Race Report: Tupper Lake Tinman

When it takes me over a week to post a race report for a race I did well in, you know I’ve been really busy. With a job, second job, and hobby that all have the same busy season, the last couple of months have been insane. It’s all good stuff, but I wish it wasn’t all happening simultaneously. In fact, the only reason I was able to get to this today was that I can’t get our new office printer to work and I’m waiting for technical support. In any case, I really wanted to take the time to blog about my latest race – Toughman Tupper Lake Tinman – because it is such a fantastic event. If you’re looking for a non-WTC race to support next year, I can’t recommend Tinman highly enough.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I chose this race not because I knew anyone who had done it, but because Tupper Lake is a place my family visited when I was a child. I have so many fond memories from trips there and when I heard about the race I couldn’t wait to go back.

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We aren’t sure exactly when this photo was taken (my mom thinks I was five and I guessed seven), but the point is that I would be returning to swim in these very waters almost 30 years later for Tinman.

This race would also be special because my mom would be spectating her first ever triathlon.

Tinman is a Saturday race, which I am a huge fan of, personally. That meant I left Virginia on Thursday to head up to my parents’ house (about a five and a half hour drive from my house) and then my mom and I left on Friday to drive to Tupper Lake (an additional four hour drive). We drove straight to packet pick-up at The Wild Center, which is an incredibly awesome natural history museum in Tupper Lake.

We arrived a bit before packet pick-up opened, so we sat at picnic benches in the woods and had our lunch. It was gorgeous. The weather was perfect and it was really the ideal way to start our time in the Adirondacks. Nothing says Adirondacks like having sap drip down on you from the tree tops as you eat your lunch!

I would have loved to walk through The Wild Center and their outdoor “Wild Walk,” but I knew that wasn’t the best idea the day before a 70.3. I will have to plan another trip back to Tupper Lake for that.

After I picked up my packet, we drove to our motel (the same motel we stayed in 30 years ago), which was literally right next door to transition. I took this photo standing in the parking lot of the motel and you can see that the bike racks are just on the other side of the fence. Note that we did not have to check bikes the day before, although if I had to, I would have easily been able to check on my bike throughout the night.

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The motel was exactly how I remembered it from 30 (ish) years ago. We were right next to the water. We even spotted this seaplane landing and taking off again from the window in our motel room!

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I did my usual pre-race routine on Friday, we ate spaghetti in our room for dinner (we were able to cook dinner right in our room, instead of going out, which was great), and then went to bed early.

On Saturday morning, it was actually quite cold. I believe the temperature was only in the high 40s. I walked over to transition (which is in a beautiful park, also right next to the water), got set up, and then headed back to our motel room to hang out with my mom until the start. I’ve never been able to do that before at a race and let me tell you, it was fantastic.

I wrote out a timeline for my mom, letting her know about what time of day I would be coming in and out of transition. After a rough go in Knoxville, I really wanted to redeem myself at this race, but you never know what to expect, especially when you’re racing a course for the very first time. So, I gave her pretty wide ranges for everything. For example, for the bike, I gave her a window between 3:00 and 3:30 to look for me.

My wave didn’t start the race until 8:30 (we were the very last wave of the day), but I did one last check in transition and headed over to the swim start a bit before 8:00 to catch announcements, since there was a not an athlete briefing the day before. It was definitely getting warm as I was standing around in my wetsuit waiting to get in the water.

The Swim: 42:58 (11/22 AG, 69/125 Women)

As I said, we were the last wave of the day and after standing around in the sun waiting for the start, I was happy to finally get into the cool water. The water was really the perfect temperature (I believe they said it was around 68 degrees) and you start off in a shallow area where you can stand, which I really liked. I did a quick warm-up in the few minutes we were allowed to be in the water before our start. I felt good.

Once the swim started, it was pretty chaotic. I think that for so long I would tread water at the start of races and let everyone go that I’m not used to being in the crowd yet. I definitely got a little freaked out with all the kicking and flying arms, but, as always, once I got going, I was okay. I was actually with a pack of other ladies for most of this swim, which has never really happened to me before. In fact, one of the other athletes and I basically did the whole swim side-by-side (I guess that means I should have tried to draft off her…?) to the point that when we exited the water she turned to me and said “great swim!” My swim time was a 42:58, which is fine. I am still waiting for all of my work in the pool to translate to a fast swim in a race, but after my swim issues in Knoxville, I was happy to just get through this one without incident.

I ran into transition, switched out my gear, grabbed my bike, and ran to the bike out, where I saw my mom cheering for me from just a few steps away. Another bonus of being at a small race!

The Bike: 2:57:45 (6/22 AG, 33/125 Women)

Going under 3:00 on the bike has been a goal of mine for some time now and you may remember that I was not too pleased (bitter?) about the fact that I probably would have done so, but for the course being more than 2 miles too long at Challenge Atlantic City last year. I was hoping to be able to finally break through that barrier at Tinman, but, again, after Knoxville, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As is always the case for me, being a weaker swimmer, I spent much of the first portion of the bike at Tinman passing people. There were definitely some challenging climbs, as well, so I needed to try to strike that balance between working hard to get up the climbs and passing people and not blowing myself up in the first 30 minutes on the bike.

I tried to focus on my nutrition and, with the hilly course, making sure I was on top of my shifting. The course was really beautiful. There were a few occasions where I did a double take because of the beautiful views. I snagged this photo from the Tupper Lake, NY Facebook page – it isn’t me in the photo, but I wanted you to get a glimpse of just how stunning the views are along this course.

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The ride is an out and back, with the first and last parts having the most climbing, while the area nearing the turnaround is fairly flat. The course is not closed to traffic, but there is a very wide shoulder along the road, so this really isn’t an issue at all. The road surface conditions were good throughout the course.

Throughout the ride I really tried to keep my foot on the gas and I knew I was setting myself up well for breaking three hours. Everything was going along well until about the last half hour when my shifter broke and I couldn’t stay in the big ring. Suffice it to say, I was not happy and quite concerned I was going to let my sub-3:00 ride slip out of my grasp. Initially, I tried just holding the shifter down, but riding with a firm grip on your shifter for an extended period of time sounds a lot easier than it is. I finally decided I was wasting too much mental and physical energy on this and just needed to do the best I could using my small ring. I pushed as hard as I could, but I knew I was going to be cutting it close.

I rode back into transition and I was pretty sure I had broken 3:00, but I wasn’t positive until I checked the results latter that day.

The Run: 2:11:30 (8/22 AG, 33/125 Women)

By the time I got back into transition, it was getting hot. I decided not to wear my hat because I was afraid it would hold in too much heat. I knew I was going to need salt right away, so as I was running out of transition, I grabbed my baggie of salt pills and off I went.

This run course was kind of different in that it changed a lot as you went along. We ran through residential neighborhoods, we ran on a gravel path, we took a lot of turns. I kind of liked that I never knew what was coming next and couldn’t get bored. The course was well-marked and aid stations were plentiful. I haven’t mentioned them yet, but the volunteers were really great all day. The only negative about the run course was that there was very little shade at all and at this point in the day (with the 8:30 a.m. start) we were running in temperatures that were over 80 degrees, with the sun blazing down.

In addition to the heat, I had stomach issues for the second race in a row, which I obviously need to address before Mont Tremblant. This time, my stomach was feeling even worse than it did in Knoxville and I actually stopped to use a porta potty on the course.

I had forgotten to bring the wrist strap for my Garmin, so I did the entire run without knowing my pace or mileage. That may have been a good thing, since I wasn’t running my best. Between the heat and my stomach, a 2:11 run in a 70.3 isn’t bad for me, but it’s far from a PR. My best 70.3 run ever (by a lot) was a 2:02:16 at Challenge Atlantic City last year and while I know that was a special day for me, it does bother me a bit that I haven’t been able to replicate that kind of run in a 70.3 since.

I crossed the line and immediately asked my mom the time of day. I knew I was going to be close to breaking 6 hours for the first time ever (!!) in a 70.3, but without having a Garmin on the run, I had no idea how fast or slow my run had been. My mom said 2:20-something and I knew I had done it. I was thrilled!

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Final Time: 5:56:51 (8/22 AG, 33/125 Women)

After the race, there was a lovely picnic (with vegan options!) in the park (under a pavilion, so we were shielded from the sun), with live music and food, and lots of friendly conversation. Since we were right next to the water, there was even a nice breeze. It was perfect!

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You need to visit Tupper Lake! It’s so stunningly gorgeous. I promise you won’t regret it!

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The day after the race, I got back in the water (voluntarily!). You can see in the second photo below (taken underwater the day after the race), the water is amazingly clear.

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I can’t think of a reason not to do this race again.

Thank you to the everyone who made this race possible – the race director, volunteers, Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce, The Wild Center and other sponsors, and of course the members of the community who have supported this race for over 30 years.

And a huge thanks, as always, to Alyssa for her guidance.

And, before I sign-off to throw our printer out the window, I have to give a quick shout out to Tupper Lake’s natural food store, Tupper Health Hub. You definitely need to stop by if you’re ever in the area. I love being able to “vote with my pocketbook” and support small, organic, vegan-friendly grocery stores when I can. I also recommend Skyline Ice Cream, which had non-dairy soft serve.

 

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!

Post-Ironman Recovery and Planning for 2016

It’s now been over two weeks since I finished Ironman Chattanooga and I am still on my post-race high! I’m not sure I can adequately describe my feelings in words, but suffice it to say, the race was one of the best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to do it again!

Since the race, I’ve been taking it easy. My first draft of this post used the word “lazy” but I’m trying to be better about positive self-talk. So, I’m telling myself I’m “giving my body the break it deserves” after such an enormous undertaking.

Truthfully, though, my physical recovery has gone better than I anticipated. The day after the race, I was sore, but I didn’t feel as bad as I had expected. This may have been a result of pounding calories during and after the race, but maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. 🙂 In the following days, the only thing that really hurt was my left hamstring, which had been bothering me leading up to the race, so that wasn’t a big surprise. The important thing is that it held up during the race itself (thanks again, Peter!).

During the past two weeks, I haven’t worked out much at all. I’ve done a couple of short runs and rides (on my road bike), TRX class three times, some home workout DVDs, and that’s basically it. I initially ate whatever I wanted, too – which turned out to be an embarrassing amount of vegan junk food (I discovered, unfortunately, that there are WAY too many amazingly delicious vegan junk food options on the market!). But after about ten days, I needed to get back to eating more normally. Ten days is definitely the longest I can survive living like that.

I am still a bit out of sorts scheduling-wise. This has been the hardest part of post-race recovery for me. I think I thrive when I’m in a structured routine and not having that these past two weeks has thrown me a bit off-center. My time management is actually worse, even though I would have expected the opposite since I have so much more free time now. I’ll be glad to get back on a normal schedule next week.

Now that the Ironman is over, I’ve started planning out my 2016 season. Choosing races is always so much fun!

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be running the L.A. Marathon in February. This will be my 6th stand-alone marathon. I’m excited to focus on running for a while, although I am somewhat nervous about the hamstring holding up. We shall see how that goes.

My first tri of the season will be Rev3 Knoxville (half) in May and then I’ll be racing Toughman Tupper Lake Tinman in June. My “A” race of the season will be Mont Tremblant on August 21st. These will all be new races for me and I’m so excited to experience them for the first time.

I may add a local half marathon or ten miler in the spring, depending on scheduling, and I’d like to go back to Team HPB tri camp in Tucson, as well. It’s always so tricky to fit everything in!

I’m actually super excited about Tinman, which jumped out at me because I spent many childhood summers vacationing in Tupper Lake, New York.

Tupper Lake, NY, circa summer 1988? (age 7?). In my mind, that was a beautiful sandcastle.
I’ll be swimming in that water at Tinman.

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Tupper Lake is an absolutely gorgeous area and should be beautiful for racing. Tinman is also a smaller and very affordable race, which really appealed to me, as well. When my mom told me my parents would come to the race if I picked that one, that sealed the deal for me! They’ve never seen me race a triathlon before, so that’s going to be huge. I’m also really looking forward to setting some new goals for the half-iron distance, now that I have three 70.3s under my belt. I think I’ll have more confidence to actually race them now, too, since I know I can survive twice that distance in a race.

In addition to my parents coming to Tinman, Taryn will be joining me at Knoxville and Mont Tremblant, and Ashley at the L.A. Marathon, so I’ll have lots of company at my races next season.

I really couldn’t be more pleased with the year I had this year and I’m super excited about what’s to come 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!

It Takes A Village

We’re leaving for Chattanooga on Wednesday morning and before we go, I wanted to take some time to say thank you to the people who helped me get to the starting line of this race.

Thank you

First and foremost, I need to thank my amazing husband who has supported me on this journey since day one – really, even before day one, because I don’t think either of us knew where this was headed when I did my very first race (a half marathon) in the spring of 2009. Triathlon is not a cheap sport (understatement of the century), it takes up a ton of my time and energy, and can be emotionally draining. He has put up with A LOT and I definitely wouldn’t be here without him. Thanks, Love!

One of Jon’s signs from my very first marathon. He has always supported all of my running and triathlon adventures, even though he thinks it’s all crazy. 

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I also want to thank my in-laws for making the trip all the way to Chattanooga to cheer me along. I’m so lucky and thankful to have their support!

My next thank you is obviously for Alyssa. There is no doubt in my mind that she has prepared me for this race better than anyone else could – even Brett Sutton himself. I trust in her 100% and I am so thankful to have her in my life as a coach and friend. Alyssa could tell me to walk backward for the entire 26.2 miles of the marathon and I would! Thank you for EVERYTHING, Alyssa – I cannot possibly begin to repay you for what you have done for me over these past two years.

With the world’s greatest coach after PRing my marathon last year.

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I also want to thank all of my training partners – especially Taryn and Emily – who have helped me get through countless bike and run miles leading up to this day. Their company kept my mind off of the miles and how tired I felt. I really enjoyed training with you ladies and look forward to many more runs and rides in the future!

At the Reston Century Ride with Taryn.

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Open Water Swimming isn’t so awful when you have a friend by your side!

I logged lots and lots of miles with Emily this summer.

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And, of course, I owe a huge thank you to my Team HPB Teammates, MRTT friends, and other running and triathlon friends who are either too fast or too far away to train with, but who have offered me moral support and advice along the way – Leslie, Bri, Megan, Ashley, and others.

Leslie kept me running when I wanted to walk during a tough run at camp this summer.

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Riding with Megan in Maryland.

I heart my team!

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I can’t name everyone in MRTT in this post (we have over 1,000 members!), but I’ve gotten so much awesome support from this fabulous group of women.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to be a brand ambassador for MooMotion for two seasons now and I really can’t say enough about the support Melissa has provided me – not only keeping me in beautiful, comfortable, functional clothes for these past two years, but also encouraging me during all of my training and racing. Thank you, Melissa!

I love my MooMotion kits!

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Thank you, too, to the folks at Bobo’s Oat Bars for keeping me fueled on many (many, many) long rides. I cannot even imagine how many Bobo’s bars I have eaten this year! I actually should have counted because I’m sure it’s a ridiculous number!

Fueled by Bobo’s Oat Bars!

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There are so many other people who have helped me get my body and bike in shape for this adventure – Alison at Machine M3 (TRX), Steve and Alex from Transition Tri, and, most recently, Peter Sherry for helping me deal with some last minute injury issues leading into the race.

Thank you, Steve and Alex, for getting my bike in shape for the race!

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Thank you Machine M3 for making me stronger this year (Alison is camera shy!)!

And, finally, a big thank you to all of my friends and family members who could not possibly care less about running and triathlon and who I am sure are SO sick of hearing about all of this and put up with me anyway. You’re the best!

No matter what happens on Sunday, I am proud of the work I have done to get here.

Let’s go!

One Month to Go!

With just one month to go until Ironman Chattanooga, I am feeling pretty great. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely tired – but I’m really happy with where I am training-wise.

Since my last update, I’ve had a couple of big weeks.

Three weekends ago, I did my first-ever solo 100 mile ride on Saturday and a semi-long run on Sunday. For the run, I ran with my friend Emily along the C&O Canal Towpath from Georgetown (in D.C.) and that was a really nice change of scenery for me. I’ve never run on that path and was eager to try it out. Emily and I had a great run! I really liked having the company, as it made the time on tired legs pass more quickly. While I usually do most of my runs solo, it was definitely worth the extra time and effort to drive into D.C. with a friend to keep my motivation high after a big ride the day before.

Quick photo op in front of the canal.

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Since that training excursion worked out so well, the following weekend, I decided to do something similar for my bike. I drove up to Columbia, Maryland to ride with my friend and fellow Team HPB-er Megan. I’ve ridden in that area twice before, but not this season, so while the route was somewhat familiar, it didn’t feel boring. Getting to ask Megan a million questions about her first Ironman (at Lake Placid just a few weeks ago) was icing on the cake. I hadn’t seen her in-person since her race, so it was great to hear all of the details about her awesome day.

On the bike with Megan in Maryland.

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After riding with Megan on Saturday, I did a solo trail run on Sunday. It was a really beautiful day to get out on the trail!

The Cross County Trail (“CCT”) is a great place to run if you live in Fairfax County.

 

This past weekend, I ran (a lot!) on Saturday and then did the Reston Century Ride, which I also did in 2013, with Taryn on Sunday. It was a really beautiful day and while my time wasn’t much faster than when I did the ride in 2013, I felt a zillion times better afterward. In 2013, I could barely walk to my car after the ride, but this year, I did a nice easy run afterward and felt relatively fine.

After the Century Ride with Taryn.

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I still have a couple of big weeks to go and while I’m a little nervous about it, I’m excited, too.  Race day is almost here!