Race Report: 2018 Giant Acorn Olympic Tri

This weekend was my second and last triathlon of the year, the Giant Acorn Olympic Tri.  Giant Acorn was my very first olympic distance triathlon back in 2014, and I love the races put on by Kinetic Multisports, so I was looking forward to the race.

I was also relatively unsure of how it was going to go.  My left leg has been bothering me lately, thanks to my pesky labral tear (though after a week of some solid foam rolling, things were feeling better), and I’m well aware that I’m still not back to full strength.

I haven’t done this particular race since 2015, though I did a different race on the same course in 2016.  I had glanced at my previous race results, but really hadn’t focused on how I had done specifically on each leg.  I just wanted to get an idea of how I felt about the course.  I was also aware that depending on how I felt, there was a slight chance I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.  So going in, my only real goal was to try to finish.  Of course, I also wanted to finish and feel like I had crushed it, regardless of finish times.

Rather than stay close to the race site, I opted to drive down race morning.  At that hour, it’s about a 1:45 drive from my house, so it’s not insignificant, but much better than trying to sit on I-95 after work.  I got to the race site in plenty of time to check in, setup transition, drag stuff back to my car, and not stress.  I wasn’t too nervous about the race, and my leg was feeling pretty good, so I was ready to go.

The swim for this race is a giant rectangle in Lake Anna.  It looks deceptively short from the shoreline.  Typically, this race is wetsuit legal, but thanks to our recent weather, not only was the water very high, it was also very warm.  Just over 80 degrees.  Clearly no wetsuits.

While I was expecting some chop from the boats, I swear there was more of a current than I was anticipating.  I felt like the last bit of the swim out to the turn buoy took much longer than it should have, and I swear I was being pushed towards the shore on the swim back.  Maybe I’m just crazy.  Ether way, it was nice to feel like I was being pushed in the right direction.

I was expecting a swim somewhere around 40 minutes based on past swims at this course.  I was pretty spot on.

Swim: 40:03

There is a lovely long run up to transition for this race.  It’s mostly on a sidewalk, which is nice, but you have to watch for rocks.  I jogged up, got to my bike, hosed off my feet and got ready to ride.  I felt like I was really wasting time here, but based on previous results, I did pretty well.

T1: 3:12

I started the ride by shoveling a cookie in my mouth, something I reminded myself to do in my last race report.  Thanks for the heads up, past self.

One thing I did not do before this race is look at the bike elevation chart.  Because I had completely blocked out some of the hills on this course.  While I have been training like crazy on the bike, I haven’t been doing a lot of outdoor riding, just a lot of indoor riding with power.  Not that I haven’t TRIED to ride outside, but weather kept thwarting my plans.  That said, a power based workout is no joke, so I was certainly feeling strong.

I felt pretty good climbing the hills and even made the drastic and often terrible decision to pass people on the uphills.  Later on the run, a woman commented to me that she was impressed by my hill climbing – apparently she was chasing me and I kept dropping her on the uphills.  That was a huge compliment.

One big thing I’ve been working on is not just coasting down the hills, but actually pushing through them so that I’m getting as much speed as possible.  This certainly worked in my favor during the rolling sections of the course.

I didn’t glance at my watch to see my final bike time, but I thought it was probably somewhere around 1:40, which was my goal.  Turns out, I was actually way faster than I thought.  I definitely crushed this bike course and cut off 7 minutes from my previous time.

Bike: 1:34:41

The bike mount is on an uphill, which means that the dismount is on a downhill.  Both are equally cruel, and I wonder how many people completely wipe out at the dismount line.

T2: 1:53

On to the run.  In training, I had run a max of about 5.5 miles.  I had run 10k once before this year – at Rev 3 Williamsburg.  So this whole run was a big question mark.  It’s a two loop run course, with a giant uphill at the beginning.  My plan was to walk that hill, because hills are what gives my leg the most frustration, plus I can probably walk the hill faster than I can run it.  For the first loop, I was going to stick to the two minute walk, one minute run pattern that I’ve been training at (my goal is to build up distance, then work on speed and cutting down that walk).  Then, if I was feeling good, I would drop to a 1:1 pattern for the second loop.

The run starts with an uphill, but it’s basically all a slight incline for the first 1.5 miles, then a decline for the second half.  I really enjoy the run course.  It loops and doubles back on itself so you get to see a lot of people, and this means a lot of cheering for strangers.  I got tons of compliments on my Coeur Sports kit, and let’s be honest – I did look fabulous.  I’m pretty sure that I had a smile on my face for most of this run.  There was even a guy at one of the turns giving power-up fist bumps to everyone.  That volunteer was awesome.  As were most of the volunteers.

I did have a not so great moment with a volunteer though.  There was a teenager out volunteering and she was doing her best to pump people up, but probably doing it in the worst way.  She was getting up in people’s faces and telling them to run, not to walk, and that if she could do it, they could do it too.  I watched a couple of people brush her off, and when she tried it on me, I told her that I was following my plan, and that not everyone was going to be running.  She kept pestering, and I tried to kindly tell her that she should just tell people to keep going, not try to make them run, because she couldn’t know what they were going through.  It didn’t help, and honestly, it was kind of a dark spot on an otherwise great race.  I know she meant well, but I think people don’t realize how crushing it can be to hear things like “Come on, keep running, don’t walk!” when they’re just following their plan and really having a great race.

Somewhere around mile 2, I looked at my total race time on my watch and started doing race math.  I was pretty sure my fastest running of this race was just under 3:50, and I realized that if I could keep to a sub-15 minute mile, I had that in the bag.

Loop two, I was feeling good, so I dropped to a 1:1 pace without any trouble.  My left leg started to stiffen up, but I realized during Williamsburg that this was a familiar issue, and probably an indication that I had been dealing with this labral tear for much longer than I realized.  It didn’t hurt though, mostly just an annoyance.  And my pace was great – I wanted a sub-15 for this race (since that’s what I’ll need for Army Ten Miler in two weeks) and averaged sub-14.  No, I’m not breaking any speed records, but given that just a few months ago, I couldn’t run one step without pain, I’m so excited to be out there and making progress.

Run: 1:22:32

Keely caught me just as I was heading to the finish.

My run was faster than Williamsburg, even with the hills (though Wburg was super hot), so I’d say that’s progress!

Total: 3:42:20

When I finally saw my watch, I knew this was a HUGE course PR for me.  My previous PR on this course was 3:49.  It was basically all progress on the bike, which is a great feeling.

I went to check out the results, not expecting much and it turns out that I had also won the Athena category!  Completely unexpected, but ending the season on the podium always feels incredible.

This definitely wasn’t the season I planned for next year, but I can’t complain one bit.  I had two phenomenal races.  I’m clearly showing progress in rehabbing my injury, but I’m also showing improvements on the bike (and somewhat on the swim too).  It makes me very hopeful for the 2019 season.  Now what races should I choose?

Labral Tear Recovery Update

I’m now 8 months out from my labral tear diagnosis and about 6 months into rehab (thanks, ovarian cyst).  And it’s going… okay.  Not great, not bad, but definitely okay.

Leading into my August vacation, I was feeling pretty great.  For the most part, I wasn’t dealing with daily pain.  I was doing my PT exercises 6 days a week (though my PT said I didn’t have to do them that often – the routine was good for me) and I made it through my first race of the year with no issues.

Vacation went great!  Lots of walking and zero issues.  It definitely felt like a victory.

But once I was back from vacation and really increasing mileage, I started to notice some familiar twinges coming back.  My quad started tightening up more and more.  I just assumed it was the mileage.  But then I realized it’s also my own doing.

I’ve dropped my PT visits back from weekly to every 2-3 weeks.  My PT does a ton of table work, so I was getting regular work on the knots in my leg.  Sure, there may not have been too many, but they were getting worked out before they had a chance to take hold.

I wasn’t doing my PT exercises quite as much as I had been. Maybe down to four days a week instead of six.  And I certainly wasn’t spending much time on the foam roller, which is probably the biggest mistake I made.  Increasing my mileage and not foam rolling is just stupid.

So I’m paying the price for it now.  My leg has all sorts of fun knots, which means I’m spending more time on my foam roller and also going back to weekly PT.  At my last session, I was lucky enough to get Graston and dry needling.  Worth it.  I’m lucky that my insurance covers more than enough visits for me to go weekly through the end of the year and I will only have to pay my copay.

Lesson learned.  Just because I’m feeling good doesn’t mean I can step back.  This is an injury that won’t heal.  I will have to constantly be doing strength work and proper stretching, especially when I’m doing things like increasing mileage.

I still don’t regret not going the surgical route, though I totally support anyone who makes that choice.  Each hip labral tear is different, and recovery will look different for everyone.  As the research improves, I may consider stem cell injections at some point (especially if insurance ever covers them, because right now, I’m not sure if it’s the idea of a giant needle in my groin or the ridiculous cost of the injections that’s keeping me from even considering it at this point).

 

Weekly Workout Recap

Guys, getting back into shape is hard.

No really.  It’s hard.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.  It’s absolutely definitely worth it.  But getting back to running real distances is certainly a challenge.

On to last week’s workouts.

Monday – Pool was closed for the holiday, so I did a four mile run.

Tuesday – Choir practice started up today (normally, it’s on Mondays) so I sucked it up and got up early to ride my bike for a little over an hour.  Crushed it.  Then stiffened up as the day went on.

Wednesday – More trainer work, plus some strength work.  That I am terrible about doing.

Thursday – And the wheels fell off.  I’m not sure why, but my hip was sore today when I tried to run.  Not the pain of before, but it just didn’t feel great, so I only ran a mile and then went to foam roll.  I’m pretty sure that I was just overly tight and so my stride was off, but it’s another reminder that just getting in the workouts isn’t enough – I need to prioritize rest and recovery too.

Friday – Off to the pool.  Plus strength work with noodle arms.

Saturday – 4.8 mile run today, with none of the pain from Thursday.  All that foam rolling helped a ton.

Sunday – Thanks, rain.  Instead of riding outdoors, I did an indoor brick with 90 minutes on the trainer and a mile on the treadmill.

With a race on the horizon, I’m just about where I need to be, but still pretty far from Army Ten Miler distance, which is where I need to be in October.  I’ll get there, but it’s slow going.

And now, I’m off to foam roll again.

Adventures by Disney Northern European Cruise (Part 3)

Picking up where we left off…

(Don’t miss Part One and Part Two)

Day 5 – Helsinki, Finland

Thankfully, this was a much later day after the previous day’s late night, and we didn’t meet until 11:00am.  This could have meant I had time to go to the gym.  Instead, we slept in and ate breakfast.

 

We started the day with a boat ride out to Suomenlinna Island.  The boat ride was gorgeous, and we passed through so many gorgeous areas of the city.  We also went past the ice breakers, which were so impressive.  They were all named after different bears. We passed so many saunas (pronounced SOW-na by our guide), and I think I need to check out this relaxing lifestyle.

Suomenlinna Island Fortress is one of the largest sea fortresses in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It’s built on six islands, and isn’t just a tourist site.  People actually live there.  It was a gorgeous day and a fascinating place to walk around, and the perfect place to be after a day in Russia.

We had a quick lunch at a brewery on the island, and then got back on the boat for the ride back into Helsinki.

We stopped in Senate Square for photos and spent some time walking around the city, just exploring.

Finally we headed to Temppeliaukio Church, known as the Rock Church.  It was excavated out of solid rock and is light through a giant skylight in the ceiling.  The rock walls are all still exposed, and because of that, the acoustics are incredible.

This was a much shorter day – we were only in the city for about 6 hours, but that evening, we were back on the boat for the Frozen Deck Party.  And let me tell you, the weather certainly helped the atmosphere.  It was cold and windy!  But we certainly had fun!

Day 6 – Stockholm, Sweden

Our last port day.  I couldn’t believe it had gone so fast!  I wasn’t as excited to go to Stockholm, because I had been to some of our stops before, but it had been over a decade, so I didn’t remember quite as much.

Our first stop was at the Vasa Museum.  This museum houses the Vasa, an almost completely intact warship that sank in 1628.

Of course, it’s in such great shape because it sank on its maiden voyage due to some mistakes in construction, but their loss is our gain, I suppose.  Its sinking is also a good lesson – the construction was rushed because the King demanded it, and those who suspected the ship may not be seaworthy were too afraid of the King to raise their concerns.

The ship itself is phenomenal.  The decorations are gorgeous, and there is still a ton of research being done on the ship.  There are displays showing the various artifacts that were found on the ship and what paint colors they think were used on the carvings.  The story of how they found the ship, brought it up from the bottom of the harbor, and worked to preserve it and ensure it wouldn’t deteriorate in the air, was fascinating.  We started the trip with a video, which was thankfully subtitled in English, as the voiceover was in Spanish.  Yes, I said that right.  Spanish.  (I suspect that perhaps the voiceovers are done in different languages throughout the day, but we were all very confused to hear Spanish in Sweden.)

Next we went to Coronation Church, known as Storkyrkan.  This church was built in the 13th century, and is the location of coronations, royal weddings, and christenings.

The most famous part of this church is the statue of St. George and the Dragon, created in the 1400s.  This statue supposedly contains relics of St. George as well as six other saints.

According to the legend, there was a dragon who was prevented from attacking the city by sacrifices from the villagers.  These sacrifices started out as sheep, but then the people ran out of sheep, and then they had to begin sacrificing children to the dragon.  The children were chosen by lottery, and the king’s daughter was chosen.  She was sent to be sacrificed, but St. George arrived on horseback and captured the dragon.  He agreed to kill the dragon if the people became Christian. They agreed and the dragon was slain.

The statue is so popular that there is a larger reproduction of it out in the square.

Lunch was, of course, Swedish meatballs, and this whole dish was incredible.  I wanted to lick my plate.  I mean, IKEA meatballs are good, but this was phenomenal.  I need to learn how to cook this dish immediately.

Our last stop was at Stockholm City Hall, which is where the Nobel Prize banquet is held every year.

My first thought was “Okay, this is a nice building.”  Then we went upstairs to the Gold Hall.

This hall is covered with golden mosaics, made of over 18 million tiles, depicting representations of Sweden’s history.  It was overwhelming and a little bewildering.

And with that, our tour was coming to an end, so of course, we stopped for a group photo.  When the trip started, I wasn’t so sure how I would feel about spending time with all of these people, but I grew to really like the group dynamics.  While I didn’t want to be best friends with all of these people, I definitely enjoyed the company of many of them

 

Day 7 – Day at Sea

The last day of the trip was a day at sea, which we desperately needed.  We started the morning with brunch at Palo, which was so good and I want to go back immediately.  For the most part, we relaxed and enjoyed the day.

We had one final meeting with our group, where we all got together to have drinks and snacks and say goodbye.  The guides had put together a fun slideshow of some of the photos from the trip, which was such a fun wrap-up to the trip.  It was sad to be leaving.

Day 8 – Disembark in Copenhagen

Alas, it was time to get off the ship.  We had one last day in Copenhagen planned before leaving the next day.  So we headed to Tivoli Gardens.

Tivoli Gardens was absolutely adorable and definitely worth the trip.  We wandered the streets and the shops and rode a few rides.  There were no lines at the rides, so we figured it was worth it.  We didn’t do any of the crazy rides (except for one that dropped us from an insane height) but mostly stuck to the small charming rides.

I also ate some licorice ice cream, which completely disgusted the rest of the family, but it was delicious.

And as the sun began to set, it was time to go back to the hotel and crash and get ready for the flight home.   This trip was amazing and worth every single penny.  I don’t know that I will ever go back to any of these places again (though seeing as I had already been to Copenhagen and Sweden once, I will never say never).  I am a complete convert to Adventures by Disney trips and before this trip was even over, Caitlin and I were debating where we wanted to go next.

And if you’re wondering, I have something like 700 pictures.  I’m working on putting together some sort of a photo book to try to capture all of these memories in one place.  It’s still a little overwhelming to look back at everything we did and saw.

August Mileage Recap

A quick break from the vacation recaps (which are almost done!) for a mileage update.

While I am absolutely looking forward to fall weather, I am sad that the summer is over.  Of course, the weather doesn’t seem to know that, as it’s supposed to be in the 90’s all week, but the school busses are out, I’m back to choir practice, and the months of “summer attire” at work (read: slightly less dressy) are over.

August was an amazing month for me, with the Baltic cruise.  While on the trip, I didn’t focus on training at all.  I did hit the gym on both of our days at sea and spent some time on a recumbent bike (but didn’t bother to log the mileage).  We were also doing a ton of walking while in port.  I did make a point to get in my PT exercises most days, but that was about it.

August Totals:
Swim – 2.6 miles
Bike – 52 miles
Run – 22 miles

So yes, definitely lower totals this month, but even with two weeks off, my run numbers are nearly what they were last month.  It’s slow going, but I’m definitely getting there!

2018 Totals:
Swim – 40 miles
Bike – 1189 miles
Run – 92 miles