ride, I definitely felt like I wasn’t able to go as fast as I had expected.

I finally got back to transition at 3:15, which was honestly pretty disappointing. I dismounted, ran back in to transition, and got ready for the run as quickly as I could.

Run: 2:18:19 (9/14 AG, 22/47 women) 

So, my PR for a 70.3 run is a 2:02, which I ran at Challenge Atlantic City last year. After my solid run at Monticelloman (a 54:14 on a challenging run course) earlier this month, I thought I would be in the same 2:00 ballpark here, but obviously, I thought wrong.

I didn’t start out strong and die in the heat or get injured or anything like that. I was just running slow from the get-go. I tried taking in extra calories along the run course, thinking that may give me a boost, but instead, all it gave me was GI distress.

At each of the aid stations (spaced about one mile apart along the run course), I took a gel or Coke or Gatorade. I tried ice in my bra. I tried ice in my hat. I really wanted to “fix” whatever my problem was, but nothing was working. I’m honestly not sure what I could have done differently to remedy the situation. I was just slow. 

The only thing that really hurt on the run was my feet. I am using a different brand of elastic laces this season and they are not as adjustable as the ones I used last year. My feet must have been swollen because my shoes were painfully tight (I wore the same shoes in Monticelloman without any issue). Although this wasn’t ideal, I don’t really think it impacted my race. It was an annoyance, but, again, I don’t think there was any clear cause to my bad run – it was just one of those off days.

Toward the very end of the run, two of the Rev 3 Team athletes ran up from behind me and were trying to encourage me along (thanks, guys!), but I really didn’t have anything extra to give. They ran past me and I just kept trying to put one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish.

This ended up being my slowest 70.3 run EVER (yes, even slower than Syracuse, which is a much tougher run course) at 2:18:19. It was definitely NOT the run I had expected to have at this race.

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My final finish time was 6:25:52 (it hurts just to type that), which landed me in 8th place in my age group (18 out of 47 women).

In happier news, Taryn was waiting at the finish for me. She had a fantastic race and WON her age group! This was her second podium this month!

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We ended the day on our balcony, over-looking the expo, sipping sparkling wine to celebrate Taryn’s awesome day. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Despite my performance, Rev3 Knoxville was a great race. The volunteers, Rev3 staff, and Rev3 Team athletes were all fabulous. I loved the course. Rev3 puts on a fantastic, well-organized race. I loved this race and definitely plan to go back someday.

While my race was disappointing, I am trying to convince myself that I will come back stronger and smarter from this experience. Everyone has bad races – even the pros – and the only thing I can do about it now is to have a positive attitude and move forward.

As always, I want to thank my awesome husband for his support; Alyssa, who even called me after the race from somewhere on her journey home from Lanzarote to give me a post-race pep talk; Bobo’s Oat Bars; and all of Ignite’s fabulous sponsors.

Next up for me is the Tupper Lake Tinman half on June 25.

Off-Season Fun: Trying Masters (again!)

If you’ve visited any triathlon or running websites lately, you’ve probably read at least a few (dozen) articles about the “off-season” being a great time to focus on projects or goals you’re too busy or exhausted to tackle during the season.

Last winter, I made a concerted effort to improve my nutrition and strength and, while I certainly have plenty of room for improvement in both areas, I was successful in making noticeable gains on both fronts. 

This winter, one of my focuses is to improve my attitude toward swimming. 

First, a little background. As a kid, I loved playing in my grandma’s pool. Mostly doing handstands, or playing Marco Polo (great Netflix series, btw), or picking up objects from the deep end, or jumping off the diving board. I was very comfortable “playing” in the water, but I wasn’t lap swimming. 

Fast forward to November of 2010, when, after completing my second marathon, I decided I wanted to try a triathlon and signed up for an adult beginner swim class at the local rec center. I loved the teacher and class, but it was a rude awakening. I was exhausted after just trying to swim 25 yards, even though I was in marathon shape. I also realized I had no clue how to do a proper stroke. I didn’t know my arm wasn’t supposed to go straight out in a giant circle like a windmill. I had a lot of work to do. 

Of course, I did learn to swim well-enough to get through that portion of a sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and finally an IM distance race, but it’s always something I dread. As my husband says, I only swim so that I can bike and run. 

Leading into Ironman Chattanooga, I thought I was going to be a “one and done” for IMs. There were a few reasons for this – the cost of triathlon, the amount of time it takes, etc. – but one of the biggest considerations was the fact that I couldn’t imagine making myself swim for another year! 

Of course, after Chattanooga (a dream come true day for me, despite some mechanical difficulties on the bike), I immediately signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant. I knew this meant another winter of forcing myself to get to the pool. 

The word “forcing” tells you everything you need to know about my relationship with swimming. 

I decided that I needed to change my mindset toward swimming and I asked Alyssa to help me brainstorm on this. We decided to try adding masters back into my training schedule.

I’ve tried two other masters programs before and I didn’t find it super helpful for where I was in my training at that time.

I was nervous about starting again because I remember the humiliation that comes from not being able to keep up with the rest of your lane and  – worse yet – getting lapped.

After we decided to try masters again, I had put it off a couple of weeks in a row. I was just afraid to try it again, even though part of me wanted to. Fear is a powerful emotion. I was supposed to go on a particular Thursday morning, but I didn’t. The same thing happened the following Thursday, and then the next. I was just sort of hoping Alyssa would forget I ever raised the topic. Then, one Wednesday night, Alyssa sent me a text: “All good for masters tomorrow??”

UGH! ALYSSA! Totally a guilt trip she knew would work on me.

So, up I got at 4:00 a.m. and stumbled out the door to the pool, probably looking like I had been roughed up by a mugger in the parking lot.

Much to my surprise, it actually went well! So well, in fact, that I even asked Alyssa if I could add masters to my schedule on Thanksgiving morning. 

I’ve now gone five times and I’m really enjoying it. The hardest part – BY FAR – is the 4:00 a.m. alarm and I am still adjusting to that. One of the things that has helped in that regard is having coffee made and ready to go when I get up and having a Bobo’s Oat Bar waiting for me as a quick and delicious pre-workout snack. The coffee and food definitely help to wake me up. 

I’ve also totally lucked out that my masters coach and my lane mates have been AWESOME and so understanding when I have had questions. I think this is really key to the experience being enjoyable for me. I also love having one of the day’s workouts out of the way by 6:30 a.m.! 

Coach always knows best and I’m glad she sent me that text to give me the push I needed to give masters a try.

Speaking of awesome lane mates, since we are talking about swimming, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my birthday swim last month. I was fortunate enough to start my birthday by swimming 35 x 100 with two of my besties – Taryn and Leslie – followed by a coffee date! Taryn also made me the most delicious vegan cupcakes ever! I hope we’ll get to meet-up for regular swim dates in the coming months as well. Company always makes time in the pool more fun (notice that I didn’t say “less miserable” – moving in the right direction!)

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I’m so happy to be enjoying myself in the pool again and I can’t wait to see how this will translate to improved swimming during my races in 2016!

Ignite Endurance

In my last post, where I talked about joining the coaching staff at Machine M3 Triathlon, I teased that other exciting things were happening that I couldn’t quite talk about yet.

I can finally let the cat out of the bag – I was invited to join Ignite Endurance!

If you aren’t familiar with Ignite, I’d invite you to check out the club’s website and to like the team’s Facebook page!

I am absolutely thrilled about this opportunity and can‘t wait to represent the team at races in 2016! 

Race Report: Ironman Chattanooga

One year ago, I volunteered at an aid station on the Ironman Chattanooga run course. The following day, I registered for the 2015 edition of the race. Every day since, I’ve worked toward one goal: becoming an Ironman. On Sunday, my dream came true.

Thanks for the screenshot of my finish, Leslie!

Pre-Race

We left for Chattanooga on Wednesday, the 23rd. With this being my first IM, I wanted to get into town early to make sure I had plenty of time to get settled and not feel rushed. The drive took about eight and a half hours, which wasn’t awful. When we arrived, I went for a short run to scope out the area. Our hotel location was great! If you are thinking about doing this race, I would definitely recommend staying at the Doubletree. We were just a couple of blocks away from transition and numerous restaurants in every direction (there is also a Whole Foods about a five minute drive away). Our room, although on the smaller side, had a mini fridge and microwave, which always makes race morning breakfast easier.

On Thursday morning, I did a short ride around the Chickamauga Civil War battlefield in Georgia. I had posted in the Ironman Chattanooga Facebook Group (definitely join this group if you plan on doing the race) asking for recommendations for rides without a lot of traffic and several people suggested I drive to the Battlefield and ride there. After riding there myself, I understand why this is a popular place for cyclists. I definitely recommend it as a safe and scenic place to ride for anyone doing the race next year. It wasn’t very far away (about a 20 minute drive from transition) and there was ample parking at the Visitor’s Center. There isn’t a lot of traffic and the cars I did encounter gave me plenty of room. It was also gorgeous and I lucked out with a perfect weather day, too. I felt great and loved the scenery – I really could have kept riding all day!

I just had to stop and take a picture of this scene. Two monuments in a field of hay bales. 

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Later in the day, I went for a short swim at the Chickamauga Marina. This is another place to check out if you’re doing the race next year and want a good practice swim spot (the lawyer in me feels the need to say that you swim at your own risk at the Marina, as there are no lifeguards on duty). The water was super shallow in spots, but it was still good to get in the open water and it felt much safer than jumping in the Tennessee River by myself!

The Marina.

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I also went to the Athlete Village to check-in, pick up my bib and chip, and shop on Thursday. There is an option to do athlete check-in on Friday, but I wanted to get this taken care of on Thursday to give myself plenty of time to figure out the gear bags! My last “to do” for Thursday was attending the athlete briefing.

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On Friday, I got my bags together, drove the bike course, and attended the Team HPB team dinner. Alyssa and three of her athletes (including myself) were racing and it was nice for everyone to get together for some social time before the race. Whiting was in town from Boulder to do the race and Leah from Salt Lake City. We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other.

I checked, double checked, and triple checked my lists for my gear and special needs bags.

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On Saturday, Whiting and I met in the morning to join about 30 other racers for an informal practice swim in the River. We also ran into Leah and her family there. Last year, there was a formal practice swim put on by the race organizers, but they did not include one on the schedule for this year. So, a group of athletes organized a practice swim via the Facebook Group. It was really nice to have Whiting as a buddy in the water. We swam together (she is a much faster swimmer than me, but we kept an eye out for each other as we went), which made it feel a lot less scary. The water temperature was perfect.

After our swim, Whiting and I went for a short ride together and then we turned in our gear bags and checked our bikes. I must say, it felt sort of weird to give away all of my stuff. It’s hard to hand over control of these important pieces of gear pre-race. I did a short run back to my hotel and then we met up with Jon’s parents, who had just gotten into town for the race. We went for an early dinner together and then I went back to the hotel to rest my legs.

Race Day

Whiting and I had planned to meet outside of hotel at 5:15 to walk to transition. I was following her lead since this was my first IM and her fourth. We dropped off our special needs bags and then went to set up our bikes. I will talk more about that later. After we finished up with our bikes, we got on shuttle buses to ride to the swim start.

The Swim

When I woke up on race morning, they had already posted on the official Facebook Page that the race would be wetsuit optional. Alyssa and I had discussed in advance that if that was the case, I would wear my ROKA swimskin. Even though I am not a strong swimmer, I am much more comfortable in my swimskin than my wetsuit, so I was actually pretty happy about this news. More people than I expected decided to wear wetsuits anyway. They started after the rest of the racers and weren’t eligible for awards.

In any case, after we got off the shuttle bus, we walked quite a distance to get to the end of the line for the swim start. This race has a first come, first served-style rolling start. I was so lucky to have Whiting to wait with in the morning before the swim. We took turns holding our spot in line and using the porta potties and stayed together right up until we made it to the dock and it was time to jump in the water. If you do this race in the future (which I do recommend you do!) know that the swim start line moves quickly once it gets started. Be ready to hustle! It’s kind of a frantic start, but maybe that’s better for someone like me who will freak out if I stop and think about what I am about to do.

I had a great swim. I didn’t panic and kept moving. I even tried to get on some feet to draft, although I need to work on picking the right feet (I was either behind someone too slow or too fast every time I tried this!). I am so very glad I did the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim earlier this year. I think that really helped my swimming confidence, since I knew I could swim two miles continuously (even though that was a wetsuit swim for me and this was not). I kept what felt like a steady pace throughout.

My swim time ended up being 1:12:52, which was quite good for me, especially without the wetsuit (it would have been a good time for me even considering the current, which people are saying saved around 11-12 minutes).

When I got out of the water I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to spot Jon! I gave him a shout and a wave. Then, as I was running toward transition, I saw my friend Mindy! I was so excited to see her!11071079_10100292733346851_8929630772715957320_n

The Bike

So, back to the morning in transition before the race began. When I got to my bike in the morning, there was a tube draped across my seat. I thought that was odd, but, at least initially, didn’t think into it any further than that. I put my bottles on my bike and then proceeded to try to inflate my tires. The front tire was fine, but I was unable to put any air in my rear tire. Something wasn’t right with my valve extender, even though it had been fine on Thursday for my ride around the Battlefield. Then I realized my bike was in a different gear than I had left it the day before. Whiting speculated that one of the bike support folks noticed I had a flat and changed the tube out for me. This definitely gave me some pause at the time. After some hemming and hawing, though, I decided that I would just leave the rear wheel alone since surely they had pumped up the tires when they changed out the tube that morning (or, at most, the day before). And, hey, that meant all of my bad flat tire luck was clearly out of the way, since the chances of me getting a second flat in one day would be slim to none, right? I thought I should just be thankful that a “flat tire fairy” saved my day and not stress about it. In hindsight, I probably should have trusted my instincts that something was wrong and taken the time to get it checked out by one of the on-site mechanics.

Fast forward to the race. To make the very long and upsetting story short, within two miles into the bike course I got another flat and from then until I finally got mechanical support at the first penalty tent (maybe around mile 25?), I just could not keep air in my rear tire. It was just one flat after the next. Yes, I did check the tire, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I did try to have a volunteer radio for bike support, but they indicated they were busy helping other people and couldn’t get to me. I felt completely helpless.

All I kept thinking about was this Norman Stadler clip.

As I stopped, I had to beg other racers for tubes/cartridges as they were riding by because I ran out (in the athlete meeting they indicated this was permitted under the rules). People were awesome and I am so thankful for their generosity. I kept thinking that I would fix it (I know that sounds crazy, but I really kept thinking that).

Finally, after several unsuccessful stops attempting to fix the issue myself, I decided I just had to get myself to an aid station and wait for mechanical support, no matter how long it would take, because clearly I wasn’t able to deal with this on my own. At one point, I had asked a volunteer about walking to the next aid station, but he said it was too far. I ended up riding on a flat tire (yes, I know this is bad) to the next aid station where finally they were able to radio to get me help. Spectators kept yelling at me that I had a flat tire as I rode by.

When the bike tech arrived, he inspected the tire and agreed that wasn’t the problem. He took everything apart and found that my rim tape had gotten bunched up (I’m sure there is a more technical way to describe this) and that was causing the flats (in my race wheels, I need the rim tape to protect the tube from the spoke holes in the wheel). I hadn’t even thought about checking that. The bike tech recognized my bike and said he was the one who had fixed my first flat in transition on race morning.

Since I had ridden without incident at the Battlefield on Thursday, something obviously happened either during my short ride on Saturday, in transition over night, or during the first couple of miles of the race that led to the tape slipping. I’ll probably never know for sure what that was, but obviously the timing was unfortunate.

After he finally got everything back together and ready to go, a total of almost an hour of non-moving time had passed. I was worried I wouldn’t make the bike cut off after so many stops and so much wasted time. I wasn’t even sure what the bike cut off was, but I knew there was one and that I was way behind. The mechanic and another athlete who was stopped at the aid station told me I could still finish before the cut off, so after I gave them hugs, off I went.

Once I finally got going, I was really trying to balance the urge to make up time and the knowledge that going too hard too early (I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the bike leg at this point) would only make my day worse. I tried to work, but not go crazy. I ended up riding at a little over 17 miles an hour average pace, which felt hard, but definitely wasn’t killing me.

My Garmin had autopaused during all of the stops and recorded me finishing the 116 mile bike course in 6:35:35, which would have exceeded my expectations going into the race by almost a half hour (I was thinking I would be right around 7:00).

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Of course, I understand that 6:35 wasn’t actually my time, but I really want to try to focus on the good parts of the day and not let the unfortunate bike issues overshadow what was otherwise a magical experience.

While all of this was happening, Jon had taken over my Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep my friends and family updated on my progress throughout the day (although, some of his funniest posts were updates on his activities). He had done this during my first 70.3 as well.

One of Jon’s tweets from the race.

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The Run

For obvious reasons, I was ELATED to get off of my bike and start running. With this being my first Ironman, I had no idea what to expect from my body on the run. I knew I needed to just take it slow and steady, one step at a time.

I had a blast on the run.

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I really wanted to run the entire way because Leslie convinced me that even a slow run is better than walking. I kept thinking of her and my friend Emily, who I did most of my longer runs with this summer. Emily and I would never stress over pace on our long runs. We would just run and talk and it never felt like a chore and we always got in the miles (or time). I told myself to run relaxed, but steady, just like I was running long with Emily.

I must say that the miles actually ticked by very quickly. I wasn’t super focused on my pace, but knew I was staying in the right ballpark, even with the significant hills on the run course. I was sick of gels, but knew I needed to eat, so I ate things I normally wouldn’t – bananas, pretzels, grapes. When my stomach would start to go, I would switch to pretzels one at a time and Coke. I think everyone’s stomach feels awful at this point in the race and it’s really just about managing that discomfort as best you can.

I kept passing mile markers and once I hit halfway, I KNEW I was going to finish before midnight. It’s funny because another lady I was running with said the same exact thing. We both knew at that point that even walking we would make it.

I finished the run in 4:45:37. That’s actually my third fastest marathon time ever. Alyssa had told me she thought I could run that fast and I thought she was insane. One of the (many) traits that makes her an awesome coach is that she really believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.

Overall my run splits were pretty even (fastest was 10:05, slowest 11:52 on a hilly section). One of the highlights of my day was text messaging Leslie after the race to tell her that I didn’t walk!

When I approached the finish chute, I was so immensely happy. I saw Alyssa and she said something like “you did it!” I was so glad to see her. I was definitely crying tears of joy. The volunteer who “caught me” asked me if something was wrong – presumably because of the tears. I said I was fine and that I was just really happy. The funny part here is that after I finished I was reading through all of my messages and my teammate Bri had read my lips and knew that’s what I said to the volunteer. I love my team!

Emotional at the finish.

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After the race, Alyssa met up with us at the hotel. I was so glad that she had a great race, too!

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I can’t say enough how much I loved this city, the spectators, and volunteers. But for the bike issues, I could not have asked for a better race experience. I would definitely do this race again!

I want to say thank you again to Jon, Alyssa, MooMotion, Bobo’s Oat Bars, and all of my friends and family for their support. I got so many amazing emails, text messages, voicemails, Facebook posts, etc. from my friends before, during, and after the race. I am truly so lucky to be able to do this thing I love and to have such an awesome group of people supporting me. Thank you all!

Two Months To Go!

Today marks exactly two months until Ironman Chattanooga!

 

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This past week, I have been vacillating between feelings of excitement and fear thinking about the race being so close. It felt so very far away when I registered (I volunteered at last year’s race and registered the following day), but time is going by quickly and the day I have been working so hard for is almost here. It’s an odd feeling. But I can say I am without a doubt firmly in the excited camp after a really great weekend of training and tracking!

After racing in Atlantic City and then heading right into Charlottesville Camp, Alyssa let me take two easier weeks to let my body recover before the IM build.

On Monday, we started adding back in some intensity and then this weekend, some volume, with a half marathon on Saturday and an open water swim and four hour bike on Sunday.

Saturday’s half marathon was with my awesome running group, Moms Run This Town. I am a member of the group, but also a “community partner” of the group through our real estate business. So, I was wearing two hats at the event – runner and supporter. In the latter role, we had contributed custom printed water bottles to the race goody bags and a raffle prize for race participants.

The event was a mock race, with people running various distances from 5k to half marathon, at paces from walking to 8 minute miles. This is one of the things I love about MRTT – all abilities and fitness levels are welcomed with open arms. I ran the majority of my 13.1 miles with Taryn, Emily, and Beth.

 

Major Go Pro envy! Thanks for the awesome pics, Taryn!

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We built intensity throughout the run, so while we could chat a bit at the beginning, “silent Stephanie” made an appearance as the run went on (I warned Taryn in advance that I would stop talking at some point and that I was fine, that just meant I was dying inside – HA!). Cruelly, the race ended with some climbs and I struggled a bit at the end, but we finished strong! It was a fun event and I’m really glad I went (even with the 6:30 a.m. start!).

 

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On Sunday, Taryn and I drove about 90 minutes to the site of the Fort Ritchie Triathlon. The actual race is happening next weekend, but the race organizers planned a practice swim for the prior weekend and even though we aren’t doing the race, we thought it made sense to take advantage of the opportunity to get in an open water swim practice. Those opportunities are pretty few and far between, so I was excited to get in the water for my fifth open water swim of the year.

 

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The water was very clear and quite warm. I swam in my Roka swim skin, although some people did wear wetsuits. The course was set up as a 500 meter course. Taryn and I decided to do 2000 meters continuous to make the long drive worth it. I don’t often do long continuous swims, so this was good for me and also a great opportunity to practice sighting.

After the swim, we got on our bikes and rode the Fort Ritchie Olympic bike course. We were so thankful the course was marked because there were some tricky turns and we weren’t at all familiar with the course. We did two loops of the Olympic course and then added some mileage at the end to get to four hours total for the ride. Let me tell you, this course is no joke. I didn’t have my Garmin, but Taryn said we did well-over 3000 feet of climbing throughout the ride. There was one long gradual climb that seemed to never end. I won’t publicly out Taryn’s bad reality T.V. habit 😉  , but I was glad she was doing the talking on that climb the first time up (I think we were both quiet for the second go-round!).

 

Taryn and I post-swim and ride. Taryn is training for IM Louisville, which is just a couple of weeks after IM Choo, so we have been able to do quite a bit of our training together.

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So, it was a great training weekend for me! Basically, we did a half Ironman over the two days. Not an epic weekend, but certainly a solid one!

The only bad part was that I had terrible cell reception where we were swimming and riding, so I could not track my amazing Team HPB teammates racing IM Lake Placid! Taryn can vouch for the fact that I was thinking about them ALL day and wondering how they were doing!

As soon as I got home, I immediately sat down in front of my computer to track everyone (unfortunately for my husband, I did not even shower first and I’m sure by that point in the day, I smelled amazing!). As I expected, they all did GREAT! It was so inspiring watching them all cross the finish line online and that made me even more excited for Chattanooga. In case I haven’t said it lately, I love my team!

So, that’s where I am with two months to go. I’m excited, happy, and feeling strong. I’m sure there will be plenty of lows still to come and I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but for right now, I’m going to enjoy riding this high!

 

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2015 Charlottesville Training Camp

After a great race in Atlantic City, I was home for only one day before heading to Charlottesville for the second annual East Coast version of Team HPB training camp over July Fourth weekend. I did the camp last year and was excited to see how I would do this year, with another year of training with Alyssa under my belt.

Like last year, Leslie and Nate joined Alyssa as camp coaches. I’ve become better friends with Leslie over the past year and was excited to get to train with her. I also knew a couple of other campers from working with Alyssa, and I was looking forward to getting to train with them and having company during camp this year (last year, I was by myself a lot, being slower than the other campers).

I arrived in Charlottesville on Thursday night and started camp off with an intense sports massage. I had one before Monticelloman and I thought it really helped me in the weeks afterward, so I knew I wanted to get another massage in while I was in the area again. After the massage, I checked into my sketchy wallet-friendly hotel and said hello to two of my Team HPB teammates, Megan and Bri, who were staying in the room next door. They are also training for their first Ironman (both doing Lake Placid later this month).

After we unpacked, we drove to the UVA track to meet up with the other campers (most of whom I “knew” from the Team HPB Facebook group) for a shake-out run. It’s always a little bit weird when you meet social media “friends” in-person for the first time. I spent a few minutes trying to figure out who was who and put names with faces. Everyone was super friendly right from the start, which is always a good sign.

I wasn’t feeling 100% (perhaps I caught a bug at one of the casinos in A.C.), so I knew this run wasn’t going to be easy. Thankfully, Leslie took pity on me and ran with me at the back of the pack. She just raced IM CdA, as did Nate and Alyssa, so I think she welcomed accompanying me for some slower-paced sessions over the course of the weekend.

After the run, we had pizza (thank you, Alyssa, for getting vegan pizza!) and watermelon and got to chit-chat a bit with the other campers. It was clear from the very first night that we were all going to get along very well. We laughed a lot at dinner! After we finished eating, we headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime, since Friday was our big bike day.

We woke up early on Friday morning for our long ride, which ended up being just under 105 miles. This was the longest ride I’ve done so far this season by quite a bit (I’d done one 70 and two 85 mile rides prior to camp). I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel riding so far so soon after the race, and being on my road bike (my tri bike was in the shop), which I never ride for more than 90 minutes at a time anymore.

Ready to ride Skyline, wearing my MooMotion kit & socks that say “You Got This” (a gift from Megan). Photo credit goes to Leslie.

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Leslie, Megan, and I rode together for the first half of the ride. I’ve ridden with Megan before, so I knew we were around the same pace and expected (hoped!) we would ride together during camp. It wasn’t really hot, but it was super humid. Luckily, we had SAG support which helped ensure we were all on top of our fluids and nutrition throughout the day. I carried two bottles on my bike (one with The Right Stuff, which was a lifesaver in that humidity) and two Bobo’s Oat Bars in my jersey pockets, and I had two more Bobo’s bars in the SAG vehicle.

The toughest part of the ride was the climb to get up to Skyline Drive and while it was still hard this year, it felt SO much easier than last year. Once we were on Skyline, there was a lot of gradual climbing. We were working, but also did get to chat with each other a bit which was really nice. On Skyline, we stopped at a little store with a lunch counter. The lead group was already there and we got to eat lunch together.

Once we started riding again, Bri and Nate joined our group, so the five of us did the second half of the ride together, including the descent down Skyline. I tried to be braver than last year (I’m kind of a wimpy descender) and followed Nate’s every move on the way down.

I definitely started feeling a bit uncomfortable and antsy toward the end of the ride, but overall, I was quite happy with my day. I really had a lot of fun, too, getting to chat with the other campers. We really lucked out with having such a great group this year.

I ended up finishing the almost 105 mile ride in about 7:15, as compared with finishing just over 98 miles in 7:30 last year (I had forgotten to start my Garmin at the start of last year’s ride). So, definitely some improvement there. Leslie and Nate said they could see improvement over my riding from last year, which was great to hear!

After the ride, Leslie (at Alyssa’s instruction) made Megan and I race against one another to change flats (don’t ever tell Alyssa you asked a boy to change a flat tire for you!!).

After quick showers, Megan, Bri, and I made a trip to Whole Foods to fuel up after the ride (one of many trips to Whole Foods over the course of the weekend). I remembered Saturday being a shorter, but for some reason tougher, day last year and knew fueling on Friday would be key to getting through the following day. We got back from dinner and I watched TV for a bit before falling asleep early.

We were up early again on Saturday for a bike->swim->bike->run->bike, just like last year. The one difference this year was that the swim was a lake swim (last year, we swam in a spring-fed pool).

We started with an easy, just over 11 mile ride to the lake. We made sure we hydrated and fueled up – I ate half of a Maple Pecan Bobo’s bar – changed into our bathing suits/swim skins/wetsuits, and then headed down to the beach for some race simulations. We practiced several different race start scenarios, practiced sighting, and also exiting the water. Even though we weren’t swimming continuously, all of the sudden bursts of activity were really exhausting. I remember feeling the same way about this session last year. It was surprisingly taxing.

Practicing race starts at the lake. I’m the one running into the water wearing the green cap and swim skin. I’m not sure who took this photo. 11667493_773632452755018_4977779319373453082_n

At this point, everyone had gotten to know one another pretty well, so we joked around a lot and kept the mood light, which is really necessary when you’re working this hard and feel this tired!

In any case, we finished up at the lake, had a snack (I finished the rest of my Bobo’s bar), and then got back on our bikes for a 26 plus mile ride to Ridge Road for an 8 (ish) mile, very hilly run.

If you read my post about camp last year, you know I really struggled during the Ridge Road run. In my mind, this year was going to be easier because of all of the work I have been doing on my run and fitness, generally. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Ridge Road continues to be my Charlottesville camp nemesis!

Leslie ran with me and really kept pushing me through the run. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have stopped to walk up some of the larger hills if she wasn’t running beside me. I can’t thank her enough for getting me through that session.

Finishing up the Ridge Road run with Leslie. Photo credit goes to Alyssa.

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As if this wasn’t enough, we finished up the day by riding about 8 miles back to our starting point. Luckily, everyone took this easy.

After quick showers, it was off to Whole Foods again for a late lunch/early dinner and then I spent the rest of the day laying in bed in compression socks (hashtag wild Saturday night). Bri and Megan asked if I wanted to go out for ice cream a few hours later and I couldn’t even muster up the energy to join them!

Sunday was an easy ride, long swim day (with lunch at Whole Foods in-between, of course!). I ended up swimming 75×100 for the long swim, which is what I did at camp last year. More importantly, Leslie gave me some things to work on with my stroke and at this point, that is really more important to me than setting a new distance PR in the pool.

During the long swim, I definitely felt the accumulated fatigue of Atlantic City and two days of camp. I was really happy when I finished that last 100!

After the swim, we went to Alyssa’s house for a barbecue. It was really nice to sit and chat with everyone and get to know each other more. We even had birthday cake to celebrate a couple of upcoming birthdays.

On Monday, we were up early again for a 15 mile run. It was very humid and the run was quite hilly and, honestly, I struggled. It’s hard when you are running in a group because on the one hand, I knew I wanted to take it nice and slow and steady (I knew I had to really, if I wanted to survive the entire run), but on the other hand, there is a fear of getting dropped by the group. I spent most of the run running with Bob from Chicago behind the main pack. We were both working hard, so we didn’t talk a ton, but did exchange comments/jokes a few times and that always helps.

After the run, we said our goodbyes and camp officially came to a close. While my very tired body was happy camp was over, I was definitely sad to say goodbye to my friends. I do most of my training alone, so it’s really a treat to spend four days training with others who are going through the same things I am. Ironman training is tough, and it’s nice to talk to people who can relate to the stresses and uncertainties that this level of training brings.

The group also had a great chemistry this year. Everyone had a good sense of humor and we really enjoyed spending time together. I am so glad I got to meet more of my Team HPB teammates in person.

While I was at camp, I definitely started thinking about whether I will be back for a third year next year. At this point, I’m leaving all of my options open, since I’m not sure how I will feel or what I will want to do after Chattanooga. But I know if I’m not there, I’m going to miss not only a lot of miles, but also a lot of laughs with some really great people.

If you have been thinking about trying a training camp, I highly recommend this one. It’s a great mix of work and fun and is very affordable for what you get!

Huge thanks to MooMotion for keeping me in comfortable gear during camp and to Bobo’s Oat Bars for keeping me well-fueled. Thanks again for a great camp, Alyssa, Leslie, and Nate!

Training Update – June 2015

With Ironman Chattanooga just 3 months and 16 days away (but who’s counting, right?!) I think I’m overdue for a training update.

My training volume has definitely started to increase, both for Challenge Atlantic City (70.3) later this month and Ironman Chattanooga in September. Things are generally going well and I’m happy with where I am with this much time to go. I’ve had a few struggles with scheduling/ time management/ balance, but I think that happens to everyone in this sport. I know finishing an Ironman is important to me, so I will find a way to make it work, but I also don’t want my family or work to suffer. That’s going to continue to be a challenge, but I am up for the task.

Here is a brief overview of where things are right now.

Swim

As has always been the case for me, my swimming is a bit hit or miss. While I do have great swimming days on occasion, there are plenty of less-than-great swimming days, too. This is definitely the toughest of the three sports for me mentally. I’m plugging away, though, and actually feeling better about open water swimming after Monticelloman and, more recently, the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim. The latter was both my longest continuous swim and longest open water swim ever, at a full 2 miles.

I was definitely tired by the end of the Lake Swim, but I stayed calm (which is HUGE for me in open water) and kept what felt like a fairly steady pace throughout. It was an enormous confidence boost for me to know that I can swim that far leading into Chattanooga. While I certainly wasn’t setting any speed records, I finished in a respectable 1:14:51. I was happy with my time.

I was so glad to have two of my Team HPB teammates at the swim!

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With some Snapple Team ladies before the race.

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A week or so after the Lake Swim (all the training days are starting to blend together!) I swam with Taryn at the Hains Point (D.C.) outdoor 50 meter pool and that was a really nice change of pace for me. I think I will try to do that again when I need a little extra motivation to get swimming.

Yesterday, I did a swim I have been doing for years (this is my third year on Team HPB and this is a regular in our rotation) and had better times than I have had in months (and I think maybe my second best times ever), so I was super pleased with that.

So, generally good news on the swim front!

Bike

The bike is definitely where I have spent the most time and effort of late. I’ve done two long rides – one 70 miler and one 85 miler – both with Taryn. I have another 85 mile ride on tap for this weekend. I actually like long rides (we’ll see if I am still saying that at the end of the summer) and love the feeling of accomplishment when I’m done!

Taryn and I rode through some beautiful areas in rural Maryland on our most recent ride.

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I’ve also started back up with some regular group rides and those are a real challenge for me. I’m in-between groups with one being slightly too slow and one being slightly too fast. I’d really like to be able to stay with the currently too-fast group for an entire ride start-to-finish without falling off the back (or being dropped completely, which is what happened last night) by the end of the summer. We’ll see.

Run

I’m still feeling a bit uncertain about my running. I had some hamstring issues during my spring road racing season and although I thought they had started to clear up, I had a bit of a relapse recently. I’m hoping it was related to some travel and being out of my routine, but I’m not sure. I have a longer run on tap for this weekend and I’m interested to see how the hamstring fares during that one.

Today, I did a speed workout on the track and while I definitely thought I might puke, and at one point debated laying down on the field during a rest interval, I always feel stronger after an effort like that (once the misery subsides).

While I’m feeling pretty positive about where I am in all three sports, I know I have a long way to go and a lot of work to do between now and the Ironman. I’m expecting lows along with the highs, but trying to stay focused on the positives. Speaking of, I recently found out my in-laws are coming to Chattanooga to cheer for me during the Ironman, which is AWESOME and adds an extra layer of motivation for me to train hard and have a great race!

Happy training!